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Last Updated     March 5 2018
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Parties, Parting and
         Preparing To Leave

Rol's Breakfast Experiment

Jae Tellona     At 7:30 on the morning of 186-1112, alarms woke Rol and Brian, and they started their morning routines.  Rol finished, and went to cook breakfast while Brian hung out in the galley waiting for chow, since he was free for the moment.  Rol answered Brian's questions about the failed expedition into the desert as he cooked.  They also talked about Brian's work, and the many systems he'd disassembled.  When Rol asked how soon Brian could put things back together, Brian said it depended on the help he got.  An early fix would be later that night, but he might get it done by the end of the next day if he got less help from the crew.  The passive aggressive complaint landed mostly flat between them.

When Brian asked what Rol was cooking, Rol said it was something of his own invention.  He grandly told Brian he'd be the "first test subject".  Brian sarcastically answered, "Oh Joy!  Oh Rapture!" with a deadpan look on his face.  Rol served it and watched Brian's reactions as the engineer tasted the dish.  Brian found it much too spicy and "gooier" than he liked his food.  But Brian joked that it was the perfect temperature to eat easily.  The spice was the thing for Brian, and he soon asked, "Water?"  Rol said, "No, Milk", saying that would knock down the spice-burn better.  Thanking Rol for the milk, Brian ate nearly half the dish before he could take no more.

Brian finishing what he could while alarms woke Mikah and Zimzod.  Zach woke on his own, feeling more refreshed and was happy to not have been jolted awake by an alarm.  While Zach did his longer morning exercises, the two knights finished their morning routines.  He came to the lounge to see Brian pushing his plate back.  Zimzod carried some of his coffee stash, intent on enjoying as he thought the aroma would taunt his shipmates.  Seeing Zimzod, Rol offered, "I can make that for you in the morning so it's ready for you, if you want..." and was cut off by Zimzod saying, Nah, that's alright."

Accepting that, Rol asked, "Would you like some breakfast?  I have some interesting..." and was cut off again by Zimzod's curt and firm, "No."  As Zimzod approached, he saw Brian's face and took some pleasure in saying he'd never try whatever 'that' was.  Ignoring that, Brian turned to Mikah asking, "Are you gonna have breakfast?"  When Mikah asked, "What is it?  What's for breakfast?"  Rol said it was something he'd made up.  It "looked" good to her, despite Brian's reaction, so Mikah said, "Sure!" and Rol served her a plate.  Tasting it experimentally, Mikah found it a bit too hot for her to eat without cooling it, but otherwise she thought it tasted fantastic!

Obviously pleased, Mikah looked up enthusiastically saying, "Good Job!" while letting it cool and enjoyed it fully.  Brian looked on, disappointed at her lack of pain, before heading down below decks and thinking about grabbing a gun to avenge himself on Rol.  As he left, Mikah called to Brian, saying she'd be down to help in engineering soon.  Watching this, Zimzod pulled out some powdered eggs and bread to burn into toast while he brewed his coffee.  Still convinced he'd made the right choice, despite Mikah's reaction, Zimzod planned to relax and review some books and other things throughout the day.  Mikah said she had nothing to do but help in engineering, until it was time to get ready for the party.  At about 9am, Zach stepped out of his stateroom as Aiden also appeared.  Zach saw Zimzod finishing one dish while Mikah was finishing a very different meal.  That raised some questions he had to wonder if he wanted to ask?  Rol was cleaning up after having cooked and eaten, and no one else was in the compartment.

Still, what Mikah was eating looked like what Rol had cooked, so Zach stepped up to the counter and took a serving of Rol's cooking.  The knights and Rol watched as Zach tucked in, finding it a bit spicier than he liked things.  He said it was also a bit dryer, and more work to eat, than he preferred.  It was also a bit cold, likely because it had been sitting out on the counter for some time.  On the whole, Zach decided it wasn't bad.  When he arrived, Aiden also grabbed a plateful and found it stone cold.  Aiden silently blamed Rol for not keeping the food warmed for late risers once it was cooked.  It was also a bit too bland for Aiden's tastes, and surprisingly gooey for how cold it was.  Over all Aiden felt it was "not good and not too bad, but a bit too sloppy to eat comfortably."  Rol watched the reactions and decided to file the recipe for later.

Bad Reviews, Ship Work And Relaxing

     Soon, Mikah went below to help Brian in engineering while Zimzod kicked back to relax, savoring his coffee.  After he cleaned up, Rol also went to help Brian with any electronics work.  Done eating, Zach grabbed a computer terminal, to load up his gunnery training program and get in some practice.  Aiden kicked back for the morning and relaxed after their less then tropical desert vacation excursion.  Emkir finally woke up and did his morning routine before going to the lounge for food.  Seeing "something" prepared in the galley, he tried it.  While this was happening, Ms. Vik woke from a well-deserved long night's sleep.  Dressing in coveralls after her morning basics, Inger arrived in the lounge just as Emkir was trying the remains of Rol's experiment.  While not "real spicy", it was still sharper than Emkir's tastes in food.  He also thought it could be both softer and easier to chew.  Since he didn't know how long it had been left out, Emkir felt it had cooled nicely.  All in all, he decided it wasn't bad.

Watching Emkir picking at his food with lackluster enthusiasm, Inger asked, "Who made this?"  Emkir said, "I guess...", before interrupting himself to clear his throat.  He then continued, "I guess Rol."  Inger said, "That's odd.  He usually does pretty good."  Looking for anything else available, Ms. Vik saw where a container of powdered eggs had been left open by someone earlier, and considered her crewmate's sloppiness.  With a sudden spike of courage, Inger grabbed a fork and surveyed the remains of Rol's food in the pan.  She took a curious bite, to test it out instead of turning her back on it completely.  To her surprise, other than being cold and just a bit gooey, it was pretty good.  Rummaging into the galley as Emkir tried to figure out her reaction, Inger got some flour to mix in, and heated a dishful up in the wave-heater.

Having gotten his answer, Emkir mentally wished Inger a happy path to her own end as he finished eating.  With her plate re-heated, Inger sat and completely enjoyed her meal.  Finishing and cleaning up, Emkir went down to help out with the engineering work.  He planned to play some video games after that.  Inger soon finished her food, and also went below to help.  As the day passed, Mikah skipped lunch to do more work before having to stop and change, before visiting the Countess.  Still, about lunch time, Inger announced that everyone should plan some time to change before the party.  Mikah said she planned to wear a garter holster and pistol under her party dress.  When Brian asked, "Should we all carry discreetly", Mikah matter-of-factly said, "I would suggest it."  Zach chimed in, "I'm gonna have one", and the others thought about Inthe and wondered how he'd lose this weapon?

Lunch And Yet Another Shopping Trip

     Zach told the others he was planning to have lunch around noon, and asked if anyone was cooking?  Mikah tartly said, "You can make your own lunch."  Zach said he planned to cook after finishing his gunnery training, and offered to cook for anyone who wanted food?  When Ms. Vik and Zimzod said they could eat, Rol decided to cook a lunch for the crew, letting Zach off the hook.  Lunch was still a rush job, and Brian, Mikah, Emkir and Ms. Vik returned below decks again after.  Rol said he'd work below decks until he had to check what formal wear he had to wear.  At the same time, Rol and Aiden realized they really didn't have dress clothes.

As this came up, it was asked if they were leaving anyone behind on the ship when they left for the party, or just locking the ship up and all going?  Uncharacteristically, Zach volunteered to stay and monitor the boards on the bridge.  As this became a discussion, Rol said he'd have to go into town for clothes if he was going to the party.  When he asked if anyone else needed to go, Aiden said, "Yo!" and raised his hand.  After that, it was quickly decided everyone would go to the party after locking the ship up.

Since a shopping trip was unavoidable, Mikah told Aiden and Rol not to get arrested because she wouldn't come to bail them out.  As the conversation evolved, and Zach heard talk of going into town, he said he could go with them.  Zimzod started protesting immediately, "Noooo!  Nooo!" as Mikah caught the merchant in her glare and started to toe her own firm line.  When everyone seemed to have something to say in the sudden cacophony of voices, Mikah angrily snarled, "Go ahead.  Go into town.  And I am not paying any fines, and I'm not coming to bail you out.  So, stay out of trouble."

When Ms. Vik suggested Mikah was bluffing, the knight turned to her and flatly said, "No I'm not."  Turning back to Zach, she continued, "I'm not gonna bail you out and I'm not paying any fines."  The tone made it impossible to ignore or misunderstand the threat.  They then talked about the ramifications of the three going into town, especially with Zach as a guide.  Rol and Aiden asked Zach what he could tell them, based on his experiences with the merchants and law?  They suggested Zach not go with them, but give them his best advice and explain the laws.  Zach started rattling off not only what little he got from the Runips law book, but his personal experiences.  Mostly, he circled the issue of binding agreements, verbal or written while repeatedly adding in how things were not his fault even though he'd been blamed.

In the end, it was apparent Zach didn't know the laws, but did know the axiom, "Don't screw up."  When Rol had second thoughts about going into town, Zach said it'd be fine if he just remembered that offering a price could be considered agreeing to buy a thing at that price.  So, if they made an agreement, "Pay the price and take what they give you.  That's it."  Rol warned Zach, "If I find out you haven't told me something...  I know where you sleep."  Zach protested, "No!  You heard about what happened to me..."  Mikah interrupted saying, "Why don't you go with them?" to Zach.  When Zach suggested going to the nicer center of the city instead of where Mikah and he had landed, Mikah snapped, "Better know where to park."  After that, Rol told the others to have a mental checklist ready and be sure they weren't carrying weapons, had called the port for permission to fly into town or were prepared for anything else that could come up.

After getting ready, they called the port to get clearance before lifting from the bay and flying to the port building for inspection.  The inspection team handled things as usual, with the added behavior of checking Zach up and down like they expected something offensive to happen there and then.  Other than the regs required, they were not as interested in Aiden and Rol as they were with Zach.  When nothing was found, the three were allowed to fly on into the city to shop.  While they flew, Zach watched as the outer sections of the town changed to the inner.  He only noticed that the cityscape became more dense, and more buildings had two or three levels.  Still, they were largely adobe based.  There was also a bit more tech visible and regularly apparent, but not that much more, and animal-based power was still widely visible.

Off To Buy Suits

     Soon, as the three played 'magic thing flying in the sky' while being watched by many citizens and police patrols, Aiden began asking where to land and shop?  Watching what passed for a city as they passed over, he wondered if they'd be able to get clothing appropriate for the party they expected?  When Aiden thought about calling the ship and asking Mikah or Ms. Vik, Rol said they should just land and 'window shop' until they saw something acceptable.  Zach stifled a comment about their odds, based on what he'd seen in his recent trips.  Still, Zach had to admit he hadn't seen much of the city center.  So, he hoped, and was glad to only be there to help, not buy.  And certainly not to get himself arrested again!

Rol said they weren't trying to impress the Imperial Court, just find something acceptable.  He also reminded them that, no matter what they did, the Countess' people wouldn't be impressed, or likely even friendly.  So, they only had to find something cheap and acceptable for appearance's sake, and not sweat it.  Soon enough, they got to the middle of the city, and Zach picked out a good spot to land which turned out to be legal.  Of course, as soon as they touched down, they were swarmed by the expected teams of officers inspecting their persons and paperwork, to assure all local laws had been followed.  Comparing paperwork with the data on their hand units, Zach noticed he was eyed and looked over a lot more than the other two.  As they worked their way through the process, one of the officers, who appeared to be the senior officer, said "This is a nice quiet place.  We don't want any trouble."

Aiden matter-of-factly said, "We don't want to cause any." as Zach said, "I'm not doing any shopping.  I am just traveling along with them."  Assuming a casual stance, Rol tried to be his most reassuring as he said, "We'll try to keep things nice and quiet."  Rol also did his best to project an air of authority, hoping to be seen as leading his companions, like he had with his troops in the military.  Hearing this, the police officer asked, "So, where are you three going today?" and Aiden said they were looking for a shop to buy a decent suit in."  Processing this, the officer suggested, "OK.  We'll escort you.  Follow him", and pointed to an officer who assumed 'point' in their newly gathered formation.  They began moving, and Zach could see this was actually a much nicer part of town.

There were no hordes of street urchins, and the other riff raff were discouraged by the presence of the police.  This didn't do anything for the stares from native passersby.  Especially those staring at seven-foot tall Zach, whose sallow complexion made him look like a moving brownish-yellowish beanstalk between the officers.  Soon, the group arrived at a single-story row of clothing and other accessory stores without incident.  As the spokesman for the officers gestured to the door, he said, "We'll be out here when you are done, gentlemen."  This last was said with a dark look at Zach, and a tone suggesting he was using the honorific loosely.  Zach was still grateful for the police escort, knowing what things were like without them.  As the three entered the store, the spacers realized that it wasn't up to anything considered galactic standards, even if the prices were not inexpensive.

Rol and Aiden dove in, looking for anything they considered acceptable beyond this dust ball.  The staff were polite, but surprised and bit frustrated at the off-worlder's lack of what they saw as fashion-sense.  The clash of cultures would have been comedic if the three were not worried about being arrested for some unknown and bizarre reason.  Eventually, and to the shop staff's horror, the pair found clothes they thought were acceptable by off-world standards they could recognize.  Since the money was real, the shop staff kept their opinions to themselves and knew they'd have commissions and tales to tell their families about the odd tastes of off-worlders.  Once the basic selection of clothes was done, other staff came forward with accessories from cuff links to watches to belts, in place of the bland ones that came with the garments.

Finally, Rol and Aiden made their ways to the register to pay as the shop staff made their final plays to offer something fashionable.  But the two held firm, and things moved on to payment.  Up front they were told that if they paid with Ident cards they'd have to pay an extra ten percent service charge.  Both men agreed to that and the cost for the suits came to Cr 500 each plus fees.  In the end, each of them paid Cr 550, with Zach getting dark looks for his lack of a purchase.  Of course, behind this outward distain they really were concerned they might have to try to find anything that fit his tall and sparse frame.  Having taken measurements for Rol and Aiden, the staff did the fittings and asked the men to return in an hour once the needed alterations were done.

Stepping out of the shop, into the waiting crowd of police, Rol told the expectant officers, "I think we're just going to find a nice quiet place to relax and enjoy the scenery for an hour.  He then said the suits needed alterations to the suddenly-suspicious officers while Zach looked at the nearby stores to see what they had to offer?  Seeing accessory, consumer items and electronics in the store fronts, as well as a jewelry store, Zach said, "Let's go in the jewelry store."  Rol eyed Zach and said, "Carefully", stressing the word.  Rol added, "No touching.  Window shopping.  And don't ask about any piece or you may have to buy it."

In the store, the three saw everything was ridiculously over-priced.  All the pieces were metal-sparse, and seemed based on the natural materials locally available.  In fact, the shop's 'specialty stone' appeared to be nothing more than compacted sand, glued together and polished!  Or, pieces of carved and polished bone.  Examining some pieces, the material looked like they had been drilled, shaped and cut before being polished and worked into a lace or lattice works of other locally natural materials.  Not that they didn't look interesting.  And some of them even had an appeal.  But at the asking prices, the men could only ask themselves, "Really??" and wish they could voice the sarcasm.

Not really wanting to be in the shop to start, Rol and Aiden felt it was safer to escort Zach, keeping anything from going wrong instead of leaving him alone.  And the window shopping did burn off time they would have spent sitting on a bench somewhere being objects of local curiosity.  Still, the only piece in the shop that really drew more of a reaction was a very 'nice' set of fake Tellona Diamonds.  Sadly, "Nice" for that shop meant obviously glass, and cheesy at that.  That didn't stop the shop from trying to vastly overcharge as each stone had a price ranging from Cr 100 to Cr 2,000.  Zach did consider buying them to play a practical joke, but the prices were too high for even that.  And none of the stones was of a quality that would fool anyone, much less someone educated like Dame Mikah.

After leaving the jewelry shop, Rol checked out the window display of the electronics shop next door.  But the technology offered was too low for him to be interested in anything he could see.  The hour passed as the trio window shopped, being careful to make sure nothing they did could be misunderstood.  When the time came, they went back to the clothing shop so Rol and Aiden could try on their finished suits.  Despite being a backwater system on a border frontier trade route, the shop staff knew their business when it came to sewing.  Everything fit and was correct.  Done trying the suits on, the men changed back to their casual clothes as the suits were wrapped in a "chop cloth" wrapping.

As they left, Rol's only disappointment was that his suit made no provision for hanging a cutlass from the waist.  Done there, the three got back to the air/raft, happy they'd gotten through the trip without being arrested.  Soon enough, they were arriving back at the port where, having been called in advance, the inspection teams waited for them.  Troopers dutifully cut open all the packages, to fully inspect the suits.  And once that was over, the three returned to the ship.  After landing and securing the raft, they stowed their suits before Rol and Zach went to brief Mikah and Aiden hit the bridge to check over the ship's systems.

Cutting The Rocks

     After they got back, talk turned to the party and how they'd all get from their ship to the Dulcenea?  Opinions swung between shuttling people on multiple air/raft trips, walking over or even possibly using the cutter.  When it was suggested they should call the port to ask for the use of the limo, Mikah said they should try.  They also had to decide who was going over first, to discuss the diamond cutting, and who'd just be at the party later?  Mikah and Zimzod said they would again take Ms. Vik and Zach, as their staff, for the business meeting.  The rest could come over later.  With that set, Zach called the port while the others discussed the timeline.

Four of the crew would already be aboard Dulcenea before the party itself.  So Mikah decided Zach could fly the air/raft back to the ship after the business meeting and pick up the others, for the party.  While that would overload the raft, Mikah felt it was a short enough trip to not cause a problem.  After telling Zach about the change in plans, as the port tech was asking what time the limo would be needed, Zach put on his most 'Official Servant' manner and said, "I am sorry.  Her Ladyship has changed her mind."  He then cut the connection.

The time finally came for the four to get dressed and head over to talk about the faceting.  After they were greeted and made comfortable, the meeting was very basic.  Everyone wanted to get down to business, so Countess Ursara presented many diagrams and simulated projections of what could be done with the diamonds.  Mikah and Zimzod followed along and the others nodded where expected.  The simulations were easier to understand for those less educated about gems.  Finally, the Countess presented a medium between what she said was the "perfect cut" and a hedge which lost as little of the diamonds as possible.  After Zimzod considered and decided on a strategy, Countess Ursara mentioned the "necessary evils", such as the diamond slivers that would be left after the cutting.

Ursara said that, based on the strategy Zimzod chose, there would be in the area of thirty chips.  They would be small, but significant enough to include in other pieces of jewelry as substones, microstones, etc.  Because of their size, they would not be of major value in and of themselves.  Mikah jumped there, saying, "I want them!" and, as the others turned to look at her, she added, "For my collection."  Zimzod answered her, saying, "We're gonna divvy those up" as he pushed that decision into the future.  That said, the hour and a half meeting decided the faceting and set an offer sale price for the stones.

Of course, that was only a "starting point" for the stones entry into the market, and market forces would set the ultimate sale price.  Ursara pointed out those forces would depend on which world the sale was held on, and the advertising.  The Countess said she felt the best world to sell the stones would not be Rhylanor.  This was because Zimzod chose to put a luminescent chip in the inclusion, and the Rhylanori were not into the whole 'luminescent jewelry fad'.  When Mikah said they could put anything in the slot, instead of a luminescent item, Ursara said that would seriously reduce the projected sale price.

The Countess also said using any other stone in place of a light source would minimize the second stone to the point of worthlessness.  That meant it was an added expense for no return.  This was the second and final stroke against Mikah's idea, and left the decision in front of them.  Accepting that, the discussion was over and the choices were made.  Despite Ursara's advice, Zimzod chose to use a luminescent inclusion and sell the stone on Rhylanor.  And just in time, because the hour set for the party was getting close.  In other parts of Dulcenea, the Countess' crew were preparing by setting up a compartment, while those aboard the Hotel California were cleaning up and dressing.  While Inger, Zimzod and Mikah sat and relaxed with the Countess, Zach took the air/raft to bring the others from their ship.

Going To The Party

     As Zach was carting them over to Dulcinea, he saw a wheeled ground vehicle with official port markings moving towards the Countess' ship too!  Zach comm'd Mikah to give her a head's up, and she asked the Countess if she'd invited anyone from the port staff?  Countess Ursara said she'd invited the "upper brass" port officers to join them.  When they arrived, the crew were directed into the sitting room to join the others.  Drinks were shared there until all the guests arrived.  Seeing Mikah, Emkir said, "Hey Doc!  I brought the good stuff", holding up the brandy bottle.  That still had what remained from the night before the caravan had left for the desert.  Mikah laughed and said, "Oh God!  I knew we should have left you back at the ship."

As the party got underway, there were a number of under and cross currents in the conversations.  This was added to by the attendance of a Colonel and two Captains, with some Lieutenants working as aides, from the Runips Port command.  It also added to the attitudes and actions of the Countess' staff who, split by seniority, either enjoyed the party or worked to make it happen.  This brew was then flavored with a 'social sauce' of attitudes regarding the knights and crew, who were largely seen as the knight's staff.  The Countess' working staff felt obviously superior to the knight's staff, yet were stuck serving them rather than having them work the party alongside them.  Aware of that sentiment, the team were careful to examine the hors d'oeuvres they picked up before eating them.

For their part, the Runipsian Colonel seemed to be the only officer comfortable mixing into a group where they were outnumbered by outsiders.  The other officers spent the earliest parts of the party in a tight cluster, giving off a mild xenophobic vibe despite being the favored downport for interstellar visitors.  From the get-go, Emkir hoped he could use his brandy to make connections with the Countess.  He planned to use the offering as a bridge to discussing his other connections and hopefully adding her to his list.  Like the junior officers from Rinips, Rol stood back and kept himself outside the party, observing events in hopes that nothing would get out of hand.

Sir Brian enjoyed the chance to look over the Countess' collection of minerals.  He'd wondered if there were any unusual specimens or items of interest, as the ship seemed fairly basic technology of the interstellar age.  The cross section of materials ranged from the 'purely decorative' to material samples from sites, and events, of interest in the Spinward Marches.  As he shared his point of view on some items with others at the party, Brian got to sample the viewpoints, both historic and political, held by his own crew, the Countess' people and, somewhat later in the party, the more insulated perspective of a few of the Runipsian officers.

Throughout the party, Zach also kept a low-key presence due to bad experiences at parties with this crew.  Dame Mikah dove into the gem displays with gusto.  Mikah also managed to spend a good amount of time with the Countess, as the only other ranking attendee with real gemological experience and understanding.  Sir Zimzod intended to have a good time, though he also was careful with his alcohol, after the recent party with the caravanners.  He made sure not to go overboard, as he mingled with as many of the people as possible.  Zimzod planned to try and talk with the dirtside military officers because it never hurt to make connections.  Of course, their reactions to him, including his still red skin hue and drunken actions the night before the caravan left made them less interested in talking to him.  Something Zimzod would need to overcome.

Aware she was considered the knights top administrative officer and servant, Ms. Vik mingled into the party with caution.  Having asked Mikah how the knight wanted her to play things, Inger was told to make sure no one made any harmful mistakes.  Sighing, as she was relegated to team mommy again, Inger knew there were worse things that could happen at a party like this.  Inger simply accepted her fate as she watched both her steps and those of the others.  For Aiden, getting into the idea of relaxing meant 'low key' as he took a cursory tour through the gem displays.  While he thought they were extraordinary, they didn't really reach his interest.  He eventually considered mingling and found the only others who seemed to feel the same way he did were the Runipsian officers.  Figuring he'd try to talk shop with them, and could always talk guns, he went over.  Actually managing to break the ice, Aiden found they shared many points of view when it came to hand weapons.

When Zimzod eventually made his way to the cluster of officers, he found Aiden had paved the way.  The knight easily joined the conversation, though Aiden remained the star speaker in the eyes of the Captains and Lieutenants.  As time rolled on, the various team members had varying results in their efforts to connect.  Aiden had a great time, and his efforts managed to both bring the officers from Runips into the gathering and foster some good will.  Aiden added to his initial success with 'appropriate' stories from his experiences in the Scouts, which ran counter to the rumors dirtsiders tended to hear.  He made sure they were favorable to the service, and The Imperium.  Sadly, Admiral Emkir's experience didn't follow the same path.  Certain his many stories of past 'hobbing with the right knobs' would help get the party started, not to mention his brandy, it turned out that Emkir's expectations didn't match the Countess'.  Countess Ursara was a veteran of enough parties that she'd seen his type before, and had no interest in his booze or brags.  She did try a sip of the brandy and admitted it was very good.

Ms. Vik managed to have a good time, as nothing was going too terribly wrong early on.  But Inger soon saw that Emkir's reaction to failure had been to start working through the crowd, trying to light a party with whatever social tinder he could find.  And he was increasingly trying to push his role as "the entertainer" even as his efforts continued to fail.  Seeing this building to a bad end, Ms. Vik realized the best defense was to use Emkir's own force against him.  So, she moved closer, and suggested a game.  Thankfully, Emkir was always game.  Mikah spent much of the party enjoying the gem and mineral specimens, as well as getting the bulk of the Countess' attention.  This because she was nobility, a non-employee, and someone who shared a similar gemstone experience and interest.

They talked freely about many subjects related to gem collecting and Mikah learned a bit about selling them too.  On the other end of the spectrum, Brian found the displays of interest and, like everyone else, learned more than he expected to about gemstones.  He did find a number of exotic mineral displays and crystalline substances to spend time examining and asking questions about.  One of the most interesting samples was a small fragment the Countess said was from the Ancient site in the Rhylanor system, which was open to the public.  While examining the displays, he took the chance, whenever one of the Countess' experts were near, to ask about the minerals.  Brian also collected a lot of trivia that was interesting to his point of view.

As he worked through the clusters of people, Zach managed to be the oddest shaped social butterfly most of them had ever seen.  But he managed to have a decent time while not making any faux pas or stepping on toes, which people were amazed he could see from his altitude!  At the same time, intentionally outside looking in, Rol saw that Emkir was becoming an issue as Ms. Vik started moving.  When the former administrator and marine reached Emkir, Inger's solution had the advantage of being simple, elegant and near to Emkir's heart.  The only issue to sidestep was Emkir's desire to play for cash, and that was easily brushed aside.  Soon the game was on, and provided something of note for the other guests to watch as the party swirled.  'Mikah owes me' was just one of the thoughts passing through Inger's mind as she and Rol kept Emkir occupied.  Eventually, Zach saw what was happening and also joined in.  He was soon followed by a Lieutenant from Runips, who slipped away from his work.

The party continued and things pretty much went well on all fronts.  Zimzod was particularly well behaved, hoping to cultivate the Countess as a good reference.  Time passed, and Sir Brian was a bit torqued off, thinking of the work he needed to do back on the Hotel California.  When Brian started casting about for someone leaving early, for a ride back to the ship, the rest of the crew wanted to stay and enjoy the evening.  Eventually, Brian moved to stand near the exit to the vehicle bay with a disgruntled and expectant expression.  It wasn't long before one of the Countess' staff saw the knight and asked if there was an issue?  When Brian said he needed to get back to his ship and his crew were not ready to help, the man excused himself and left.

Shortly, he returned with another staffer who he introduced saying, "This man can get you back to your ship."  Very pleased, Brian thanked the men as the new staffer called the port and had them send out the limousine.  It arrived, and the crewman saw Sir Brian comfortably into the ground car, which was very well appointed, and the driver took Brian back to the Hotel California.  Dropped off near the ship's ground level entry hatch, Brian thanked the driver and told him to thank the Countess' people as he got out.  Back aboard, Brian went about preparing items to be finished the next day, making needed setting changes and basically setting up for the following morning, before going to sleep.  As that was happening, the others stayed to enjoy the party.

Aiden was building social bridges with the Runips military officers, and Zimzod joined in.  The groups traded war stories and the crew learned a bit more detail about interactions between the Runips police and the nomadic tribes.  When the subject came up, the Colonel said the issue with the arrested nomadic teen was something that happened from time to time.  Every so often, he said, a barbarian wanted to live in the relative luxury of the city.  But they were, sadly, not equipped with the skill sets needed to deal with the city's legal systems and restrictions.  When this happened, it was sadly left the law enforcement to sort things out.  Eventually, the party wound down and the crew considered returning to their ship.  The limit on the air/raft was four, and Rol pondered walking back to the ship.  Doing some mental calculations from his field trip binocular shopping, Rol realized it would take him twenty minutes, and decided to wait.  Zach volunteered to shuttle people on the air/raft.

Emkir said he could wait for a ride too, and was about to propose another toast when Mikah turned to face him.  While he was raising his brandy bottle in the Countess' direction, Mikah said, "Emkir, Out the door." in a commanding tone.  As the Admiral protested a bit, hoping to get one more toast, Mikah interrupted him and made it clear she wanted him to leave.  "Now!"  Finally, Emkir said, "Yes Ma'am" and left to board the air/raft.  As he was leaving he suggested trying to continue the card games on the trip over, but he was reminded the air/raft was open topped.  Emkir left to Aiden's background sniggering at the thought of making the Admiral play an ancient Terran game he'd read of, called "52 pickup".  Finally, Aiden rode in the first trip and Ms. Vik filled in the last seat as Zach called to the port warning them of the shuttle run.

Researching Back At The Ship

     Zach delivered the others back to the ship to find Brian working to get more systems closed up and operational.  The rest of the crew settled in as Emkir mourned his empty brandy bottle.  He was consoled because it went to a good cause as he recalled the Runips Captain taking one last cup for the road as the party broke up.  In the end, despite being a relaxing and surprisingly disaster-free event for the team, they learned little about anything except gemstones.  As she checked her chrono, Mikah considered heading below decks to help Brian with the engineering work.  But checking with him, Mikah was told he only planned to prep things before sleeping himself.  So, she decided to check what she could find in the ship's library on the Duke of Rhylanor, to see what she could learn of him?
The results read:

     Duke Sir Leonard Stephanos Kirgashii
        Administers the Aramis Trace:
            Aramis Trace worlds: Aramis, Natoko[Aramis], Reacher, Loeul dDieu, Vinoran,
            Nutema, Margesi and Saarinen [Sabine/Deneb] )

        The Duke maintains a neutral position in the conflict between Duke Norris and
            Sector Duchess Delphine.  He is a Knight of the Order of the Questing Star
            (Stewarding Advancement of The Imperium) and the Order of the Spinward

        He is Married, with three adult children (all currently serving in the Imperial

        He holds notable stock in many corporations in the Rhylanor System, Subsector
            and in the Spinward Marches.
        He also has stock holdings among Imperial MegaCorporations as well.(Most
            Imperial high nobles hold stock in megacorps)

        The Duke is recognized for his administrative and leadership skills as well as his
            strategic abilities

As Mikah checked on the Duke, Ms. Vik took the chance to quietly speak to her about finding someone else to baby sit Emkir the next time it was needed.  Mikah agreed that he should be used for security aboard the ship next time.  Ms. Vik said that, while that was probably not necessary, they did need to take turns being his nanny.  Mikah smiled and said, "OK. Next time, Rol will take care of it.  We'll do a rotation since you just had him, Rol will get him next and then Aiden."  As the former Scout heard this, Aiden plaintively asked, "Why me?!?"  Fixing him with a look, Mikah answered, "Well, Emkir can't baby sit himself!"  Aiden said," Last time I baby sat him, I wound up in the infirmary", referring to the incident with the Vargr, on the monorail in New Port Dunslade in the Republic of Inthe.

Mikah dismissively said, "I can put you back together.  Don't worry about it", to which Aiden satirically responded, "Oh Goody!  Thank you!!" with very fake enthusiasim.  Nodding sadly, Ms. Vik said, "This wasn't much like vacation", and got a sidelong glance from Mikah who jokingly asked, "You just figured this out?"  As the conversation drifted apart, Aiden went to the bridge to do a basic check of systems and security before hitting the rack.  His checked found everything normal.  Zimzod stowed his gear and changed the hiding places for his various "specialty" items.  Despite his memory of Sir Brian being dyed blue, he hit the fresher to work on reducing the amount of red dye painting his hands.  Eventually they all settled in for the night, with the ship buttoned down until Rol's alarm woke him at 7:30 the next morning.

Selling Trade Data

     By the time Mikah, Brian, Aiden and Inger left their staterooms, Rol had cooked breakfast and was just settling down to eat.  Happy to see that breakfast was recognizable this morning, they all tucked into the chow.  When he finished eating, Rol went to his stateroom to detail strip and work over all the gear he'd brought into the desert, and clean everything properly.  He followed that up by doing laundry and other basic tasks.  As Brian hurried through breakfast, he asked if Mikah and Ms. Vik would be lending a hand with the engineering work?  The ladies agreed to help in engineering and Aiden considered making plans for the day.

Aiden planned to do a mornings worth of nav training on the bridge.  Zimzod's alarm went off at nine, and he did his morning routine.  Pulling his coffee from its hiding place to make his morning ration, he realized he was running low.  With his mug, Zimzod left his stateroom to find the others had eaten and gone about their business.  He saw Aiden on the bridge through the open iris valve and re-heated the food left in the galley.  After eating, Zimzod relaxed and wasted some time until he was bored.  After that wore thin, Zimzod dialed up the various state-run broadcast signals from Runips on the ship's entertainment suite.  What he found was programming rigidly run and sanitized of anything not approved.  No indication of dissent, or encouragement of political discourse.  It was not long before the former marine felt the urge to turn it off or put a gun in his mouth.

While an interesting study in government control, it was both frightening and compelling, until you couldn't take anymore.  It did spark a thought in the knight's mind, and he realized they had the data they'd compiled in the Risek System to sell.  Acting on the thought, he quickly killed the feed and pulled up the data on the files they had in the ships computer.  Compressing the files together, Zimzod first called the local port officials dirt side to find out that Runips was almost completely uninterested in news of the outside universe.  Unable to reach out to make money, they didn't care about places that were not markets for their goods.  Moving on, Zimzod called the high port, who's trade officials were more interested in seeing what the knight had to offer?  Especially since the data was from Risek System, which they'd been told was suffering a significant disaster.

But as they checked through the time and date labels of a sample, they said the information was dated and not as valuable.  Annoyed, Zimzod said the system had been closed to traffic but they pointed out more recent news was coming from the system.  This came from xboats and a small number of merchanters either released or turned back from the system's edge.  When Zimzod asked if they even wanted the data, they asked him about the tone and content of the information collected?  Pausing to suddenly try to remember if any of their data was considered sensitive, Zimzod didn't remember any restrictions.

After that thought, he explained what they'd collected.  Zimzod also mentioned their personal involvement in the disaster, and development of the vaccine.  The port techs paused when they heard that, and asked if Zimzod could prove their involvement?  When Zimzod said they had lots of documentation, and doses of the cure, other port officials joined and asked if the Hotel California would be able to stop at the high port when heading out-system?  Cautious, Zimzod asked what the stopover would involve?  The officials said they wanted to fill in the gaps about what they did not know of events in the Risek system.

When Zimzod said they could stop over, the port techs said they could offer the crew Cr 1,000 for the general data they recorded in Risek system.  After that was agreed to, Zimzod transmitted the data and the port credited the ships accounts with Cr 1,000.  Zimzod considered stopping at the port, and wondered if the system arcologies could supply them with a fuel purification system?  Not to mention how much it might cost?  He started looking into that, and found there were significant ship assembly yards in-system.  The local yards received major components from out-system, due to the lack of heavy industry and high technology locally.  As he investigated, he saw upgrading and customizing vessels in this system tended to be expensive and time consuming.  Even when the work was pre-scheduled, buying the system would be better done in the Rhylanor system.

Jokes and Interview Offers

     While this was happening, Emkir's alarm went off and he began his morning routine as Brian and Mikah took a break from working to have a little fun.  In this case, the fun meant tapping into the door comms for Zach's stateroom from the engineering section as the former merchant slept.  While he snored, Zach's cabin started to slowly be filled with the increasingly louder sounds of jungle noises from the ship's computer library.  Keeping that up, the two added other sounds, like water falls, etc.  Inger watched and heard this from the lounge and chuckled while she worked at adjusting a set of gears.  While the two knights listened in to see if their annoyance was working, Zimzod decided to see if he could collect data from the Jae Tellona system to sell in Rhylanor?  Zimzod called and asked the highport about this and they offered data packets they had to sell.  They asked if the ship had a broker to handle the transaction?  Asking the port to hold the connection, Zimzod walked to Zach's stateroom door and tried to open the door to wake the merchant.  Finding it locked, he pounded, which those in engineering heard.

That also woke Zach, to whom the knocking seemed to punctuate a mix of animal sounds, wind and waterfalls being broadcast into the room!  Not getting an immediate answer, Zimzod started pounding harder on the door.  Eventually, Zach made his way to the door comms.  When he hit the comms, to speak, the circuit to engineering was broken and the odd sounds stopped as he asked," Yes?" and released the comms.  In a flat voice, Zimzod said, "Come on.  I need you on the radio." and Zach said, I'll be right there.  Zach threw on a shipsuit as the released comms started playing the jungle and other sounds again.  Pausing from dressing, Zach called down to engineering and started to say "Sir Brian?"  But, as he did, they were all treated to the squeal of a huge feedback loop!  Recovering from the harsh sounds, Zach said he'd appreciate it if the sound could be turned down.  Laughing, Brian said that wouldn't be a problem as long as Zach got out of bed and earned a living.

Getting out to the crew common area, Zach asked Zimzod what was up?  The knight filled him in on the deal he wanted to make for local data packets.  After that, Zach went to the bridge to work out a deal with the people Zimzod was talking to.  Once on the line with the port, Zach found they were somewhat surprised the ship was interested in buying the data.  Local astrogative and broadcast data could be picked up by open sensor and comm systems, and no one really cared what was happening on the world below.  But they were willing to sell what they had, which was properly collected, organized and stored.  The price they eventually fixed on was Cr 5,000, and Zach couldn't bring them down further.  Figuring it was more like Cr 50's worth, Zach turned them down but started asking about other news sources which might have reporters in system?  He found there was a TAS office in-system and recommended to the knights that they should reach out to TAS to sell their story.

Getting their permission, and reaching out to the TAS office on station, they listened politely until they got the jist of what Zach was offering.  Once they understood about events in Risek, their interest rose and they certainly wanted to speak to all those involved.  Unwilling to set a price at the outset, they wanted the crew to sit with a reporter so they could figure out what the interviews and story would be worth?  As they talked about setting up meetings, the TAS reporters asked if those involved could meet with them at the high port that day?  Zimzod said they could take the cutter up-well and meet them.  He also comm'd down to Mikah and quickly explained what was going on.  She said she could join the team, and told Brian she was heading to the high port, which annoyed the engineer.

As Mikah went to her stateroom to clean up, Aiden asked if they needed a pilot?  Mikah said both she and Zach could pilot the cutter.  Of course, she expected Zach would fly, as he was qualified to be her chauffeur.  Staying on the Hotel California, Brian worked with Ms. Vik's help.  Eventually, Rol finished cleaning his gear and headed below decks to help Brian.  Emkir finished his morning routine and went to the galley for leftovers.  Aiden worked on the bridge into the afternoon, but did come out around lunch time to find Emkir eating and cleaning the galley up.  The two discussed Emkir taking over bridge coverage so Aiden could do a detail cleaning of his gear.

First, A Visit To Station Offices

     As she cleaned up, Mikah had the ideal fantasy of finding an asteroid in near orbit to aim at the stretch of desert where the nomads had their trading camp.  After the three dressed and prepared, they boarded the cutter and called to the downport for clearance to lift for orbit.  While lifting for space, Zach suggested they edit parts out of their adventures in Risek, like the Zhodani warbot.  Mikah was against that, saying it was all part of what happened.  They couldn't be held responsible for the contraband they came across while helping save lives.  She then smirked at the merchant asking, "You just don't want them knowing about the little pillow case incident."  The conversation wound down as they started getting automatic flight system guidance to land the cutter in an open bay.  The port officials gave them free berthing, but also made it clear they wished to have their questions answered before the three could speak to the waiting TAS team.  When Mikah agreed, the three were guided into the station core offices.

In the offices, they passed the stations for scan, tech stations and other work groups into the administrative offices.  Chairs were set in an office which turned out to be the station shift supervisor's, and everyone was seated.  With things set, one of the admins said they had only limited data from the military and Subsector government on the situation in Risek system and wondered what happened?  What was described to the three was a basic statement of events, with no explanations or elaboration.  They listened, and the three could see many gaps in what was released.  Not yet looking at getting paid for the information, the three gave a thumbnail description at best.  Still, this filled many holes in the official notifications sent out and the station management were pleased with the data.  Finishing the basic outline, Zimzod asked, "So what blanks do you want filled in?", and asked about their interest in the Zhodani factor?

Some eyebrows raised, but this wasn't a military crowd, and they were more concerned with the viral attack.  Feeling they'd gotten a better understanding of the events in Risek system, they thanked the three and let them head to the TAS offices.  Ironically, as they were leaving, they found two TAS reporters debating with station security about access to the three visitors and their information.  When they emerged, the reporters recognized the three and turned their backs on the security detail to greet the knights and merchant.  Leading them back to the TAS offices, the reporters did their best to ask questions about why the three were detained by station officials?  There was nothing to tell as they walked, and soon reached the TAS offices.  Everyone settled in and the three looked around.  Among the things they saw were feeds of headlines from as far away as the Querion Subsector, near the Zhodani border.  They checked out the news as the reporters set up cameras and equipment.

Watching The News While Waiting

    Frenzie (A200436-A  N  Ni Va Cp    110  M2 III M3 D)              Date: 120-1112
    With the growth of Imperial influence returning to the region,
    reports are growing that Pro-Imperial movements are growing in
    strength too.  One such movement, in the Thanber system, is
    demanding the government officially sue to re-join the Imperium.
    This system had been an Imperial member state, and the Imperium
    had been forced to release it after the Second Frontier War
    (615 to 620 TI)

    There has been no comment by either the Imperial Admiralty or
    the Zhodani Embassy on these growing movements.

    Mire (A665A95-C  M  Hi Cp  110 M6 V)                    Date: 105-1112
    Post-war news from the Darrian recaptured Entrope System(Querion)
    was grim, given the damage done by the withdrawing Sword Worlds
    occupiers.  Numerous war crimes had been reported, and facilities
    destroyed in a near 'scorched surface' style.  While investigating
    and planning to rebuild, archeologists from the University of Zolth
    had been brought in.  And they announced the unexpected discovery
    of unusual artifacts that appeared to be older than all the known
    settlements on that world!

    Heya (B687745-5  Ag Ri  734  K6 III M8 D)                     Date: 042-1112
    Imperial Naval ships patrolling the systems gas giants encountered
    the flagship of a Vargr fleet element.  In a six-hour battle, the INS
    Adamar engaged and disabled the Vargr vessel, capturing its crew,
    before they could refuel.

    Nonym (C233898-A  M  Na Po  623  G0 V)                     Date: 91-1112
    There are reports protests from the local population of the
    Nonym system are increasing to close the Darrian base there.
    Key reasoning from the protesters centered around fears the
    base would, in the future, draw Sword Worlds attacks.  There
    were many claims the civilian government never gave the
    Confederation, in the Mire system, permission to keep the
    base on a permanent basis.

    Iderati (A887798-C  N  Ag Ri Cp  201  M9V)                       Date: 098-1112
    Mourning over the death of Interstellar Popular music performer
    Ardella Mestler continued to spread throughout the sector.  At least
    two major entertainment producers had announced plans to establish
    a tribute extravaganza to bring to the fans across the many systems.
    Further news suggested that there was some level of disagreement
    on who had the rights to hire Ms. Mestler's band.  The band seemed
    to have remained very quiet ever since their only interviews, shortly
    after the singer's death.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp  810  Im  M2 VI)       Date: 180-1112
    The investigation of the Natoko interdiction, under the watch of
    Senator Lord Kudila, of the Rhylanor Subsector Senate, was in
    the process of gaining grants of authority from Duke Leonard.  This
    would permit them to organize a flotilla and requisition either
    Imperial or Mercenary forces to participate in any enforcement actions.
    When Senator Kudila's staff were besieged with questions about a
    possible military intervention, they said unwarranted speculation
    was based on the media intentionally misreading the statements.
    Any armed forces involved in the investigation would only be present
    to protect the investigation teams and insure enforcement of any
    authority granted by the Duke.

    Diplomatic teams from the government of Natoko had been urgently
    attempting to stall, or stop, the Senators initiative, through
    the Duke's office, and neither directive had been moved on as yet.

    In related news, unidentified leaks have made it into the general
    media showing some level of possible evidence that the Natoko
    System and its government had bypassed some of the restrictions
    placed on them for ownership and operation of armed vessels.  These
    news items have all been categorically denied by the Natokan
    Diplomatic Mission in claims that these are all manufactured video
    and no real data exists.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp  810  Im  M2 VI)       Date: 178-1112
    Author Sir Jeremy Lewis is at the center of his own knot of
    controversy after the release of his book, "Crossing The Line".
    The book not only uncovers Zhodani and Sword Worlds massacres
    and war crimes according to missions from the Darrian Confederation
    and the Imperial Senate of the Jewell Subsector but also covers a
    number of accusations of Imperial war crimes!

    In a terse response, Sir Jeremy stated that he had no intention
    of downplaying the monstrosity of Zhodani, Sword World or Vargr
    acts in the recent war.  However, he could not get all the data on all
    the crimes as some are still being brought to light even now.  As
    for the Imperial reports he has investigated, he pointed out that
    his work would be invalid if it did not investigate all the facts.

    Despite this, many media outlets have turned on the knight,
    whose work was largely seen as appropriate coverage.  Some more
    radical comments use terms like yellow journalism and even Traitor
    to the Imperium!

    TAS reporters and news offices have also still been unable to locate
    INS Captain Albertina, who's reported comments appeared to back up
    some of Sir Jeremy's claims.  The Admiralty have been completely
    silent on the subject, stating it was not proper for military offices
    to comment on civilian conspiracy theories.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp  810  Im  M2 VI)        Date: 181-1112
    The on-going law suit pitting Gia Ubean against Sir James Hendara over
    failures and deaths caused by robotic upgrades in the Rhylanor System
    are mired in the details of testimony by a number of technical and
    automation experts.  Some punishments continue to be meted out following
    the destruction of an estimated MCr 1.2 in property and some loss of
    life.  But final blame may only be settled at the end of this case.

The Interviews And Some Advice

     At last, the conversation about their interview began.  The reporter said, "You represent that you have the entire story of what happened in Risek System, and I'm sure my viewers would like to know that.  So, I'd like to interview you with regard to your experiences there."  As the knights and Zach nodded and agreed to the idea, Zimzod said, "OK.  What's in it for us?"  Mikah said, "Yeah", with a smile on her face, "I'll take a free TAS membership."  The reporter laughed at Mikah's comment, saying "That's above my pay grade."  Zimzod said the vid-rights would have to remain with the knights, and the reporter said he was sure there would be "a minor compensation" involved and offered to speak to his editor on that.  When he said "minor", Zimzod said, "Throw some figures at us."

Realizing he had few options, the reporter called an editor to pitch the story for a short while before making a Cr 3,000 offer each.  Both Zimzod and Mikah held out for a larger number and the reporter had to hold firm.  As they tried to negotiate, Mikah pointed out that they had TAS members in their crew, and the reporter congratulated them.  Finally, the three decided to go for the Cr 3k, when they couldn't push for more.  However, they demanded their identities would be kept anonymous.  After three hours answering some questions, and not revealing anything sensitive or key to identifying people, they finished up.  Some questions were not answered, where they touched on incidents like the Zhodani warbot.  This was because they didn't want to spread panic.

They also didn't mention other issues, like the looting and deals for contraband.  The reporter's key frustration centered on a lack of data on the suspects, George Sipos and Anna Zebrinkt.  Some of the juicier details included implications involving of some political figures.  The three also made sure to give only the names of those known to be dead.  After the question and answer session ended, the TAS offices transfered their funds and the reporter thanked them for their time and help.  Leaving, Zimzod asked the reporter if he knew anywhere the knight could buy some good coffee?  With a smile on his face, the reporter said, "Yeah.  Rhylanor."  He also added, "To be honest, this isn't a cherry post."  Zimzod admitted, "I kind of figured that."  The reporter kept his grin as he said, "If you're looking to buy something you don't need now, buy it a parsec riftward."

The tone of his voice made it clear he honestly meant what he'd said.  Zimzod thanked him, saying he just thought the reporter might know someone.  The man said there were a number of merchants on-station, and if they were looking to shop he could recommend the best concourses to browse on.  But, if they were looking for major luxury items like coffee, this wasn't the system to find that in.  Luxury items passed through Jae Tellona, but didn't stop, or get sold there unless someone special ordered them.  After thanking the man for his advice, they walked through a number of concourses on the way back to the cutter.

Shopping Before Reentry

     Walking, they passed shops selling mid-level tech goods (tech 7 to C items).  Zach considered finishing his registration to sell at the port but, when he checked into the costs, found it would cost Cr 1,000 just to register.  Mikah asked if it was necessary, and it was apparent they'd only need it if they stopped to sell the machine parts.  They decided Zach should check for offers on-station for a few hours before spending money to register.  In the meantime, Mikah and Zimzod went shopping and wasted time in other ways.  As they wandered, Mikah thought about anything they needed for the ship, or emergencies, and window shopped.  The station offered fuel for the cutter and luxury food rations for spacers.  But their definition of what luxury was could be questioned.  While shopping, Mikah and Zimzod visited a few shipyard offices on the concourse, getting estimates on having a fuel purification plant installed.

Sitting with a representative, they asked questions which showed their knowledge of engineering wasn't very clear.  Mikah offered to get their engineer on the comms and made the call, interrupting Brian back at the ship.  Answering, Brian asked, "What's up?" and was told they needed him to spend half an hour or so with the rep to spec out a price to install a working fuel purification plant.  Not happy setting aside the work he had to get done, Brian started talking with the rep as the other two knights listened.  After that, the rep said he felt they had the data to make an estimate in a few hours.  Taking the knight's comms data, he told them he'd be in contact with their answers.  Mikah and Zimzod left, and wandered the station's shopping concourses.  The two found nothing of interest in consumer goods and noticed a few small, and overpriced, militaria shops around.  Mikah joked about needing a k-bar when she caught Zimzod looking.  But Zimzod admitted to not having a cutlass, which was a significant thing for a Marine.

When Zimzod said that, they decided to look specifically for shops selling bladed weapons.  The first shop they checked offered a steel cutlass and scabbard for Cr 200, which really annoyed Zimzod.  He complained about the price until they offered him an aluminum cutlass.  Zimzod only fixed the salesperson with a deadly look and bluntly said, "No, I want something that works."  Browsing their combat knives, Zimzod found they had standard Imperial military issue k-bars priced at Cr 50.  Zimzod thought that was reasonable so he bought one.  There was nothing else in the shop at a price he was willing to pay.  Searching on, they found a small Instel-Arms installation on a concourse and checked out prices and stock.

Zimzod found a line of executive body armor which could be worn under daily clothing.  He priced a body suit at Cr 2,000 and Mikah bought a suit too.  This took several hours as they had to be fitted.  While they were waiting, Zimzod asked about grenades in stock and learned the local InstellArms only had smoke grenades and dye markers in stock.  When he saw this, to Mikah's horror, Zimzod, asked if they had exploding dye packs and for prices?  When the attendant asked what colors he wanted, Zimzod asked for an assortment.  The attendant said they had boxes of 10 assorted colors for Cr 200, pointing to a section of shelves.  Listening in, Mikah quipped, "Do you have any umbrellas?" with a displeased look on her face.

Not seeing the joke, the attendant apologized saying they might, in other systems.  He continued, "However this system tends not to have rain in any of its locations.  So, umbrellas, other than sun guards, are very rare here."  Mikah shrugged the comment off saying she'd go looking for acetone and cold cream, or dye remover.  The ever-helpful attendant suggested their dye remover, sold in gallon cans!  That got Mikah's attention and she started asking about the stuff?  The attendant started answering and Zimzod became interested too, hoping it could help him clean off the red dye!  Mikah asked the price and was told it cost Cr 20 per gallon.  She bought five gallons for Cr 100 at first, but reconsidered the number of dye packs Zimzod bought and got ten gallons for Cr 200.  Zimzod bought five gallons of remover at Cr 100 and looked over the numbers to see the final costs.

After that, they spent time looking over the few advanced weapon systems in stock, and a lot of slug throwers, while the order was set up for delivery to their cutter.  Zimzod asked about card or chip readers and the attendant said InstellArms didn't have those items, but they could be available on-station.  Mikah and Zimzod talked about matching a reader to the chip, but it was hidden in his stateroom aboard the ship, at the Runips downport.  Because of that, they decided to wait.  Zimzod next asked about vibroblades and laser blades?  Especially a vibroCutlass, if they had one?  The attendant said they had some of those in stock, but also told Zimzod, because they'd said they were going there, that he'd get better prices in the Rhylanor system.  Thanking the salesperson, they left the shop.

After hours of shopping, Mikah and Zimzod got the call from the shipyard, and the rep saidt having the work done locally would cost them Cr 250,000, and take several weeks.  That was time which none of them wanted to spend in this backwater system!  Not saying that, they thanked the man and broke the connection.  Zach finished his work, and decided this wasn't a good port for selling.  While he "might" get lucky and sell for a good price, he couldn't guarantee it was worth paying the Cr 1,000 to try.  He called Mikah to update her, and she asked if he felt the risk was worth it?  He said the cargo's value was around Cr 550,000 in a decent sale (50 to 60 KCr per ton).

Putting that price on the table, Mikah had Zach call Ms. Vik, because the stuff was ultimately hers.  Zach explained the values and risks in selling locally, and said he couldn't guarantee a good price.  Ms. Vik said to sell it if they needed the cargo space critically, or needed ships funds.  But she pointed out they had no real push for cargo space or money.  And, they'd likely get a better price at Rhylanor, so they could always wait.  The worst that could happen would be getting a bad price at Rhylanor.  And, they could always wait and sell it at the next place.  Considering that, they decided to try selling the cargo in the Rhylanor system.

Zach, Zimzod and Mikah were making their way back to the landing bay as they talked, to load up the cutter and leave.  As they arrived at the bay, Zach got a look at the packages delivered for the Knights.  Mikah took a moment to wonder just how large Zimzod's exploding dye packs were?  From what she could see, the packaged box of ten packs looked a lot larger in the bag than it had on the shelf!!  Still, they needed to be on the way, so they had a loader move the baggage aboard and sealed up.  Zach moved to the controls and called for clearance to leave the port, and, with clearance, burned into their departure vector.  Zach then maneuvered for atmospheric insertionand called ahead for clearance to return to the downport to dock in their cutter bay.

Next: Leaving Jae Tellona