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       the Strange

Heading to SuSAG

Risek     On the arcology, Mikah and Zimzod were still laughing hysterically, having just learned a shipload of "Emkirites" were on an in-system burn.  Zach sat watching and wondering what was so funny?  Linking into their comms, Zach asked what was so funny and Zimzod replied, "You are."  Mikah only laughed harder at that before getting control of herself.  She then asked, "You know Emkir?"  When Zach nodded, while still confused, and Mikah continued, "You know his Cult?"  Zach nodded again, with a solidifying but sinking feeling.  Mikah finished, saying, "Well, they are on their way!", with an evil and comedic glow in her eyes.  It took Zach a few heartbeats to digest this before he said, "This should prove highly entertaining."

Mikah checked the distance to their first target SuSAG location on the kart's readout as they rode.  She told the others they only had a few more hours before they had to return to the cutter.  Zach asked if they shouldn't check on the doctor's progress in the lab and Mikah agreed.  She set her comms and checked in to find they had organized lab techs and set up three full eight-hour shifts.  But they still hadn't found anything.  As they rode, Zimzod ran a self-diag on his battledress and checked his gear.

On Station 371

     In the core computer management center of Naval station 371, Sir Brian asked the systems admins about their process management while they worked the early stage of the design.  He got a report from the senior admins and could see the stages of the search had already been broken down into scalar module concepts.  Seeing all was starting properly, with measured methods to judge progress by, and that the admins were motivated, Brian felt he could move on.  That meant finding a way around the roadblocks stopping him from finishing his decontam station.  Military brass had been an issue for him, in his earlier career as well as now, but he now had resources of his own and it was time to use them.

Once back on station 371, Ms. Vik ordered food and caff from a tech as she returned from the port, and called Mikah.  After connecting, Inger told Mikah she was back before exchanging information.  Ms. Vik told the Knight she had a good meeting with the port's Executive Director and they gave her a file on Shaslu Kishman.  Inger also said she'd heard more than a few people discussing a rumored plan to push the infected arcology into the local star and end the risk the plague would spread.  This annoyed Mikah, who told Inger they were headed to a SuSAG office for anything proving the corporation knew the plague was coming.  She asked Ms. Vik to check into the rumors and see if the naval lab techs could contact and help the Podesti doctors?

As Inger agreed to check into that, Mikah told her about the inbound Emkirites.  When she heard this, Inger said, "What?!  I thought he was kidding!" and Mikah said it was all real.  Ms. Vik nodded in disbelief as they broke the line.  Exasperated at Emkir, Inger contacted Captain Kristianson to ask if some lab techs could tie in and assist?  Kristianson said they'd get on it when time and resources permitted, pointing out the lab was already connected to their own research lab set up at the SDB base.  She also pointed out the amount of naval computer resources already devoted to support the team.  That meant time or resources might not permit them to help any time soon.  Inger said her team could help, where they had access, if she needed it, which got a more favorable "Thank you."

Emkir went back to wandering the station looking for where people hung out, as Aiden worked the vids and asked a naval tech for chow.  While he worked, Aiden decided he'd stay at it until he got tired enough to rack out.  Mikah called Emkir and asked what kind of ship his "followers" were on?  Emkir admitted he didn't know anything about them and Mikah asked him to find out and let her know.  He said he would and they signed off.  Rol continued working with the naval system admins, helping to the best of his ability.

The First SuSAG Site

     Mikah's team arrived at their first SuSAG facility to find it appeared to be a clinic.  The place looked secured, so Mikah had Zimzod smash the glass in the door to get it open.  Once inside, they found a number of dead bodies scattered about the reception area and Mikah asked Zach to check the clinic computers for patient files.  The clinic reception area fed back to a common area joined by a hall.  That receded back, away from them, and another split off, heading behind a wall to their left.  Mikah started checking the rooms off the receding corridor and had Zimzod check the hallway to the left.

As she searched the various patient and work rooms down her hall, Mikah found dead patients and medical personnel in most of the rooms.  Zimzod found a similar situation until he reached a door that was locked!  When he could find nothing examining the door, he drew and readied his .45 before kicking the knob plate with a foot.  That shattered the lock brace and swung the door open as he planted his raised foot.  He exercised extreme will by not filling the place with rounds as he scanned the room.  But all he saw were the scattered bodies of five people who would turn out to be three doctors and two nurses.

After Zimzod's news, Mikah's annoyance increased when Zach reported the well-organized clinic file system showed case histories clearly documented.  But they appeared to have no obvious meaningful data about the plague.  Of course, he'd had only minutes to surf through all the data for anything of value.  Her hope was that these last bodies represented people who knew they were up against a killer and had left meaningful data behind.  Especially when they found a laptop which had been left logged into and had gone into hibernate mode once it was abandoned by the dead.

Mikah and Zimzod both worked to explore the laptop as Zach continued exploring the clinic's data files.  Sadly, it seemed the staff had no idea what was killing them.  In the time between when he'd reported his first findings and the laptop disappointment, Zach hadn't found any new data to search out.  The only hope they had was to secure as much of the data as possible, hoping a more detailed search would give them some answers.  Mikah first decided they should reach out to the navy, to ask if they could carefully upload the data from the clinic server?  But the techs wouldn't commit to being able to do so gently, due to the time it would take.

Rather than losing any of the data, Mikah considered her options before connecting the laptop to the server so she could copy the clinic's files to the portable computer.  Zach willingly set up the copy process and the team got a 'process pop-up' that warned the copy would take from six to nine hours!  Not able, or willing, to wait for the copy to finish, they considered their options.  When Mikah and Zimzod talked about leaving the laptop, Zach suggested they hide it, in case looters hit the now unsecured location.  As he did, Zach managed to work in a complaint against the level of destruction used just to get into the clinic.  Mikah ignored his passive attempt at taking the Knights to task for shattering the door, and said the laptop would likely be fine.  Once that was decided, they headed of for the next nearest SuSAG site, close to thirty minutes away.

Station 371: Investigating Parts and People

     On the naval station, Aiden checked for updates on the wrecked warbot and was told the marines had stripped it down to source the components.  Before they took that step, they read out as much of the unit's remaining memory as they could.  They learned the bot had self-activated, broken free from its crate and killed a bay security guard.  That man's body had been found by the marines as they secured the bay.  But that wasn't the interesting bit of the report.  The most important item found was in the effort to catalog the warbot parts, to source them and see if an owner or seller could be found?  All the items seemed generic and generically manufactured except one.  And that one part, was of Zhodani origin!

While wandering the station, Emkir considered the inbound ship and its "passengers".  He decided that having a list of names would help.  The idea on Inthe had been to make it seem there was a new power rising, and see if the bad guys pushed back?  That meant Emkir really didn't know anyone he'd left behind, because they weren't important.  Because of that, he realized a list would be a good starting point. That brought him back to his latest encounter with Captain Kristianson.  Deciding some things were best avoided, Emkir figured it would be better to have someone else ask.  So, he comm'd Ms. Vik, asking her to reach out to the good Captain.  Ms. Vik comm'd Kristianson, to ask for a manifest of crew, passengers, cargo and "Class of ship" details, saying when asked that Emkir's 'followers' were an eclectic group and you never knew who would show up in each region?

As she worked that angle, Brian searched the directories listing military suppliers in the station computers he could access.  Using these, Brian started building a search of his own, to work through the directories.  Using that, he hunted for providers that might have some or all the parts his decontam design might need.  As the search would take the better part of an hour, Brian hung out in case something failed or it finished early.  Sometime after having called Kristianson, the Captain called Ms. Vik back to say, in a very annoyed voice, that the in-bound 'followers' had requested docking permission at the lock closest to the bars.

When she asked if Inger could explain this, Ms. Vik connected Emkir into the conversation.  Emkir said he was not 100% sure which group of his followers these were?  He said that, if she could get him the passenger list and manifest, it would help him lock that down much quicker.  Still very doubtful, and more than a bit annoyed, Kristianson said the ship scanned as an R-Class subsidized merchantmen, modified to carry 10 low berths and 20 staterooms.  But she had no papers yet.  After Emkir said he'd investigate, Captain Kristianson said, "Since you have your comms worked out, can I speak to Zach please?"


The End of Another Day

     Having set up the data copy, Mikah, Zimzod and Zach headed off to the next nearest SuSAG listing.  During the kart-ride, Zach got linked in, and was asked by Captain Kristianson about the CredChip he took from suspect Gergo Sipos in his apartment?  Curious about what was going on, Mikah linked into the conversation as Zach admitted he couldn't remember where he put the chit?  Answering as he prodded his memory, Zach said, "I have a photographic memory too".  The Captain dryly replied, "So, you know exactly what the lost chit looks like?  Too bad your memory is not Eidetic, so you would recall where it was."  When Mikah asked what was up with the CredChip, Zach said, "I have no clue because Zimzod kept me busy while ripping toes off Sipos at the time."  Mikah again ignored Zach's tendancy toward the passive aggressive.  Zach said that the chip could only be a small number of places, and promised to find it soon as they returned to the cutter.  He thought that was the most likely place he would have left it.

Kristianson asked him to meet a team of marines on the arcology as soon as he had anything to report.  The Captain and Inger signed off with Mikah's team, and Zach devoted the rest of the ride to trying to remember what he did with the chip?  In the meantime, Ms. Vik summed up the call, asking Kristianson to send a request for passenger and cargo lists from the "Cult of Emkir" ship.  That comment brought the Captain up short.  She'd not heard the term "Cult" used regarding the inbound ship and bells started ringing as she decided to get more data from Inger.  Inger realized only too late that she'd used the more accurate but comedic term with an outsider.  She did her best to smooth things over, using her most expert skills in the martial art of administration.  Eventually she got the Captain to accept that the term was how the rest of the crew referred to Emkir's people.  But Inger wondered, as the call ended, what would happen when those on Naval Station 371 found out the truth?

Brian spent the hours before hitting the rack waiting for his search to finish, then made contact with some suppliers to get a feel for parts prices.  Inger studied the dossier on Kishman before turning in.  Captain Kristianson eventually forwarded Emkir a report from the inbound ship's Captain, saying it had 50 people aboard and had been chartered by a "Baron hault-Landiir", who was aboard.  Still working with the system admins, Rol took a break as the work was coming along.  While the others on the naval station and infected arcology got sleep, Rol had relaxed earlier in the day.  Using the access he'd gained working with the admins, Rol worked on a program to skim the last thirty days news files for headlines about SuSAG.  Once he felt he had it done, he went looking for some place more like a restaurant than a cafeteria, to grab some chow.

Mikah's team had reached the next SuSAG location to find the storefront's door unlocked and ajar.  After thirty minutes exploration, they found the place had been looted.  Mikah decided to circle back to the first location, check the laptop and head back to the cutter.  When they got back to the SuSAG clinic, Mikah and the team found the laptop undisturbed and still downloading.  Pausing briefly, Mikah turned to Zach and said "HA!" in a loud and mocking tone, getting in his face about all his fears the device would have been stolen.  Mikah then checked the readout seeing the copy should proceed for hours still.

Then they returned to the kart and the docking bay, for the EVA and scrub down before getting some rest in the cutter.  Once he scrubbed down and set his vacc suit up to recycle its air and other systems, Zach checked his discarded clothes from the day before and quickly found the missing CredChip.  It was then he remembered scrubbing and bringing it into the cutter the evening before.  After he had the chip, Zach comm'd Captain Kristianson, to update her.  She made it clear she expected him to immediately gear up and deliver the chip to the marines.  Not willing to gear up, cross over, return and scrub down again, they agreed he'd put the chip in the cutter's airlock and depressurize the lock, where a marine would EVA to the lock and recover it.  That agreed, Zach set the chip in a pressure-bag and left it for the marine.  They ate as Zach waited, and once the marine signaled he'd gotten the chip, Zach followed the other's lead and grabbed sleep.


Surprise In The Dark of Night

     On Station 371, Rol had found a place to hang out in and eat which was a mix between a cafe’ and a bar.  While he sat and listened, he heard a lot of chatter.  Opinions ranged from blaming some Ancient artifact to complaints the navy should push the infected arcology into the local star to protect the rest of the system.  One particular man complained, "I can't believe they found something to cause more alerts than the election!"  Getting tired, Rol paid his tab and headed back to the team's operations rooms to rack out.  About two hours after he fell asleep, the team on the naval station were blasted awake as alarms went off, waking everyone aboard.  Aiden leapt for his vacc gear as did Brian.  Rol donned his vacc suit but didn't seal up while Emkir and Ms. Vik vacc'd up.  Inger also tried to call Captain Kristianson to check on what caused the alarm?  The Captain was unavailable, and the first news came from Aiden while he was checking his screens.  He found the system schematic put out by the Naval flight control now showed new arrivals!

As Aiden worked to make sense of the data, he saw two new formations of ships displayed in light blue IFF.  The already present Imperial ships were dark blue.  Aiden was happy the IFF signatures weren't red, as he told the others what he saw.  After that, Aiden briefly explained to Inger and Rol that light blue was reserved in Imperial systems for "unknown friendlies" and dark blue for "Imperial Warships".  Of course, red was reserved for hostile forces.  As he checked, Aiden saw the first formation held six ships in a "vee" and the second, twelve.  Still watching the scopes, and unable to reach Captain Kristianson, the team members on the naval station watched for over twenty minutes.  In that time, blockade forces nearest the new arrivals seemed to be forming a skirmish line!  Worried things might be getting a bit hotter than anyone hoped for, Ms. Vik finished with Kishman's dossier and called Mikah to update her on what she'd learned.  Sadly, that didn't tell them much about their current situation or how to find Kishman.

When Aiden followed Inger's call to the cutter, Mikah and the others received his news very calmly.  Considering the events were two days flight away from them, this was well outside anything they could affect.  After confirming with Aiden it was apparent no one had fired yet, Mikah said there was nothing they could do except sleep for the time being.  Those in the cutter decided they were going back to sleep.  On the other end of the panic stick, Aiden comm'd the station's control group asking about getting the Pilot Error refueled.

The operator told him, in a tone that suggested he should be aware of the fact, that 371 was not a logistics station and fleet refueling was the job of the logistical stations.  When Aiden asked if they could arrange the details for that to happen, the operator snorted and said the crew have to fly their ship to a fuel station and request priority.  The tech also said they were not likely to get that quickly under the circumstances.  The nearest fleet fueling station was an hours' flight away.  And with unknown ships arriving and sparking a naval reaction, there was not much anyone could do.  So, after he discussed it with the rest of the team, they went back to sleep, though Aiden planned to wake Emkir when he woke and take the ship to be refueled.

SitRep and Aiden's Quest To Refuel

     Aiden, Brian and Rol woke about the same time that Mikah and those on the cutter did.  As those on the cutter broke out their morning chow, checked their gear and took care of their personal needs, Aiden tried to reach Captain Kristianson, to check on the naval situation?  As he checked his screens, Aiden saw the ship formations hadn't changed positions while the skirmish line had firmed up.  The two forces seemed on the edge of a face off as Aiden reached a Lieutenant Shiikhugke.  Shiikhugke very efficiently said he was Captain Kristianson's aide and could help the team, or communicate their needs to the Captain if needed?  But, he continued, the Captain was currently "off line".  When Aiden asked about the mystery ships, Shiikhugke said everything had been worked out and Admiral Hoheluft Chauss was in control.  Satisfied for the time being, Aiden still wanted the ship ready in case the team needed to cut and run, or all hell broke loose.  So, he went over to where Emkir was sleeping to wake the Admiral to be his backup pilot.

Unfortunately for Aiden, Emkir wasn't concerned with refueling the ship and just wanted to sleep more.  So, it was very hard to get Emkir to cooperate.  Rol considered the situation while the other two argued, and decided to get his gear off the ship before it left, including his full combat kit.  While it might not be needed then, it could be needed later, and the stars only knew when Aiden would return.  Finally getting up with a growl and look of disdain, Emkir accepted that he wouldn't get sleep until Aiden got some level of cooperation.  Brian was also awake, and decided that if the ship was being prepped for jump, he'd have to finish the engineering checks and resets to recycle the jump systems.  As the three headed from their operations room to the ship, Emkir asked Brian if he could scan the data collected on Inthe for a Baron named "hault-Landiir"?

When Brian asked why, Emkir explained he was the one who chartered the ship coming in from the Inthe System.  So, he hoped to get some info on the guy and who might likely come with him before they arrived.  Brian agreed, but said he really wanted to get the engineering work on the ship done first.  Emkir silently cursed the wave of panic that seemed to be coursing through the team, but he thanked Brian for what he could do.  They boarded and met Rol, who was leaving the ship with his weapons and gear "Just in case."  Saying he'd be in his stateroom if needed, Emkir turned his back on Aiden and headed for some sleep in peace.  Brian said he'd be in engineering finishing jump maintenance work.  Left to himself, Aiden headed for the bridge and sparked up the systems needed to plot his flight plan.  It was easy to track the nearest fuel source on sensors by the stream of transports bringing hydrogen from the system's gas giant and the "cloud" of ships "stacked" in the area awaiting refueling priority.

Once his plot was done, Aiden contacted Naval transit command, asking permission to move the ship to the fueling station.  He got that, along with the standard restrictions and warning statements.  At least this time he wouldn't have a flight of fighters on his tail.  As the ship left, Inger pulled up the file on Kishman and asked a navy tech in the area to have chow delivered.  While Inger read, Rol was heading to the station's armory, intending to register his weapons with the armorers.  As he walked, Rol considered his plans for the day.  Sadly, he had not considered the effect of a civilian "guest" aboard the station walking into a military station with unauthorized weapons with no advanced warning.  Once in space, Aiden tried to call ahead for some idea of the wait time for refueling.  He was told military vessels had priority under the current circumstances, and they weren't yet in range to assign a queue priority.

On The Podesta Arcology

     As they ate on the cutter, Zach reached out to the marines for any information they might have on the credChip while Mikah checked in with Ms. Vik.  Not willing to accept "we don't know", Zach continued to reach out, first to the Navy and then to Captain Kristianson.  Getting Lieutenant Shiikhugke, Zach was told no data was available yet, but they'd let him know as soon as possible.  Ms. Vik told Mikah the guys had taken the ship to get it refueled and updated her on the few details she'd gotten from the dossier on Kishman.  She said they also had no data from the Navy on the newly arrived ships.

When Inger mentioned the rumors the navy might push the arcology into the star, Mikah asked when, or if, they planned to evacuate people from the arcology?  That led to an uncomfortable silence before Mikah asked Ms. Vik to check into the rumor as soon as possible with Captain Kristianson.  On the arrival of the ships, Mikah felt there was nothing to worry about at the moment.  While interesting, the command issues weren't a priority as there was no reason the team had to care about it.  Like the Zhodani circuit from the warbot, it was interesting.  Inger said she'd not had any more details on that either.  After updating Mikah, Inger decided to check in with the Starport and called their administrative offices.

Once done with that call, Mikah and her team spent their time gearing up and making the EVA to the arcology.  Then they returned to the SuSAG clinic on the kart.  When they got to the clinic, they found the laptop still there, prompting another laugh at Zach's expense.  But the bad news was that only ten percent of the clinic's data would fit on the limited storage space of the laptop.  Mikah's frustration almost welled over, until they came up with the idea of finding the clinic's server and taking the whole damn thing.

Zach started looking for wires or connections carefully, until Zimzod started smashing furniture and wall panels with the augmented strength of his armor.  Zimzod soon smashed his way to satisfaction as they found the server and Zimzod "removed it" from its mountings.  After securing the computer to the kart, the team checked the SuSAG listings and chose to head to the next facility.  The kart map suggested that should have been fifteen minutes away.  But, because they had to map a course around the station's infrastructure damage, that would likely take an hour.

Inger's Call To Dessie

     When Ms. Vik called and identified herself, she was routed directly to Director Wortman.  The director immediately asked if Ms. Vik was on a secure line?  Inger said she wasn't, but promised to call her back in a few minutes on one before they broke the line.  Reaching out to the officer of the deck as soon as she cleared the line, Ms. Vik requested a secure line be set up for her to contact Director Wortman.  The OD directed her to her liaison, so she broke the line and reached out to Lieutenant Shiikhugke.  Shiikhugke said he could set one up for her and asked where she needed to go to get on the comms?  Once Inger told the Lieutenant, he said he could set up a call directly from her console.  After all the gymnastics, Inger made her call and Director Wortman asked what Ms. Vik needed?  Inger asked about the newly arrived ships.  Dessie said the rumors she'd heard claimed the arriving vessels were Imperial warships from the 211th Cruiser Squadron of the Imperial 212th Fleet.  And they were requesting command of the system!  The women discussed that issue, but neither had any real information to give.

Dessie asked if Inger had heard the rumor the navy was planning to push the Podesti arcology into the local star if no cure was found to the disease?  Inger said she had, but had no information on if this was true or not.  When they discussed her team members on the station and wondered if they would evaluate anyone from it, that subject only led them to a silence.  Having gotten a lot of cooperation from Director Wortman, Inger decided to give her something 'juicy' as a lure, to insure the conversation continued.  Ms. Vik started her gambit by asking if Dessie was certain Kishman hadn't rented facilities on the SPA facility?  Dessie said she was as certain as she could be, without ripping things up and asked if evidence had surfaced that he was actually related to the plague?  When Ms. Vik told her some of the details about the warbot the Knights fought, Dessie went white.  She thanked Inger and told her she'd have her station personnel make completely certain there was no sheet of deck-plating unturned.  As Dessie broke contact with Ms. Vik, Inger called Mikah and updated her with what little she'd gotten.

Taking A Political Turn

     Signing off again with Mikah, Ms. Vik tried to reach out to the Captain again, to ask new questions suggested by Mikah.  the captain answered her line, as she'd returned to duty.  When asked directly about pushing the arcology into the star, Kristianson stifled a laugh before she denied that.  Admitting it may eventually come to that, the Captain said there were many other hopes to burn through first.  She also pointed out that the Admiral wouldn't have authorized deploying the fleet's marines to the arcology if he had no hope of recovering the station.  After that, the two women discussed the arrival of the 211th squadron.  Kristianson explained it as an accident arising from the standard mechanism of fleet rotation.  In this case, someone failed to send the proper communique’s, so the 211th arrived to begin a rotation only to unexpectedly enter a crisis.  After some discussion of the on-going "post mortem" on the warbot, Captain Kristianson mentioned that there were a number of image captures starting to "pile up" from Ms. Vik's request to concentrate on the cargo bay.

Brought up short when this was mentioned, Ms. Vik asked if they'd caught anyone of interest?  Inger was even more surprised when the Captain said, "Yes, in fact.  We caught a shot of a local politician named Alexi Anarthon.  A port worker who had recently won election to a Trade commission post."  When Inger asked about the election, she learned it had been the same old story.  A winner spent lots of money with allies praising supporters for donating and their enemies called for campaign funding investigations.  The two agreed this was nothing Imperial, and the same old story of too many elections.  Inger said it was certainly nothing like the team's past missions, without realizing she had again slipped into vocabulary not expected from a civilian.  And once more, Captain Kristianson picked up the term, deciding it was time to find out what exactly was going on before things continued.

Challenging Ms. Vik directly Kristianson asked, "Mission? That's a very odd word to describe the activities of a retiree.  Even one traveling with Knights."  Inger realized she had relaxed a bit too much, and stepped in it as she started defending her comment.  Ultimately, she admitted the team were not a formal organization, but did handle low key issues for "The Duke".  She laid out enough of her involvement since leaving Regina to relax the Captain a bit more, but not get Inger off the hook.  As the Captain kept pushing, Inger comm'd Mikah and brought her into the conversation.  Pressed by Kristianson about their relationship with Duke Norris, Mikah answered the questions as best she could.  This eventually smoothed things over.  Once things got as close to normal as they could, the Captain asked Mikah if her team could check out the politician?

She hoped they could find if there were any leads now that he and the black marketer were connected?  Mikah agreed, and got the guy's addresses and contact data as she told Zimzod to change the kart's destination.  The team headed for the man's home address while Ms. Vik punched up his network presence from the naval station.  Calling Rol for help on the comms, Ms. Vik learned he'd been enmeshed in red tape after arriving unannounced with unauthorized weapons at the station's armory.  When she asked if he needed help, Rol said they'd at least given him his comms and other gear back.  So things were proceeding as well as could be expected.  After that, Inger signed off with Rol.

Investigating Anarthon's Residence

     On the Podesti arcology the team were riding to the new destination when they came on a large group of looters smashing windows and generally destroying their surroundings.  It was a fairly easy task to stop and re-rout the kart, though they were annoyed when it took more time than they had planned to get to the residence.  They did report the disturbance to the marines, who said they'd respond.  Mikah asked them to round the looters up and bring them to the hospital for testing and other categorization by the doctors.  The marines agreed, as the request seemed sensible enough.  Mikah smiled as she could only imagine their lot as test monkeys for the feverishly working doctors.

Once they arrived at the residence, the three saw looters had visited the neighborhood already.  When they saw Anarthon's home entrance was secure, Mikah asked Zimzod to "open the door" while Zach protested that they should try the doorbell.  Mikah turned to Zach with a mildly disapproving look, and emphatically said, "You're no fun", as Zach moved up to try the call button.  Zimzod watched, timing his actions just right and swung a battledress augmented kick striking the entrance just as Zach hit the button, making him jump!  The very brief chuckle he got as Zach jumped to the side was tempered by the door's failure to open.  Zimzod examined the plate once more before swinging a second kick that both bent the door well out of true and didn't show any sign of breaking in.

As Zimzod considered the situation, he pulled up the schematics from the marine battle computer.  Checking that map for twenty minutes, they found there was a "back door" that was more of an emergency evacuation route then regular passage.  Several of the residences on the corridor had been "jacked" electronically, and they figured they could get access to the rear "escape route" through one of the looted homes.  When they got to the evac entrance, it was clear the portal was not discovered by the looters, and the team had no problems getting it open.  Stepping into a corridor running the length of the residence block, left to right, the team found Anarthon's back door.  It was ajar!  Carefully nudging the door open with his .45, Zimzod got no life signs on his HUD as he scanned what appeared to be a laundry and utility room.

Stepping in, Zimzod noted there were a number of chip-like items scattered, as if dropped in the doorway.  As he led the way in, Zach scooped up a few of the chips from the floor and looked closely.  He saw they were credChips!  Zach examined the plain black credChips without ID markings and activated one to see if there was a balance.  Each of the few he activated showed a cred-Balance of KCr 1, which got him very excited!  The Knights could care less as they concentrated on the chance there might be looters or a home-owner to fight.  Despite Mikah dismissing the find, Zach took time to collect all the chips, which counted twenty seven in number.  Zimzod and Mikah moved carefully into the residence with hand weapons drawn.  Dumping the chips into a pocket, Zach drew his gauss pistol and moved up to join the advancing Knights as they began to explore and clear the living space.

As they moved into the apartment, the team found signs, in each room, of a hurried evacuation.  The presence of untouched but valuable electronics and other items showed the place had not been looted.  But clothing and other presumably important items had been taken.  Seeing the numerous terminals comfortably spread throughout the residence, Zach decided to check and see what he could learn.  Sparking up a terminal brought him to the family's log in page automatically, if unwisely.  That offered a list of log in ID's.  Testing each of the ID's, Zach managed to hack into an account which was obviously a child's ID, for a daughter named "Dottie".  After spending some time exploring the account's access rights and drive shares, Zach found a share from an adult account.  At the same time, the Knights continued to take stock of the situation.

Thinking the drive share was likely opened to load software, Zach decided this guy was just not too bright.  As Zach explored the share drive, he found other links to more heavily secured workspaces.  But using the permissions granted the share, Zach glided effortlessly past the permissions barriers.  At that point, Zach had learned enough of how this guy did business to look for other shared drives on the computer.  He soon found something no one could have predicted.  A directory filled with files named with words like:
          Azhdemdrodr, Raprmenints, Iabrakraz, Fotseetl, etc...

Everyone hunched forward as Zach let out a satisfied hum that turned to a surprised and sudden grunt.  When Mikah, who saw files labelled with gibberish, asked him what it meant, Zach said the files had Zhodani names!  This brought everything to a stop until Mikah broke the pause by demanding how he knew Zhodani?  Her tone was filled more with concern about this new knowledge Zach seemed to have than anything else.  Zach reminded them he'd started in the merchanting trade aboard a Darrian freighter.  He explained that they had ran into a lot of non-Imperial stuff.  Accepting that for the moment, as Zach started opening files, Mikah realized this was important enough that they'd need the Navy.

Acting as she thought, Mikah opened a link to Ms. Vik on Naval station 371 and told her she needed Captain Kristianson linked in immediately!  The tone of the Knight's voice spurred the administrator to instant action as Ms. Vik sparked up a connection to the Captain's office and reached Lt. Shiikhugke.  The Lieutenant first asked, with a patient but tried face, what the issue was?  Realizing then that she'd reacted to Mikah's urgency and didn't know what it was they'd found, Inger asked the Lieutenant to hold and asked Mikah to explain things.  Mikah told Inger only what could be repeated to the Lieutenant on an unsecured line saying, "Tell them it starts with a Z, and has something to do with what we found in the cargo bay".

With no idea what that meant, Inger replied to Shiikhugke, "You need to get the Captain because we found something big regarding your politician."  She made sure to fill her reply with every ounce of authority and purpose she could.  Shiikhugke reacted saying, "I'll get her on the line immediately, Ma'am!"  When Kristianson joined the line, it was clear she was just a bit annoyed.  But she was also all business as she asked what the team had learned?  Mikah asked if the line was secure and, after a pause with perhaps a grumble heard off comms, the Captain said she'd call Ms. Vik back on a secure line.  Once the three were linked together again, the Captain demanded to know what had happened?  Mikah said they'd gained access to Anarthon's home computer and found a directory with files named in the Zhodani language.

The first result was a disappointing pause as silence took the line.  That was soon broken by the Captain's voice asking, "What makes you think the words are Zhodani?" with an effort to keep the 'Yet another imaginary Zhodani spy plot' tone out.  Expecting the tone, Mikah told her Zach Wood had spent time working trader vessels in the Darrian Confederation.  As a result, he'd had minor contact with Zhodani crews and, while the contact wasn't enough to allow him to read the language, he could recognize it.  She explained about the rear escape route, the scattered credit chips, much to Zach's dismay, and the evidence of a hasty evacuation.  As Zach hissed for Mikah to be quiet about the cash, Inger had to wonder if he'd sprung a leak.

Mikah ignored the outburst and explained as much as she understood of what Zach had done and finished up saying they had a directory full of files in Zhodani.  Still less than certain, but much more interested, the captain asked if the team could show her some shots of the screen with the files?  In answer, Dame Mikah simply turned her comms-cam onto the screen and waited.  After another pause she simply heard the Captain mutter "Shit", before pausing once more to compose herself.  After another pause the Captain asked if Zach could be linked into their comms and Mikah signaled Zach to tie in.

          Captain Kristianson said "Mr. Wood", and Zach replied, "Yes?"

          Kristianson asked, "Define your contact with the Zhodani please?", with
                a new and harder edge to her voice.

          Now it was Zach's turn to pause, if only to organize his thoughts.  He then
                explained his time aboard the Darrian Zburudhuk class 500 ton trader
                DMS Dosara early in his career, as an employee of the Frendi
                Marshikin merchant line.  He explained that their speculative trading,
                outside both the Imperium and Darrian Confederation, brought them in
                contact with Zhodani traders, buyers and shippers from time to time.
                Enough so that he could well recognize the written language.

          Once more, a pause before Captain Kristianson asked flatly if she could see
                a video shot of the screen Zach had found, and the team spent a
                brief period setting up the transmission.  Kristianson's reaction was
                short and direct as the others on the link again heard her mutter, "Shit".

Allowing herself a brief pause, which silence was not broken by anyone else, the Captain ordered Mikah and her team to remain where they were and told them help would be arriving as soon as possible.  Mikah first asked who was coming, and was told by Captain Kristianson that she was sending a Naval intel unit.  Mikah protested this at first, fearing a loss of data due to naval "methods".  But she was told these were a specialty team, and nothing would be lost.  The Captain also said she expected to have a conversation with Mr. Wood and naval Intelligence later on.  Kristianson told them to not touch anything else while she forwarded forces to their location to secure the computer and all the files on the system.

So, Zach and the Knights dug in while thoughts of hiding the credChips were forgotten.  Zach explored the Zhodani files as much as he could, as well as answering what questions he could.  When the marines finally did arrive, it was via the front entrance, thanks to a "door remover" charge they'd brought with them.  The three heard a harsh voice order, "stand back from the entry" on their comms, presumably piped in from Captain Kristianson.  They did as they were told as a bulkhead breaching device blew a battledress-sized hole in the entrance valve.  They rose after the demolished door and debris came to rest.  Mikah tapped Zimzod on the shoulder.  As the former marine turned to her, she opened a link between them, nodded her head slowly toward the new entrance saying, "Dude, you're losing your touch", referring to his failure to get them in the front door.  Zimzod just shrugged.

Much like the Knights did, the Marines took care to clear each room in the apartment as they secured the location.  They briefly held the three at rifle point before identifying them and tagging them friendly.  After that, the marines called in the spooks.  At first, Zach tried to explain his methods but quickly found that they only wanted him to get out of their way.  They invaded the computer system, jacking in their own hardware!  As Mikah watched possessively over the activity, one of the naval techs did something to a finger before baring a bio-data connection and jacked himself into the network!  Certain they'd made a major discovery, Mikah was finally happy to be on some kind of trail at last. Ms. Vik listened in as she could via comms.

Looking To Wind Down

     Ms. Vik checked on what she needed to get done and realized there was nothing to do at the moment.  The fleet had stopped processing surveillance videos since the arrival of the 211th, and had not resumed.  Mikah's team had issues on the Podesti arcology as "in hand" as they could get, and except for Rol, the others were off on the ship for who knew how long.  So, Inger considered using the Base Exchange Entertainment system and realized she had no station identification or access.  As Inger thought about that, she realized Rol didn't have station ID either, which may have contributed to his issues.

Calling Captain Kristianson's office, Ms. Vik got Lieutenant Shiikhugke and asked if they could set up station-valid ID's for the team?  She also mentioned Rol's issue with the armory.  Inger then called the hospital, to ask about the looters as requested to by Mikah.  She found out that none of the looters had been delivered to the hospital.  She tried to call Mikah and got her 'outgoing message' before leaving a message.  Ms. Vik realized that she had done everything she could do and decided to look for a recreational facility and have chow.  As she did this and Rol worked out his issues, Brian worked his data list.  And on the ship the rest of the team were either sleeping, working the engines or trying to "fly casual" as they headed for a refuel point.

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Next: Objects in Motion