As Brian entered the ship, he heard Mikah's voice over the comms firmly saying, "Aiden, return to the bridge!"  Hearing the order and assuming the worst, Aiden grabbed his food and rushed to his stateroom to grab his LAG.  He then returned to the bridge to find Mikah already at the hatch waiting.  Oddly, behind her, he saw the turret controls were active again.  Mikah asked, "What took so long?" and he said he had to get his LAG, raising the weapon as he spoke.  She flatly said, "You don't need your LAG", in a scorching tone.  She also didn't comment on the food in his other hand as she brushed past him and left the bridge.  Mikah met Zimzod, waiting in the lounge with an amused look on his face after Aiden went passed with a rifle in one hand and a meal in the other.  As she left, Aiden called after her, "I didn't know that when you called."  Mikah called back, "Turn the turret off again."
Brian found Zach and asked how things were going as he led the 'droid into the engineering section.  Zach looked at the android and said, "They're good, the engineers are working and I see you have a new toy."  Brian said, "I brought back something that will help, Yeah."  Zach asked what its name was and Brian said he hadn't named it yet.  As they talked, Mikah arrived, trailed by Zimzod, and angrily said, "Brian..."  When Mikah started to speak, Zach hit a stud on his display and began a replay of Brian's interview.  Seeing this, Brian defensively said, "They misrepresented what I said!"  Zach sniggered, "Yeah, I can see that."  Brian continued, "But in my defense, I made us some money, and I brought back something that will help us maintain the ship", pointing to the 'droid.  Mikah cut that away verbally saying, "Something that will make your job easier!" and Brian doggedly responded, "It will help the ship."
After a brief pause to recover her face, Mikah sweetly said, "Well.  Now that we have the 'droid..." and Brian cut her off saying, "I am its owner and it obeys me only."  Mikah didn't miss a beat saying, "We'll have that reprogrammed." with a smile on her face.  Brian threw back, "It's also not smart enough to replace me." and Mikah said, "We'll get another one."  She then politely said, "Why don't you come upstairs?"  Brian looked at the group and Zach said, "She wasn't looking at me.  Don't look at me pal."  Getting no support, Brian left the 'droid, which automatically detected a power port, plugged in to charge up and powered down.  As he began to move, Mikah pointed up the ladder saying, "So, Brian?" and he asked, "Why?"  Mikah said, "Time to meet questions." still smiling.  Brian, misunderstanding, asked "What are you going to make me eat?"  Going with it, Mikah answered, "Ohhh, Crow!" and Zach said, "I think I'll follow you upstairs."
Eventually, they made their way up to the ship's lounge, and Mikah quietly and demurely asked, "Brian?  What were you thinking?"  The engineer said, "Well, when I went outside this morning, and was accosted by the press...  I didn't tell them anything that was wrong.  I said I was a member of this crew.  I knew Rol as a good person, and that I was sure there would be a statement made later.  Someone asked me what I thought about him being tried, and I said I had never heard anything about that."  Raising his voice a bit, Brian continued, "And no sooner had I said that, than this military convoy showed up and this Admiral came..."  At this point, Mikah interrupted Brian's story telling craftsmanship, and asked, "So what's with the dingy bar and the, uh..."  Brian picked up again, saying, "Well, I went looking for 'droids, and, uh..."
This time, he was interrupted by the roars of laughter the unexpected left turn earned him, which were capped off as Mikah reminded them all that Brian was a qualified Engineer...  Zach sarcastically joked, agreeing that 'droids hung out in dingy bars.  Picking things back up again, Brian said, "As I was leaving the bar, a young kid came up to me and asked me for an interview.  He offered me money and I said 'sure'.  And what they showed was not what I said..."  At which point Mikah interrupted, pointedly saying, "They were your words."  As Brian agreed, and prepared to defend himself with claims of editing, Mikah cut him off in an angry voice, demanding, "Have you ever watched the news?"  The only reply Brian could come up with was the half-hearted statement, "The guy did wanna talk to you too", to which Mikah quickly answered, "He's not gonna, ok?  Not gonna."
Fixing him with her eyes, Mikah then said, "Until Rol and the Admiral get back, I'm gonna have to send you out into the staterooms in the berth.  Right Zimzod?"  As Brian tried to come up with any idea how to respond to this, Mikah assured him they'd give him some vids and make sure Rol knew where he was when he got back.  Brian asked if he'd be allowed back on the ship again?  As he mentally worked on plans of his own, and Mikah said, "If you live." in a taunting tone.  At that, Zach came forward, saying "Sir Brian?  We've been working hard on getting Rol an exclusive interview and a lot of money."  Brian simply answered, "Well, you should have told me.  Besides, I know how these tabloid things work.  They're gonna want all sides!"
When Zach said, "They may want all sides, but it's not our job to 'give them' both sides."  Brian cut him off with, "What I'm saying is they're still going to come to you, for his side of this.  You'll still make your money." Zach made the ultimate tactical mistake of starting to tell Brian about doing things that will affect the entire crew.  And Brian started hitting back with Zach's great public failures and how they affected the crew.  The engineer wrapped it all in a bow by stating, quite correctly, saying " I didn't know what was going on.  There is this word of a military tribunal and I have no idea what's going on.  The guy offered me money and I'm trying to get 'droids...  I'm sorry."
Zimzod stepped up asking, "You had no idea what was going on, and yet you talked?"  Brian answered "Yeah."  Zimzod said flatly, "There's your problem."  Brian said, "Well, I can't erase what I did."  Zach cut in, dryly saying "As we can all see.." which got more dark looks from Brian.  The engineer continued, "I had no idea what you were working on but, like I said, trust me, you'll make your money, because the bigger media outlets are gonna want his side of this because there is a book written.  Plus, you saw the military caravan that showed up and created quite a scene that Rol was the center of.  So they're gonna want to talk to him."
As they escorted Brian to the lock, Mikah called the security personnel and told them Brian was to be held in the staterooms in the berth until Major Kaihvos returned from the station.  Brian was handed a set of vid's, burned onto storage, of the many news reports which were generated by his performance that day, and he was sent packing.  Mikah then comm'd Rol and asked if he'd seen the news, explaining that "one of our crew members decided to give an impromptu interview."  When Rol asked, "Again?" considering the event with Zach in the Inthe system, she said, "Yes.  And you know what the press do?"  When Rol agreed he knew their tactics, Mikah suggested he watch the news reports and told him the crew member was back in the berth.  Rol's one concern was his safe return to the ship, and Mikah assured him that was not a problem, though she said he might want to come back soon.
Done with the comms, Rol asked the Admiral if he had a vid-display to check the news on, and the Admiral asked which network?  Without specifics, Admiral Uuela suggested "the primary network" without saying what that was.  They activated the display, and were treated to a news story about civilian and merchant reactions to the apparent military intervention and brief undeclared martial law condition on the docks.  As they shifted channels, all programming seemed to be fixated on the military actions surrounding the Hotel California.  It seemed the event had turned into quite a furball.  They eventually watched the entire piece, and started watching the follow up interviews.  It became clear the fears of unwarranted military action treading on merchanter rights with no legitimate legal reason had started many fires.
This ranged from the outright panic of captains buttoning up their ships and fleeing, to those demanding the planetary government take action to reign in rogue Imperial units.  Interviews with station officials made it clear there was a lot of loss, and there would likely be law suits, etc...  Rol looked at the Admiral and asked, "I thought you said this sort of thing happens a lot?"  Uuela admitted it was not as frequent a thing to take over merchant ship bays, but the rest of it happened quite often.  No matter what, he said in a confident voice that they'd get over it soon enough.  Emkir threw in, "Go figure, Civilians..." with a laugh.
The next story eventually came up, and they prefaced it with an introduction reminding the viewers of Sir Jeremy's book, "Crossing the Line".  They also reminded viewers of the passions the book stirred up since its release.  The story discussed that those passions had been enflamed when one of the accused, Major Rol Kaihvos (with a nasty brutish service picture displayed behind the anchor person) arrived in-system on the merchant ship, which appears to have been taken under martial law in the previous story.  The story took on a new dimension, as one of the crew of that ship had granted an interview.  After those lead in's, they played a highly edited version of Sir Brian's interview.  Rol simply downed the rest of his drink and asked for more as he watched.  Emkir agreed whole heartedly, saying the only answer to this crisis was to drink heavily as he raised his own glass.Bracing For The Worst
Having delayed things as much as she could, Ms. Vik headed for station central.  Once she got to central offices, she found the place was a "somewhat organized madhouse", filled with an unusually large amount of people.  Still, Inger expected that, because of the events in the Hotel California's berth, and she wasn't surprised.  As she made her way through the service and general offices to Station central, she saw everything.  There were those demanding to be refunded their fees before leaving port, demanding compensation for supposedly damaged business dealings and demanding free security services to protect independent merchants from possible Imperial attacks!  The merchant service counters were all full, and the waiting areas were also, despite what Inger was sure continued to be a long day for port staff.
Making her way, Inger was glad they didn't know who she was and wondered what those who did would say on her arrival.  Of course, she'd seen worse in ports she'd worked as junior staff, on her way up the admin ladder.  This might suck, but it was training for those who wanted to get to the top office.  Ms. Vik watched while walking, and remembered lesser crises she'd dealt with in her past.  She was comforted that things weren't really serious.  There was no one really shooting, so it could be worse.  Passing as politely as she could, Ms. Vik recognized the claims and complaints as largely being caused by perceived or imagined threats.  She also saw the undercurrent of real commercial loss and damage, due to the paranoid or panicked.  Ms. Vik finally reached Station Central, to find it a mad house of organized work.
Well trained, they were doing their job the best they could in the situation.  Still, the pressure and the crowd were obvious at every portal, window and comms screen.  Even the support robots seemed to move at a more precise and efficient pace.  As those who knew her noted her arrival, Ms. Vik saw the obvious questions in their overworked eyes.  Reaching the first acquaintance, and waiting until he was off comms, Inger asked, "Is this typical of the local Admiralty to do this sort of thing?"  The man, a senior Ops tech, said, "Not really...no.  We have no idea why he thought he could move into the civilian docks."  His answer told Ms. Vik that they won't be blaming her, and perhaps she'd even be able to have some impact.
The man continued, "It does happen from time to time, and it happened a lot during the war.  But then we were under martial law."  Inger just agreed and said, "Sorry guys.  I had no idea they'd do something like this.  So, what do we do at this point?"  The former port director answered questions about her earlier call for a port car and the events that led to that request.  She also got into a minor discussion about the "accused" war criminal and pushed back that Rol was not charged with a crime.  Talk then turned to ideas to keep the port informed of Rol's future actions, to prevent future issues like what happened at the berth.  Ms. Vik said the crew could communicate better, but pointed out the port had not predicted the Admiral's action.  They agreed with her, which was why the port were asking now, against possible future events.
As they talked, and Ms. Vik said Rol was visiting the Admiral to have a uniform made, they asked about the possibility Rol was re-enlisting?  Inger wasn't sure why the uniform was needed, and suggested he'd been invited to some function that required the attendance of retired officers.  In the end, she tried to put down all concern by saying she hadn't been aware the Admiral would ride in with armor and guns.  She suggested that, if she'd known, she'd have pushed back, warning the port to turn back the military and have the port car handle the pickup.  When She tried to repair things with the port, the Admin said they first had to investigate and figure things out.  Ms. Vik was assured the port would talk to the military and was told they'd like to speak to Major Kaihvos too.  With that, Inger excused herself and called Rol to ask some questions.
Watching the news coverage in the Admiral's office, Rol answered and assured Inger he was safe, and not detained as he finished things up in that office.  They also decided it would be best for a port car to be sent for Rol and Emkir's return.  Rol also agreed that he'd visit the port offices to answer questions after he returned.  When they discussed Brian's interview, Rol mentioned there might be a delay at the berth before he could go to port offices.  His tone inferred the delay would be a "lingering issue", which Ms. Vik inferred had to do with Sir Brian.  After finishing with Rol, Inger answered more questions herself on the Rol's status.  She also offered that Rol agreed to come to station offices to answer questions.  Inger was told they expected it would play out in the courts, with lawsuits and fines.  This was nothing new to Ms. Vik, who only hoped the fines against the ship were not too expensive.
After that, they discussed needing to move the ship.  But, because of Mikah's earlier call and expectations people would obey the law, the port didn't think it necessary.  She was told things should calm down soon enough.  When she asked what else the crew could do to help, Inger was advised to just try to keep things quiet.  Inger was also advised to speak to her crew about not doing unusual things that might create a stir.  Thirty minutes later, Ms. Vik had been told an investigation would clear any unrealistic claims in favor of the facts.  The legal bills would be summed up and the proper papers filed.  So, aside from answering questions and working with the authorities, they waited for issues to settle.  A 'root complaint' would claim members of the Hotel California crew engaged military officers, which caused the event.
This claim would lead to all related losses, so the ship's legal involvement could be set and a fine levied, with proper papers to secure payment.  After that, Inger spent some time schmoozing with her friends as they could take some seconds to breath a bit.  Soon, they offered her a port car as she prepared to leave, and they got ready to face the screaming hordes again.  Ms. Vik said that, after things died down, she'd set up a get together, then she was on her way back to the ship.  Finally back aboard, Inger changed into a ship's suit and sparked up a "first-person shooter" video game to blow off stress.  In the back of her mind, Ms. Vik considered hiring a local lawyer.  She also wondered just how much aid they'd get from Duke Norris' office?Mikah Rattles Brian's Cage
Done with Brian, Mikah sparked up a computer connection with the port and checked how to place a classified ad on the system?  Her idea was to both rattle Sir Brian's cage and start dealing with the ship's lack of engineering support.  While Mikah didn't expect to remove Brian, she knew he couldn't manage the ship's maintenance alone.  As for housing, Mikah evilly considered forcing the engineer to double bunk with whoever was hired.  Ultimately, her ad was based on skill certification, discretion and the willingness to take a speculative salary.  Mikah considered requesting crew members without tongues, but realized having a Hiver aboard might create its own issues.  Posting the ad, to be displayed for two days, Mikah was billed Cr 10 and told it would be available on-line in the next half hour.  She then handled other issues while waiting for Rol's return.  Half of Mikah was fuming over Brian's actions and the other half looking forward to Rol's revenge.
With Brian in the berth staterooms, Zach baby-sat the port engineers, and decided to set up a secondary presence for the ship to do business.  This would give the crew generic email and comms contact points, plus some communications and access services.  Doing this, Zach subscribed to the service for a month at a Cr 20 cost.  This was a deal as the 'week by week' account cost Cr 10 per week.  So, he got half price on the bulk buy.  Zach took an account with up to ten sub-accounts, where two could be administrative.  He had one account set as Admin, for Mikah and himself to use.  He then set the remaining nine as task specific accounts such as 'Media Relations', 'Cargo Sales', etc...  When the order was set and the tech was ready to take payment, Zach identified himself.  But when she checked, there was a pause before she said she couldn't proceed.
When Zach asked why, she said he couldn't represent any vessel or organization due to the restrictions on his account.  So, Zach needed to get some other, unrestricted, authority or the accounts he was calling about would be deleted.  Sighing in frustration, Zach comm'd Mikah in the ship's lounge and explained the issue.  Mikah glanced over at Ms. Vik, who'd returned and was playing a computer game.  Mikah muttered something about bureaucrats before coming to the console and working with the port tech.  Eventually, the ship's account was billed the Cr 20 and the accounts were authorized and put in service.  As the work was being done, the tech asked if Mikah wanted the help wanted ad routed to one of the sub-accounts and have that account configured to manage the data from the ad?  Mikah said she did, and the responses were shunted to a "Personnel Search" sub-account.
As the tech explained the account, and how to navigate it, Mikah saw there were already five or six responses to the ad!  Surprised, Mikah thanked the tech, who signed off, and started looking through the responses.  When Zach asked, Mikah said they might need a new engineer in order to help Brian with the ship.  The first was from a former Imperial Scout, but all Mikah could think of were Emkir, Aiden and, with a shudder of anger, Kyle Van Ryddoth.  Still, the woman provided a noticeable line of credentials on her introduction and her name, at least, was very Vilani.  Mikah decided to look the attached resume over.  Once she scanned the service record, Mikah was impressed and wanted to bring the engineer in for a talk.  Especially based on the comments about her duties during the Fifth Frontier War.
When Mikah checked her pay requirements, she saw the word "Open" which she liked a lot!  She also noticed the woman listed an IISS Silver Asteroid under decorations, meaning she'd been wounded in combat.  Mikah decided to invite the woman in for an interview, and checked their schedule to see they'd planned to attend the Reilley - Dushemsa Tieells Interstellar Trade Fair in the Montag Hillara Arcology Tech Expo Center the next day.  Checking the time of the event, Mikah saw that they had to be there just before noon.  Considering her options, Mikah invited Captain Eikusdi Piirirshu to an interview the next morning at nine.  She said they'd meet for breakfast, and gave the name of a restaurant not 'too close' to the berth.  She also said they'd be waiting outside the place for her.  Then Mikah opened the next file to find it was from Sir Brian!
Mikah realized that she was not the only one rattling cages.  Reading over her shoulder, Zach asked if she intended to bring him in for an interview?  When Mikah said they should wait to see what's left after Rol got done with Brian, Zach nodded and laughed.  Mikah paged through the next two resumes, one of which was not a bad resume, but not good.  The last one was a dirt-side nuclear plant engineer hoping to go to the stars.  Mikah closed that resume and sent an invite to Captain Eikusdi Piirirshu for an interview.  Checking the accounts once they were open and 'advertised' to the station system, both Mikah and Zach noticed their 'message received' box was populating!  Checking the message traffic, they found the media auto-scans had found their new account and they were getting requests.
Acerbically. Mikah told Zach to set up a filter to send all those messages to an account for Emkir to deal with.  Zach, who'd washed his hands of Emkir's method, was only too glad to do what Mikah asked.  Working quickly, Zach did what he had to, but found the account had received more than three hundred more messages as he worked!  And the list was still growing.  As he watched the count, Zach thought about getting the eleven tons of machine parts out of the ship's bay and into the berth.  This would give them more space to use behind a closed cargo hatch, and out of media view.  Zach looked up costs for a port crew to move the cargo and remembered his interest in "cargo mover" grav units.
After checking the costs of a pair, Zach asked Mikah about the idea?  Having called a few suppliers, he estimated a cost of Cr 10,000 for a set of the devices new, and some 'eccentric' used ones for Cr 6,000.  Balking at the cost, Mikah asked how much it cost for the port to do the move, and was told Cr 50 to get them to do it in the next two days.  She told Zach to call the port and he did, having the Hotel California put on the port's service list.  After that, Zach decided to see if he could get Zimzod's help to set up some of the berth staterooms and offices for the crew to use.
After they'd 'exiled' Brian, Zimzod did gear maintenance and wondered if Rol would show himself to be a 'true marine' as he took his revenge?  While Zimzod was cleaning and resetting his gear, Zach found him and asked if he'd help Brian set up the berth staterooms?  Zach pointed out he'd do it but he had to watch the port engineers.  At first, Zimzod wanted to tell Zach what he could do with the staterooms.  And the engineers.  But he changed his mind, because he could spend the time aggravating Brian.  So, he accepted, and Zach went back down to engineering.  As Zimzod went to the berth offices, Aiden watched from where he sat in the lounge, having secured the bridge after handing off Brian.Rol's Return
In the Admiral's office, and after watching the news, Rol thanked the Admiral for the uniforms and hospitality, but said they needed to return to the ship.  The Admiral offered to give them a ride in his staff car, and Rol accepted that.  As they rode, Rol, Emkir and the Admiral talked about the last time this sort of thing happened.  Admiral Uuela said was in the weeks just before the Zhodani 40th fleet jumped in-system during the war.  The officers talked about that battle and the campaign that followed, crushing the Zhodani war machine.  During that action, Uuela had been a Flag Admiral, leading a fleet element during the battle.  They talked about the roles they played, and were playing, in current events.  Admiral Uuela pushed for Rol to re-enlist, but Rol let him down gently saying he didn't see that as his path forward.  Even despite the dangling of a promotion to full Colonel.
Despite recent events, and not saying so, Rol firmly didn't feel a return to the military as the best move.  As Rol and Emkir rolled into the berth, the officers saw a heavy station security presence.  The vehicle was stopped for credentials, as no risks were taken.  Once Rol and Emkir stepped from the car, Emkir surveyed the berth area in anticipation of receiving interview bids the next day.  Scanning the bay as they arrived, Emkir realized they had no secure method to pass the hard copies he'd requested through the steel and transplex barrier.  Just an 'open and close' door.  The Admiral realized that, with the day ending soon, they needed to fix that.
He also had to set up the many other items he'd pushed to the back of his mind.  A generic comms drop, a system electronic mail bin, etc...  While Emkir thought about that, Rol went into the ship via the air lock, keeping clear of the engineers.  Emkir eventually followed not too far behind him as he considered receiving bids.  They found Ms. Vik, sitting and playing a video game, and Mikah who hoped Rol's arrival meant mayhem.  Aiden simply relaxing.  As Rol entered the lounge, he simply said, "Sir Montgomery?"  Looking up from the console she was at as he entered, Mikah said, "Oh!  Follow me." as she tried to hide her excitement.Emkir Making Preparations
After getting back, Emkir began checking with the crew on the need for drop accounts, only to find out Zach had done that work.  Zach happily displayed the incoming data stream, and Emkir was happy this part of the job was already done.  As the message stream rose, Emkir thought about writing filters, to delete those offers that didn't make the grade.  But he knew this would take some hours he didn't have, given the lack of a standard submission form.  Emkir was also keenly aware he needed the berth entrance altered to receive hard copy offers.  Calling port services, Emkir knew using the office space in the berth would force them to let media into the secure area of the berth.  That, or hire security to escort representatives in and out.  Connecting with port services, Emkir asked them to replace the berth entrance with one that had a 'secure box'.  This would have doors on both sides, where only one could be opened at a time, allowing him to safely receive offers.
They asked how soon it was needed and Emkir said before nine the next morning.  They said that would have to be a priority work order, and would cost more.  When they quoted him a price of Cr 800 to do the work, Emkir had the port tech hold and called Mikah.  Excitedly following Rol to see his revenge, Mikah answered and Emkir explained the costs.  To ease things, he said he'd put up Cr 400 if the ship paid the rest.  Mikah told him to pay the Cr 800 from ship's funds, and Emkir thanked her.  He shifted his Cr 400 to the ship after he broke the line with her.  After he paid, they said they'd replace the door in the next three hours.  No one from the ship had to be available.  And with that done, the tech requested the ship file a notice with Station security, to prevent misunderstandings.  Emkir said OK and called security right after the tech cut the comms.  The Admiral laid it on real thick, in order to grease every wheel he could with friendship.  As friendly and helpful as he could be, the call went smoothly.In The Berth Offices
Once handed to station security, Sir Brian was escorted, and restricted, to the berth staterooms and offices.  Surveying the rooms, Brian found he could access the station network.  Not concerned about the others, Brian started surfing with key words, to help him find used engineering supplies.  Scrolling through the hits, he got directed to help wanted ads too.  As he looked, Brian saw three ads hiring ship's engineers.  Curious, he applied for each of the advertisements, but that quickly bored Brian.  He thought about checking his messages, to see if the 'droid-shop kids tried to reach him, or if anything had happened?  When he realized there was no "catch account" to mirror those sent to station before being sent to the ship's server, he decided to try to access the ship's computers.
After Brian started trying that, Zimzod walked in.  Seeing Brian at a console, Zimzod asked, "OK Brian, what are you hacking?"  With his best "nonchalant" tone, Brian said, "Hacking?  Nothing.  I'm trying to write a maintenance program for the new 'droid.  Zimzod flatly replied, "Uh huh.  Yeah, pull my other one."  Zimzod considered shooting the workstation, but didn't want to guess how much the port would charge on an "Honor Bar" basis for repairs.  Defensively, Brian said "No, really, you can read it if you want", worried the dumb-marine act was just that, and hoping it wasn't.  Leaning in as Brian leaned back, Zimzod tried to make sense of the display.  While he saw Brian was working on some code, he wasn't a programmer and couldn't tell its purpose.  Brian worried more as Zimzod actually physically pulled the engineer back from the console, but dared the flame to demand, "What are you doing?"
He was relieved when Zimzod said, "Simple distrust.  I don't know what you're doing.  We're just going to hold still..."  Brian interrupted him saying, "You can take your hand off me", recalling he was still carrying the knife he'd bought on the port concourse.  Fixing Brian with his gaze, Zimzod said, "OK.  I'll take my hand off you when you take your hands off the keyboard."  Unintentionally removing his hands from the console to talk with them, Brian protested, "I am just doing routine maintenance.  I got nothing to do here!"  Zimzod replied, "I see something that doesn't look like any content browser I've ever seen, it doesn't look like a comms program...  I don't know what you're programming and have only your word.  And you're not in a good position, in case you haven't noticed?"
Leaning back, and trying to assume a relaxed pose, Brian asked, "Zimzod.  How long have we known each other?" with just a bit of chiding in his voice.  I promise you I'm not doing anything wrong.  I'm just coming up with a simple maintenance program for the new 'droid.  I have to read the specs on it with everything else, and I'm just trying to get it up and running as soon as possible."  When Zimzod grunted a disbelieving "uh-huh", Brian swore to his honesty, inviting the former soldier to examine the screen more with a sweep of his hand.  Zimzod smacked that down saying, "Like I could tell one programming language from another?"  Brian pushed back, "That's not my issue."  Zimzod firmly replied, "What I don't know, I can't trust."
Again, fixing Zimzod with his stare, Brian said "Look, I have no idea what's going on here.  I know why I've been stuck out here, but...  I didn't do anything!  All I did was talk to a reporter.  And yes, I know now I shouldn't have", putting a stress on the word 'now'.  Brian continued, "But they twisted my words and edited everything and...it's the way of the media."  Zimzod answered, "They didn't air anything that didn't come out of your mouth...", in an accusatory tone, "...or did they?  Were each of those words in more or less the same order?"  Grabbing an opportunity, Brian honestly said, "No.  I didn't call Brian a quiet loner."  He repeated "No, I didn't", in response to Zimzod's suspicious glare.  He then continued, "I had nothing but nice things to say about him.  And for some reason, they took it, chopped it up and..."  As Zimzod waited for him to finish, Sir Brian simply said, "And I got us a nice 'droid and some money."
Zimzod mentally measured what his next action should be before Brian struck for another angle saying, "Do you really think I would go looking to get in trouble again?  After I've just been put in the dog house?"  Zimzod pointed out, "Well, you weren't actually looking for trouble the other times, so you're going to find it anyway."  Brian answered, "Well, I'm not sitting here by myself, with no one else and nothing to do."  Zimzod answered, "Well, I'm here, so you're not here by yourself.  And we've been given something to do too.  We need to get this suite ready to be used and to conduct business in."  Seeing a chance to get Zimzod away from the computer, Brian said, "Well why didn't you say so in the first place?"  As he spoke, Brian rose from the chair.  "It's much better than to just come in and attack someone for doing wrong things."
Zimzod asked, "So you'll help?" and Brian agreed.  Leaving the console active behind him, Brian trusted Zimzod wouldn't investigate further, or understand anything.  He specifically didn't lock the screen, in order to not draw attention to what he'd been doing.  The two men worked at preparing the staterooms, and then the office area until Mikah led Rol in.  They entered the offices and looked until they found both Zimzod and Brian, working to organize a stateroom for use.  When she saw him, Mikah said, "Hey Zimzod?  Rol would like to see Sir Brian privately?  So..."  Her voice faded off as Mikah waved Zimzod over.  Zimzod moved while she said, "I'll help you with the leftover stuff."  She then led him to the door where she planned to hide and listen to the discussion.
Standing and waiting, Mikah noticed one of the computer workstations was in use and had gone to 'screen saver'.  Guessing it was not Zimzod's handiwork, Mikah woke the station, to see what Brian had been working on.  As the screen opened, Mikah asked Zimzod what Brian was doing when he arrived?  Zimzod, who'd followed her to the computer, said he didn't know what Brian was doing.  He could only say he called the engineer away from the computer and Brian came willingly enough.  On the other end of the room, Rol asked in a neutral voice, "So Brian.  I understand you did an interview?  I understand certain topics came up."  When Brian drew out his one-word answer, "Yes?", Rol continued, "Certain topics including me."  Brian admitted, "You were pretty much the main topic", and continued, "Before you go any further, I had nothing but nice things to say about you.  They edited it, they chopped it up and put it in a different order to get what they wanted."  As Rol grunted in understanding, Brian finished, "Now continue."
Rol asked, "When you did this interview...  It didn't occur to you to check to see if it would be ok?  With me?" and Brian answered, "When I left the ship, I hadn't been told 'Do not speak to anyone.'  I went out to look for the maintenance 'droid I brought back."  Pausing as he realized Rol didn't know about the 'droid, Brian stopped and said in a cheery tone, "I brought a 'droid back to help with the ship." as if that explained a great deal.  Brian continued, "I left the ship, I went through the media frenzy, said a few words, nothing inflammatory.  And as I was leaving, someone pulled me aside and asked if they could get an interview?  He offered to pay me.  I figured I'd make a little money for the ship.  And when I went into this interview, I did so honestly, and with integrity.  And I didn't say anything that was harmful to you.  And I know you don't believe me, and you have every right not to.  But they took what I said, mixed it all up, edited it and showed it out of context."
Pinning Brian with his eyes, Rol asked, "And when you set up this interview, you made sure they wouldn't do that.  Right?"  Brian admitted, "Ummm, Not exactly." with a sheepish look on his face.  As Rol repeated, 'not exactly', Brian brightened up saying, "Although, I did tell them anything I didn't want to answer I wouldn't answer."  Rol leaned in without changing his voice as he asked, "So you wanted to answer all the questions they asked you?"  Stopping for a moment to think, Brian answered, "That's the thing.  There was nothing that was really offensive.  There just turned out to be a lot that was re-engineerable.  Leaning back, Rol said, "Well, see now.  This is the problem, in that you did give the interview.  And they did distort it."  As Brian agreed, Rol continued, "And, I understand you did it for monetary compensation."
Brian agreed, saying, "Pretty much.  I did say you're a good cook though!" and Rol said, "Yes, I heard that.  I heard something about grilled cheese.  But I understand that, you're not very good at giving interviews.  Are you?"  Brian defensively said, "I'm great at giving interviews.  It's their editing that's crappy."  Rol nodded, granting "Yes, that's part of the problem." and Brian cut him off saying, "That's what happened."  Rol capped that, saying "May I ask one thing.  One little thing.  Um," and again fixing Brian with his gaze, Rol asked, "What made you think that you could speak for me?"  Brian handed back, "I didn't speak for you."  Rol countered, "You spoke of me." and Brian confirmed saying "Of you, not for you."  Rol cut him off to finish, "...to the media.  Yes, and you're aware of this certain book that's out?  Did you have any idea that your words might be taken out of context?" stressing the word 'might'.  "Honestly, No", Brian answered.  "Because all I did was defend you, and speak of you as a friend and a crew member and, that's my naiveté for thinking that they would take me at my word and that's..."
As Brian's voice trailed off, Rol responded with a hum and said "I see.  Well, I would hope, in the future, if you ever do something like this again, you would at least give me a call before-hand.  And ask, 'is this ok to do this interview about you?'  That would help very much, for me to be able to at least get a warning that this was coming up.  Brian nodded and said, "OK." after which Rol nodded and said, "OK.  And I don't think I'll be making grilled cheese any time soon.  On the other side of the room, Mikah and Zimzod were both aware of the conversation.  As things began to resolve, Mikah was very disappointed in the lack of violence.
Mikah also had to admit that, despite the time spent looking over his work, she had no idea what Brian was up to on the terminal?  she could see it was a programming framework of some sort.  Once Mikah decided it was beyond her skill to figure out, she thought about who else on the crew had shown skill with computers?  Remembering the Stepozhevaci hacking classes, Mikah comm'ed Emkir, asking him to join them.  The Admiral made his way down as the discussion with Rol kept Sir Brian distracted.  Emkir walked in as Rol was saying "Fine.  I'll let things slide the way they are."  Brian said, "Thank you." and Rol continued, "I'll trust that, in the future, you don't give interviews without, consulting someone?  And, uh, also...  Speaking of money...  Next time you make an interview, and it has to do with another crewmember, and you're making money off it, please include us."
Brian started saying, "I'll tell you what..." but Rol cut him off, saying, "The thing is.  With this situation we have here right now.  It's a very volatile situation.  And you've seen how it can be blown out of proportion and twisted.  So..."  Then Brian cut Rol off saying, "Will a thousand credits make it up to you?"  Rol waved that off saying, "I'm not interested in a thousand credits right now.  I'm just saying you..."  And Brian pushed back, "You could be, I'm just saying, for your trouble and your embarrassment.  I would be willing to give you half the interview money.  Waving that off, Rol asked, "Do you know how much trouble this is already causing?"  Brian said, "I can guess."  Rol pushed, "Do you know how much trouble this is gonna cause the entire ship in the near future?"
Rol was surprised as Brian stopped to consider it, saying "Well, that depends on how the big media outlets, who are gonna be paying big money for your story, spin your story.  And number two, how quickly Mikah calms down."  After a pause, Rol said, "We'll, see.  That's the thing.  As the Captain of the ship, she really does have the final word on what happens in this kind of situation.  See, this is part of the reason I'm going to let this lie as it is."  Responding frankly, Brian said, "Because she's going to get to me.  Right?" and Rol answered, "Well.  See, that's the thing.  I figure you've got a lot of justifications to say to her, so I'm going to leave it at that point right now.  'Cause I believe, from this point on, we're simply going to try and make a single point of contact for our interviews  Yes?"  Brian agreed with that.
Rol said he thought that was enough, and Brian offered, "If you want that thousand credits, let me know." as earnestly as he could.  As Brian continued, saying "No one has to know..." he was cut off by Rol saying, "If you're trying to bribe me..."  Brian then cut the retired marine off saying, "No!  I'm not trying to bribe you.  I'm trying to make it up to you.  And no one has to know, except for the three over there that are listening in." as he pointed to Zimzod, Mikah and Emkir.  Rol recaptured his attention as Brian noticed Emkir's presence, and said, "Why don't we wait to see what Dame Mikah has to say?  You may not have any money to give."  He said this while remembering the 'captain's fines' he and Aiden had paid in the Inthe downport, for their errors in judgment.  Reminded of that incident, Brian answered, "So noted."  As he said this, Brian reached out his hand and the men shook.Mikah's Swing
Having gotten close to the end of the conversation, Emkir moved to Mikah, while also keeping ears open to the talk between Rol and Brian.  When he got to the pair of Knights, Mikah asked "What is this?"  She pointed to the screen of data, while being careful not to miss anything going on with Rol and Brian.  Emkir studied the screen, checked the cache, and could see someone was trying to get into the computer's job control module.  When Emkir said so, he also said he'd need to study it for a bit to figure it out.  Mikah told him to take a few minutes.  As Emkir sat and started working, Mikah turned back to the conversation to see Brian and Rol shaking hands.  She was very disappointed at the lack of bloodshed.  Nodding her head as the men approached, Mikah said to Rol, "And you call yourself a marine." in a disapproving voice.
Rol just replied, "We have other things to discuss later." and she demanded, "Why wait til later when you can kill him now?"  Rol shrugged and said, "More profitable to wait for later."  With a smile, Mikah asked, "Oh?  He's gonna make you some money?  You're gonna sell him into slavery?"  In the background, Emkir joked, "You'd make more money from the fetishists."  Zimzod threw in, "Brian, there's a ball gag in your future." with an evil smile.  Once the laughs died down, Rol told Mikah, "We've had a talk..."  And Brian filled in the pause saying, "He's handing me over to you, basically." and Rol agreed, saying "Yeah.  He's all yours now.  We've had our discussion and come to an agreement on the situation."  Mikah didn't wait for Rol to finish.  Turning on Brian, she asked, "So you got paid for this interview, didn't you?"
Without missing a beat, Brian defensively answered, "No".  When Rol looked at him and cleared his throat, Brian dejectedly admitted, "Yes."  Mikah demanded, "How much did you get paid for the interview?"  Brian said, "A thousand."  Doubtful of that answer, Mikah turned and said, "Rol?"  When the retired marine looked to her saying, "Hmmm?" she asked, "He said a thousand.  Is that correct", Rol said, "He did huh?  Well, he said a thousand to me."  Still not buying it, Mikah asked Brian who the crew were that interviewed him?  Brian handed over their contact data and said they wanted to talk to her when she threatened to call them.  Mikah agreed, "I'm sure they do.  I bet they do."  Mikah then explained that she planned to find out what they paid him, and then decide how much Brian's penalty was.  She said that, if she found out he lied, the penalty would be four times as great as she was planning.
There was a brief pause for Brian to absorb that before Mikah asked, "And we heard through the grape vine that you're looking for jobs?" with a curious tone.  Not sure what she was referring to, Brian asked "I am?" in a confused voice.  Nodding, and not willing to give anything away, Mikah said, "Yep".  Brian answered, "Well, I'm just covering all bases." and Mikah said, "OK.  I'll take that into consideration too."  Mikah looked at the information for the news crew Brian spoke to.  Their cheap dataImage didn't impress her, and she saw they were an independent crew.  So, they fed data to a news blog in the system data-feed.  Looking back at the Admiral, Mikah said, "Emkir, work on it for ten to fifteen minutes and let me know if you get anything?"  And then with another look at Brian, she continued, "Unless, uh, Sir Brian would like to tell us exactly what he was doing?"
Shrugging as he answered, Brian said, "Like I told Zimzod.  I'm writing a maintenance program for the new 'droid."  Looking to Emkir, Mikah asked, "And what did you say it looked like?" to which Emkir answered, "It looks like he was accessing the computer's job control module."  Brian quickly interjected, "Yeah, for the 'droid.  I'm trying to access the 'droid's computer core."  Mikah considered that before telling Brian, "Well, you can shut it down for now.  Why don't we wait until after the engineers are done before you start doing anything with it?"  Sighing, Brian said, "OK.  Let me finish setting up here and I'll go right to engineering and supervise and not cause any trouble."  All the while, Brian was doing his best not to look in Emkir's direction or give away his intentions.
Brian almost overplayed his hand, suggesting to the other Knights, "I'm sure that Zimzod has better things to do." and Mikah said he could stay and help Brian finish up.  Mikah then held up the press data saying, "OK.  I'm going to call these people." and headed back to the ship.  As she left, Zimzod considered the situation.  Not trusting the engineer, he still wanted to stick Brian with the rest of the work.  And with Emkir working Brian's keyboard, there was no risk of him pulling any stunts.  Brian was quietly relieved as Zimzod went back to the ship's open cargo bay and engineering section.  Rol left the berth offices with Mikah, and went to stow his gear and grab a shower, planning to cook dinner after.
In the berth offices, Emkir paid Brian no attention as they worked.  That was, until Brian passed close to the workstation and appeared to stub his toe against the desk!  Emkir looked up as his screen danced and restored, and realized Brian must have hit the unit's power connection.  As the Admiral divided his attention between Brian and the workstation, the Knight angrily kicked the desk in reaction to his stumble.  Satisfied when the connection came loose, Brian went back about his work saying, "Did you see?  The damn thing tried to trip me?"  As Emkir scrambled to save what he could, it didn't take him long to realize he'd lost power and the data was gone.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: As The Circus Really Gets Swinging