As the nomads coming from the camp got closer, Zach dismounted, and the action caused them to stop and spread their group to a line left and right.  As they stopped, Zach was careful to keep his weapon averted and bowed towards them in a Viliani style of greeting.  As he watched them, he saw that one of the figures seemed to be leaning forward as if intently examining Zach.  After a short pause, the man moved up and grunted more than asked, "Tribe?"
Zach said, "I am not in a tribe", and suddenly was very quickly sucker punched in the gut!  Lucky for the merchant, he was wearing a vacc suit, which acted as a layer of armor.  Still, the force against his vacc suit was such that it pushed Zach back and he felt pain from the impact.  The "help" the vacc suit gave was limited, because it's layers would slow down high-speed bullets but only spread the force from slow speed punches.  When Zach didn't double over, the man stepped back into a guard position and studied Zach again.  Zach brought his hands up, holding them open, and said, "I am not here to fight."  That didn't help him, and he saw another of the figures, behind the first, produce a rifle.  Hoping to avoid bloodshed, especially his own, Zach said, "I have weapons with me, but I am not here to fight.  I do not wish to shed blood here."
After a pause, the lead man grunted an order at Zach to disarm.  Opening his mike up so those with the caravan could hear what was being said, Zach removed his rifle from his shoulder and hung it on the harness on his Golning.  He hoped this would end things, but the figures were still waiting, with a rifle trained on him.  Zach silently lost another battle as he removed his gunbelt and hung that on the Golning's harness too.  Zach was then ordered to step to the left and, when he complied, one of the nomads moved up and took the tethers for his animals and led them off.  Again, not wanting to provoke a fight since he was now unarmed, Zach said, "I will be needing those back."  In an even and dispassionate voice, one of the nomads said, "We'll see.  Who are you?"
Zach answered, "My name is Zachariah Wood", and was asked, "And who are they?"  The nomad pointed at the obviously approaching caravan as he asked.  Zach said, "They are my companions."  The nomad said, "You will remain here until they arrive.  And then we will talk.  And then we will find out if you will get you belongings back." in a tone which did not make that sound likely.  Having said that, they turned and left, taking the animals with them.  Over the comms, and having heard only Zach's side of the conversation, Zimzod decided that silence meant the exchange was over.  He tried to put what he'd heard together before just asking in a confused and alarmed voice, "What the fuck did you just do?!"
In a dismissive voice, Zach said, "There were five of them with guns and I was outnumbered and disarmed", with a tone that suggested he had no other choice.  In indignation, Zimzod replied, "You had twenty people behind you with long arms that could reach them, and do it very well, and you...  And you say nothing, and let them take your things."  Zach defended himself, saying "Well, I could have opened fire and had a major incident..." and Zimzod interrupted him saying, "Or just not given up your weapons."  Matter of factly, Zach answered, "Then they would have shot me."Talk, Leave Or Shoot?
A minute later the rest of the caravan rolled up to find Zach standing in the desert with nothing but what he was wearing.  As they arrived, Zimzod ordered Zach back into the group as the merchant tried to further explain what happened.  Ignoring Zach, Zimzod looked at the Countess emotionally saying, "I am so sorry.  I really am.  I'm embarrassed."  The Countess looked less than impressed with Zach's words as he continued talking.
Angry that his point of view was not considered, Zach pressed on saying, "It was either that or get into a fire fight.  And how was a firefight going to further our mission?"  After a pause where no one answered him, Zach continued, "It's not.  It would have ended our mission.  Totally."  As he finished, he could hear Ms. Vik muttering "Every fucking planet..."  Zimzod turned, and angrily said to her, "I'm in agreement with you."  Inger just repeated "Every fuckin' planet", while shaking her head back and forth.  Zach leapt in, missing the point completely and demanding, "Why!?  What'd I do last planet?  I didn't get in trouble on the last planet."  Inger simply said, "It's not you man, it's just..." before she turned away.  Then turning back, she completed the thought saying, "You're just the one for today.  I mean...  Every damn planet."
Interrupting, Mikah said, "Well, this is what the Countess came to do.  So..."  As she said that, she turned to the Countess watching this collapse of the team with 'less than interest'.  Mikah asked, "Tell us what you want us to do?  How you want us to set up your position?"  Still trying to defend himself to Zimzod, Zach continued, "If I would have proceeded, it would have turned into a firing situation."  Having had enough, Zimzod firmly said, "No.  If you would have delayed them a minute...  Just held them for a minute...  We would have come up on them..."
Zach interrupted him saying, "Well they had a weapon up and they were about to shoot me.  So I could have started shooting back or..."  Zimzod now interrupted him saying, "YOU could have talked.  Zach defiantly missed the point again, doggedly going back to, "I was trying to talk.  They told me to disarm."  Rol interrupted, "Wait.  They attacked you?"  Zach answered, "No, they had weapons on me", as he exaggerated the one rifle.  Rol repeated back, for verification, "They came at you with guns raised and they attacked you?"
Then, Mikah verified what she heard, saying "Technically, it was an assault." and Rol firmly said, "OK.  So we know they are hostile."  When Mikah said it was not "assault and battery", Rol said he was considering it tactically, and this suggested they were hostile.  He recommended they take the nomads out.  Zimzod disagreed, "They're not hostile, they are protecting their territory.  It is like someone walking onto your property armed with a shotgun.  They're defending themselves.  The fact that..."  But Rol interrupted saying, "From him?!" and pointing at Zach when Zimzod suggested they were defending themselves.  Zimzod replied, "Well, I understand your point of view here, but the man just...gave everything to them saying 'Here'."  Rol muttered a bit as he prepared and checked his gauss rifle.
Zach again pushed in saying, "They said they'd return when you got here." In an attempt to prove things were still on track and he'd done the right thing. Turning on him, Zimzod replied, "What? They couldn't wait a whole minute??" In an attempt at lightening things, Zach said "Obviously not..." But Zimzod interrupted him saying, "They're probably still walking back to the camp.", but the men had returned to the camp fairly quickly. As the conversation played out, a figure separated from the camp and came out to approach them, stopping at a short distance. Once he came to a stop, he asked, "Who are you and what is your purpose here?" The Countess explained she'd come to trade with the people.
The nomad said, "We do not trade with those who sneak up on us as thieves."  Not able to keep her silence, Mikah scoffed, "Sneak??" under her breath so the man wouldn't hear.  The Countess answered, "It was not our intention to sneak up on you.  How can we make this right?"  The man accused, "You come to us in a disguise, hiding who you are.  So, you are sneaking."  His firm tone suggested this explained his point of view and was to be accepted.  But he continued, "Show us who you are, so we know who we are dealing with."
The Countess asked, hopefully, "If we remove our robes and show you who we are, can we negotiate?"  As this exchange was going on, there was a mummer of alarm behind them.  Looking back, the crew saw the caravanners reacting to a group of nomads who'd begun to move in on them as the caravan folk backed away.  Zimzod commented quietly, "Countess, are you going to ask them what this is about?"  When she asked, the nomad explained, "You have come onto our land.  Until we know what we are going to do with you, we are making sure we are safe."  When Zimzod asked, "So you're going to harass these people...", the man interrupted saying, "No.  We are going to secure what they have until we know if it is dangerous."
As he said this, Zimzod and the others realized the nomads were moving forward and taking tethers and bundles from the fearful caravanners who were trying to back away.  Some of the first things that were taken were the Countess' possessions.  As this happened, Countess Ursara was trying to get the man to discuss the situation.  But, he refused to talk until he had a better understanding of "you intruders".  Finally, Mikah asked the Countess, "Are we negotiating, are we leaving or are we fighting?  Those are your choices."  Ursara firmly replied, "We are here to trade, if that is at all possible." and Mikah asked, "When are you going to make that determination?"  Zimzod jumped in, saying, "Because right now they are taking all your shit."
Ursara acknowledged that, firmly saying, "If we can get our things back, we'll trade, but right now I need to try to convince them we mean no harm."  As she continued trying to talk to the nomads, they were securing all the goods in the caravan before allowing any other communication.  Watching things continue degrading, Mikah took a stand, saying, "Countess, things are going from bad to worse and we have to decide to leave or fight."  With a sigh and sag of her shoulders, the Countess said, "Then we leave." and Mikah said, "Fine".  They told the nomad they were leaving and wanted their things back.  He just said, "Have a nice walk."  Mikah demanded, "Walk?" and Zimzod said, "We are taking our stuff and we are going back."  The nomads were not impressed as they continued relieving the caravanners of goods and animals.  It became apparent that, unless they started shooting, the nomads would take everything.
Mikah said on comms, "Looks like we're fighting" and Zimzod casually says, "I'm shooting him first" as he pointed to the lone nomad.  The nomad did not appear at all impressed.  Aiden said, "Wait!  Wait!  Wait!  Obviously, we should be negotiating with these people, that's why they took us on.  I don't think we should fight the entire tribe.  I mean, we don't know how many of them are out there.  That's crazy.  To just start shooting." Ms. Vik asked, "Is this because we're not taking off our robes?  Is that it?"  Addressing the Countess, Mikah said, "We have to act.  The nomads cannot do what they are doing and demand openness from us as they rob stuff from us.  Either tell them we'll take off our robes and they'll back off or they're in for a fight."  Hearing this, the nomad said, "Fine.  Take off your robes." and the Countess shrugged.
First Ms. Vik, then Rol, removed their robes, followed by Zach as Mikah said to the nomad, "Give our animals back.  Now."  As she said this, the rest of the team dropped their robes.  Ms. Vik went so far as to remove her combat armor and vacc suit, standing in the desert heat.  The nomads had mostly removed the animals from the caravanners and led them a short way off.  There, they were beginning to paw through the packages and luggage.  Mikah firmly demanded, "Leave our stuff alone.  We either leave peacefully, with our animals and everything we came her with...including his stuff".  As she said the last, she gave the jerk of a thumb towards Zach, "or you're going to have a fight on your hands.  You either negotiate in good faith or you let us go.  One or the other."
Walking past the Countess towards her, the nomad said "These are our lands..."  But Mikah interrupted him saying, "We understand this is your land."  Ignoring her comment, he continued, "You came into our lands..." and she again cut him off, saying, "But you're not negotiating in good faith.  You're stealing.  That's what you're doing.  You're stealing.  We came here to trade, to guard her so she could trade. You can't steal our stuff."
Taking a stand against Dame Mikah now, the nomad replied, "We don't negotiate with people who trespass."  Not having any of it, Mikah disdainfully said, "Put up signs."  Ms. Vik moved up to the two of them and said, "Please excuse my interruption.  We seem to be at an impasse.  I would like to offer my assistance that maybe we can negotiate to a point where we can sit down and have a discussion about what we're her for?"  Aiden grimly injected over the comms, "And not a loss of life."
"So we don't have to resort to a loss of life." Inger continued, "Because apparently there has been a misunderstanding.  We did not mean to trespass.  I don't believe we even knew we were trespassing, as we were just trying to find you.  Maybe there is a way we can come to an understanding."  Not being interrupted, Ms. Vik continued into the void saying, "You are going to have to forgive me, because I do not know anything about your people.  So, all I can do is try to be polite.  I am trying the best that I can."
The nomad answered, "We will be sure that we are safe, and then we will talk."  Turning to the Countess, Inger said, "It is your call, but I honestly think we should see what happens.  I don't think we'll lose anything more by just seeing what they do."  Looking around as Ms. Vik was talking, it was obvious the nomads were digging through all the things they'd removed from the caravanners but were not making any moves on the team or the Countess herself.  Mikah said, "That's got to stop" as she looked over the fearful caravanners.
Ms. Vik made a point of saying they were not stealing anything.  They were just investigating the luggage and packages.  She also pointed out they were on the nomads' land whether they liked it or not.  Inger pointed out they could have opened fire when the caravan rode up, and they didn't.  She suggested again, "Let's see what happens."  The discussion revolved around what they were not going to give up.  Their armor and weapons.  Ms. Vik said they could wait and could always open fire later.  Zimzod said, "No one stands down", and Ms. Vik said she was going to wait, and sat in the sand as things continued.  Soon, one of the nomads going through the packages moved over to what looked like their leader and spoke in tones too soft for any of the crew or caravanners to hear.  The man then said, "OK.  We see you are not attacking us, or a danger to us.  So why are you here?"  Ms. Vik answered, "This is a Countess of the Imperium, and we were hired to escort her on her mission to trade for Tellona Diamonds."
He looked at the Countess and asked, "So what have you brought to trade?"  The Countess said she'd brought many things, including portable solar generators and tech goods.  He told her to come with them and they would talk, decide, and then tell the rest.  As he spoke, he motioned for the Countess to proceed him into their camp.  The Countess shrugged, happy they were getting something done, and said "OK" as she moved forward.  Zimzod dismounted and followed until they were stopped by the lead nomad.  He objected to Zimzod, saying, "Just her."  Zimzod asked the nomad, "Would you go into an unknown encampment without an escort?"  The nomad answered, "What I would do is not relevant", and the Countess turned saying, "It's OK."  With that, they let her leave them and head into the nomad's camp, though Zimzod tracked the her with the sensors in his battledress and enjoyed creating "rescue" scenarios in his mind.  Oddly enough, in many of the scenarios, the Countess didn't survive the rescue.  They then sat, or stood, and waited.The Vouch Safe
About an hour later, one of the figures came from the camp saying, "One of you has found something that we understand is of importance.  Who has it?"  Since they'd only had the wood piece Rol found, Zimzod said he had it and Mikah pointed out that Rol found it.  The nomad looked at Zimzod and asked him to follow.  He was obviously not concerned with Zimzod's battledress or weapons.  Zimzod said, "Of course" and followed the man through a section of the camp that appeared to have been evacuated, to a tent.  Once in the tent, Zimzod found the Countess sitting opposite two men who were no longer wearing their outer robes, around a small wooden table.
The older of the two reached his hand out asking to see the "vouch safe".  When Zimzod opened the hip container and drew it out, the man took the offered piece and examined it.  Showing it to the man next to him, the nomad asked, "Where did you get this?"  Figuring 'why not', Zimzod explained it was found it in the desert nearly six hours from the camp."  Once they'd heard this, the men exchange looks and nodded before saying, "We can not trade with you."  When Zimzod asked why not, they said that was irrelevant, but held up the wood piece saying, "But, for this...you get to go home.  And we will give you your goods back."  When Zimzod asked, "What about numb nuts and the first two animals?" they interrupted him, saying "We will give you your goods back."
"Also, for this", the man said as he held up the wood, "We will give you this."  And then he handed Zimzod a diamond.  Countess Ursara gasped as she saw the stone, and tried to receive it before it was firmly given to Zimzod.  This told Zimzod she was impressed by the palm sized stone, not that he was impressed with her.  Zimzod thanked him saying, "Hopefully, we can do business in the future."  The man waved this comment aside saying, "That will not be possible."  He then dismissed Zimzod saying, "You may escort the Countess out."  As Zimzod stood he asked, "What would you accept in trade?"  The Countess fumed, changing colors as she appeared to be holding in a rage.  The man repeated, "We cannot trade with you."  A bit frustrated, Zimzod tried to add "friendliness" to his voice as he said, "What do you need?  We can bring things from off world."
The man calmly said, "We don't need anything, and we cannot trade with you.  You are free to go."  In one last attempt, Zimzod began asking, "What are the extents of your lands?"  The man pointedly said, "It would be good for you to escort your Countess, now."  Graciously, Zimzod raised his arm in a gesture to lead, saying "Countess?"  She stood, with slumped shoulders and a very sour look, and straightened her back before walking out of the tent.  As they began to walk back to the others, Zimzod asked the Countess, "So you failed in negotiations?"  The Countess growled, "Let's just get back to the caravan."  Zimzod allowed the Countess to stalk her way back to the caravan ahead of him, and followed happily as she arrived first.  She growled to the others, "We're leaving."  Good to their word, the nomads returned all the animals, goods and gear taken.    Sunday, 183-1112: 2 am Going Back To Runips
As they organized their caravan again, the team took extra pleasure in the idea of returning with the ship to lay waste to the trading village.  But, they knew it would likely not be there in the next few days.  As they prepared to start moving, Zach asked if Zimzod wanted him on point?  Zimzod angrily asked, "So you can give up your shit again?" to a chorus of No's from the others.  Zach again leapt into the broken record, "If it was a combat situation, I would have started shooting.  It was a negotiation, so I did what I had to do to insure that the negotiation would proceed."  He then said, "Remember, I am a trader, and that is what traders do."  Zimzod muttered, "You're a traitor all right...  I'll call you Frenchy from now on."  Zach continued the broken record, repeating, "Like I said, if it was a combat situation I would have fought, it wasn't."
As the team made their way back to the port over the next two days, the Countess remained uncommunicative and closed away with her people as much as was possible.  There was no question she was highly upset with the outcome of the trip.  Having lost his pavilion early the day before, Zach was having a number of issues with his vacc suit and PLSS.  He'd been able to recharge the batteries from a small plant the convoy had with them but he couldn't do that without taking the suit off completely.  He could recharge the air at any time,so long as he had power, but he had to take it off to keep the batterys going.  He first tried that in the "dark hours", but Zach learned the local nights were a bit too cold for that.  This meant Zach had to go without a suit during the light hours, and he'd started collecting an interesting set of sunburns.  When he came for treatment, Mikah examined them and told the man they were mild, at worst, and he should stop whining.
Zimzod soon found he'd have to deal a new issue, created because Zach kept volunteering to stand third shift security.  He was doing that because he'd lost his pavilion, and because of increasing discomfort from his sunburns.  So, Zach had been volunteering to take the most difficult shifts because he couldn't sleep.  Especially since he had to take his vacc suit off to recharge its air and power systems.  As the 183rd day passed, Zach kept his birthday quiet, not needing to escalate issues with Zimzod.Ambush!
The second time they stopped to camp during the return, Zimzod figured he'd stand sentry with Zach, as well as standing the shift before that himself.  Walking the perimeter near the end of his own shift, Zimzod got three contacts on his tactical.  They appeared approximately ten feet away from him to his right!  He calmly said, "Contact people.  Wake uuuup." as he looked to the right and saw three figures standing in a line ten feet from him.  Regarding the figures watching him, Zimzod happily asked, "What can I do for you gentlemen?"  After he spoke, the figures sat down in place, and one extended a hand to a position in front of them, as if in invitation.  Figuring "why not", Zimzod advanced 'into their presence' to sit as invited.  As he did, he suddenly had to react as his sensors lit up and figures rose from the sand around him!  This was obviously a trap.
Three more figures rose, surrounding him and grabbing for a purchase on his armor.  Zimzod ordered into his comms, "Contact!  Contact!  Alert!  Alert!" as he began fighting the attackers.  Zimzod first flailed his arms to throw two attackers off his sides.  Zimzod could also feel someone behind him, pressing something against his back.  As this happened, the three sitting figures also sprung up to swarm Zimzod as well.  Bringing up his gauss rifle, Zimzod fired as he swung the weapon.  With the enhanced strength of his battledress, his butt strike almost completely removed the head of one attacker as the fire eviscerated another.  He then turned, jamming the rifle muzzle into a third as he pulled the trigger.  The fired rounds ripped into the belly of that man, dropping the limp form as he noticed some kind of heat coming through his back.  There was still a man riding him piggy back.
Not knowing what the sand rat was up to, Zimzod reached back with his free left hand to grab what he could, before pulling the man bodily over to send him flying out front. Despite that, he still felt the heat increasing. The two nomads Zimzod pushed to the side had gotten up and were scrambling to re-engage. Responding to this, Zimzod flipped his selector to four shot and started spraying around him. As he tried to confirm how many attackers he was still facing, Zimzod's armor systems went completely dead, and his joints froze!
Zach, in the camp, had woken and armored up to prepare for his shift and reacted as soon as Zimzod raised the alarm.  Raising his gauss rifle as the fight began, he saw Zimzod fighting off a mass of nomads.  As he looked for a shot he could take without shooting the Knight, Zimzod made quick work of a number of the cluster around him.  But Zach could see one of them on his back, and shoving something against Zimzod's back.  As Zach lined up a shot on this Nomad, he saw a glow begin before Zimzod suddenly reached up and grabbed the raider and flung him haplessly into the desert.  As this happened, a number of the figures Zimzod had knocked down rose and attacked again.  Zach tried to line up a safe shot while Zimzod opened fire as he moved his rifle into position.  Zimzod ended up shooting two and crushing another's head with a butt strike.
Zach could see one more nomad behind Zimzod, preparing some sort of weapon, while Zimzod suddenly seemed to be playing 'statue in the park'.  While Zach couldn't understand what Zimzod was doing, he could see the nomad preparing to shoot the Knight.  Flipping the selector on his gauss rifle to four shot, Zach, who'd taken a stance, shot and dropped the nomad.  After the shot, Zach assessed the situation, seeing the only one still standing was Zimzod, but there was "something" glowing in the back of his armor!  Deciding this was not good, Zach rushed to investigate the thing and get it off the armor.  As he looked, the tool had a handle and shaped surfaces he didn't not recognize.  It seemed to be some kind of heat probe, and had melted its way into the armor composite!  Not trying to do any fancy math or anything, Zach grabbed the handle and yanked the device from the armor.  As he did, he saw it left a gaping hole, melted into the back of the battledress and its systems!After the Battle
Not familiar with battledress, Zach had no idea how to even try to release Zimzod, and turned his attention to the downed nomads, to make sure they were not still a threat.  But they were just bodies, lying there bleeding.  The man he'd shot had been pulling an old and odd-looking beat up rifle from his pack when Zach shot him, and was only "mostly dead".  The rest died, either immediately or quickly, due to injuries Zimzod had caused physically, or with gauss fire.  As the others came up, Zach said, "I think I got one still alive", and turned to Mikah saying, "How do we get him out of the armor?"  Mikah said, "I don't know.  He's the armorer", as she pointed to Rol.  When Zach said, "Take a look", she continued, saying, "I really don't care how to get him out of the armor."
As Rol arrived to check things out, he realized the tool Zach pulled from the armor was a "composite cutter".  It was used for cutting and shaping armor composite for repairs.  Putting the pieces together, Rol realized the natives had the cutter and used it in a tactic for taking out lone armored figures by getting close and jamming it into the electronics.  One of the nomads jammed the cutter in, aiming for the electronics and cutting through composite and electronics.  It melted holes in the suit's computer and system boards.
When he realized this fried all the suit's main systems, Rol saw he'd have to use the emergency releases to strip Zimzod out of the armor.  They'd have to drag the suit back to the ship, so he could figure out how to repair the armor?  Throughout this process, Zimzod had been locked in the suit, which lost all function, including life support.  He rapidly went through all his training and memory, trying to find any way to trigger the suit release.  Despite his best attempts, Zimzod couldn't make the trigger work, and didn't know what was happening outside, because his displays and had all systems had gone dark.  he had no way to even see out of his armor!  At a certain point, he was relieved when the heat had suddenly gone away.
Once Rol activated the emergency releases and removed the battledress from Zimzod, Mikah helped Zimzod and had Zach administer first aid to the one surviving nomad.  But Zach's abilities were not up to it, or the man was too far gone, and he died.  As Rol worked, the team planned to rip into the bodies and clothing, to look for anything to explain the nomad's ability to evade sensor detection.  Once they got him free, Zimzod had a first degree burn near where the cutter worked through the armor, but was otherwise ok.  As she worked, Mikah ordered the others to strip the dead and check through their clothing and possessions.  Behind them, the waking camp started filling with sound as the natives realized they were under attack.
There was a lot of consternation in the air until it was made clear whatever fighting happened was over.  But Mikah was given a number of hours to strip and examine all the corpses.  Eventually, when everything was laid out, they found the composite cutter was the only piece of electronics the nomads had!  One had a sword made of polished bone of some sort and two had daggers of th same kind. And one had a rifle.  As Zimzod explained the mysterious sensor issues, Mikah said she'd do an autopsy on some of the bodies to varied reactions from the team.  Ms. Vik asked, "What, here?" and Mikah answered, "Yeah.  I've done one on our kitchen table.  Why not here?  I mean, come on."
Zach said he'd search the area where the fight happened, to see if there was anything buried under the ground that would affect sensors?  As each body was stripped down, it was determined that two of them were Jonkeereen.  And when Zimzod investigated, he believed that they were two of the three who lured him in, rather than from the four that rose from the sands.  As Mikah prepared, with Zimzod in his skivvies to assist, she made a 'Y-cut' in each of the nomad's chests.  She then proceeded to completely investigate each of the corpses for unusual body structures or organs and found nothing unusual.
Mikah considered taking samples, but realized she had no way to refrigerate them to maintain them.  She briefly considered slipping samples inside her armor but Zimzod went off on how bad that would stink up her armor.  And, he was willing to bet that stench would never come out.  As Mikah worked on the bodies, Zach worked on his search and, after an hour, found nothing of note.  As they worked, Aiden and Ms. Vik were detailed to examine the nomad's clothes and goods for any suggestion of how they can evade sensors.  After cutting things from the bodies with their knives, and being much less than gentle, they laid everything out.  But they found nothing was of modern, or even recent construction.  Even the rifle was an antique which had been carved on and gnawed at by time.
There was nothing but complete frustration as each of the lines of investigation came to an end.  Finally, Mikah decided to tag and bag everything and go back through it all at the port.  As this was all happening, the Countess first, and then the Caravan master came over to find out what happened?  They were followed by the concerned and curious.  A brief report was made to the Countess and Caravan master.  After several hours of gristly work, Mikah had collected many readings from her scanners, and the team bagged and tagged all the belongings of the nomads for investigation at the port.  They moved a bit faster as they finished because the Countess was making noises that she'd like to get moving again.
When Mikah asked the Caravan master, she was told they were six hours ride from the port and she agreed they should get moving.  With Zimzod's armor out of action, they had lost a major piece of defensive hardware if other nomads chose to attack.  So, they spent the next six hours riding to make the port in a single leg, without stopping.  Everyone was told to eat in the saddle if they got hungry.  By 8am standard on the 184th day of the year, the caravan returned to the port complex, much to the surprise of all.  Especially the port personnel, who had not expected them back for two weeks...if they survived at all.  And, many doubted that.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Deals and Damages In Runips