After finishing the Court business and parties on Regina, Mikah, Brian and Zimzod had gotten confirmation from Duke Sir Norris Aella Aledon.  He was the Duke of Regina and a rising star in the Spinward Marches, after his role in ending the Fifth Frontier War.  Leaving for their next meeting, they fully intended to keep the party going as they booked luxury passage to Rhylanor, and Duke Leonard Stephanos Kirgashii.  Their passage would run through the lightly populated Yori system, where they'd have a week-long layover.  During that layover, they even "shared the party" while the ship prepared for the next jump and managed cargo.  From Yori, they jumped to the Inthe system of the Regina subsector, which shared its name with another "Inthe" system in the Glisten subsector.
Again, they partied on the highport during their second layover along the way to the Rhylanor system.  And, soon enough, Dame Mikah and Sirs Zimzod and Brian were outward bound from the Inthe highport.  The parties had been moved back aboard ship, and they were outward bound!  And then...
Neither of them could remember exactly what happened, or even when or how?  They woke without remembering the last party ending, or even going to bed!  And, they woke to find themselves sitting secured to straight back chairs, with their hands and feet restrained, in a sort of spartan metal compartment!  They also shared a vague sense they'd been out for some time.  And they were all experienced enough spacers to realize they were on a ship in flight.  It was also apparent they were being watched via a camera mounted on a bulkhead visible to them all.  Soon after all three of them had woken, a man and woman came into the compartment through a hatch.  They were wearing generic dark-colored business clothes, of a fabric which could easily be woven from tech level five to ten, but wouldn't be worn in societies from higher tech levels.  The meeting that followed was short and hard.
They were told they were aboard a ship bound for "a system" where insurgents were fighting a losing war against their government.  Despite that, the desperate insurgents had scored a double coup.  First, they'd gotten hold of one of the government's key agent identification (NOK) files.  Then, using their knowledge of the agents, they'd managed to kidnap a weapons researcher and his daughter from government protection.  And since they were known, none of the world's existing agents could try to rescue them without being identified coning in.  Worse yet, the government had learned, the hard way, that a number of their agents were somehow being tracked by the partisans.  So, organizing a covert rescue was also a problem.  When the Travellerís Aid Society News Service (TAS) said the Knights would travel close enough to be of use, it was decided to 'requisition their help'...
The briefing continued as they were told they'd be set down planetside, as close as authorities dared, according to government intelligence, to the insurgent location.  The Knights would be given what weapons the government could provide, the suspected coordinates of the insurgent base and coordinates to a point where they would find a comms device.  That comms would be used to call for extraction after they had the scientist.  It was made clear his daughter was a "preferable recovery", but not mandatory for the success of the mission.  Then, the two agents raised hand-secured filters to their faces and the male agent threw something looking like pellets to the deck.  When those hit, it seemed they broke and small flames flared before producing a gas that filled the compartment.  Obviously, a knock out gas, because the Knights remembered no more until they woke later.
When they did wake, they lay on grass-covered ground, in a small field of high grasses under a twilight sky.  They'd been undressed and changed into what were likely local "light work clothes", again, likely from tech level five to ten.  Checking their immediate surroundings, they found some fairly basic rifles and web gear, each with an ammo pouch.  They also found a map in a leather courier bag.  Checking the map, Zimzod quickly saw they were some distance from the suspected insurgent base, and they all agreed they needed a vehicle.  Next, they searched for and found a small road to follow after chosing their direction.  Some time later, they spotted a boxy-looking wheeled ground vehicle that seemed to have been pulled well off the road and into some brush.  Moving closer as they watched, the vehicle looked large enough to fit more than five adults.  And, it seemed to be "rocking" slightly due to some motion inside.
Creeping up, the three Knights saw that a young couple were in the throes of passion on the front bench seat inside the groundcar.  The driver had obviously pulled behind the brush hoping to be completely hidden.  The Knights could see the couple were in their late teens, and likely "sneaking out" from their families homes for stolen intimacy.  While the two were partly undressed, things hadn't gotten to the point that interruption would be "harsh".  So, Zimzod decided to do a favor for their parents and stepped forward to pull the driverís door open with his rifle raised.
The couple were completely by surprised, and the young girl started screaming as Zimzod commenced a good old fashioned car-jacking.  The boy was stupid enough to struggle while Zimzod half-ordered, half-pulled him out of the car.  Without his pants, and, more to Zimzodís mind, without any thought of protecting his topless girlfriend, the kid saw the weapons, realized he couldn't win and took off!  Zimzod considered their options.  If the kid got to the authorities too soon, he could start a hunt for the SUV.  Then, local law enforcement might get in the Knights way.  That thought took all of the microseconds required to raise and aim the rifle he had.  The young girlís hysterical screaming increased in volume as a crack rang out and her fleeing paramour fell, shot through the chest.  Zimzod regretted the death, because he'd wanted to wing the kid, but the weapons they had were just not that good.
Angry at Zimzod for acting unilaterally, Mikah and Brian did their best to control the situation and get the girl out of the SUV.  Then, after securing themselves in the vehicle, they drove away from the sobbing girl, as she held her blouse to cover her chest and knelt over her dead loverís body.  From there, it took them nearly hour to drive to a place where they could cover the vehicle and move the rest of the way on foot.  The "hideout" was more of a filled in quarry where openings between the rock fill had been widened into tunnels after the quarry had been refilled.  Scouting, they saw one armed man and the entrance, and had to wonder how soon someone would notice if they shot him?  After checking and finding no other entrances they could see, their only other question was from what angle to make their attack?
Considering the pros and cons of trying to creep up close and not raise an alarm by firing a rifle, against possibly being discovered, they decided a "sudden kill and hard rush "forward was their best chance.  That way, they could drop into cover while moving, and engage anyone who came out to investigate the gunfire.  So again, Zimzod steadied his weapon and drew down on the guard from the treeline.  The crack of a single shot was followed by their mad dash, as the three Knights rushed the cave-like entrance.  Lucky for them, Zimzod's first use of the rifle had taught him how it pulled and the insurgents appeared to be sloppy.  So, the Knights made the entrance without anyone inside having appeared to have heard or reacted to the shot.
Zimzod quickly looted the body for anything he thought could help them.  What he'd found was limited to a loaded revolver and more ammo that could be used in their rifles.  There was no sign of where the man's rifle had been put but they figured he had one because of the ammo.  Zimzod then propped the dead guard's body as if he was "leaning against the entrance">  Next, they slowly made their way into the entrance.  It fed into what looked to be a space where multiple unidentified corridors met.  With their actions in the Hrunting system as a guide, and because Sir Brian wasn't interested in 'risking his life for no reward', the engineer was left to hold the entry in case they needed to make a fighting retreat.  The first passage from the entrance turned out to be a descending opening leading into dividing caverns.
It took less than 45 minutes for Mikah and Zimzod to make an armed exploration of many of the hideout's passages.  That ended when they ran into an insurgent with a tray of food.  The man was of a ragged sort, and was obviously less "well fed" himself, but wasn't starved either.  His "uniform" was threadbare and had stains, but was serviceable enough as forest camouflage.  After turning the encounter into a quick assault, and very brief "interview", the two found their way to where the cell/lab was fitted.  Along the way, they passed through some passages lined with ammo cases and some containers of grenades.  The lab door wasn't guarded, so they guessed the insurgents trusted their locks and security enough to not worry about posting a guard.
Struggling with the lock and door, they soon had the inventor out and free.  But Mikah and Zimzod were annoyed, if not surprised, when the man refused to cooperate unless they rescued his daughter too.  The only luck Zimzod and Mikah had was that he knew the way to her cell.  All that had happened while Brian was fortifying his position.  And he even done some scavenging.  Brian was surprised to find a flamethrower in one of the near side-tunnels and he liked very much after an examination!  Working quietly, Brian set it up to defend his fortified position, should it come to that.  Mikah and Zimzod had good luck when they found the girlís rooms, because the access there was even more lightly secured.  The simple dead-bolt lock made the Knights wonder seriously about the abilities of this group?
Putting a plan in place, they caused more than a few alarms while using some stolen grenades to collapse tunnels as they moved, to prevent pursuit more than anything else.  The blasts would block some reacting rebels while leaving their escape from the tunnels unblocked.  The most dramatic part of the rescue, after the "opening shot", turned out to be a brief shootout between Brian and two insurgents who'd been out topside "on patrol".  They'd come on the sentry's body at the cave entrance and readied weapons before moving in to explore.  When Mikah and Zimzod joined the party to learn Brian was having a bit of excitement holding the two off.  That changed with their additional firepower while Brian was fonally able to duck for cover, and "helped" keep the scientist's head down.
After the fight was done, Brian offered up two stachel charges he'd found as e strapped the flame thrower to him.  Mikah and Zimzod set those off to collapse more tunnels and keep other rebels from following them to the truck.  In the end, they got clear with both the weapons developer and his daughter, leaving many insurgent bodies behind.  That was followed by a drive of less than an hour to the dust-off coordinates they'd been given.  It took a little searching there, but they found the promised comms and sent out their recovery call.  Soon after that, the ground in the clearing erupted with gas from an obviously pre-placed set of smoke-filled gas emitters.  Again, the Knights dropped and remembered nothing until waking aboard what was presumably the same ship they'd been aboard before.
And, they were again secured by the wrists and ankles.  The same agents thanked the Knights for their work and said they would be returned to their journey with all their original possessions.  Despite the treatment, Mikah was willing to forget everything if the world simply paid them for the work.  the agents ignored that reasonable request as well as Brian's demand they return to him the flamethrower.  The three were shut down.  The Knights were told that the government the agents represented regretted doing what had to be done, but the Knights shouldn't ever try to return to the unidentified system.  If they did, the testimony of the girl from the SUV would assure a swift and very blunt trial for intentional murder.  And that would be followed by a very swift "execution" of the verdict.
Again, the couple raised the hand-held filters and gas spelled oblivion.  When the Knights woke, each was alone in their own high passage stateroom.  Exploration showed they were aboard the Tukera Long Liner "Equus", which was bound for the Rhylanor system via the Porozlo system.  So, no expense had been spared there.  And, they could each find the others stateroom locations on their stteroom's computers.  All they had to do was accept the abuse they had been subjected to, sit back and relax.  They would arrive at the Rhylanor highport in three weeks, including a scheduled stop in the Porozlo system.  But, the three were pissed, so things didn't work out that easily.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Arrival in Porozlo