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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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The Punch At Erum's Party
Station      Arriving at Erum's apartment, Zach saw it was in packed.  The host was expanding his business by showing off his success, after deals that had gone very well.  So he'd invited both current and former customers, and associates.  Not to mention bigger fish he wanted to show off to.  Given his situation, Zach wondered why he was invited?  Either his host wanted to make a play at being a peace-maker or perhaps wanted to use Zach as a tool in cutting his ties with Open Skies trading.  Getting a feel for the party, Zach knew being used to cut ties wouldn't likely end well for either Open Skies or him, even if it benefitted their host.  Zach also knew he was a beggar invited to this particular feast, but had an ace as his hole card.  Hoping to improve on his friendly contacts and grab a chance to smooth things over with Open Skies, Zach had the cargo of machine parts to build deals on.  So he wasn't empty handed.

The bad news was that Open Skies had seen their share of successes themselves, and their team arrived at the party a bit lit.  With all the refreshments at the party, they led many invitations to the others to celebrate.  That meant they were at the party and well toasted before Zach arrived.  And quickly, Zach found himself introduced to a number of factors by Erum Dalunica himself!  As Dalunica guided him, it was clear their relationship was favorable and Erum wanted the others to see that.  One of the others he found himself introduced to was a man from Ling Standard Products.  Zach knew LSP, Like SuSAG, was one of the biggest players on the Imperial economic stage.  Pervasive throughout the Imperium, LSP was well known for both positive and negative reasons through space.  Locally, they were well known for their on-going trade conflict with the rising MegaCorporation Oberlindes, out of the Regina Subsector.  One thing that could be very uncomfortable for Zach was that Oberlindes had the support of Duke Norris, patron of the Knights he traveled with.  This could put him at cross positions with LSP if it came up.

Keeping neutral, Zach acted on what was already in the media and pretended to be semi-retired and now independent.  A trader helping a number of Imperial Knights finance their activities.  Given the recent news trends, everyone wanted more details on what the crew of Zach's ship were up to?  Lucky for him, a "trader returning from misjump" was a common enough role.  Just less common than the darker tale of ships lost all together.  Zach made headway with the crowd, and even got a data bump from the LSP man.  That factor offered to hook Zach up with folks in LSP's legal department, who might help him with resolving insurance claims.  It was as Zach was thanking the man that a Captain from Open Skies got Zach in his sights.  He smashed his drink glass down as he snarled insulted Zach, calling him 'Burnt Wood' as he advanced.  As Zach tried to offer a friendly welcome and sooth things, the man marched forward cursing and sputtering the entire way.

Peacemaking was not in the cards as Zach saw the drunk man both plant a foot and drop a shoulder.  Seeing the punch before it was thrown, Zach easily avoided it.  The drunk continued his sad performance by falling over as his own inertia pulled him from his feet.  Zach had the option to take part in the negative comments of a crowd friendlier to him or even kick the man as he was down.  Trying to keep the higher ground, Zach decided to just walk away.  Behind him, Zach heard others roughly 'helping' the Captain up and escorting him out of the party and apartment.  After some time, the guy from LSP circled back to find Zach and ask, "Friend of yours?"  Zach sighed and said, "Used to be."  He then explained his past with Open Skies.  Nodding at a story he'd heard before, the man reminded Zach to check with LSP Legal and moved off.  Zach continued working the party and even got into a discussion of salvaging the Raining Coins with a few people.  But Zach was careful to not give enough details of his activities including details on the Coin's 'resting place'.

Around 7:30, Zach noticed some folks clustering at a media panel spewing trade news and wondered what happened?  Going over, he saw coverage of the announcement of Rol's elevation!  Partly into the announcement, Duke Leonard had just turned to Rol, on a platform outside an official section of the station.  Zach complained to himself, "Now there's gonna be four Knights on my ship", and was overheard by those around him.  When asked about the comment, Zach said Rol was a member of his ship's crew.  The wave of reaction that created made him a sudden center of more attention.  The first question he got was, "So.  You know the mass murderer?" which Zach sternly answered, "He's not a mass murderer!  He's earned the Starburst for Extreme Heroism.  He's a national Hero, and a really great guy besides."  Another merchant moved from the crowd to get in the first guy's face saying, "And from your experiences in the war, you should know well how they saved your ass!" angrily.  It was clear to Zach that he had defenders, even if everywhere he went in the party a conflict broke out.

As more merchants backed the pro-Imperial position, it became clear that nearly everyone in the room owed some debt to the military.  Any others sharing a position with the first man were not interested in speaking up as the crowd grew.  They pushed the loudmouth back as questions about Rol started to flow.  Zach tried to keep his answers general, and supportive of Rol, while playing up the attention for his own benefit.  Zach managed to become a feature of the party as those still present from Open Skies glowered but knew they couldn't touch him.  Hoping for another chance at Open Skies, Zach tried to approach one of the men he had been most friendly with in the past.  But that man just turned away.  Not taking that as an answer, Zach pursued the trader until the man realized Zach wasn't giving up.  Turning on Zach to demand, "What?!" Zach tried to bridge the gap, while swearing on his honesty.  The man sneered at him to swear it to the high court.  Not getting it, Zach kept trying until his former associate turned away and left him standing.

This didn't hurt Zach, as he had no lack of people trailing him to see his attempt to resolve things.  It helped that they were interested in his ship, his crew and any deals he was working on at the moment.  Zach tried to set the record straight when answering any questions based on rumors.  Especially when it came to the situation caused by Admiral Uuela.  The merchants ate it up as he talked about the Navy kicking the port and media both in the teeth.  At the same time, this embarrassed the Navy too, so it was a gift that kept on giving for them.  In the end, Zach made more friends, and left with a large number of contacts who wanted to work with him.  By one or two in the morning, Zach called for a taxi back to the ship, having had a successful night.  While his host had, and would have, issues with his contacts at Open Skies, Zach could tell the evening had been very good for him too.

Food, Fights And Freaks

     Around 6pm, Emkir, Aali and Ms. Vik met and walked to the restaurant as Emkir filled Aali in on the events since they'd arrived on-station.  He specifically covered the events where Ms. Vik helped him out.  This became a detailed account of everything the crew had experienced since emerging from jump.  He obviously avoided any mention of the Quasar Viper, though he realized that, with Aali living with him, the Viper vacc suit was going to have to go!  Somehow.  Given her personal interests, Aali enjoyed hearing about the political intrigue.  She was particularly interested that the crew were interacting with "Both" the staffs of Duke's Norris and Leonard.  For her part, Ms. Vik accepted her role as third wheel on their jaunt.  Inger listened in as the tensions from Aali seemed to disappear and all was becoming good.  She did note there were a lot of station security out on the concourses.  Added to that, they were all stopped once, and asked to present their Idents.  The officer checking started slowly on the first one before quickly checking the other two.  With apologies for the interruption, he handed back the Idents and they moved on.

As they wandered, Emkir caught something from the corner of his eye and did a double take.  As he stopped and stared, he saw a vid screen in the front display of an electronics store.  And on the screen the Admiral saw Rol and Duke Leonard on some kind of platform in front of some kind of official facade.  Pointing this out to the others, they went into the store to hear the back half of the announcement of Rol's elevation.  As they watched, the announcement ended and they saw continuing coverage of the Duke leading Rol off the platform and into the official entrance.  That was part of the Duke's port-side offices and rooms of state.  As the "action" ended on-screen, the talking heads took over to discuss the turn of events.  As the three listened, a sales clerk oozed up saying, "Hello.  Are you interested in one of those?" while pointing to the vid-unit.

Aali cracked, "We're already serving with one of those." and the salesman stuttered, saying "I'm sorry, excuse me?" as he held his plastic smile in place.  Pointing, Aali said, "That's one of our crewmates who's about to get Knighted."  Ms. Vik felt her spirits drop while fearing the reaction.  Realizing they were of a higher class than he thought, the clerk tried to lure them to the higher price-point items as the greed dripped from his imaginary fangs.  But they backed off and started leaving as the clerk tried to convince them they needed something to celebrate the news with.  Emkir quipped, "We'll have dessert." with a look at Aali.  Ms. Vik just led the way out as the man tried to explain manager's specials, etc.

They finally got to a restaurant which underwhelmed Aali from a visual standpoint.  The place was the sort of hole in a wall you hoped was still open because of the quality of the food, because no one was there for ambiance.  Still, there were locals there, which was a good sign.  When they were asked, Emkir said he'd like a booth where he and Aali could sit across table from Ms. Vik.  Inger committed herself to not looking under the table.  Over the meal, their orders came to Cr 60 and they ate.  After an hour at dinner, they found themselves with three more hours to kill before the vid.  Emkir asked the ladies what they'd like to do?  Aali deferred to Ms. Vik, as this night was to thank her.  Inger suggested they find an arcade to have fun and burn off time.  When they agreed, they signed into the station net to look for a local gaming center.  They found a nearby holographic gaming center and Inger selected a hunter - killer type game where each player entered the battle maze to hunt and zap other players.

Emkir ordered two hours of play time, which was sold in ten minute segments, for each of them, and was charged Cr 300.  Spawning into the battlefield, they found the gaming experience was very realistic.  Armed with a generic energy discharge hand weapon, despite not having a battery pack and power cord, and no armor, they were thrust into an alternate station environment where they all got a "real feel".  As they spawned into the virtual station, they each found themselves alone, and encountered other players randomly.  Given their experiences and training in the service and the war, Aali and Emkir made a very respectable showing in the compartment-to-compartment and passageway situations they encountered.  Ms. Vik had a more generic time of it, though she was certain it was Emkir who'd popped out of a doorway at least once and zapped her.  Inger had then re-spawned into another location and new game life.  At the end of the evening, they'd all had a bit more of a workout than they'd expected as they left the arcade for the theater.  While they walked, the veterans quietly re-set themselves as much as they could from combat-mode.  No one mentioned that Emkir had put up a surprisingly high score.

Arriving at the theater, only Ms. Vik was mildly prepared for the view from reports she remembered seeing.  The number and variation of sophonts in garish and bizarre costumes or barely covered in lingerie stopped them all.  They took a moment to take it all in.  And the menagerie also assessed the fresh meat before dismissing them completely as "tourists".  Getting on line, the three noted some tech-based outfits allowing at-will shifts from "Magenta" to "Columbia" to "Janet".  The brightly flashing, holographically enhanced Dr. Frank-N-Furters, and Rif-Raffs with visual emitters creating "warping along" effects as they danced.  Most startling was the 600lb six legged Rhinoceros-looking Virushi dressed as Dr Frank-N-Furter!  They moved quickly, to get tickets, grab seats and buy stuff before the show began.

Each party buying tickets was given a wand to take in with them.  Once in the flat and seat-less amphitheater, they used the wand to select the type of seats they'd be comfortable in and location where they wanted to sit.  Seats matching each request rose from the floor as the theater slowly filled up and even the Virushi was made comfortable.  Having attended these kinds of theaters before, none of the three were surprised.  As the movie progressed, what they expected to be a very different experience turned out to be fairly tame.  Despite the outfits and crowd participation, it was somewhat of a let-down.  Afterwards, the three called for a taxi and went back to the berth.  The ride back was quick, and they arrived to the delight of the small group of media manning the over-night shift.  As reporters filmed the return, Emkir played the gentleman in seeing the ladies into the berth and paying the cab.

Finishing the Gemstone Deal

     In the ship's lounge, Mikah agreed to hand the stones over to Countess Ursara to prepare for sale.  As Brian sat sulking over the missed chance to play his joke, they worked through scanning the stones and Ursara emailed Mikah the receipt.  At about 9pm, Aiden left the bridge, done with his nav training for the night.  Seeing the former Scout, Brian called out, "Way to ruin a joke!" and Aiden made a truly florid bow saying, "One does one's best."  With that, Aiden went out to the berth to watch vids.  Shortly after Aiden left, Mikah and Ursara finished up with the gemstones and Mikah tried to get Ursara's impressions of the events they were planning to attend.  They again covered the next day, when the Knights had nothing scheduled.  Ursara suggested they set up a meeting with her lawyers, to write up the new contract for Mikah's gems.  Beyond that, the first event Countess Ursara knew about was the birthday of Baron Mathew Amidon.  The Countess said the event would largely be people looking to make connections and offering to do favors for those who might do favors for them in return.  She did not seem to be interested in going at all.

Mikah, knowing Duke Leonard was planning to be there, asked Ursara if she was planning to attend and Ursara said she hadn't planned on it.  Mikah realized she had a chance to earn points and suggested Ursara reconsider attending, though not spilling the beans on why.  When Ursara asked if Mikah really thought it would be worth it, Mikah nodded.  Brian chose that moment to jump in saying, "Yeah.  You never know who you might hook up with." with a smirk.  As Mikah started telling Brian to leave, Ursara said she certainly didn't want to end up with an inflatable doll and got a blush from Brian.  Mikah repeated that he should leave and Brian said he could be good, turning his head and saying that was his good side.  As Mikah warned, "I'll give you a good side."  Brian finally decided he should move on.  As he rose to leave, Ursara asked if Mikah's entire crew would be at the party?  Mikah saw she was referring to Rol and the Knight answered, "Yes, I'm sure we're all going."

Ursara agreed and said, "Well, OK.  At least I'll know people there."  Mikah followed that up with, "We'll be there right after the Knighting ceremony."  This stopped Ursara in surprise, to ask what Mikah was talking about?  Starting slowly, Mikah said that some time that evening, if he hadn't done so already, Duke Leonard would announce he was going to Knight Rol Kaihvos.  Still surprised, Ursara said, "Wow!  When did that happen?" and Mikah admitted it happened while they'd spoken to the Duke during lunch.  They discussed the Knighting, and Mikah joked that the price of his grilled cheese had just gone up.  Hearing that, Ursara asked if he was seriously their cook.  When Mikah said it was true, Ursara asked how they got a special forces operative who'd won the Starburst to serve them?  Mikah just said, "Well, he's way out of practice."  Ursara admitted she didn't want to know what that meant and asked what the Knight's next move would be?  Mikah said they'd be going to the Knighting, and apologized for not being able to invite Ursara.  She then said they'd all be going to the birthday party, saying "all" again and stressing the word.

They next talked about Dame Ashlee Aaniika's Council on Social Reform.  Ursara said she planned to be there as Duke Leonard was involved.  Mikah also said they all planned to go to the Children of the Fifth Frontier War Charitable Society event.  When Ursara asks, "Really?" in a doubting voice, Mikah said "yes" and Ursara said she was going to the Ball.  Mikah said they planned to go to Countess Sher's Ball that night too, and explained their past in the Emerald System at the end of the war.  When Ursara asked how they left the Emerald system, Mikah gave her a general rundown of the events that led to their Knighting.  She also explained how that led to their trip to Rhylanor, and eventually to Mora to meet with Delphine.  Ursara joked that Delphine was "not 'that bad'...when used as starship fuel."  This led Mikah to ask advice on getting a fuel purification system, but Ursara couldn't help there.  With that done, Ursara asked more details about the rescue, and they continued discussing Mikah's past.

Zimzod Evening Out

     In his stateroom, Zimzod considered what he'd seen in the skybox.  When he'd asked, the professor didn't seem to be a well-traveled man, but seemed very well informed on the happenings in the system.  One of the things Zimzod dug into was finding out how much Lord William had on him?  He found William likely knew everything public about Zimzod and the Knights.  He also seemed to be aware Rol was being Knighted before Duke Leonard said anything.  Zimzod considered that, since William was removed from the room for their conversation, along with Ursara.  And he might not have been told "by" Duke Leonard.  Passing on that, Zimzod worked on his gear and considered the dye patches still showing on his skin.  He also thought about repairing his battledress and the upcoming sale of the diamond.  Aside from scrubbing with the remover on the dye spots, there was nothing much Zimzod could do on the rest now.  Even reconstructing the data map from the diamond chip couldn't be moved forward much.  So he decided to explore, and sparked up a data screen on the station.

It didn't take Zimzod long to find museums and informational displays on the ancient artifact planet-side or the graveyard fleet on-station.  This was interesting enough that he decided to check out an info-movie and display on the Artifact.  Zimzod called for a taxi to pick him up in the berth.  As he looked up a cab, he also saw an ad for a museum on 'the mysteries of the great rift', and decided he could hit that too.  Finally, Zimzod got an attendant and the taxi was on its way.  The ride took half an hour and, Zimzod bought a ticket to enjoy the show.  By 9:30ish.  The 45 minute movie had covered all that had been made public about the artifact and wound up with and advertisement to come see the artifact in person!

While Zimzod knew most of what was shown, it did show some new things, and was a nice summation.  Soon he was out on the concourse and looking for a ride to the Rift museum.  There, Zimzod enjoyed displays on the theories surrounding the many cases of shipping vanishing in the rift.  The most popular legend of the rift in the Spinward Marches was the "Cold Dreams" legend, which Zimzod remembered Sir Brian reading about days before.  It was a legend of unknown origin about a woman leaving in a hibernation ship, searching for her lost lover after their world's space exploration authorities wouldn't authorize a mission to rescue the man.  It ended with her drifting endlessly in space, presumably until the ship's power and systems ran down.  The displays in the museum also covered some of the mysteries of the Spinward Marches such as the Derchon Anomaly:

       In early 1102, an unidentified object transited the outer reaches of the Derchon/Lunion(Spinward
          Marches) system, following a roughly Coreward-Coreward-Trailing vector.  It was traveling at
          such high velocity(estimated 0.12C) that no ship could intercept it in time.
          Sensor data revealed:
             1) the object had a high albedo and smooth surface
             2) it was spinning or tumbling rapidly
             3) its mass was in the 1000-2000 ton range
             4) it was highly radioactive
          Although the object was not under acceleration, these facts argued strongly in favor of some
             type of artificial construction.

There were also displays on Sir Yaricht Fruenelle's yacht, lost in the First Spinward Point-to-Point Race in 1103, and the search for him.  That included an investigation of witness-reported sightings of the Solomani heavy cruiser Navarino, emerging from misjump in 1105 and vanishing before contact could be made.  The TNS Navarino was recorded lost in -2362 during the Third Interstellar War.  The third in a long set of wars between the Vilani and the Terran Confederation!  Sir Yaricht's ship was never found.

Another popular display was the one covering Captain Dawson's Christian, lost in the Five Sisters Subsector during the Third Frontier War when it was overwhelmed five to one.  The "Dawson's Christian" legend claimed it was now said to appear afterward, as a ghost ship, attacking pirates and defending unarmed or under-armed merchants.  Zimzod remembered Brian discovering an older version of the "Dawson's Christian" legend than the one he had in his collection.  Brian spent some time in the jump to the Gileden system, after recovering the Quasar Viper, comparing the versions.  When they did this, Zimzod found the changes in the story very interesting, and had discussed it at the time with Sir Brian.

Finally, there were a set of displays and data on the Annic Nova mystery.  This tale was of a ship of unknown origin, believed named Annic Nova, which seemed to have its traditional jump systems powered by a light sail!  The display didn't have information on the Merchanters who had gotten aboard and died in jump, except to note that had happened.  There were only a very brief bio on the crew and their ship, the Velvet Dawn.  After working his way through the museum, and checking out all the displays, Zimzod decided it was time to head back to his bunk for the night.  He got a ride back to the berth with the entire night costing him about Cr 100.

An Evening's Relaxation And Returns

     On the Hotel California's bridge, Aiden had squared away his nav-training at 9pm and went to the berth to watch vids and get a laugh before bed.  As he left the bridge, Aiden had an exchange with Brian and said good night to the ladies.  He paid no attention to some story about Mikah, Zimzod and others which Mikah was telling.  When he got into the lounge, he decided to first check on what was happening with Rol before relaxing?  What he found was that what Zimzod said was true!  Not only was Rol to be Knighted, but the media had turned rabidly in favor of the retired Marine.  They were now showing glowing reports of what was known and speculation of the next steps, based on past history of Knightings.  After half an hour researching the events, to make sure there was nothing to fear, Aiden turned to search for any on-line documentaries on hand guns.

When he found a huge listing of documentaries, Aiden randomly picked one of the items from the First Frontier War, to compliment the manual he'd been reading.  As he searched, Aiden didn't change the settings on the news creeper at the bottom of the screen.  At around 10pm, Aiden caught a creeping story that Duke Leonard's schedule had been updated and the office of the Seneschal believed there would be no further changes in the foreseeable future.  Aiden checked on the schedule update and found the Duke would spend some part of the next two days preparing for and executing the Knighting of Major Kaihvos.  His schedule following the Knighting also said he would attend the birthday celebration of Baron Amidon of Selenidic.  This story had "Follower" tabs on costs on the party and speculation on foodstuffs and attendees.

That was because the Baron was involved in Food systems, food stuffs supplies and various in-arcology farming operations.  Beyond this, the Duke's schedule would resume as published.  As he read, Aiden worried about having the proper clothing for the occasion.  He remembered picking up a suit on Jae Tellona and realized he wouldn't likely need to dress for the Knighting, as he wouldn't be part of the ceremony.  Nor was he invited to the Baron's birthday party, so he didn't really need dress clothes.  Still, he thought it wouldn't hurt to have a suit if he wanted to buy one for the future.  As Aiden finished reading up on the news, which seemed all surprisingly good for a change, he went back to reading about handguns.  Eventually, he squared away his reading and thought about the past day in his berth.  Aiden remembered the gem-covered scabbard and precious metal cutlass he had, and planned to speak to Mikah about bringing it up with the Countess.  He then shut things down and went to sleep at about 11.

Rol returned to the berth between 1 and 1:30am and checked his email before sleep.  When he opened the account, Rol saw the box had filled up since people realized he was in-system and aboard the California.  Realizing he had one hell of a task ahead of him in two days, Rol simply signed off and racked out.

When they returned, Aali was aware she had to be awake to deal with the engineers later that morning and sacked out after properly thanking Emkir for his gift.  Before the couple had gone to their stateroom, Ms. Vik asked Emkir about his plans for the data from the offers?  He said he planned to begin looking at the data after sleeping some.  She agreed that she'd work with him on that.  Zimzod returned about 2am and found Zach, who was also returning from a good night himself.  There wasn't much chatter between them as they went to their berths to rack out.

Conversations Over Breakfast

     At 7am, Inger's alarm went off and she got into her morning routine, now including some self-imposed calisthenics.  She finished up around eight, and went into the lounge to find herself alone.  Inger started making herself some caff and grabbed scraps and bits to make herself some breakfast while planning to catch up on the news feed until others woke up.  In their staterooms, Rol and Aali had set their alarms for 7:30 and Emkir was surprised, having set the clock for 8 before Aali changed it.  He was disgruntled at first, but settled for watching his girlfriend go about her morning routine and get dressed while making comments.  A number of alarms went off in staterooms around 8.  Of those, Brian was the only one who was so hungry he figured he'd do his morning routine after chow.  So he threw a robe on and left his stateroom as Rol was doing his morning routine and while Aali was finishing hers.  Emkir and Aiden were starting theirs.

Rol was surprised to see Ms. Vik cooking for herself, and Brian joked, "So you're too good to cook for us, huh Rol?"  Rol wandered to Ms. Vik and asked, "good stuff?" and Inger answered "uh huh."  Rol looked at Brian saying, "I'm always open to others who want to try their hand at the art.  Limited as it is." as he started cooking eggs and bacon for the rest of the crew.  Inger said, "I'm just making breakfast." and Brian joked, "But you're not doing it in a nice nightie."  Brian chuckled at his joke as Inger ignored him and cooked.  As she ignored him, Brian pulled out a datapad on which he'd downloaded the specs for the 'droid.  He said he wanted to see if he could convert the grav modules from the wreck for the 'droid?  If not, they'd have to find another use for the units.  Ms. Vik grunted an acknowledgment and Rol joked, "You're not afraid of losing your job are you?"

Rol didn't say the new engineer might do it better.  Brian smiled happily back as he said, "On this ship?  Never", letting their current recovery from maintenance lag speak for itself.  Rol said, "Then you shouldn't have any problems at all.  Do they work?" and Brian said the ones on the android fluctuate, and couldn't be trusted, while he had to test the ones on the wreck.  When Rol asked if Brian planned to work on them that day, Brian said he did and Rol asked if he could watch?  The retired Marine said, "I always wanted to see what a grav unit done by a super genius looked like."  Brian didn't miss a beat as he answered, "I'm not a coyote."  Rol said, "We'll see."

As Rol cooked breakfast, Emkir went over the digital results of the bid scans.  Realizing he'd forgotten it at the time, Emkir told Rol about the warning his life was in danger.  Emkir said that, when he'd called the number, he'd gotten a message that Sir Jeremy wasn't available.  When Emkir asked Rol what he'd like to do about it, Rol asked to see the note.  Emkir admitted the flimsy was buried in the collection, and the data was on his hand unit but he copied it to Rol.  As he did, Rol pointedly asked when the information came in, in an irritated tone.  Emkir explained it happened during the circus of media bids.  Emkir also said there was no way to know if it was a prank or an attempt to draw them out by one of Rol's enemies?  When Rol still complained about Emkir's lack of action, Emkir sharply said that if he'd had more help to start, he might have remembered sooner.  Rol claimed he was a bit busy and Emkir fixed him with a look saying, "We all were."  Rol recalled the ocean of flimsies, realized Emkir's point and dropped the issue.

Eventually, Ms. Vik finished cooking and set her cookware aside to clean after she ate and watched the news feeds.  Aiden emerged from his berth as Rol began serving food.  Aiden noticed some tension in the room as he grabbed food along with Rol and Brian.  As he sat, Aiden asked about the Knighting?  Rol tried to explain away Aiden's hopes the move would magically change the widely-held opinions due to Sir Jeremy's accusations.  Aiden told Rol he wanted to talk about ways to improve his personal armor, given his limited funds.  When Aiden asked about armor plates, Rol reminded him about balancing protection and weight.  As they chattered about armor, Emkir and Aali arrived for chow.  Emkir interrupted Rol, asking if he'd made enough breakfast for the entire crew?  Rol satirically said, "I think I did.  What makes you think you'll need more than normal?"

The News Of The Day

     During this conversation, Ms. Vik quickly cleaned the cookware she used before heading off to watch the news in more detail.  As she watched, the big story was the announcement of Major Kaihvos' Knighting.

Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)                         Date: 201-1112

   The system continues to react to the events surrounding Duke Leonard's announced
   intent to Knight Major Rol Kaihvos.  This news has increased the scope of reactions
   to both Sir Jeremy's book and the Major's war record and presence in-system.
   Authorities have responded to reactionary protests and public safety threats from
   those on both sides of the charges suggested in the book "Crossing the Line".  This
   has reduced the significant public protests according to the Ministry of Justice.

   Despite this, some significant reactions are still occurring where elements have ties
   to the Aramis Subsector or the Jesedipere system.  Those connected seem largely to
   be trade and merchant factions.  Their causes also suffer as out-system interests in
   comparison to the views of natives and local populations.

   As expected, military and veteran groups are responding very enthusiastically to
   the announced move.  Some openly asked why this didn't happen on the occasion of
   the Major's decoration with the Starburst for Extreme Heroism?  Despite this, there
   are those elements who have responded negatively.  Opposition in the active military
   or from veterans is largely happening anonymously, to avoid investigations and
   potential charges due to the Duke's comments on unsubstantiated media coverage.

   Indeed, there have even been some overnight filings of law suits against the move
   to ennoble of Major Kaihvos.  When asked for comment, the Office of the Seneschal
   reminded this reporter the Duke need not seek the approval of the population or
   even the Nobility in taking this action.  As a public service, TAS reminds its listeners
   and readers that the Duke can act within his fiefdom as he sees fit.  His actions can
   only be reviewed by the Grand Duchess, Delphine, in her role as the Senior Nobility
   in the Spinward Marches, and the Emperor himself.

Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)                         Date: 200-1112

   The Spinward Marches Ministry of Trade have released preliminary Second Quarter
   trade figures today.  Lord Ugim Rukhime-Murnan, spokesperson for the Ministry,
   discussed the trend of rising trade data since the end of the Fifth Frontier War.
   Ministry data shows rising trade numbers in both "Year after Year" and "Month
   after Month" numbers as the Imperial government in the Marches works to return
   trade to pre-war levels.  Along with the official Ministry numbers, commenters
   from various industry, financial and other data review sources are starting to
   cover the break out details.

   As the rising numbers were compared with specific markets, growth with systems
   in the new Border Worlds were seen as more problematic than with those Zhodani
   markets engaging in trade in Imperial space.  Countering that, recent trade alliances
   have made the Arden Federation a new speculative trade destination as passage
   through the Sword Worlds are becoming more secure between the Iderati system and
   trailing space in the Marches.  Analysis of the numbers are generally rising with
   some cautions from those Merchant-based groups.

   Merchant guilds and trade groups also point to a number of imposed taxes and
   restrictions placed since the war, which they state are no longer needed.  Some trade
   groups or ship alliances are on record claiming these are onerous and punishing,
   with claims they are being maintained to control and shape the operation of traders.
   A few more extreme claims are being made that the Imperial government is using
   these punitively against independent trading vessels and crews.  While it is generally
   admitted, even by Imperial agencies, that those ships which are part of a larger
   organization will have more resources to draw on, it is pointed out that in each of
   these cases, there is a need or caution which still exists.

   Imperial spokespersons are quick to point out that many on-going recovery and repair
   operations are even in their infancy throughout the former war zone.  It is easy for
   them to indicate projects which will take years to complete and are very publically
   visible.  The Imperial Navy are quick to step forward with issues that are still very
   high in certain locations in the Spinward Marches.  While these incidents are not as
   transparent as the on-going repair operations, it's unquestioned parts of the Marches
   are not as safe as they were in 1105.  These various claims and counter-claims are
   being exchanged within a number of legal suits opened, along with the merits of the
   various positions and their likely effects on prices and availabilities of goods.

Regina (A788899-C  2  Ri Cp  703  Im  F7 V M8 D M6 V)               Date: 180-1112

   Authorities in the Regina systems are reported to be working to resolve issues with
   the Payan refugees since the end of the war.  With the war's end, efforts are increasing
   to re-settle Payan refugees from the asteroid strike in 1075.  Despite these efforts,
   those refugees in the Regina system have organized behind the "Payan Network on
   Regina", led by Gelamid Mome.  Mr. Mome has declared his movement the "Payan
   Government in Exile", and is pushing to force the current Payan administration to
   allow their return.

   Spokespersons for the Imperial Navy and Subsector governments were steadfast in
   statements they were working to prevent the situation ending in another disaster or
   with violence.  Despite this, rumors are emerging that the Payan Network are seeking
   ships and crews sympathetic to their cause.  While there are not stated plans to
   attempt migration, the government of Paya have responded that those who fled the
   system displayed their lack of allegiance and faith.  As such, the Payan government
   has voided all citizenships traceable back to those who left the system in the time
   leading up to the comet impact in 1075.

Iderati (A887798-C  N  Ag Ri Cp  G 201  Im  M9 V)                        Date: 145-1112

   As mourning continues over the death of singer and song writer Ardells Mestler,
   plans are apparently proceeding to present tribute spectaculars honoring the life
   and work of the late singer.  And as these various efforts get underway, so do legal
   moves which can only be described as an attempt to grab a share of the profits
   from such tributes.  As no less than two entertainment promotion companies have
   announced their efforts, there are now at least four suits introduced to Imperial
   courts in the Karin system, where she died, and the Five Sisters Subsector.  These
   suits appear largely to prevent one promoter or the other from capitalizing on
   Ms. Mestler.

   Beyond that, another lawsuit appears designed to prevent an apparent tribute band
   from performing.  Most striking about this is the tribute band's claim that their lead
   singer is, in fact, actually a clone of the singer herself!  While Ms. Mestler's band
   have remained very quiet since their only interviews, shortly after the singer's death,
   Ms. Mestler's family are moving to protect the family inheritance by stopping the
   group performing and gaining enough of a fan base to make legal claims.

Skull (C2237C7-9  N  Na Po  601  Im  M1 V M0 VI)                         Date: 187-1112

   As Senator Kudila is organizing his forces with the support of the Imperial Naval
   base in the Skull system, his representatives are still working in the Rhylanor system
   to gain permission from Duke Leonard to engage a flotilla of Imperial or Mercenary
   forces to support enforcement actions.  The Senator's staff have been taking part in
   closed door hearings on the request with representatives of the Rhylanor subsector
   government and Imperial Admiralty.  Publically, the Senator and his representatives
   have maintained that speculation of a military intervention was unwarranted.

   As had been the case since Senator Kudila's announcement, representatives of the
   Natoko system government have been working to stall or stop his mission.  This
   work appears to be encouraged since the Duke's office has not moved on the grants
   yet.  Despite their claims to innocence, some public investigations into the evidence
   claims have shown some data may warrant action.  But the unclassified evidence
   found is still purely speculative, and remain categorically denied by the Natokan
   Diplomatic Mission.  They demand the Senator present his evidence in court before
   the Duke permits him to invade their homes, acting on false claims.

Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)                     Date: 200-1112

   In the Rhylanor system, the on-going law suit over the failed robotic upgrades in the
   Rhylanor System have moved into the technical testimony by a number of technical
   and automation experts, who's testimony might continue for some time.

   Punishments continued to be meted out to those who plead to parts in the liability
   case and had their cases severed from the main liability case. This follows the
   destruction of an estimated MCr 1.2 in property and some loss of life.  But final
   blame and liability will only be settled at the end of the case.

Catching A Break

     Also in the lounge, and pointedly ignoring the conversation, Zach checked his email to find a partial adjunction on his insurance claims from the loss of the Raining Coins.  The bad news was that they'd found Zach neither owned the ship nor the cargo.  So, to his disappointment, they dismissed those parts of his claim.  Still, as he read the details, Zach found more on why his accounts were frozen.  Some issues came from his claims he'd saved all ten tons of cargo from the Raining Coins.  Those claims had only been revised when questioned in Rhylanor.  More important were claims the Raining Coins' shuttle was transported from the K'Kirka System to the Rech system aboard the Dawnstar Horizon.  But the Horizon was an S-Class Scout and couldn't carry the ten tons cargo much less transport the shuttle.  So while the Duke's office were working to resolve the issues, the inherent gaps and apparent lies cast issues on his word.  So his certifications were suspended, as they were "trust based" as a mercantile agent.  All merchant dealings needed to be bondable, so deals could be insured and banks could prove trust.

They acknowledged they were working with the Duke's Seneschalate in resolving these, based on information that could not be sent in email.  Shrugging that off for the moment, Zach checked his other email to see he'd gotten more hate-mail from Open Sky.  But he also got messages from Erum Dalunica and a few folks at LSP.  Before reaching out to 'new business', Zach called Duke Leonard's office to see what he could do to improve his case?  When he got to the legal group handling this, they were fairly stressed and surprised he'd even call in.  The holes in the legal case were very obvious.  They focused on how Zach thought the claims could be made at all?  They were interested in how he would suggest they be closed?  When Zach told them some of the information was classified, they got into questions and answers as he tried to see if any were high enough on the food chain to possibly know the answers, or even get the answers from on high?  Soon Zach decided they were not nearly high enough to reach the toes of those who might be high enough up.  So he told them there were classified factors which would resolve everything, and he needed to speak to those levels to get the information in play.

Just like everyone else who'd heard such grand claims from 'someone who had no case', they were both relieved and annoyed at this turn.  Like the criminal who claimed to be best friends with the Duke, they figured Mr. Wood was making a claim he couldn't back up, which was nothing new given his salvage claims.  They were relieved they could expect to never have to deal with him again, while annoyed they'd wasted as much time as they had.  The one issue that suggested otherwise was that they were wasting their time specifically because a minister of the Duke had ordered it.  So they worked diligently on the case in the event they did have to deal with him again after all.  Especially when they looked at the log on the file to see who else was known to be related to Mr. Wood.  After that call, Zach called Erum Dalunica to see if anything interesting had come up?  The trader was very pleased Zach called and asked if he called LSP yet?

When Zach said they were on his 'to do list', Erum said they might have a deal simmering that needed help from someone outside the corporate structure.  Zach suggested he might be able to help if that was the case, which was what Erum said he was thinking.  After that, Zach said they should get together for drinks later.  Cutting the call, Zach checked the data on the LSP contacts and opened a comms channel.  When he got an answer, the first stage was a computer generated "voice tunnel".  This technology put the caller into an advertising connection while building an electronic tunnel for voice communications(voice-over-net).  Zach only had to listen to the blasting advertisements for LSP merchandise for seconds though, before the line was connected and picked up.  When the man on the other end said "hello", Zach introduced himself.

Nocar Muheen smiled when he heard Zach's name and said, "I am glad you called" in a confident voice.  When Muheen asked Zach how much experience he had with off-pallet shipping, Zach smoothly said he had some experience with that.  Muheen then asked how well Zach understood the internal politics of LSP's shipping and transport rules?  Zach said he'd been around that block more than a few times.  Once the basics were over, Muheen got down to business.  He told Zach they had a shipment that needed someone outside LSP to move to a warehouse and ship.  At one and a half times standard.  When Zach asked, he was told the destination was a station in the outer system, so it had to be a starship that could make the jump or a long-duration drift freighter.  Then came the piece Zach was waiting for.  It was worth Cr 50,000 to Muheen to get this done.  Zach asked how many tons and was told ten.

Zach confirmed that the "mover" Muheen hired would need "somewhere" and "somehow" to move the cargo on their own, so they had to have a warehouse or be ready to ship immediately.  He considered the ship's berth, if he couldn't cross-connect a freighter fast.  But the port was busy, and Zach was sure he could find a ship to move the cargo, so he did the math.  Getting Cr 50,000 to hire a ship at "Cr 1,500 a ton" to move the cargo plus fees, he'd get the rest in his account.  Zach was fairly certain he could get this done in a system this busy, and when he asked for two hours Muheen said "yes" without even thinking twice.  Off comms, Zach spent an hour or more calling contacts until he found a ship that fit the bill.  The only question the captain asked was where to pick up the cargo, making Zach that much happier that he didn't need to hire a transfer service.  He asked the Captain to hold before calling Muheen back with the good news.  From one call to the other, Zach managed the details and soon had everything set.  The ship was moving to pick up the cargo and a schedule was in place.  Thirty minutes later, Zach netted Cr 32,000 in pure profit, which was frozen until the cargo was delivered.

Zach was disappointed, but familiar with this standard security measure.  As Zach shared a tasty lunch with those still in the berth to celebrate his success, he considered what to do with his afternoon?  While he ate, Zach went over some contacts and created a call list.  Once he was done with lunch and back on the comms, he found most of his 'still friendly' contacts were working to find deals too.  While they couldn't give him answers, they all had questions for him, and would have loved to burn his time asking about Rol Kaihvos and the Knights aboard his ship?  Zach had no problem being friendly, and making up some little white lies when it didn't hurt.  So when he was asked things like where Rol was, his standard response was that he was out working for the Duke.  Eventually, Erum Dalunica called him, suggesting drinks at three and Zach agreed.  As they talked, Erum made it clear that Zach had done him a favor and it would be remembered.

Having An Armor And Training Day

     Having dropped the conversation with Emkir, Rol looked over to Ms. Vik and asked her about meeting with the station officials that morning?  She said she'd set up the appointment for 11am.  Ms. Vik also made it a point to ask Rol to wear something clean.  After eating and cleaning, Rol checked the numbers given to him by Duke Leonard for internal communications.  With the lawyers at Brigg, Tander and hault-Vineschenz pushing for a civil law suit in his favor, Rol wanted advice before talking to them.  Sparking up a terminal, he called and got a representative of the Duke's office.  After a brief explanation with the rep, Rol's call was transferred to internal legal offices.  After he'd given them a brief description of the issue, the lawyer Rol spoke to asked him to come speak in person.  Rol agreed, and they set an appointment for 1pm.  As Rol took care of his business, he noted there had been no more news alerts on the Adamar incident so he hit his stateroom and got dressed.

Tired of listening to news, Zimzod had asked Rol about the armor plates he bought before Rol went to get dressed.  Rol did a quick description of how the plates could be built into Zimzod's duster, but reminded the Knight he was pressed for time.  Rol went to get changed and Zimzod scanned the listings of museums and libraries with an eye towards the myths and legends of the Marches.  He found a number of advertisements for cruises to the Rhylanor portion of the Graveyard Fleet.  Very interested in that, Zimzod checked the details to find he could make that afternoon's flight out.  But as he checked the trip's itinerary, the Knight saw the cruise returned late the next morning.  That would give him very little time to try on his 'still to be delivered' dress uniform and rush to Rol's Knighting ceremony.  When he considered the time crunch, and how important it was to make the appearance with the Duke, Zimzod decided to look for another option.  Interested in less rushing, Zimzod considered his long abandoned ground vehicle training and his ship's gunnery class.

Looking into what was available on-station, Zimzod found a number of virtual schools.  Looking for specifics, Zimzod spotted a number of places offered immersive classes in any number of disciplines.  As he read the details, Zimzod saw some of the experiences even provided completely realistic battle experience in a complete holographic environment.  Some classes were even augmented by expert training instructors.  This was more impressive than the "sit in your couch and respond" computer-prompted simulations they had aboard the ship.  When Zimzod decided that was the way he wanted to go, it came down to how much he wanted to spend?  He had to make sure he was paying for education rather than a school name.  Eventually, he called a school in their arm of the port station and set up an all-day training session.  They billed Zimzod Cr 500 and he called for a port car to take him over.  The ride was a bit long, though in this section of the station, and cost Zimzod Cr 50.

There, Zimzod found the class was an accelerated Military-spec class program.  After he was introduced to the system and taught to interact with it, Zimzod dove into the training.  the class moved him back and forth, between more formal training and battle simulated experiences.  The hologram was very direct, almost to the point of being blunt, but covered a large territory.  Guided activities forced students to repeatedly carry out tasks with a graphic-linked audio explanation running to educate.  Between hologram and guided activities, the system managed to bring the class completely out of the classroom.  By mid-day, Zimzod was well exercised, slightly sweaty and glad to step out of the system and release the tension he didn't realize was building.

Because a meal was included, Zimzod went to the school's food court, and was able to select from a wide buffet of foods from many different systems and cultures.  Coffee was just a dream, but they had a wide range of stimulants and bio-energy enhancers.  Looking around, Zimzod considered the wide variety of life forms taking a lunch break.  He saw those eating had an equally wide variety of study materials.  Very few, if any of these people, appeared to be taking the same classes.  Despite this being a port-section of the station, there appeared to be a number of locals studying there.  As always, spacers tended to get a bit more attention due to their novelty.  So a few of the students came over to Zimzod's table to chat during lunch because he wasn't studying through the meal.  Wearing an unpatched ship's suit, Zimzod played it low key as they asked permission to sit and introduced themselves.  He also left the title at the door as they began to chat about training.  Finally, one of the students noticed Zimzod didn't have a ship's patch and asked what ship he was from?  Figuring the name of the vessel was hokey enough that they might think he was making it up, Zimzod said he was from the Hotel California.

Sadly for Zimzod, he wasn't far enough from a table of folks studying some form of administrative class for their work in one office or another.  Famous for spending almost as much time reading the news and happenings as doing their actual work, these office workers perked up when they overheard the ship's name.  They turned and Zimzod found himself asked if he was really from the Hotel California, he regretted his words, but realized he couldn't change the past.  Also, when it became apparent something was going on, others in the space started paying attention.  One of those at Zimzod's table asked if it was true Rol Kaihvos was part of the ship's crew?  And just as suddenly, the situation turned dark.  Others asked about the Knights, asking if he knew them as questions started bubbling up.  Zimzod tried to seem unimportant, saying, "Nah, I just peel potatoes."  But one of the new bystanders said that they heard Major Kaihvos was the ship's cook on the news the night before.  While some dismissed the comment, it sparked increased interest in Zimzod himself.

Now some asked if he was Major Kaihvos, with some even asking if he was the mass murderer!  Others picked up their comms to make calls while Zimzod got the feeling he needed to be elsewhere.  He retreated to his training room with some students taking pictures all the way.  Returning to his training, Zimzod let that shut out the world beyond the door.  He finally got the 'glory shot of the day' in a simulated fleet engagement with Zhodani forces.  Playing part of the sim-relief fleet hitting siege forces in the Regina system, Zimzod targeted an Enshbasi destroyer in formation.  Targeting and firing, Zimzod managed to stitch fire across the ship's bridge!  The sim-crew frantically reacted and died as the ship lost its attitude control and thrusted radically into another of the destroyers in the formation.  The damage to the two ships, as well as the disruption of the formation, put the Zhodani forces at a disadvantage.

In the end, this allowed the on-coming Imperial element to win the engagement.  It certainly left Zimzod with a huge buzz, when his day of training ended.  He prepared to return to the ship for dinner.  The scenarios he trained through lasted an hour or two at most.  True naval battles lasted days or even weeks as vessels repeatedly moved and struck, or broke off, over a region of space for advantage against their foes.  Despite that, Zimzod was sweaty and as sore as if he'd spent the day in heavy physical training.  Checking the time, Zimzod realized he'd get back to the berth in time for dinner as he grabbed yet another taxi for Cr 50.  During the ride, he decided that, even if he couldn't afford to do this regularly, it was a very good experience.

Engineers And Antiques

     Emkir and Aali shared their breakfast, and did their best to "sweeten" the experience for the rest of the crew with their antics.  Aiden could only think, 'Thank God for sound proofing.'  Aali did talk to Brian about her plans as the engineers would still be available that day and the next.  She planned to confirm the most important items had been handled or gotten worked on.  Given her experience with engineering systems, and the smaller size of the California's systems, Aali had pretty much completed the first part of that.  She and Brian compared notes, finding they were both on the same page on what systems they wanted done.  They talked, and Aali thought about joining Zach and Zimzod in cross-training on ship's laser weapons.  Brian reminded her that all the engineers belonged in the engineering section in a combat situation.  Before she went down to meet the engineers, Aali sparked up her comms to check on her emails and saw a building backlog.

To her surprise, her email accounts were filling with media contacts and requests!  It didn't take her long to realize that, since she'd been documented as crew of the Hotel California, anyone with access to public records knew she had access to the Knights and Rol.  Aali decided it was time to create a secondary digital presence.  Aali checked options and also looked into using 'rebroadcast' sites and services to insure her anonymity while browsing.  While working, she also scanned the throng of emails, ignoring the media and other offers until she could speak to Dame Mikah.  When she said she was amused at the attention in her email, Brian overheard and flatly commented, "That's because Emkir posted nude pictures of you.  That's why."  And as Mikah both cringed and laughed, Aali smiled evilly and said, "He likely did", causing Brian to wonder out loud if Zach knew what his girlfriend looked like nude?

When Emkir heard the conversation, he stood straight backed with a horrified look on his face saying, "I would never!", stressing the word 'never'.  He continued, saying "My Angel's not a center-fold", and followed up with some nuzzling and groping while Aali had to decide if she'd feel hurt at the comment or give in to the physical play.  In the end, she gave in, much to the crew's desire for a less diabetic display.  Aiden muttered something about trying to cut down on his sweeteners while Brian complained about trying to keep his breakfast down.  To get things on a more public footing, Mikah returned to the emails, telling Aali to ignore them.  She said Aali shouldn't consider any interviews without asking them first, as she shot a dark glare at Brian.  When Aali said she wasn't planning to do any interviews, Mikah turned loudly saying, "See how that works Brian?!"

Brian answered, "But they're fun!  You make money!"  Mikah just shot back, "It seems to me it cost you more than you made." letting the comment trail off.  With a sigh, Brian muttered, "Yeah.  Don't do interviews."  That conversation tailed off, and Aiden stepped over, asking Mikah to speak about some gemstones he wanted to sell.  Mikah turned away from the others, brightly saying "Oh.  I'll give you fair market value", clearly suggesting she wouldn't.  Overhearing, Zach said, "Fair to you, it sounds like", showing he caught her tone.  Ignoring Zach, Aiden told Mikah, "I'd like to sell the watch." assuming she'd seen all the items they'd pulled off the Quasar Viper.  When she asked for more details, it was clear she had not, so Aiden explained about the platinum watch with diamond hour ques on an elisum face.

Mikah said she could bring it when she saw the Countess, and Zach barged in saying they should research the watch to see if there was anything to be aware of before handing it over to anyone?  Thinking of the diamond the night before, Mikah said, "Yeah, maybe you should check it for engravings or anything."  They talked and agreed that perhaps Mikah should just tell the Countess about the watch to start.  Zach pushed the point, saying he was worried that some of these items might actually show up in records, or be remembered by some collectibles expert.  At first, Mikah didn't take the thought seriously, as anyone who'd been alive to see the items would be long dead.  While there were possibly those, like Duchess Delphine, who might be that old, Zach pointed out he was more concerned with documents on jewelry.  The talk continued, and Brian finished breakfast and went below, to start checking if the grav modules on the wreck would fit in the 'droid?  It took him just under an hour to clear and measure the most-easily accessed module.  Done with that, he found the unit was much too large.  Brian could deconstruct the entire base of the 'droid and rebuild it around the module.  But that would likely cost enough to make the savings buying it used meaningless.

A Summons From The IISS

     As the others finished breakfast, the comms buzzed and Mikah answered it to find a Lieutenant from the IISS calling.  As Mikah asked, "Hello?" the Lieutenant asked for Admiral Meshrumikiim and Scout Radetsky!  When Mikah said it was for Aiden and Emkir, Aiden demanded, "What did you get us into now?" as Emkir took the comms.  Putting on his most professional demeanor, Emkir asked, "Hello.  Can you be helped?"  The officer thanked Emkir, saying that his voice print had been confirmed.  He then explained that he needed to speak to both the Admiral and Scout Radetsky, asking Emkir to get Aiden on the line to confirm his ID as well?  Emkir called Aiden over, saying he was going to put the call on speaker so Aiden could identify himself.

When they were both able to respond and be identified, the pair were told they were summoned to the IISS base to be debriefed!  As the others in the lounge wondered what the pair did, Emkir said "I'm sorry.  I'm not wearing my briefs yet." in a very satisfied tone.  Aiden almost reflexively swung a slap at Emkir's head, but missed as the Admiral ducked.  Turning to the comms, Aiden asked "Regarding?" and they were told the pair were never debriefed after having been re-activated to remove the Knights from the IMS Equus, bound for Porozlo.  Aiden responded to this by muttering, "Oh Rapture..."  Again, in his most official, Emkir said, "I believe we have submitted a report on that." to be told the debriefing was not optional.  From the side, Zach said to Emkir, "Well, go get your briefs on so you can be debriefed."

When the conversation moved on, the Lieutenant asked how soon they could present themselves and Emkir decided to be obstructionist, asking where the base was?  While it was obvious the Lieutenant knew Emkir was aware of the location, he played along.  The Lieutenant said he was sending a nav-file that should be able to guide their spacecraft to the base, which was its own independent arcology.  Emkir started thinking ahead and asked to use the ship's cutter, as waiting for rides on scout craft could have them sitting for hours for any ride back home once done on the base.  Emkir said they could fly over sometime that morning and asked how long the debriefing would take?  The Lieutenant said that it shouldn't take very long at all, once they had the answers to the necessary questions.  Aiden simply nodded as both men considered the ramifications such questions might hold regarding the wreck they found and couldn't talk about.  After thanking both former scouts, the Lieutenant asked if there was an "Inger Martinusdtr Vik" aboard the ship?

Aiden volunteered that she was aboard and Ms. Vik was rapidly reconsidered her thoughts.  Just moments before, she was wondering just what authority the IISS had for gaining dated reports on past events which had already been covered indirectly?  Now she was wondering just how deep the organization's tendrils reached, as they moved past the Scouts to her!  When the officer asked to speak to her, Inger wondered to herself just how possible it was for her to be thrown into 'Scout Jail'?  When she identified herself, the Lieutenant read off yet another Imperial code under which the IISS had asked the port to debrief her.  He told her to report to station offices to resolve that as soon as she could.  Considering her options, Ms. Vik remembered this message was coming from the Imperial Government, through the IISS as a messenger service.  In her most professional, Ms. Vik told the officer she had a meeting scheduled with the SPA at 11 that morning and would handle the debriefing at that time.  The Lieutenant said that would be fine, thanked the three of them and broke contact.  When Zach wondered why no one else was reached out to, Emkir reminded the merchant that he, Aiden and Ms. Vik were the only three still aboard who were part of the Dawnstar Horizon mission.

A Failed Revenge

     Realizing this could mean Captain Ryddoth might be part of this meeting, Mikah decided she not only wanted to go with the Scouts, but wanted to go armed!  Being aware how that could end up, she called the Duke's Seneschal's office and asked for permission to carry weapons.  When she was asked why she needed this permission, she explained some of her crew had been recalled to the IISS base and may need protecting.  As Ms. Vik fought off the urge to laugh, Mikah further explained there might be a third party attending the meeting, from whom they might need protection.  After asking Mikah to hold briefly while the representative did research, she came back, apologizing and finding no reason for weapons to be needed.  She further recommended only the summoned crew members appear for their debriefings, and no additional persons attempt to attend.

Aiden wondered how much they could discuss and Mikah asked the representative to hold as she said they need only respect what they already know was classified.  She said to refer them to Duke Leonard's office on everything else, as the Duke was aware of everything.  Done with Aiden, Mikah asked to be connected to Shwarii Ahkuariyo, and was quickly connected to the minister's office.  There, she got one of the man's assistants.  Mikah identified herself, the preliminaries were taken care of and the Knight explained that Duke Leonard was fully aware of the issues they could not discuss with Mr. Ahkuariyo.  As he took the data down, the man wasn't really surprised, saying that the Duke often had more information than the departments that served him.  He was surprised Dame Mikah was aware the Duke knew.  To put the tech properly in his place, Mikah casually said the Knights had a lunch meeting with the Duke, during which he told them he was aware of the issues they could not explain to Minister Ahkuariyo.

The representative entered the new data into the system, saying he was certain Minister Ahkuariyo would check with the Duke's Seneschal on the issues.  Mikah thanked him, saying they should call if there were any questions the Knights could answer.  The man said that, from what he could remember of their meeting, there was not much they could answer.  Mikah said that may have changed since they were aware what the Duke knew, and that they were willing to work with Minister Ahkuariyo.  But after he asked for a basic framework about what to ask the Duke's Seneschal, Mikah realized she still couldn't answer questions.  With a pasted on smile, the man thanked her and said he'd forward the information so they could check with the Duke's office.  Done with the Duke's office, Mikah then pulled up Mr. Shrev's data and spent some time organizing her medical data on the man who attacked Rol.  After updating her notes for final disposition, she addressed the message and sent it to the minister with her thanks, again, for his help in resolving things with the police and Rol.

After that, Mikah called Doctor Thrauld, and asked him how work was coming along on the numbers for their offer?  He was excited to get Mikah's call, and said he expected to have an offer by the end of the day, if not the next day.  When Mikah said she may have new data to add to the offer, he was even more excited and asked if she could explain the nature of the data?  She told him that it was on the movements and migrations of the nomad tribes, which surprised the Doctor.  He asked how many months the data would cover and Mikah had to admit she didn't have the data.  She said she had to check with the party that did.  But she promised to get back to the Doctor by the end of the day.  He said he'd let the bidding facilities know there might be additional data available.

Done with that call, Mikah called Duke Norris' offices asking for Captain Diievard.  Patched through, she got the Captain's assistant.  The Lieutenant passed her to Diievard, who she told Duke Norris had told Duke Leonard everything about the incident.  When Mikah suggested the Captain reach out to Duke Leonard's office, he said his only role had been to get classified data to Duke Leonard.  Since the Duke had more information than he did, Diievard suggested they work directly through Duke Leonard's office.  On the fuel purification plant, he apologized that there was nothing Duke Norris' military office in-system could do to help.  Disappointed, she thanked him and asked to be transferred to Mister Ondallah's comms.  When Ondallah answered, it was with the standard glued on smile and he greeted Mikah friendly enough.  When he asked how he could help her, Mikah said that Duke Leonard was given all the information on them by Duke Norris.  She also said she spoke to Captain Diievard who said Norris' military office could not help with the fuel purification plant and recommended they talk to Leonard.

Surprising her, Mister Ondallah said he might be of some help with the purification plant!  He explained that they'd checked what they could do and found they could subsidize any work the crew had done on the ship by providing Cr 50,000.  While he admitted it wasn't much, he did point out it was something.  Mikah was disappointed, after her raised hopes, considering it was Cr 50,000 out of MCr 1.2.  But she thanked him for providing something and said she'd check with her engineers to see what they could do to build on that?  Moving on from the plant, Mister Ondallah asked if she wanted him to reach out to Duke Leonard's people and try to grease the wheels in relation to Mr. Wood's issue?  Especially now that they knew Leonard was fully briefed on the details causing the trouble?  Mikah said that would be great and Mister Ondallah promised to get back to her in the next day or so.

Brian Visits The Salvage Yard

     After Brian opened up and examined the wrecked grav-car, he finally got access to the easiest to reach module.  Having gotten that far, Brian worked to clear enough space around the module to measure it.  A few hours later, he saw the module wouldn't fit in the 'droid as built.  He considered re-engineering the 'droid to fit in the unit and realized he'd have to rebuild the android with a new base to accommodate the module.  That would cost so much it would defeat having bought the android used.  Deciding he could find a use for the remains of the grav car later, Brian looked into calling the salvage yard contact he had.  Checking the data, he found the guy was named Talan Salagon.

Brian comm'd Salagon and it sounded like he got the guy in an active work bay.  Brian name dropped and they chatted about past experiences serving in the Navy.  Getting down to business, Salagon said that space in this area was busy enough they made a profit operating a salvage business.  When Brian asked if he could come out to visit the yard, Salagon said he could, and asked if there was something specific Brian was looking for?  Brian said he was looking for parts for a used 'droid he'd picked up.  Salagon said they had a bunch of 'droids they'd pulled off hulks they'd ripped apart, but that wasn't nearly their primary business.  That was ship's systems.  As he spoke, Salagon was a bit skeptical his yard was the sort of operation Brian needed.  But it was the customer's time and his money.

Salagon pointed out the dead 'droids were in a line and unmaintained or serviced.  When Brian said he wanted to come out anyway, Salagon gave him the data needed to get to their arcology.  He told Brian about their main operation, which was starship salvage and subsystem resales.  He went on to describe the station as being ringed by defunct and recovered ships being held in place by mooring 'droids.  The station itself was dressed out to service small and moderate sized starships.  They had multiple work bays and "dry docks" where ships could be completely enclosed in a pressurized and breathable atmosphere while workers took advantage of the weightlessness of space.

They didn't do initial construction, but did salvage and sales as well as ship customization.  Salagon admitted they were not your first choice for customization, but if someone was looking for less than market cost systems for installation, replacement or repair they could possibly save Brian some money.  Everything he heard convinced Brian he wanted to visit the arcology and see what they had first-hand.  Despite this, he knew the cutter was off ship and he'd have to charter a shuttle, because this was a private business where public transit didn't fly.  In the end, Brian spent Cr 20 for a cab ride to the port after telling those in the bay he was going out.  At the port, he started looking for ships to hire to charter a ride out.  At the charter desk, he explained his needs and they sent him to a small carrier to negotiate the fee.

In the ship operator's bay, Brian looked over the small shuttle and haggled with the operator.  The ride was certainly low status, with a steward only to assure the passengers adhered to the rules and didn't bother the one-man flight crew.  Eventually, they settled on a fee of Cr 400 to get to the station and back.  Brian realized too late he should have grabbed food before he left the berth when they said he might want to buy something to eat and they didn't serve meals.  Too far from the regular food venders, Brian ended up buying some portable chow from machines not far off as they were preparing for the flight.  When they were all ready, and the station's guidance beacon was locked on, the ship burned out for the hours of flight.

Aali's Afternoon Research

     Aali had a much more firm grasp on her situation as she let the engineers in.  On this day, she directed and checked on the engineers more than working with them.  In between checking on the techs, Aali did her best to keep aware of the news, political sites and happenings in-system as she worked.  When she greeted them, Aali noticed that none of the engineers who'd worked on the ship had appeared in the media.  After she had them working their assignments, Aali both watched them and tracked their work through diagnostics and logs.  When she had things running the way she wanted, Aali investigated anonymous browsing and research tools on the station and Rhylanor webs.  Eventually, she found a service she liked that let her log in anonymously from her new clean account, and only reveal a single connection to that service for all her activities.  When she confirmed this, she found they charged Cr 100 for a week's service or Cr 300 for a month.

Aali selected the monthly access and created her account.  Settling that, Aali began digging into the political talking heads, to catch up on all the news she'd missed on the evolving situation in-system since joining this crew.  Aali read and saw a lot of commentary on possible shifts in the political landscape since Duke Leonard announced his support of Major Kaihvos.  The lunatic fringe even speculated the Duke might even be going to war with the Emperor himself in taking the position he had on Sir Jeremy Lewis.  Of course, for every story, there were many analysis sites, commentary sites and even those info-tainment sites flatly making things up out of whole cloth.  Not a safe thing to do in the current climate.  The day passed while she managed and over-saw the port engineers while doing her own work and research.  Reading, Aali found a number of very good articles and reporting on the situation in the Five Sisters Subsector, under Imperial Naval administration since the Psionic Suppression wars of 800.

Originally designated District 267, the 27 systems of the subsector were incorporated into the Imperium in 740 under Emperor Paulo I.  After more than 300 years of naval administration, the populace were again pushing for Civilian rule.  This was, of course, opposed by other movements to keep Naval administration.  While those supporters pointed to the advantages in the Fifth Frontier War, others pointed to the excessive reactions and restrictions during the war years.  In her research, Aali found a good resource detailing the numerous parties arguing either side of the issue, as well as the major players and positions.  It also had an apparently well respected listing, frowned on by the Imperial Navy, of apparent or proven military interventions against political activities.  Aali spent a good deal of her day checking on other issues, but using this data-book to educate herself on the events and issues.  She did note that the corporation "Open Skies Trading" was mentioned more than once, with a ship even engaged and destroyed by the Navy!  She considered asking Zach about any experiences he had, as he'd worked for that firm and perhaps worked in that area of space.

In addition to that, Aali checked on news from home in Regina, where there was constant improvement and reconstruction since the war.  She also checked the Regina dispatches for news forwarded from the Jewell Subsector and the spinward and coreward borders with the Zhodani, Vargr and newly established Ardenii.  News from the former war zone included a continuing stream of medical work in the declared atrocity zones.  Additional reports were funneled in regarding both civilian and military reconstruction, as well as the economic and trade issues that was creating.  News on continuing negotiations with the Zhodani and Sword Worlds were reported on, as well as what talks with the Vargr were possible.  And included reports on new diplomatic initiatives with the Federation of Arden.

Arden (B5549CB-9  Hi  810  FA  M4 V M5 D)                                          Date: 159-1112

   The newly organized Federation of Arden, announced talks with the democratic world
   of Zenopit on opening trade relationships across the parsec separating them.

   Additionally, Oberlindes Lines announced they would open a J-3 Passenger route from
   Regina to Arden very soon, as announced earlier in the year.

Of course, news of instability in Zhodani home space after the war remained a constant rumor, but nothing more.  Imperial Military and Intelligence organizations continued to assure citizens the military losses the Consulate suffered in the war would take some time to rebuild, even to the point of home defense.  So there was no need to fear renewed future aggression in the short term.  Of course, on every site was a rumor or errant comment regarding the supposed message coming to the Marches from Capital and the Emperor.  Speculation on that message ranged from invading the Trexilon system in District 268 to stabilize that subsector to annexing the occupied Sword Worlds, to approving civilian administration of the Five Sisters Subsector to appointing an Arch-Duke for the Deneb Domain.

Visiting The Scout Base

     Emkir and Aiden left the ship for the scout base after Mikah got some laughs telling them to remind the Scouts the cutter belonged to Duke Norris and had to be returned.  After some talk where Zach tried to insert himself into the trip, piloting them over, the two former scouts headed for the cutter.  Zach was dryly reminded both were qualified pilots.  Emkir made sure to detour them through engineering, where Aali was working.  He snuck up on her for some gropes from behind.  When Emkir covered all the territory he could in public, he and Aiden manned the cutter and launched for the flight to the Scout base.  That took 45 minutes before they were taken under station control for docking.  Landing in a bay and secure, they stepped out to find a Scout Lieutenant and two ratings waiting.  Aiden was directed to follow one of the ratings as the Lieutenant led Emkir in a different direction!  When Aiden arrived in an interview room, he was told to sit and three Scouts joined him as the rating left.  One was a Captain and the others were three and Four term Scouts, judging from their belt buckle colors and the piping on their uniforms.

Getting settled, they began by explaining they were there to debrief Aiden on the mission to remove the Knights from the Equus.  Not at all concerned about what was a very public mission, Aiden quickly explained every step of intercepting Equus and having the Knights board the Dawnstar Horizon.  They questioned specifics, like why Equus' captain wanted the Knights removed, etc.  With that was covered, the Captain lead the others as they discussed the rescue of the crew of the Enlightened Measure.  For Aiden, that got a bit harder, as there were so many moving parts and he had to work to remember.  But none of it was classified, and he had no issues with answering as truthfully as he could recall.  The questions not only covered what he knew of their boarding the Measure, but the reaction of the ship and why they ended up in Stepozhevici territory?

Aiden explained the misunderstandings and communications failures that resulted in that sequence of events as he understood and remembered them.  Having been in the bridge for the events, Aiden had only been an outside observer while concentrating on the flight operations.  So there was little detail he could give them on that process until the Stepozhevici offered the crew a job.  Aiden cringed as the conversation wrapped around to those events, but stuck to what the crew drilled into his head.  As a result, Aiden repeatedly directed them to the offices of Dukes Norris and Leonard where things got dangerous.  As with any service debriefing on a questionable incident, the questions were very inquisitional, and Aiden fell back into the patterns he'd experienced before.  Especially during the war.  What made things much easier, in this case, was that he didn't even need to remember things.  For any question that might lead to the Quasar Viper, he only had to repeat that the data was classified, and they should take up such questions with Duke's Norris and Leonard.

As would become a pattern with Emkir and Ms. Vik, the questions slowly generated more general answers until the Captain accepted that he had all the information he was going to get.  Reaching that point, the Captain gave a boiler plate reminder that Aiden had been reactivated for the mission and was due payment for a 24 hour period at his pay rate as his most senior pay rate while in-service.  He was asked to present his Ident and was paid Cr 5,000 for the service.  With the payment was made, they thanked him for coming in and he asked about collecting for his Silver Asteroid.  They said he could claim that at the paymaster's office as normal, and escorted him out to meet Emkir.  Aiden was familiar with the base, so he needed no further direction.  Reunited, the two went to the paymaster's office and Aiden got the Cr 100 for his tin hemorrhoid.

Similar to Aiden, they led Emkir to an interview room where he faced an active duty Scout Admiral and two Captains, though one was surprisingly from the Imperial Navy!  When introductions were made, Emkir learned the Naval Captain was cross training with the Scouts.  Still having reservations about the Navy being involved at all, and not knowing how bad this might get, Emkir settled in to be debriefed.  The Admiral followed the same lines of questioning the Captain had with Aiden, and got similar answers.  When it came to bringing the Knights onto the Horizon, he explained how cooperative the Captain of the Equus was, to a point.  He also suggested that there might have been an armed attempt to take over the Horizon had he not been there to calm frayed nerves.  When they moved on to the Enlightened Measure, Emkir was in his glory explaining how he'd worked to personally resolve the issues created by Sir Zimzod and his 'naval thug training'.  As he spoke, he got in more than a few digs on that avenue.

Ultimately, when their documents were fuzzy on the subject, Emkir claimed credit for the solution of landing in Stepozhevici territory, while accepting an Imperial marine defense cordon only due to the insistence of Marquis Manerdagur of Porozlo.  Dramatically, he managed to suggest that this item nearly upset the entire apple cart and seemed to be at the request of the Imperial Navy.  At last, they moved on to the Stepozhevic contract and the Horizon's departure from the system.  On that, Emkir said he had come up with a brilliant idea to capitalize on the opening the rescue provided.  He explained how he engineered a contract with the Stepozhevic government, to carry out the mission work that had been assigned to the former crew of the Enlightened Measure.  He said he hoped to provide a further bonding between that nation and the Imperium proper, outside the treatment they had received from, 'local authorities'.  That last, with a glare towards the Naval Captain.

When they asked how the work led to the Horizon ending up in the Rech system fighting pirates after the death of a Stepozhevici national leader, Emkir simply shrugged and said they'd misjumped and been lucky enough to have ended up so close to home as they did.  There were further and repeated questions, and some questions on details which Emkir knew they couldn't have real data on.  But in the end, things ended the same way they had for Aiden.  The officers completed their notes and headed off to complete their reports on the incidents after thanking Emkir for coming in to be debriefed as quickly as he had.  As with Aiden, they gave Emkir his payment for the operation which, on an Admiral's pay scale, came to Cr 15,000.  Very pleased, Emkir considered just how fancy a vacc suit this might get him to show off in his friend Uuela's office on the next visit.

Done with the debriefings, Aiden and Emkir visited the paymaster's office and now had all the money they were due.  As they planned to return to the main port, Emkir got directions to the base thrift and pawn shop.  There, they found the store was well stocked with gear and possessions from those who'd been reassigned and didn't want to pay to bring with them.  What Emkir was hoping was that someone who'd cycled into Rhylanor had "traded up" and dumped a good vacc suit for a new high-tech one locally.  As they looked, Emkir found a TL D non-tailored Vacc suit with a B24 PLSS system, allowing the wearer to survive a full day without recharging, which cost Cr 10,000.  Not wasting any time, Emkir went right to the check-out counter before someone could grab the suit from him.

As he was doing that, Aiden found a "holo-Book" that was obviously bought from the "Worlds of the Spinward Marches" attraction.  It holographically projected the same data one could find by visiting the attraction.  Aiden found it of interest and grabbed it for Cr 100.  As he looked more, Aiden found a decent 'average style' suit for Cr 50 and, when he tried it on, it fit very nicely.  As he was spending the half-hour suit hunting, Emkir and a store clerk stepped through function checking the vacc suit systems, just to be sure.  When Aiden came around to a display of hand guns, one of the weapons caught his eye.  Checking it out a bit closer, he saw it was a platinum semi-automatic 9mm pistol with 25 round magazine.

Aiden spent a few minutes lusting at it before looking at the price tag and almost fainting.  The cost was Cr 25,000!  That shocker made the slight pain of parting that much easier to bear.  Aiden did wonder how the watch would compare to the weapon, and regretted he didn't have it to sell there regardless.  After they'd both paid up and checked out, they went back to the small craft bay and Emkir asked Aiden if he'd fly back so Emkir could start charging his new suit right away.  Aiden agreed, as this was a cake walk mostly be done using automated beacons, and they ended up back at the ship just after lunch time.

A Visit To The Port

     From the ship, Ms. Vik called a port car so she and Rol could get to station offices.  The trip cost Cr 10, and they were quickly delivered to the admin section of the offices.  As they rode, they discussed events and made sure they had their talking points set in mind.  They also discussed the night before, with Emkir and Aali.  Inger recommended the laser tag game they played.  They arrived and their reception made it clear the interviews wouldn't be tough at all, as the offices appeared to be on 'visiting dignitary' protocol.  Ms. Vik saw many off-shift staff filling in normally spare or "emergency only" stations in order to be present.  She could understand this, as the fates of most of the workers had been directly in the hands of the military during the war.  Especially when the Zhodani 40th fleet had arrived.  Still, she had never really considered Rol that way, given the make up of the entire crew.  For Ms. Vik, this turned into a chance to unintentionally wrap herself in Rol's glory as she introduced 'her crew mate'.

Among the other perks they got, Rol was given a pair of SPA Bar cards amidst the greetings.  Rol did his best to take things with a good grace he was not raised to.  Eventually, things settled down and they explained their needs for information.  The first questions were about how the incident with Admiral Uuela came about, from Rol's point of view.  Rol took care to describe things point by point from his understanding.  They then asked when Rol realized things had moved in the direction they did, and he said he only realized it when the APC's showed up.  When asked about that, Rol explained his discomfort with the event and how Emkir had agreed with Uuela's desire to secure the ship's bay.  When it was asked if Admiral Meshrumikiim shared in some of the decision making, Rol made it clear Admiral Uuela had been firmly driving events and in control.

They spent some time reviewing and re-covering the events, so they could set the facts in place.  This data was added to the already significant records the station had on the events.  After a full review, Executive Director Shashduur Ukamugigis allowed his staff to direct things as he worked with some of his immediate staff on a final review of the details before taking control of the meeting again.  Addressing Rol, and then Ms. Vik, the Director said the facts seemed to be stacking up nicely thanks to the wealth of information.  He pointed out that they had suggested the Hotel California would be fined at the time, which seemed unavoidable.  As the tension built, and Inger waited for the book to be dropped, the tone of the Director's comments changed and they realized the ship was not going to be held responsible at all.

They were told that the data make it fairly clear this event appeared to be the result of Admiral Uuela's actions.  So the port would seek compensation with the Imperial Navy, with no legal actions against the ship.  When they heard this, Rol was glad and Ms. Vik relaxed significantly, given how the events reflected on her and her connections with the port.  After that, which took about an hour, they apologetically explained to Rol that the SPA now had some business to complete with Ms. Vik.  They invited Rol to have lunch and take a tour of station offices, and pointed out there were many willing and eager guides available.  Inger asked how long this would take and Director Ukamugigis said he expected it would not take more than half an hour.  Before leaving, Rol did his best to make Director Ukamugigis aware of how valued he found Ms. Vik's assistance and work as a crew member.  Inger quietly thought to herself, 'Aww Shucks'.

Rol moved off with a small entourage and Ukamugigis and his staff had food brought in and pulled out a completely different set of flimsies before again settling in for questions and answers.  As with the Scouts, they started in with the mission to the Equus and followed up with the rescue of the Enlightened Measure.  While covering the Equus, they dug into the Knight's claim they'd been kidnapped onto the ship and discussed the various insights they had as port administration.  They agreed it was not their place to get involved in an investigation Ms. Vik made it clear was started after the kidnappings were reported in the Regina system.  And that was the perfect bridge from the Equus affair and rescue of the Measure, as it set the stage for what would follow.  The questions covered the incident becoming an armed standoff, any data on the injured and their treatment and how things ended up with their ship landing in Stepozhevici territory?

As the questions flowed, Ms. Vik switched into a cross between 'reporting mode' and 'press conference mode', parsing those small items that could "cause issues".  With the basics were covered, they went back over the events in what detail they could and finished up on that subject.  That led to the Dawnstar Horizon cutting out for deep space under a Stepozhevici contract.  Questions on this included why she'd even consider working for a nation regarded so badly by the Imperial community?  Of course, Inger knew any answers given could lead to the wreck they were seeking and investigations into the name of the ship.  So Ms. Vik started answering as generally as she could, which was noticed by Director Ukamugigis and his staff.  In a game of expanding distances, they tried to close in on details, and were forced to be more general as Ms. Vik's answers became so.  It was a game he had played as well as she had with the media.

Finally, they realized they were only going to get so much general data, despite being assured the issue had been completely reported to both Duke Norris' staff and Duke Leonard's.  It was ultimately a game they were all familiar with, though on a friendlier playing field.  When the interview came to an end, as with Aiden and Emkir, they acknowledged that Ms. Vik had been reinstated as an SPA employee for the mission.  And as with the others, her not returning prevented them paying her for the work performed.  Of course, her pay was on a significantly higher scale than the others and Ms. Vik received Cr 30,000!  The entire process eventually took an hour's time, and it was nearing 1pm.  On his tour, and having been treated to lunch, Rol realized time was getting short and he had an appointment with the Duke's legal team.  When one of his entourage saw his concern and asked, he was told they could call a car and have him brought where he needed to go.  Admitting he had an appointment, a car was called and Rol was sent off with thanks for visiting the offices and invitations to return.  They promised to let Ms. Vik know he'd moved on to his next appointment.

After finishing the official business, Ms. Vik had been told Rol had to leave to make his appointment and asked what they thought of Rol?  They were very thankful for her bringing him in.  Getting an idea, Ms. Vik asked them to hold on and called Rol, who was on his way to the Duke's office, to ask if he'd consider participating in a reception for the people of the starport?  Rol asked if she was asking him to do this and she said she was if he was willing.  He agreed and Inger told Director Ukamugigis Rol would be open to attending a reception for him after his elevation, if they wanted to hold one?  While this would obviously be a "celebration of the guest of honor" type event, it would allow more SPA employees to experience Rol's visit.  Director Ukamugigis was pleased with the offer and they talked about 'when' they might hold the reception.  Inger made it clear the crew had no plans other than what they were doing to promote the confirmation of the Knight's titles.

They agreed it would be best for the port to work through her, and with Rol, to figure out when to hold the reception.  After hanging out a bit, the SPA workers needed to get back to their jobs and Ms. Vik returned to the berth.  On the way, she wondered if Emkir had a chance to look at the data from the bids?  Riding back in a port car, she called him and got his very happy greeting as he answered.  Inger said she was heading back to the berth from the SPA and had some time to look at the data, if he hadn't had the time.  Emkir said he had not been able to really look at the data and started gushing about setting up his new vacc suit.  When Ms. Vik asked if he wanted her to look at it, he told her he had the data pad with him and was on the cutter heading back to the ship.  They compared notes and found they'd be back at the berth at about the same time.

Mikah Signs A Contract And Gathers Information

     Finally done with her official calls, Mikah called Countess Ursara and said she was coming over to deal with the contracts.  Ursara agreed and Mikah called a port cab, paying Cr 10 for the ride.  Sitting with the Countess, they covered estimates and fees, and Mikah eventually decided to offer Ursara a very generous 10% of the sale on her gemstones.  Ursara was very gracious, and called for a vehicle to bring them in-station to a lawyer's office to formalize the numbers.  As they rode to the lawyer's office, Mikah told Ursara about Aiden's watch and Ursara asked if there were any pictures?  Mikah said Aiden didn't have the watch handy to take pictures of before she left.  When Ursara asked if her crewman was available "now", Mikah said he had been called to visit the system's Scout base.  Ursara found herself constantly re-evaluating the entire crew the Knights were with as Mikah explained this.

First, she'd found one crew man was an interstellar Hero and infamous figure.  And their administrative assistant was a full Executive Director of the SPA.  Now the man they called their pilot could have a significant item of jewelry, if Mikah's description did it any justice.  Ursara simply asked if someone in their crew had done something else to trigger an official response?  Mikah only laughed and said this was old business and the man had served in the Scouts.  Ursara took that with a nod and commented again on the exciting life the Knights led.  Hoping to change the topic, Mikah asked if Ursara caught the news the night before, and said she was certain Ursara's seneschal made her aware of events.  Knowing Mikah was talking about the announcement Duke Leonard would be attending Baron Mathew's birthday party, Ursara was very quick to thank Mikah, even as the Knight explained why she could not just come out and say it.

At the lawyer's office, the paperwork was drawn up, with Ursara getting ten percent of the profits, as a technician scanned the gemstones.  The official measurements were recorded in the document and the signatures applied.  After finishing the paperwork, they returned to the Gypsy Girl discussing the coming auction.  Ursara hoped the Tellona Diamond would draw in big spenders to raise the bids on all the lots.  Mikah learned Ursara was contracting with an auction house she'd dealt with before.  She also learned that, as a courtesy for past and future business, the house was taking only 20% of the raw sales instead of 25%.  Remembering, Mikah asked if Ursara wanted to sell the data she had on the Jae Tellona nomads and it was Ursara's turn to rely on Mikah's knowledge.  First, the Countess asked what Mikah thought it was worth?  Mikah said they were still waiting for offer amounts on their data.  Mikah did say she could let the academics know about the additional data if Ursara could tell her more about it?

Ursara was willing, and explained that she hired a web of people across all the cities on Jae Tellona to dig up and keep track of any data they could on the movements of the nomads.  From that level, they worked together to find patterns and any other information they could figure was likely true.  This included trade occasions, tracked movement patterns, etc.  Before Mikah could ask, Ursara admitted that they could have been dealing with others beyond her control once she set up the network, so she couldn't verify the data was exclusive.  But she could say no one else had acted on it before their abortive trade mission to her knowledge, or after.  So she quantified the information as, including a good predictor of where the tribes would be at any given time, as well as where they might have their trade meetings.

Ursara did say the one site they used may have been burned, and the nomads may never return to it again as tainted.  But she speculated that the sites may hold some significance forcing them to be used, despite outsiders having visited one. Ursara speculated that the sensor thing could keep people from tracking them "if the nomads were aware of it.  But the data made it possible to let others watch from an orbital eye.  And since the nomads wouldn't know they were observed, they wouldn't avoid that observation unless tracking was lost when they reacted to something on the ground.  As for the depth of the data, she said she'd run her network for years.  As they arrived at the Countess' ship, Mikah thanked Ursara and told the Countess she'd call the Doctor at Rhylanor University and tell him about the data.  After returning, the two women had lunch as Mikah asked about mineral tourism things to do on-station?

Ursara said there were a great many things to see from a gemstone or mineralogical point of view.  She admitted she'd seen them all 'to death', but recommended a number of them since this was Mikah's first time in-system as a tourist.  Mikah got a list of Ursara's favorites off the top of her head as the Countess also asked if she should call a port car for the Knight?  Mikah thanked her, saying she had a contact for transport, and said her good byes.  Off the ship, Mikah sparked up her comms and called her favorite taxi driving IRIS agent.  After the cab arrived and the agent realized it was just Mikah, he let her ride 'up front'.  In the cab, and headed for one of Ursara's recommended museums, Mikah asked what he knew about Duchess Delphine, as she'd be heading to Mora eventually.  The agent made it clear Duchess Delphine was not part of his office's mandate, so they didn't have data on her.

Changing directions, Mikah asked what he'd heard about Rol?  The agent said that none of the current events would have happened if Rol had not arrived in-system.  It was just a case of bad timing.  Mikah agreed, saying off handedly that he was getting a knighthood out of it.  As they talked about the knighting, the agent speculated that Duke Leonard was knighting Rol because he felt he had to.  He explained that, with all the negative coverage of Sir Jeremy's book and Rol's presence, the Duke had to protect the perception and public view of the Imperial Military, as well as those awarded the Imperial Starburst.  So he felt the title was simply transactional, to force a change in the media coverage.  He guessed the Duke would use that to change the prevailing public opinion.  The agent did make it clear he felt Major Kaihvos had earned the honor, and said there were others who'd been knighted for much less.

Changing topics, Mikah asked about the coverage of the Risek system, and the fact that local authorities were denying the event was a terror attack?  The agent admitted that, while his office was not working that issue, he had been 'educated' on it, due to his work with the Knights.  He pointed out that the reaction by Rhylanor Authorities was economic.  He said they were trying to keep fear and panic from spreading, so the governments didn't have to spend money and resources responding to that.  He made a guess about how much the local government and Duke were spending in Rhylanor already, because of the details her crew revealed in Jae Tellona.  He could detail a number of costs as well as lost time, which could be spent on other issues.  He then pointed out these costs were minor because the campaign to keep the public happy had largely been successful.  That and the fact they didn't need pay deeper costs since the crisis had been resolved.  He gave her a meaningful look saying, "You should know that more than anyone."

When Mikah asked about Gergo Sipos and the lost toe, the look on the agent's face showed he had no idea what she was talking about.  Mikah waved it away and switched to asking about Lord William.  When the agent asked "As far as?" she asked why he was as plugged-in as he was?  The agent just said "the guy must love information", pointing out he was an academic.  Eventually, they arrived at the exposition entry and Mikah paid Cr 20 before getting out.  After paying a Cr 15 fee for the museum, Mikah came to a room where the collection was described as a high-level overview.  Rhylanor, as an important regional capital and location, received and had organizations gather many samples from all over local and not so local space.  In addition, they benefitted from collections shared by the authorities in neighboring sectors.  The regional collections were explained, along with some specific highlights and general trends.  The layout of galleries was explained and Mikah could decide where she wanted to commit her time before returning to the berth for dinner.

Brian's Visit To the Salvager Station

     When the shuttle arrived at the salvager platform, Brian disembarked and said he was there to see Talan Salagon.  He was directed to a waiting area while they paged Salagon into the office.  Eventually the guy came in, saying he was leading a team that was cutting some systems from a wreck.  After the introductions were done, Salagon took Brian on the nickle tour.  As he was shown around, Brian was impressed with the variety of ships and systems they had available.  Not only did he show Brian around the station itself, but led him through a hall of monitors displaying many of the ships they had 'orbiting' the station, attached to mooring 'droids.

The classes of vessels ranged from merchanters of many sizes, to armed freighters and yachts.  Some were larger than they could accommodate in their work bays.  He saw a few ships labeled as armored yachts, which Brian was certain once served as corsairs or other raiders.  While they walked, Brian mentioned that he needed a fuel purification plant, in addition to the 'droid.  That made Salagon more comfortable, explaining why Brian came all the way out there?  With Salagon relaxed, Brian also decided to ease into another line of conversation, making sure no one else was close enough to overhear.  Salagon asked about their current ship's systems and the purification plant.  Brian said a 'previous owner' had installed a safe, for smuggling, inside the plant machinery, which made it useless.

The safe was large enough to transport 'less than one ton' of contraband, and would still be usable if they had not cut the door off of it when they discovered it was there.  The conversation evolved and Brian edged it into asking how would one repair or replace the purification plant and build in such spaces if they wanted to?  Salagon was no slouch when it came to hidden compartments, and he explained a number of options once he learned they had a Stingray class yacht.  The bad news was that, as Brian expected, all those methods cost them some other kind of space with the least disruptive costing cargo space.  Salagon also commented on a number of issues that could cause which might get the attention of customs inspectors.  That was a bad enough idea that Brian figured it was too much effort for too little reward, and much too much risk.

As they finished the walk and talk, Brian had gotten a much better handle on their options for "hidden and secure bays" and shipboard security while also getting an appreciation for what the salvagers had to offer.  On the other hand, Salagon had a better idea how he could help Brian.  Since Brian wanted to either do the work personally or supervise and use his own engineering staff, Salagon was sure he could both sell the ship a unit and rent a bay.  So there would be profit in it.  It was not until they got back to the office that he sprung it on Brian that they had a 250 ton Stingray class yacht in their fleet of recovered craft!  When he did spill the beans on that, Salagon said it had been recovered after colliding with an in-system work craft nose on.

As a result, the only survivors were hired engineers and a gunner.  Since the ship's owners had died in the crash, and were judged 'at fault', Salagon's people ended up with salvage rights after responding to the scene first.  When he pulled up the specs on the wreck, Brian could see that the damage to the ship was isolated to the bridge and avionics with some hull damage.  This also affected internal support systems and internal fittings in the area of the collision.  To put Brian off suggesting they got the ship free and could sell the parts at a steep discount, Salagon pointed out how little cost they had to put into it in order to sell it as a "completely restored and operational" vessel.  When Brian asked, they found there was a working purification plant on board.  As soon as he saw this, Brian said "I want it." and Salagon answered that he could have it for MCr 1.5.

Confused at the price, Brian asked, "Are you offering me the whole ship for 1.5?  Or are you offering me just the plant?"  When Salagon said they had the plant listed at MCr 1.5, Brian muttered, "In what universe?"  With that, the haggling began, and Brian managed to get him down to a million Credits even.  Brian tried to do better, but couldn't get the man to budge from that price.  There was a pause before Brian said he was going to have to talk to his crew.  Salagon said he should look at the 'droids they had while he was considering the deal.  After Brian agreed to that, they made their way to the space where the salvagers stored the 'droids.  On the way, they passed through a literal pawn shop of goods stripped from the recovered vessels brought in.  When the Knight asked, Salagon explained that they strip every ship of possessions still aboard when it's brought in.  For example, the Stingray they recovered had the possessions of all the dead still on board.  The last was said with a smirk.

Brian was increasingly impressed with the scope of the operation and said so.  Eventually they reached a line of over one hundred 'droids that Salagon said may or may not be operational.  He certainly said they had not really investigated the units to test their functions.  As he was looking over the line of 'droids, Brian worked on how to get the purification plant deal done.  Suddenly it hit him that they had eleven tons of machine parts in their hold, brand new.  He thought that brand new parts had to be worth more than something to a salvage yard with a widely expanded line of merchandise.  So he offered the cargo and Salagon asked if he had the details on the parts available?  Brian said he only needed to call the ship and have a crew member check the bins.

When Brian called the ship, he got Zach and asked for a manifest of the machine parts they had in cargo?  Zach checked the lading records and copied the file out on the same frequency to Brian's comms.  He also gave Brian an estimate of the base value for the parts, which could go for anywhere between KCr 450 and just over MCr 1 on a very good day.  So selling that for a very good price alone could pay for the plant.  When Brian heard this, he was real happy, as that could cover the bill on the plant outright!  Zach had to calm him down and explain that would be the sales price only if the buyer were wealthy, desperate for the parts and everything else went their way.  So he cautioned Brian not to count on it.

Once Brian got the details, Zach's words landed hard.  Salagon was sure his boss would be interested, but he was not interested in paying top credit for them.  As Brian started talking the deal up, he realized this was a salvage business.  While they loved selling new items when they could, they had to buy them at low rates to make their profit.  So the price that 'could be paid' by that 'wealthy, desperate for the parts' buyer where everything went their way was not going to happen here.  As they haggled, with Zach on the line, the merchant offered Salagon a deal to sell them all the parts for KCr 650.  As they went back and forth, Salagon settled on an offer of KCr 450 for the lot.

Brian was not happy, as that was nowhere near how much Zach suggested they could go for.  But he realized that got them almost halfway to the price of the plant outright.  Hoping to come at the situation from a different angle, Brian explained the deal on the plant to Zach, under the excuse of making sure he knew the numbers.  Once Zach was up to speed on what Salagon was offering, and the MCr 1 price tag on the plant, they started the serious negotiations.  Zach brought into the deal the remaining parts of the existing plant, as additional salvage, to sweeten the deal while saying they definitely wanted the plant Salagon had.  As Zach got up to steam, he knocked Salagon's price down on the plant to KCr 800!  With the deal for the cargo alone, they were now over halfway to paying for the system.

As they continued talking, and based on Brian's professional description of the existing plant remains, Salagon offered KCr 350.  They were now within KCr 50 for the plant itself, before considering the cost of a rented bay with service tools to do the work.  Seeing how close they were, Zach asked Salagon for a few minutes to contact their captain?  Salagon offered to buy the cargo then, as agreed, and hold the rest of the deal for the month they said they would be in port.  That would give them time to talk to their captain.  He also said that if the deal fell through, he'd still want the remains of their purification plant for KCr 350.  When they cut the line, everyone was happy about the deal, though they had not talked about the costs to rent a work bay on the station to do the work, much less any help they might need.  But Zach was looking forward to negotiating the price of renting the repair bay.

Afternoon Activities

     When Rol arrived at the Duke's Seneschalate offices on-station, it took him some time to find the right offices.  Once he was sitting with legal advisors and a lawyer, Rol explained his concerns.  He had no issues proceeding with a civil suit against the man who attacked him, or even the Jesediperii delegation.  But, if he allowed the inclusion of the Aramis Subsector government in the suit, he was worried that it effectively included Duke Leonard.  They first went over the details, before relaxing and explaining things with a smile.  While they said it might appear he was suing the Duke, there were mega-credits of lawsuits every year in which the Duke might appear to be suing himself by the same logic.  By that same token, they advised Rol he would have to be prepared to address that perception in the media, if it were spun as "suing the Duke".

Beyond that, they confirmed that it appeared Rol had a valid civil case.  They agreed that they would pursue it if a client brought it to them.  When Rol asked about damaging relationships, they confirmed there wouldn't be any issues from the Duke's office.  They admitted it might worsen things with Jesediperii representatives, and the system in general, but said that ship had jumped already, and wouldn't be resolved any time soon.  As for the Aramis Subsector government, there were people who lived there suing the government regularly each year.  In the end, the advice was to proceed, and Rol thanked them for the perspective.  Once he's left the offices, he paid Cr 20 for a port taxi back to the berth for lunch.

By mid-afternoon, Aali was told the engineers had found some of the jump capacitor connectors were failing.  These items were key components, as a failure would cut power from the capacitors to the jump grid and collapse the jump field!  They estimated the existing units could last a number of jumps but could fail very soon.  Replacement of the units would likely cost several thousand credits, so Aali sparked up her comms to call Dame Mikah.  When her comms buzzed, Mikah had left Countess Ursara and was checking out a gemstone display.  She was surprised to be hearing from Aali, who asked permission for the repairs, saying they only had the engineers for the next day.  Aali said it would be good to have help replacing the connectors.

Mikah said Aali should get Zach involved as he had access to the ship's funds.  Once done with Mikah, Aali talked with Zach and they did a search for a likely supplier at a good, or average, price and ordered the connectors.  When asked for payment, they gave the ship's station account and the bill came to Cr 2,500, with delivery by close of business.  After they were done ordering, Zach suggested they should get some spares for the future.  Aali agreed to talk to Mikah later on that.

Brian Finishes Up

     On the salvage station, Brian tried to ease Salagon into talking about the illicit side of the business, hoping he might need a courier, or might have some other sort of money-making opportunity out of it.  Despite their earlier talk on hidden cargo spaces the salvager was either not that high up on the company pay list or had nothing illicit to offer.  Salagon did offer something else, saying they could always use more engineers in their work.  This caught Brian by surprise, as it was not at all where he had been going.  But he considered the offer, realizing that, so long as the ship didn't need him, he 'could' spend a few days over the next month earning a spare check.  Still, he wanted more rewards so he got specific, saying he meant courier work.  For things needing to avoid regular customs checks.

Salagon smiled as he told Brian that, with ships all over space running recovery and salvage jobs, they pretty much had a built-in courier service for that kind of work.  Disappointed, Brian accepted and said he could certainly find some time to help them with engineering work.  Salagon said he could certainly offer Cr 500 a day to someone with Brian's background.  Brian said he'd look for time to help them, but would need to talk to his captain.  Salagon offered a gift in the spirit of their coming cooperation.  He pointed to the line of 'droids and told Brian he could have one of the dead units for free!  Brian asked if he could test the units before deciding and Salagon said, 'go for it.'  So Brian checked the line of 'droids for likely suspects before grabbing a service power conduit and a set of test gear.  He then tested units until deciding on a somewhat blasted mechanic 'droid that looked like it was classed for port support work.

When Brian asked the story behind it, Salagon said it was a 'droid they'd used in their own operations.  Salagon said it was programmed to interface with a light laser welder as well as mechanical and electronic tool packages.(it's skills were Engineering-3, Electronics-1 , Mechanical-1, Gravitics-1)  From what Brian knew, the Tukera 232-BHR-7 was interesting as a single-chassis robot that could work on two repair jobs at once if they were in the same area.  The Tukera 232-BHR-7 normally sold for KCr 101 new at TL C, with two light work arms and two light retractable work tentacles.  The unit's head covered 40% of the 'droid with 4 visual sensors, 2 audio sensors, a vocoder and two spotlights.  Also, where two sets of hands were needed for a job, the two sets of hands could cooperate.  It wasn't designed for heavy hull repairs or lifting, but for delicate work inside control consoles and smaller machinery.  Most importantly, while it had two treads for movement, it had a set of lock-down gravitic modules that should pin the unit in place.

When he asked Salagon what happened to the 'droid, the salvager explained that he wasn't on that detail, but heard they'd moved two of the units into place to separate out components and secondary items while heavy 'droids were cutting jump capacitors out of a hulk.  But the guy running the detail didn't check a capacitor, and his crew screwed up.  One capacitor was still fully charged and discharged catastrophically when one of the cutters opened it.  Brian confirmed that two of the three grav modules tested good for basic connectivity and response.  That didn't mean they worked any better than the 'droid he had, but it was free.  One of the tractor treads, and it's machinery, were gone along with the bottom corner off the third grav module.

The head showed significant damage and most of the sensors were likely dead while he could see the spotlight LED's were burned away.  Both light work arms were destroyed, with one still hanging off the unit, but the light work tentacles were still there.  It was another question if they worked, but they could be spares for the 'droid he had.  Most exciting, the internal systems boards 'seemed' intact, from what he could see.  So the brains and guts might be workable, and be great for spare parts or resale used and recovered.  There seemed at least KCr 20 in the unit as it sat there, burnt and crispy.  Brian found it interesting that the unit was priced at Cr 5,000!

Deciding to take that unit, Salagon loaned him a pair of light cargo grav-movers to push it along and they shook hands.  Then, Brian had something more to think about.  Soon, he was on the shuttle and returning to the port.  Once done speaking with Brian, Zach knew he had to find another KCr 50 to buy the plant and raise some money toward renting workspace with the proper equipment for what looked like it would be a fun negotiation session.  Of course, he also knew they needed to run this past Mikah as the ship's captain.  When he called her and announced they had a purification plant, she was suspicious and he admitted they needed KCr 50 more, along with trading the cargo in as well.

Discussing Business

     When Zach called Mikah about the purifier, his's tone suggested he considered being KCr 50 short a big catch.  Knowing that was well within her personal means, but not wanting to pay what she didn't have to, Mikah told Zach about the KCr 50 from Mister Ondallah and Duke Norris' office.  Zach was thrilled when she said they just needed to do the paperwork with the Duke's office.  After that, they talked about the likely costs of leasing a work bay with the equipment needed to do the work, and the possible need for engineering help.  Mikah said they should try to find the cash but, if it came to it, she could cover the costs when Zach estimated it would come to less than KCr 60 or KCr 70.  When Mikah asked if Zach felt they could negotiate the bay fees away, he says they likely couldn't.

Mikah asked why and Zach said he'd spoke to the salvager and got the guy to cut the prices already.  That meant he needed to make money on the package deal.  While he might be higher than needed on the bay costs when they came, he'd likely need to get most of that.  So they wouldn't likely be able to make that cost go away.  Mikah said she needed to call Norris' office to get the paperwork done, or see if they could get any more money.  Zach told her he was working on some trading deals and had made contacts the night before.  Mikah told Zach to let the others know about the deals when he could.  They broke the connection and Zach started preparing to head out for drinks with Erum Dalunica.  Before he left, Ms. Vik arrived back at the berth and Zach updated her.

Aiden and Emkir arrived soon after, and were updated too.  Of course, Emkir asked Aiden to secure the cutter so he could continue preparing his vacc suit.  And before Aiden was done with the cutter and Zach could update the Scouts, he slipped down to engineering, grabbed and groped Aali with a lick or two as he happily said, "We're going out tonight!"  Once they were all gathered in the ship's lounge, a call came into the berth's comms.  Zach answered to hear a gentleman ask who he was speaking with?  Zach responded in kind, asking who he was speaking with?  The man identified himself as a representative of 'Tow Star', a salvage company in-system.  He told Zach he had heard the Hotel California was doing business in the system.  When Zach said they were, the man said they had a special deal they'd like to speak to the ship's captain and crew about.  Zach said that some of the crew, including the captain, weren't available at the moment and asked why they were interested in the California?

Speaking as if the subject was a bit delicate, the caller said they handled a lot of business streams.  They had come to understand the crew developed information from the Jae Tellona system.  As a result, he said, "We'd like to charter the ship for a month's time."  Taking a breath before responding, Zach casually said he'd relay the message and information to their captain on her return, and they'd call him back if she wanted to.  The man thanked Zach, and gave his comms information.  After Zach got off the comms, he talked with the others and the subject of various rare and valuable items came up.  As Aali was still below decks with the engineers, they could talk freely, though they were still careful about what was said.  As they discussed the risk someone might recognize one of the items they had, Zach said they just needed to change the items into some other form to sell them.

When Ms. Vik brought up her jewel covered gown, and asked how someone changed the form of something like that, Zach pointed out that most of the value was in the gemstones.  Zach described the steps he'd take to contact someone in the underworld who might break the gown up into a pile of very valuable but unrelated gemstones and sell them.  As Inger nodded and considered the underworld contacts she had, the others considered their options.  Aiden considered his silver cutlass and jewel covered scabbard.  As they talked, they started seeing the options they hadn't see before.  They also learned that Zach had a much better collection of resources than many of them did.  While Ms. Vik admitted she had some contacts, she preferred to keep herself as clean as possible.

So she asked Zach to handle the gown, and a number of other items, for her.  When she started showing off some of the pretties she wanted to sell, they noticed a sky blue topaz stone cut into the form of a grav bike.  Several of the crew knew exactly what it was and explained it was a competition award for grav bike competing and the ribbons were easily traceable.  As Ms. Vik considered the items she wanted to sell, Zach realized he was going to be doing significant business just with her items.  These included a gemstone cross, a pair of significant sports awards, an engagement ring and the gown.  Ms. Vik told Zach he could have a 10% broker fee on whatever they got.

Mikah And Minister Ahkuariyo

     As she wandered through the displays after the call from Zach, Mikah called Minister Shwarii Ahkuariyo from Duke Leonard's office.  Once he was on the line, she said he told her to call back if there was anything he could help her with.  She jumped in by saying this was about their need for a fuel purification plant, and explained that they had found one they were financially very close to buying.  She then told him they had reached out to Duke Norris' office and been given KCr 50 towards the upgrade.  She reminded the minister that they were troubleshooters helping all authorities and asked if they could find any way to help the crew swing the last few hundred thousand?  She also said they were obviously willing to work for any assistance they could get.

At first, Ahkuariyo thought he'd heard all this before and his face showed it.  But soon, as he listened intently, it was apparent the crew had made a lot of progress in solving their own problem.  This alone was of note, and did a lot to change his thoughts, as they were no longer looking for others to do that.  At least in this case.  Ahkuariyo considered her words, after she said her piece, and then asked the jump capability of the ship?  When Mikah said that the California was jump three capable, he checked a data screen and asked her how long they planned to be in-port, and how much cargo space they had?  She said they would be there at least a month, and had fifteen tons cargo space.  He considered that and said they might be able to help.  But the ship and crew would have to help them.  Ahkuariyo then asked Mikah how much she knew about the Gerome system?  Mikah's first thought was, "Huh??"  But then she remembered Captain Diievard had said Duke Norris jumped to that system when he left Rhylanor.  She also remembered the captain saying they couldn't send messages after the Duke via Gerome as it was interdicted.

As she considered this, Mikah said she knew the system was interdicted by either the IISS or Imperial Navy.  Ahkuariyo nodded and said they sometimes needed to move cargos to that system, and usually used specially contracted ships for that purpose.  He said they may be able to have some of those cargos moved by the California, but the ship would have to be flight-available for those missions.  He also noted that, if the ship stayed longer than a month, it gave him more time to find cargoes for them to move.  Mikah realized that Ahkuariyo thought this was a problem, as it would take the ship off the commercial routes when they left for the Mora system.

Of course, the Knight knew she was planning to take a more direct route, and being able to pass through the Gerome system would help that.  When she said as much, Ahkuariyo pointed out that the worlds they'd have to transit getting to the Mora system would be less traveled.  So the ability to make money in those systems might be limited.  But Mikah knew the truth was possibly the opposite, as shippers and travellers might be desperate for a ship.  And there were often very lucritive jobs in such places for people who had a ship, if they could survive the dangers.  Mikah asked some questions for clarification and then told Ahkuariyo she'd discuss it with her crew.  She told him their systems tuning would be completed by the end of the next day.  Minister Ahkuariyo thanked her for considering his offer and they broke the comms link.  After the call, Mikah considered what she'd been told as she wandered the displays of gemstones.

Next: Ceremony, Celebration and Actions