A First Look At Numbers And Appointments      At lunch, conversations about the fuel purifier and selling contraband broke up at 2:30.  Aiden, who'd hoped to get specific ideas from Zach on using the black market, saw the merchant had gone to dress to meet his associates.  The sudden KCr 30 bonus Zach scored made an impact on Aiden's view of the Merchant.  But with Zach busy, he thought about his own options with his souvenirs from the Quasar Viper.  He'd told the Countess about the watch but not made any deal, so he could reach out to his own contacts.  But Aiden couldn't just comm someone and offer a deal out of the blue.  Aiden realized developing his contacts would take time.  On the other hand, it would be faster, and perhaps more profitable, with Zach's help.  After some thought, Aiden decided to work at becoming more of a navigator than an underworld wheeler-dealer.  With that decided, he went to the ship to train for a bit before dinner.
As Aiden left the table, Emkir sparked up his list of media offers and he and Ms. Vik started taking a serious look at the data.  With Zach leaving, the two found the data had been broken down into a number of specific lists, accessible from a "front end" application.  The initial list had the unrealistic offers.  Mostly overtures of millions of credits with no details or data other than "Call me".  They had "scam" oozing out of every character and image.  A second list had those offers valued less than two thirds of the others, or offering just goods or consideration, without money at all.  The non-cash offers were broken down into cash value estimates which were not "guaranteed accurate".  Between these and the unrealistically high offers were the bulk of the offers, broken down into four sub-lists by Emkir's initial request.
The first sub-list combined the contacts Zach developed, who had also appeared on the list the port had given Ms. Vik.  These ranged from the Global News Magazine at Cr 18,450 and Deneb Sector Corp at Cr 16,500 through organizations such as The Spinward Marches Data Feed Bureau, Investigative News Corporation of Rhylanor and Spinward Development Media Division to the IIS X-News Service at Cr 7,775.  The second sub-list were the contacts Zach developed, and included the 'high watermark' offers, with the Pelling Stationside News Corp (a major news services on the station) at Cr 19,025.  From there, the numbers dropped, with the ubiquitous TAS News Agency and down through the KCr 18's into the KCr 7's.  In addition to being the largest realistic offers, this list had TAS, which was the agency Emkir and Ms. Vik most trusted personally.
Checking the list from the port, they found it was short and sweet.  Only three organizations on that list made offers outside of TAS, and they were the Jump-News Independent Media Corp, at Cr 17,750, the Spacer's Marches Journal at Cr 17,000 and The Imperial Citizen, Inc, at Cr 15,450.  The value here was the trust port officials had in these organizations.  Finally, there was a list of organizations which offered similar amounts to those in the other lists but were not items on either Zach's or the port list.  But these organizations all came in between Cr 14,550 and Cr 9,175, which were significantly lower than the other listed offers.
As they discussed the offers, Inger said they might wanna bring Rol into the conversation.  Emkir said they would need to bring in both Rol and Zach.  Despite needing to do that later, he felt they could move forward with contacting some of the organizations on the list, to start moving forward.  As they talked about that, Ms. Vik said they should decide which media outlets to concentrate on first.  Emkir agreed and they discussed the value of trust over cash.  Eventually, they agreed the TAS News agencies in-system were their "preferred" outlet.  With that decided, Emkir suggested they call the Duke's office, to see if they could get some legal support?  Ms. Vik told him Rol was at an afternoon appointment with some of the Duke's lawyers while they were talking.
Considering that, they decided to ask Rol about the lawyers when he got back.  So they continued checking out the numbers until nearly 3:30, when the retired Marine returned to the berth.  Asking his opinion, Emkir and Ms. Vik said they favored the port list, for reasons of trust, and suggested the TAS News agencies was their choice.  Emkir again suggested a "primary interview" as well as "supplementary" ones, but Rol pointed out they had advertised one exclusive.  Agreeing they were bound by that, the two decided it was best not to try and change things at that point.  Talking more about the offers, Rol agreed that TAS was probably the best place to start with, even if they called other contacts to be sure they didn't put all their hopes on one bet.
After agreeing on that, Emkir asked if they'd be able to use of Duke Leonard's lawyers and Rol said he was uncomfortable asking them any more than needed.  When Emkir suggested Zach be their lawyer, he was reminded the merchant's ability to represent anyone was currently suspended in-system.  Emkir pushed, saying they needed someone, and Rol said he could ask the Duke's people about support on this, but he was clearly not happy about doing that.  Ms. Vik stepped in, suggesting it wouldn't hurt, as Rol's impending knighthood might have created an interest.  She also said she could reach out to the port, asking for professional courtesy?  But, she reminded them, they'd already technically retained Countess Ursara's lawyers.  When they agreed on that, it settled that issue.  Emkir then called the TAS contact number, to begin setting up a meeting and moving towards finalizing an offer.
The person who answered the comms, audio only, identified herself as a 'news desk editor', which likely meant a jumped-up title for an administrative assistant.  Emkir said he was calling in regards to an 'item number', reading that code from the TAS offer data.  The border-line bored assistant suddenly got very excited as she checked the item number, and realized how important the call was.  She said, "One second please" and, from the sound of it, apparently started fumbling as she rushed through some steps off-comms.  Once the call was transferred, the video came alive too, and Emkir found himself talking to an obviously polished contact in a "modern" styled suit with tech embellishments.  As the screen resolved, it was clear to Emkir this guy was updated on who was calling and why.  The representative smoothly greeted the Admiral and confirmed Major Kaihvos was interested in TAS' offer.  Emkir said they wanted to set up an appointment where he and the Major's legal representative could discuss the details and start working out an agreement.
The TAS rep was all smiles, and relaxed as he asked Emkir when best time was for the Admiral and his team?  The byplay showed he had memorized pictures of the crew and knew who he was talking to.  When Emkir suggested the next day at 1pm, the representative was pleased and confirmed the time before asking if Major Kaihvos would be present?  Emkir said he would not be present for the first contact, without saying this would conflict with the knighting ceremony.  After a half hour's conversation, it was decided TAS would send a non-descript car for Emkir.  Emkir was assured it would use an alternative entrance to the TAS facility, to not spill any beans or increase the media circus.  After that, Emkir called the Countess' legal firm and explained the current state of the project, asking if they could have someone available to help negotiate with TAS for Rol's services?  The partner Emkir spoke to was only too glad to help.  He said that, for their regular fee, they could have one of their Media attorneys join in.  When Emkir asked, the regular fee was Cr 5,000 up front and a percentage of the contract once it was agreed on!
This surprised Emkir, who wondered if the lawyer might cost more than the payment for the interview?  Emkir pushed back, to see if the firm would be satisfied with just a percentage of the agreed on payment?  After some negotiations, the partner said they normally represented long term media contracts, with a number of performances or other services over time.  This "one-shot" changed the up-front costs to that of a consultation fee.  This was only Cr 1,500, with a "slice of the contract" added once that was agreed.  Emkir agreed that was what they wanted and the partner agreed to have a lawyer meet Emkir at the TAS offices.  Done with the call, Emkir explained the decisions to Rol and asked Ms. Vik and Aiden if they wanted to join him at TAS?  Inger politely said she'd be at the knighting Ceremony.  Aiden wondered what role he'd be expected to play if he attended, and why someone would need him there?  Rol thanked Emkir and went to work out a bit.  Emkir and Aiden decided to join him.  In the berth, Rol, Aiden and Emkir spent an hour working at aggressor-defender exercises, followed by some exercise, before showering and preparing for dinner.Drinks With Erum
After cleaning up and putting on a suit, Zach called a port car and spent Cr 15 getting to the bar where he was to meet Erum.  The other trader greeted him warmly, with a traditional Vilani bow, before they sat and Zach winced as the ordering started.  This was because of the "other" Vilani tradition in such meetings.  When one merchant scored big, it was expected that they pay for the first round of drinks, and Erum ordered Cr 100 drinks for each of them!  As they waited for the drinks to come, Zach looked around and saw the bar was a traditional a Vilani location.  The lights were dimmed and the seating tended to be in small alcove-like booths rather than the open floor plans preferred by the Solomani.  When the drinks arrived, Erum proposed a toast to Zach's recent success.  While they sipped drinks and talked, Erum explained why he kicked the deal to Zach.  He said he usually had ships available to him, but figured sharing with Zach would widen his circle of influence.  In the end, he won with a recommendation that worked out for Zach, as well as by adding links.  Sadly, both the men knew that deals that easy really were very rare.  Zach knew Erum didn't need to hand this off to him.  While Erum didn't get close to saying so, Zach knew he was into the man for a fairly big favor.
As talk moved on, Erum asked what Zach was into at the moment?  Hard up for an answer, Zach started off slowly, eventually moving to the cargo of machine parts they'd not yet sold to the salvage yard.  As he spoke, Zach knew he was on shaky ground, given the deal for the purification plant.  But Erum was hooked, and asked for details on the cargo while Zach hoped it would work out.  As he told Erum about the parts, and pulled the details on the parts up on his hand comp, Zack made it clear.  Whatever deal was worked out, he needed to get the ship its purification plant.  Once he had a good handle on the cargo, Erum asked Zach what he had done to move the parts, other than talking to the salvage yard?  Zach admitted he hadn't had the time to try anything else and Erum said Zach really needed some help to get a proper deal done.  As Zach said he could use the help, the talk shifted to the percentage Zach felt he could offer to get the job done right?  Zach was not surprised it came down to "what's my cut?"
While the math in Zach's head was complex, he knew he needed to lay the whole deal out so Erum understood it.  Because the salvager wanted the parts, a sale elsewhere might change the deal with them and even cost him the Cr 200,000 the man cut from the price of the plant with his good will.  So if this deal was going to get made, Erum was told he'd get above the standard five percent.  But he also told Erum the commission added weight to a deal that had to end with the ship not only getting the plant but being able to afford the rest.  That would be the repair bay, additional parts and services as well as possible engineers.  So Erum knew, in no uncertain terms, that this needed to be a jackpot or it wasn't going to happen.  Zach was pleased when the challenge didn't seem to bother Erum.
Once done discussing that deal, Erum asked what else Zach had been working on and Zach admitted this was his only deal at the moment.  In the back of his brain, Zach was concerned that he didn't know how Erum was tied into the underworld.  He wanted to know more about that before he risked bringing the man into the contraband from the Quasar Viper.  As a result, he complained about lack of time and his issues with the government and insurance corporations.  Surprised, Erum said he thought Zach was in good with them.  Zach admitted he was in good with some members of the government, but lingering questions from the misjump had his credentials tied up.
As the talk turned to his misadventures, and what little Erum had heard of them, the trader asked Zach what lawyers he was working with?  Zach said he was working with Brigg, Tander and hault-Vineschenz.  He kept quiet on the connection to Countess Ursara, to keep from making his web seem more exploitable.  As he listened to Zach talk, Erum said the trader seemed to be caught between worlds of pleasure and hurt.  Zach agreed that the coin was still in the air and Erum commented on how interesting it will be to see the coin land.  When Zach said it "was hopefully a lucky penny", Erum agreed, so long as it was not raining coins.  Zach groaned at the play on the name of his lost cargo hopper.
While they talked, Erum tried to find out what was eating much of Zach's time, since he claimed not to be working on any deals.  Zach fell back on helping to set up Rol's interview.  But Zach was also quick to mention that others were working with him on this.  Erum didn't take offence at having that door slammed just as it appeared in front of him.  Trying to stir things up, Erum said he had a number of items in the works, to see how much interest he could get from Zach?  As Zach responded, Erum pulled out a big card as he said he and some associates were working on organizing a speculative expedition to District 268, aboard an 18,000 ton Leviathan class Merchant cruiser!
Of course, Zach could read Erum's road map much better once the man mentioned District 268.  The stationer continued, discussing how he and his associates were building funds to fill the ship with goods from the Imperial core.  Erum described their hopes for trip, which could proceed riftward from the Spinward Marches to the Trojan Reaches sector, the Florian League, Grand Empire and a large number of independent worlds.  And then, making his move, Erum talked of assembling a trading team and invited Zach to join up.  Thanks to his past travels, Zach had a fair understanding of the politics and dangers of that region.  So he would not have been interested, even if he was not connected to the Knights, despite the opportunities.  Still, Zach wasn't above taking advantage of the situation as he used what he'd learned about the region while working for Open Skies.
Zach had largely worked rimward routes, and wasn't closer than five parsecs from legitimate parts of District 268.  But he'd learned of the politics and had been close enough to both the Mewey claimed worlds and the militarized affect around the Singer System.  Despite this past, Zach's most recent experiences were three years old, and not useful for anything except mining for information.  So Zach bent his actions to learning from Erum about what he knew? Zach learned that, after the war, Imperial agencies had been reaching out from the Mertactor system, to extend more power as directed by the Duchess of Glisten.  She was responsible for leading the development effort for the region.  When Zach said they had to be aware of potential corsairs, Erum described their work raising money for weapons, and the permits for them, from the Imperial Navy.
The end of that conversation brought the drinks to an end, and Erum said he was leaving to meet some others for dinner.  As he said so, he invited Zach to join along.  after Zach accepted, they moved on to the restaurant, which was also very Vilani in decor and atmosphere.  When Zach was introduced, he found the people they were meeting had been largely members of Erum's trading circle.  He also found they had heard a lot of news about Zach and his crew, but knew little fact.  So they were hungry for real data.  They were also very curious who Zach was connected to, as Erum seemed to have kept it quiet just how Zach had swung the LSP deal.  So Zach represented a potentially valuable, and even powerful, contact with possibly valuable patrons in his portfolio.  Of course, this not only magnified their view of Zach, but also did so for Erum himself.  Realizing this boxed him in a bit, Zach did his best to play everything close to the chest while alluding to his connections.
As the meal proceeded, Zach was asked a few times about joining the speculative trade run and politely said "No".  He made it clear he was happy where he was.  Of course, that covered the belief he could not leave the Knights, thanks to his involvement in their covert work.  And that was the other part of the meal, as the traders and merchants were hungry for any information 'from the source' on his crew.  Zach enjoyed dropping small bits of information where it would be harmless.  He confirmed that Rol was not only the ship's cook but a very good one at that.  Zach also allowed that Rol might also be the ship's internal security, and was eventually asked how many people Rol had killed since joining Zach's crew?
Of course, Zach stepped on that, though he did eventually claim Rol hadn't killed anyone since he'd met the Major.  In order to move the conversation in a 'Not Rol's a Killer' direction, Zach started describing some of the Vilani dishes Rol had cooked for the crew.  Being a cook himself, Zach could easily describe the dishes in detail.  Of course, those at the party had issues justifying what they were hearing from the media version of Rol from what Zach could tell.  So Zach didn't over play the theme, getting off it as soon as it was clear he had changed the direction of conversation.Ms. Vik Plays Tourist
Done with Emkir, Ms. Vik called a port car and to go to a concourse to sight-see.  Checking descriptions of various sectors of the station while also looking up cab call data, Inger chose a module noted for its artsy culture.  The ride cost her Cr 30, and she found herself in a section of habitation and merchant concourses with decidedly more decoration and culture than the brisk business environment of the docks.  As she wandered, Inger found she'd become used to the apparently significant police presence everywhere on-station.  In the nooks and alcoves of the concourses, there were many "street bands" jamming for passersby.  She saw many kitschy shops, craft venues and artists selling their work.  From time to time, as she walked, Ms. Vik found store fronts converted into small personal museums or galleries by small groups of artists.
The wash of cultures through the concourses was noticeable as Inger passed from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Many races were represented, from Hiver to K'Kree, from one degree or another.  This all served Inger fine as she wanted to see the sights.  The most unusual encounters were the occasional Dryone sophont, though she was not familiar enough with the culture to know which cast they were part of.  The encounters did point up how little she knew about the race.  Ms. Vik considered the bar coin she'd gotten in the Inthe system.  The shops that most interested Ms. Vik turned out to be those that worked to put the cultural differences of the many races on display.  Especially those artists who "bent" common possessions to unintended uses, serving non-target races.  She found interest in items like a hair brush that was altered and sold as a "scale scratcher" for the use of hairless and reptilian Dryone.  Or the "Boom box" advertised to Hivers as a "mood vibration" system.
These shops tended to display both the synergy and clash of cultures, with both useful objects and art pieces that spoke to harmony and discord.  As a smaller but persistent thread, Inger also saw representations of religion, both in the art and in the population and graffiti.  Playing tourist, Ms. Vik explored, making sure not to get too close or forget her surroundings, as she checked out some of the store-front museums and other displays.  Eventually, she'd spent Cr 100 on sight-seeing as dinner approached, and started looking at her choices for food.  Some places looked almost guarded by K'Kree, who warded off meat eaters that would profane their vegetarian beliefs.
Eventually, Ms. Vik went for an adventure and entered a restaurant geared to serving Aslan diners.  The staff were regimented into the strict male and female roles that ruled life in Aslan communities.  A very small number of Males handled manual tasks and all butchering, performed in the open.  Females handled all the money and all aspects of commerce.  Most importantly, the leader appointed by the Clan, and his chosen Males were present in body armor, armed with those weapons allowed them for security of the Clan restaurant.  The place was decorated with displays of the clan's history.  There were images of clan warrior Lords fighting enemies of the clan and the Imperium.  Others showed long-past matriarchs creating wealth through business and research.  Once it was apparent Ms. Vik planned to eat there, a Female Aslan came out to ask if she'd been to an Aslan restaurant before?
She wanted to be sure this Human was aware what she was getting into.  Some Humans did work there, but they seemed to be in the most servile of positions, cleaning and bussing tables only.  They were not apparently encouraged to interact with the customers.  Having dealt with Aslan before in the SPA, Ms. Vik was not surprised at the level of the Aslan Female's education.  But she run into expected-issues with an "accent" from a mouth not formed for Human language and one trained from birth to a different native tongue.  Inger was directed to the "Human Recommended" section of the menu and saw there was also a "Vargr recommended" section.  After considering the menu, she ordered a meal costing Cr 56.  Once the food started arriving, Inger found the hors d'oeuvres were tasty enough, if a bit more Human-fare than expected.
The entree was more challenging, and she spent a few moments contemplating the dish to figure what animal the meat came from and more.  The only thing she could make out about the meat was that it was some sort of "red meat".  But nothing more.  Still, it was the spiced flavor that was most challenging, as it was not at all to Inger's pallet.  It also wasn't the worst thing she'd ever had to eat.  So, having paid for it, Inger got the meal down while promising she'd never order that dish again!  With the meal, she sipped a mildly alcoholic and somewhat fruity mixed drink.  Having asked about Human-preferred drinks when she ordered, Inger found the drink very agreeable and it helped get the food down.  As she ate, Inger noticed a level of observation from the apparently senior Aslan Females present.  Though she was not well enough acquainted with their facial expressions to know if they're watching with concern or humor.  Eventually, Inger finished, and a female Aslan approached to ask if she'd like dessert?  Inger politely said no and paid her bill before moving on to the rest of her evening.Managing The Engineers Again
After Aali let them into the berth, she supervised the engineers while, waiting for the capacitor connectors delivery.  She knew they would arrive that evening or early the next day, and hoped it was sooner.  Then, she'd make better use of the hired crew.  As she waited for the delivery, Aali followed the social chatter, which centered heavily on Major Kaihvos' knighting.  The media was thick with speculation about the ceremony, the invitees and possible unexpected side events and parties.  In the end, Aali had to pick and choose what to listen to, rather than spending three or four years trying to read all the day's commentary on the event.
Around 4:30 in the afternoon, the jump capacitors arrived and Aali supervised the delivery.  As she did, Aali thought about talking to the captain about possibly buying some spares.  In her copious spare time, Aali considered the various items popping up on her calendar, thinking about what parties she might end up attending on Emkir's arm.  That reminded her she had to think about what she'd wear for the mysterious night out Emkir told her he'd planed for when he'd returned from the Scout base.Brian's Toasted Toy
After he got back to the port station, Brian quickly returned to the berth with his free but dead 'droid in tow.  The port cab ride cost him another Cr 40, but they were easily able to bring the android along.  As Brian unloaded the 'droid, Rol, Emkir and Aiden watched him move the obviously flamed out and fried device.  As they watched, Aiden joked, "You have got to get yourself a better class of friend."  Brian simply answered, "Hey, it was free."  Rol nodded, saying, "I'm guessing that doesn't need training?"  The engineer was pleased about the 'droid, despite the ribbing as Rol wondered how the 'droid interested him?  Brian just said that it was free, despite the Cr 5,000 price tag obviously stuck to the unit.  Emkir asked, "Who'd you suck off to get that?" only to have Brian slam back, "Your girlfriend!  You wanna try another one?"  As this exchange took place, something that might have been an actuator fell off the 'droid to the deck.
Brian tried to get the conversation back in control as he told them the 'droid was part of the deal for the purification plant.  As intended, that got everyone's attention.  This included Aali, who'd heard the laughter in the berth and come to see what was happening?  In the new silence, Brian filled the four in on more details of the plant deal, as well as how he ended up with the wrecked 'droid.  Eyeing the toasted device, Rol skeptically said, "If you say so."  Despite the former Marine's comments, Brian continued, assuring them the unit was worth KCr 25 to 30 once he worked on it to salvage parts.  Aiden asked if he couldn't just pick the 'droid up and shake it until the parts came off, getting a laugh.  Rol added in, "I guess you got your money's worth"  When Brian snapped back , "It was free" again, Rol said, "Exactly"
Aali joined the jokes, suggesting they should cannibalize the datapads left over from Emkir's media blitz for 'droid parts.  Brian told them all they'd see once he turned the 'droid into money.  Eventually the laugh-fest died down and they started getting back to work as Brian asked Aali to stay and talk with him about the 'droid.  As he explained his expectations for the 'droid, Aali looked the device over and decided that, since he knew more than she did, she might as well agree.  But she obviously had her doubts as she smiled and nodded.  As Brian pushed on, he discussed his idea to make some profits as he pointed out the Cr 5,000 cost on the wreck.  He compared that with his estimate on the value of its surviving components.
Despite her doubts, Aali got interested as Brian described mining the wrecked 'droids for cash.  She accepted that Sir Brian apparently had this 'mystery meat' engineering project in mind, which she wouldn't have time for at the moment.  And she thought Brian might not have the time for it later, with Rol's knighting coming the next day as well.  As Aali went back to working with the engineers, Brian got the wreck into an anti-grav work rig and went into ship's engineering to get the needed tools and rig to work on the 'droid.At Least It's Not Smoking
As Rol and the others went back to calisthenics, Zimzod returned to the berth.  Nodding to them, Zimzod headed for the inner rooms only to encounter what looked like a blasted piece of some electronics and machinery floating in the air in the entry to the main rooms.  After a brief check, and noting no one was watching the device, Zimzod snorted "cool" and looked forward to hearing from whoever on what was going on.  He then stepped past the 'droid, heading into the berth galley to grab a drink.  Brian returned to the entry leading in Wall-e and began setting out the tools he'd brought.  As he did, Brian ordered Wall-e to begin inspecting and disassembling the wreck.  As he worked, Zimzod returned with his drink and asked, "So, What are we...  Going to play basketball with this thing?" pointing at some of the holes in the wreck.
Brian turned and deliberately said, "No.  You are not going to touch it." stressing the word 'you'.  Brian hoped to keep things going as he said he was going to salvage parts from the wreck for Wall-e.  As he explained, Zimzod interrupted him saying he just thought it was cool, as it floated there.  Brian smiled and offered a deal that if the chassis was still intact and floating there when he was done, Zimzod could have it.  Zimzod enthusiastically said, "Cool!"  Brian just said he could then play basketball all he wanted.  After that, Zimzod got to the real reason he was there, asking "Who's cooking dinner?"  Not at all what Brian was expecting, the engineer sputtered a bit before saying he had no idea, so it would be whatever Zimzod could find.  Zimzod shrugged, saying "Ok" and returned to the galley.  Mikah returned to the berth to see Brian working as his 'droid was disassembling a burnt and blasted floating, thing.
Pausing, Mikah asked "Who blew it up?  Zimzod or Rol?"  Brian told her it came that way and swore it was free.  When Mikah pointed out it was marked with a KCr 5 price tag, Brian ripped the tag off and explained to Mikah the deal he got with the negotiations.  As Brian also said he meant to get spare parts for Wall-E, the 'droid spun its sensor array and said, "Sir, I am 89% functional."  Without missing a beat, Brian answered, "Yeah, but we're gonna make you better."  As he spoke, Mikah asked, "You're talking to your 'droid now?  I may have to do a medical work up on you!" in an alarmed voice, as she pretended not to hear the android speak.  When Brian turned back to her asking, "You don't hear it?" Mikah said, as if speaking to a child, "Noo.  I saw the thing spin but it's not talking."  Turning back to Wall-E, Brian commanded, "Say hello to Captain Mikah!"  Obediently, the 'droid said, "Hello Captain Mikah.  Are you my commanding officer?" as it spun its sensor array in her direction.
Pausing a beat, Mikah made a play at watching the 'droid before turning back to Brian, answering his expectant look with "What?  It didn't say anything.  The sensors stopped but I didn't hear it saying anything."  Responding according to its programming, the 'droid reported, "I apologize, Captain Mikah.  All my operating systems are in fully functional order.  According to my sensors, I am speaking."  Ignoring the 'droid, Mikah said to Brian, "So anyway...  Maybe it will talk, when you're done upgrading it."  As Brian sputtered, Mikah smiled and said, "Don't worry.  I'm messing with you."  She then turned to the machine, patting the sensor array lightly and saying, "Good 'droid."  As she did this, the 'droid once more asked, "Captain?  Are you my commanding officer", Mikah confirmed she was and Brian agreed.  With that, Mikah leaned closer to the 'droid saying "keep your eyes on this one." pointing to Brian.  The android responded literally, saying "I'm sorry Captain.  I have sensors but I don't have eyes."  Mikah clarified, "Then keep your sensors on this one."  Pedantically, Wall-e responded, "I'm sorry.  I need my sensors to do my work."
When the 'droid sensed it wasn't getting a response, it returned to its work as Mikah began to realize how limited its intelligence was.  Waving to Brian with a cheery "See you later", Mikah left the engineer with his dumb-bot and moved into the lounge, where Zimzod was sitting.  When he saw her, Zimzod said, "Hey" and Mikah echoed, "Hey."  She asked, "What's up?" and he said, "What'd you do?"  Mikah told him she met with Countess Ursara and went to a museum.  She asked what he did and he told her about the gunnery training.  Mikah was impressed, and asked what other classes the school offered?  While Zimzod didn't really look at all their classes, he saw a lot of folks studying a lot of things.  At the same time, he told her to spend the extra for privacy if she took a class there, explaining what happened at lunch.
As they were talking, Rol and Emkir walked into the lounge.  Seeing Rol, Mikah mentioned how much trouble he was causing for poor Zimzod.  Rol just joked, "I thought that was my job?"  With that, Mikah prodded Zimzod to re-tell his lunch-break story, allowing him to make it clear how distasteful it was for anyone to think he was Rol.  When Rol said he hoped things hadn't gotten violent, Zimzod said he just got out of the public spaces.  Rol nodded, satisfied, and asked apologetically, "So you didn't have fun?"  Zimzod corrected him, and described the training as an adventure and work-out, provided by the simulations.  Rol was as impressed as Mikah, and asked for the link to get information for the school.  Zimzod happily bumped him the data as he said, "Now that I've told you what I did, what's for dinner?" with an evil look on his face.  Rol nodded and said he'd find something to make.Wrapping Things Up
As Brian was finishing up his preparations, Wall-e said, "Sir.  I need direction."  When Brian asked "What's wrong", the 'droid said it had a part it thought was functional and wanted to know what it should do with good parts?  Brian told the 'droid to set out any potentially functional parts on a table in the berth entry.  After that, Wall-e said it had three levels of diagnostics it could run on the parts it found and wanted to know what level of tests to run?  Brian told the 'droid to start with the lower test levels and they'd reserve more complete tests for later.  The 'droid thanked Brian and returned to its work as Brian went into the galley.
Aiden finished up his training, secured the bridge and headed to the berth galley for chow.  On the way, he met Brian's 'droid disassembling the wreck.  Getting a closer look at it, Aiden saw the damage was so blasted that he wondered how high in the atmosphere it fell from?  More concerning, he couldn't see anyone around supervising the 'droid.
In the ship's engineering section, the port engineers and Aali were finishing prep work on the capacitor connectors so they could do the replacement work right away the next morning.  Eventually they finished and Aali signed the engineers off and turned back towards the ship to clean up and change for her "evening out".  As she did, Emkir managed to appear at her elbow asking, "So, would you like to go out for some dinner and a hotel room?"  As Aali smiled and let Emkir lead her, he began telling her about this four-star hotel he'd found, with a four star dining room and rooms available.  As they walked, he asked, "Would you grace me with your company?" while looking at a potential Cr 1,500 bill.  Drawing his eyes in with hers, Aali demurely suggested she should go pack as they hit the entrance to the berth staterooms.
Having showered and packed after the workout with Rol, Emkir let Aali go as he turned and happily said "Hello 'droid!"  Wall-e replied, "Hello Sir" as it cycled sensor stalks in Emkir's direction, though continuing to work.  Pleased at being answered, Emkir asked, "What are you doing?" and Wall-e answered, "I am disassembling this mechanism, Sir.  Do you have other orders?"  Emkir simply said, "good work 'droid", and went to the galley door to yell to Rol, "We're going out to dinner Rol."  As soon as he did this, the rest of the crew in the lounge started cheering that Emkir was taking them out.  Shouting them down, Emkir said, "Three's a crowd, four is right out and you can't count."  Zimzod put on a pouting face and said, "You don't love us anymore?" in a hurt tone and Emkir snapped back, "Not the same way I love her.  Unless you have other ideas.  You didn't tell me you appreciate it." with a sly look on his face.  Zimzod returned, "That depends.  What planet are you from again?"
As some laughed, and Emkir was about to answer, Aiden cut everyone off saying to Emkir, "I guess it's not much of a surprise.  I mean, considering how fast you went under that bench, I should have guessed you'd go down on your knees real fast."  Without missing a beat, Emkir turned on Aiden saying, "You're just jealous because I've got a girlfriend."  Brian jumped into the conversation saying, "You can have one too.  I've got one you can rent."  As things heated up, Rol chuckled saying, "No blasters!" and Zimzod said, "There aren't gonna be any blasters unless Zach comes back.  It's his sister."  Emkir turned on him asking, "His sister's a 'droid?" in a mock confused voice.  This stopped everyone in confusion, as no one got the joke.  As the kidding and chatter continued, Rol cooked and Emkir called a port car, waiting until Aali showed up with an overnight bag and smile.  Soon enough, the car arrived and the couple left.
Once at the restaurant, Emkir slipped the maítre d a few credits to make sure they got a table in the back in the corner where they could really enjoy the meal.  The food was excellent, and they enjoyed the time chatting, joking and sharing each other's company.  After the meal, they made their way to the hotel Emkir had selected and slipped away from the rest of the universe until the following morning.  Ultimately, this cost Emkir Cr 1,500, as he and Aali did their best to rock the hotel until it fell on its side.  Despite enjoying their night of passion, Emkir and Aali knew they needed to be up early.  Aali had to be at the berth to manage the engineers and repairs to the jump capacitors.  Emkir also needed to be back at a reasonable hour, to change and meet with the lawyer and representative of TAS.  So they had a wakeup call set.Setting Deals And Dates
After Emkir's announcement, Rol was cooking dinner for the four in the berth.  As they sat and talked, Mikah asked Brian if he'd told the others about the purification plant?  Brian said that he told Zach, and the merchant told the rest of them.  Zimzod piped up saying, "Uhh, No.  He didn't tell me."  Mikah joked that Zimzod didn't need to know.  After a few chuckles, Mikah said that Brian found them a fuel purification plant, and they were working out the details to get it installed before they left the system.  When she sharply questioned, "Right Brian?", Brian lied through what doubts he had and said "Right" in a cheery voice.  Mikah also made it clear they had to sell the machine parts cargo and do some paperwork.  Once she finished, Zimzod just said, "Cool" with a thumbs up sign.
When Zimzod heard some of the money would come from Duke Norris' office, he asked if they were willing to pay for more training?  Mikah paused and said she hadn't asked them in an uncertain voice.  She said she could ask, and Zimzod was happy with that chance.  Mikah then asked him if his dress uniform arrived yet?  Zimzod said it hadn't, but was supposed to arrive that night or the next morning.  Sure enough, there was soon a buzz at the berth and all four of them quieted down as Mikah answered.  She saw a team from the port with heavy grav lifters and a work order to move some cargo.  Realizing this was the team Zach requested a few days back, Brian went to the bay, met the team and directed them where to move the cargo.
Brian was not long gone from the galley when the comms buzzed again, and Mikah answered to find it was Doctor Thrauld.  The doctor was genial, if not overjoyed, to tell Mikah that, based on the information they offered, Rhylanor University was not the highest bidder for the data on the nomads.  When Mikah asked what the difference was, he said, just under Cr 2,000.  Mikah said she was sure she wouldn't quibble over that small an amount, and asked what the University's bid was?  A bit more hopeful, Doctor Thrauld said their bid was Cr 27,900.  To say the least, Mikah was significantly underwhelmed at the offer.  After she recovered, Mikah asked who came in with the Cr29,000 bid and the Doctor said it was the Kikhimaa Xeno-Biologic Medical College, another significant sized medical university in-system.
As Mikah's obvious interest drifted to the larger paycheck, Doctor Thrauld reminded her of the offer to bring them into the Ancient artifact.  Mikah considered how valuable that was, despite the lack of direct monetary value.  When she thought about that, Mikah decided the access was worth much more than Cr 2,000.  So she asked about accepting the lower bid?  When the doctor said that would not be an issue, they started talking about preparing to provide the doctor's team their data.  She also said she'd let the 'other party', Countess Ursara, know about the agreement so she could negotiate for her data.  Of course, when they discussed timing, Mikah was not above event-dropping and said they had a knighting to go to the next day.  The others in the galley listened to her side of the conversation, and wondered if they would be at the knighting or not?  They also wondered if Mikah might be able to skip the ceremony.  Some, knowing they were going, discussed how blinged out they'd be.
In the meantime, Mikah guessed to remember when she'd be free, and realized her next free-day wouldn't be for three days.  She and the Doctor agreed they'd meet in three days, in the morning, to begin the exchanging data.  When Mikah asked about setting up the tour of the Ancient artifact, the Doctor said that would be done once the interviews and data were collected.  He did say the cash payment would be up front.  Once Mikah agreed, they cut the connection and she told Zimzod and Rol they'd have to be available for interviews in three days' time.  Mikah figured she'd tell Brian when he was done moving the cargo and call Emkir, Zach and Ms. Vik.  When she called Emkir, he and Aali were still in the taxi, in the back seat, giving the driver a show.
As his comms buzzed away, Emkir happily ignored it and Mikah was forced to leave a message.  She then cut the line and called Zach, catching him at what sounded like a dinner party.  When he answered, Mikah asked, "What the hell are you doing?" in an annoyed voice.  Zach casually said he was out to dinner with friends.  She asked, "You have friends?" in a disbelieving voice.  Ignoring that, Zach asked what was up, and was told about the deal on the data and the tour of the artifact.  His fist pumping and exclamation of "Yes!" got the attention of more than just those who were talking to him.  Even more so when he repeated it after being told he'd be able to take pictures.  As the conversation continued, Zach played nonchalant until he was asked a few questions and not given an answer to anyone as he spoke to Mikah.
After the conversation, Zach saw he'd drawn more attention to himself, as the others gathered to hear about his most recent success.  They were disappointed when he insisted the details had to remain secret for a bit more.  He suggested it was something borderline illegal, but he'd gotten permission from the highest levels.  After hearing Mikah's side of the conversation, Aiden decided to veg out in the ship's lounge, spending the evening either watching vids or reading from his manuals.  After Brian finished with the cargo movers, he returned to eat before working with Wall-e on the blasted 'droid.  Rol ate, after cooking and cleaned up afterwards.  Rol then returned to his berth and started checking on his formal wear, in the event the dress uniform did not arrive in time.
With some free time, Mikah asked Zimzod more about the training he took, and got more details.  Zimzod sparked a computer up and showed those listening the school's website.  He was very happy with the system he'd used, and explained many of the things you couldn't do with the training software they had on their ship.  As he was going on about his experiences, Zimzod was interrupted by a buzz on the comms.  When they answered, they found it was an aide from the Admiral's office, with Rol and Emkir's uniforms.  They let the sailor into the berth to deliver the packages.  Rol inspected his uniform, to find all the new ribbons and decorations correctly mounted on the jacket and blouse.  As the sailor was making the delivery, he said there had been another person outside the berth who was just arriving as they let him in.  When Mikah checked this out, it turned out to be the person who Zimzod and Mikah had ordered their uniforms from.  These uniforms came with packets containing all the correct ribbons and hardware, though they still needed to be mounted.
After the deliveries were done, those in the berth considered the next day's plans and Mikah decided dragging Zach along might well help in getting some of his legal issues resolved.  So she called him again, asking if he'd like to go to the Baron's birthday party after the knighting?  Zach played it off to those around him as evidence the knights couldn't function without his help.  Still, he was glad to accept Mikah's offer.  He could also satisfy the crowd's questions after this call by saying he was selected by Dame Mikah, to escort her through the activities planned for the next day!  This did even more to raise his reputation with those attending, and find its way into later retellings or reports from the party.  As this was happening, Brian asked Mikah if he could bring the blow up doll to the knighting.  She firmly told him he couldn't, with an acid-breath hiss.
Brian then decided to call Ms. Vik and ask her along, as they'd attended a number of concerts and other events together and had a friendly enough time.  As Brian hung up, he said, "Now Zimzod has to bring Aiden, so we can all be couples."  From where he was sitting, Zimzod said, "That's not going to happen."  When the others laughed about it, Zimzod joked, "I'm not that kind of a Marine.  Ask Rol", which got even more laughs as they suggested there might be something between him and Rol.  Zimzod said he meant they should ask Rol to take Aiden and Mikah said, "If that happens, Zimzod can bring the blow up doll as his date."  In the laughter, Brian said he was surprised Mikah invited Zach, and she said that he was ok, despite the fact he made her want to shoot him every so often.
Mikah did point out that she'd only actually shot Zimzod.  Then, Zimzod got a pouting look on his face and said, "Yea.  She shot me." in a 'looking for pity' voice.  Once the laughter died down, Brian called and ordered a corsage to be delivered to the berth the next morning for Ms. Vik.  Not sure what kind of outfit she'd wear, he worked with the attendant and selected a "Snow Fractal", a white pedaled plant with black lining almost appearing to be a natural outline of the petals.  The petals grew out in a tapered curve before ending in a point formed by severe straight lines, as if cut.  The piece, with delivery, cost Cr 30.Prep And People Watching
After barely washing down the Aslan food with a fairly tasty drink, Ms. Vik looked for a café to people watch from.  She spent Cr 20 in drinks while watching people in their lives as they passed or worked.  She was relaxing until she got a comms from Brian, and accepted his invitation to join him at the parties the next day.  After that, Inger considered her wardrobe and realized the slinky green party dress wouldn't do for something that high-profile.  She considered her suits, but decided to see if she couldn't do better as she left her table to shop.  Inger eventually made her way to a commercial concourse, trying to decide if she should get a gown that made Brian glad she was his date, or that made him sad she wasn't really his date.  She soon found a boutique with video displays of their gowns, and fashions she liked, and went in to check things out.
Rather than stocking a significant number of outfits, the shop had their clients step into a 3D body scanner that took the proper measurements.  They then displayed clothing options superimposed on the client's body electronically.  When offered options for being scanned dressed or undressed, which got different measures for how her body would be draped by clothing, Ms. Vik had no issues stepping into the opaque scanner and undressing as needed.  This process allowed the software to recommend not only the dress or gown, but everything from foundational garments, or lingerie depending on taste, and accessories.  Then, once the decisions were made, Ms. Vik could select her accessories and shop for a while as they actually "printed out" her purchases.
As she considered the styles they offered, Inger had been leaning towards, and eventually ordered a strapless green gown that she felt was a good Second Base dress.  For accessories, she ordered stockings to suit the dress as well as shoes.  When it came to the undergarments, Ms. Vik asked them what she could order that was not lace or lingerie, but also wouldn't interfere with the flow of the gown?  Once the order was complete, the gown and accessories came to Cr 800.  After Inger paid, they told her she could shop for an hour or so and then return to pick up the items.  So it was Cr10 in drinks at a cafè people watching for an hour until the gown was ready.The End Of The Evening
As the evening finished out, Rol did a bit of research on the structure of the Nobility locally and in the Imperium over all.  Short of the High Peers of the Realm, he found there were "Serving", "Professional" and "Social" Aristocracy, and many who appeared to be serving themselves if anyone at all.  The serving aristocracy included those with titles who served in the government and military.  The professional aristocracy were those titled people who managed holdings or had careers in private industry, or for-profit organizations.  The social aristocracy included those who volunteered for, or ran, social organizations.  Of course, there were also those who did no more than party or wield their power to their own selfish ends.  As well, there were those in almost every facet of the aristocracy who were out for themselves and might even be engaging in illegal activities.
Mikah spent some time looking through the classes offered by the school Zimzod went to that day.  She was impressed by the facility and their range of offerings.  She considered taking a 'vacc suit repair and maintenance' or 'ship's boat piloting' class.  Eventually, she decided to take a full day class studying ship's boat piloting and checked her schedule to see when it might fit in?  Eventually, she signed up to take the 208th day off to study if she could.  When Zimzod saw she was penciling a class in, he tried to get her to cover a class for him too, but she shot that down.  Eventually, he decided to take another gunnery class at the same time she had signed up for hers.  They did talk about the issues he ran into when he was in the lunch room, and joked about getting misleading ship patches for their jumpsuits.
After leaving the dress shop, Ms. Vik burned an hour before returning to find the finished gown on a rack waiting for her to try it on.  Once in the gown, it fit spectacularly.  Having had outfits made that way on previous visits to Rhylanor, she knew she'd had never had a better fitting outfit made, from the undergarments out, any other way.  Not only did she approve of the appearance, but for the level of style, it was incredibly comfortable.  Inger was very pleased to finalize the bill and have the purchase packaged so she could return to the berth.  After a Cr 30 trip, she arrived at the berth to find Brian working with his 'droid to disassemble the wrecked 'droid he'd bought back from the salvage station.
Noticing the piles of possibly good and definitely bad parts, Inger waved hello as she passed through and hoped that this was keeping Brian busy at the least.  She did show him she'd bought a gown for the next day, holding up the packages.  In the lounge, she saw Aiden watching vids and Zimzod and Mikah discussing classes at some facility on station which may be the school Zimzod took a class at earlier.  Inger was also interested in the classes and asked about the school.  As she asked about engineering classes, the three checked the website to find a number of classes in a dizzying array of Engineering disciplines, from basic and steam engineering to the facets of starship engineering.  Inger considered just what training might be best for her and saw that, despite the training with Brian and Mikah, she needed a firm basis in engineering and an "Engineering 101" class would be best.
As they talked, Aiden was also drawn into the discussion and looked at possibly taking navigation training.  But the marriage of theory and application required in that discipline made even individual classes much harder and costly.  Ms. Vik would also see that if she took a functional engineering class.  The nav classes that would help Aiden would cost Cr 1,000 instead of the Cr 500 the others were paying.  Eventually, those chatting about classes made their decisions before drifting off to relax, and eventually to sleep.  Soon, everyone in the berth had finished up their activities and drifted off to sleep.
Zach enjoyed his party, but saw that most of the others were looking to get into his deals rather than offering him shares of their deal.  Still, he did widen his circle of associates.  Eventually he returned to the berth, knowing he had to get up early and clean up for the next day.  When he returned, the first thing he saw was that the port had obviously visited and moved the cargo from their bay into the berth.  The next thing he saw, as he went through the cargo bay into engineering, was a 'droid taking apart a device suspended in the air by light grav lifters.  Zach recognized the device as the blasted 'droid Brian had brought back with him from his field trip.  A number of parts from the 'droid were laid out in an orderly pattern, with another pile of burnt and fried parts in what appeared to be a discard pile.  Nodding in approval, Zach continued into the berth lounge, and to bed.    Friday, 202 1112: 7am Morning Before The Gallows
At 7am, Rol's alarm woke him and he did his daily workout and preparation before cooking breakfast.  As he was working out, Aiden's alarm went off at 7:30.  At the same time, Emkir and Aali got their wake up call in the hotel, and started getting cleaned up and out to return back to the ship.  By 8am, almost everyone was awake as Rol began cooking.  As they returned, Emkir grabbed a plate for Aali while she waited for the imminent arrival of the engineers, hoping to finish the swap of the capacitors and other major projects before the end of the day.  Leaving his stateroom, Brian saw food was cooking as he checked on Wall-e's progress.  Brian saw the 'droid had worked steadily through the night and recovered an increased number of potentially good parts.
Of special interest was the tentacle arm which Wall-e recovered and placed with the potentially working items!  This was a part that could be used to maintain or augment Wall-e itself.  Brian complimented the 'droid and Wall-e thanked him as it worked.  Brian then returned to chow.  When the engineers arrived, Aali got right to work with them, installing the new jump capacitor connectors, as that was job #1 for the day.  While the others finished up their breakfast or handled last minute details, a call came in from the Duke's people, to tell Rol and his party a car would arrive at the berth for them up at 11am.  They asked how many passengers they were picking up in Rol's party?  Aali had to work with the engineers, and Emkir needed to meet with TAS, so Rol checked with the others and found they were all going.  So he confirmed seven passengers as Aiden contemplated dressing up.
As Emkir ate, he wondered how to organize even more meetings with the other news organizations.  He considered spending the morning trying to set up appointments with the other agencies, but realized he only had a legal representative for the meeting with TAS.  He also thought the TAS meeting could be an hour long, or stretch out if a lot of the details started falling into place.  It could even swallow the entire afternoon.  With little else he could do before hand, Emkir decided to make sure the lawyer was on the same page he and Rol were.  So he called the law firm around 10a and spoke to the lawyer.  The associate was very pleased they, as clients, had thought this through and planned for it, because that made his job much easier.  So they spent forty minutes to an hour discussing the limits and restrictions Rol wanted protected.
Ms. Vik changed into a suit, carrying the case provided with her gown and accessories, which she expected to be able to check at the ceremony.  Mikah dressed for the ceremony in her dress uniform, armed with her laser sword and gauss pistol.  She also planned to check a dress case, taking her classic cut sparkling black "starlet" gown and accessories.  Along with that, Mikah brought her Imperial Starburst ear rings and Lanthanum bracelet.  Zimzod wore his dress uniform, with vibro-cutlass, and planned to maintain that from the knighting to the party.  Brian dressed in his best suit, with a casual belt loop for his laser sword.  Brian was also very happy when the corsage arrived, and was pleased when Ms. Vik said it would work with her gown.  She had also packed her gold bangles and the gold ring with a sapphire and diamond chips.  Zach put on his best suit and blinged up as much as he could.  As the car arrived, Emkir wished Rol good luck and said he hoped to have good news for the Major after the parties.Arriving At The Ceremony
When the extended transport arrived, the attendants and driver were in the Duke's livery.  The entire event was courteously documented by media in the outer berth.  As they boarded the vehicle, Brian looked to see if there was a hot tub while Rol joked, "This one is for me.  The next one is for you guys."  Once they were all aboard, the trip took half an hour as they cut through all obstructions as the guest of honor was aboard.  As they debarked, the media was again very visible and very well behaved, as were the guests who were arriving.  While they were guided to where they were expected to be, Sir Brian took every opportunity to indicate his good side to those filming the event.  He made faces and hand gestures to the media.  Soon, the Duke's retainers collected Rol and guided him off to his responsibilities.
Other retainers of the Duke handed each of Rol's companions personally detailed schedules of events saying where they were supposed to be, and what they were supposed to do at what times.  Each found they were all to be on stage at certain times.  The knights had other listed responsibilities in meeting and greeting certain other nobility present.  This last was a list of people they should try to meet, though not a required checklist given the large nature of the crowd.  As they started milling about, Zach was the first to encounter Countess Ursara in her finery, and with her entourage.  Her gown and caplet were, in part, emblazoned with the Arms of the County of Katarulu.
She was also wearing a County tiara, signet ring and the other trappings of state.  Zach greeted her with the smooth flattery that his career had taught him the nobility often required.  And as he metaphorically prostrated himself in her honor, she stood uncertain before him.  With an Awardee of the Starburst for Extreme Heroism as a gun toter and cook, and a former Senior Starport Authority Executive Director as her administrative assistant, Ursara was not sure how to treat any of Mikah's crew anymore.  And with friends, or at least associates, like Commander Duke Sir Norris of Regina, one needed to be certain where they stood before they made a mistake.
Thanks to a level of subterfuge, she had already made some mistakes where only luck had prevented her having to pay for them.  So Ursara extended a friendly greeting and asked the trader if he had arrived with Dame Mikah?  Zach said he did, and said Mikah had things the Duke wanted the knights to do as he used his height to look out over the crowd for the Knight.  When he easily spotted Mikah, he told the Countess he could lead her to where Dame Mikah was, and she accepted.  So Zach turned and politely led the way through the crowd, enjoying the traditional surprised looks and double takes as people turned to look at him, then look again and up the second time.  Eventually, they made their way to Mikah, who was pleased as she greeted Ursara.  The Countess greeted Mikah with a hug and kiss as those Mikah was greeting stood back, observing politely.  Zach also stepped back but stayed close.
For the next hour, the crew of the ship rubbed shoulders with the many gathered nobility and members of the community with high enough standing.  As the knights were introduced, they were greeted warmly with comments like, "So nice to meet you" or "We've heard so many things about you."  In the end, it was those interesting things heard about them and their crew that were the draw.  In addition, when Sir Brian was introduced, the question of his companion came up.  When Ms. Vik was introduced with her former title, Brian's reputation rose even further.  While Mikah didn't enjoy a boost from Zach, she didn't suffer either.  Some of those gathered had heard of Mr. Wood, and that perhaps added to Dame Mikah's notoriety.  Aiden alone enjoyed the treasure of anonymity, introducing himself at need only as someone serving the Duke and the knights.  Seen as a staffer because of his demeanor, and apparent lack of desire to shine, he was often passed by.  This gave him the perfect ability to listen in and gather rumors.The Knighting of Major Rol Kaihvos
Rol found himself whisked to the green room, where he saw a full honor guard of the Dukes Own Huscarles.  There, the coming ceremony was explained to him step by step.  First, he was told the anthem of the Duchy would be played.  After that, once the crowd had been marshaled, the anthem of Rhylanor would be played.  When that started, the huscarles would deploy to secure the entry points and the honor guard would take the stage as they trooped the colors.  Once this was done, and the anthem was completed, the Duke's Seneschal would enter the stage in the following silence.  Once he had the stage, the Seneschal would make the pronouncements of intent to create a knight.  He would then speak about the importance of the Estate of Knighthood, its importance to the Imperium and the goals of Knighthood.
During this recitation, the Knight Commander of the Order of the March Guards would lead in the other Knight members of the order to join the honor guard on the stage, in the uniforms of their order.  Once these opening ceremonies were completed, the Duke would be announced and would take a central position on the stage.  Once on-stage, the Duke would answer questions put to him by the Seneschal, formally confirming his intention to create Major Rol Kaihvos a Knight of Rhylanor.  Once those questions were answered, and several ceremonial actions taken, Rol would be called onto the stage, and before both the Duke and his Seneschal.  He would be followed, two steps back, by a nobleman holding the Sword of State, to be used in the Knighting Ceremony.  An iridium blade, created on Capital by order of Emperor Jerome and shipped with the signed patent elevating the County of Rhylanor to a Duchy in the mid-570's.
Rol would also be accompanied by Mikah, Zimzod and Brian, along with his crewmates to "Stand with Rol" as supporters.  Once they took their positions, Duke Leonard would call Rol's attention and formally announce to Rol his intention to create the Major a Knight.  Duke Leonard would then ask Rol of he would accept the elevation and receive the Major's answer.  Once Rol accepted, Duke Leonard would call forward the Knight Commander of the Order, to observe.  Rol would be ordered to kneel and then the Duke would draw the sword of state and carry out the knighting.  Once that was done, Rol would be invested with the regalia of the order, which would be a badge and sash.  Once the badge and sash were invested, Rol would be called on to give his oath of fealty to the Duke, and the Duke would give his oath of fealty as Rol's Liege Lord.
After the oaths, and while Rol was still kneeling, the Knight Commander would recite the 200 year history of the Order.  Once that recitation was complete, Rol would be asked to rise and will be introduced as "Sir Rol Kaihvos".  After that, the Duke's Seneschal would thank those assembled for honoring the Duke by attending the ceremony and Duke Leonard would congratulate Rol on his new estate.  He would then thank the others for participating in the ceremony, and distribute a commemorative coin to each of those participating.  This would end the public ceremony.  There would follow an hour of celebration, during which Sir Rol would get to meet the those members of the Order who were present.  After that bit of celebrating, the crew would be expected to join the Duke and his family as they rode to the Baron's birthday party.
As Rol was being instructed, the others in the crowd were meeting a great many people who's names they wouldn't remember very long.  While those with photographic memories would remember the faces, this would be of little help if a name was needed in the future.  As he milled around, Zimzod eventually met a Baron named Ebuaikin Leandro, who's responsibilities included management of the Ancient Artifact itself!  Zimzod spent the entire pre-party after that working to keep this man's attention and learn as much as he could about the artifact.  The others wandering the crowd encountered staffers from all the major mega-corporations as well as from major Rhylanori corporations.  Zach realized he was likely the least important and lowest ranking merchanter in the crowd.  While this didn't slow Zach's desire to schmooze with the upper echelon, these people didn't know him, and relegated Zach to the "meet, greet, take a name and move on" crowd.
Mikah had, perhaps, the most controlled experience as Ursara played a tour guide of sorts.  The Countess guided Mikah to members of her circle at the ceremony.  So there was not the rush of faces and names but actual greetings and conversation.  Mikah was also introduced to folks who held County and even a few non-landed Ducal titles.  The parade was one of old money, and many relied on the Countess for a number of things.  As Mikah introduced herself, she actively promoted the fact that she was a doctor, especially to those older noble persons.  At one point, while Ursara was talking to another nobleman, one of the older Countesses asked, with a whisper into Mikah's ear, if she dealt in agnathics?  Mikah admitted she did not and apologized, but the obviously disappointed woman turned away and had no use for Mikah for the rest of the event.  As the woman was walking away, Mikah suggested she try going to the Mora system, which got her a sour look and certainly did not help any chance of a future relationship.
While respectful of Ms. Vik, Brian got to enjoy the name he was getting simply due to the fact that someone of her standing in the SPA was dating him.  Given the amount of information and knowledge on interstellar operations, trade and data managed at that level, Brian appeared very well connected.  Inger also got to hob nob with a number of folks from the port who were invited because of their titles, and not due to their jobs.  These were the only people more impressed that she was dating Sir Brian then the other way around.  And, of course, there were those who recognized Brian from his interview about Rol.  If that was mentioned, Brian dramatically said, "I was misconstrued." and blamed it all on a media hack job.  When one person mentioned a training program they used to prevent that sort of thing, Brian asked him to send him the data on the program to investigate.  Ms. Vik actually admitted she'd been through a version of that training during her career.
As the ceremony finally started, servants of the Duke made sure everyone from the crew were where they needed to be and were instructed on their part in the ceremony.  This was largely, "Walk over to that spot there, turn to face the crowd, don't watch the Duke or Major Kaihvos and enhance the ceremony with your serene presence as a supporter."  While this might have sparked a joke from one or two of the crew, the deadly serious nature of the event, and the fact the gallery was filled with currently well-behaving media filming every bit of every action, made it clear a screw up here would be punished for as long as the permanent memory of the media existed.  For some, this was just another media event, for others, yet another long boring ceremony.  For Zach, this added to calculations of how he could use this with other merchants.
As the event unfolded, each step was carried out just as planned, and after two hours, the ceremony drew to its close.  As Rol was meeting and greeting with the members of his Order, a set of doors was opened.  The crew and those few invited dignitaries were able to take part in a buffet table laid out for them.  There were also changing rooms for those who wished to change into less formal party-wear.  Eventually, the two parties united and, soon, everyone was notified that it was time for the Duke and his party to move on to the Baron's birthday party.  Rol and the crew were told they'd be riding with the Duke and his family, and would not need to hire transport.
When Mikah got her chance to debut the gown she'd had made, it was a visually stunning black gown with a spray of "sparkles" and a "Princess Guinevere" rope belt, from which her laser sword hung.  The gown also had a small bustle in the back, hiding the sword's power pack and blending the power cord with the belt.  Ms. Vik's gown was also very alluring.  The green strapless gown "showed her off her shape" and had a 'come hither' effect that was accentuated by Brian's gift wrist corsage.  Adding to the allure, Inger was unarmed.Emkir's Meeting With TAS
At the berth, Emkir finished his conversations with the lawyer and then did a bit of reading on media dealings with TAS, to brush up on his expectations.  Soon enough, he dressed in "business formal" and called TAS to have a port cab sent.  Once the cab arrived, it was a short trip to the TAS offices, which were a number of station blocks.  Once the taxi entered the TAS office region, they were stopped and questioned before being directed to a "back entrance".  Emkir saw that, while this portal still had some media coverage, it had much less than he'd so far seen.  Emkir was also happy the taxi TAS sent had tinted windows, so the handful of media there could only report a taxi entered the TAS facility.  There was no way to know if there was even a person in it.
Once out of the cab, Emkir learned his lawyer arrived a bit before he had, and prepared a bit.  So he was ready to lead Emkir in to meet with Mr. Morvello.  The TAS representative greeted them and invited them to sit at a table with his team before they started.  Restating that TAS had made an offer on the interview, Morvello said that number specifically covered the interview.  He continued, saying Major Kaihvos obviously had some additional concerns and limitations, and that they could understand the Major's concerns and point of view.  But they also hoped the Major and his representatives could understand their position.  Morvello explained that they needed to get as much information as possible from the Major, to put as much information out as possible.  That would let the public understand the events leading to the current situation and claims.  He continued, saying that 90 percent, or even 99 percent, were unaware all of this was going on.  And they mostly didn't care either.
Morvello said his target audience were those people who wanted to know why their lives had been effected and why this was in the news.  He also had to more fully and properly inform those who wanted to dig deeper into what caused this.  The crux of the mission was to do this on a factual basis, where nothing was made up or mis-portrayed.  With that, Morvello took the restrictions one by one, starting with portraying the Imperium or military in a bad light.  Morvello pointed out that they would have to discuss Sir Jeremy's charges, and that would bring up questions in the minds of thinking viewers.  He pointed out that, within the second restriction about classified information, they needed to dig as deep into the incidents in question to give the best answers and understanding they could.
These lines of questions, Morvello pointed out, may batter the first of Rol's restrictions a bit.  Depending on the truth, the Imperium may be cast in less of a stellar light than they'd hope.  But that would be needed in searching for the truth.  He did say they would absolutely not ask Rol to divulge classified information though.  On the third restriction, they agreed they could do their best to provide as complete a list of questions as possible in advance.  But Morvello pointed out that everyone had to be aware some answers would spark additional questions, which couldn't be guessed in advance.  Morvello said that an obvious half answer, or an unasked question screaming to be asked, might do more damage than a properly explained and managed answer.  Emkir said this would not be an issue, so long as his client retained the right to not answer anything he felt would compromise him or Imperial authority.
Morvello agreed to that, but pointed out that TAS needed to get a viable product to air from the interview.  This was defined as an hour's air-able data and commentary, without which it was not worth the payment or effort for TAS to produce the interview.  Morvello said if this were the case, there would be a reasonable but lesser stipend for what was done, but the full amount would not be paid.  Emkir pushed back, saying his client had recently become a Knight of the Duke.  Mr. Morvello nodded that away, said his network was covering the event even as they spoke.  Without breaking stride, Morvello continued as he hit a stud on the table, "In fact, if you'd like to watch, we can do so from here."  True to his word, each person at the table got a screen matched to their perspective in the glass top of the table showing the event live.
Emkir took his point, saying, "I would expect that to be so.  This is not Porozlo after all."  Reacting to that, Morvello said, "Not that it's germane, and in the moment, but we would certainly like to interview the crew of the Dawnstar Horizon, in as much as they were present in the system regarding what we understand was a very thrilling rescue you were involved in?  When Emkir suggested he could talk to the others, Morvello said he'd appreciate that, "...as it would not only shed more light on a news worthy item but, shall we say, speaks to the reputations of the Knights you travel with."  This last comment spoke volumes about the media understanding of what the knights needed to do to confirm their titles with the Duke.
When Morvello theorized that the knights were involved in the rescue as well as the Admiral himself, Emkir tightened up.  He answered, "I'm not at liberty to discuss tangential material at this time, but can bring it to their attention and see what they decide."  Morvello nodded, saying "That's completely acceptable to TAS."  Trying to see if he could get some take for his give, Emkir asked if they had any information on the Jesedipere trade delegation that made an attempt on Major Kaihvos' life?  Morvello, annoyed that the Admiral had taken them off the topic of the meeting, played that close to the chest.  He said TAS had what was publicly released by the authorities.  None of his comments gave Emkir any new information.  After further talks, Morvello summarized the conditional bargaining point.
While they would respect Rol's limits, they needed it understood that new questions brought up in the interview would be followed up to gain an understanding of the events, where not classified.  And that might lead to some denting of the Imperial ideals, if not some actual damage done.  Additionally, they were putting in a "kill pill" on the payments, in the event they didn't get enough material to put together an product.  This also directly eliminated Rol's right to simply declare the interview over and leave at any point.  So they'd like to see this restriction removed all together.  Additionally, they could guarantee to produce the interview in its entirety.  But there was no way to guarantee the interview would always be aired completely.  They pointed out that they needed to have the right of re-sale, and could not sell their obligations to a buyer.
Additionally, in future reports where a comment was referred to in follow on reports, they would need to air clips of the interview without having to air the entire interview.  So that expectation was also fairly unrealistic on the Major's part.  They could guarantee there would be enough accurate coverage of the interview that, if anyone in-system attempted to slice and dice it, the misrepresentation would be obvious.  Emkir admitted the position TAS had was reasonable, and he could bring back a revised written offer to the Major for consideration.  Morvello said that, if the Major were to sign the revised offer, he could guarantee the payment offer would be increased.  When Emkir asked about amounts, Morvello said they could go to KCr 35.
When Emkir asked what would happen if he couldn't get Rol to sign, Morvello bluntly said, in those circumstances, TAS wished the Major well in negotiation with another news outlet for his side of the story.  This made it clear that TAS was playing hard-ball, even though they wanted the interview, as they needed to protect themselves too.  As an additional item of incentive, Morvello said they'd reached out to the Duke's household and, if TAS got the interview, the Duke's Own Huscarles would be providing security.  Emkir was extremely satisfied with that, though they agreed that with the knighting, repeats of that sort of thing were unlikely.  Emkir said he could bring the revised agreement back to the Major and see if his client would accept the changes.  He did also point out there might be a delay based on current events, and Morvello accepted that.
Once done, the meeting had taken an hour and a half, and Morvello told Emkir they'd pay for his ride back to the berth.  As he was leaving, Emkir asked the lawyer about his availability, as he hoped to reach out to the Jump-News Independent Media Corp, Spacer's Marches Journal and The Imperial Citizen, Inc. for meetings with them regarding the interview.  The lawyer apologized, saying his schedule was fairly full for the rest of the afternoon.  He suggested meetings like that were best set up in advance, as they don't spring up suddenly, given the persons and negotiations that need to be carried out in them.  Checking his schedule, the lawyer found he'd be free the next afternoon if Emkir could schedule meetings.  Once back at the berth, Emkir called the Jump-News Independent Media Corp, to see if he could set up a meeting.    Friday, 202 1112: Afternoon Where everyone is at the end of the session:
Mikah: On the way to the Baron's birthday party after Rol's Knighting     Inger: On the way to the Baron's birthday party after Rol's Knighting     Brian: On the way to the Baron's birthday party after Rol's Knighting     Aali: Managing the Port Engineers working on the ship's engineering     Emkir: Leaving TAS after meeting Mr. Morvello     Rol: On the way to the Baron's birthday party after his Knighting     Zimzod: On the way to the Baron's birthday party after Rol's Knighting     Zach: On the way to the Baron's birthday party after Rol's Knighting     Aiden: On the way to the Baron's birthday party after Rol's Knighting
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: As The Party Faded To Night