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A Cure!

Zero Dark Hundred

Risek     Five hours after she went to sleep, Mikah was wakened by her buzzing comms.  Pulling herself out of sleep, she grabbed the headset and answered the call.  It took her a moment to realize it had come from doctors at the lab she'd set up!  She tried to understand what they were saying but, at first, could only make out that they were very excited or alarmed.  Soon she was fully awake, realizing they'd found something they felt was a very important clue.  Stopping them, Mikah had them restart what they were saying and got the explanation.  As assumed healthy subjects, the doctors had been regularly running blood tests on each other.  They assumed that if one contracted the disease, it might be caught by these tests.  Even if it wasn't realized by that doctor or the others until later.  And the assumption seemed to have proven correct!

When some of the doctors had been seen to have started exhibiting symptoms, the blood work data for those doctors were examined.  Doing that, a spike was found in a naturally occurring virus, called AAV2 for short!  This normally beneficial virus was known to be present in all Humans, and protected against cancer mutations by attacking mutated cells.  But in the effected doctors, tests showed the AAV2 seemed to be attacking the mitochondria in normal un-mutated cells!  That news woke Mikah up completely, and she started shouting at the others in the cutter to wake up.  Mikah told the doctors she and her team would be there as soon as they could, and cut the line to explain to the still groggy Zimzod and Zach what she'd been told.

Quickly, after Zach cooked a rushed breakfast, the team geared up and moved out to the hospital.  Once there, they found the place was a hive, active with expanded work.  Mikah smiled as she saw some of it focused around former looters who had been strapped to gurneys.  The next six hours were a blur for those on the arcology as Mikah joined in with the doctors.  Zimzod and Zach worked with the lab techs.  Thanks to the link to the lab aboard the SDB base, the Navy brass were also in on the news.  When the rest of the team checked in they were updated too.  Rol said he'd continue his searches and stay available on the naval station.  Aiden said he, Emkir and Brian would be available on the ship until they got fuel and returned.

Fourteen hours later, Mikah sensed she should be seeing something.  But what that "something" was just eluded her.  Even after two attempts to work at the microscopic level, she just couldn't define what her gut was telling her was there.  But after a long second try, everyone was exhausted.  Everyone in the lab sat back while the medical personnel coming on shift on the SDB station took up the research.  Over the day, Rol had checked in periodically and the three men on the ship confirmed they still hadn't been given a refueling priority.  No word had come from Ms. Vik on what she'd learned on the SPA port?

Back To The Cutter

     Eventually, Mikah and her team made their exhausted way back to the docking bay to find the workers there getting sicker and becoming belligerent.  A scan of the area found they had broken into the team's supplies, finding the pharmaceuticals.  At least one body attested to the fact that some of the drugs were tried with fatal results.  A crying and squirming woman, being tended to by several of the others, appeared to have made a desperate attempt to cure herself by pouring bleach over herself!  Blinded, and in pain, she couldn't contain her feelings as she cried out.  Seeing Mikah's team, the workers rose and some formed a line between them and the air-lock.

As the three advanced, one of the workers said they'd locked the air-lock so no one could get out unless they docked and took the workers with them.  Tired beyond reasonability, the two Knights simply reached for their weapons with the speed of trained combat veterans.  While Mikah opened up at leg level, Zimzod was not as forgiving.  He used his battledress HUD to lock onto and target knee caps.  The fire was brief and brutal as four of the workers went down in screaming pain.  Horrified, Zach started yelling "Hold!" as he was caught in the madness surrounding him.

In all the screaming, Zach felt he could discern the one standing figure that seemed to be the center of attention.  Some of the workers were calling out, "give them the code!"  Stopping the firing for a brief moment, Zach called to the workers, telling them he couldn't stop the Knights unless they unsecured the air-lock.  He also said there were many locks the team could use.  This was just the most convenient.  He continued that they could easily kill all the workers and go to another air-lock.  As Zach spoke, the shoulders of the defiant workers started slumping more and more.  Eventually one of the workers admitted to being the one who locked the panel as he stepped forward and unlocked it for them.

Grateful to have resolved the issue without more bloodshed, Zach told the workers that there had been promising breakthroughs at the hospital and they should have faith and head to the hospital for treatment.  Mikah added to that, saying they should all move to the hospital, both because of the disease and for the weapon wounds.  Too tired and frustrated to let it go at just that, Zimzod moved to quickly grab the worker who'd locked the access plate.  Holding the man firmly, he began preparing to break the man's fingers saying, "You'll never lock an access plate again!" before Zach intervened.

Not getting drawn into the evolving fight, Mikah pulled out her medkit and started treating the wounded with first aid.  Her work was none too gentle, nor very detailed, but she got the bleeding stopped and the wounded stable enough to be moved by their co-workers.  Zach argued with Zimzod, trying to talk him into letting the man go as he tried to talk the Knight down.  After giving up on breaking the man's fingers, Zimzod hit on a new plan and dragged the unprotected worker to the air-lock saying, "You wanted to come to the cutter with us?  Come on!" in a suddenly very enthusiastic and accomodating tone that had everything to do with the fact the man did not have a vacc suit on.  Zach rushed between the Knight and the air-lock to stop and argue with Zimzod.  He tried to convince Zimzod they should return the worker's faith with faith in the workers.

Zach eventually convinced the Knight he wouldn't allow the man to be pulled into the air-lock.  Grasping the man's head in a battledressed hand, Zimzod turned the firmly held man to face his visor saying, "You are never gonna lock an access plate again!  Are you?"  Forcing the worker to move several times, like a puppet, Zimzod mimed, "No, I will not lock air-locks anymore."  Zimzod eventually tossed the man to the side, though not hard enough to cause more injuries.  He then brushed past Zach and headed for the air-lock and the cutter.  As Zimzod passed into the air-lock, Zach checked the pile of raided supplies they'd left.  Much of the pharmaceuticals were opened and spilled or exposed the ground, not to mention the air of the bay.  He estimated that ninety percent of the stolen drugs had been ruined.

Emkir was relieved by Aiden, and reported nothing had changed at all before racking out.  Not interested in being bored for hours, Aiden called Rol asking how he could help the work being done?  Rol sent him the stack of pictures captured outside bay 700 for investigation.  After getting the pictures, Aiden called to Naval IT to get access to the database taken from the arcology.  Burnt out for the day, Brian racked out as did Emkir.  Shortly, Aiden had reason to regret bringing Emkir at all, as a naval flash broadcast demanded that Admiral Meshrumiikiim answer the comms!

Consolidating Forces And Wrapping Up The Day

     Aiden piped the call down to the stateroom waking Emkir, who answered the comms not quite sure what was going on?  The confused "hello" came off almost happy, and the line cycled through several clicks before the decidedly not happy voice of Captain Kristianson came on!  The Captain demanded Emkir report to her office ASAP, after pointedly stating the Imperial Navy had taken his "people" into custody.  She further stated that the ship they'd arrived aboard had been placed under Naval charter as a "holding facility" for the prisoners until such time as their further status was determined.

On the bridge, Aiden was already plotting the course back to the naval station.  When Emkir said they'd been on queue, waiting for authorization to enter the refueling line, the Captain snarled a guarantee they wouldn't get the ship fueled before the issue was dealt with.  Agreeing, Aiden plotted a simple track back to the naval base and called naval traffic control on a second comms.  He requested permission to make the transit back to the naval station, but was very annoyed at Emkir for causing a delay in getting the ship refueled.  Permission was given and Aiden made the first maneuvering burns as they began the return crossing for the second time.

Woken up again, Emkir considered trying to contact "his people" via comms.  But since he didn't know any of them, he figured the Navy could handle them until he got there.  Aiden handled the five-hour transit back to naval station 371, and then alerted both Emkir and Brian Imperial forces may be boarding when they arrived.  Brian got up and planned to do his morning routine before grabbing his revolver and heading back down to engineering.  Emkir also planned to do his morning routine and then head to the bridge.  After Aiden docked the ship and opened the air-lock, he found the Captain and her aide waiting with four marines in battledress!

They told Aiden to debark the ship as the Lieutenant boarded, hit the "all ship" and ordered all aboard to report to the air-lock.  Emkir stopped what he was doing, threw clothes on and reported as did Brian, who'd grabbed his revolver.  The Captain told the three they would be heading to her office for a "talk" as one of the marines took Brian's revolver and handed it to the Lieutenant.  The Lieutenant left the revolver visibly in the ship's air-lock and closed the port.  Once in her office, she ripped into Emkir for two hours before making it clear he was to go, under guard, to the R-Class merchanter and tell the Baron he must work with the ship's captain to take them out-system.

On Station 371, After Aiden's call from the ship, Rol decided to see if one of the team in Podesti could find anything in the residence of Irderi Geamga?  He'd both backed Alexi Anarthon's election and, as Rol had discovered, stopped a few investigations of the election's finances.  The palatial residence had, Rol found, been covered in a number of style magazines and sported very high-end furnishings as well as a single pane viewport of space rising three levels high!  After he called the team, and after 12 hours working, Rol decided to head for the restaurants and eat and listen to the babble.  Listening in, he found the normal chatter mixed in with nerves and confusion over the arrival of the Duke's forces.  On the SPA Port station Ms. Vik considered shopping but decided to rack out after her day of investigation.

Once done with decontamination on the cutter, Mikah and her team were eating when they got a very angry comm contact from the hospital.  The wounded bay workers had begun arriving at the hospital after the "battle of the bay" and the horrified doctors were raging mad at medical professionals shooting up the sick!  Zimzod simply turned off his comms while Zach listened.  Mikah took up the task of talking the hospital staff down.  Her main drive was to state from the get go that she and her team had been attacked first.  Eventually, she either shouted down or convinced each of her accusers.  An hour later, they were able to try to sleep at last.  Once that was done, Mikah disgustedly killed her comms and slept while Zach set his comms to rest mode and also slept.

New Day, New Challenges

     Some hours later, Rol woke and took care of his morning routine before heading out to get food only to find his door guarded!  Rol asked what was happening and was told, "Captain Kristianson would like to speak with you."  Rol submitted to their instruction and followed their lead to an outer office, with four other battledressed troopers standing in it.  There, he was told to sit and wait.  Once the Captain had dealt with him, she excused Emkir, with a marine escort, while having Rol led in.  With Rol, Aiden and Sir Brian in her office, Captain Kristianson then demanded information on "Emkir's People".  They first said that Emkir achieved some celebrity in the Inthe system.  they added that some his "followers" just followed Emkir a little too much.

Rol and the others were questioned by the Captain after Emkir was led off.  They were made aware their team would now have to justify any naval support and cooperation requested before being told they could return to the briefing room.  Brian headed back to the ship after a brief conversation with the room guard to give his intended destination and make sure he wouldn't need an escort.  Getting to the briefing room, he called the codes for IRIS, as instructed by Mikah, before calling and updating her.  Brian then went back to finish work on the drives.

Mikah woke up first and started getting ready for her day, waking up Zimzod as she did.  As she went by him, Zimzod grabbed at Mikah's ass causing her to both slap his hand away and throw a kick.  Not expecting the reaction, Zimzod was caught in the solar plexus and left gasping for breath.  This "action" woke Zach up and he said, "Hmm, I see everyone's up, guess I'll make breakfast."  Peeling himself up and cleaning his hands, Zach updated Mikah and Zimzod about the comms traffic surrounding "Emkir's People"

Mikah chuckled as she could only think of how badly Captain Kristianson would be pounding Emkir once she learned the truth about his followers.  Mikah then decided to head back to the hospital to see what progress had been made?  At the hospital, they learned the doctors had developed a therapy that seemed to be slowing the process of the disease.  It still couldn't cure anyone, and they said they could use help with the effort.  Agreeing to help, Mikah and the others dove back into the research.

After waking up on the SPA port, Ms. Vik tried to check in with the team.  She got the team on the arcology but not Rol or the team on the ship.  Inger told Mikah and left messages for the others, that she was doing something at the SPA port which she'd explain later.  Mikah updated her on the medical progress, and when Inger asked if she had to shoot someone, Mikah said, "Oh yeah!  It was great!"  They then joked about the situation as Mikah explained.  Mikah then got serious, and explained what happened on the naval station, warning her to get things done before returning there.  Ms. Vik said she'd check in the next morning.  Inger then did her daily routine and headed off to the docks.

At the docks, Ms. Vik checked with some of the deck officers for a list of the ships which had been held in port the longest due to the quarantine.  She figured she could use her experience to offer the ship captains help.  In exchange for that, she could perhaps hear what they knew of the rumor mill, and perhaps get a lead on Kishman.  When she asked for the data, the fact she had retired as a SPA Director got her everything she needed.  The first likely vessel on her list was the IMV Skipping Stone, so she was off to their berth.  At the bay Ms. Vik found the ship closed up and ready to depart the station as soon as given permission, as it had likely been for some expensive days of delay.

Visiting The Skipping Stone

     Pinging the ship from the bay entrance, Ms. Vik got a greeting from the ship's duty officer on the comms.  After she announced herself, he had Inger slide her Ident in the data slot to verify her ID.  They opened the lock to let her in and told her the Captain would be right down.  The ship was a far trader like the "Enlightened Measure", which they'd flown to the rescue of in the Porozlo System.  Inger had a few moments of Déjà vu as she boarded, but she followed the Captain to her office, off the bridge.  Once there, they talked and Inger convinced Captain Kimiko Arduini she could help the ship save funds during the forced docking.  Ms. Vik asked the Captain for a tour of the ship to see what opportunities were present for her to act on?  Inger saw some places she could save the ship money, but nothing related to the grey markets or offering her information to hunt down Shaslu Kishman.

Eventually, they cut a deal where Inger would get ten percent of any savings the ship realized from changes in services from the station.  Inger was certain she could work KCr 10 in savings out of the services, and get Cr 1,000 for herself.  Of course, as they talked, the Captain was wistful about the Stone getting permission to break seals and leave the system completely.  When Ms. Vik half-jokingly said, "Well, I can try for that" the Captain turned serious and said, "You do and you can have half of what I have in my cargo bay!"  That deal made, Ms. Vik thanked the Captain and headed off with her notes to ship's services to negotiate.  Once at ship's services, Ms. Vik tried to work with them to allow the Skipping Stone to adjust their costs and what it received from the port.

Starting with the basics, and using her credentials, Inger got a list of the services the ship had been receiving from the station.  From the start, she could see they were being charged for connections to the merchant trading nexus even though they had finished all their dealings and were sealed up, ready to leave.  Annoyed, Inger went through the charges with a fine eye and identified a number of charges that should have been stopped when the boom came down, if not before.  And, she noticed some fines the port might owe the ship too!  Those would get her Cr 1,000 at the least, and she started working on getting the service and billing changes made.  This didn't make the port worker very happy, though he kept his thoughts to himself given her credentials.  That, and he could actually see Ms. Vik was right!

When Inger felt she'd built a rapport with the services agent, she suggested she needed a ride back to the naval station she came from.  Getting some initial, and "nearly friendly", resistance, she played the naval support and possible authority cards.  Inger also suggested the she might get approval for the ship to leave the system after that mission.  After all, there was no outbreak or suspected infection on that station.  The man working with her was very skeptical of that, but promised to make the attempt.  He took her credentials and contacted the comms data department.  They said they'd let her know when they'd contacted the Navy before getting to making the service changes. 

Leaving the agent's office, Inger comm'd the Captain about the coming service changes.  When asked about the other thing, Ms. Vik said she was working on that.  She told Captain Arduini, "I might be able to get your ship out."  The Captain hopefully asked, "Might?  Do we have odds?" and Inger said she wasn't setting up storage for half of their cargo just yet.  Still, she was working on it.  Before she finished the conversation, Inger asked if the Captain might spread word about her services to other Captains that knew her and might need help?  Captain Arduini said she'd be glad to do that as they signed off.  Ms. Vik then stopped to grab lunch and call Rol, to find out what happened on the naval station before going suit shopping?

When she got Rol and asked if it would be safe to come back to the naval station, Rol joked, "Why would it not be safe?"  Inger explained the limited information Mikah had from Brian, saying, "I heard the ship arrived back at the station and you were hauled in to see the Captain.  I wanted to make sure you were not in the brig."  When Rol explained the new limits on their actions, Inger said she was gonna hang out where she was, on the SPA facility.  There, she felt she had more freedom to act.  She didn't tell Rol about the ride she was trying to engineer or the deal behind it.

After talking to her, Rol watched as Emkir angrily returned to the briefing room.  Aiden asked what happened and Emkir said he was forced to pay KCr 68 of the Baron's expenses!  When Aiden asked why he'd had to pay, in between well-chosen curses, Emkir eventually explained.  Since he had made up a story about what kind of figure he was, and that may have led people to follow, they blamed him.  And the Navy backed them up!  Hearing that, Aiden asked what was happening with the people.  Emkir said "his followers" were going back to Inthe.  When Aiden asked if there'd be any more followers, Emkir emphatically said, "Gods!  I hope not!"

Off To Do Some Breaking And Entering

     After a half day spent in research, Mikah and the doctors hadn't made any advances.  On the naval station, Rol decided he had enough data that asking Mikah's team to check out Irderi Geamga's home out was warranted.  He comm'd Mikah, who was glad to take a break, and discussed investigating Geamga's place.  Mikah told Zach and Zimzod what Rol had in mind, and they prepared to leave to check the lead.  Seeing that, some doctors complained they need every trained medical person, especially those with more advanced tech experience.  They were very upset that Mikah seemed to be walking out on them!  Eventually Mikah gave up fighting with them and sent the two men out to investigate the political figure while she stayed and continued working.

Grabbing a kart, Zach and Zimzod hopped in and Zimzod interfaced his battledress battle computer with the Kart's "brain" to give destination instructions to the vehicle.  While he couldn't access the vehicle's maps, he could essentially wave his hand over the kart and make it run.  As they arrived in a very ornately decorated concourse in the station, they identified which entrance belonged to Geamga and checked the door.  Locked, as expected, they examined the lock to find a very sophisticated electronic system.  Zach figured "what the hell", and hit the doorbell.  The pair waited a one hundred count before Zimzod figured no one was coming and tried to pick the lock.

All he got for his efforts was a calm electronic voice stating, "The Authorities have been called to this location."  Considering brute force, Zimzod tried to get a purchase on the door or frame and pull the door open.  But it was well crafted and, in the end, that effort failed.  Figuring he couldn't hurt the situation any more, Zach tried his hand at picking the lock and also got the recording.  Annoyed at their lack of progress, Zimzod decided to try something from the extreme side of the coin.  Not having an FGMP-15 handy, he chose to try ramming their kart into the door!  Using his battle computer to set the vehicle into position, he stood back and gave the execute order.

While the well-built doors held up, the relatively lightly built kart had it's front end crumpled into something less stylish than origami wreckage.  Out of other options, Zimzod decided to see if the Navy's new restrictions would get in the way of getting schematics of the residence from the marines on-station?  Calling the marines, Zimzod found they were a five minute "walk" away in battledress.  Not be slowed down, Zimzod left Zach to wait and set off.  Zach settled in to further searching the corridor as he waited for Zimzod to return.  As he searched, Zach found an Emergency Services Access panel, used by rescue services to get access to residences.  Unfortunately, the panel required an authoritative code on an Ident, something else the team didn't have.

Continuing to explore the hallway, Zach remembered Chief Engineer Mossi and figured he still had that comms data.  Punching in the call, Zach listened as the line was opened and a voice he didn't recognize said, "Hello?"  Zach asked, "Can I speak to Engineer Mossi?" and was told, "I'm his doctor.  Can I help you?"  Not getting four from two plus two, Zach told the doctor, "They are making some advances at the hospital!  You should really get him to the hospital", only to be told by the doctor that they Were at the hospital.  It was then Zach remembered Mossi telling Mikah he was sick almost two days back.

Apologizing and letting the doctor go, Zach returned to the panel and tried to figure a way to hack into it.  But, he soon realized it would take some major re-wiring he didn't know how to do.  As he reached that point, Zach heard a male voice behind him taunting, "What have we got here?"  Zach turned his head to see a group of disparate looking people carrying what seemed to be hastily packed items.  Each also carried, in at least one hand, something that could be used as an improvised weapon.  Following the turn of his head with a full turn as he drew his snub pistol, Zach threatened them to leave, quickly.  The group reacted quickly to the gun, following his instructions and leaving the area, and his aim.

At the Marine checkpoint, things were all business as the troops had other things to do.  Zimzod, despite the outward attitude he presented, didn't like having left a man behind, even Zach.  It was just a bad way for a marine to do things and a habit to not get into.  So Zimzod was quickly done and on his way back to the hallway.  When he got back, Zach showed Zimzod the EMS panel.  That explained the codes embedded in the map file Zimzod got.  If only they had an Ident with authority to use the codes.  Shrugging off the panel as useless, Zimzod checked the map and found there was a garage entrance for karts two levels below.  Going back in the direction Zimzod returned from, they made a right at the next corner to find a lift.  Using that, they tried to get two levels down.  The door closed and the lift started to move, but only got a bit more than one floor down before it jammed.

Zimzod first opened the emergency panel, then looked for the door's manual release.  But he only saw a comms panel to call for help with.  Seeing no other helpful devices, Zimzod used his battledress enhanced strength to easily force the doors open.  With the doors open, he considered forcing the elevator down the remaining distance as it was about a foot below the intervening floor.  They considered the drop, if the breaks failed, before coming to a decision.  The two then climbed out of the lift and found some stairs to finish the trip.  On the correct level, they found the proper garage and Zimzod pulled up his comms on his HUD.  He then adjusted it to the frequency conveniently given on the map with the EMS data.  As he did that, the garage slid open revealing both personal Karts were in place.

Looting Investigating Irderi Geamga's Home

     Both men moved in quickly and found the entrance from the garage to the main residence.  They entered the door into a minimally decorated hall proceeding directly ahead from the door.  The walls were white and the carpeting grey.  There were four doors off the right wall of the hall as they looked down it.  In the lead, Zimzod opened the first door he came to, and saw a dead female body lying on the floor, dressed in modest dark colored fabric.  Other than the fact that the woman was dead, he saw nothing distinguishing about the body and moved on, giving room for Zach to peer in as he followed.  Opening the next door he came to, Zimzod saw a dead male body in the next room and decided to go in and check for any ID or access keys.  He quickly found and grabbed what appeared to be the dead man's Ident before turning to the terminals in the man's room.  Zimzod spent some time trying to hack into the system before moving on.

Following him into the living sections of the home, Zach glanced into the dead woman's door as Zimzod moved on.  He turned to see the former marine open the next door and step into that room.  Zach decided that, since Zimzod was exploring that room, he would explore the woman's room, quickly deciding this had been a female servant.  Looking around, Zach saw the signs of a spartan existence.  The one visible thing of value was the woman's Ident, and Zach took that.  Leaving the room, Zach passed the other room noting a dead male servant on the floor and Zimzod working at the man's computer terminal.  Passing the next two doors, Zach headed to the end of the corridor where it opened to a fifteen-foot-wide extension back from that level's main room.

The open space was much more lushly decorated than what now appeared to be the 'servant's corridor'.  It led into a living space that could only be considered an ornate living room or den.  This gave Zach a much more interesting hunting ground as he looked for things that might be of interest.  The single dominating feature of the cozy room was a viewport that immediately drew Zach's attention.  The port made up the entire outer wall of the room and extended up three levels!  The only part of the port which was blocked off was an overhang from the floor just above.  That appeared to be a private room on that level.  Other than that, occupants of this den could look up and out through all three levels of the viewport into local space.

Zach didn't see anything to do with the election or plague, if he remembered to look at all.  He did identify four items of unknown age or origin which caught his interest after the viewport.  His first thought was that he wanted to take them.  But he didn't have anything to carry the items in until he could research them, so Zach went back to the dead woman's room to grab a pillow case.  Zimzod was still working in the dead man's room and didn't care what Zach was scurrying around doing.  But while Zach was in the dead woman's room, Zimzod gave up hacking the computer and headed out to the main sitting area.  Noting the wide main staircase rising from this space to the next floor, which he assumed Zach searched, Zimzod looked for another method of access to the upstairs.  His mind was on the owner's business dealings and office rather than where they relaxed.  He also didn't want to be seen as he explored the place, lest someone have a gun and a fear of looters, and the staircase was very open and visible.

Zimzod quickly found a door leading to a plainly decorated spiral staircase that was obviously for servants to use.  It was enclosed, tight and hidden from outside view so it was perfect for Zimzod's needs, and started climbing.  As Zach returned to the main room for his "artifacts", Zimzod carefully cracked the door on the second level.  He looked up and down a corridor that looked like access to private rooms.  Likely bedrooms, he thought, and moved on.  Zach noticed Zimzod was no longer in the dead man's room as he returned to the main room.  He then gently set the four objects into his pillow case before looking briefly for the Knight.  Not seeing him, Zach decided to go upstairs himself and went up the main stairs.

On the uppermost level, Zimzod found a hall proceeding both left and right.  To his right, he saw the viewport so he went left, ignoring doors he assumed led to bedrooms.  Soon he came to what seemed to be a main sitting room.  It could also be accessed from the outside station corridor by a "greeting door".  Guessing this might be where business was done, Zimzod searched the room until he found what he thought was a polished synthetic case.  On closer examination, he found the case was made of actual wood, so dark as to be black in color and so shiny as to appear almost glass.  Unlike normal cases, this three-foot-high, one foot by one foot case had doors on all four sides.

Discoveries, Treasures And Failures

     Opening one door in the case, Zimzod saw an item that stopped him in his tracks, a Darrian Flame Sculpture!  Some of the rarest artifacts in this end of space, sculptures of gravitically held flame were remnants of the technology formerly held by the fading Darrian Empire.  Now a small confederation of systems, they had caused a massive series of solar flares that had burned out technology for parsecs in every direction!  The current confederation members were the surviving or rescued remnants of this former empire.  Not an expert, Zimzod was sure such a treasure, on the proper market, could bring wealth enough to buy a starship if the authorities didn't step in!  Certain he wasn't leaving it behind, Zimzod made sure he could move it safely in its case before tucking it under an arm and continuing his investigations.

On the second level, Zach came to a passage which had two doors to the left and one to the right with one's back to the viewport.  It was there that the grand stairs met the passage, which ended with a grand view of space outside.  Further back opposite the viewport and stairs, there was a closet and a pair of corridors opening to the left and right.  As Zach explored the first door to the left, it opened to a young man's room.  The child, appearing about 10-12 years old, was dead and laid "in state" on the bed.  The room was ornate, and had the expensive toys anyone would expect of a wealthy and intelligent child.  Zach looked for anything that sparked his interest as a looter, apparently giving up his medical mission.  Zach soon found nothing there and headed back out.

Heading to the next room down the hall on the left, Zach found a similar scene with a young lady.  She appeared to be in her teens, and was also laid out in state.  Once more, he performed a basic search for items he felt were worth looting until he saw something that stopped him cold.  Threaded on a silver necklace around the dead girl's neck was what appeared to be a Dryone Coyn!  He examined it more closely before deciding it was a real coyn!!  An artifact used by that race in their Caste Assignment ceremonies. This coyn was for the "Sport" caste, which was the most flexible and most often seen mixing in Imperial populations.  Deciding he 'Must' have it, Zach removed the necklace from her neck with some spare sharp words for any idiot who would punch a hole in a rare artifact to use as jewelry!

Once he had that, Zach moved back to the hall and on to the next door, to the right side of the corridor.  As he expected, this was the master bedroom and it extended to close off a section of the viewport for the privacy of those in the room.  It also extended to the left, past where the walls of the den below ended as one faced out into space.  In that room, Zach found a dead woman laid out, and a man apparently in the late stages of the plague, kneeling at the edge of the bed.  He was apparently trying to fit a shotgun under his chin.  Zach immediately rushed to stop him from shooting himself.  But as Zach moved, the man dropped the gun and fell over, desperately reaching for it once more.  At first, Zach tried to ask some basic questions but decided he needed to get the guy onto the bed.

Zach's first attempt, using the "fireman's lift", failed and he only managed to drop the man hard against the floor.  Zach then hooked his arms under the man's arms and lifted him up to get him onto the bed.  Unfortunately, that took more time than the man had and, as Zach attempted to ask another question, the man's eyes glazed over and he died.  Annoyed at the loss, Zach looked around to see if there were any computer terminals in the room?  He quickly saw one on a small desk in the room.  When he started trying to get access, he saw the computers were voice activated.  He realized there was no way he could hack into that and he no longer had access to the man who could have opened it!

Returning to his main quest, Zach searched the room for artifacts and turned to looting the woman's jewelry chest.  It was here Zach scored a personal treasure as he opened a box from the back of a bottom drawer.  In there, he found what seemed to be an entire set of Dryone coyns!  Checking through the set, Zach realized it was missing the "Sport" coyn.  So, these were the set the coyn from the dead girl's necklace had came from.  Recovering the necklace from the pillow case, he separated the coyns from the rest of his booty and put them into a separate pocket in his vacc suit.  With those stowed, Zach surrendered all barriers from grave robbing and emptied the woman's entire jewelry chest into his pillow case.

Once he was done with the flame sculpture, Zimzod explored the room.  Seeing voice activated computers in the sitting room, he first ignored them, then looked for anything which might have a recording of the man's voice, so he could record and use it with his battledress systems.  When that led nowhere, he comm'd Zach to find where he was?  After they agreed they could do nothing with the voice activated terminals, Zimzod started exploring the maps of the home.  Zimzod found the computer core and then told Zach where to go while he went to meet the trader there.  When they got to the core, Zach saw the box Zimzod was carrying as Zimzod saw the demented Halloween trick or treater appearance of Zach's pillow case.

Zack asked about the box and Zimzod deflected the question, saying they were there to get into the computer for information.  They checked the device to figure out any system details, or locate any access points they could find.  Zimzod was certain of one thing...  If they pulled it off its moorings and tried to drag it back to the cutter, they were gonna need a trailer.  Realizing they needed more data than they had, Zimzod comm'd Brian.  With his help, they learned the computer was a Naasirka brand unit.  And not just any Naasirka computer, but a type so expensive the maintenance was handled by a local service unit of the megacorporation!

They talked about ways to access the system, and Zach wished he'd gotten the codes from the guy in the master bedroom before he died.  When he said that, the comment caught Zimzod up short.  Zimzod asked Zach, "You found someone who was alive and didn't ask him for the codes?"  Zach said, "I tried to get answers from the man but the guy was too busy dying."  He then said Zimzod didn't seem to have any codes either.  Then Zach probed, "I'd like to know what's in the box?"  Again, Zimzod deflected the question and Zach let him, as they talked about finding tools to remove the computer core with.  Eventually, Zach returned to the lower levels and the garage to find tools to remove the computer.

Zimzod called Mikah to update her on their situation.  After Zach returned empty-handed, they considered what to use to get the computer free from its moorings?  Zimzod remembered Brian said the computer would be serviced by locally based Naasirka technical support and suggested they go to their local office to get tools.  When Zach agreed, they went down to the garage together and Zimzod used the dead man's Ident to activate a kart.

On station 371, Brian was working in the Pilot Error on the engineering systems.  Despite taking the call from the guys on the arcology, Brian was able to finally finish the needed maintenance on the ship's drives.  On the station, Aiden got no further data on his research and Rol was just as stuck.  Inger had not yet reported on her activities on the SPA port.

In The Podesta Hospital Lab

     Mikah was reaching her wit's ends, setting up and documenting samples with every anti-viral they could think of.  She tried not to think of how many different varieties of tests she could run, much less how easily this "should" be with the proper technology and support.  Of course, this didn't consider all things being blown to hell by a social collapse.  These thoughts were interrupted as a cry went up and an excited med-tech came rushing toward her, pushing people out of his way!  When the tech arrived, he was breathless as he spit out that a sampled had cleared!  The implications were immediate to all in hearing range...  One of the anti-virals worked, and the sample was clear because the viral cloud had been killed off!

Immediately, everyone froze as they realized a moment they'd all hoped for but never really expected had come to pass.  And then, just as suddenly, the lab was filled with frantic activity as everyone was either moving to respond to the discovery or to watch those responding.  The thought on everyone's mind was the fear this was a "false success" or mistake.  If asked honestly at that time, that was the most expected outcome as Mikah and the senior doctors organized by the samples.  The lot was quickly identified, and a small team of med-techs were brought in to assist the doctors.  Together, they pulled up all the data on those test batches.  They worked to find the exact anti-virals and other materials used in that specific test batch.  Other med-techs began clearing a section of the lab to lay out new samples for verification trials.

It took thirty minutes to assure they could duplicate the results of the first sample in three new samples.  The shock was as evident as the raised spirits, as everyone realized they'd found the basis of a cure!  Now they had to see if they could make a treatment work based on the cure without killing patients?  It was another half hour before they had a "test cure" ready to try and came face to face with the uncertainty of how to test it for Human safety?  As the other doctors suddenly found themselves at a standstill, Mikah was not willing to sit on her hands.  She ordered a test hypo made up and, despite demands for further testing, moved to the bed of Chief Engineer Mossi.  Having been moved to the hospital after revealing he'd become ill, the man was in the final stages of the disease.  And, barely responsive, Mossi agreed to be a test subject.

Unknown to Mikah or the supervising doctors, a few of the med-techs who'd started suffering from the illness had found ways to inject themselves with the test cure, rather than end up like those they were treating.  As most eyes were on Mossi, the man finally succumbed to the disease, leaving the doctors to argue if he was just too far gone to be saved or the cure killed him?  This only ended after a period of time when one of the med-techs who self-injected announced a sample of his muscle cells had tested clear of the disease!  Having self-injected, the med-tech said he had been taking fifteen minute "jab samples" of muscle tissue, to test for the AAV2 mutation.  His last came up clean!

This announcement caused a change in the attitudes of the resisting doctors.  Now there was a move to catalog the various doctors and techs who'd slipped themselves an injection and set up a monitoring regimen.  As this started happening, Mikah decided there needed to be a more scientific and systematic method to the human testing.  She ordered a number of solitary cells set up and organized gathering sufferers, at various stages, into the cells.  Each was then treated and placed under testing and observation.  At that point, they could sit, test and observe the separate self-injected and organized subjects.

Ms. Vik Goes Viral

     On the Starport Authority facility, word was starting to get out about Ms. Vik's work for the Skipping Stone.  Her comm-unit was becoming jammed with calls for help as the one Captain called several who each called more in geometric progression.  Inger chose the first three to have called her, expecting those Captains to be trusted by the Skipping Stone and hopefully be part of any black market activity.  The others, she likely wouldn't have time for in the short term, without hiring staff and really establishing a company.  Having made her decision, she started making the calls to the Captains of the "World Hopper", "True Credit" and "Amber Voyager".

Next: A Real Cure and A False End