As the ship arrived over Stepozhevac, they were signaled to a landing site surrounded by Imperial Marines, who had moved "in haste" to secure the site.  After the ship landed, the first team to enter and meet the crew were Imperial Marines, carrying uniform items to dress Sir Zimzod.  One of those turned out to be both a Imperial Marine Captain and a Lord of the Court, outranking Zimzod in both the Military and Order of Noble Precedence.  His assignment was to be Zimzod's "keeper", and contain Sir Zimzod's arrogance until the end of the interview.  With the uniform and behavior issues resolved, the interviews began.  As the crew were questioned, and the situation cleared up, it was obvious this had just been a sequence of very odd events.  The Horizon's crew handed over sensor data from the incident and answered honestly all questions put to them.  Even a Tukera representative provided information from the Equus.  At the end of his interview, Zimzod was again officially released from Imperial Military service.
After the investigation was done, the crew and knights were told the Councilor did regain consciousness in the ambulance.  He reported the explosion appeared to start in their own cargo bay as far as he knew.  Following those events, the Stepozhevaci surprised the crew, asking if they were willing to "do them a favor?"  Dame Mikah was the first to groan, "Here it comes..."  The rest also moaned, groaned and prepared for the worst.  They asked "What the favor would be?" and Stepozhevaci representatives of the government said it was, "a recovery job.  And any more specific, we can't be until you accept."  The crew asked how much this 'favor' would pay?  They were told Cr 10,000(KCr 10) per week, with an expected job length of six weeks.  So, if all went as expected, that totaled out as KCr 60!!!  When they asked about hazards, they were told there were no expected hazards at all.  Again, if all went as expected.
The contract clauses and restrictions were laid out and discussed until the team decided they were ready to sign.  This included accepting the participation of a Councilor,like Councilor Helmik, named Saamsen on the job.  A member of the Stepozhevaci ruling council, they were told Saamsen had to be along to oversee Stepozhevaci interests.  They were also told all navigation would be done via nav-tapes and Councilor Saamsen would carry all of those.  That made Scouts Radetsky and Ryddoth more than a bit uncomfortable.  Questions about this "salvage" operation the crew found key were the safety and expected length of the job.  They were assured there should be no real danger at all, and the mission should take no more than six weeks, if things went as expected.  They were also told this was why their government were so interested in so skilled a crew.  Even if their availability came as a total surprise.  This process, following on the flight to Stepozhevac and the interviews, took all morning.Some Thing Odd
Once the contracts were signed, the team were told they were free to take part in a lunch and reach out to any support offered in an enclosure set up around the vessel.  Those who left the ship were surprised to see a fenced in area had been set up around the ship, along with military defense and structures including a mess tent.  Provisions were made for the ship's crew to live in tents within the enclosure, if desired, until the mission was ready to launch.
None of the crew were especially pleased about the idea of the job, but they'd each been offered a large chunk of cash for something that offered little danger and wouldn't take much time, comparatively.  After a bit of talk, they went their individual ways for the break.  Ms. Vik, Admiral Meshrumiikiim and Dame Mikah immediately left the ship through the cargo bay to get food.  But Ms. Vik was the only one without an alternate agenda.  Dame Mikah didn't hurry, as she took what she needed and ate the generically edible food.  But she still wasn't certain what she wanted beyond the meal?  As time passed and she ate, Mikah was surprised to see the ship's hatches suddenly cycle closed!  While Mikah didn't know 'why' that happened, she was certain they weren't supposed to.
And as suddenly, Dame Mikah knew what her agenda was.  It seemed things were going sour right off and it was time to get out of there.  After finishing her food, Mikah cleaned up quickly before going to one of the many Stepozhevaci troopers and saying, "Hi, I'd like to talk to someone about booking passage to the starport and off-world."  The trooper, clearly perplexed and confused, had no idea how to respond to the request.  He ended up telling her to speak to one of the officers.  Dame Mikah then spent the next ten minutes or so going from one trooper to the next until she finally found one with actual rank.  Again, she repeated her request, and was again met by a surprised reaction.  The officer then said he would make his superiors aware of her request and they would get back to her as soon as possible.  Given that, Mikah saw no other option but to return to the ship and wait.
Emkir enjoyed relaxing as he ate, and cleaned up properly before snooping for any sign of troopers relaxing, gathering or showing any signs of recreation.  He had hoped to find some form of gambling among the troops, but was quickly disappointed.  The deployment of these troops had only just occurred that morning, so there weren't yet any chances for the troops to relax.  Disappointed, Emkir found himself heading back to the ship.  Ms. Vik watched the activity around her as she ate.  Relaxing, she took in the activities as Stepozhevaci troops worked to complete and secure the temporary facility surrounding the ship.  As she finished eating, Inger noticed Scout Radetsky leaving the ship to, presumably, grab some food.  That was followed shortly by the Admiral returning back trailed by Dame Mikah.  As she watched the female knight returning, Inger began to return herself.  As she walked, Inger saw both Dame Mikah and the Admiral apparently standing at the closed hatch.Settling Questions
As the others left, Scout Ryddoth had gone to the bridge to check the ship's status and systems, and for any messages they might have received.  Heading to the bridge, he was approached by Scout Radetsky, who asked about stateroom assignments and where to stow his gear?  Ryddoth saw this apparently weeks-long mission would need a change in the staterooms and assigned housing.  As they stood at the forward end of the lounge, they were joined by Sir Zimzod, toting his armor kit.  Ryddoth decided to assign the staterooms based on the new compliment and the Stepozhevaci Councilor.  He also considered asking for cots until the ship could swap the one-person-per-stateroom furniture at a scout base.  After Ryddoth told them where they'd bunk, Sir Zimzod and Aiden Radetsky went to the cargo bay, got their gear and moved it to their assigned staterooms.  After that, Zimzod started the never-ending task of working on gear maintenance while Radetsky set his gear up before leaving the ship for chow.  As Radetsky left the ship, he noticed the Admiral approaching the hatch and also passed Dame Mikah as he headed for the chow tent.
Finding himself alone as the others moved on, Sir Brian looked around, having decided to explore the ship and see what he'd become stuck in?  After scoping out the lounge, waiting for Ryddoth to finish with the others and for the crowd to move on, he quickly sat at a console he found still logged on!  Sir Brian quickly explored the limits of his access, finding he couldn't create a new account for himself or extend his current rights.  Within those limits, Sir Brian assessed the engineering systems and began exploring.  And he wasn't being really pleased with what he saw.  Soon, Brian decided, as he explored, that he should also see what on 'this can' actually worked?  As Radetsky left, and Zimzod worked, Brian explored the system and started activating systems diagnostics in order to collect answers.  On the bridge, Ryddoth noticed a blinking discrete on his comm board.
Checking his boards, Ryddoth saw the ship had received three "calls".  The first came from the office of Marquis Insadshiir Manerdagur's office, ordering the knights to contact his office as soon as possible.  Ryddoth knew that, at the moment, the order would have to wait and checked the remaining messages.  The second was from the IISS Base, for him.  And the third was from the Starport Authority, asking to contact Ms. Vik?  Knowing he couldn't reply to the third message himself, Ryddoth opened a comm to the scout base.  After a brief conversation with base operations, he was directed straight to the Lead Scout for Porozlo.  Scout Commander hault-Treeasliin was concerned with the crew's status and when they might be returning to the base?  Knowing he couldn't say much, Ryddoth explained that all was currently OK and the crew had signed on for a job, about which he could give no details.
Not happy about the surprise "job", Commander hault-Treeasliin accepted what he was told, and demanded a written report as soon as possible.  Finally able to concentrate on his ship's status, Ryddoth signed off and began checking his status boards.  As he did, he saw a number of indicators flashing on the panels!  It only took a moment to realize he was looking at the patterns of system diagnostics in-process!  Angered at not having been consulted by whoever kicked off technical processes on his ship, Ryddoth checked the ship's computer.  He saw the diagnostics and a number of other user programs had been launched by Admiral Meshrumiikiim!  Now both angry and in possession of a target, Ryddoth secured the bridge and headed aft to engineering.  As he entered the lounge, Ryddoth stopped as he saw Sir Brian happily working at a workstation he shouldn't have access to!  It only took a brief glance at the screen to verify this was the source of the diagnostic routines.
This realization added hacking into the ship's security to running diagnostics without permission!  That this "Sir" Brian had hacked access into Meshrumiikiim's account and was now doing the stars only knew what with his ship's systems indicated a growing problem.  Ryddoth chose the "direct but correct" approach, demanding just what Sir Brian thought he was doing without asking permission?  For his part, Sir Brian played the innocent engineer, protesting he was just evaluating the ship's systems now that he was to be part of a mission aboard her.  "Seeing what he had gotten himself into", as it were.  After some verbal sparring, Ryddoth made it clear the charges he had in mind went far beyond improperly running programs.  While maintaining a very correct posture, Ryddoth played out the sparring until the knight might have felt he'd wormed out of not asking for permission.
Then, Ryddoth brought it around to the accusation of hacking the ship's systems.  It was then Ryddoth got a surprise as Sir Brian told him he didn't hack into the system!  As Ryddoth paused, Sir Brian continued, claiming the workstation had been logged on when he sat down at it.  Willing to accept that the station may have been left by the Admiral, Ryddoth asked if Brian had checked to see whose account he was using?  When Sir Brian said he didn't, Ryddoth impressed on the knight that he'd best understand how things worked aboard a ship or he could very easily become a dirtsider.  He reminded Sir Brian that had been the intent of Equus' Captain.  Following that, the two men were able to work out their differences as Ryddoth began deciding how to deal with the Admiral.
As Scout Radetsky made his way down to the ship's cargo bay to leave for lunch, he noticed the bay hatch had closed, and locked.  Calling up to the bridge, then pinging the general ship's comms, Radetsky asked Ryddoth why the hatches were sealed?  Playing it quietly, Ryddoth told Radetsky he was conducting a pressurization test and all should be back to normal soon.  Shrugging, Radetsky keyed the access code for his shipboard account and the hatch opened so he could step out before it automatically closed and relocked.  As Admiral Meshrumiikiim got to the outer hatch, he also found it closed and locked.  Using the comms panel, he called into the ship and reached Ryddoth to ask why the doors were locked?  As with Radetsky, Ryddoth said was conducting a pressurization test which should be done in thirty minutes or so.  Ryddoth told him that Meshrumiikiim could use his access code without saying he'd locked the Admiral's account.  So when Emkir keyed his code in, it failed to open the hatch.  Telling Ryddoth this, the Scout told the Admiral not to worry, as the test would be done soon enough.
Annoyed at the turn of events, Emkir said Ryddoth should make an announcement over the ship's external speakers before the natives noticed.  As he said this, Dame Mikah Kirlim came to the hatch and asked what was happening?  The Admiral quickly explained what was going on and, much to Dame Mikah's annoyance, said that they would have to wait.  Shortly after he finished, the announcement was made.  Of course, this happened as Ms. Vik also stepped up to return to the ship.  Having heard the announcement while walking up, Inger asked why they were standing around?  After the Admiral explained things, Ms. Vik decided to try her access code, and, sure enough, the hatch opened and they were all allowed to enter the ship.  This gave Admiral Meshrumiikiim a lot to consider as they moved to the main deck and entered the lounge.  There, they met Sir Brian and Ryddoth, who had "interesting questions" for the Admiral.
After the discussion was done, and Ryddoth had made several points about shipboard security, he moved forward, to add the new crew to the ship's security logs.  He also planned to add a "courtesy" account for the Councilor.  After the team returned, Ryddoth announced he'd received messages for the knights from the office of the Marquis of Porozlo, and for Ms. Vik from the Starport Authority.  Both parties said they preferred to take the calls in private.  In one stateroom, Ms. Vik had her call connected to a very startled and concerned SPA comms worker.  The concern was understandable, since those in the SPA were used to thinking of countries like Stepozhevac as hostile and potentially hazardous territory.  The popular opinion was that Imperial citizens couldn't safely travel there.  But once she assured the tech she was fine, the worker shot her call straight through to Mr. Saaried, a former Junior Director, now promoted to her former position.
Saaried's voice also showed concern until Ms. Vik assured him that the compliment of the Dawnstar Horizon were safe and protected.  He asked after her needs and if she knew when she would be returning to the port or Imperial territory?  Inger said they were OK, but were not sure when they would be returning.  Finally, before signing off, Mr. Saaried told Ms. Vik he was setting up a comm post at the port to monitor a specific frequency for her communications needs.  He told her to call, day or night, if she needed help or assistance.  The call would be directly routed to him and he promised her the people of the port would be there for her.  Meanwhile, in a second stateroom the knights gathered and called the Office of the Marquis.  This call turned out to me more functional than not, as they found themselves speaking to a minister who told them the Marquis was very interested in seeing them in person, at his residence.  He wanted to know when the knights would be able to present themselves?  The knights politely explained that they had signed an agreement with the Stepozhevaci that might help with diplomatic efforts between them and the Imperium.  When the official asked for details, however, they had to defer to the clauses in their contract.  The Marquis' man said the Marquis would expect as full a report as possible as soon as possible and the call ended.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: A Week in Stepozhevac