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Last Updated     February 8 2018
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Not Quite Out Of The
                            System Yet

Brian Gets A Surprise

Risek     As of mid-day, the crew were happy to have permission to leave the system, and needed to pick up supplies and fuel before heading to the jump point.  For most of them, their next destination, the Jae Tellona system, was nothing more than a listing in "Library Data".  Or, a note in literary or travel books.  But for Sir Brian, it wouldn't just be where he'd get his copy of the book "Twilight's Peak".  Brian had visited Jae Tellona's port in 1096 and 1104.  The first time, Brian had been hired crew aboard the Far Trader IMS Shardurnuur(Shar-dur-nor), running contracted cargo from Rhylanor to Margesi System(Rhylanor) via Jae Tellona.  While rarely leaving his training in the engineering section, Brian did visit the highport startown.  But he never went dirtside to experience the blast furnace the surface desert was reputed to be on that trip.

Later Brian took working passage aboard the Far Trader IMS Urlaegidl( Ur-Lay-Gid-el ) making trade runs to the Jae Tellona, Belizo, Heroni, and Tacaxeb Systems in the Rhylanor Subsector.  During this time Brian not only visited the highport in-system but, as the low man on the crew, made several cargo deliveries to the surface.  Brian both told his crew mates about that, when he had the chance, and volunteered "not" to leave the ship while in the system if they landed.  That morning, Brian investigated the Pilot Error's fuel purification plant while the others went to the scout base.  Taking breaks during the work, he also called Zach, to talk about his decontamination prototype.

After checking his mail on the base, Zach helped Brian with Ealal Seewa and the prototype decontamination unit.  They comm'd Seewa to tell him the ship had gotten clearance to leave the system.  That meant future communications and payment for use or sale of the system would have to be sent to Sir Brian in the Rhylanor System.  There, he planned to set up a banking transfer account.  Brian also spent some time shopping the available self-help and self-training software courses.  He found a computer-based video training course and basic "rig" to improve his skills using vacc suits (TL's 9 thru B) for Cr 5,000.  Returning to the work on the fuel plant, Brian finally accessed and undogged the protective panels for the inner core of machinery.  As the panel came away, Brian came face to face with the five foot by five foot front panel and door of a safe!

It was a smooth graphite metal facing, with a beveled depression holding an electronic readout above a set of recessed number and symbol buttons.  There was also a pull rod, but nothing else.  Surprised by the bizarre nature of his discovery, it took Brian a few beats before he called for help.  When he reached out on his comms, he opened a private link to Mikah and Zimzod only.  Both said they'd be right over with Mikah adding, "Don't tell Zach!"  The section of the ship where Brian was working on the plant was reached through an access panel in the ship's air-lock, off the cargo bay below decks.  Zimzod was still aboard the ship, carrying out an extended session of the marine worship called gear maintenance.  Mikah was on the scout base, having gone to check her xmail but receiving nothing important.

Mikah And Zimzod Rush Back

     First Zimzod, then Mikah, reached the open access panel inside of the lock and slipped through it to join Brian.  As they arrived, Brian said, "Look what I found" and Zimzod and Mikah stopped to examine the safe's facing for a few seconds.  Mikah broke the silence, joking, "I guess that's not part of the purification plant?"  Brian confirmed it wasn't.  They then spent a few minutes examining the safe's front and access panel before trying to just pull it open, which showed it was locked.  Zimzod figured what the hell, and entered in the numbers 0, 1, 2 and 3 which failed to open the safe.  Mikah told Zimzod to type in 'password', which also didn't open the door.

They talked about other possible combinations to try, and Zimzod said a third try could lock out the system, so they agreed not to make more attempts.  Mikah asked if there was anything else Brian could tell about the safe?  Brian said he couldn't without clearing the space around it.  When Mikah asked how hard that was, Brian just said it might take a few days.  Not in a rush, Mikah agreed he should pull the surrounding system apart to examine the safe over the coming days.  As the conversation moved back to the access panel, Mikah asked Brian if he'd heard from IRIS and he said he hadn't.  Mikah and Zimzod slipped back out the opening as they discussed the safe, and were in the air-lock as the others returned.

Getting Gassed Up And Blown Off

     As Emkir and Zach returned to the lock, both men saw the Knights talking through the opened access panel.  Zach joined Aiden on the bridge as Mikah comm'd the pilot.  She told him to move the ship, once everyone was aboard, to the naval logistics station to refuel.  The trip to the station took four hours while Aiden worked with Zach on a basic plot for the out-system burn.  That way, Zach could find the best data to calculate a jump plot to the Jae Tellona System.  The only inhabited part of the destination system was Jae Tellona itself, the fifth orbit and almost three AU's out from the primary.  But there were three gas giants in-system too.  In the fourth, sixth and seventh orbits, 1.5, 10 and 28 AU's out respectively.

There was also a planetoid ring in the system's tenth and most distant orbit as well.  The size of the system's white-hot star was such that its 100 diameter jump limit was 1.07 AU's from its core, making travel to the system's three inner planets difficult.  Luckily, the main world and gas giants were all outside that limit.  And Jae Tellona's 100 Diameter limit of 100 Million miles meant their ship could make orbit in two hours and twelve minutes at three gee's.  Not bad at all.

Still, Zach's calculations needed the best information for the exact second they'd be entering jump.  So, while en route to refueling, the ship's pilot and navigator used the time to reduce variables.  Aside from the two and their work, Emkir had returned to studying in ship's sensor operations and was also working on the bridge.  Ms. Vik relaxed and took the time to xmail the various Captains she'd contacted with her apologies.  She explained the means to get the Skipping Stone permission to leave the system meant her own ship had to carry out a job for the Navy and leave the system too.

She did invite them to reach out to her for help in the event their paths crossed again.  Inger also sent Dessie Wortman a message thanking her and her staff for their help and friendship during the events in-system.  The messages cost Cr 20 but would be delivered quickly as all the addressees were in-system.  In his stateroom, Rol dove into the never-ending cycle of gear maintenance, concentrating on his vacc suit before grabbing a terminal to work on some sensor training as well.

Transit to the fueling station was a four-hour jaunt, during which the crew ate lunch, rested, worked at their duties or interests and even napped.  Once the ship got to the station, they hit the standard challenges for ship identification and naval priority.  The on-duty crew were surprised to get a high priority assignment from a civilian vessel, but shrugged and issued the corridor assignment and docking data for an umbilical arm.  Aiden enjoyed the view as he guided the ship past a very large cloud of vessels hovering in the space near the station, waiting to be promoted to a fueling berth or join the queue.  Recalling the hours he'd spent hovering out there, Aiden was glad to finally dock and manage his boards as EVA teams connected up the various hoses and tethers.

The feed of fuel and other consumables would not only let them jump out-system, but replenish their water, air and other supply needs.  As this started, Aiden asked Emkir to sit as second pilot.  Zach, who'd been working with Aiden on travel plots, watched as he added to his pilot training.  It was late afternoon when all aboard heard the sounds of docking transmitted through the metal of the ship.  After word was passed aft that the ship had docked and fueling begun, Zimzod suggested to Mikah that they ask if the station had a locksmith?  Mikah liked the idea and comm'd the station's control center to ask.  The station replied that they were too busy, under the circumstances, to assist with a ship's household issues.  The statement was a bit on the dry side and was presumed by Mikah to be less than friendly.

Not pleased, Mikah none the less thanked them and cut the comms.  Later during fueling, Emkir comm'd over to station control asking if they "might not have a few bottles to trade over there"?  When station answered him that they were a bit busy at the moment, Emkir said it wasn't for now, but it would be appreciated.  Station asked, "How much you looking to spend?" and Emkir tried to convince the station team this might be covered by the naval assistance they were due.  He dropped hints that they were on a naval assignment, that there may be brass involved and cooperation might reflect back on them.  In the end, the station said they'd help if they could but they didn't have a lot of bottles lying around.  Emkir thanked them, laying on the appreciation real thick, and Zach told Emkir to, "Put a cork in it before they fill our fresh water up with sewage."  During the fueling, Brian counted on the bridge monitoring the process and worked on removing the machinery around the newly found safe with Mikah's help.

Shopping on the SPA Station

     Refueling was done by 1700 hrs ship time and Mikah, working with Brian in the purifier spaces, decided they should dock at the SPA port to pick up food and alcohol before burning for jump.  She then comm'd everyone, to make that known.  Zimzod grabbed chow and, when he heard of Mikah's plans, thought about buying real coffee.  Terran Coffee!  He held this thought in the back of his brain as he returned to the main worship of Marines and former Marines across the universe...gear maintenance.  While fueling, everyone took time to eat a meal.  Emkir continued studying sensors as he helped Aiden on the bridge.  Rol did some physical exercise routines in the cutter and Ms. Vik did her laundry as well as preparing a suit to be properly dressed for a return to the station.  Aiden did his best to not grind teeth as he made the settings and piloted the ship.  All the while, he regretted the fuel spent and time wasted.

Four hours later, the ship docked at the SPA port and Brian decided to continue working on the purifier as Mikah went to her stateroom to clean up.  After a long day, Aiden turned the bridge over to Emkir and grabbed rack time while Zimzod volunteered to remain aboard as shipboard security.  As she moved to her stateroom, Mikah comm'd the team asking, "If you are not debarking, what do you want?"  Zimzod told Mikah he wanted some real Terran coffee and she said she'd see what she could find.  Once ready, Dame Mikah, Zach and Rol hit the port docks shopping for food and booze during the main part of station evening.  The shoppers were heading home and the bar scene was just getting into full swing.

While they were doing that, Ms. Vik went to the admin suite to visit there and check in with Director Wortman.  After Inger told Mikah her plan, Mikah told her to ask if the Director could recommend a very good locksmith?  Shrugging but agreeing, Inger went off.  Shopping for food, Mikah decided the ship could afford the kind of food an aristocrat would prefer.  She spent Cr 5,000 from ship's funds to stock the galley with "High" quality food for the next four weeks.  When it came to the booze, she didn't go as exotic, buying cases of beer and two bottles of rum and scotch for Cr 600.  Mikah charged that to the ship, except for the rum.  She expected Zimzod to pay her back the Cr 40 for the rum because he'd asked for it.

Ms. Vik Visits Director Wortman

     Once Ms. Vik got to the admin core offices, she called for Dessie Wortman and was surprised to find the Director still in her office even though the on-going crisis was well managed.  The call was routed to Dessie and she invited Inger to join her.  When Inger arrived, Dessie asked how she could help?  Ms. Vik said she was just making a courtesy call as the ship was preparing to depart the system and picking up final supplies.  Surprising Ms. Vik, the Executive Director said, "I was kind of hoping you would have let me in on what you learned while working my docks?"  Inger realized Dessie must have learned something of her work hunting black marketer Shaslu Kishman.  Trying not to show her embarrassment too much, Ms. Vik said there was really not much to tell.  She filled Dessie in on her discoveries of the grey market, pilferage at The Late Passenger and her investigations with the store's manager.  But she finished up saying there wasn't much more to say.

Dessie considered that a few beats, then asked about the Skipping Stone, which had to have made all the rounds by now as the only ship permitted to leave the system.  Ms. Vik explained the events that led to her advertising ships services, trying to find information.  Wrapping up that stage of her actions, she said nothing much came out of it except earning some cash.  Finally, as she stood to shake hands, Dessie said she was sorry they wouldn't likely work together more.  As they said their good byes, Inger asked Dessie if the port admin could recommend a locksmith available during station-night, and got an odd look.

When the Director asked why Inger needed a locksmith, Ms. Vik said that she didn't really know, with an honest but blank look.  Inger explained, "One of the Knights just said they need a locksmith for something and it would be best for someone to be available now, since we want to burn for jump soon."  Dessie made it clear the port administration didn't play favorites, to prevent damaging businesses that were nearby.  But she printed off a list of three such businesses.  Inger thanked her for the help adding, "About not working together in the future, knowing this crew we might be back through."

Hiring The Locksmith

     It was just after 10pm station time when Ms. Vik left the office and called Mikah about the locksmiths.  Mikah linked Brian into the conversation, having him explain as much of the situation as they wanted Inger to know.  He described the safe to her.  Ms. Vik checked the address list and decided to head for the firm at the top.  After a very short ride on an automated concourse-tram, she arrived at a very lightly travelled commercial corridor.  This made sense both with the hour and the fact all docked merchant ships were trapped in-system.  They were losing far too much money and schedule time on-station to the emergency.  When she entered the shop, the alterday staff were all eager to see just how they could help her, and make money?  Used to round the clock availability of services on a station, Ms. Vik explained what she wanted to the staff she found.

      After a brief moment's silence one of the clerks asked, "Do you own the safe?"

      Ms. Vik replied, "Yes.  It's on our ship and one of the Knights on-board is the Captain
           and owns it.  Other than that, I am not sure what is going on with it.  It's not working."

      The clerk then asked, "And this Knight will pay for the work?", as if he wanted to be certain
           the Knight would prove to be real.

     Ms. Vik said, "Um, Yes", with the last word coming out as if she had said Duh!

With that, the clerk said he was willing to come with her to the ship and investigate the issue.  It turned out, the clerk was the locksmith, though it was more correct to say he was a full mechanic with the needed lock skills.  As he started putting his kit together, he asked if he could speak to the person on the ship most familiar with the safe?  Ms. Vik comm'd the ship and asked who that would be.  Brian got on the link as the mechanic was putting some more specific tools into his kit.  Brian gave him everything he could come up with, which was not much.

     Confused at the general lack of knowledge about a device these people were supposed to
           own, the tech asked again, "Are you sure you own this safe"?

      Brian tartly answered, "Yes".

That done, and the tech had his kit ready, Inger followed the man out of the shop to their vehicle and directed him to the ship's berth.  They got to the berth by 10:30 station time, and as they got out, the tech retrieved his kit and followed Ms. Vik to the ship's lock.  As the iris valve snapped open, the man was treated to the unexpected view of a combat trooper in battledress with gauss rifle at port arms!  In a civilian port, it was odd enough to get a sharp reaction from the locksmith.  Especially when responding to what seemed to be a very dodgy request to help gain access to a safe.  No matter the customer's sexy looks or the fact she didn't ask the cost before she agreed to hire him!

Still, ship-board security was very rarely more than a uniformed guard or security team with side arms and cloth armor if they were serious.  Battledressed ship security was something horrifyingly new to the tech.  Certain he was getting into something very much beyond what he wanted to, the man fought down his wide-ranging emotions.  He hoped to have put a professional face on before saying, "I am sorry, I don't think we're up for this."  While saying that, he started to back away without taking his eyes off Zimzod.  Ms. Vik stepped in quickly, and did her best to calm the man.  She explained that this was one of the obviously eccentric Knights who owned the ship and was a bit over zealous about his battledress.  Hoping to put the man at ease, she even quipped, "In fact I don't think I've ever seen him out of battledress."

When the technician still seemed to have no interest in changing his direction, Inger stepped in front of him to lock eyes, taking away the view of Zimzod.  She asked, "Would it make you feel more comfortable if the Knight were not in battledress?"  As she did this, she turned her head and speared Zimzod with a glare to punctuate the point.  This let the tech see the Knight as he apologized for scaring the man before turning back into the ship and disappearing inside the air-lock.  Somewhat recovered, the tech stopped back pedaling and, when Inger asked him if he felt better, said he needed to see the ship's papers before he could do any work.

Per port regulations, he had to confirm they were authorized to order it done.  Inger understood that, and called Zimzod asking if he could bring the papers when he returned in civilian clothes?  As she spoke, she emphasized the word 'Civilian'.  Zimzod agreed, but comm'd Mikah asking where the papers were?  Mikah told him the papers were in her cabin and Zimzod should be able to find them there.  Left outside the air-lock with the locksmith, Ms. Vik tried to get things back on a more solid footing again.  She asked the man if he'd like to meet the ships engineer and see the safe while they waited for the papers?

Not really wanting to get any deeper into the situation, the tech hadn't found that one excuse yet that would satisfy his manager if he fled.  So, he said "yes", knowing he'd regret it.  Inger led him into the air-lock to an open access panel, into which she leaned.  She then said, "Sir Brian, can you step out here to meet the locksmith please?"  Agreeing, Brian stepped out of the workspace into the lock, and introduced himself to the man.  Dressed simply in a shipsuit with work gloves and a filter mask against the dust and fumes 'and' being a "Sir", the tech started thinking this might just be on the level after all.  Eccentric, but on the level.

Past introductions, Brian explained the situation and showed the tech the safe.  When he saw where the safe was, the tech asked, "Shouldn't the safe be inside the ship?"  At this, Sir Brian stood at full height exclaiming, "We put it in here to keep it hidden.  And this is the perfect place.  So, are you gonna open it or not?"  Surprised at the Knight's reaction, the man just nodded his head and stepped through the opening mumbling something Brian couldn't hear about nobility as he passed.  When he finally saw the safe, the man stopped cold staring.  Brian, who stepped through behind him, tapped his shoulder and asked if there was a problem?

Reacting, the man simply said, "Sorry milord, I'll get right at it", as he set his tool kit down and began checking the safe facing.  Brian leaned against the side of the compartment watching as the man started tests and examinations.  Eventually, Zimzod came back down in a shipsuit with the ship's papers, after a brief search.  As the datapad was handed to the technician, the man's eyes went wide, seeing the ship actually belonged to Duke Norris of Regina!  Even less happy with the situation, the tech knew he had very few options, beside walking out and not earning any money that might be had.  So, he just continued his work.

Seeing very little action towards opening the safe, Zimzod asked the man what the fastest, safest way to open it was?  The tech said there was no one way to do it.  The fastest was to blow it open and the safest was to cut it.  In any case, if they wanted the safe reusable after it was opened, it would take a long time.  Impatient, Zimzod scoffed at the suggestion it would take much time and asked what all this was costing anyway?  The answer was Cr 100 up front for the visit.  But if they wanted it done relatively quick, he could cut it open in a few hours at a total cost of Cr 1,000.  Zimzod barely considered that as he authorized the man to just cut the safe open.

Happier to have more of a feel for the customer, and seeing they were even partly for real, the tech got back down to work.  He did specific tests for density sounding to decide on other pre-cutting needs.  Not commenting, Brian sat on the ledge of the panel opening and watched.  After the tech finished his tests, Brian stepped aside as Zimzod headed out, saying he was going to the galley for a drink, and to secure the ship's papers.  Ms. Vik also left the air-lock, to get changed into more casual clothes and do some of her own gear maintenance.  While in Mikah's stateroom, Zimzod first returned the datapad, then spent some extra time exploring her stateroom looking for a just the right way to get a rise out of her.  In the end, he settled for going through her wardrobe and finding where she kept her panties before going through them.

Seeking A Specialty Coffee Pusher

     Finishing up the regular shopping on-station, Mikah and her small crew went looking for real Terran coffee.  It took them quite some time, because coffee from Terra was rare on the fringes, and the costs were very high!  Since Terra was roughly five sectors away if you crossed the rift, and eight of you couldn't, the cost was in the tens of thousands of credits!  Seeing that, from a very startled and hopeful salesman on commission pay, they called Zimzod.  They told him what real Terran coffee cost, adding that other most likely very good coffees were cheaper because they were from locations more local than the birthplace of Humaniti.  Zimzod was disappointed, but agreed that a more local source might do.

Mikah asked how the safe cracking was going and Zimzod told her why they had to cut the safe open.  She unhappily agreed and said they could have a new one installed.  Eventually, the shoppers found a well described coffee from Kinorb, though it suffered from the bad press of idiotic protesters.  When Mikah asked about them, she was told this was largely due to anti-slavery protests.  When Mikah opened the comms, Zimzod could hear the salesman explaining that many sophont's rights organizations protested the coffee as "Blood Coffee".  It was believed Kinorb's Theocratic rulers treated their population as slaves.

With every word, Zimzod wanted this coffee more and more, and finally had Mikah buy two of the available ten pounds at Cr500 each.  The man also quoted a price of Cr 50 for a pound of what was called "generic local coffee".  Mikah bought four pounds of the cheap stuff for the ship.  It was 10:30 station time as Mikah's team turned back to the ship.  After another ten minutes, they were back at the berth and entered the lock to find Brian watching the tech from outside the open access panel.  Mikah took a look at the work the tech was doing and asked Brian if he couldn't do just as good?  Brian said that he might have, but was hoping this guy knew a bit more about safes.

Working his shift on the bridge, Emkir listened to the flow of station, ship and dock comms.  Having returned with Mikah, Rol wondered what was going on in the air-lock?  When he asked, he was told it was nothing he needed to know about and that he could move on.  Not willing to just give up on anything to do with his ride, Rol tried to look, and the two Knights blocked his view.  As the six four ex-marine jockeyed for position, Zach decided to try for a glimpse too.  Finally, deciding the game was no longer worth it, Rol asked if the work was going to delay their plans, and was told it wouldn't.  He then asked how long the work would be going on and was told a few hours.  So Rol decided to head back onto the station to do more shopping.

Having seen the three returning on a security cam panel, Zimzod came to the lock for his coffee with a worshipful look on his face.  Mikah pulled it back as he came, saying, "Ah!  Money!" in a demanding tone.  She turned her body side-on between her extended right hand to Zimzod and the coffee in her left.  With a look of paradise denied on his face, Zimzod pulled his credChip out and took hers to transfer the funds.  She checked that he'd paid Cr 1,040 for the Rum and coffee before turning to hand him the bag with her left arm.  Zimzod took his coffee and planned to spend the next half hour grinding and brewing a fresh cup so he could remain wide and happily awake with the tech working on the safe while the others could only smell the scent of it filling the ship.

Having also given up trying to see into the open access hatch, Zach went to the bridge to continue working on the shifting jump data before hitting the rack.  On the docks again, Rol headed for a restaurant to grab a late meal cooked by a professional.  He wanted to sample the tastes of the port before heading to jump, and spent Cr 100 on that.  After enjoying his meal, Rol hit a dockside Traveller's supply store and picked up three cases of bottled water for Cr 10.  He then headed back to the ship's berth.

Situations Becoming Un-Safe

     Around 11:30, Ms. Vik wandered back down to the air-lock to watch the work again before sleeping, and noticed the others had mostly returned to the ship.  In the air-lock, Brian, Mikah and Ms. Vik watched the work progressing until they heard a sound like a soft "FOOM".  At the same time, they saw the locksmith lean back slightly before seeming to fall forward as if he were a puppet whose strings had suddenly all been cut!  As this happened, Mikah saw what looked like ribbons of a 'yellow gas' seeming to drift from a cut in the metal of the safe!  The Knight immediately ran to the outer air-lock door and hit the controls, opening it to the docks as she yelled back to Brian, "Hazmat!  Get the tech out of the compartment!"

Reacting to Mikah's actions, Ms. Vik turned back into the ship hitting the controls to close and seal the air-lock and then sprinted for the bridge to call for station security.  Brian heard Mikah as he glanced back into the space seeing the yellow gas for himself and said, "Hell with this!"  He pivoted and ran for the open outer lock.  Brian also tried to pull the filter mask from his neck and push it on Mikah as he passed her.  Mikah did manage to catch the mask, but was more intent on sticking her foot out just at the right moment, to catch Brian's passing feet and trip him up.  Certainly not expecting, or even looking for it, Brian lost his step and face planted into the left side flange of the lock before his feet caught the lipped bottom of the iris valve.  Off balance, he fell over sideways onto the boarding platform outside of the ship.

Mikah swallowed her anger for the moment as she put the mask on and took a long breath before trying to get the man out of the compartment herself.  Passing through the common spaces of the ship, Ms. Vik called to a very startled Zimzod, "Hazardous Gas!  Run!"  Zimzod quickly grabbed for his unused supplies.  Turning for his stateroom and battledress, Zimzod had no time to mourn for the loss of some scattered semi-ground beans on the deck.  Mikah held her breath as she climbed into the work space.  She managed to grab the tech by his feet and start pulling him to the lip of the access panel.  There, she paused to do a basic check that he was breathing.

Outside the air-lock, Brian started crawling, on all fours, until he got his wits about him and gathered himself to his feet.  He then bolted for the entrance to the ship's berth and the comms board there, to call the port for help.  On the bridge, Emkir was sitting, watching the ship's system boards and listening to the comms until he heard Inger's voice, followed by the charge of the former port executive into the compartment.  Not having caught what she was yelling about, Emkir pulled himself up and yelled, "What the Fuck...?" to be interrupted by her shouting, "We have a hazmat situation!  Get the port on the line!"  Hearing that, Emkir immediately opened the comms to station central saying, "Possible hazmat situation!  Situation unknown!"

Zach was also on the bridge and, hearing this, sealed the bridge and got on comms trying to demand what was going on in the air-lock?  When the port asked for a repeat of the comms from the ship, Emkir said, "Airborne hazmat, Nature unknown", and the port asked if they had a med-emergency?  Emkir responded, "Nature unknown, hazmat breach on the cargo deck".  Down in the berth, Sir Brian was also talking to the port and said he thought they had a medical emergency.  He said, "I need assistance and there may be someone inside the ship that may need assistance too."  Inside the access panel, Mikah managed to get the unconscious man to the open access panel, but that was the easy part.  Now she had to lift the man and get him out the opening into the air-lock.

Maneuvering her body, and using strategic grabs at his clothing, Mikah got the tech out of the compartment but lost the breath of air at the same time.  She hoped the filter mask was worth its weight in anything valuable as she still tried not to breathe more than she had to.  Mikah then began pulling the tech into the air-lock.  On the bridge, Ms. Vik flashed through her experience on space stations and ordered Emkir to cut the ship's ventilation system to prevent spreading the hazardous gases throughout the ship.  The Admiral didn't need to be told twice and did as he was told.  In his stateroom, Sir Zimzod's battledress had just sealed up and his internal systems were still coming on line.  Once prepared, he planned to drop down the iris valve just aft of his stateroom to the cargo bay and move to the air-lock looking for any evidence of the hazmat situation along the way.

Back on the bridge, Emkir wondered what everyone was doing and even if they were aware of the situation?  He'd only heard of it from Ms. Vik as she ran into the bridge.  Putting that thought to action, Emkir hit the "all ship alarm", which woke Aiden.  The former scout almost reflexively grabbed for his vacc suit, even as he came to awareness.  Zach's quest for real information went a different direction as he asked Ms. Vik what happened?  His question startled her as Inger had not seen him while watching Emkir at the pilot's station.  Inger first said there was a safe built into the machinery of the fuel plant.  The Knights asked her to get a locksmith to open it.  So she'd hired one and he'd been working to open it.  The next thing she knew is, he'd fallen over and she ran for her life!

Zach asked the status of the doors as he secured all the valves and hatches from the bridge security boards.  Ms. Vik answered, "The inner air-lock is closed, and the hatch to the bridge.  And I think Mikah opened the outer air-lock door."  In their staterooms, both Aiden and Zimzod heard chimes as they sealed up their various suits but neither noted the sounds.  In the air-lock, Mikah was preparing to move the man's body to a fireman's carry to get him out of the lock when the klaxon cut in.  Shortly after that, as she started to step forward, the iris valve before her snapped shut!

To add flame to the fuel, Mikah saw the red/green readout of the lock indicator switch from "open = green" to "closed = red"!  Pausing to balance herself as she tapped her comms, Mikah screamed into the general comms, "OPEN THE DOOR!"  On the bridge, Emkir heard her voice, but wasn't sure where she was aboard the ship?  When he asked, "What door", Mikah snarled, "The air-lock!!" and Emkir not only unlocked it but threw the switch to open it too.  Moving forward now that the path was clear, Mikah moved for the air in the berth outside the ship.

Trying to get hold of the situation, Ms. Vik wondered out loud if they should have someone at the berth access to let in the inbound station security and response teams?  Emkir said he assumed Mikah would be there, since he just let her out of the air-lock.  Still not having heard from, or knowing locations for, everyone, Zach got on comms and asked for a report from everyone?  Mikah ignored that.  Rol, who'd been hearing the broken and disjointed comms from the ship, heard the request and wasn't sure why Zach was reaching out to him?  Not realizing this was for everyone, Rol snarled that he was returning to the ship, and Zach should keep his pants on.  Used to the antics of his crew mates, Rol assumed they were ready to leave and getting on his case about being out shopping.

Confusion And Rescue

     Brian had finally taken the time to take stock of himself.  Especially the bloody nose he'd gotten slamming into the iris valve flange and the decking.  Feeling he was in too much pain to answer Zach, Brian put pressure on his bleeding nose.  The first four-man team in sealed rescue suits arrived at the berth to see the bloodied form of Sir Brian.  He appeared to be leaning listlessly against the berth door with blue patches visible on his skin and bleeding.  Seeing the door was sealed, some team members started gesturing to him.  Seeing the team arrive, Brian opened the door and slumped into the grasp of two of the responders.  They reached for him at first, pulling him out and onto a back board as he tried to direct them to those he felt were really in danger.

Having thought he could just relax once the teams arrived, Brian found himself having to fight to give his directions as the station team pinned him down.  They then started securing his arms and legs "for his own protection from his seizure".  As the first two worked with Brian, and one more held the berth door open, a fourth entered to begin looking for more victims in the berth and size up the situation.  On the bridge, station comms was calling to confirm their teams were arriving and someone was giving them access to the berth.  Those locked in the ship had to start reaching out on comms to find out what was happening outside?  Soon, there were comms cris-crossing all over each other as one of the rescuers called central from the berth.

Emkir started calling the others from the bridge and Brian tried to respond as Mikah started calling out her position.  Finally, as comms got sorted out, confirmation was passed that the teams were arriving and had access as more support arrived.  On his backboard, Brian was pushed into a bio-bag with a sealed air supply and his data was recorded on a mounted chip.  The third man, who'd secured the berth door open, manned the comms board as the man in the berth locked onto Mikah's position and directed other teams through the station computers.  He also moved to investigate her situation and the form beside her.  Totally frustrated with not being able to get his message out, Brian was screaming unintelligibly.  The stream of curses and anger were so disruptive Zach did his best to cut the Knight's comms out of the communications loop.

Once quiet was restored on the comms, Aiden reported in and gave his location.  At the same time, Zimzod had overridden his locked stateroom door and comm'd the bridge demanding to have the iris valve down to the cargo deck unlocked.  He was told by Emkir, who unlocked the valve, that there were hazmat teams on-site in the berth at least.  As this was happening, Aiden, who sealed his suit and comm'd into the bridge, also overrode his locked door and headed for the bridge to come up against the locked iris valve there.  Pounding on the valve, Aiden demanded access to the bridge.

     Zach told him, "Sorry, we are not in vacc suits here.  You're gonna have to chill".
     Aiden asked "What is happening?"
     Emkir said, "We had a hazmat situation in the cargo bay area".
     Aiden asked, "Who was in the cargo bay" and was told Mikah, Brian and a locksmith.
     The pilot asked, "What locksmith?!?" in an exasperated tone and Zach said he wasn't sure.
     Through a few more confusing comms, Aiden did his best to determine what was happening.
     Even Zimzod chimed in, saying, "I was making coffee when all hell broke loose."

Aiden, slipped deeper into his usual paranoid state and started talking about pulling the ship out of the bay.  The crew on the bridge worked to convince him the bay was secure and there were hazmat teams in the bay and air-lock.  Finally, Aiden backed off as the bridge crew reached out to the hazmat teams to get their status.  Passing through the cargo bay, Zimzod reached the air-lock and made contact with the hazmat team there.  In his 'baggie', Brian calmed down and said he believed he was OK to the man caring for him.  Emkir, who'd been doing his best to listen to all reports, put out an update that he believed the hazmat issue was confined to the air-lock and he was opening the iris valve to let Aiden onto the bridge.

Once he identified himself as Sir Zimzod, the former Marine got a respectful report from the leader of one of the hazmat teams.  But he was emphatically told they needed their people on the victims and not responding to those not in distress.  In the berth, more response teams had arrived and Mikah and the locksmith were bagged and tagged.  This happened to an initially resisting Mikah largely because it was procedure and they'd knock her out if she didn't permit it.  Outside customs in the starport, Rol found himself blocked from passing customs and getting to the concourse, gates and berths due to the emergency.

Inside the cargo bay, and with the inner air-lock door closed, Zimzod saw the gasses and secured the outer lock since no one was inside the lock anymore.  He then comm'd one of the rescue leaders and asked if they wanted him to vacc the lock?  He said it could be done to an internal tank, to keep the gas from getting into the station atmospherics.  The team leader considered this and told Zimzod the station had already secured ventilation from the berth.  The tech then asked, "Can we get a sample of the gas if you do?"  When Zimzod wasn't sure they could pull a sample, they asked him to hold off.  After doing on-site blood-chem and other tests, the med-tech treating Brian cleared the Knight as healthy.  He said he still wasn't 100% certain about the blue skin splotches and wanted to keep Brian under observation "just in case".

On the bridge, Aiden had joined those listening and waiting for the situation to clear up as a call came in from station central.  When they answered the comms, they were told Dessie Wortman would like to speak to Ms. Vik.  Inger took the comms and answered the questions as Dessie asked what was going on in the berth?  When she started asking questions the bridge crew couldn't answer, Ms. Vik told her one of the Knights was in the air-lock and the other two seemed involved.  She also said they might not be in a condition to answer questions.  Dessie asked to be linked to Sir Zimzod.  Inger did that and Zimzod answered as Dessie introduced herself politely as Baroness Wortman!

Having gained Zimzod's full and complete attention, she got a respectful report and answers from Zimzod.  Once she'd gathered the information she could get, Dessie told Ms. Vik she was sending in station security, stressing the word 'station'.  In the customs area, Rol complied as security started clearing the area and announced no one could pass through until the current situation was resolved, which could take some hours.  As he made his way outside the security zone, Rol called the ship since the comms traffic had slowed down.  Zach answered him, saying they were not completely sure yet what was happening?  Zach said it seemed Rol was on the wrong side of the cordon and Rol showed his wit joking that, perhaps, he was the one on the right side of the cordon?

Soon enough a team of station techs opened the outer lock door enough to use devices and sample the gasses built up in the air-lock.  After doing that, the teams called the ship, saying they could void the lock into an internal tank for later dispersal into space.  Zimzod watched that happen through the view port, and saw a lot of machinery parts and other items thrown around by the suction into the vents.  Of most interest to Zimzod were bits of what appeared to be vegetable matter mixed in!  That done, the lock was re-opened and teams from the station again moved in, to test and sample everything.  They even bagged loose parts of the purification plant, despite Zimzod's concerns.  Soon after this, the techs cleared Mikah and removed her from her bio-bag, but the locksmith was in dire condition.  They told Mikah they'd called an emergency vehicle to move him to medical facilities.

The activity in the berth got more organized as station security personnel arrived to better coordinate things.  A rescue carrier came in to help treat the mechanic.  On the main concourse of the port, Rol realized he wasn't getting back to the ship and started looking for a bar to hang out in with his cases of water.  On the comms, the crew started to discuss the situation as the hazmat people cleared the air-lock and ship as well as the survivors.  Things calmed down as the hazmat and med-rescue teams broke down their gear and returned to their stations.  No immediate report was available on the locksmith, but the techs said his condition was pretty grim.  Clearing the rescue teams opened the way for station security to move in, asking questions that needed answers.

The questions centered on the safe, its contents, what the crew and Knights knew, and when they knew it?  Security suggested they were going to continue their investigation, though they would not be detaining the crew.  It was midnight before the teams were done with their questions.  They did say they'd like the ship to stay in port for three more days as they conducted tests and finished the investigation.  Mikah asked if they'd be allowed in and out of their ship and the security lead made it clear the crew was not suspected of anything.  They only wanted to clear up the mystery.  After a period of questioning and note taking, as well as some physical investigation, things started to calm down.  Rol could return to the ship and everyone but Emkir could fade off to rest or go to bed.

Coming Clean With Dessie

     It was fairly early the next morning when Baroness Wortman's office called the ship asking for Ms. Vik.  Emkir routed the call to Inger's stateroom and, when she answered, Dessie invited Inger to her office.  Ms. Vik accepted, and also assumed the mantle of the doomed after cleaning up and changing into a suit.  Heading to the port's offices, one question dominated her mind.  'Why is it always me who gets yelled at?'  Despite her feelings and fears, Inger's reception on arrival was much better than expected.  She was greeted as professionally as all of her other visits were handled, and was escorted into the Director's office.  As she entered, Dessie let the door close before offering Inger a morning drink and seat.  Relaxing herself, Dessie chuckled and said things were obviously very wild when Inger's crew were around.  She then asked how Inger even survived with "this group"?  Ms. Vik shared the laugh and said it was certainly an adventure.  More than she'd expected from retirement.

Dessie then said she'd heard some things about their activities in the Inthe system, and Inger laughed while cringing a bit inside.  Inger wondered if the group's antics made the regular regional port activities reports, shared between SPA executives?  Thinking that in the back of her mind, and remembering the many reports she'd sent off in her time, Inger guessed that might be a good start.  Dessie picked up the conversation, pointing out she had made certain the dock-side response was handled by station security.  That point was not lost on Ms. Vik, who recognized the difference from an "Imperial" response.  While they were not the storm troopers of fictional works, or Zimzod's fantasies for that matter, a reaction from Imperial offices was not something easily endured.

Again, there was a silence which Dessie broke as she asked what really happened in the ship, and with this safe?  Ms. Vik answered the best she could, being completely honest with the Director.  As that led to more questions, Inger explained the ship was acquired "used", and momentarily left out Duke Norris' ownership of the vessel.  She also breathed a sigh of relief when Dessie didn't follow the ownership up, as Inger knew Director Wortman had seen all the reports.  The data from the incident would include the ship's ownership.  Ms. Vik was emphatic that none of the crew knew about the safe and its contents.  Dessie accepted that without referring to an available copy of all the data from her security personnel.

As Inger finished up, Dessie suggested life might be much easier if she chucked adventuring and let the Knights move on.  This was a common conversation for many successful adventurers, as those who didn't, or couldn't, embrace such a life could also rarely understand it.  It was less often heard by unsuccessful adventurers as they very often ended up dead or in prison.  Inger replied cheerfully that it wasn't all as bad as it seemed and, despite some losing money quite often, she was making a lot money herself.  Dessie laughed at that, saying that's what she'd heard about Inger's work with the Skipping Stone.

Caught up again by her own growing local fame, Inger tried not to show it as she smiled sheepishly.  She said, "Yeah, about that..."  Not that she'd done anything wrong, but Inger explained how the team were trying to get information on Shaslu Kishman.  That led her to try making contacts with workers and spacers on the docks by putting out her name as a consultant for what came forward.  When Dessie asked what Inger learned, Ms. Vik added details she'd not mentioned before.  Finally, the women had covered every aspect of the various incidents and Dessie told Inger to keep safe as she headed back to the ship.  The station time was around 10am Saturday, 168 1112.

Next: A Day on Risek's Docks