Zach's Quest For Success      Eventually, they boarded the Duke's "car", which was well apportioned, and rode with the Duke's family including Lord William.  William's date was a Contessa.  To Brian's dismay the limo didn't have a hot tub.  They arrived early in the evening and, despite it being Baron Mathew's party, the fanfare over the Duke arriving with Major Sir Rol Kaihvos added a lot of spin.  Some there had watched the Knighting on vid, or arrived from the ceremony before or after the crew for various reasons.  Despite this, the party was more of a meet and greet for most of the crew.  Zach had more success with the corporate factors there, thanks to his visibility in the ceremony.  The MegaCorp's were well represented, because the Baron was highly ranked in the structures bringing food in-system.  Zach made use of his on stage appearance, making him "someone worth knowing for his connections".
He also considered hunting down any illicit opportunities in the crowd of "well to do".  He expected that some of those who spent extreme amounts for what they wanted also spent on extreme thieves to get those things.  Zach was certain there were some extreme art collectors in the crowd.  He knew some, seeming 'lily white' on the surface, had their secret troves of hidden treasures.  Also, there could well be other options there.  One never knew when a Lord and nobleman or respectable businessman, thanks to local politics, was looking for smugglers or criminals.  You had to find a way to connect 'in the proper vein'.  One could find people talking about artwork, jewelry, artifacts and antiques or anything at the party.  And one might pursue them, "get to know them socially" and find if they made use of black markets.  Especially in Rhylanor, where the black market was so prevalent.  As a result, he's spent lots of time looking for rumors.
Zach found his biggest issue was that he wasn't in the same league as the other traders.  So, he was of interest only because of his assumed connections.  Adding difficulty, the corporate folks knew politics well enough to see Rol was knighted partly to tamp down the controversy caused by Sir Jeremy's book.  Not that anyone felt an SEH Awardee didn't deserve the honor, but the timing was obvious.  So the event didn't raise Zach's career and achievements, which were so far below their level.  Still, if he was tasked with cutting deals for Rol, he might be of value.  Word about his part in an LSP deal was a wild card, begging questions on who Zach was plugged into, as he wasn't that powerful on his own.  So, with many seeking patronage, they were looking to get connected to him rather than help him get connected.
Still, Zach could connect with them, if only getting names and information.  With his photographic memory, Zach could link comments to faces, and match the names to pictures on the network after the party.  In the end, Zach got a lot of names as well as many invitations.  Those meant, "We want to sit down with you and have you explain what your value is so we can figure out how we can improve our situation?"  So, while a lot of people did want to meet him, he was gonna have to impress them.  Things progressed while Zach eventually ended up relegated to the other "third string or less" folks who might be of use.  One of those he ended up with was a rep from the Safir Shipping Corp, having issues after an infestation of "Blue Chip's"!
" Bugs which look like laminated blue chips from an undetermined source         world, that feed on Poly-carbonate structures, plastics, etc.  Once an infected         ship realized that they were carrying and spreading them, it was too late.         Parts of the Spinward Marches were periodically infested and it's fairly expensive         and painful to a rip into a ship to clear the spaces and wiring bundles.  If         not cleared, they'll strip wiring to the fiber or metal…         And if you deliver them to any station or advanced tech world…"         And the worst part was that, to kill them, one needed to literally burn out the         infested systems and replace them!"
Having unknowingly shipped blue chips, Safir Shipping was now desperate to hire any ships they could, to serve their contracts.  This was because no world would let their vessels use their ports until cleared by an independent authority.  Sadly for the crew, the ships Safir needed were large vessels, with cargo bays large enough to hold multiple vessels of the California's class.  As well, this guy was young, seeming to lack the experience needed to save a company hemorrhaging cash.  Zach traded information with the guy, just in case, but he knew he was not likely to be able to help.
Aiden The Mysterious Meets A Real Enigma      The only person who was more of an unknown than Zach was Aiden.  He was seen during the ceremony, but no one knew who he was?  Nor could anyone's connections really find out who was, or why he rated any level of importance?  Generally, the only people who were that important, but who "nobody" knew were those in the intelligence community.  And the suggestion was that he was some sort of intelligence or security asset.  Still, they knew he wasn't "just an asset" since he wouldn't have been on stage.  This was because no one showed off their intel or security assets unless they had to.  So Aiden was "somebody" in his own right, but no one knew who?  So, despite his attempts to play wall flower, the former scout got his unfair share of the party's 'social tourism'.
Many of those who approached him were the 'danger mouse types', assuming he was actually engaged in intelligence activities at the party, and wanting to join in.  Then, there were those who tried to engage him in conversation, to dig into the mystery, or even feel him out in order to possibly hire him.  Aiden's first thought was to deal with the traffic with aloof humor but his best attempts only came across more as pedestrian, and almost 'work a day' humor.  While many he spoke to would have normally been annoyed by the attempts, this was not a normal encounter.  So the odd responses only added to the mystery around him.  It also struck many that he was obviously not trying to fit in!  In a party where everyone was there to achieve something, Aiden appeared to be there to "Not" achieve anything.
Circulating among those people, Aiden himself had noticed another figure in the shadows outside the party proper.  While in the room, this figure, who no one seemed to notice or approach.  The man also appeared completely disengaged from the event.  Looking the man over, Aiden saw he was dressed just a hint below "dress for dinner" standards.  As the former scout watched, the man remained alone in the crowd and decidedly outside the party, with his face set mostly in a look of concentration.  On those few occasions where he seemed to notice Aiden's gaze, the man's expression seemed to switch from concentration to consideration, though Aiden couldn't guess what he was considering?
Intrigued despite himself, Aiden approached the man to introduce himself.  But as he arrived, the man turned toward him and asked, "How are you Mr. Radetsky?"  His quiet, confident voice made Aiden's skin crawl even more than the question of how this stranger knew his name when no one else seemed to?  Deciding on humor, Aiden replied, "Aside from dealing with my crew 24/7, not too badly.  Yourself?" in as comfortable a voice as he could make it sound.  After the briefest pause, the man said he was enjoying life with the hint of a smile on his face.  Aiden opened his mouth to speak and the man asked, "How are you enjoying the party?"  Gazing around, Aiden admitted this was much different than he was used to, especially with his service history.
The man said he'd assumed Scouts got involved in a lot of things that were, not usual.  This put Aiden's eyes back on target as he said, "Yes, but I'm usually trying to shoot it or it's trying to shoot me." with a sardonic smile.  Aiden then continued, "This is a bit out of normal for most scouts."  The man agreed most scouts weren't a part of high level celebrations, and asked Aiden how his pursuits were going?  Aiden quipped, "Sanity wise, not so good.  I have to deal with my crew after all."  That caught the man completely beyond his expectations of a logical answer.  The man nodded slowly, assuming Aiden was referring to something the scout assumed was common knowledge.  The expressions on his face were the first reactions Aiden had seen from the man.  It was as if, like looking at a translucent stone, he was seeing a surface he knew contained depths, but he couldn't see what was beneath.
Eventually, Aiden led the small talk to a point where he could say he didn't catch the man's name, and the man admitted that was because he hadn't given a name.  The icing here was that the comment came in both a blunt and somewhat self-satisfied voice.  Brushing the rejection off, Aiden nodded into the party in general, asking if there was anything specific the man was keeping an eye on, or out for?  When he said this, the man reached into his jacket and withdrew a small metal item.  As Aiden watched, he thumbed a contact and a small screen revealed the insignia of Duke Leonard's Security.  Saying he didn't want to get in the way, Aiden asked if there was anything the man felt he might need help with?  The man assured Aiden they had the party in hand with another confident tone.  Aiden thanked the man and decided to move on and mingle some more.  The man nodded as Aiden left.
Rol's Uncomfortable Evening      For Rol, the early stages of the party were mostly keeping up with the Duke and his people.  He worked to figure out what spots he needed to be on and hit his marks.  During this time, he did manage to not embarrass himself, largely due to significant time spent as a military officer under the watchful glare of hostile media.  Eventually, he was cut free as the Duke and his entourage had to move on to other functions and duties.  On the other hand, he was awash in people who wanted to congratulate or otherwise greet him, either because they wanted to or because their social station required them to.  This included Baron Matthew, who's party Rol was attending.  The Baron appeared to be from old money to Rol, and seemed genuinely pleased his birthday had been enhanced by the presence of both "Sir Rol" and the Duke.
When he got chances, Rol tried to get a feel for why the man was pleased, but the Baron was a well experienced merchant, and kept his cards hidden.  He did make use of Rol's presence to pump his own importance and influence though.  Rol was pleased that the bulk of the required meet and greets were done early, getting to it "while the Duke was watching".  It gave them an almost 'reception line' feel, as most of these people came to greet the Duke.  But, it did get things done efficiently.  Of course, there were those who used Rol as a vehicle to get into the Duke's presence, or tried to.  But Leonard and his people were experienced enough to deal with this as needed.  The one uncomfortable part of the evening was when Countess Ursara decided to connect herself to Rol's arm.
Considering the complex connection she had with the crew, Rol considered shutting her down in as polite a manner as possible.  But he eventually let her have her way for a short time before finding an excuse.  The Duke's security appeared to accept the Countess was a good friend of the crew, so they didn't act.  Rol ultimately did disentangle himself from the Countess, who was pleased to have had that much contact time with Duke Leonard.  Over the entire evening, both while with Leonard's people and on his own, Rol ran into a gamut of reaction.  Everything from those who looked down at a 'newly minted Knight' from the heights of centuries of noble rank to groupies and single daughters of 'faded noble lines'.  To his credit, Rol managed to not step on toes and even separated himself from Ursara politely.
The Party Experience For The Rest Of The Crew      As she circulated, Dame Mikah found Countess Ursara almost as soon as they arrived.  As the event progressed, it was apparently the Countess' program to stay as close as possible to the Duke as much of the time as possible.  Having hung back earlier in the week, it seemed Ursara was making her move.  So she had little time for Mikah, except in using her to get into the Duke's presence.  And while Mikah did try to help, having seen things work both ways, Mikah was not in the Duke's primary circle of interests.  While she did come over from time to time, she circulated quite completely, and spent a good amount of time with Baron Mathew too.  That meant, Mikah's help was of very limited value.
In the meantime, Mikah did her best to meet as many of those people the Duke's officials targeted on the lists, and to generally mingle.  Unfortunately, Mikah wasn't raised to aristocracy, and this showed through in some encounters.  To make matters worse, it became an issue with some of those more powerful and active who'd been raised within the nobility.  That meant Mikah couldn't even hold her accomplishments up to their snobbery.  Added to that, the most obviously useless nobility were not only happy to meet Mikah, but interested in connecting to anyone they thought had money.
Entering the party, Zimzod also hadn't fitted in.  But his uniform, with a noticeable lack of decorations, stood out, as well as the weapon on his hip.  Working the room looking to meet any of the people on the Duke's list, he eventually met Baron Ferrico Reznikov.  Besides being on the list, Baron Reznikov was also a retired Marine General!  The General sized up Zimzod and decided that, whatever the story behind the armed marine, the situation called for a positive response.  As a result, Zimzod was presented with the Baron's hand, Solomani style, as he introduced himself and asked what Zimzod was up to at the party?  Zimzod returned the introduction and told the Baron he was a guest of Duke Leonard's, as well as a crewmate of Major Sir Rol Kaihvos.
Realizing who Zimzod was, and that the knight wasn't used to the party environment, the General gave Zimzod "the military man's guided tour".  He connected Zimzod with a number of other retired officers the General trusted.  They guided and introduced Zimzod about while General Baron Reznikov questioned Zimzod, finding the Knight wasn't well trained for aggressive Q&A.  So, for the good of the service and the Imperium, the General decided to make sure Zimzod had a "guiding angel" at all times.  One advantage was that Zimzod got led to a number of those people he'd most like to meet, as well as others not listed.  Among these were many local naval officers with commands, and even some of those on the Duke's military staff.
During this, Zimzod was asked about Admiral Meshrumiikiim by an officer who seemed both excited to see him and disappointed when he learned Emkir wasn't present.  The Older Army General said he used to work with Emkir when he served on the Duke's staff.  Zimzod kept things to the basics with this officer, and learned that he considered Emkir of value.  The only thing that disappointed Zimzod was that he didn't meet anyone talking about anything he'd like to follow up personally, like antiquities, mysteries or legends.  The good news was that Zimzod was judged by many of those he met by the company he kept.  And the officers escorting him were definitely a positive.
Sir Brian and Ms. Vik had their own experiences at the party.  While Brian bounced back and forth between "So nice to meet the date of Director Vik" and "So nice to meet you Sir Knight", Ms. Vik had her own issues.  In several encounters, she was given a class on the lack of class or out-right abuse of varying social customs.  Having elected to wear what she herself described as a 'second base' gown, Inger saw up front the lack of class inherent in sexual attitudes.  Where places like the Mora system were Female-dominated, the moral outlook of the Imperium spanned the spectrum.  In the many times she was greeted, there were some accidental and some obviously not accidental grabs at her chest!  And while it was only her moral outrage that was actually bruised, the former Director kept a growing list of those who she would chat about with her friends in port operations.
Her revenge would ultimately be served up cold, but it would be cold, hard and harsh.  At least, she was very satisfied at how her gown held up in the face of some nasty grabs!  She was able to maintain her charm while comfortable she wouldn't suffer a 'wardrobe malfunction'.  Not that Ms. Vik's looks were helping Brian make an impression.  Where Dame Mikah would have suffered the same issues, she was obviously armed, and so of a higher social strata.  To those who didn't know her history, Inger's sophisticated yet alluring appearance was just eye candy, distracting those Brian was trying to connect with.  More than one person had to be corrected when asked what escort service Brian had shopped?  Again, this was nothing Inger could act on, as this sort of service was legal on many worlds including Rhylanor.
Escaping The Party Intact      Eventually the party came to an end and Mikah called for her favorite cab driver.  When he answered, Mikah told him how many people were with her and he said he couldn't carry that many.  So he gave her another number to call and she ordered a transport.  After Mikah told the others they had a ride, they gathered to wait near the exit, saying goodbye to friends and some of those they'd met.  Eventually, Mikah got a ping that their cabbie had arrived and went out.  When they left the party, Aiden saw that his "friend" from the Duke's security detail was talking to the driver.  At least, that's what it first appeared to be until he realized the men seemed to be simply standing looking at each other until they reached out and shook hands.  The driver, completely opposite from the IRIS agent, simply asked for their destination, punched in the coordinates and even raised the conversation shield to cut himself off from his passengers!
Ms. Vik approvingly commented on the driver's attention to his drive board and the rest agreed.  Aiden and Zach remembered that she was not happy with the chattiness of the other driver.  When Zach joked, "Now you want conversation?" She fixed him with a stare due to his misrepresentation of the comment and pointed out she was happy with the quiet.  At that point, Zimzod suddenly shouted, "Shut up Bitch!  Shut Up!"  But, when they all turned towards him, the Knight was not looking at anyone in the cab and they all wondered who he was even shouting at?  As silence took over, more than one person saw that he seemed to be looking at his own reflection in a window pane!  Rol said he must have had an interesting amount to drink.
Eventually Zach decided it was too quiet, and started to talk with the others about who they met and what they did at the party.  Mikah snapped that she didn't get a corsage, making a verbal dig at Zach, as her "date".  Inger held up her wrist and said, "Yeah.  This is kind of neat.  Thank you Brian."  Ruining the moment, Brian simply pointed to his right cheek as he raised his chin a bit and invited Inger, "Right here babe.  Use both lips." with an evil grin.  Rol said the party was mostly a blur of shaking hands and meeting people he won't remember until a more formal sit down with them, if that ever happened.  He did thank the rest of the crew for coming to the ceremony and said he hoped they all had a good time while also hoping they didn't have to do anything like it again.
When he said that he'd be happy when they got out of the system and he could "just be Rol again", Ms. Vik said, "Dude.  You're never going to be 'just Rol' any more.  With that, Rol sat back and tried to relax.  Mikah managed to make a few contacts at the party that might be good to know politically in the future.  People whose pro-Norris or Anti-Delphine comments made them good targets for visits later on while in-system, to shore up an acquaintance.  They were also from down on the planet's surface, which the crew had not visited yet but they'd have to in order to see the artifact.  Zimzod spent the entire evening enjoying a guided tour of who's who under the guidance of General Baron Reznikov and his friends.  The impressions he made were good thanks to his various companions.
For Zach, the evening was not so much one of value as of gathering information to use making contacts later.  The most important person he thought he spent time with was the Safir Shipping representative.  He was more than just a point of data and could represent an opportunity down the road.  In addition to the guy from the Duke's security detail, Aiden met more than his share of dilettantes, and those old enough they should know they're too old to be dilettantes.  He also met a number of "security groupies".  The most significant of that ilk was a Baron who'd burned away about twenty minutes of Aiden's life trying to meaningfully suggest details of non-public Subsector Senate business, without actually spilling the beans.  He did this while suggesting this made him a significant intelligence player.  Sadly, everything he'd said was stuff that had been leaked by "anonymous sources", and none of it really had any sale value or even interest to the former scout.
Brian and Ms. Vik emerged from the party with a mixed bag of agendas.  Inger certainly had a list of people whose lives would be made much more difficult if her friends working in the sector port operations could help her.  She was also considering a possible compliment to the shop that sold her the gown, for its ability to take abuse and not fail.  On the positive side, Sir Brian was asked about his knighting, and talked about the ceremony and rewards, including his shares in a merchant shipping line.  One of those listening asked about the shares and found Brian had actually not really looked into them in over a year.  The man said he owned a brokerage house and urged Brian to manage his assets if he didn't want to lose them.  Brian paid more attention when the man suggested a rise in value given the economic recovery and in merchant holding values since the end of the war.  They exchanged information to meet when Brian had some free time.
As the conversation wound down, Mikah reminded them all they had to attend a Festival for Captain Ferlindac the next day.  When asked about the festival, Mikah said she'd looked it up and saw the celebration was held across the entire world in Festivals held locally in communities across the planet.  So she had planned on a few good locations she'd mapped out to visit and loaded them into the cutter's flight computer to choose from the next day.  As they talked about the festival, Mikah said they could dress in military or civilian dress.  Since Zimzod was wearing his dress uniform, he was disappointed to realize he'd have to wear a suit.  But soon they were arriving at the berth and they started thinking of what they wanted to do once they returned?
That Lemon-Vanilla Newly Cleaned Scent      After she let them back in the berth, Aali worked with the engineers to finish swapping out the jump capacitors.  When that was done, she monitored the activities of the engineers as they finished their projects while watching live feed of the Knighting ceremony.  Unfortunately, she found herself swapping from network to network as no one was providing the 'point by point' coverage she wanted.  The constant cut always to commentary and production shifts had her repeatedly moving from one channel to the next.  It was additionally hard to find commenters not shifting their coverage to fit political interests.  The port engineers realized, early on, that they shouldn't bother Aali as she watched, but saw she was still able to keep up on their work, so nothing slipped.
Around two thirty, the knighting ended and Aali tracked some of the commentary as the news coverage shifted to other stories.  She worked at this until nearly three thirty when Emkir returned to the berth.  When Emkir got back to the berth, he side-stepped Wall-e, who was still disassembling the dead 'droid, happily saying "hello Wall-e."  The 'droid turned a panel towards the Admiral saying "Hello Sir."  Emkir noted that the pile he'd been told were potentially good components had grown a great deal!  Knowing Brian brought it back to sell off the working parts, this was good news.  After exchanging greetings with the android, Emkir went inside to find a place to work.  He looked for a number of terminals close together, in order to both talk to those he wanted to call while watching the news on mute.
He ended up grabbing a number of screens in the lounge.  Once situated, Emkir called the Jump News Corporation for an appointment.  To his memory, the lawyer said he'd be available the next afternoon.  When Emkir got through to JNC, the representative was very pleased to work with him to set an appointment regarding Sir Rol.  Emkir was pleased with the response, even as he considered how much money he was spending on multiple meetings considering the upfront costs of legal support.  As with TAS, they would have Emkir picked up and were could meet him at 3pm the next day.  When Emkir asked who he'd be meeting, they gave him the name Guarrin Serratta.  Finishing up with the media, Emkir called the lawyers and got directed to one of the firm's partners.  As they talked, the partner assured Emkir they could not only cover the appointment with JNC, but that they could send the same lawyer.
Done with that, Emkir tried to sound out the partner on how flexible they'd be on payment of the upfront fees?  For an answer, he was told they'd wait while the crew determined who they wanted to work with?  After they'd decided on the list of candidates, it would be time to pay the upfront costs.  Breaking the connection, Emkir relaxed and considered the configuration of the command seats in the Hotel California's bridge.  As he contemplated the available amenities Emkir decided he was going to ask his lady to join him on the bridge to stain the upholstery while the rest of the crew were partying.  Checking a chrono, Emkir saw it was about 4pm and he went to the ship's engineering section to watch Aali walk around.  To his immense disappointment, Emkir found Aali sitting at the engineer's station, running through a number of display screens.
As Emkir walked in, Aali was intently reading something on the screen.  So he decided to sneak around behind her and was, himself, surprised to find it was a political blog covering Rol and the Baron's party.  Of course, this wasn't much of a surprise, as Emkir was aware of her interests.  As a result, he decided to sidle up to her and hover over her shoulder.  Eventually Aali realized there was someone hovering and looked up, getting a start at how close Emkir was to her.  She half-jumped before she realized it was Emkir, and could only give a clipped "Oh!" in response.  As Emkir simply stood smiling, Aali explained that she was checking on the knighting and after parties, complaining that she wished "Someone!" would just broadcast the events without all the annoying commentary.  She sheepishly admitted to having failed to see what she wanted, and was getting a bit caught up in the blogs.
Shutting down the politics, she and Emkir talked about how the engineers were doing as they were almost done.  After that, Emkir explained his evil plan to…join the "bridge club", with an evil grin.  When Aali said she was on board with the idea, he let her know that he was heading to the galley to start preparing "something lovely" to serve her after she signed off on the engineers and let them go.  The end of the workday came soon enough though, and Aali finished the day with a last 'step through' inspection of all projects and systems with the engineers before she signed off on their work and authorized them to leave.  She then made her way to the berth galley, wondering just what Emkir had created, and knowing he was no chef as she passed Wall-e.
As she commented on its work, the 'droid asked if she wanted a report and Aali said no.  At the galley, Aali found Emkir had made a nice enough meal for them.  And having a meal made specifically for her made it all that much more special.  In addition, Emkir had gone to the effort of finding a functional tablecloth, actually a bed sheet, and setting flashlights wrapped in color cloth as candles along with additional decorations.  Aali was very pleased, and they shared a romantic dinner before "repairing to the ship's bridge".  Along the way back to the ship, the pair decided to ask Wall-e for its report and the 'droid began a very detailed report.  They were able to hold off their desires for about five listings of everything including the part number, service expectations and system location, etc.  before they decided it was time to ask specific questions.
When Emkir asked if it had discovered any spy devices, the 'droid asked for a definition of such devices?  After Emkir loosely defined that as anything that could reproduce and transmit sounds, Wall-e reported it had found such devices, and began pulling parts from the pile!  As it presented some parts, it explained that these parts, recovered from the sensor stalks of the destroyed android, were designed to receive sound and transmit it to the 'droid's brain.  Wall-e then explained which of the parts might actually be functional.  As the 'droid continued explaining its findings, having clearly misunderstood the idea of spy devices, Emkir and Aali were impressed with the fact that anything could have survived from sensor arrays which had taken such massive amounts of damage.
While it was clear the 'droid had not been told to test the components and verify working order, Aali noticed the parts might collectively be worth several thousand credits.  That justified Brian's claims earlier, about the chance to raise money with 'droids from the salvage yard."  Even if Brian actually paid the Cr 5,000, they could well make a small pile of cash.  Deciding to be more specific, and more paranoid than Emkir, Aali asked Wall-e if he'd found any active radio transmitters or listening devices on the wreck.  After a pause to process, Wall-e reported it had not logged anything of that nature in its work.
Emkir asked about image capturing and retrieval devices, not specifying 'active', and Wall-e once more retrieved two of the three parts it had been explaining and began a report on their photographic capabilities.  Eventually Emkir complimented Wall-e on its work and he and Aali moved on.  Working on battery power, the couple made their way to the ship's bridge, where they spent some hours, sliming the bridge and acting out a number of mutual fantasies.  From Emkir's "control-panel climax" to Aali, as an engineer, finally screwing over a pilot.  Sadly, as with the hotel, they were disappointed they couldn't get the ship to flip on its side.  But as responsible spacers, they not only dressed but cleaned the bridge properly, leaving the space smelling of a mix of lemon and vanilla.  By the time they were done, it was almost 10 pm as they locked up the ship and went back down to the berth.
Returning To The Berth To Recover      Around 10 pm the carrier with the rest of the crew arrived at the berth and Rol went straight to his quarters to sleep after the day he'd had.  Before going to sleep, Rol considered his wardrobe for the next day.  He decided, since he'd be attending the festival with the other Knights, he'd wear his dress uniform and set it up.  Zimzod grabbed his copy of "Worlds of the Marches" and settled in the lounge to read and check the graphics until he felt it was time to sleep.  Brian had joined Wall-e, and spent some time checking out the growing pile of "maybe good" parts before deciding to check them once the wreck was stripped.  He also decided to turn Wall-e loose on the wrecked grav car after this was done.  Mikah checked the news to see what they'd missed?
She saw some coverage of the on-going festival for Captain Ferlindac Diirrsou, a hero of the Battle of the Two Suns.  She also watched coverage of the Council on the Advancement of Social Reform Progress report.  She watched this as the Knights planned to visit the festival the next day.  Of course, the bulk of the coverage was of Rol's elevation, and she could see how the media were morphing their coverage to a more acceptable view of Major Kaihvos.  As she watched, she saw the media had made the trip from war criminal and murderer, past 'controversial figure' to war hero.  Zach decided he needed a device to record video and edit or manage images, so he went to where they'd stored the devices Emkir collected.  After investigating, he selected two matching devices he liked and did his best to disassemble them to check for recording or broadcasting devices.  He planned to record the artifacts the crew wanted to sell, so he wasn't carrying them when he went out to find customers.
When he couldn't be completely certain about possible devices, Zach went in search of Brian, to ask his help.  He found Brian elbows deep in the wrecked 'droid.  After explaining what he was after, Brian reminded Zach they wanted to sell the data devices to make money.  When Zach pointed out that selling Ms. Vik's gown would make money, Brian reminded him that would be for her, and not help him at all.  Zach flatly said, "Just check it for bugs."  Annoyed, Brian told Zach to leave it and he'd check it, but Zach said, "I need it now."  More annoyed, Brian demanded, "Why?  Are you gonna go out and sell the dress tonight?" When Zach said, "No", and began explaining all the work he felt he had to do to photograph, edit etc, Brian said he was sure that could be done the next morning.
Zach argued that it couldn't wait because the Knights were leaving for a festival, and Brian reminded him they didn't need to be there for the recordings.  When Zach pushed that it would only take a few minutes to check the devices, Brian did take a few minutes to explain just how long, and how many procedures and processes it will take, to correctly check the devices.  His recitation corrected the Merchant's incorrect assumption of how an engineer could magically find potentially microscopic devices.  Zach got into a huff despite the fact he was the one being unreasonable, and considered just leaving, but Brian convinced him to leave the devices to be checked.
After talking with Brian, Zach went to Ms. Vik and explained what he had in mind, telling her he'd get the recordings done the next morning as Brian had to check over the datapads.  Inger was ok with the plan Zach had and asked where he wanted her to leave her items?  When Zach said he was hoping she could put the dress on, to show off its dimensions, she looked at him skeptically saying, "Really?  I haven't even checked to see what size it is.  There's no guarantee it'll even fit me."  When Zach said he'd like to find out if it fit her or shoot it on a hanger, she agreed to try it on in her stateroom and let him know if it fit?  She did say very firmly that 'if' it fit, he was only allowed to take a 'neck down' shot of the dress.
Zach promised her he'd edit it so no one was identifiable, as he didn't want any people from the crew implicated.  He also said he wanted to inspect the other jewelry and items and she said she'd get him those.  Inger went to get the items and Zach turned to Mikah and brain-farted, saying "Ms. Vik, do you have a monocle?"  Zach interrupted Mikah, who was watching the news, and the Knight snapped back, "I'm not Ms. Vik."  Correcting himself, he asked if she had a jeweler's loop, and she said she did as he explained his plan to her.  Mikah went off to get her loop while Zach planned to spend an hour going over what he could, despite the fact this would barely begin to cover the other items, much less the dress.
Both ladies returned with their various possessions and Mikah became interested in checking out some of the gemstones covering the surface of Inger's gown.  When she saw the variety of very valuable gems, she joked about getting a pair of scissors.  Zach said that they did plan to dismantle the dress and Mikah happily said, "Yeah!  We can start now." while considering just what she could palm?  Zach first looked over the other items Ms. Vik brought out while Mikah began considering just how to disassemble the gown?  As they worked, Mikah realized the intricate settings would make the gown very difficult to break up.  The whole job could take upwards of twelve hours to a day to do without damaging any of the stones!  Added to that, a number of the mounts were precious metal mounts too!
Seeing what Mikah was up to, Ms. Vik said they should stop until they could have a professional disassemble the garment.  Mikah said that she was a professional, and Inger replied, "No, You're a collector."  Mikah replied, "I'm a surgeon.  You think I can't handle fabric?" and Inger said, "I just want to make sure it gets taken apart correctly."  Mikah began to point out that the end product was just a gem in its mount and Ms. Vik, trying not to accuse Mikah of anything, said she just wanted to hold off for the time being as Zach wanted pictures of the gown.  Mikah said, "Fine…  Next time I have to put you back together I'll just decide what time is the best time." in an annoyed voice.
As they worked, Zach told Aiden he'd like to check out the Scout's cutlass and scabbard.  Aiden asked if he'd like to check it out that night or the next morning?  Zach considered it and decided to handle that the next morning.  He spent an hour going over Ms. Vik's items for significantly noticeable markings and didn't find any.  Done with that, Zach returned the items to Ms. Vik and decided he was not going to tail around with the Knights the next day.  That would let him work on his contacts with the underworld.  After playing with the gemstones, Mikah went to her berth and prepared her dress uniform for the next day, as well as a holster to wear her auto-pistol.  Zimzod finished reading for the night and decided to dress casual, but still dressed up.  He selected a business suit he felt was appropriate.
After dealing with Zach and being told he'd check his contacts the next day, Aiden asked if he would have to be present?  Zach said he just needed to take pictures of the goodies, and confirmed Aiden wanted him to sell the watch?  Ms. Vik considered either following the Knights to the party or doing the tourist thing.  Aali and Emkir returned to the berth from the ship, and happened on Brian, still working with Wall-e.  Greeting a very pleased Brian, they saw he'd gotten a set of diagnostic tools out and was testing the parts the 'droid set aside as possibly good.  Brian looked up, asking where they'd been and Emkir said they'd been having fun and it seemed Brian was too.  Brian admitted he was having fun, and was pleased to announce he might even make more from the dead 'droid than he first thought.
As the pair moved on, Brian ignored the trailing scent of lemon as he returned to his work.  Having already proven out the usefulness of two photo-sensors and the tentacle arm, he worked on a logic card as another part of his mind plotted replacing a missing arm on Wall-e.  Leaving him behind, the couple went to their bunk where Aali went to sleep while Emkir picked up the tablet on which he had his Risek-glyphs work.  But soon enough, he realized he was too tired to make any sense of the work so he set it aside and joined Aali in sleep.
After they left, Zach showed up again and Brian was about to tell him the datapads were done, even though he'd done nothing to check them.  But Zach brought up the Risek-glyphs and mentioned that there were lots of archeologists in-system.  He said they perhaps should have them checked out by some experts?  Brian said they should wait until the next day, and find out what Emkir had gotten, since had did paid him to work on them.  Zach agreed and headed off to get some sleep.  Eventually done working with Wall-e for a bit, Brian hit his berth, setting up a suit to wear the next day before hitting the rack.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Making Odd Impressions In Your Own Shadow