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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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Thirteen Unlucky
     Hours


Decisions, Departures and Investigations

Risek      Already four hours into their day, the Risek System's problem had become the crew's.  Now based out of Imperial naval station 371, most of the team were left to help remotely as Dame Mikah and Sir Zimzod sat on the cutter.  As Zach piloted, they approached the infected arcology.  Help from the navy was limited because the fleet in-system was stretched thin.  The team had had full cooperation setting up their own "headquarters" to work from, and could connect to any electronic resource that could be located in the arcology's data systems.  They were also supplied TL A naval vacc suits for everyone, with a "stylish" Imperial Navy logo and 'luck of the draw' ship patches.  Not the most stylish, least bulky or most functional at TL A, they worked, which was what mattered.  Mikah and Zach even searched for suits which fitted over their gear, to reduce the need for decontamination.

The navy also helped them find a docking crew that was still responding as the cutter closed on the arcology.  The bay crew, holed up in their bay and thinking they were about to be rescued, enthusiastically helped Zach get the cutter docked.  A few even donned vacc suits and built out a harness system and pole "sling" allowing Zach to place the cutter ten feet off the arcology and secure it into place.  He, Mikah and Zimzod would then grab hold of ropes to pull themselves into the air lock.  This way they could board the arcology without putting the cutter at risk of contamination.  Once through the lock, they saw the workers had sealed themselves off from the rest of the station.  They used padding from seats as mattresses and had a supply of snack machine drink containers, food and candies along with a mounting pile of trash.  The workers morale was crushed when they were told any attempt to escape the arcology would be met by naval fire until a cure was found.  But five hours into their day, Mikah's team were aboard.

Back on the naval station Ms. Vik grabbed the data from the arcology, to start digging into medical databases from the clinics and hospitals.  Once they had a full set of the arcology's deck plans, she had Emkir and Aiden help pull records from the database.  They checked each to see if the illness was related to the outbreak, so they could track the times and locations.  This was made more difficult, as patients may have first felt symptoms well before seeking medical help.  So, they may not have remembered where they were or what time it had been when they started feeling ill.  Case histories had to be read through, and sometimes interpreted, before they could be categorized.

Once each record was placed in a time and location, Ms. Vik would place a color-coded dot electronically on the 3D model of the arcology.  At first, Aiden did his best to help Inger and Emkir at working the database while Rol worked with naval personnel to trace the flight of ships in and out of the arcology in the past twenty days.  While they flew to the arcology, Zach and Mikah had worked with navy techs, asking for a list of doctors on the arcology by names and specialties.  Once the techs sent it, they shunted the data to a data-pad.

As the medical team left, Sir Brian began a survey of the arcology's cargo bays, looking for already installed systems and services he could use to build out a decontamination system from.  It took him two hours to narrow down the facilities to a set of five that suited his purposes.  After an hour's work, Rol was well along on the list and timeline of the traffic operating from the arcology over the last 20 days.  This was because the navy had already considered the possibility of some kind of attack, so the bulk of the work had already been done.  Rol then spent a second hour winnowing his list down to vessels he thought would be most likely to be of interest.  Still, any ships that had left the system were beyond anyone's recall.  The minimum chase time for such vessels would be fourteen to twenty days.

Boots On The Station

     Once aboard the arcology, Mikah demanded guides to the nearest hospital and found the now crushed docking crew were unwilling to leave the bay to guide Zach and the knights.  In fact, it took some convincing to let them unseal the bay.  Eventually, Mikah got one of them to print out a map and instructions how to get to the clossest medical help.  She then led Zimzod and Zach out of the bay.  Having spent an hour figuring out the database organization, Ms. Vik's team was digging in but were not finding any patterns very early in the work.  The issue with the databases were that they were a combination of records from all the medical facilities on the infected arcology, grabbed and crashed together by the Navy.

So, the records were not even organized by the "time the report was made", much less when the patient actually first felt sick.  As well, many of the reports didn't try to track where or when the patient first felt sick.  So many records had to be dumped outright.  Still they worked on, in an attempt to learn anything.  At his station, Brian was also winnowing down a list, but this was still a search for candidates for one or more potential mass decontamination stations.  This obviously ignored the stated policies by the naval Admirals that nothing would leave the arcology until some cure or method of managing the disease was determined.

Two hours after Mikah's team left for the arcology, they reached the hospital to find it over run with panic.  A temple to disorganized and frenzied activity.  Demanding to see someone in charge meant getting someone's attention, anyone, that might know that.  The hospital's reception lobby was filled with a group composed of the sick being "treated", the sick not being treated, those "treating" patients and those panicking and useless or dead.  The visible "treatment" methods were as varied as the care givers and the states of their patients.  No doctor or medic seemed to have a grip on the situation, much less the disease, which slowly choked sufferers to death in their own blood streams.

As Mikah tried to get anyone's attention, her efforts were lost in the panic.  Realizing those she'd found were lost causes, Mikah and her people muscled their way to the reception station to look for any method to contact the hospital's administration.  But they found decoding the reception console and working their way through the system was not worth the payoff.  A call to several admin offices was rewarded by one lone person who was in his own private hell.  From the sound of it, he'd likely locked himself in his office waiting for rescue.  But in the time before Mikah's call, the panic had set in and all the man could now do was ask, in sobs and whispers, if they were here to rescue him.  She finally ended the call as he started begging her to come to his office and save him.  He was too far gone to be of any assistance.  Having walked into a doomed city in space, Mikah was realizing the stories where a lone person holds it together to become the hero were just that, stories.

Mikah was seeing there was also nothing like a hero available either.  Realizing she had less, and less time, to work with, Mikah called the naval station and got Aiden.  She told him to try to find anyone in the hospital's administration who hadn't lost it.  Then, Mikah decided it was time for a hostile takeover of her own.  Turning to Zimzod and Zach, she told them they had to get the attention of the doctors and move them to a conference room where they could be controlled.  Shaking some doctors for directions didn't work as Zach went down a hallway looking in doors.  When Mikah saw that nothing but hard fear would cut through the mental collapse, she told Zimzod to put a few rounds into some ceiling tiles.

When Zimzod did that, it got enough attention that Mikah could demand directions to a conference room.  But the results didn't please her because the closest rooms were a few floors up and some more walking.  Mikah was certain she wouldn't be able to get all the doctors she had moving, much less control them in a "cattle drive" to the conference rooms.  Capitalizing on what she had, she began the process of convincing them to stop treating patients and try to find a cure for the disease.  This wasn't easy, as many of the doctors were well beyond a point of belief they had the ability or resources.  Others were just not willing to let the patients they were committed to die, much less just walk away in hopes of making some kind of lucky discovery with nothing to go on but symptoms.

As well as fighting the doctors, Mikah found herself fighting Zach, who had become committed to finding a conference room.  While arguing with doctors, she tried to recall the wayward trader so she could organize the reception area as her conference room.  But he refused to listen!  When Zach found a conference room cluster, he found it filled with more of the dead, dying and doctors maniacally treating the sick.  In truth, almost every room had become a treatment space, and every flat surface had become a "hospital bed" for someone.  Or a place for a corpse to lie in state.  The doctors argued with Mikah that, "we can could hardly do what the disease control centers can't", or "Admin hasn't brought word of breakthrough from anyone else."  In the end, they could hardly let people die while trying vainly to do better.  Exasperated, she checked with Aiden again, for a comms to a disease control authority before settling for brute force.  That was Zimzod's gun.  After three hours on-station, it was time to get something done instead of pissing in the wind.

On the naval station, Rol had finished and broadcast his list of ships.  He then joined Ms. Vik's team working the database.  Brian had slimmed his list to fewer candidates, but couldn't work on design specifics just yet.  With Rol, Ms. Vik's team had made a very small dent in the huge number of cases reported even after a few hours.  Three hours in, and eight hours into their day, everyone was a bit too busy to even get hungry.  After shots were fired, Mikah demanded the doctors tell her their specialties and dismissed the general practitioners, interns and those she felt useless.  She ordered the five specialists to help, at the end of Zimzod's .45.  It also helped that the doctors were now paying enough attention to them to realize they we wearing combat armor!  When the doctors complained they'd need lab space, Mikah tartly snapped, "Fine!  Where's the closest lab?"

And then they were off.  As they moved, Mikah comm'd Zach to rejoin the group.  Given the state of the conference rooms, and having failed to more than begin clearing one, Zach told Mikah he was hunting for white boards!  If Mikah could have, she would have slapped her forehead but her helmet was in the way.  She settled for squeezing her eyes shut for a moment to utter a silent curse while hoping Zach would start making himself useful as she marched.  Zach did rejoin the group on the way to the lab, just in time for Mikah to consider using him to "test the cure" on.  She also started thinking ahead, considering she only had these doctors because they were at gunpoint.  She knew they wouldn't likely work hard under such conditions.  Once in the lab, she verbally whipped the doctors into cooperation as they went over the known steps used to treat the disease so far.

She pushed them through this to separate the rumor from the known.  This was supported by data she was receiving from the team on the naval station.  They funneled treatment records as they went through the files for time and location of infection.  Once they started, the minimal research done showed an immediate setback.  The pathogen seemed to mutate immediately on entering the blood stream.  Early deep scans showed an enzyme imbalance, suggesting the pathogen disguised itself as a naturally occurring enzyme.  that meant they really had little but the symptoms to target.  This partly explained the doctor's reluctance to cooperate, because Mikah had nothing for them to work with.  But the gun always trumped the arguments.  After tasking them to investigate tissue samples from a victim who had died, Mikah, Zach and Zimzod discussed the disease.  Zach made himself useful suggesting they explore the dispersion of the disease and considering the station's air vent systems as distribution points.  Once looking in that direction, she and Zach began looking for anyone who could get to the air vents while Zimzod "kept the herd in order".

Calling Technical Support

     The fourth hour on the station began with Mikah and Zach working with Navy techs to find any engineering contacts they could in the arcology.  On the naval station, Aiden hadn't found anyone coherent in the hospital administration or any disease control authorities.  Ms. Vik's team continued to burn into the database, which resulted in a huge number of "time and location" dots on the maps, but no clusters.  After some time with the grousing doctors as prisoners, some did begin volunteering answers and guesses, which was a small victory where any win was scarce.  And finally, the navy came through.

With Aiden on the line, Mikah called one of the contacts provided by the naval communications and IT techs.  And against all odds, the call was answered!  Mikah found herself talking to a clear-headed station engineer who was, despite the chaos, manning his post.  The bad news was that he was three hours away from them, on the complete other side of the arcology.  Despite this, Mikah explained that the medical teams desperately needed some amount of the unmutated "virus" to examine, in hopes of finding out how to save the sick and stop the infections.  She told the engineer that she needed him to take swabs, rags or some kind of clean cloth to a vent station and bring those samples to her.  When he guessed at how long it would take, she asked him to try his best.  He said he would.  He then asked if she'd like one of the currently in-service filters pulled and sealed in plastic?

Mikah was overjoyed to have someone who was both competent and really being helpful!!  She thanked him very much and said that would be perfect.  He took her contact information, and Aiden's, and promised to check in with her along the way.  While those on the naval station were served meals at standard times by the navy, Mikah and the others on the arcology took some time to eat suit rations(squeeze tube meals) which could be eaten while in a sealed suit.  It had been almost ten hours since they'd gotten up, and they had spent almost five of those in sealed suits.  It was certain each of them had thanked the stars for the "personal care" systems built into their suits!

In the lab, even the lone hope offered by the engineer seemed to brighten up the doctors as they worked.  Though not yet to the point that the gun could go away.  On the naval station, Aiden continued trying to reach anyone in disease control or hospital staffing to help.  Ms. Vik's team made more progress with the added muscle of Rol's help.  While they hadn't gotten any clusters, they had hit a number of records from earlier in the outbreak which were adding some data which looked interesting.  Mikah, with hopes raised by the engineer, started drilling into the station's contact grid for any and all engineering positions she could find.  Again, she hit a jackpot, finding another engineer who made it to work.  Only, as he introduced himself, he turned out to be a "Master Engineer", responsible for large sections of the arcology and managing teams of lesser engineers!

Once more, she tried to get more than just victim's blood and tissue to work with.  Hoping this engineer would be of more immediate help than the last, she again explained what she needed.  Master Engineer Mossi said he could still reach three of his team and would send them to help immediately.  While still on comms, he began reaching out to his people.  Zach suggested shutting down airflow in sections of the station, to reduce possible infections if the "virus" was pumped through the air vents.  He suggested that, or partitioning the station.  In a sudden burst of belief he was wielding the power of the Gods, Zach proposed they have the navy commandeer another arcology and evacuate those not infected.  This was shot down very quickly because:

        1) The Navy didn't have the ships available to evacuate the arcology while supporting the
                quarantine
        2) As Zimzod pointed out, there were enough shuttles and small craft to handle the job, it
                was pointed out they could miss one infected person and not only put ship crews in
                danger but risk contaminating another facility and spreading the contagion
        3) Once an evacuation was announced, all the living - infected or not - would rush the
                docks fighting for any chance to get off.  In the insanity, crews, marines and civilians
                would be at risk.

By the time they were five hours on the arcology, things were getting old as the team waited for any engineers to respond with samples.  They'd also hoped their data mining would have scored an answer.  They certainly crapped out when it came to anyone in authority bringing aid.  The simple truth was that, all given reasons aside, no one was getting on or off the station until someone found answers to the outbreak.  A literal "do or die" for Mikah's team.  Finally, engineer Jaurawe called in after he'd recovered the filter from his vent location.  His call came as the team had started listing possible conspiracy theories.  Coincidentally, they got their first major discovery at nearly the same time, as Aiden looked from his work and noticed there was finally a cluster on their map!

Finding Leads And Following Evidence

   The team on the naval station had hit some reports that tracked back to much earlier in the outbreak.  A significant cluster had formed once the data had been entered, unnoticed, while they madly ripped into the listings for useful information.  The cluster formed in an area nearly forty minutes from the hospital, close to one of the arcology's twenty agro-domes!  Everyone was excited as Mikah updated Master Engineer Mossi.  He said he'd have his engineers, who were heading to the air vents, detour there, as most of the arcology's air was circulated through the agro-domes.  They would be the perfect place for an outbreak to start!  Zimzod said he'd investigate too and, as the doctors in the lab looked up hopefully, handed his pistol to Mikah.

Despite their concern over the weapon, the doctors had seen enough to believe they were getting new and real data which they could work on.  It could even lead to a cure, so they were even less surly and hat much more cooperative.  Still, Zimzod spared a meaningful sweep of his blank faced helmet before leaving and said, "If any of them tries to run, shoot them."  Knowing the comment was meant for the doctors, Mikah told him to get as many samples as he could and Zimzod slipped out of the lab, followed by Zach.  Mikah contacted the master engineer to tell him Zimzod would be investigating too.  While she thought his engineers were already getting plant and animal samples to test, the engineers were not there yet and Mossi advised them to wait for the knight if they arrived first.

Six hours in, Zimzod and Zach got to the agro-dome and met the three engineers.  The team on the naval station continued to work as the number of hits grew to a confirmed cluster.  Even the doctors in the lab were pretty certain they'd soon have real data to work with.  Brian completed his search, finding five bays with locks and matching systems he could work with.  He then began figuring what a decontamination design would have to provide to do what he wanted.  He only hoped there would be some discovery which would convince the Navy brass to let him build it once he was ready.

Curious about Imperial Naval initiatives to work the issue, Mikah asked what they had done so far?  She learned they cleared an SDB "barn" and sealed it, preparing it to be a full laboratory early in the crisis.  But there had been no way to get a sample of the original contagion, so they had only been working on highly theoretical models since then.  The fact was that Navy brass simply weren't willing to risk lives or assets until they had something concrete to go on.  In economic terms, it was safer and easier to let the 110,000 people on the arcology die until another team arrived.  And the Pilot Error showed up just at the wrong time.  As Mikah and her doctors worked in the lab, the IN-IT had been "looking over their shoulder" electronically, shunting all data entered or scanned to the team in that maintenance dock.  At Mikah's angry demand, the navy opened direct communications with that facility.

Those at the agro-dome agreed that, while there was more post-mutation data, more was needed on the contagion's initial state.  After Zimzod and Zach met the engineers at the agro-dome, they decided on a method of search and collection which would take them through the entire compartment.  Back in the lab, engineer Jaurawe called Mikah saying he had the filter and swabs, but much of the transport system in the arcology had been damaged or destroyed in the panic.  That meant he'd be later than planned, but was still working his way to her hospital.

It was near seven hours in their suits for Zimzod and Zach, who were feeling the weight of their day.  As they searched the dome, they slogged through the mind-numbing process of finding things to swab and sample.  Then an engineer named Andreasson called out for everyone's attention and drew them in on his location.  Curious what had the man so excited, Zimzod got there first, thanks to his battledress augmented speed.  He found the man staring at a plastic half-sphere approximately 1.5 to 2 feet in diameter attached to the dome wall!  When Zimzod asked what it was, and as others arrived, Andreasson replied, "I don't know, but I know it is not supposed to be there."

The device appeared to have an aerosol dispensing nozzle, and seemed to have been placed so it would be very hard to see.  That was unless, as Andreasson had done, one was weaving through the plant-life attempting to walk along the outer rim of the agro-dome.  As soon as Zimzod heard the device wasn't supposed to be there, he comm'd Mikah in the lab.  While they discussed this, they brought others into the comms loop.  Assessing the condition of the men with him, Zimzod decided to send one away as they didn't have vacc suits.  When they'd arrived, Zimzod saw Lucjusz had already been showing early signs of being sick, so sending him away was of no use.  Now, he could see Lucjusz was a bit worse, and Andreasson was starting to show signs of the flesh color change that would suggest oxygen depletion too.  So, he ordered everyone to pile their collected samples on engineer Dandonneau, for him to bring them to the lab ASAP.  Then they turned their attention to the device.

As they discussed the description of the device and where it was, Mikah asked if Zimzod could broadcast the visual video from his battledress.  Unfortunately, this would force him to share the 'secure lock codes' for the armor suit's systems.  Since there was no secure gateway, Zimzod was unwilling to do this.  As they talked, Zimzod saw Engineer Andreasson taking pictures of the dispenser using a hand-held device!  The knight asked if the device could take video and broadcast it?  When Andreasson said it could, they worked out a quick and dirty way to fix the camera on the device and started sending through the arcology network.  Now everyone could see, including Master Engineer Mossi and the Imperial teams on the lab.

Right off, everyone wanted to get at the reservoir, which would possibly hold samples of unmutated contagion.  They agreed the device had to be removed from the wall carefully to not lose any contagion still inside it.  Engineer Mossi suggested using a flat bladed shovel to slash down behind the device, along the inside of the dome wall.  Once they found a shovel, Zimzod's team succeeded doing that.  With it off the wall, Zimzod saw the back of the device came away from the "dome form" front.  Carefully, using the enhanced strength and dexterity of his battledress, Zimzod separated the bottom of the unit to expose the dry workings of the device.  Some of the parts projected through a membrane where they then presumably either manipulated or entered the reservoir.  For all they could see, it appeared the device was empty and may have sprayed out its entire contents.

As a discussion of possible tactics to break the device down started going in circles, Mikah decided she'd heard enough and told Zimzod to bring the device to the lab at his best speed.  They would open and examine it there.  Taking the device from Andreasson, Zimzod told them to make it to the lab at their best speed before sprinting off.  In a sudden embarrassment of riches, Engineer Jaurawe arrived from the far side of the arcology with his samples at almost the same time.  Mikah now played traffic cop as she directed the doctors to rip into Jaurawe's samples while verifying they did so without contaminating anything with their victim samples.  She also updated everyone as events turned, and kept track of Zimzod coming in with the dispenser.

Chasing The Next Step

     Having completed their first mission, the team on the naval station considered how to advance the investigation?  Now that the device from the agro-dome had given them a location to investigate, they could check access.  Activity in, and access to, the dome were captured by all of the arcology's security systems.  And while the deployed naval squadrons supported the quarantine, a huge number of naval technicians on those ships had idle screens.  Mikah suggested asking the naval IT folks if they had access to video feed from specific cameras near that location and Zimzod pushed to focus on the area of the agro-dome.  The navy techs said they had complete access to all video surveillance stored in the computers and could break that down in small sections to be viewed for any important or incriminating activities.  In short order Ms. Vik found herself in charge of splitting video from those cameras into sections and, with the others, controlling how the segments were dispersed out to the fleets.

Things were now moving on multiple fronts as the doctors in the lab eagerly put the dispersal device into an isolation hood.  As one team handled the device, the others discussed how to open it carefully.  Before things got too far, one of the doctors put it in a closed experiement station, confirmed it was securely isolated and smashed it open.  The disappointment was intense as they confirmed the reservoir was empty.  Zach suggested the contagion might have been a gas but was firmly told by the doctors that wouldn't be possible.  Despite the empty reservoir, two doctors used the sleeve gloves to swab down every part of the device's inside.  Soon they placed samples under their microscopes by slipping swabs and small plastic bits out through a "plastic packet sealing" ejection slot to see what could be identified?  As Zimzod and Mikah kicked back and watched the now enthusiastic researchers dig into the evidence, they hoped something would be found.

Surprisingly, the next breakthrough came from the comms, as Master Engineer Mossi chimed in.  With everyone else workig or watching the swabs, Mossi gave his update.  When Mikah told him her news, he asked to see the device and she focused his view on the ignored shards of the dispenser.  After examining them, he said he could read markings that identified who made the device!  Grateful the doctors were no longer her prisoners, Mikah was free to focus on investigating Mossi's new information.  It appeared the device was made by a manufacturer and prototyper nearby on the arcology!  Not sure what role they might have played in events, Zimzod decided that it would be very good to pay them a visit.  He asked for his pistol back from Mikah, who said she'd prefer to hold onto it "for now".

Then it was Ms. Vik's turn to announce she had a hit from one of the techs off a navy ship.  A weapons tech found some video the navy believed was of value.  Having worked backwards from the first report, the navy had sent 'one hour' video segments out to be scanned, and one of those paid off.  The weapons tech found a clip showing a man and woman transporting the now identified dispenser into the agro-dome and leaving shortly after without it!  Everyone checked out both the clip and "best scans possible" of the man's face.  The woman's face was not visible in the clip at all.  Zimzod printed a copy of the man's face then, trusting his battledress to serve him while unarmed.  He then checked the computer for directions to the manufacturer before heading out with Zach.

By this time, the three on the arcology had been in sealed armor or suits for seven of the thirteen hours, and things were not the most comfortable.  There was a glimmer of light, as reinforcements were now promised by the Admiralty.  Based on their reports, the Admirals decided finding a cure, or even understanding the disease, was at hand.  So, they had passed orders to organize and deploy a security force to restore order and control in the arcology.  But those in Mikah's lab had direction and were ready to do anything needed to save lives, including their own.  Slowed by Zach, Zimzod finally got to the manufacturer and showed he wasn't standing on ceremony as he gave the door an entry kick.

The door broke from its frame on the knob side, also partly shattering and sending the knob flying to strike against the right-side wall of the space inside.  As he strode in, Zimzod saw a handful of people frozen in positions of surprise, but otherwise not likely far from what they'd be doing on a normal day.  That had ended, for reasons they didn't know, as naval personnel began securing every single computer file or program that made their business run or documented its operations.  They were all locked in a determined battle to get the computer running again and put things back to normal once more.  In fact, they'd later learn these people were more of a family run business, determined to win through this plague by simply refusing to let it alter their normal activities.  At the moment, that was unimportant as Zimzod strode in, clad in battledress, and demanded to know who was in charge.

An older gentleman stepped up, in as friendly and confident a manner as possible, identifying himself as the owner and planning to include a few polite greetings.  He was cut short when Zimzod reached out to clamp the man's throat in a battle-armored gauntlet before bending slightly at the waist to look down into the man's eyes.  "Do you recognize this?", Zimzod angrily demanded holding up in his other hand a picture of the dispenser before it had been broken.  To his credit, the older man didn't go white when he found himself in the marine's grip.  Despite the claw around his throat, the older man studied the picture before his face brightened a bit.  He said they did design and build the item recently for a customer.

Zimzod demanded who they did the work for and the man admitted he'd have to check their records.  Zimzod squeezed just a bit more, making sure he had the man's attention, and demanded the name of the customer records file.  Because the man knew 'where the file' was more than 'what it was called', this led to questions and answers as Zimzod kept the comms open.  Soon, a navy tech said he had the file and they were all looking at the contents of the file, displayed on local screens.  The search after that was short, brutal and revealed that the buyer's name was "Jocman Genzar".

More chillingly, it revealed that the order was for TEN such devices!  In the lab, the doctors said there wasn't enough of any residue left to get any information from as far as they could tell.  They said that, because of that, they needed to set up "grow vats" in hopes of growing enough to learn from.  They did continue trying, loading some samples into a mass spectrometer for tests.  But they did caution this could take days or even longer.  On the heels of this, an announcement came that they had another video clip of the man now identified as "Jocman Genzar".  With a picture of his face, naval ran a biometric speed scan of the available video.  Usually used for assessments of battlefield damage or sensor cam clarification of unidentified or fleeing vessels, the system had been re-tasked for the more finite work using some of the internal security systems on the naval station.  The result was that they soon found a clip of the man in a drop box rental shop.

Zimzod returned his attention to the man in his grip asking, "When did you first meet this man?"  He was told the man first showed up eighteen days before, when he placed his order.  Naval Intel was buzzing Zimzod's his ear about having recovered financial account data and other details from the manufacturer's records, verifying the date.  Fairly certain he'd gotten everything he needed from the old man, Zimzod released him and stiffly said, "Stay here and prepare to be taken into custody by the Imperial Navy."  For the first time, the older man showed a bit of color as he stood up to full height demanding, "Custody?  For what?!"  Zimzod replied over his shoulder, as he and Zach began to leave, "For this disease and everything that has happened because of it."  Behind the two departing figures, the man had actually gone white as a sheet.

Off To the Shop And Off Station News

     The last they heard, the man and his people had started to protest.  Zimzod only shouted into his trail, "Tell it to the Imperial Navy."  After saying that, Zimzod comm'd the naval techs and asked for a map to the drop box shop.  They sent him a path, marked on a map of his section of the arcology, and told him Imperial Marines were landing at some of the docking bays and beginning to deploy security teams.  Additionally, Admiral Chauss ordered all Non-Naval ships in-system "beached", meaning any ships trying to leave their moorings would be disabled and either taken into custody or destroyed.  Zach asked Zimzod if they should have secured the dispenser makers and Zimzod said, "They are not getting off the station."  While everyone knew they could simply be innocents caught in their customer's actions, they could just as well have been a part of the scheme too.

After asking for a frequency to contact the marines, Zimzod comm'd for a landing officer and got Lt. Commander Cuaus Koovr.  He asked the Commander to have a team of marines sent to meet them at the drop box shop.  The team on the naval station were working with naval IT, organizing feed from the infected arcology and coordinating the coverage between the agro-dome, the docks and the drop box shop.  They hoped to find the woman in the agro-dome footage or more data on the identified male.  Not far from the rest of the team, Brian felt he had all the criteria, conditions of use, and considerations given the five docking bays he'd selected, and was ready to start designing his device.

Mikah joined in with the doctors in the lab as Zimzod and Zach moved to the drop box shop.  While they worked at their various tasks or traveled in Zach and Zimzod's case, another alarm was suddenly raised.  Naval command excitedly announced they'd been contacted by those in charge of an arcology which was part of the Tarallo Alliance, saying they'd found on their station a second device!  Immediately, everyone was demanding frequencies and comms connectivity with the station and its leaders.  Mikah and the doctors wanted them to seal off the device and test its contents.  But despite her attempts to contact the leadership, by the time this happened, the local authorities had acted already.

They had technicians "hose down" the device with a liquid plastic to seal it before removing it from where it was found.  So, there were mostly only "after the fact" images of the device, once it was removed.  Only a handful of pictures were taken before they'd acted, and those showed little detail.  The device had been attached to the bottom of a 'floor to ceiling' viewing portal on the outer bulkhead of a recreational dome.  Once it was sealed and secured, the Alliance government called for the Imperial Navy to get it the hell off their station.  It was then stored in an air lock until the navy responded.

In response, the INS Aku Iikhi was sent to get the device and transport it to the infected Podesta arcology for Mikah's people to investigate.  Figuring the situation was likely going to expand, Mikah realized they needed more space, people and resources to get more than the lack luster results they'd been getting.  Using the frequency Zimzod asked for, she contacted Lt. Commander Koovr, asking for help to check out the CDC facilities on-station.  She also asked them to find as many medical specialists as possible, from other facilities and funnel them all to her.  The Commander politely said he'd try when he had the resources to do so, but said his men hadn't yet gotten more than fifty percent of the arcology under control.  He was quickly running out of marines.

The Commander was largely hoping the work his units were doing would bring some of the civilian authorities back on line.  They could then get some police and other emergency services working, so the arcology could be completely secured.  The Commander also told Mikah his men could search out what specialists they could find, but could only ask them to join her effort.  The Marines had no legal mandate to force anyone to comply with any order not directly related to following the laws unless martial law was imposed.  Admiral Chauss had not suggested he'd even consider that step.  At the very least, the Commander suggested that any aid he could provide on those two fronts was going to be some time away.

As Zach and Zimzod considered their next move at the drop box shop, Zach comm'd Aiden to ask the military to gather video feed from the Alliance arcology.  Zach hoped to see if they could spot who delivered the device there?  Aiden contacted Captain Kristianson, who reminded him the government of that arcology had not collapsed.  So, it had not fallen to the navy to manage their operations.  The Tarallo Alliance government was in charge, responding to the crisis and had promised to keep the navy, and the knight's informed.  While Aiden was quickly becoming the group's communications officer and secretary, Ms. Vik's team continued to parcel out video sections and receive back questionable shots to judge for evidence.  A job that had lost more than a bit of luster as the pace of discoveries had fallen.

Soon, Zach and Zimzod arrived at the drop box shop, and they met up with the marine detachment who were also arriving.  The battledressed quintet were mostly armed with gauss rifles, though two were equipped with hatch breaching charges and the other gear station boarding combat engineers would carry.  Zimzod, who hated sloppy troops, nodded approvingly as these guys came properly prepared.  Once Zimzod said he'd take point, they entered the shop in force.  Looking over the alcove walls, lined with metal delivery box doors and no apparent attendant, Zimzod chose to step over to the shop door.

With a brief pause before he acted, Zimzod again relied on his battledress-enhanced strength.  Kicking the door in, he let the momentum carry him past the frame as his senses took in the shape of the room.  Zimzod swung left, to face the desk.  In the action, Zimzod saw someone fleeing out the office's back door.  At the same time, he heard a blast of weapon fire as a large bore slug hit the wall to his right, just ahead of one marine moving to secure the far end of the room.  The trooper dropped and brought his weapon to bear on the back end of the room and the area to their collective left.  A second trooper snapped in next to Zimzod.  Zimzod scanned through the clearing smoke of the shotgun blast with the visual filters of his battledress but had no weapon to ready.

While he saw no one, he could tell a person had ducked behind the desk after firing the shot.  As an added bit of comic relief, the "not yet corpse" behind the desk hadn't realized the shotgun barrel was still pointed straight up like a flagless pole, exposed above the desk.  Zimzod barked an order for two of the troopers to get the fleeing person and bring them back alive.  Knowing the one behind the desk was not a professional, Zimzod just strode forward to snag the desk with his right hand.  With one light jerk, his enhanced strength flung the desk against the back-office wall just after the two passing marines left.  Still crouching with eyes squeezed shut was a young man who was likely an employee of the shop or a thief raiding drop boxes.  Zimzod saw him flinch but still not look up from his "head down" crouch.

Since the young man wasn't moving, Zimzod snatched the shotgun barrel and pulled it from his grip.  Not releasing the weapon at first, the twenty something man was dragged to his feet before Zach, the Knight and remaining three marines.  Zimzod demanded the man identify himself and they found he was an employee of the shop who'd fled there with his girlfriend after a roommate in his apartment came down with the plague.  His name was Malgorz Jablonski, and he now seemed quite content to let the story of his life come spilling out of his mouth.  Zimzod simply demanded, holding out the picture of Jocman Genzar, if the cowering man recognized the criminal?  After a bit of concentration, Jablonski said he did recognize the person as a rental customer.

Zimzod demanded to know what drop boxes were rented, and anything else the cowering man could tell him.  When pushed for information, Jablonski asked if he could check the shop's records?  When allowed to, he proceeded to sign into a wall mounted terminal as he muttered about everyone dying and no escape.  He finally found the record he was looking for, which showed a man named "Gergo Sipos" had rented a box nearly thirty days earlier.  Comparison of the picture on file showed a different picture of the same man identified as 'Jocman Genzar'.  But the financial account numbers showed the accounts drawn on to pay for the dispersion devices and the drop box were also the same!  Asking which box was indicated in the records, the shop clerk pointed and Zimzod stepped over.  He almost casually reached out to take hold of the box's door before ripping it away from the wall.  The box proved to be empty, leaving yet one more dead end.

As this happened, the two marines Zimzod ordered after her returned with a struggling but secured woman, apparently in her early twenties, who was both panicked and very frightened.  When released, she bolted to the shop clerk and clung to him for any apparent shred of protection in the face of escalating horrors.  At least, he had validated the claim he was a clerk and her boyfriend.  Considering everything else they'd found with the empty drop box, Zimzod grasped for any more data the clerk might give.

He then asked if he could see when the criminals last used the drop boxes?  After a quick check in the store's systems, the clerk said they last used it for a set of items received beginning ten days before and ending seven days ago.  Zimzod comm'd Aiden and had him give the navy this data so they could concentrate on video clips near the shop from those dates.  Aiden passed it on as Zimzod turned to the clerk to ask what address was on the rental account?  Again, the clerk was all too happy to help, and pulled up the address of an apartment in a block of short term residential rentals.  With that datum Zimzod said, "I think we are going there next!"

After eight hours in sealed suits, Mikah's team had proof the station was attacked, and a few leads where to go in order to find out by what or who?  On the naval station, Ms. Vik was leading another team, looking for more data on the suspects they'd identified.  Brian was working to create a way to get his friends, if no one else, off the arcology.  And their thirteen-hour old day was not over yet.

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Next: Following The Leads