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Last Updated     April 20 2018
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Arrival in Rhylanor

Emerging From Jump

Rhylanor seen from Space     Those on the bridge worked, as the sensor fog cleared, and confirmed they'd arrived 'dead on' for what was plotted.  While Zach wasn't surprised, the others made a number of snarky comments while shifting to normal-space operations.  Soon, feed from Rhylanor's system control began to flow from the outer satellite network.  The flight crew were flooded with comms-frequency data for any possible desire in-system.  They could also see, from the sensors and port data, that there was a Huge amount of traffic arriving or leaving.  The port broadcast packets of arrival, traffic and dock information to the ship's computer.  Listings of restricted sites were included, plus instructions for ships from specific corporations.

As soon as they could, Mikah had them send their required "offer to help".  Emkir kept an eye on the feed coming in via computer and the other on the sensor arrays.  Despite his growing skill, it was still a bit too complex for him to fully work out under the conditions.  Flying closer in, both pilots saw a large "cloud" of very small craft.  They hovered in masses at specific approach distances from the main ports.  Aiden tightened the sensors in a way Emkir couldn't, and saw they were likely small service cutters.  Everyone started using the approach time to change from vacc suits to ship's suits.  Brian was happy all the systems were handling normally.  Working with those on the bridge, he started routing jump systems to wick off residual energy and shut them down where possible.

Thirty minutes out of orbit for Rhylanor-Prime, they were hailed with a "Stand by to be boarded for customs" command.  The crew got to work hiding any Quasar Viper gear that might've been left visible.  Even with name plates covered, the last thing anyone needed was a customs inspector noticing an oddly placed patch on something!  Twenty minutes later, the ship was approached by a 3-cutter formation, moving to match their vector.  Soon, two of the cutters backed off, hovering just behind the other as "overwatch", while the third moved into a docking position.  The guard cutters were "modular", with a 'ship's weapons' load out.  Each one racked a triple turret and four directly mounted missile rails, which were non-directional.  Still, no one who'd seen them before had any illusions the missiles wouldn't turn to track prey.  In formation, the cutter extended a docking sleeve and sealed onto the California.

When the locks opened, a team of three troopers and a Lieutenant boarded the Hotel California.  The troops wore the uniform of the Planetary Navy of Rhylanor, and Mikah greeted them with the ship's documents.  They asked for the Idents of all sophonts aboard as this happened.  The team's air was one of professional authority and complete control.  The crew watched as the officer looked over the documents.  Half of them noted that his eyes widened as he read the ship's papers!  While he gave no verbal reason for this, the Lieutenant very politely passed back the documents and requested a tour of the ship without asking any health and immigration questions.  The crew already had the portals aboard opened and ready.  The Lieutenant didn't do any digging, during the inspection, or ask the usual leading or suspicious questions.  He did pause, as if he were going to, when he saw the battledress in Zimzod's stateroom.

The tour ended up in engineering, where the Lieutenant asked for the engineer's log, and Brian handed that over.  After a cursory review of that data, the Lieutenant pulled his datapad and noted his satisfaction with conditions aboard.  He certified the data from the crew, completing what had been a standard, if a bit rushed, inspection.  He then gave them the approach comms data they would need to call for permissions and finalize entry into local planetary orbit.  Finally, the Lieutenant entered his inspection into the ship's logs before he led his people back aboard their cutter, broke the seal and pulled away.

Using the comms data, Aiden called main system control, who asked their flight data and intended destination?  Mikah again broadcasted the, "We're here to help" message, to make sure it was received.  She got back some minor confusion and chuckles, which she expected, with the presence of an Imperial Navy fleet in-system.  When they asked which port or arcology the ship was bound for, Mikah said they had to dock at the local naval port to refuel.  She then said they needed to be directed to dock near the Gypsy Girl, where that ship was docked.  The port said they didn't handle ship to ship connections, but the Hotel California could tie to the merchant-net and locate other ships themselves.  They also said Mikah would have to talk to naval control about tying into that network, once on approach to a naval station

Welcomes And Warnings

     Thirty minutes later they got clearance from the Navy on their refueling request, after broadcasting the Duke's clearance data.  They were directed to dock in a bay aboard one of the naval arcologies.  Under guidance to the naval station, they were also told to identify all sophonts aboard in advance of docking.  Settled into a bay and secured, Mikah led a group off ship as Aiden and Emkir went about shutting systems down.  Mikah found the bay officer and asked for an ETA on refueling?  When they found him, the Lieutenant was busy with something on his datapad and told them they had to wait a bit.

He finally apologized, saying he'd gotten a number of "priority flashes" for their ship.  Dealing with that surprise, the Lieutenant asked if they could sit together back inside the ship, with the entire crew?  Mikah agreed, and comm'd everyone, ordering them all to meet in the ship's lounge.  Gathered there with the Lieutenant, the officer told them he had a number of priority messages for them.  He then asked if there was a 'Zachariah Wood' aboard?  When Zach answered, the Lieutenant said that Hortalez Et Cie representatives would like to meet with him in their "Orbital Five" offices as soon as he could meet them, to discuss insurance issues regarding the loss of the IMS Raining Coins and its cargo.

The Lieutenant then asked if there was a Major Kaihvos on the ship?  Rol answered, flatly, "Yes, retired."  The Lieutenant respectfully continued, "Major Kaihvos, the port administrator advises you to be careful and circumspect in your activities aboard civilian sectors of the arcology platforms."  He then added, "You also might want to read the local news with regard to events in-system before you make it public that you've arrived." in a curious tone of voice.  "The local marine commander would also like to meet with you, Sir.  At your convenience."  Breaking from that, the Lieutenant said, "To my Lords and Lady Knights, His Grace has forwarded a schedule of events he expects you to conform to.  He also hopes you will report to military command center three, which is actually part of this base, to receive his respects within the next couple of days."  Mikah agreed, saying, "We can do that today."

Nodding, the man continued, "Additionally, we have received a standing request from Merchant-net, forwarded from the civilian port.  There is", there was a pause as he checked his pad, "a Countess Ursara, of the Katarulu System.  She wants you to know that her vessel is docked in port section seven of the main highport, in the planet's orbit."  He added that the Countess had left messages, which could be picked up at any local comms store once their credentials were updated.  He continued, "Or they can be downloaded onto your ship's systems once you're connected to Merchant-Net."  The Lieutenant then said it would take up to an hour to connect them to the local networks, with an apology that they were a busy facility.

Prompted by Mikah, Zimzod asked if they'd need an escort to the command center?  The Lieutenant said they'd be able to get an escort when the time came.  Next, the Lieutenant handed out datapads to each of the crew, explaining they carried the regulations while they were on-station.  He stressed that they were all under military law while aboard, and should keep the rules with them at all times.  When Zimzod asked about side arms, he was told that, except for ceremonial purposes, they were not allowed side arms at all.  And with that, the briefing was over.  Zimzod thanked the Lieutenant for his time and Mikah asked about refreshing their consumables and fuel?  Before answering the Lieutenant again checked his datapad.  Apparently reviewing their ship's data, he continued, in an 'all business' manner, to say he'd have his crew handle the orders as soon as they could.  The Lieutenant again asked if there was anything else the crew required?  Pausing a second, Mikah asked if he had any idea where they might pick up a fuel purification plant?  Following on this, Zimzod quipped in, "Ours kinda broke."

Surprised, the officer said the Duke of Regina maintained offices in-system and, this being a ship of his, they might want to check with the Duke's people on that.  The Lieutenant said Duke Norris' offices were in the main high port's governmental offices section, a short shuttle-ride away.  Rol followed that up, asking about spare parts or military hardware and the Lieutenant said, "Talk to the Duke's people about that.  We don't handle the Duke's property or his military needs."  Realizing the man must be thinking naval equipment, Rol said, "Let me clarify.  I am actually looking for some spare parts to repair a crewman's personal armor, and a couple of weapons."  Brightening up a bit, the Lieutenant answered, "Oh sure.  You can probably find that over at the civilian port, at InstellArms.  Disappointed, because he'd hoped to get supplies "off the bill", Rol took the glass half full exit.  He thanked the man and told Zimzod they at least had a destination.

Bad News For Zach

     When the Lieutenant left, they had to burn some time before they could act on any of the items.  Mikah said they knew what they had to do when they came into the system.  Referring to the news, Mikah joked, "Is the rock star still dead?"  In response, someone hit the ship's comms system to listen to the news.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)                          Date: 195-1112
    In the on-going law suit over failures and deaths caused by robotic upgrades in the
    Rhylanor System, a number of subsidiary judgments were made for lesser liability
    against contractors, and those cases severed to be pursued as individual penalty
    hearings and/or civil cases as the punishments continued to be meted out.

    The case concerned the destruction of an estimated MCr1.2 in property and some
    loss of life.  Final blame, and liability, will only be settled at the end of this case,
    being argued by Gia Ubean and Sir James Hendara respectively.       

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)                           Date: 195-1112
    There are increased reports of minor rioting near establishments involved with the
    publication of the book "Crossing the Line" or associated with its author, Sir
    Jeremy Lewis.  Crowds of angry Imperial citizens had organized to protest that the
    book suggested Imperial atrocities and war crimes during the recently ended Fifth
    Frontier War.  The book had certainly hit a nerve with Imperial military veterans
    in-system.  The news story continued on, to speculation on the whereabouts of
    Sir Jeremy, who seemed to be laying low.       

Local news beyond that were filled with stories on generic budget fights, local policing and municipal issues, trade talks, etc.

    Iderati (A887798-C  N  Ag Ri Cp  G 201  Im  M9 V)                                                           Date: 100-1112
    As mourning continues over the loss of Ms. Mestler, and more data has been
    released regarding the planned tributes, It is beginning to appear there will be legal
    action soon.  In addition to the right to hire the late singer's band, it appears at
    least two promoters may be filing suit for the sole right to produce an
    extravaganza in honor of the singer.

Soon, they saw signs the bay crew had started connecting the umbilicals for ship services.  When they tried the computer, the crew found they were on a restricted sub-network of the local mil-net, letting them get to the civilian sections of base on-line services.  Exploring their access, they found access to the merchant network wasn't possible without purchasing a cross-network plan.  The least expensive available was Cr 100 for a week, and they decided to go with that.

Logging into the merchant-net, they found their generic account was restricted, but couldn't find out why?  Trying to investigate, Zach logged into his existing account and found his restricted too!  When Zach checked his emails, he saw a backlog from friends and acquaintances, dating from the time around his misjump.  That wasn't surprising as people were likely looking for him, not knowing about the misjump.  Checking the queue, Zach found two very new messages, one each from Hortalez et Cie and his former employer, Open Skies Interstellar Shipping.

The message from Hortalez was a summons, to appear in opening proceedings for an inquiry into the loss of the Trade Hopper class starship IMS Raining Coins, last under his command and owned by Open Skies Interstellar Shipping corporation.  The explanation of the inquiry was to open a full naval investigation to see if charges of barratry, piracy or other actions applied?  A result of pending charges like that was restricting his account as well as any account associated with him.  That meant the ship accounts too!  Annoyed at the Hortalez et Cie message, Zach checked the message from Open Skies to find that, while more polite, the intent was similar.  They both wished to investigate the loss of assets last in Zach's possession.

Burning Time With Research

     While this happened, each of the crew established accounts for themselves separate from Zach.  After using their Idents to verify who they were, they found their accounts had no restrictions, so some of the tension bled away.  Learning about Zach's issues told them all they had to dig into the Lieutenant's messages for Zach.  The remaining question Zimzod asked was why Rol had to be careful?  Zimzod also asked if there was a reward for him?  Starting his research, Mikah joined Zimzod in working on a neighboring terminal while Brian watched over Zimzod's shoulder.

Brian relaxed for a while, while watching, and created an account to casually investigate updated news on the Ancient site, and other tales of the Rhylanor system.  They worked as Zach made his way through his emails and Ms. Vik set up an account to reach out to her usual contacts, from her past visits to the Rhylanor system.  Having been a former senior executive in a nearby system who visited Rhylanor for conferences and other events in the past, Inger knew some of the port facilities very well.  She also had a number of local friends and acquaintances to connect with.

Aiden was glad to finally be in a familiar port though, having been away two years, he doubted he knew anyone still there.  Aiden started to plan for the free time he hoped to have as he reconnected with weapons aficionados and groups he knew of.  He also started checking schedules for any places he wanted to see, now that he'd returned.  Aiden also checked the InstellArms' on-line catalog while promising himself a personal tour of their facilities in-system.  As a side note, he tagged the location of the main Scout facility, in case it was cost-effective to pick up the pay for his "Tin Hemorrhoid"?  While he was able to get the easy stuff, like the scout base and InstellArms locations quickly, Aiden found the ebb and flow of social networks had washed away some of the on-line communities and "changed" others.  The roots of his experience in-system were still there, and he quickly moved on to new groups.

Rol spent his time ignoring those researching him while also trying to both find out what prompted the Lieutenant's warning and checking up on the Adamar incident from the news.  He also spent some cycles checking on the controversy over the book "Crossing the Line", which he intended to buy.  He finally found an update:

    Heya (B687745-5  734  Im  K6 III M8 D)                                          Date: 082-1112
    In a further release today, the Imperial Navy released a more complete timeline of
    the events surrounding the engagement led by the INS Adamar.  The released data
    indicated that Lt. Commander Kigiizammish, commanding the INS Adamar, was
    the senior commanding officer in the responding squadron.

    Under Commander Kigiizammish's orders, the squadron engaged the renegade
    Vargr forces.  After a battle lasting six hours, and estimated twenty Vargr aboard
    two vessels managed to flee and jump out system.  But of more importance, the
    Ollong Dhugharr, flagship of the Utsak Pirates was taken under fire and captured
    along with the infamous pirate captain Norrghaek Uthkhorin.  This capture is seen
    as a major feather in the cap of the Imperial Navy and expectations are Lt. Cmdr.
    Kigiizammish will receive a commendation for his actions.

    Captain Bolinghurst, of Vice-Admiral Elphinstone's staff said, "The escaping vessels
    were badly damaged and pursued, so they pose no serious threat to shipping.
    Despite this, the Regina subsector remains under martial law until we can kill
    or capture the last of these criminals."       

As Rol read, he saw the Admiralty predicted the escaping ships would form into smaller corsair teams, since the Vargr "leader" of this corsair band was captured.  This would lead to more posturing and attempts to build individual reputations by raiding and such.  And that meant a continued increase in patrols in that region of Imperial space.  Additionally, because the ships were damaged before they fled, there was an expectation those crews would try to hit easy or outlying targets for tech goods, spare parts and even tech-trained prisoners.  Questions that some three or more ship groups might have formed from the retreating forces were dismissed by Naval authorities.

Emkir put out a message looking for anyone from the 7054th Squadron, still in system.  Though the odds of any of his class mates still being in system, after more than ten years and a war, was slim.  He then burned some of the time waiting for refueling setting up comms with his contacts in the Admiralty, and with his contacts on the Duke's staff.  Emkir did connect with a number of those he'd worked with in the past, and gave generic answers when asked about the issues in Porozlo, and what he'd been up to travelling with the Knights?

Those looking into "Crossing the Line", and looking for dirt on "Major Kaihvos", found Rol had his own full chapter in the book!!  Hearing that, Rol wondered what Sir Jeremy wrote about him, and if he had legal options against the author?  As the Knights found out about the chapter, speculation ranged from 'what he had to do to fill an entire chapter' to 'how fast they could get a copy of this book?'  In the back of his mind, Brian wondered if this was related to the charges he'd learned about, from the Jesedipere System during the war?  He'd found out about that a few months before.  Then, he'd sent Rol an email during the jump between the Inthe and Risek systems.  Rol had then explained that part of his military service to the entire crew.  So, this wasn't entirely new, but Brian, Mikah and Zimzod were interested in looking into what new dirt was revealed?  And Zimzod was now especially interested in any reward available?

While Brian thought about outstanding charges and rewards, Zimzod was already digging for any reward for Rol Kaihvos.  Digging deeper, they saw the chapter was about Major Kaihvos and a unit he commanded.  It covered their actions and activities in the Jesedipere System, and the crimes they were accused of during the latter part of the Fifth Frontier War.  While there didn't seem to be claims of Imperial charges, it was clear the Major was "persona non-grata" in that system.  And there were charges the Imperial government was also protecting the retired officer.  As for the charges, little detail could be found without buying the book.  But there were obviously many claims on both sides of the issue.

Many protesters were demanding Sir Jeremy be tried for treason, for daring to suggest Imperial military units committed war crimes.  Those people were likely to hold Rol up as a war hero.  But, to get the details, they realized they'd have to buy the book and find out if Rol hadn't told them everything?  Side research showed the Jesedipere System was back, in the direction they'd just come from, but further so.  A trip to that system would take them back to Jae Tellona, before following the trailing xboat routes to the Celepina and L'oeul d'Dieu Systems.  From there, they'd have to leave the trade routes all together and jump through the frontier Pysadi and Aramanx systems, before finally jumping to the Jesedipere System.

There, they'd be less than a parsec inside Imperial-claimed Space, and within a parsec from some recently subdued but known Vargr corsair havens.  At best speed, it could take them twelve weeks, traveling in the wrong direction, towards a zone where raiders were still active.  And, into an area currently heavily covered by still mobilized Imperial combat forces, not to mention the extreme relief efforts responding to significant atrocities.  Of course, Mikah cringed, they "could" use more medical professionals.  They started making comments about what they were reading and Rol said, "If you asked me, I'll tell you what you're cleared to know." in an attempt at a somewhat sinister tone.  Ignoring that, Brian was already digging for a source to order the book from.

A Late Morning For Some

     After eating, the local time was almost 1:30am and Zach said he had to make appointments with Hortalez.  Mikah said she also had to make plans to meet with the officers at Command Center Three.  Rol considered making a run for the PX, and wondered if it was open?  He figured he'd ask at the next security check point once they left.  As they walked, Zach sparked up his comms and called the channel he was given, to get reception at Hortalez.  He identified himself and there was the briefest of pauses before his call was pushed to another man.  That man greeted Zach as if he'd been ready and waiting for the call.  The man said, "Mr. Wood.  I am glad you called so quickly.  As I am sure you know, we would like to speak with you about the loss of the merchant ship Raining Coins.  We'd like you to join us at ten tomorrow morning to discuss the case file."  Zach agreed, and they broke the connection as the former merchant checked his chrono.

It was edging towards two in the morning local time and Zach realized he'd need some sleep before he shuttled to the Hortalez arcology.  Before leaving the others, he asked Mikah if he could use the cutter for his appointment with Hortalez?  She told him to take Emkir, in case he got "detained" and they never saw the cutter again.  Turning to the Admiral, she asked if he could fly Zach to his appointment?  Zach protested the concerns and pointed out it was just an inquiry, and he had witnesses.  Of course, he ignored that any real evidence he had was destroyed, with the Quasar Viper, and Dawnstar Horizon. All he had were his claims.

As Zach was planning for the coming meeting, Mikah and Zimzod called the command center and got routed to one of the senior Petty Officers on duty.  When they explained their call, and introduced themselves, they were told that the Captain of the Section would come on duty at 0800 hours, and they were asked when they could present themselves?  They agreed they could be at the command center at 10:30am.  Having researched any updates on the Ancient site, and on other things remembered, Brian also looked for new information and sites of interest.  As he worked, the engineer looked forward to visiting the artifact again, now that he could afford all the tour packages.  He also wondered if his Knighthood could get him extra bells and whistles?  For the moment, he had to go with the others to Command Center Three.

With the calls done, Zach decided to head back to the ship, with Emkir not far behind him, to grab some rack time.  In his stateroom, Zach set his alarm for 8am local.  Shortly behind those two were the Knights, who also had to be awake for their appointment.  Aiden also went back to the ship, and did some reading before he sacked out.  He also set his alarm for 8am.  Ms. Vik said she was going back to the ship to crash, "Because, well, this is a military base.  Not much to see or do, and it is late local time."

As the team broke up, Rol did a quick check with security as they handed over Idents at a checkpoint.  They told him most PX's on-station were open around the clock.  Rol verified his credentials gave him access and got directions.  Getting to the PX, Rol looked for the book section and found a copy of "Crossing the line".  Taking a voucher for the eBook, he headed to check out, where he was asked for his Ident.  The cashier appeared to be a military member who was moonlighting in the PX.  As Rol walked up, placing the voucher on the counter and handing the man his Ident, the cashier checked the ID.

His face changed as he seemed to start working his register.  Then, the cashier told Rol the system appeared to be down.  He continued, bluntly and with a small hint of hostility, that Rol would have to return the next day.  Rather than handing the voucher back to Rol, he placed it under his counter.  While Rol could see a number of cashiers easily completing transactions on their registers, he chose not to push the issue and politely took his Ident back, thanking the man.  When he returned to the ship, Rol found the place quiet, and the common areas empty.  Seeing that, he racked out after also setting his clock for 8am and checking the shower head in his fresher.

Waking Up And Making Plans

     Alarms rang out in most of the staterooms as people woke, did their workouts and morning routines before dressing for the day.  The first one out of his stateroom, Rol began cooking breakfast for the crew.  As he cooked, Rol set a vid-screen to watch the local news, and was relieved that his name wasn't used in any reports.  The Rhylanori broadcast covered the constant feed of news in-system as he watched.  When Zimzod came out and saw this, he considered calling one of the news agencies with "news about Major Kaihvos".

Acting on the thought, Zimzod got an operator who responded as if this was the millionth call of this kind since "Crossing the Line" was released.  The man asked Zimzod how he had the information, and the Knight said, "I know where he is at."  When this was said, the operator asked if Zimzod, who had not yet identified himself, knew the Major personally?  Zimzod said he did, and, when Zimzod was asked who he was, he said "none of your business."  Zimzod tried to continue anonymously, but the operator just cut the connection.  While he ate, Rol watched more news, before finishing and heading out to the marine command office.  He planned to return via the PX.

After breakfast, Zach packed a copy of his submitted reports on the loss of the Raining Coins, and checked with Emkir.  Then he and Emkir went aft, and sparked up the cutter.  They quickly undocked and flew to the Hortalez office arcology.  With permission from Mikah to use the craft, they connected with base flight operations and got clearance and an out-burn vector to their destination.

Inger wanted to reach out to her associates, but realized it was too early, so she did laundry.  She also considered this was the first time she'd been in-system with no conference or set of meetings eating up most of her time.  With that, Inger reached out to see what was available to do?  In her research, she found there were a number of tour groups catering to military members assigned to the base and their families.  One item that caught her eye was the week, or more, long cruises to the graveyard fleet.  She knew she might be needed in a number of capacities, but once she knew how much free time she had, Inger planned to enjoy herself.

Zach Visits Hortalez

     Docking at the Hortalez et Cie arcology, Zach and Emkir were told that docking would cost Cr 200.  Not pleased, Emkir told them to charge it to the Hotel California, currently docked at a naval berth.  There was paperwork to take care of, so Zach left Emkir to finish that as he went to the Hortalez offices, saying he'd call Emkir when he was done.  Soon enough, the ship was contacted, and Mikah OK'd payment of the docking fees for the day, allowing Emkir to leave his comms on and head off in search of a place to hang out.  Emkir hoped to find a place where he could listen to the scuttlebutt, relax and perhaps find a gambler or two.

When Zach arrived and checked in at reception, he was directed to an office where they checked his Ident before getting down to business.  He noticed that most of those who knew who he was were watching him suspiciously.  When he was introduced to Mr. Skvew, the first thing he did was ask if they had copies of the reports he'd submitted in the Regina System?  They assured him that they received the files, and had processed them.  Mr. Skvew told Zach this was to be a preliminary interview with him, into the inquiry surrounding the loss of the Raining Coins.  With that, Zach was led into a spartan conference room where a number of other persons in generic suits were seated working at datapads and tablets.  As he was seated, they all closed their non-related work and looked up, waiting for the interview to begin.

Zach swept his eyes across the crowd and assumed, "Typical cut throat lawyers".  Once the interview began, those assembled repeatedly asked Zach increasingly detailed questions.  They focused on his flight out from Rhylanor-Prime, his jump plotting and the eventual claimed misjump and rescue.  He was questioned about the condition of the trade hopper and the cargo during the jump, as well as when he abandoned ship.  They discussed the sector of the K'kirka system in which he claimed to have emerged from jump, and the failures and shipboard conditions that forced him to abandon the trade hopper.  They asked him how much data he gave, and got, from his "rescuers" about their position in the system, and considerations for salvage of the remaining wreck and cargo?

Zach was quick to testify, providing the initial data from his memories.  And he explained much of his preparations and experiences.  The memories were vivid, as the systems fried, began to burn or were in parts of the ship rapidly becoming uninhabitable!  Because of that, there was no chance to pull log data from the Coin, as he had to escape the wreck.  While he couldn't provide the ship's data, plot maths or sensor and log information, Zach could answer a good deal of the questions to the point that detail was asked.  While this happened, the group around him seemed to increase their level of concern rather than relax.  They didn't follow up, asking what cargo containers he'd managed to get into the ship's 10-ton cutter when he abandoned the vessel.

Instead, they changed focus, to concentrate on his "rescue".  Asking how that was effected?  He explained that, once he abandoned ship, he was very lucky to have been tracked and rescued by the ISS Dawnstar Horizon, which happened to be in nearby space.  As they asked for more details, Zach had to scratch his brain, to recall what was classified and what wasn't, before answering their questions.  Pauses, which were noted by those questioning him.  But he did explain the incident with the pirates, and the destruction of the Dawnstar Horizon in the Rech system.

They returned to a point of confusion repeatedly, as Zach appeared to suggest the ten tons cargo from the trade hopper were transferred to the Horizon.  The issue came up because an S Class Scout vessel, like the Horizon, could only carry three tons cargo at best.  Zach backtracked, and explained that he was only able to rescue three tons of the trade goods with the hopper's shuttle.  And that had been lost, aboard the Horizon, in the Rech system.  What remained an awkward detail for Zach, was how the cutter he escaped in was transported by the Dawnstar Horizon?  That ship was completely incapable of transporting the small craft of that size.  And that was just one very big 'missed detail' among quite a few.  Notes were made, to send requests to the Regina System for the military records on the incident.

The panel then asked if Zach planned to submit an insurance claim for the lost cargo, and Zach said he'd submitted the paperwork for it and was hoping to see the claims paid while he was in-system.  As they reviewed the reports, they told Zach payment would be connected to the investigation.  Hoping to move things forward, Zach offered the name of the then Lieutenant Commander Gadagush, who commanded the Imperial Cruiser Tamesha Kargaa.  After covering the ground for a first time, the panel began a round of repeated questions as Zach was re-interviewed for several more hours.  He had the feeling the interviewers were not convinced, or felt the answers were not adding up properly.  But each time he tried to cement one of his facts, they turned back into the course of their questions.  After nearly five hours, they finally relented, saying they would investigate the claims of misjump and cargo loss with the Regina officials, to see what evidence they could get?

Paths With Other Points Of View

     When Zach finally left the Hortalez offices, he saw a set of men start moving toward him.  He saw Open Skies patches on their gear as they closed.  When they got closer, he even recognized one of the older men as one of his former captains.  He extended his right hand, and they shook and greeted each other.  As they did, they asked Zach what happened to him?  Zach said, "Fucking misjump.  I went to jump to the outer orbits and the next thing I know, I am six parsecs away, puking my guts out after a misjump."  One of the men said Zach should come back to their office to discuss it, and Zach said he figured that was what they wanted.  Zach said he'd planned to look them up after talking to Hortalez, so they'd saved him a trip.  Before going with the men, Zach called Emkir, who'd been reading and working on a drink in a bar at the time, and relaxing.  When Emkir asked if Zach was coming back to the cutter soon, Zach said he'd just finished with Hortalez and needed to talk with his former boss.  He guessed he'd likely be another hour or two.  Emkir growled that Zach owed him a beer when he got done.

As they walked, the Open Skies men caught Zach up on how business had improved, with the fading of the war and return of piracy patrols, etc.  Eventually, as they talked, they walked down into a set of small ship docks and hanger bays, leading Zach to a shuttle!  Zach got skittish as they directed him to board, asking where they were planning to go and what was happening?  They told him not to worry as they got him onto the craft, saying they just wanted to sit and talk.  Zach agreed and boarded, sitting down as the men started drilling him over the same issues, and with many of the same questions, that the Hortalez people had.  Zach was annoyed, but answered their questions for nearly thirty minutes, when he felt a shudder through the craft and realized they'd cast off from the station!  Interrupting, Zach demanded, "I thought we weren't going to leave?" as he felt the vibrations caused by the engines in the plating under his feet!

The Captain Zach knew said, "Don't worry, we're just heading to the offices."  Zach asked which arcology they were headed to, so he could call his friend and let him know what was happening?  Zach also asked if they'd shuttle him back to the port, so he could return to the guy waiting for him?  They confidently told him they would make that call.  After that, Zach tried to call Emkir, finding he couldn't make a connection!  Knowing he was certainly close enough range-wise, Zach started adding two and two in his head.  Not sure what was going on, he told the men his comms were not working and asked if he could use their comms to update his friend on the port?  They asked what his ship's name was and Zach said it was the Hotel California, but his friend was at the port with their shuttle.  They promised they'd comm the Hotel California and update them.  When Zach protested that his friend wasn't on the ship, they said they would tell his ship to update his friend.

Pushed off that subject, Zach could also see no one was making a move to use the shuttle's comms.  Still, the Open Skies men continued questioning him about the misjump.  Zach pulled up the files on his hand computer, but they'd received copies of the documents as had Hortalez.  The more they questioned him, the more it was made clear they saw gaps, where the story didn't add up.  Where the Hortalez people were subtle, these men told him bluntly that there were inconsistencies.  As Zach protested, that he'd misjumped far and been rescued in the K'kirka system by a scout ship, they said they'd checked with the IISS.  The Scouts had no ships active in that region that reported a rescue.  Zach said the ship was on detached duty, but they were firm that the IISS wasn't aware of any reported rescues in the area, or time, Zach claimed.  Zach asked if they'd checked with Duke Norris of Regina?  That surprised the men, but didn't back them off.  Believing he was lying to start with, they said they could check with the Duke's office because they thought it just another false claim.

Seeing a chance to hand them something concrete, Zach pointed out he was now working aboard a ship owned by the Duke, on "special assignment".  Of course, this brought them close to dangerous territory, as they pressed for real evidence.  They wanted to know what 'special things' he was doing for the Duke?  Knowing where that led, Zach backed off, saying, "I'm just the navigator.  I am with his people and I navigate where they want to go."  The men pressed, "OK.  What are 'They' doing for the Duke?" stressing the pronoun.  Zach said, "I don't know.  I'm not a Knight.  I am not in the loop.  I just navigate."  Of course, this was just a new set of claims without any real facts as far as the Open Skies people could see.  The Hotel California could be one of the many ships the Duke's office owned and operated.  But technically, all of the March Trader class ships were owned by Duke Leonard of Rhylanor.  So, that gained Zach no ground.

Latching onto the claim Zach was working for Knights, the men asked, "Knights?  You are working with Knights and you don't know what they're doing?"  Bluntly, Zach answered, "No.  They seem to be getting into a lot of trouble though."  That made even less sense than his other claims.  They asked Zach what he meant by that, and he said, "Not like trouble, it is just like...things happen.  It is like an adventure.  Every place we go, something funky happens and we have to help out.  I'm not sure how to better explain it but..."  He was interrupted as they demanded, "Well, tell us what happens?  Tell us what these troubles are?"  Doing his best to explain, Zach told them about the events, as they reported them, from the Risek system.  He then said there'd been similar events, like troubleshooting.  This didn't stop the questions, but changed their nature.  Despite that, Zach knew they weren't buying as the questioning continued.  Eventually, Zach felt a shudder as they docked, and knew they'd arrived, somewhere.

Wasting Time Waiting

     On his own for hours, Emkir first looked for a Scout hangout, but didn't find scouts looking to hang out with strangers.  He eventually settled in a pub and ordered a drink to nurse while he listened in on conversations.  While sitting, he overheard talk about an explosion that happened a short time earlier in one of the Clan Severen shipyards in-system.  It sounded like the yard was in one of the system's outer orbits.  Clan Severen was a large "ship's services" corporation in the Spinward Marches.  Emkir listened as the spacers suggested possible causes, but they had no real facts and the Admiral got bored.  Paying for his drinks, Emkir went looking for a copy of "Crossing the Line", and soon found a store selling reading tablets and downloading eBooks.  Emkir paid Cr 12 for a copy.

As he looked at the stats, Emkir saw the book was approximately 1,000 pages, and could be selectively organized chronologically, by incident, personality or unit accused by the reader.  With the book, Emkir found a place to sit and read.  Quickly finding the proper chapter, Emkir started skimming through it.  He read Rol had formerly commanded a special forces unit composed of ground troopers and armor.  Rol had told them this while in jump to the Risek system.  The details largely matched what Rol said.  That his unit was sent to the Jesedipere system late in the Fifth Frontier War, after Imperial forces forced out the occupying Vargr.  During their time in-system, they participated in many raids on locations believed occupied by hold-out Vargr forces or those collaborating with them.

The book covered the notable social issues the system had with internal security before being invaded.  It covered how these were exacerbated by the Vargr occupation.  The unit's raids were always explained as essential to find hold-out Vargr or their collaborators.  But the raid results, or any data, were rarely released publicly.  At the same time, many civilians were killed or injured during the raids, with no evidence they were involved or associated.  Accusations soon rose that a secret Imperial 'internal security and pacification' campaign was being run under the cover of hunting non-existent Vargr forces.  At the least, the unit was accused of being very sloppy in the execution of their missions, or protecting innocent Imperial lives.  Finally, things got so bad that Naval Command had to cycle Rol's unit out-system and hire an expensive but very well respected mercenary unit to move in and restore the peace.

Emkir had to admit that, while he hadn't read the entire chapter in detail, what was written seemed to be pretty condemning.  And much of it added questions to what Rol had told them of his history.  Of course, it was only one side of the story, and not nearly all the details.  Still, Emkir relaxed and waited.  As time passed, Emkir ordered food and skimmed through other chapters in the book to burn time.  Finally, almost five hours later, Zach called Emkir to say he'd finished with Hortalez and met some folks from his former employer.  He said he had to deal with them, for an hour or two more, but should be done after that.  Annoyed at the complete loss of a day, Emkir settled in to wait some more, but told Zach the first drink was on him.  As the hours passed and there was no word from Zach, Emkir wondered what was going on, and tried to call him.  But the comms failed to connect!

More Warnings And Surprises

     Earlier in the day, the Knights finished breakfast and went to the security checkpoint for an escort to Command Center Three.  It took them half an hour to arrive at the command center, where they met a number of senior officers from the ships assigned to that station.  Things started with introductions, comments and congratulations on surviving in the Risek system, and the Press in the Jae Tellona system.  When Mikah said the interviews were supposed to be anonymous, one of the officers laughed and said it didn't take a lot of thought to figure out who released that much detail on the event?  Mikah saw the man was wearing an insignia showing that, at one point in his career, he'd worked in an intelligence role.  As he casually asked if they planned to do more media interviews, Mikah said they did not.

They sat down and got down to business when the commanding Admiral arrived.  The Navy made it clear they were concerned with any 'discomfort' released details from the Risek system might cause.  The Knights were told that 'the news made people feel less safe or protected in their daily lives'.  It led them to start questioning their security, and what the Imperium was doing to protect them?  The interview they gave, with details of the Risek incident, had unsettled a lot of populations who were not in danger or involved.  When Mikah said they didn't release the Zhodani involvement, there was a pause.  The senior Admiral explained that, the Zhodani details aside, people were scared.  Not just the remaining population of Risek but, as the details spread, the populations in many of the systems in the Rhylanor subsector.  And while the investigators would solve the problem, largely in thanks to the team's work, they wouldn't do it soon.

So, until then, those people who didn't know the details wouldn't worry and create, "other issues."  The Admiral swept the three as he said, "Those that do know, thanks to your interview, may."  Breaching the next topic, the Knights were asked if they'd been intending to meet Duke Sir Norris in-system, as he'd passed through the system two weeks earlier.  When they said they hadn't planned to, Mikah asked if the Duke was headed to or from the Mora system?  She learned he was headed to that system.  That ended discussion on that quick topic before the Admiral told the team there were questions Duke Leonard's people had regarding the events in the Porozlo System.  As the Knights braced for uncomfortable questions, the Admiral said his people were not cleared for that.  The Knights would have to speak to His Grace's people.

When Mikah asked what issues were being asked about, the Admiral made it clear the Navy was not involved, and he was asked to relay the message.  Finally, they were told the servicing of their ship had been completed and they should move the vessel to a civilian port fairly soon.  When Brian asked if they could get maintenance services from the Navy, the Admiral said they could not.  All the Duke's orders had them on the hook for were fuel and consumables.  He added, with a pause, "...and we're not even sure why we are tasked with doing that?"  But orders from Dukes with senior Naval command rank are orders, in this case.  The Knights thanked the Admiral and his officers.  They took the offered contact data for Duke Leonard's office.  Dame Mikah asked if, while it was not their job to help, they could recommend an in-system provider to have install a ship's fuel purification plant?  Some of the officers ran down a tick list of yards the Knights might check with, but they didn't deal with civilians for that.

When the Knights asked about Naval support, because the ship was owned by Duke Norris, it was pointed out that the Duke was a Duke.  That didn't make the ship a naval asset.  They were told to talk to the Duke's people if they wanted something for the Duke's ship.  The officers certainly didn't appear interested in helping them.  They handed over contact data for Duke Norris' offices in-system to not appear as 'being unhelpful'.  After that, the Knights were dismissed.  Done with the naval officers, Mikah wanted to buy a copy of 'Crossing the Line' at the PX.  Brian suggested wandering around, to find engineers on the base and ask for recommendations where to buy ship systems?  As they walked and talked about where to go on-base, and who to look for, Zimzod suggested supply flunkies, but that was shot down.  Falling back on their combined naval experience, as each had served at least one term in that service, the three Knights finally decided they should split up.

Sir Brian went to the mess hall looking for engineers as Mikah and Zimzod made their way to the PX.  There, they were watched by the present military members as the took a voucher for "Crossing the Line".  This 'awareness', as civilians under escort, continued as they wandered through the PX, browsing for whatever else they found.  Zimzod checked their weapons selection for a vibroCutlass, and found they had a number of models of the weapon.  The least expensive model was Cr 400, and the most expensive model Cr 1,200.  The differences were battery life, recharge modes, the need for an adaptor to connect to starship supplies and the Brand Name.  Zimzod decided on one he felt was a good quality for Cr 750, along with its scabbard.  As they wandered further, Zimzod wanted to check into coffee.  Mikah talked him out of that, given the likely cost, even if they could find it there.

They continued to browse, under the watchful eyes of the store's staff and their escort.  At checkout, they were told the PX had to deliver weapon purchases to their ship.  Still, they bought their stuff and moved on.  As they left the PX, Mikah sparked up the book and did a search for Rol Kaihvos while they walked.  Zimzod read the cutlass manual, to be able to plug in and charge his new weapon once it arrived.  Mikah quickly found the correct chapter, entitled "Investigating the operations of the 1266th Imperial Marine Guards Battalion".  She skimmed until they got back to the ship.  As they moved, their escort politely suggested it would be better reading back aboard her ship, so Mikah put the book up until they returned to the Hotel California.  Back at the ship, Zimzod relaxed, watched vids and ignored Mikah as she read.

Hunting For Contacts

     In the cafeteria, Brian did his best to appear to be legitimately hungry as he scanned insignias for experienced engineers.  He saw engineers, both with and without 'ship's crew' designators as he chose a place to sit.  Settling near one group, Brian asked if the seat was free?  They looked him up and down, and an E-6 asked if they could help him?  Not wearing rank insignia identifying himself as a Knight, Brian said he was just looking to eat and saw they were engineers like him, so he thought it was a good place to sit.  Seeing Brian's escorts, the petty officer courteously asked after his business on the base?  Brian said they were refueling and taking on consumables, as if it was the most natural thing in the universe.  The petty officer seemed to accept that, and introduced himself and the other blackies at the table.  When asked his name, Brian chose the full formal introduction, and got as far as, "Sir Brian Montgomery of the..."  But he suddenly found himself interrupted when the men suddenly bolted upright to attention.  Brian was disappointed, as he'd hoped to avoid this sort of social division

Hoping to recover from this, Brian made it clear the formality wasn't needed, and tamped down on the use of titles as he asked about their ships and tried to make general conversation.  While they talked, Brian learned one was assigned to a ship in port and taking advantage of a lay-over to visit friends assigned there.  When the talk shifted to engineering, Brian mentioned he was hunting an inexpensive way to replace their purification plant.  One of the guys who was assigned to the base said he knew a guy.  When Brian asked, the NCO said the "guy" was someone he'd served with some years back.  Now he worked for a salvage operation, where they recovered and scrapped or refurbished ships and systems.  They also sold off scrap materials, refurbished systems and ships to low end users or contractors.  When Brian asked how to contact the man, the NCO gave him the guy's contact data.  He also said Brian could use his name when he called.

During the chat, they asked him what happened to the old purification plant?  Not wanting to share too much of what happened, Brian reached into his memories and pulled out a really weird systemic failure, using that as a cover.  He also went into a description from that long ago event, of how he bypassed and cross-rigged other systems to provide a short term fix until they got repairs.  This both impressed the others and moved the conversation into weird failures.  The talk put them all on a more equal footing, as each had something they had either faced or heard of.  Brian had finally removed the social blockades completely, in a way he'd hoped for earlier.  While the title and the "Your Lordship" never went away, it faded in the face of serious discussions on systems management and repairs.  Eventually, one of the engineers mentioned a failure he was currently facing, and on which he needed help.

And when Brian was asked his advice, the table went quiet except for comments like, "I never thought of using that this way!" etc.  In the end, the engineers were very thankful for Brian's help and advice.  After he gave them his best guesses on another issue, Brian realized he had to break the conversation.  He got ready to leave as they thanked the Knight for his time.  Brian's escort was pleased, because he was bored out of his gourd.  Brian made things merciful for the escort, by heading back to the ship.  Brian was happy to have the Petty Officer, his two friends and the guy at the chop shop as contacts.  On the way, he called Mikah, to let her know he had a contact for a purification plant.  Mikah said that was great, then asked if he wanted to hear 'the dirt' on Rol?  Brian said he did, and she told him to get back to the ship, so they could have a reading.

Rol Visits Officer Country

     Rol left the ship, as requested, to meet with Marine officers who treated him with all due respect.  They talked about the book, and made it very clear they were angry over the actions and suggestions of the author, as transmitted to them.  They also very much wanted Rol to know they didn't want to 'have to respond to an issue he was involved in', and risk the further tarnishing of his record.  They suggested he keep a low profile but were loath to place direct limits on the retired marine.  Rol got the gist of what was going on and said it was almost like they'd prefer he not leave the ship.  They brightened at that, saying that it would certainly make life easier for everyone.  When he asked if any of them had read the book, they made it clear that, while they'd been fully advised as to its contents, they wouldn't dignify the author by giving him their money.  They made sure Rol was aware of their opinion, and that they were willing to help where possible.

After that, they let Rol leave, and he decided to avoid the PX.  Back at the ship, Rol started doing research on-line, to get the parts he needed from InstellArms to repair Zimzod's armor.  After finishing his research in their catalogs, Rol found the costs would come to MCr 1.5, so they were certainly not going to just run out and shop!  He saved the parts list, to discuss with Zimzod.  While he was researching, a call came in from the Merchant port, from Countess Ursara.  Rol asked them to hold and got Ms. Vik, who was in shipsuit.  Inger asked him to let the Countess know that the Knight's seneschal would be available in a few minutes.  Rol advised the caller, one of the Countess' men, saying their Seneschal would be available momentarily.

After a few moments preparing herself, Inger signaled Rol that she was ready and the retired marine transferred the comms to her stateroom.  Inger picked up the comms, introduced herself and asked how she could help the man?  He said that her Excellency had, as expected, finished cutting the stones and they were ready for review.  They were also ready for Zimzod to sit down with the Countess and discuss marketing, as everything had gone as expected.  The Countess was very pleased with the results, and her staff were available at Zimzod's service when he could return the Countess' call and compare schedules.  Once they exchanged pleasantries, the call ended.

When they returned, Mikah and Zimzod went their separate ways.  Zimzod waited for the cutlass to be delivered, intending to relax with some vids.  Rol interrupted this with his shopping list, and they compared notes on that.  Rol also gave Zimzod and Mikah the message from the Countess, but Mikah wanted to wait until everyone was back aboard.  Then, they could have a crew meeting and make decisions, as they needed to move the ship soon anyway.  So Mikah read more in detail about Rol's past, while he ignored her various comments and points where she read certain sections out loud.  At one point Rol muttered, "Only one chapter" with a sad shake of his head, and she jibed, "and it's pretty short too.  I was hoping for more."  Rol said he might write his own book someday, and eventually asked if he could borrow the book when she was done?

She offered it up immediately and, when he asked if she was sure, she said she was only interested in the one chapter anyway.  Rol said she read it pretty quick, and must have missed the mitigating information.  Mikah smiled as she said there was none.  When Rol said he'd give it his 'professional scrutiny', Mikah offered to help him with the big words.  Despite the offer, Rol didn't take the book, and they talked about what happened at the Command Center?  Mikah told Rol he was one of the subjects of the conversation there.  As Mikah and Rol talked, a call came in from TAS: Rhylanor, asking to speak to any of the Knights who were available?  When Mikah asked what the call was about, they asked her if she was one of the Knights?

She answered, "Maybe" and paused, so the man continued, "Well, we have various pieces of information that we would like to confirm.  According to information forwarded to us from our offices in the Jae Tellona system, your Knights were the people instrumental in resolving the events in the Risek system.  Is this correct?"  Again, Mikah bit off another, "Maybe", and the man continued, "Your ship designation and general description match..." at which point, she interrupted him.  Mikah demanded, "What's your question?" and he said, "Well, during those interviews, we came to believe that one of the persons aboard your ship is Major Rol Kaihvos."  As soon as he said this, she cut him off saying, "Oh, I have no information on that.  Good bye" and hung up on the call.  After that, Mikah decided it was time to get things done as this port was about to become highly annoying.

Making Calls

     Wanting to get things moving, Mikah called the Countess, without waiting for the others, to decide on when and where to meet up?  After Ursara was on the line they exchanged greetings and discussed their trips.  When Mikah said that their jump was thankfully uneventful, Ursara asked if that was unusual?  When Mikah said it was, Ursara gave a stretched out, "Ohhhh Kayyyy".  Then, they got to the faceting which, as the Countess said, came out very well.  She was very pleased with the reflective and refractive results, and had started experimenting with illuminating chips.  She felt she had two or three very exciting presentations to offer.  When they talked schedules, Mikah said they had a team off-ship at the moment but could meet them anywhere in-system.  Ursara said her time had been mostly filled with social meetings, greeting friends who were local.

Still, she admitted to having gotten the marketing started a bit, by having a few specific people aboard to view the stone and kick-start a whisper campaign.  So long as they came to visit before 9pm, she was just having friends visit for the moment.  Mikah said she could do that, and they signed off.  Mikah called Aiden and told him to call the civilian port and start setting up the transit.  As that happened, Zimzod said they'd better call the cutter to tell them what was happening.  But when Zimzod called the cutter, he didn't get an answer!  Telling Mikah that, he said he was trying their individual comms, and dialed up Emkir.  When the Admiral answered, he angrily demanded, "Hey Zach, what took ya?"  Zimzod said, "This isn't Zach.  And, we have to move the ship to the merchant port."  Emkir answered, "He's off with some former employers and I haven't heard a thing."

Joining the connection, Mikah asked, "Have you tried to contact him?"  Emkir said, "I have tried the comms and have not connected."  Thinking about this, Mikah said, "Do we know who he went to see first?"  Emkir said they did, and she told him, "So we can call them and ask if they know what happened to him when he left."  When they called Hortalez et Cie, the operator they got said it was not their custom to track those who visit their offices.  When Mikah pressed the issue, asking if they could say who Zach's former employer was, the operator said he would ask his manager if they could reveal that information.  The operator took their contact information and the call ended.  Not having anything else to act on, Mikah told Emkir to wait there, to see if Zach contacted him?  Emkir asked where they were moving to and Mikah said they were moving the ship to the main port, and would let Emkir know what berth and bay they were in once they knew.  Emkir confirmed that and they broke comms.  Then Emkir dug into the chapter on Rol and his "crimes".

By the time Brian returned to the ship, the port had delivered Zimzod's cutlass and he'd begun charging it.  When Zimzod saw Brian's satisfied smile, he asked, "So how was she?"  Brian passed him by with a dig at his dye job, saying, "Just keep talking red."  Sitting in the lounge, Brian updated Mikah on what he got from the engineers.  Then, he asked what was up with the book?  First, Mikah told him that they'd been waiting for him so they could move the ship.  Mikah also signaled Aiden that Brian was aboard and they could get moving.  The pilot had already worked with the ports and gotten clearance.  So he reached out to the bay crew, to detach the last umbilicals and release them for departure.  With nothing else to do while they made the short hop, Brian asked about the book again, but also remembered what Rol had told them before.  Instead of answering, Mikah asked if he wanted a reading and, when Brian said yes, she excitedly said, "I'll be happy to do a reading.  Everyone who wants to hear the story of Rol, gather round!"  Rol ignored the activity as Mikah spent the transit reading to the others.

War Stories And Other Jokes

     The section began with a basic bio of the important personalities, including then "Captain" Kaihvos.  It gave an abstract of his military background and highlighted his many decorations up until that point in his career.  It covered how his past had resulted in a posting to the staff of General Harry Smith, as the Fifth Frontier War raged.  An abstract was also included in the chapter about the General's career and spectacular disappearance.  Famous before the Fifth Frontier War, General Smith had pushed for a massive task force to launch from the Quar System(Querion), and strike directly at Zhodani home bases.  The General managed to reach that system before it was cut off, and cobble together a "fleet" of fifty, largely mercenary and logistics, vessels.  After that, the fleet, and General, disappeared and were never heard from again.  For reasons not explained by the book's author, then Captain Kaihvos had been promoted to Major and reassigned, just before the fleet departed.

Major Kaihvos' life was saved by that re-assignment to command the 1,266th Imperial Marine Guards Battalion.  The unit was sent to Jesedipere, just after its liberation, to provide Imperial units with special forces support against remnant dug in Vargr and anti-Imperial forces.  The chapter then covered, in more details where possible, a number of incidents where Major Kaihvos apparently willingly put himself and his people into extreme danger.  The author suggested this could only have happened by the orders of a particularly sadistic or masochistic officer.  These decisions led to many injuries, to both combatants and civilians.  Adding to his criticism, the author said the actions were often blunt, destructive and costly.  This included property loss as well as the lives of innocents, and personnel under Major Kaihvos' command.  In addition, Sir Jeremy pointed out that the objectives of many of those missions were rarely well defined, if at all.

The few Documents released by the Imperial Marines and navy didn't often show that any of the objectives were ever achieved.  In the end, the chapter worked to display the cost, in innocent lives and property, due to the actions of a commander who was, at best, incompetent and, at worst, insane.  The missions finally ended as the civilian government in the Jesedipere system began to regain power and push the military to solve the problem.  Eventually, the elite Mercenary "Bond's Rangers" were hired to replace the unit.  In his writing, Sir Jeremy asserted this was done before the local governments could recover enough power to actually start arresting the marines!  The chapter finally detailed the many awards gained by members of the unit, and compared them to the numbers of awards earned by other heavily embattled units during the war.  Some, often, more heavily embattled than the unit commanded by Major Kaihvos.

The author used this as additional support evidence that the unit was commanded by, and manned with, glory hounds who didn't care for the health or safety of civilians and innocents at all.  The second to last section of the chapter purported to be a list of the innocents killed and property destroyed or damaged by the carelessness of the 1,266th.  Although the documentation in that section was "light", Sir Jeremy brushed that aside, blaming that failing on the lack of official documentation released by the Imperial military.

The chapter closed with an almost footnote, that the Major and a number of his commandos were transferred to the Heya System, with the 745th Independent Marine, where Major Kaihvos earned the Starburst for Extreme Heroism.  After the reading, the crew had the impression the Author often went out of his way to create negative opinions of the missions.  He also seemed to use documentation from questionable sources.  What he wrote could have been real, or could just as easily be a hack job.  The one thing that was certain was that "Major" Rol Kaihvos was going to be an interesting figure in this system, if not a number of systems, in the future.

Surviving His Sins

     When Zach finally felt the shuttle docking, the Open Skies Captain unhappily said he figured they'd have to take him at his word.  With that, they escorted Zach to the shuttle's lock.  Zach paused before leaving the shuttle, not sure of his safety at all.  He looked through the lock to realize he was right back where they'd launched from. Zach promised to get them any information they had not received, assuming they hadn't gotten all the data in his claim.  He couldn't understand why they thought something was wrong, but it was obvious they felt they'd been lied to.  They shook their heads, seeing he didn't understand what he said in his reports "was" his claim.  And that he' made many statements that just could not be accurate.  Any professional reading the report would believe Zach was lying.  But Zach finally left the shuttle and called Emkir, interrupting the Admiral's reading.  When Emkir asked, Zach explained that he'd been brought aboard a shuttle and questioned!  He claimed they were supposed to have called the California to let them know.

Emkir ordered, "Well, get back to the docking bay right now.  I am going to call the ship."  Emkir then called Mikah, who happily interrupted Emkir's, "Hey doc" to ask, "You found us another navigator?"  After they both laughed, Emkir said, "Well, I found the same navigator.  Slightly used but still in good condition.  Where are you docking?"  Mikah said, "We're headed for the main port and we don't have a berth yet.  We'll meet you there and likely get there at the same time.  So, you should be prepared to hold off for a bit before you can dock."  In fact, the cutter eventually arrived a couple of hours behind the ship.  But as he waited for Zach, Emkir prepared the cutter to fly.  Once Zach was aboard, they lifted from the bay and headed out.  On the way, Zach tried to test his merchant account.  He found he had to use the Hotel California's main computer to gain access to his merchant account and see if it was unlocked?

Next: Preparations Before The Madness