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Last Updated     February 11 2017
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Arrivals, Invitations
                 and a Field Trip

Jumping to Jae Tellona

Jae Tellona     After beginning the jump to Jae Tellona, they had to shut down and drain off power from, and system check, the ship's "real space" systems.  Ms. Vik and Dame Mikah both helped Sir Brian as he led them through the tasks, using the work to train them.  Brian also gave the ladies a schedule for checking the ship's normal space systems over the coming week in jump.  Along with the leisure reading, relaxing and helping Brian, they also worked their way through the new listings in the ship's upgraded entertainment suite.  Mikah and Inger both looked for more episodes of "Hiver vs K'kree" battles.

Brian had planned to spend his off-duty time reading up on his notes from the Risek station and re-reading books on legends of the Rhylanor subsector.  But, early in jump, Zach showed Brian his collection of electronic books on artifacts and legends of the Spinward Marches.  The Knight immediately shifted his reading list to include some of Zach's library.  Zimzod used the week in jump to continue his studies while relaxing and recovering more from the bruises he got in the bar room brawl.  When anyone made too much out of the bruises, Zimzod reminded them there was a 'whole table of merchanters' in the bar and he'd been alone.  Despite this, there was still significant snickering.

Aiden, Zach and Zimzod all spent time working on their ship's gunnery training.  Aiden also split his time working with Zach on his nav studies and reading up on interesting weapons histories.  The pilot also sifted through the new entertainment suite for books on hand guns and man portable weapons tech.  In their spare time, Zach read up on books covering the suspected and rumored artifacts of the Rhylanor subsector and the one revealed ancient artifact on Rhylanor prime.

Rol spent a lot of time watching vids and reading interesting books from the ship's library.  On the first day in jump, and after several surprise meals served by Rol, Mikah ordered a cooking competition between Rol and Zach.  Rol took over as the ship's cook after he won the "Iron Chef" competition.  Everyone else aboard thought Zach's entries were "good", but Rol's were "Inspired".  Emkir was the least pleased of all because he'd been unable to get any card games going.  Despite working hard on the Risek inscriptions, to satisfy an unconfessed personal curiosity, Emkir wanted to improve his financial situation.  Emkir was a bit pleased after the week's work achieved some admittedly limited progress on the dead language.

As the week burned down, everyone started watching the jump clock and anticipating their arrival near Jae Tellona.  Quietly, Rol planned something special and, on the second to last day of projected jump, Rol began baking early.  As people asked, he let them in on the fact that the day was actually Zach's birthday and the crew took it as a reason to cut lose and have a party.  The birthday was celebrated with a cake and some sharing from the various stashes of alcohol on the vessel.  No one over did it too much as everyone wanted to be sharp the next day.  But a very good time is had by all.

Arrival In The Jae Tellona System

     Finally, on the 178th day of the year, everyone woke early and got into vacc suits to start hitting the numbers.  Aiden took his position on the bridge as the jump clock wound down.  Working with Zach, and putting a system schematic up on the bridge comp screens, they projected where they "should" emerge in the system.  Then, they organized images of the stellar formations they'd use to verify their position.  In order to help, Zach was strapped into the copilot's seat.  Below, in the engineering section, Sir Brian was working the systems as Mikah and Ms. Vik watched from terminals in the ship's lounge.  As with the jump initiation, the last thing Brian needed were untrained roadblocks in his way should something go wrong.

Also in the lounge, Sir Zimzod was in his battledress, "just in case."  Rol had strapped himself into the ship's dorsal turret gunner couch.  With Zach working on the navigational details on the bridge, Emkir, still wearing one of the INS Quasar Viper's TL-A vacc suits, had a feed from the bridge to handle any traffic issues Aiden shouldn't have to deal with as he flew.  Seeing the vacc suit and its "all to obvious" nomenclature, Dame Mikah wasn't the only one who thought this could lead to bad things.

The jump clock burned through the final seconds while everyone braced for the unpredictable and, for mere seconds, they could almost feel justified.  Then the call came from the bridge as both Aiden and Zach saw the grey of jump resolve to vis-light.  Everyone except Zach, Aiden and Emkir relaxed as the ship emerged into the normal universe.  The flight crew were suddenly very busy, working to orient external cameras and other sensors to their surroundings.  The date was now early morning, 178-1112 and they had two questions to answer.  First, "Are we where we wanted to be?" and second: "Was there anyone else out there in this most vulnerable of moments?"

They answered "Question one" quickly as Zach abandoned the pre-set vectors for specific constellations and widened into a circular search pattern to get a lock.  Soon, Zach called out vector off-sets to Emkir and Aiden, who locked up their assigned constellations.  They were in the Jae Tellona system, and only moderately off their intended coordinates.  Despite not being "dead on", it was so close Zach was comfortably happy with the results.  The second question was more problematic, as Aiden worked his magic on the sensors.  Despite all his skill, physics was physics, and the sensors only cleared slowly as the residual jump energy dissipated.

Aiden was finally able to get meaningful results as the sensors returned.  And, as they did, he made sense of the readings from local space.  After the screen resolved, Aiden gave the provisional all clear.  The experienced spacers all knew someone could still have been waiting, powered down and harder to find than an SDB in a gas giant's atmo.  But that was life in space, and you accepted it, moved on and did your job.  Aiden did that by firing up the ship's maneuver drives as he worked the sensors.  Below decks, Brian worked at a frenzied pace to do the work of two qualified engineers.  Barely understanding the process that turned Brian into a blur, Mikah and Ms. Vik piped down data from their terminals in the ship's lounge.  Checking the numbers and checklists they'd been taught to find for Brian as he worked the systems.

Soon enough, Aiden started broadcasting signals coming from the outermost line of robotic probes deployed by the system's starport to the others in the ship.  Not owned or operated by the StarPort Authority, this port had been built using loans from Hortalez et Cie.  The colony had lost any chance of economic growth when system administration had been taken over by the Imperial Navy after the First Frontier War.  Shortly after, the loans were called in for failure to make payments, and Hortalez established a branch of their management company "Leeward Stars" to manage the facility.  Any profits from port operations now went back to Leeward Stars and Hortalez.

The closest robotic probes received the ship's transponder message quickly after they emerged from jump and sent a own pre-programmed greeting message and local time(Just after 10am).  Everyone in the ship listened as local instructions reeled off the comms.  They received system advisories, traffic control restrictions and other basic information.  In addition, the message gave a warning of naval exercises in-system, with significant restrictions against entering that part of the system without authorization.  Ships requesting access to the exercise zone were instructed to contact Naval Traffic control for permission and other data.

Calculating they were between ten and fifty light minutes out from the highport and primary orbit, Mikah had the bridge send their announcement of arrival and offer to help.  On the bridge, Zach set the comms frequencies to broadcast to the office of the Marquis and the system government.  Emkir began resetting the ship's internal clocks to local time as the crew lost roughly two hours of their day to a time-shift.

An Invitation While Inbound

     It took roughly thirty minutes to get a response from government offices as they burned in-system, and the distance closed.  In the name of the Marquis, they were welcomed to the Jae Tellona system and invited to proceed in-system to enjoy the services available.  His Excellency, the Admiral was not immediately available, but they were promised his staff had all issues in hand.  So, they didn't see any need for assistance from outside their personnel.  While it was worded seriously, the tone indicated they were happy with the offer but found it unneeded, and a bit comedic too.

Very happy to finally not be roped into a disaster just by arriving, Dame Mikah smiled to herself.  She barked out, "OK!  First the naval base to refuel.  Second, we sell the cargo.  And then, we get out!"  The ship's comms were briefly clogged with cheers as Aiden and Emkir, who'd now replaced Zach on the bridge, worked to orient the ship towards the system's orbital naval port.  During this, Rol made a quick brunch for the crew.

It was another twenty minutes or so before the ship got more direct communications, though it wasn't what they expected when it came.  Getting over their initial confusion, they realized they were getting a message in response to their arrival beacon.  And it came from one "Ursara Rinerit, Countess of Katarulu"!  She was apparently inviting the Knights aboard her ship, the Dulcinea, which was currently on a parking pad at Jae Tellona's primary downport, in the city of Runips.  This brought everyone up short as everyone who needed to had done some basic reading on the circumstances and conditions in-system.  Especially on the desert world's surface.

Jae Tellona was a balkanized system, where the down-well governments hadn't formed a single peaceable world government.  While conflicts on-world were rare, thanks to the harsh environment, they did happen.  And all but Zach remembered their experiences in the Porozlo System.  Added to that, the Leeward Stars Corporation only controlled the high port itself.  The ship yards were all independently operated, and the two existing facilities that could be called downports were locally owned and operated by dirtside governments.  The one in Runips was essentially a military base.

Since the port the Countess indicated was owned by the City-State of Runips, they'd be at the whim of that government's laws while grounded!  Hearing the message play out, Mikah realized she'd heard of this woman!  Having grown up in the Trin's Veil Subsector, the Count who ruled her home world dealt with Katarulu.  Mikah scoured her memory and recalled the Countess had been known for collecting and selling gemstones and precious minerals.  She was also reputed to have an extensive collection of natural statues and other mineral items of note.  Before Mikah could say this, Zach started rattling off those mercantile details he could recall having learned about the Katarulu system, even though he'd never visited there.

Mikah added her memories to what Zach said and Rol added what he could of the system in regards to military data.  As best he remembered, from sector wide threat assessments, the system had, at the most, been the victim of external raiders during the war.  This came both from pirates that slipped coreward from the rift or from privateers sponsored by The Sword Worlds or even the government of the Trexalon System, in District 268.  While these raids were likely rare, given the nearby Trin system and her naval bases, they were the only threats this insulated system had experienced in centuries.

Mikah decided they might as well take the Countess up on her offer, after getting refueled.  Mostly, because you didn't snub high nobility lightly.  But Mikah also thought it would be goot to get data on the government of Runips, and the Countess.  No one had a problem stopping at the naval base to refuel first, in case they suddenly developed a need to leave the system quickly.  And, in a small part of everyone's mind, the question burned, "Is she a friend of Duke Norris or Duchess Delphine?"

Docking And Waiting To Refuel

     Having decided to meet the Countess, they sent a message saying they had to refuel and resupply before they could land down-well, but looked forward to meeting.  Closer to the port by this time, the conversation was almost normal as Dulcinea's officer graciously said, "Wonderful!  We will prepare for you to meet Her Excellency tomorrow or the next day, after you take care of arrival issues."

Station central called them next, asking about their vector and destination in-system, since it was apparent they were burning towards the naval facilities.  Aiden said they were headed to naval facilities, and sent their credentials as well.  The port sent ship travel restrictions for their traffic lanes and safety requirements.  When the naval port challenged their approach, they transmitted the credentials from Duke Norris' Seneschal again.  After a few minutes pause, they got clearance to dock along with an approach vector and docking port assignment.  While they burned in, Mikah told Rol to take inventory of their supplies in case they had to buy anything before leaving for Rhylanor.

On approach, Aiden was very careful to fly casually and carefully, to the letter of the instructions the base had given them.  The arrival went smoothly, and they were soon docked and secured to the base.  Done sealing the dock and shutting down systems, they were contacted by a Lieutenant who said the base would tie up umbilicals but they'd need to stand by as they were not primary for resupply.  They were also told that, due to the ongoing exercises in-system, they were restricted to their ship for the duration of their supply run and couldn't board the naval station.

Because Brian had to pick up his book from the x-mail office on the civilian port, Mikah asked if they could send their ship's boat over on ship's business?  She was told that would be fine, so long as they communicated their flight plans with naval control.  The officer also said they'd need to contact fleet control to get clearance before leaving.  Once the news spread throughout the ship, Brian asked Zach to pilot the cutter for him to pick up his package?  Zach was fine with that because he wanted to hit the station's merchant registry.  He wanted to start the paperwork so they could sell the machine parts in cargo after dealing with this Countess.

When Ms. Vik heard the cutter was going to the starport, she decided to pay her respects to the station master, since she had very little experience with non-SPA port directors.  Emkir joined in quietly, as the three walked to the air lock, thinking he could use some time off the ship and maybe find a game of cards or something.  Emkir was so quiet about leaving that Mikah didn't realize he was gone until the cutter had left and she didn't see him.  Mikah comm'd Ms. Vik and asked her to keep an eye on Emkir, to be sure he didn't get into trouble.

Inger pointedly refused to be Emkir's nanny, since she had plans of her own on the port.  She said she didn't need his kind of baggage along.  When Mikah asked what Ms. Vik intended, Inger said she wanted to meet with the director of this port and see what she could learn?  Considering the value of Inger's work in the past, Mikah decided to let things pass and hope for the best.  After shrugging that off for the moment, Mikah settled at a terminal with a drink, to check into the local news items in-system and dig for any news from Rhylanor.

Just one jump away, Rhylanor was an important stepping stone in getting free of the gilded cage she was in.  While she didn't find much of interest, Mikah dug into things fairly deeply.  She saw the same basic and boring concerns of low level crime and international politics that seemed present on every planet, though more "in your face" on balkanized worlds.

On a perverse bend, Mikah checked into the on-going interstellar saga of the death of Ardella Mestler who, despite their jump to the Jae Tellona system, was still dead.  Reactions to the death of the singer in the Jae Tellona system were muted on the system's orbital plane, and appeared non-existent dirt side.  There had been a brief note on the pages announcing the arrival of Countess Ursara, but even that was low key.  The Jae Tellona system really didn't much seem to care about the rest of the universe unless they could profit from it.  Rather than a single inter-dependent system, they appeared largely as multiple agencies out to get their slice of the pie if they were in space, or ignore the pie completely except for falling crumbs if they were dirt-side.

Zimzod did the math and figured whatever the Countess had to say would likely involve Tellona Diamonds.  That was the only reason anyone from anywhere else would land on the burning sands of the desert world.  Having decided that, and knowing Mikah was also interested in gemstones, Zimzod decided it was time to read up on them.  So, while not making it obvious, Zimzod mixed that into his reading, and learned the natives were the only source for the gemstones.

While keeping an eye on the ship's systems, and waiting for the OK to prepare to refuel, Aiden worked his way through the "Ship's Library" entry system.  He set it to download any of the updates provided free across Imperial Space.  This data, collected, organized and distributed by the IISS, was regularly being updated and transmitted across the X-Boat system.  Any ship could reasonably expect to be able to get updates and corrections at any major port.  Especially one, as they were, that was on an X-Boat route.  Rol kept Aiden company on the bridge as he continued his sensors studies, asking questions of the expert from time to time.

Docking At The Highport

     On the cutter, Zach took the seat on the flight control deck and freed the docking clamps after making sure the air lock had been secured.  As Ms. Vik and Sir Brian took seats in the cutter's passenger cabin, Emkir stood beside Zach and took control of the comms, calling to Naval Traffic Control.  As Zach back thrusted the cutter from its bay, Emkir worked with traffic control to get permission to make the transit to the civilian port and got a vector.  Hearing the vector and approval over the comms, Zach set his course and began his burn to make the crossing.  When Emkir called them for an approach vector, the civilian port control asked the cutter's business?

The Admiral told Civ-traffic control they'd be docking for a short period, to carry out some business on the port.  Station control approved the cutter's approach and assigned them a docking port on an arm extension from the main station.  They said the docking fee was Cr 150.  Not pleased at the expense, Brian paid the fee when they docked, and the workers offered refueling and other services which the cutter didn't need.  After thanking port control, and saying no thanks to the other services, Zach docked the craft and each of the crew went their separate ways.  Emkir went out quickly, to better make sure he had no one watching his every move.  In a system as depressed as this one seemed, Emkir hoped to find a nice replacement vacc suit in one of the pawn shops.  Or establishments of lesser repute, like gaming halls or bars.  Zach was last out, after securing his station, and locking the cutter up.

Getting Brian's Book

     Sir Brian wanted to be in-system as little as possible, and quickly made his way right to the x-mail depot nearest where the cutter docked.  There, he transmitted his E-copy of the purchase receipt and order as well as his Ident.  The clerk looked up his package and found it in an office nearly on the other side of the station.  He told the Knight he'd have to wait until it was delivered.  When Brian asked, they estimated it would take thirty minutes to shift the parcel, which turned out to be fairly accurate.  After the courier arrived, Brian signed for it and the packet was handed over.  Brian then made his way back to the cutter.  Entering the secure code for the lock, Brian found he was the first person to return.  So he settled in to read his book as he waited.

Zach's Port Visit

     Last out of the cutter, Zach made his way to the merchanter liaison office on-station.  There, he asked for the forms to file for a broker/trader account on station.  He was handed a datapad, and started filling out the electronic documents while keeping an eye out for what he could learn of events in-system?  What he learned, both as he filled out the paperwork and after he turned it into the clerk, was that the economics in-system were pretty bad.  The nations down-well were fairly poor, and largely dependent on work brought in by the corporations.  With little of local value, other than cheap labor, the money tended to flow out.

The big money only flowed in when one or more of the nations scored a lucky nugget of natural resources.  Or, if they negotiated a short term financial benefit when a corporate client needed something in a hurry.  That meant the dirtsiders always wanted very much more than they could afford.  Zach figured the locals might well "want" the machine parts the Hotel California was carrying, but they couldn't likely pay what the cargo was worth.

The port didn't seem to be in financial or operational trouble.  Its main responsibility was to handle and support pass through interstellar traffic.  It maintained enough direct support facilities for sixty ships at any given time.  From what Zach could see, there seemed to be thirty eight vessels docked at the port at the moment.  Given the high percentage, the port might be a good enough customer for the parts "if" they weren't contractually supplied by a Hortalez source.  After completing his forms, and spending some time investigating the trading sections on-station, Zach started realizing they wouldn't make great profits locally.  They'd still make significant money when they did sell it, since the cargo had been free.  Going back to the cutter, Zach found Sir Brian waiting.  As he waited, Zach planned to discuss the profit margin with Ms. Vik when she returned.

Ms. Vik's Port Visit

     When she left the cutter, Inger checked the the first directory she saw, to find the best corridors to follow to get to station offices.  While checking, Inger got a call from Mikah, about keeping an eye on Emkir.  Inger had said she wasn't a babysitter, and wanted to meet with the Station's Director as well as shopping.  In the background, Ms. Vik couldn't hear Rol commenting about potentially draining Emkir's account of funds for a paid nanny to "protect him".  Still, someone pointed out to Rol that doing that might force the Admiral to find "other ways" to get funds.  Saying, "Hmm", Rol let it go at that.  Ms. Vik saw how to get to station offices, and off the comms with Mikah, and made her way.  Soon, Inger hit one of the assistance comms buttons and waited until a representative came on line.

When a human woman in a port uniform answered, Ms. Vik introduced herself as Former Port Director Inger Vik.  Inger was surprised to get a very chilly, "How may I help you?" back with a somewhat annoyed look.  Unsure what she'd done to deserve the look, Inger explained that she was recently retired, and wondered if she could pay her respects to the port director on the station?  This defrosted the look a bit, and got more cooperation despite a look that remained suspicious.  She was told the administrator was a Bwap, and its name was Waa-a-we-tebwa kath.  Once she convinced the tech to connect her, the comms screen displayed a bug-eyed saurian head and upper torso.  The Bwap turned to face the comms screen and asked, "What would be the purpose of this meeting?"

When Inger said, "Mostly, I am retired and travelling with this ship.  And, as we arrive in each port, I let the Director know we are here.  And if they need any of my services, I'm available."  The Bwap thanked Ms. Vik and said, "A meeting at this time would be inefficient.  We are very busy at this time, but thank you very much." and cut the connection, leaving Ms. Vik looking into a darkened screen.  Not certain if the blank look she got back was complete lack of understanding or annoyance, Ms. Vik thought, "OK" and decided not to be offended.  She then went to check out the shopping.

The nearest concourse was fairly small, and scarcely attended by shoppers at the moment.  As Ms. Vik wandered the store front's window shopping, she found an electronics shop and stepped in to check out their cameras.  Looking through the selection, Ms. Vik found a good camera capable of capturing video in 2D as well as in holographic form.  She examined it and the features and accessories it came with, and finally checked the price.  When Inger saw the shop was asking Cr 3,000, she realized she'd seen similar cameras for Cr 2,500 to Cr 2,400.  The ship's next stop was Rhylanor, where such a camera would likely be even less expensive.  Given that, Inger was about to move on when one of the two shop clerks asked if she was from the big ship that was in-system?

Curious, Inger said she wasn't but asked about the ship.  She was told it hadn't docked with the station.  The worker said it was visible, not far off, hanging in orbital space since it "dropped a smaller ship to the surface about a week ago."  More curious about the ship, Inger asked if the ship was visible from the station, and what observation deck it might be seen from?  She was given directions to a viewing gallery where she should be able to see it, and made her way to there.  The vessel could be seen as barely more than a mote of light to the naked eyes.

Seeing vending machine-style view enhancers in the galley, Inger paid the Cr 1 and zoomed in on the vessel, as best she could.  Inger was no expert on starships, but she could tell the ship was larger than the average small trade vessels she'd seen, and didn't appear to be a cruise ship.  It was orbiting free and "Bottom deck down" towards the surface of the planet.  Other than the fact it was a civilian ship, there wasn't much else she could tell from the distance, and given her lack of knowledge.  Satisfying her curiosity, Ms. Vik went back to the cutter.  When she found they were still waiting for Emkir, she reconsidered her conversation with Mikah.  But she shrugged, as nothing could be done now.

Returning to the Cutter And Ship

     As Ms. Vik sat to wait, Zach told her he'd started registering the cargo for sale and they discussed the odds of selling the parts for significantly more than it was worth.  As they talked, Emkir returned to the cutter with a very big smile on his face and what Sir Brian recognized as a fairly expensive bottle of brandy in one hand.  All conversation paused as the very happy Admiral rejoined them.  Ms. Vik asked, "Find anything interesting?"

     Emkir nodded and said, "Yeah, I found someone to game with."

     With what she hoped was a genuine looking smile on her face, Inger answered, "Oh good".

     Sensing the conversation wasn't over, Emkir asked, "Want to play a game or two on the
        way back to the ship?"

     Inger said, "Nah.  Too rich for my blood."

Finally all aboard, Zach moved to the controls to call the port and get authorization to return to the ship.  As he did, he asked Ms. Vik if she was OK with possibly underselling the machine parts?  Inger looked at Zach and said, "I really don't care.  It's all going to ship's funds anyway."  Hearing that, Emkir groaned as he realized the money wouldn't be broken out into shares and he wouldn't get the slice he expected.

After getting permission, Zach undocked from the port arm and comm'd the naval station, asking for a return transit authorization.  He got that quickly enough, along with an approach vector.  So, they were soon thrusting back to the ship.  After he set his course and programmed the needed burns, Zach called the ship to tell them everyone was aboard and they were coming home.  The return trip was routine, and they soon locked the docking clamps and opened the air lock to transfer back to the ship.  Those who stayed behind were surprised both with Emkir's big smile and the bottle in his hands.  The man headed right to his stateroom to stow the booze.  After that, Emkir emerged from his stateroom and said, "OK!  Who's up for a game?"  His attitude was obviously very upbeat.

     Everyone said no, except Rol who cautiously asked, "What kind of game?"

     Emkir quickly answered, "Card Game".  After a pause, he asked Rol, "You wanna play?"

     Rol answered, "Why not.  I've been studying and doing other work.  I need something to break
        the ice a bit."

     Satisfied, Emkir broke out a stack of cards from the ship's entertainment gear as he said,
        "OK.  Stake of Cr 50?"

     Taken a bit by surprise, Rol said, "Oh.  We're going to play for money?  Hmm.  What's
        the game?"

     Emkir casually said, "Just cards" as he sat near Rol and started shuffling.

     Rol, who'd decided Emkir was way too happy, went for it saying, "Sure" as he planned to
        defeat the Admiral and deflate him a bit.
     Rol also considered it a good way to get information, as Emkir didn't appear to want to talk
        about why he was so happy.

     As Emkir prepared to start dealing the cards, Mikah asked, "So what'd you do on the
        port Emkir?"

     The Admiral happily said, "I went shopping, and I found someone to play cards with."

     Mikah asked, "What'd you buy?"  As she asked, Rol saw that Emkir anted up with an
        unmarked credChip holding a balance of Cr 550, moving Cr 50 into the ship's computer.

     Seeing the balance on the chip, Rol said, "Hmm, Someone's doing something good out on
        that station I can tell.  Too rich for my blood."

This didn't draw a comment from Emkir, who told Mikah he couldn't find what he was looking for, and Mikah dropped the conversation.  After that, some of the crew watched the two men play.  After a few hours, Rol gave up, having lost a total of Cr 30 to the former Scout.  He said, "Well, I can see how the cards are falling today." as he set down his cards and extended his hand, "Thanks."

But talk during the game had filled in some gaps as he, and those in the lounge learned Emkir had found a high stakes game.  He'd managed to win a few very nice hands before having to return to the cutter.  Rol decided to cut his losses as the Admiral seemed to have recovered his luck.  Still, he felt his loses were worth the information gained.  During the gaming, Zach said he investigated the economy of the system and felt it was pretty depressed.  Emkir said, "I don't know.  I found the economy pretty lively" with a smile on his face.

Heading Down-Well After Refueling

     An hour after Rol paid up, naval operations told the ship they were next for refueling.  Both Aiden and Emkir rushed to prepare the ship to start operations.  The process was a standard one, and took just about an hour as the fuel and other consumables were pumped in.  After they were fueled up, as teams of ship's service techs disconnected the umbilicals, station ops asked if there was anything else the crew needed?  Mikah just thanked them as Zimzod said to himself in soft voice, "Point us to the quickest way out of this place."

When the station requested their next destination for vector assignment, Mikah said they needed a vector to land at the primary downport in Runips.  Naval control assigned them a vector when they were floating free, and sent a data packet for rules and other information on landing at the downport.  Aiden gently moved away on the ship's OMS thrusters before getting his departure vector and clearance for re-entry.  Control assigned the ship a vector and wished Aiden good luck before advising him of the frequency he should use to contact Runips Downport control.

Landing And Customs In Runips

     As they burned for a re-entry, Runips control confirmed the landing permits and berthing costs were Cr 1,000.  Legal processing was also required before any of a ship's crew could buy or sell in their port.  Aligning their flight vector, Zach pointed out some of the advantages of landing at both the Primary and Secondary ports by separating the cutter from the ship.  The crew discussed the possible legal, and definite financial, costs of the idea and it was decided to just land at the primary port and not worry about the rest.

Aiden dealt with the port while Mikah comm'd the Countess' ship to tell the Countess they were preparing to make their descent.  The tech said the Countess would be happy but surprised at the early arrival.  Mikah admitted she was too.  The re-entry took nearly an hour as Aiden very smoothly brought the ship in for a landing.  They were then moved to the indicated berthing pad, which was an open expanse to which surface umbilicals and vehicles could be brought to provide port services.  The crew were then told they had to stand by inside the vessel for customs inspection.  The Countess' ship wasn't far off, and was shaped like a filled in 'U'.  The vessel looked to be around 200 tons, and it also had two turrets.  The hull was very smooth sided, as if it might be built to fit in a berth itself.

Within the next half hour, a ground car arrived with three uniformed men inside.  Each wore a breather mask and all were armed.  After they arrived, they supervised as workers moved a stairway ramp to the ship's outer air-lock.  The local port security then climbed to the lock to present their credentials and request permission to inspect the ship.  The inspectors proved officious, self-important and somewhat insulting.  Their first question, just inside the air-lock, was, "Who's going to pay the port fees?" as they removed their breath moisturizing masks.  Despite their attitudes, Mikah paid the fees electronically and allowed them aboard the ship.

They proceeded to push their way through a compartment by compartment inspection.  Lucky for the crew, this didn't include access panels like the one behind which hid the remains of the safe.  Eventually, the inspectors put down their electronics and completed an actual physical receipt.  That was created on a flexible sheet of silicon that seemed from local supply.  Before leaving the ship, they handed over a device that looked like a crude palm-sized reader.  They said it contained all their rules and laws.  Rol, who was assumed to be the servant of the Knights to whom they should give the booklet, checked and found it had almost one thousand pages!

A Visitor From Dulcinea

     Shortly after the customs team left, the crew saw a party crossing the sands from the Countess' ship on a small crawler type device.  They were each dressed in the very bright heraldic livery of the Countess.  When they arrived, the lead official introduced himself as the countess' herald.  He proceeded to greet the Knights, and introduce them to the schedule of the Dulcinea.  He finished up with a flourish as he invited the Knights to visit at any time convenient except when, per the schedule, the Countess was not accepting visitors.

When Mikah asked about the dress code, the Herald said the dress code was "Polite", without further explanation.  He added that the Knights could bring staff as needed.  Mikah finished meeting with the herald, saying she would enjoy meeting the Countess over dinner, while planning to wear her party dress.  She did wonder if the bustle would be a bit much, and decided to wear her starburst ear rings with the dress.

Thanking the Herald, they saw him out the hatch before discussions began.  Mikah said Ms. Vik should come with her.  Not happy to do so as "staff", Inger said she'd go and could claim she was the Knight's Seneschal.  Zach took the law book from Rol and said he'd read it while the Knights "and their staff" prepared to visit the Countess.  When the two other Knights were forced to think about it, they decided to wear their tuxedos.

Aiden's Investigations

     Aiden decided to start doing his necessary system checks, but was interrupted when Rol said he wanted to wander around the port and get a feel for the place.  Not sure what Rol meant by that, more than one of the crew eyed the book of laws and rules.  A check of the library data on the country said it was a 'Feudal Technocracy', with an extreme and intrusive legal system!  The sort of people who'd imprison you for any of the very many infractions they could dream up and while plundering the technology in your possession as you sat rotting in a cell.  Certainly not the sort of place to be unwary.  Rol adjusted his kit properly, removing his knife, before taking his stroll.  Ms. Vik decided to dress in one of her business suits, with the gold bangles to visit Dulcinea.  As the Knights got ready, they discussed who else should be "staff".

Zach volunteered to stay aboard the Hotel California, to read the law documents the port gave them.  When it came down to the four of them, the Knights and Inger changed.  Inger chose her Vilani suit and gold bangles.  Soon enough, they were ready and Mikah had Aiden call the port control for clearance to cross to the Countess' ship.  While the Knights were off the ship, Aiden planned to finish his system checks and relax with a nice book.  Before he did so, he spent some time examining the Dulcinea from their vantage point.  It took a bit of thinking to work out what was bothering him about the ship.  When it finally hit him, Aiden wondered why he hadn't realized it before?  The ship's hull had a lanthanum grid, meaning it was jump capable!  This, depite it obviously being made to dock to a larger craft.

Rol's Walk And The Knights Visit

     Rol disembarked and found the surprisingly chilly but dry port had an air strip with both hangers and tie downs for various fixed wing and rotory aircraft.  It included a fenced in and guarded section, containing an obvious military air unit.  For starships, the port had mostly exposed pads to accomodate up to twenty ships.  There were some few outbuildings large enough to be craft hangers too.  He estimated the largest craft the port could handle on a pad was 1,000 dTons.

There were few spacecraft of any kind in the port other than the Hotel California and Dulcinea.  The military had a handful of what looked like aerospace interceptors.  He noted, with curiosity, that there seemed to be three field and traffic control towers.  Then he noticed two were actually defensive weapons platforms around the base.  There were also a number of military aircraft and clusters of military ground vehicles scattered about the field in an apparent defensive posture.

The Knights got permission to make the transit to Dulcinea in their air-raft easily enough.  Now prepared, they made the short flight over in time for a late dinner.  As they closed on Dulcinea, the vessel's aft cargo bay opened to expose an apparent ten foot deep bay.  Two air rafts were already parked within, but there was ample space they could use to land.  As they got closer to the open landing, they saw the entire interior wall could also open, suggesting it closed on a secondary cargo bay door.

Next: A Visit and an Offer