The night passed without incident and Rol woke early to cook breakfast after his morning routine.  While he cooked, Mikah and Brian's alarms went off and Ms. Vik woke on her own.  Once out and waiting for chow, Mikah listened to the state-run news for what it was worth.  She couldn't believe the calm and composed reporters who assured the public "Everything is fine."  Ms Vik looked for what entertainment she could find while waiting for the riding lessons.  Brian ate quickly before heading below decks to get to work.
Zimzod was disappointed to wake at 8:30am, having hoped to sleep in.  But, he woke hungry.  After his morning thing, he went out for chow while bringing some of his "prized stash".  As the others ate, Zimzod lorded over them as he prepared his "real" coffee.  By the time Aiden and Zach's clocks went off, breakfast was cooked and Rol considered going into town.  When he announced that he was heading to the port offices, Mikah reminded him to return before the riding class.  Rol left the ship and walked to the port offices to ask about binoculars?
Zimzod, while eating breakfast, suggested to Mikah that they think about building a portable solar still.  When Mikah agreed it would be good to have, they asked Brian about the idea?  Brian said they'd need the parts, and made a list of the things they should shop for.  When Emkir woke, he cut the feed from the bridge and headed out for chow.  Zach got up and had chow before reading the paper tablet and doing research on the tanir.
As he crossed from the ship to the port offices, Rol noticed all the outside workers were wearing breather masks.  At the main port building, Rol requested access to the office, and was asked for his Ident.  After a bit of back and forth, a team stepped out of the building to do a security inspection.  After that was done, Rol was allowed inside and said he was looking for binoculars.  At first, Rol asked for a recommendation where to buy a set.  And, at first, the staff of the office joked about his question.  Finally, as Rol was giving up on cooperation, a sergeant showed him a very beat up pair, offering them for Cr 50. Despite how beat up they were, Rol decided to build some good faith with the port staff.Mikah And Zimzod Go Shopping
Zimzod spent the morning cleaning and preparing his gear as they waited for the riding lessons.  While working, Zimzod thought about making a webbing harness to let him carry an injured person while in battledress.  Given how far from civilization they were going to be, they might need to move wounded over-land.  Since they likely couldn't get anything worth using in town, he considered making one on the ship.
When Rol returned to the ship with his binoculars, they talked about building the web gear, as well as the solar still, and decided to send a parts crew into town to shop for what they needed.  Not wanting any more troubles, they decided Zimzod would go with Mikah driving.  When he heard the plans, Zach said he wanted to go with them and Mikah told him he couldn't.  After a short argument, Mikah put down her foot, telling Zach he was restricted to the ship.  She did take the newspaper tablet from him to recycle.  When Emkir heard the argument end, he invited Zach to play 'Grand Theft Galactic' on the ship's computer to distract him.
Mikah and Zimzod powered up the air-raft and pulled out, to head for inspection without calling the port first.  Once they left the ship, they were blasted by external speakers demanding an explanation of her actions.  Mikah grabbed the comms to announce they were coming for inspection and there was a brief exchange between her and the field controller.  At the same time, the two Knights saw troops pouring from the port buildings!  Eventually, things were sorted and they were ordered to land.  Once on the ground, as the inspection was carried out, a bit more roughly than before, Mikah was given a Cr100 ticket for not following procedure.  When they asked, they found they could pay this at the port and paid it before being allowed to head to town.
Once in town, Mikah again was careful to set the air-raft down as close to where she had landed before.  Then she and Zimzod shopped for the parts for both the solar still and rig straps, spending Cr120.  Zimzod was not pleased with the quality but thought the stuff should work.  Mikah paid the cost from her cash.  To not run into any more trouble, they did exactly what they needed to do and no more, then left for the port.  Mikah also recycled the news tablet as soon as she could.  They then went back to the air-raft and called the port before getting back to the ship.
Once back to the port, they endured the inspection before returning to the ship.  After returning, they set to work building the solar still and carry rig.  As they talked about testing the rig, Zimzod and Mikah decided Zach was going to be the "test baby".  The design they came out with was a "back to back", 5 point harness system that also caught the legs up into a "sitting position".Riding, Drinking and Pranks
Eventually, the time came for the riding lesson.  As they left the ship, those participating saw that a caravan of traders had arrived and been setting up a camp at the south western edge of the port.  The 'trainers' were a number of sturdy and weathered native men and women who led several tanir and Golning over to the ship.  As the crew worked with the native traders, Ms. Vik had the most issues with both riding and leading Golnings and tanir while mounted and walking.  While the others were not completely comfortable, things worked out.  Rol turned out to be an experienced rider, who just needed some experience to understand this kind of animal, but the caravanners were happy to have Rol there to work with.
Several of the Countess' people also had the same issues Inger did, so she was not completely embarrassed.  After the riding class, everyone was a bit sore.  Zimzod saw the caravanners breaking out some kind of alcoholic drink and got his own booze to share.  When he joined them, the natives welcomed the former Marine and his bottle, but warned Zimzod about theirs when he asked for a shot.  Not willing to admit there was a drink he couldn't handle, Zimzod brushed the warnings aside.
Watching Zimzod, Emkir bet Mikah that Zimzod couldn't handle it.  While Mikah was fairly certain Zimzod had the stuff to handle the drink, Emkir had seen native drinks that made his toes curl.  Emkir thought this stuff might have a kick while Zimzod said it wasn't too bad.  After Zimzod quickly downed three shots, Emkir won the Cr 10 bet when the drink hit and the former marine dropped.  But the challenge turned out be the spark to a party, and more drinking, as Mikah had the caravanners dragged Zimzod into the ship's cargo bay.
Once Zimzod was sleeping in the cargo bay, Mikah went to her stateroom, with an evil grin and got the red dye pack she'd bought on Inthe.  Back in the cargo bay, Mikah told the caravanner elder who'd made sure Zimzod was not injured, that they had a special ceremony and invited the natives to watch.  Emkir also went into the ship, to get his bottle of brandy.  As the party got swinging, they stripped down and dyed Zimzod a very deep but bright red.  As he watched and drank, Emkir came up with the idea for another prank and rushed to Zimzod's unlocked stateroom to grab one of his shirts.
While searching for the shirt, Emkir happened to notice the weapons on Zimzod's gun rack, including Zach's stolen Darrian Gauss Pistol!  Emkir decided to say nothing about that as he grabbed a white shirt that had seen a lifetime of abuse.  Once back in the cargo bay, Emkir kneaded it in the dye puddled on the floor to create a "red shirt" for Zimzod.  Emkir only realized afterwards that he'd dyed his own hands red in the process.
The party continued, and when Emkir shared his brandy, three of the caravanners fell prey to the off-world drink.  To 'honor the traditions of the ship's crew', the elders decided they should be dyed in the ceremony too.  So, they were stripped and dyed as Zimzod had been.  While this was going on, a caravan elder asked Mikah about their cargo?  Mikah called Zach to do his trading thing but the machine parts were not of interest.  They did ask if the ship had anything else to sell, but were most interested in off-world weapons.
Mikah didn't think they had anything to sell until she remembered the 150 year old revolver from the Quasar Viper(and its load of ammo).  She offered it but said it was very old and might not be safe to fire.  The elder accepted it, paying her for the coming expedition with the services of a woman named "Trryghera" from the caravan.  When Mikah accepted, the elder called over the girl, who appeared about 35 years old, very tanned(almost leathery) and sure footed.  When the girl came over, he explained that she would serve Dame Mikah for the trip into the desert.
Trryghera asked where she was to sleep, and Mikah showed her up to the med-bay.  Once there, the girl asked if her Golning would be able to get up there?  This confused Mikah, who explained that her Golning would stay in the cargo bay until needed.  Mikah then had Aiden set the girl up with access codes for the ship.  She also told those of the crew who were not senseless that Trryghera would be living aboard until the expedition.
As Mikah did this, Aiden set the girl's credentials up and she moved her gear into the ship.  By this time, most of the night had burned off, so almost everyone went to sleep.  Brian racked out even though he hadn't finished the carry harness for Zimzod, but Zimzod was feeling no pain.  He was asleep on the cargo bay deck.    Friday 181 1112 : Morning The Morning After The Party
At 7am alarm clocks woke Ms. Vik and Rol, who did their morning routines.  When they left their staterooms, Rol saw the med-bay door was open.  Knowing the caravan girl was aboard, and might be cluelessly wondering the ship, Rol exchanged glances with Inger before both saw a brunette head pop in and out of the door, as if taking a quick glance from cover.  Rol decided to let Inger handle the girl while he headed to the galley to cook.
Once Inger talked the girl out into the lounge, Trryghera took delight in all the 'high tech' things she saw.  It was obvious she had heard of, and even used, some of them.  But she enjoyed all the aspects of her experience as Mikah, Zach, Brian and Aiden began emerging from their staterooms.  Brian intended to eat and get the carry rig finished before the others had to leave.  Mikah said she was going to return to the city to pick up the robes.  Mikah said she was taking Trryghera but also wanted one other person to come.  When Zach said he wanted to go, Mikah firmly refused him again.
As she explained the trip on the air-raft with Trryghera, who was very excited about the prospect, Zach argued that he'd done nothing wrong.  He even reminded Mikah that the police found he was innocent.  But Mikah stood firm, announcing she was taking Aiden.  Put out, Zach backed off and returned to working on his night navigation chart.  Aiden, who'd organized his gear, asked about when they were supposed to meet the Countess?  Mikah said that would be when the Countess called.
When Aiden asked about Zimzod, Mikah decided to check on him.  So, they went down to the cargo bay to find Zimzod still out cold.  The caravan girl also checked on her golning, which was not entirely comfortable in a "metal cave".  Concerned about the animal, Mikah asked and the girl said the golning would be OK.  After checking on Zimzod, Mikah and Aiden headed back above decks, preparing to head into town and pick up the robes.  Emkir woke up and came out to grab food as things happened around him.  As Emkir ate, Mikah collected Aiden and the caravan girl to the air-raft bay.  The closer they got, the more excited Trryghera was.Picking Up The Robes
In the raft, Mikah cautioned the girl to stay seated as the bay opened to the sky and she powered up the raft.  But once airborne and moving out of the bay, Trryghera bolted up to call to her friends on the ground and wave down!  This alarmed Mikah, who rapidly landed and hit ground a bit hard as years-old combat reflexes flashed and Aiden calmly but quickly secured himself.  On the ground, Mikah told the girl again to stay seated at all costs.  She then lifted as she had Aiden call to explain the sudden landing.  That call ended even as they landed for inspection.
There was a Captain waiting with the inspection team and holding an envelope as they emerged from the raft.  He stepped up and asked them to identify themselves.  As Mikah did so, he said, "My Lady, this is for you."  Mikah took the envelope, finding inside a message from Baronette Daumsh Hault-Ulain in the city of Tyruaron.  She seemed to be aware of Countess Ursara's plans and claimed to have more connections to the nomads and 'significant facilities'.  She invited Mikah to visit her while the crew were on-world.  With the inspection was done, they flew into the town, with Trryghera enjoying every minute, but remaining seated. After they'd landed, the three were checked over by the police as usual and moved on to the seamstress' shop.  On the way, they were mobbed by many junk sellers and Trryghera helped block them off.  When she saw one man, she advised Mikah to listen to him.  He turned out to have five silver broaches which, while not bejeweled, were quite nice.  The workmanship was very intricate and each piece was heavy enough to be real silver.  The man asked Cr 5 each and Mikah bought all of them, before thanking both him and Trryghera.
As this was happening, Aiden leaned in, suggesting they ask the man more about what he had, in case they needed trade goods.  Mikah said they'd not need trade goods because they wouldn't be meeting locals in the desert.  She reminded the pilot that the trade talk was the Countess' job and the crew were only security.  As Aiden disagreed, Mikah let him press his point for a short time before firmly saying, "We won't need trade goods and we need to move on."
Once at the seamstress' shop, they entered to suspicious and sour looks.  When the women saw Trryghera, the looks became moderately concerned masks.  Mikah said they'd come for the robes and fabric, and the woman answered that everything was ready.  After the final bill was paid, they took the cloth-wrapped packages and went directly back to the air-raft.  From there, it was back to the ship, with a stop for customs check where the packages were cut open and the robes and fabric investigated.  Once passed through, Mikah told the officials she was going to make a pass over the caravan tents before landing, and they approved that.  After the fly over, allowing Trryghera to wave to her friends and people, Mikah landed in the bay and they started getting everyone organized.Waking Zimzod and Cleaning Up
As the others worked on final preparations, Mikah got her meds and went down to the cargo bay to get Zimzod up and moving.  She injected him with oxychemoactives that woke him and would help clean out his system.  She also ran some basic medical checks as he "came back to life" and realized he was in the cargo bay.  And he realized that his hands were red.  Standing and realizing he was nude, Zimzod also saw he was entirely dyed a deep red.  Wondering if this was vision impairment from the alcohol or not, Zimzod looked around and saw everything else was normal.  That was, except the dye-stained spot he was standing in.
Seeing the others were not red, he realized it was Mikah's red dye pack, like the blue she used on Brian.  He even remembered being there when Mikah had bought the pack in the Inthe system.  Starting to knit himself back into reality as he put the facts together, Zimzod answered Mikah's test questions and asked a few pointed ones of his own.  Mikah answered as she worked, and called Emkir to the cargo bay for some made up reason.  Knowing Mikah was waking Zimzod, Emkir knew his red hands would implicate him and did his best to hide them.  Mikah answered some of Zimzod's questions and the former marine wondered what had happened to his clothes?  When Emkir arrived, Zimzod saw his hands were in his pockets as Mikah told Zimzod they needed to be ready to leave around 4pm!
Emkir, eager to get the blame off himself and knowing Mikah called him down to expose his hands, mentioned the ships new video security suite.  Zimzod said he wanted to see it immediately and began moving.  He climbed up to the crew lounge where most of the crew could not contain their laughter at his situation.  For his part, Zimzod gave up all attempts at modesty or dignity and ignored his nudity.  Emkir was very obliging, hoping video of the caravan folks carrying off their three dyed drunkards would back up the suggestion they'd been responsible.  But as he worked the controls, Zimzod saw his red-dyed hands, which made it clear he had some involvement.  After seeing the video, and making a veiled threat against Emkir, Zimzod went to his stateroom to clean up.  When he got there, he found the red shirt Emkir had dyed hanging from one of his shelves.Getting The Caravan Moving
After showering and cleaning up, Zimzod went to the crew lounge for food and made coffee.  He enjoyed the drink as he let the aroma lure his crew mates to denial.  After that, he hit his stateroom to gear up for the mission.  He first snapped into his battledress and then geared up with his luggage.  Zimzod then went to get "wrapped" into his robes and to wrap his long arms.  After the crew armored up and prepared their gear and goods, they moved to the cargo lock and went out to meet the small caravan organizing for the expedition.  The port forces had set an "observation position", though it was apparent they were glad the Countess and crew were not coming their way.  Still, they were both nervous and heavily armed.
The crew's gear, with a good portion of their water and food for the trip, was mounted, on a tanir, one each.  Each would lead their tanir while riding their golning.  That meant anyone losing control of their tanir would lose almost all their supplies.  Once ready, the caravan started moving to the south west, to get a good bit of distance from the city precincts.  They would then turn back east, marching south of the city to head for the trade site.
The caravan began moving while Zimzod took charge as the group's "ground commander".  He assigned Rol to rear guard and Mikah and Trryghera to point.  He also put Aiden off on the right flank and Zach on the left.  Zimzod commanded from the middle, while Ms. Vik was assigned to keep close to the Countess.  Once moving, the Countess gathered with the caravan leader and Zimzod and explained their course of travel.  They were to move out far enough to pass south of the city.  Once they were far enough out, they would turn towards the trade site.
They could see, as they rode, small parties of "sightseers" who'd come out from the city to watch them go.  These groups faded to nothing the further the caravan got from the city.  Soon, they were on their way in the wastes.  Eventually, the city was just far enough away that the Countess' people said they could change direction.  Once the Caravan leader had his bearings, the experienced desert trader considered the hazards he knew of in that direction.  After a brief discussion of possible issues, including unexpected nomad bands, they moved on as Zimzod reminded the crew to be alert.  Despite that, the first day passed without note as they moved.
As the hours passed, some of the crew were beginning to feel irritations from their vacc suits, made more so due to the motion of riding the golgings.  The experience very quickly got old even to the most interested in this new experience.  As they rode, almost everyone in the team struggled to make adjustments to their gear and position.  Only Rol and Zimzod were really used to wearing their gear for long hours in uncomfortable conditions.  The spacers had also worn vacc suits for hours at a time, and Aiden for days at a time.  But not under conditions that exacerbated the problem.
Soon, the caravan stopped for a late day meal and those in charge talked about how long to keep marching?  Questions of endurance factored into concerns of riding for extra hours into "standard night".  As they rested, Rol broke out his modern cooking gear to make a quick meal for the crew.  The Countess invited Mikah and Zimzod to eat with her and the caravan leaders as they discussed their progress.  When Zimzod detached his helmet, the others took a few seconds to "admire" Zimzod's new "tan".  But most there had been present, or heard the stories, from the dye job the night before.
Since things had started late, the animals were ready to march into the night despite the significant drop in temperature they'd endured at the on-set of local night.  They decided to check into how the people were doing through this first march, as some of the Countess' people were not in vacc suits.  After that, the decision was made to push on three or four hours more into the night.  So, once dinner was finished, the caravan packed and the group marched on until roughly 11pm.  After that, they broke for camp and the caravan people happily helped the crew learn to set up their pavilions and gear.
This took an hour, including a brief meal, before anyone was able to finally sleep.  As they settled down after eating, the Countess asked about security during the "night"?  She guessed they'd be staying for six hours.  Zimzod said he'd post sentries on shifts.  When he said the shifts would change every hour and a half, Zach and Mikah both volunteered to take the first watch.  Rol and Aiden volunteered to take second watch as Aiden prepared his gauss rifle for when he'd have to take his shift.
Rol also asked about orders of engagement, and Zimzod asked, "You were in the Marine Corps, right?"  When Rol said he was, Zimzod said deadly force was only to be used in kind, and anyone sneaking into the camp or entering without permission were expressing hostile intent.  Ms. Vik suggested she should take the last watch.  She also said she might strap into the carry harness they built, to get some sleep as they'd all get little sleep having to get up every few hours.  Zach recommended three hour watches as people in mid-watches would not get sleep on hour and a half watches.  After some discussion, Zimzod said Inger could climb in the harness if he felt she was over-tired.  She was not happy with Zimzod assuming he would know how she felt and argued the point.
Eventually Zimzod agreed to a "two hour, one man" watch system where Aiden took first watch.  This in spite of Zach's many requests to take that watch.  Zimzod told Zach he could take the second watch, period, and assigned Rol to the third watch.  Once this was settled, Aiden began his watch as the others tried to relax and get sleep.  Aiden's watch was uneventful, and he was ultimately relieved by Zach.  Zach separated his time by either scanning the area around the camp or fixing on a distant point to watch in case any movement caught his eye.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Caravans, Nomads and Flying Tents