At mid-day, those aboard the ship broke for lunch before handling personal tasks.  Aiden worked at cleaning his gear until dinner.  Brian, Inger and Rol went back to work in engineering.  Emkir cleaned the galley after the meal, and continued his studies on ship's sensor operations.  During his work, Emkir got sensor hits on the returning cutter around three in the afternoon.  To give himself an exercise, he pulled their transponder code to confirm it.  Those on the ship heard sounds echoing through the ship's hull as the cutter docked in the craft-bay, and started tying up their work to greet the returning crew.  Coming out of his stateroom, Aiden was the first to see the Knights and Zach moving into the passage carrying, or dragging on wheels, a number parcels that were all marked Instell-Arms!
From what each could see, the packages were divided between large boxes and storage sized cans.  Thanks to the Instell-Arms labeling, no one could tell what was in them, but they all knew it couldn't be anything good for them.  Zimzod also carried something in his arms too.  When Aiden saw this, he asked, "What'd ya guys get?  Need some help moving anything?"  Gathering and trying for a glimpse of anything visible, anyone looking could see one of Zimzod's boxes seemed to be sub-divided into separate boxes, each with a different brightly colored label on it.  Zimzod and Mikah moved back and forth, shifting items and Zach snuck a chance to dig in to Zimzod's bag.  Ominously, the box he grabbed had a label which said it was a box of exploding dye markers!!
Moving the gear continued as those who'd been in the engineering section came to see what was happening?  Zach was standing in the passage with an exasperated look on his face, and Aiden watched at the edge of the common area.  Seeing Zach's expression after his peek, Aiden asked, "What's wrong?" in a taunting tone.  Rol asked, "What's happened?" and Zach sourly responded, "Nothing yet."  Rol followed that up, asking "Should we be prepping for an emergency boost?" and Zach said, "No.  Nothing like that."  Rol answered, "OK.  That narrows it down a bit." and turned to go back to his work.  But in doing that, Rol caught a glimpse at the packages and recognized the cans straight away.  He knew from past military exercises exactly what they were.  Thanks to that, Rol was able make an educated guess what the boxes were, and how many of them were in the bags he saw.  Moving on, Rol just shook his head.
When Zach asked if Rol knew what the cans were, the former Marine answered, "Umm, No."  Not believing him, Zach said, "If you tell me what the cans are, I'll tell you what I found in the bag."  Not willing to play that game, Rol asked "Why?" and Zach said, "That way we will have both pieces of the puzzle."  Returning, Mikah saw everyone gathered and talking about the packages.  Seeing Aiden shake his head sadly saying, "Oh crap", Mikah defensively responded, "They had a sale!"  Looking at Brian, Mikah asked how he was doing in engineering?  He said they were 'getting there' and Mikah told him she'd stow her gear and be back down to help.  Mikah reached for the last of her gear as Aiden asked, "So what'd you guys get up there at the port?" and Mikah flatly answered, "Supplies."  With lips pressed into a line, Aiden pushed, "From Instell-Arms?" in a tone of disbelief.  Stopping, Mikah fixed him with a glare and angrily said, "I bought some body armor.  You got a problem with that?"  Aiden said, "No.  I'm just curious", trying for a casual tone.
Returning into the crowd, Zimzod held up his K bar, smiled and said, "I bought a new knife." in as playfully childish a voice as he could muster.  After that, things broke up and Zach cooked a late lunch for those who'd returned on the cutter.  Emkir went back to the bridge while Brian, Rol and Inger trooped below decks.  Zach finished with lunch and went down to see what help he could offer?  Aiden grabbed a nap.  Mikah finished moving her gear to her stateroom and went below as she'd promised, while Zimzod went to his stateroom to try some of his new dye remover.
The work continued and Brian figured they'd be able to lift by noon the next day.  But when Mikah arrived, Brian said, "I wanna know what's in those packages or were not getting off this planet."  Mikah looked at Brian and said, "Alright, I'll tell you.  I bought some body armor and so did Zimzod.  He bought a k-bar."  She then paused before sarcastically asking, "Impressed?"  Brian responded, "No.  But I've seen the size of the boxes you brought in and there's more than a k bar and body armor."  Mikah sighed as she answered, "OK.  I bought dye remover.  Ok?  Is that cool?"  Brian said, "Uh huh, and what did Zimzod buy?  I assume Zimzod bought the opposite of what you bought?"  Seeing no reason to say anything else, Mikah said "Yes."  When Brian answered with a satisfied "OK", Mikah asked "OK?" just to confirm the engineer was satisfied.Passing The Rest Of The Day
In his stateroom, Zimzod read the instructions for the dye remover to see how well it would work?  Dabbing some of it onto a cloth, he began working on his hands vigorously for ten to fifteen minutes.  Soon, he got a slightly pink shade and realized that was all he was going to get because the dye was already stained in.  Pulling more cloth out, Zimzod started working to try to get his flesh clean where it could be seen, working carefully on his face, neck, wrists and hands.  By the time dinner came around, Zimzod was still visibly two-tone, and the crew just couldn't help admiring his new shade of pink.  Soon, a call came from Dulcinaea, telling the Knights Countess Ursara was ready to lock the stones into the cutting matrix and start the cutting process.  She wanted them to know this was the last chance to make any changes.  Mikah took the chance to tell the Countess they'd be able to launch by noon the next day.  Ursara said that both ships were coming to the end of their weekly fees.  Since there was no need to pay extra, they agreed they'd lift the next day, with Dulcinaea lifting to dock with her mother ship.
Mikah asked about meeting in the Rhylanor System, and Ursara said they had systems there letting visitors find ships.  Ursara expected to dock at the main highport while the Hotel California would dock at the naval base first.  But both ships would link to the Rhylanor merchant-net, so they could connect as desired.  After they'd made plans, Mikah went back to work.  After a break for dinner, Mikah and Brian went back to the engineering section with most of the rest of the crew to put in more time.  Into the evening, Zach took a break to relax for half an hour before returning.  Rol broke off at about seven, to watch a movie and relax.  Eventually, after ten, they started heading for relaxation or sleep.
As they came up from engineering, Zimzod sat in the common area.  He posed as if he'd been working hard and and was very satisfied.  The odd swirled pattern of pink, with varying intensities of red, made his appearance all the more disturbing.  When Brian saw this, he raised his right hand to point two fingers at his eyes before pointing at Zimzod in an, "I'm watching you" sign.  Zimzod responded back with his own less polite sign.  The evening began passing and Aiden took the bridge watch until midnight.  He then secured the ship for the night and routed comms and alarms to his stateroom.    Friday, 188 1112: Leaving For Rhylanor
The next day began with Rol cooking breakfast as everyone except Zach and Zimzod emerged from their staterooms to eat.  Zach was late because he'd been working out in his quarters while Zimzod slept in.  Rol greeted them each, saying, "Wow..  And you're on time for once!" to which Mikah asked, "What are you talking about?  We're always here."  Rol said, "But not all at once", and Mikah said, "That's their problem" with a laugh.  To everyone's relief, no one had "changed color" in the night.  While Zach continued working out and the crew ate, Zimzod's alarm went off.  Most of the crew moved to work in engineering while Aiden took the bridge and Emkir relaxed.  Zimzod and Zach left their staterooms at about the same time with Zimzod worrying about running low on his coffee stash.  Despite this, he did his best to exude an air of 'satisfied confidence' that had the rest of the crew waiting for a techni-colored boom.  As Zimzod made his coffee, Zach explored the left overfood and took a serving.
Zach also served up a plate for Zimzod and, as he sat down, asked if Zimzod was interested in some orange juice?  Zimzod didn't say a word as he watched what he assumed was Zach's, "I'm being friendly so you won't dye me" act.  But Zach put a pin in that theory saying, "Dude, you twitch a lot more since you got pinker."  After he finished eating, Zach started collecting data and making early calculations of the positions of astronomic bodies for the jump-plot.  Zimzod decided to wander around the ship, and tested doors, noting which seemed locked.  As he did this, Zach worked and, from time to time, watched Zimzod trying stateroom doors that were not his.  Zimzod then opened the ships locker and did a mental count of the contents.  There wasn't much in there, as most of the items aboard were personal and in people's staterooms.
There were rescue balls, one emergency crash landing kit, survival gear and other ordinary items.  But no weapons or ammunition, despite racks and storage for those goods.  As he walked the ship, Zimzod noted the locations of vent exhausts and tried to figure out where they fed from or led to?  When he couldn't map them visually, Zimzod sat down next to Zach and started looking for the files on the ships schematics in the main computer.  As he sat, Zach turned to jokingly ask, "Did you find the room with the safe in it?"  As he watched, Zimzod appeared to pull up engineering diagrams of some kind, but decided Zimzod likely didn't know how to read them.  So, Zach decided not to worry about it.
Soon, Mikah got a call that Dulcinea was lifting for orbit and departure.  That happened at the same time most of the crew were working towards their departure.  Brian was going through the departure engineering check list.  Time passed and Brian was finishing his final checks while those helping him finished their tasks.  From the computer console, Zach called Brian asking, "Will everything be done before one o'clock?"  Too busy to be bothered, Brian simply said, "Fuck you" and cut the connection.  Noon came with Emkir, Aiden, Zach and Zimzod outside engineering and everyone else working there.  There were some yellow line systems, but all of the rest seemed to have come to green line and all the system numbers were normal.  Brian was satisfied they could make a 12:15 window.
At noon, Zach called down again to ask what the schedule was, with concern about calling the port and getting clearances.  Brian told Zach he was good with calling the port for clearance to lift at 12:30.  With that, Zach called Mikah to tell her Brian had green lighted them for a 12:30 lift.  She said, in an annoyed voice, "O-kaaay.  Let Aiden know and call the port."  With that, Zach told Aiden to call the port for a 12:30 lift.  Aiden said he would, but Zach should let everyone else know so it was not a surprise.  After Zach spread the word, he started working on a jump plot for the standard commercial emergence zone in Rhylanor System.
By 12:30, the port had granted lift clearance and confirmed all the ships bills were paid.  All stations and personnel aboard were confirmed and prepared.  When Aiden got the go ahead, he announced the lift and fired the engines.  In the few hours it took to reach the desired exit jump point, the crew got ready to jump.  Ms. Vik and Mikah helped Brian in engineering.  Zimzod relaxed in the lounge and Rol manned a spare sensor station routed to a terminal in the lounge.  Emkir hung out in his cabin relaxing.  Eventually the ship hung at zero vee until Zach completed and tested his plot.  He then loaded the plot to the flight computer systems and let Aiden know all was set.  With that, Aiden announced the jump on ship-wide and hit the button.    Friday, 188 1112: Slipping into Jump
During the week in jump, Aiden planned to detail clean his gear, continue his nav-training and watch vids from the entertainment system.  Inger planned to work with Brian from time to time, eat regular meals and play video games.  Rol worked out and worked at his sensor studies.  Zimzod planned to study the ship's weapons and work out.  He also borrowed Rol's cutlass to practice with, as well as doing some vehicle training from his virtual rig.  Zach worked on his weapons training and Brian continued his vacc suit training.  Emkir hung out reading the sensors documentation and watching the cameras during his bridge shift.  Mikah researched the medical debris and nomadic belongings she'd brought from the desert.  Lacking the biological remains she couldn't keep from putrefying on the way, she also investigated the extensive sensor readings from her med-scanner.  She intended to see if she could find anything that would help understand their ability to evade sensors.
As they worked and relaxed, each of the crew looked forward to arriving in the Rhylanor system.  Aiden spent the last month of 1109 in Rhylanor Scout facilities.  After significant operations in the war zone, his ship, the ISS Gulliver's Travels, underwent refit and repairs.  Aiden also visited the Rhylanor base often during war patrols and intercept operations in Porozlo System aboard the ISS Gulliver's Travels.  Inger had been on many event-based visits to the Rhylanor system from Porozlo.  She had many friends and acquaintances in the system SPA.  Inger was highly respected there, and could expect to be treated appropriate to her rank in-system.  Zach had made numerous business visits and merchanter stop-overs in the Rhylanor system during his tenure with the Open Skies Interstellar Corporation.  Once his name was cleared, he expected to have many beneficial contacts to use.  Rol's experience was limited to passing through the system en route to other posts.
Emkir had spent two years in training and Staff College in the system.  While his work load rarely permitted much time to explore, Emkir was able to see some major sites, and had toured the Ancient artifact.  He'd also visited the home of Olav I.  After a few years' service, Emkir had been sent back for another year in Staff College, during which he re-acquainted himself with some of his former favorite haunts.  After almost ten years away, and the war, Emkir had been back a number of times during his final year of service, as he worked on diplomatic initiatives aimed at the anti-Imperial nations on Porozlo.  During this time, Emkir met the Duke more than once and had a number of contacts in the Rhylanor military as well as in the Duke's staff.
Brian spent very limited free time in the Rhylanor system during engineering training, as part of his abortive career in the Imperial Navy.  He also spent a number of months job hunting after his discharge, until he was picked up by a trader as crew.  So, he had memories more than fifteen years old of how to live on little to nothing in the "port sprawl" parts of the global city.  He also spent some time visiting the Ancient site, but would always appreciate more time spent there.  Especially now that he had more money and possibly more clout!  Mikah and Zimzod had no experience in the Rhylanor subsector before arriving aboard the TMS Equus but had read and heard much about the system.  As the Hotel California slipped into jump for Rhylanor, Aiden decided to start working out for half an hour each day in addition to his other plans.  Ms. Vik heard him discussing this and decided to stabilize her diet.  As the jump progressed, she checked her wardrobe for fit as she watched the others catch the bug and start exercising too. Despite that, Ms. Vik found she was still good.
Rol also added in a physical workout routine as well as enjoying some movies from the entertainment suite.  Zimzod got deeper into the electronics and controls section of his ship's weapons training, and added a physical workout.  He also started mining the ship's computer on cloning and planned to look into in the Rhylanor system.  Zimzod also helped Mikah with her research on the nomads.  Quietly, Zimzod did his best to figure out the ship's environmental systems, to play with his dye packs.  But he soon saw all the vents were either supplied outflow or were intakes bringing air back in.  Within the system, a set of chemical reducers and separators broke down anything fed in and reduced it to a usable molecular medium.  That meant he couldn't just pop a dye pack near one vent and expect the air flow to spread the dye into another compartment and affect those in there.
Mikah studied the captured nomad gear and added a workout to her morning routine.  With Zimzod's help, she worked hard at the data from Jae Tellona, but they didn't come up with anything to explain the abilities of the nomads.  The tools and implements were either obvious, or of no apparent definable use.  But none had any technologic background except for the composite cutter.  Brian had to handle riding herd on ship's systems, making sure things were not failing.  He also did his best to recruit help with systems work during the jump.  This increased crew participation slightly.  Emkir worked on his ship's sensors training while Zach continued his work outs and gunnery training.
Eventually the ship's jump computer warned them they were about to emerge from jump, and everyone donned vacc suits and jumped to posts.  Aiden manned the pilot's post as Mikah took a position in the lounge.  She had him forward key displays to the lounge vid-screens so everyone there knew what was happening.  Ms. Vik joined Mikah in the lounge while Zimzod manned the bridge gunnery controls.  Brian worked the engineering section as Emkir took the co-pilot's position.  Zach stood in the bridge, behind the flight couches, while Rol joined the ladies in the lounge.  Ten minutes before the computer count down wound down, the grey jump field faded to star-studded black as they emerged into normal space.  On Friday, 195 - 1112, at 3:20pm ship Time and 10:20pm local time, the ship arrived in the Rhylanor System.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Arrival in Rhylanor