This page is based on a "damaged" after action report. Due to computer issues, the audio files and notes were damaged. So some of this data will be somewhat skeletal.    Saturday, 210 1112: Noon After The Operation
After the morning's surgery, Mikah and Aali relaxed at lunch in a diner, enjoying chow and glancing at the vids showing various news and entertainment. As they ate, they were treated to coverage, from earlier, of Major Kaihvos leaving their berth going to the TAS offices on-station. They watched coverage of Emkir, Zach and Rol boarding the unmarked station transport. A reporter wondered if this was related to the offer to sell an interview or if TAS had uncovered something to force the Major's hand? Much of the side reporting was speculative, about what Rol would confess to? The ladies were amazed at the restraint shown by the media regarding Zach's sudden and unexplained medical condition, and rumors of the crew being involved in a combat situation aboard the port.
The two listened to the coverage as they ate, and Mikah noticed side commentary on why Duke Leonard came out in support of Rol and the other Knights aboard the ship? That chatter suggested "someone" aboard had significant connections to the port and could be using those connections to pressure the Duke. The comments targeted "Inger Martinusdtr Vik", who might have been using SPA influence to affect the Major's legal situation. Reports on Ms. Vik's current activities, possibly paying the port back for their allegiance, had not been answered by the Port executives. Nodding to no one in particular, Mikah just joked, "Ms. Vik's in trouble again." Hearing her, and not really filled in on the crew's past beyond the highlights, Aali waited to see what more Mikah would say. But Mikah simply moved on to what was planned for the rest of the day, which wasn't much.
Planning what to do for the rest of the day, Aali said she didn't have anything after leaving Emkir to his day. Mikah quipped, "Heh. Need a break from that, huh?" As they talked, they saw that escaping the shadow cast by their crew was becoming difficult, as multiple current media reports started following Major Rol Kaihvos' party when they left the TAS offices and made their way to a fashionable restaurant, said to regularly serve media stars. Aali laughed at Mikah's comments about Emkir, but said he was busy with the contract signing. They discussed the media circus following the men, and agreed to go to some dive of a bar when the interview was aired, to heckle it. But as those comments burned out, they both found they didn't want to stay in the diner or go back to the berth. So they sparked up a table-side vid and decided to check out the central spaces of the station and see what was happening.
A "slice view" server allowed them to cut away sections of a composite graphic of the station as they decided where to go. The station was ultimately a "nest" of public and service concourses wrapped around a core composed of housing, corporate, administrative and commercial blocks. Loosely surrounding that were the docking sections of the station, either comprised of internal bays or massive concourses called "docking arms". Once smaller ships entered the docking bay under port control, they were settled on a shuttle cradle, secured and then transported to internal berths. Their ship was berthed in an internal bay located in one of those arms, which was "fed" by the ship carrier system. As they checked out different sections of the port, both Mikah and Aali noted that the central spaces were surprisingly open, given the cost of every cubic centimeter of space. Not to mention the gasses needed to fill it to one average atmosphere!
The cost of the open space alone must be a massive tourist-attraction bill. Checking the sales and service venues on the most open concourses, they found those were of the most expensive kind. Aali quietly considered that she'd never be able to shop there. But when Mikah proposed ditching work for the afternoon to "people watch", Aali played the dutiful employee and followed instructions! So the Engineer paid the tab of Cr 40 and they went out to the center of the station. Mikah paid the Cr 30 cab fare to the station's open core and the ladies got out into a very well-appointed space which was vast for a space-borne archology.
In their first look about, they could see the space was as richly appointed as the value of the merchandising done there. Not a single venue there was one Aali would feel comfortable exposing her accounts to. And if the ladies appeared to not belong among the station's elite, none of the passer's by deigned to notice. Some may have felt it beneath them to do so and others obviously had electronic devices which scan-identified Dame Mikah at least. These were obvious as some looks of scorn quickly changed when they came within scan range of the tech toys. As they explored, the pair saw walking parks and spaces set aside for concerts and other performance exhibitions, though not sports. And looking into the open space "above", they could see zero-g acrobats and other null-grav artists performing for those "below".
Of course, "above" and "below" were relative, as you looked across the open space at people looking up/down at you from other concourses bordering the space. Those bulkheads of this space that were not devoted to venues were decorated in lighting and art displays, and uses of other cultural significance. It was obviously a display centerpiece for the station. Venues, in addition to shops and stores, were the ports major opera house and theater cluster. All manner of pastimes were available to anyone with cash to spend. For free, one could sit and watch the acrobatics "above" or watch enclaves set aside for musicians, dramatic performers or other performance-based or static art. Milling throughout the space were beings of all races and shapes. Eventually, Aali was quietly grateful to Dame Mikah when the knight suggested they just people-watch the ever changing kaleidoscope of activity. As they wandered and watched, before returning for dinner, Mikah checked out some shops but admitted the prices were even steep to her. Especially for some of the "stuff" they're selling...After Signing The TAS Contract
Near the TAS office block, Rol, Emkir and Zach had been taken to lunch by Mr. Morvello, and his budget did not disappoint. With a handful of "production assistants" as go-fers, the executive ordered a car and brought them to a stylish bistro near the center of the station's entertainment block. Used to hosting vid-celebrities, the staff didn't miss a beat in properly serving the party in a fashion Rol uncomfortably knew he'd never willingly pay the bill for. Zach took note of the place, in the event he ever really needed to swing a backer. Emkir thought it was a wonderful place to get someone else to pay for food at. Of course, the media cloud worked to coalesce on the party, despite the obviously capable security of the restaurant. And as "two plus two equaled four", the other media outlets puzzled out that TAS had gotten Rol's interview.
While they ate, Emkir and Zach both started getting a growing wave of calls from media outlets and "unknown" callers. Reacting to this, Emkir set his comms to give all callers not on his contacts list the voice message "TAS won the bid, Suck it up!" in a polite tone. Zach watched Emkir as he was deciding a tactful way of reacting and did the same. But in a more "business-suave" manner. Still, he had other concerns, like the merchants he'd been introduced to. To separate those the best he could, Zach set a broadcast a message of condolences to any "obviously media" contacts, while routing the rest to voice mail. While this allowed some bleed-through, it safeguarded other contacts he couldn't predict, but wanted to reach. At the same time, both men realized they'd likely have a huge wave of e-mail as well.
While they were busy with their comms, Rol decided to test his planted bugs and found both were performing just as expected. Of course, they were both in very close range. Once done with lunch, Morvello offered a car to return them to the berth and Rol asked if they wanted to return there or head out to some other destination? Zach was up for something new, so long as there was transportation to get him and his chair around. Emkir suggested returning to the berth, to prevent a mob scene wherever they ended up. They considered the hazards and other risks, and Zach dismissed any crowds suggesting he could just rise above them in his hoverChair. Emkir acerbically quipped that Zach could rise above foot traffic into the flow of the hover-traffic above them.
As they talked destinations, Zach groused about having missed the team's tour of the ancient artifact on Rhylanor Prime. Following those comments, they decided to check out an on-station museum on the artifact. Built to fleece those passing through who couldn't get down-well, the place they went had displays of many of the parts of the artifact Zach had already read about. There were some live cameras covering tourist filled sections of the artifact's public spaces, but nothing of note or not already made public. So Zach's Cr 10 ticket let him see nothing new while the others talked about elements of the in-person tour he'd missed. After taunting Zach about things "just off to the side" of what was publicly displayed, Emkir snuck chances to show Zach some pictures from inside the artifact. Soon, both Rol and Emkir were taking opportunities to fill Zach in on many of the experiences he'd missed while sharing pictures when possible.
Of course, they were careful because some of the media had followed them despite having to pay to do so. And from time to time, Rol was greeted or asked for an autograph, which he politely refused. But the museum was not large and, by mid-afternoon, they were done. Continuing through, they hit the gift shop and looked at items from cheesy to over-expensive while cruising the e-books, crystals on subjects like the Dryone, the Ancients and other interesting oddities in local space, like the Risek starport. Of course, there was nothing Zach hadn't bought or passed up as garbage. Emkir scanned through the data on the Risek station, finding nothing he didn't have from his research. Rol's interest was very different as he looked for a "sticky" to plant on Zach's hoverChair.
In a selection of Cr 5 stickys with varied message displays, Rol found a sticker that altered colors, glittering as it displayed "I survived the Rhylanor Artifact". He was even more impressed because it captured energy bleed from the device it was attached to in order to power itself! So it didn't need external power ever. Rol plunked down Cr 5, bought it and walked up to stick it on Zach's chair, saying "See? Now your chair is personalized" as he showed off the flashing glittering sticker. Rol activated it and stuck it to the hoverChair before Zach could react. Zach dryly said, "Thanks Rol", as the knight joked, "Now you can find it in a crowd." with a smirk.
After that, the three talked about where they'd like to go next because it was only about 2:30pm. Soon they were chatting about the various sporting events and races. Looking up race-based competitions in the port's listings, they found there were a number of regular leagues. Zero-g events ranged from unaugmented competitors navigating 3-D mazes in timed performances to spacecraft races through buoy-marked courses outside the station. The purses and awards available ranged from bragging rights to fairly nice cash sums. And many served as a gateway to competing in higher level circuits. Other competitions included grav-ball games and even grav-Bike competitions in specially designed spaces in the station!
As they looked over the menu of potential mayhem, Rol surprised the others by saying he had "a hankering" to see some exotic cooking. Zach nodded in approval, and even Emkir admitted he could go for a good cooking competition. In the end, a short walk brought them to a commercial venue where the chefs and performers were not competing but showing off. Of course, this was funded by retail outlets whose products the chefs used, so there were a great many products for sale and the recipes selected used many of the displayed spices and goods.More Dock Work For The Director
Leaving the deck of Star Daughter, Ms. Vik felt like she'd managed her one miracle allotted that year. Convincing them to cooperate, and hooking them up with good lawyers, she was sure their only remaining fine would be in the hundreds of credits. Ms. Vik was also not able to convince them she was not a Sword Worlder, despite spelling her name "Martinusdtr". So she left as adopted crew, considered an honorary lost Sword Worlder. She was also invited to bring her captain for a visit. And her pilot, for lessons in sneaking past Imperial warships. Despite the friendly manner, Inger wondered what Aiden's reaction would be to taking lessons in shipcraft from Sword Worlders given his past experiences.
Moving past that, Ms. Vik considered her next stop at the IMS Shaanes Kebe, on port hold due to a contract dispute. In her research, she'd found the crew had signed a charter in a bar and it was possible both parties had been a bit inebriated. When it came time to board, the crew learned the passengers were Virushi! The ship's fittings wouldn't allow Virushi to function aboard, outside the cargo bay. Embarrassed, the Captain promised full refunds and all possible apologies, but the Virushi were beyond angry. The crew quickly found themselves under legal injunction for the costs paid to the ship and damages due to the lost trip and all the potential it held. In legal suit, the Virushi claimed the callus, careless and criminal loss of their transportation also cost them any chance at completing their plans. This was the basis of the damages claim, and also the root of a legal writ holding them in-port until the charges were resolved.
Sadly, Inger knew the best she could do for them was to advise the captain to admit being drunk at the contract signing, and to throw themselves and their record on the mercy of the court. She could also advise them to use the mitigating circumstances that the clients were also drunk. On top of those issues, she also admitted to herself that her growing reputation was also a head wind to push against. And a very nasty head wind in the light of the expectations the crew of the Shaanes Kebe might be harboring when she lowered the boom on them. Sure enough, when she arrived, Ms. Vik saw the look of instant hope on the crewman's face as he recognized her from media reports. It was clear the crew expected one of the miracles the rumor mill promised. Ms. Vik had to keep control of herself as she met with the ship's command officers and let them down.
Her advice was simple, take some of their dwindling funds to hire lawyers good enough to cut down the liabilities. That way, they'd pay something, but not as much as they could end up paying. Once she had their expectations down on the deck where they belonged, Ms. Vik felt the only real help she could be was to refer them to Brigg, Tander and hault-Vineschenz. The mood was grim as she finished her evaluation, and what little advice she could provide. Once done, the captain was not in a mood to be billed, and Ms. Vik was ok with that. They shook hands and she left the bay for her next stop, which was the IMS Driftwood.
According to her research, the crew of the Driftwood were contracted to carry a cargo for a shipper. After going over the basics with the shipper, he'd asked how soon he could have his cargo loaded onto the ship? But while the ship's officers were processing their paperwork and preparing to file their flight plan, the authorities arrived with paperwork detaining the ship for transportation of stolen property! According to the complaint, a fairly high-placed warehouse manager stated goods were stolen from one of his warehouses by the shipper. The ship's issue was that the plaintiff further demanded the ship be investigated to find out if they were knowing accomplices in the scheme. And since he had enough political pull, his demands were being followed so long as there were legitimate claims of damage.
Adding to the issue, the obviously guilty shipper was arrested and hauled off by the Authorities. Unfortunately for the ship, the thief was then killed by another prisoner while in detention! So the charges of a connection were being investigated due to the political pull of the owner, but they no longer had the chief source of data. The result was that the ship was under port-hold while accounts and records were being checked completely. According to Inger's research, all past accounting of both parties were being checked not only in-system but via x-mail from other systems! The amount of time such a witch hunt could take could stretch into years! Ultimately, what Ms. Vik realized they needed to over-match the political pull of the plaintiff. As she rode to the Driftwood's bay, she considered who might be called on.
The Countess was not local, and was just a merchant with connections in this system. Ms. Vik was not sure if she would have any sway, much less more political power than the warehouse manager. She also didn't want to consider if Countess Ursara would want to spend any political capital she might have on this? Especially since she had already stretched things by getting permission to use Ursara's seneschal's name with the lawyers. Of course, the only others she knew in-system with political power were Lord William and Duke Leonard. Not willing to take a risk on involving Lord William, Inger considered how to approach the Duke? She mentally reviewed the process of approaching the Duke's Seneschalate and decided that asking the Duke to get involve in a small fight on the docks would not be appropriate. So she decided to push a bit and call Ursara's Seneschal again.
When Aanshik Jasani received the call, he sounded friendly and Ms. Vik apologized before explaining that she needed to ask another favor. When Jasani didn't react badly, she quickly explained the situation with the Driftwood and asked if he was familiar with anyone locally who might have an interest in helping a merchant ship out, or for any advice he could offer? When the Seneschal answered, he suggested this would be an act of political influence. Anyone who might exercise their influence would need a reason to do so. And they would be linked to the ship and incident going forward. Not to mention becoming an opponent of the warehouse manager.
Ms. Vik considered this and asked if a political opponent of the plaintiff might not be the perfect person to approach? She guessed this might be the best chance, as such a person would benefit by embarrassing the plaintiff and exposing his mistakes. Sadly, Jasani couldn't help, as he and the Countess were just visiting Rhylanor. He suggested Ms. Vik look for someone more integrated with the system's political structure. While she listened, Inger considered the obvious, and Lord William. Once Inger decided she was going to have to call the IRIS boss, she also thanked Jasani for allowing her to use his name with the lawyers. She explained just how things had spun out with that crew and the lawyers, as well as the Cr 1,000 " finder’s fee". In addition, Inger told him that, since the whole deal would not have happened without his help, she was cutting him in for Cr 500 of the payment.
Jasani was gracious in accepting the offer, and glad he was able to help out. As she was talking to the Seneschal, Inger mentally searched for other any direction than Duke Leonard's brother the spy. Then it came to her. She recalled that, seven days before, Rol Zimzod Brian had met a Count at a restaurant after attending Dame Ashlee's conference. And as she finished her call with Jasani, she remembered the Count was willing to help them out, after having stepped in to resolve a possible crisis. So this just might be a route she could be more comfortable with. Unfortunately, she was not with the Knights as it was a contact they had made and an ally of Sir Rol.
So Ms. Vik decided to call Rol and see if she could get contact information from him on the Count? When she called, Rol checked his comms because he expected the press to start bugging him eventually, and answered because he saw her ID. Stepping off to the side of the cooking demo area, Rol told her the nobleman was a "Count Krenowl" as he pulled up the man's contact data. When Rol asked why she needed the data, she said there was someone using political muscle to cause trouble for the crew of a ship she was working for. She said she hoped to find someone who was a political rival of the warehouse manager, and enlist that person to unravel the knots binding the ship and its crew. Rol agreed the Count might be able to help, and offered her the Count's contact data, but asked if she wanted him to call the Count for her?
Inger said she was not sure, asking Rol how impressed he thought the Count was with him? Rol admitted the Count's support may have been more based on 'supporting a nobleman against an attack' than a personal thing. As Ms. Vik considered this, she decided to ask Rol about a conference call, so he could introduce her? Checking the settings on his comms, Rol said that wouldn't be a problem. As she waited, Rol checked the data the Count bumped him and selected the one that seemed to be his public contact data. Once Rol set the call up, a woman answered and asked how she could help? Rol identified himself and said he was calling the Count on a matter of business. Once the Count came on the line, Rol began as generically as he could, saying that one of his crew mates needed advice with an issue. When the Count asked for details, Rol said the crewmate was on the line and the Count joked about having been ambushed.
After the laugh, the Count invited "the crew member" to explain, and Ms. Vik introduced herself. Once going, Ms. Vik explained the issue with the Driftwood and the insulted nobleman, and said she felt the best way to resolve it was to find someone who might have an interest in becoming the crew's advocate. In explaining, Inger quickly hit the talking points on how the case against the ship was trumped up. The Count listened as she said it would best to find someone as politically connected, or more, who would have a reason to use their influence to help the ship. Inger admitted that a political rival to the plaintiff would likely be the best choice, as they already had a motivation to help, outside of profit.
After she was done, there was a pause before the Count quipped, "It's interesting to see what kind of driftwood washes up from time to time. Hoping to get the man's help, Inger forced a laugh as the Count continued, "The man creating the problem is a Baronet". Inger knew that was not normally a powerful position unless you were a Lord, Knight or less. But Count Krenowl said the man was heavily involved in the food provisioning industry in Rhylanor. This had the effect of magnifying importance, as one in that industry could provide many favors and collect them in debt. So you never knew who owed the Baronet favors. The Count also pointed out that his County jurisdiction limited how effective he could be in this issue, because the issue didn't come under his authority.
He could potentially be seen as abusing his rank by meddling in affairs not his own. The best help he said he could offer was to take the information Ms. Vik had collected and look for someone who might better be able to act. He did warn that any spending of political influence was likely to come down to a "favor for favor" exchange. The warning was a grim one, in that she could end up talking herself or the crew, into owing a favor to some unknown political figure. He did say he would act on the principle of Imperial Law, which was why he was not asking for a favor himself. But he said the best person to help in this may not likely be the most honest person.
Ms. Vik accepted that as they went over the details, and she sent him a few of her collected files from the port, and her own notes. Soon enough both the call and the ride ended and she paid the taxi Cr 10 as she climbed out at Driftwood's berth. Of course, as she stepped out of the transport, she quickly spotted the dawning smile on the face of the crew member manning the berth's portal. Ms. Vik cursed the effective nature of both the media and the merchant "whisper-net". Shrugging it off, she moved forward as the ship's captain came out to meet her. Once she was seated aboard, she explained that there was no legal answer to their problem. The captain understood the swamp they'd become stuck in as Ms. Vik explained that the way out would have to be a political one.
In a universe of both law and nobility, every independent captain understood the "influence economy", as well as the financial one, and the captain's response to Inger's comments showed he was not really surprised where things were going. He admitted he just had not thought about that angle because the dispute seemed so ridiculous. He was pleased when Ms. Vik said she was looking for a political opponent or rival, suggesting they could also find a patron who wanted an alliance with a merchant ship? Now that Inger had spoken her piece, it was her turn to listen as it turned out the captain might know someone. Their ship did regular supply runs for the Imperial Navy. So they not only periodically made runs to red-zoned systems, but managed to pick up very rare delicacies that the Navy managed to trade for. Or that Scouts running missions dirtside managed to "recover". A result of this was that they made stops with fleet assets guarding Dryone inhabited worlds and occasionally got Dryone goods in trade.
The Duke holding the contract had hired them to make the run in the past, ordering the return any of a specific delicacy to him. Having had his thinking reorganized by Ms. Vik's ideas, the captain felt he could approach the Duke on this issue and not end up owing too many more favors for the help. When Inger asked if he'd like her to continue following up with her contacts, he said he felt he had a good chance of solving the problem after she'd shown him the light. Especially since he had managed to get some bonuses from the Duke over time. As they talked, she offered that the captain could call her if things didn't work out, and asked who their Duke was? The captain didn't want to give out the name until he was sure things would work out. But he also said she could call on him if she or her crew needed anything he could help with.
She said her goodbyes as they exchanged more direct contact methods, and Inger called for a port taxi. After leaving the berth, and while waiting, she grabbed the data from Rol's call and called Count Krenowl. When the Count came on the line, he was surprised to hear from Ms. Vik again so soon. She explained that the ship had a potential patron the captain had not considered before her visit, and they may well be fine. The Count thanked Inger for letting him know, gave a verbal shrug and signed off while Inger worried if she'd damaged this contact. As she waited for her ride, Ms. Vik considered her notes and decided to meet with one more ship before returning to the berth. Considering her accounts, and the nickel and dime costs of moving about, she was disappointed the captain didn't even offer to pay her a small amount for her time.
Of course, she realized his ship was losing significant amounts of money every hour it was stuck in port. And there was also the possibility he might soon be calling her for help if his plan went wrong. Since it was the last ship of the day, Ms. Vik finally chose the "special" visit she had considered. As the taxi arrived, she read through what she could find on The Cursed Bastards of Sol. From what she knew, the ship was being held in port because she was suspected of handling or supporting covert espionage missions for the Solomani Confederation government. Her idea in checking the ship out was not that she could help them, but that she could perhaps find some information to help the Hotel California get into the Pavabid system.
And as different as her intentions were with this crew, so was her arrival experience. There was no one waiting, or even manning the berth, which looked like it was locked up. Once she'd paid the taxi, Ms. Vik found she needed to buzz at the comms panel to contact the ship. When they did answer, it was a growled, "Who is it?" and Inger introduced herself. Whoever was on the comms was not at all impressed with her. Eventually, she talked the crewman into getting the ship's captain on the line. After he got on the line, Ms. Vik had to re-introduce herself and was asked what her business was? She told him she had been working freelance, helping ships in the port and heard they'd had some issues with the local authorities. The Captain just snorted in humor.
She offered her interest in seeing if she could help and he suddenly changed demeanor. In a sarcastic tone, the captain loudly invited her aboard in anticipation of a comedy show as she tried her best. Soon enough, the crewman the captain sent let her into the berth, and she found he was not the cleanest or most pleasant smelling person. Nor the friendliest. Once inside, the ship was dark and not well-cleaned. As she expected, there were no happy faces aboard as Inger was led into the crew common to meet the captain. He swept the remains of a meal or snack onto the compartment's deck and cleared a space for Inger to sit. He then invited her to tell him what she thought she could do for the ship, using her title "Director" acerbically. Ready for this, Ms. Vik explained the research she had done and what she'd learned and asked what they'd tried?
The captain said they tried to find legal representation and failed, until they reached out to the Solomani Embassy in-system. The Embassy assured them they'd gotten the ship legal representation but the crew had not heard from the lawyers yet. The Embassy also managed to provide food and supplies to the ship for the duration of the issue, and created an account to which all the fees were being billed. So the ship's funds were being protected to an extent. This didn't help with parts, maintenance needs and crew pay/costs. Beyond that, anyone leaving the berth was followed by the authorities. If a crew member even sneezed the wrong way, they were arrested. Three of his crew were currently being held, and no one could help them until the ship and crew were cleared of the charges.
Not all of this was news to Ms. Vik, though she had found no evidence they were involved in anything. On the other hand, the head of Imperial Intelligence on Rhylanor had claimed classified evidence that the ship was involved in espionage. It was his order that was holding the ship, and being carried out by the Imperial Intelligence Directorate. And they were "not sharing". Trying the direct route, Ms. Vik asked if the captain knew why this was happening? If they'd had any experience with the intelligence chief? He dryly responded that they were just merchants. They get hired to carry cargo, they carry cargo. They get hired to carry people, they carry people. When Inger asked what brought them to the system, the captain said they were hired to carry a freight cargo there. He grimly said that had been grabbed as part of the investigation, preventing them getting their delivery payment.
When Inger asked who had shipped the freight, he said it was "ready freight" from the Bahadur System starport (Sabine Subsector / Deneb Sector). As far as he and the crew knew, it was a load of tech goods, but was sealed when they picked it up and remained sealed in their hold. At seven jumps, that was Cr 7,000 per ton of cargo for just flying. Ms. Vik knew that was not a "lot of money", but it could help pay the bills. In the end, she recognized that they were not getting out of port until the charges were resolved. The captain agreed with that, adding things like, "finding out what 'the real charges were', "what real evidence they had" or any of the many other things that were not going to happen". With the last, the man slumped back into his seat not quite glaring at Ms. Vik.
Inger said she'd still like to investigate, and wanted his permission to speak to the Embassy. The captain said she didn't need his permission, even when she pushed that it was to discuss their ship's business. He persisted that she didn't need it. As the conversation progressed, Ms. Vik realized they may only have let her on board for laughs. While she could see they believed her, it was obvious they didn't believe her view of the universe was going to do anything but get her shot down. They suffered in a "Might Makes Right" universe where no one who believed in the undiluted rule of law and fair play would succeed when the powers that be did not want it so. And Inger had to admit, with the history she'd seen in their investigation, they had good reason to believe this.
A number of organizations did stand up for the law, even if it was not really on behalf of the ship and crew, and were smacked down. In the end, she left them saying she'd do what she could and got a hearty "Good Luck with that" from the captain as she went. As she left, Inger called for a port taxi and checked on the location of the Solomani Embassy. As she waited, she found that facility was in the central administrative district on Rhylanor Prime. Having decided this was to be the last ship of the day, and getting a bit hungry, Inger decided to go back to their berth and visit the Embassy the following day. She did send an e-letter to the Embassy stating her intent to meet with them regarding the ship the next day.Food And Afternoon Entertainment
At the cooking exhibition, Rol got a call from Ms. Vik and stepped away from the crowd to talk. After helping her contact the Count, he finished up with the call and rejoined Emkir and Zach. Rol and Zach were pleased that the organizers had gone out of their way to present cuisine from less travelled systems, or those rarely traded with for food goods or visited for cultural reasons. It was the cultural connections that most interested Emkir, though he enjoyed sampling the many dishes. And it seemed the environment of the show somehow drastically cut down on those following Rol and his entourage. He found he didn't even have to remind anyone he was the ship's cook. Eventually, Rol uploaded a few recipes to his comms and spent Cr 100 on spices and other goods to try cooking with. Purchases aside, the three enjoyed the event until it was time to split the fare for a cab back to the berth for dinner.
Aiden spent his entire afternoon at the Instel-Arms facility, lusting over weapons and checking into test firing opportunities. He was more often approached by sales staff as this was a sales venue and not a museum. Eventually Aiden decided to head back to the berth. Once there, Aiden logged into a number of auction sites and set up some accounts to try and sell his TAS high passage ticket, to burn down his debt to Dame Mikah. He checked his job search and didn't find his approach was striking pay dirt. Once that was done, Aiden relaxed until the rest returned and they had dinner. At the school, Zimzod enjoyed another afternoon of gunnery training exercises and trying to blow holograms out of the virtual sky. Eventually, he showered up and returned to the berth as well.
In the hospital, Sir Brian woke in the recovery room and relaxed. He realized the drugs he'd been given were good enough that he didn't feel any pain. He was checked periodically, and told he would be transported back to his ship's berth around ten that night. Brian eventually was allowed to read a number of pamphlets on the implant and the steps toward to using it. Brian would need to take a week long holo-chip class on how to use the implant and what to expect. The facility would provide that to him. It also recommended he take a month-long class which could be bought as a holographic and intra-cyber class. Brian was excited about the "Intra-cyber" parts, as that was exactly what he hoped to be able to do.
Once back at the berth, Rol started working on trying out one of the recipes he saw, and for which he'd bought the right ingredients. He told no one he planned to do this because it was his 38th birthday. The retired Marine wanted to keep that quiet as much as possible because he was unsure what stunts the knights might pull if they found out. Zach checked his on-going research program on contraband headed to Pavabid. And as he did, Zach saw that all of that trade flow was simply being ordered and received by the Church. No data went deeper than being received at the starport. That vector of research might suggest what contraband a Select member might have on them, at best, but no more. It looked like a dead end, except that they might carry a few tons of those noted items, hoping to selling them on-world. The only issue they might run into with that was that the Church was obviously bringing in contraband through established connections. Where they might hope to buy at a price low enough to make a profit selling, the chances were good the Church was already getting very good prices from their contracted venders.
So there was a very real chance to lose money on it if they couldn't cut the price low enough to beat the contracted deals. Regardless of the lack of intelligence, Zach kept his research up, hoping he'd find a vector to make some money. At the very least, he hoped he could find some kind of cargo they could sell at the port, if they actually landed there. He was the one member of the crew who seemed to not be planning on making a crash dive landing, sneaking into one of the cities and investigating. So all his work could be erased by the basic plans the rest of the crew were working to set up. After dinner, Zach wanted to call Dr. Thruald and offer his data on the nomads in hopes of getting to go to the Ancient Artifact. So, he comm'd Mikah, ironically as she was arriving at the berth, to ask for the Doctor's contact data.
Having arrived before Mikah and Aali, Emkir called his lady and reached her as she and Mikah were riding a cab back to the berth. She told him they were on the way back. He told her Rol had been doing some research and dinner would be well worth getting back to the berth for. Since the ladies were minutes away, they cut the comms as Emkir logged into his research on the Risek glyphs. He decided that he'd set up a script to search through the many periodicals he got from Duke Leonard's library after dinner.
Once back at the berth, Mikah paid the taxi and the ladies joined the growing crowd in a galley that was smelling better and better as Rol worked. Soon the only person not there was Brian, who was still being observed in the recovery room. While not at his beck and call any longer, Mikah checked the listing of Duke Leonard's socializing list to see if there was anything on it for the following day? As she considered the list, she saw the "Children of the Fifth Frontier War Charitable Society" was on-going, having begun days before.
While she wouldn't have to attend the event on the orders of the Duke, this was still of importance to her, Brian and Zimzod after their experiences in the Emerald System at the end of the war. Other than that, she had nothing planned and was at loose ends. Mikah also saw there was something still on-going after dinner that night, the 341st Strike Squadron "Military Day" and celebration, which had been on-going all day. But going to that would likely require her to change into her Naval uniform.A Surprise Visitor
Once dinner was over, Zach called Doctor Thruald, to explain he had been in an accident and missed the chance to report his data on the nomads. The doctor was pleased, and asked him when he was comfortable coming to the University to record his data? Zach set a meeting for 10am the next day. Surprising the Doctor, Zach asked, half-heartedly, if he'd be able to get a tour of the artifact as he missed that as well. Unfortunately for him, the Doctor explained that was something of a special arrangement. Zach did a little begging and the Doctor allowed that he could always ask about it. But he did not sound very enthusiastic or offer any hope of succeeding.
Adding tourists to a team was an issue on its own and there were some issues the rest of the crew had created that had to be lived down. That would take time. With that, Zach cut the line and started filtering the media garbage out of his email. Having overheard Zach talking to the Doctor, Mikah reminded him, "Don't forget to tell him about the flying tent." with an evil grin. She also joked about using his head for surgical practice as his brain was the least in danger of being damaged by any mistakes. After that, Dame Mikah decided to relax and watch vids. Zimzod dressed up and went out to see if he could hook up with a lady.
Rol cleaned up after dinner and then hit his quarters to read through more mercenary magazines, in search of event information from District 268. Emkir spent the evening after dinner filtering his email and working on writing a program to go through his periodicals to find data on District 268. Since the data Aali got from the library was based on Imperial Noble families, and there were none in District 268, she helped Emkir at his work. Aiden powered up the ship's bridge computer and did some nav training before securing the bridge and watching vids until bed time.
After chow, Ms. Vik updated her data on the ships she'd dealt with. She'd visited Star Chaser, Shaanes Kebe and told off the crew of the Dragon's Horde. She'd been invited back to Star Daughter, and could bring her captain and pilot. She also dealt with the crews of the Driftwood and Morningstar's Treasure. She had yet to visit the Eadgar Lanzo, Rira Niru, Last Credit and Dragged Keel. Ms. Vik planned to continue her research on the remaining ships into the evening. But around 8pm, there was a buzz at the berth entrance. Being the only one not working on something, Mikah checked the berth entrance and saw a nondescript man dressed in a grey suit waiting at the berth. Hitting the comm panel, She asked what he wanted?
The man presented his Ident, showing him as a member of the Rhylanor System Security Investigative Division, and asked for Ms. Vik by her full name and former titles. Mikah buzzed into the lounge, asking if Ms. Vik was available and Inger said she was. When she said Mikah could let the man in, the knight asked if she needed privacy. Ms. Vik guessed she likely did. Mikah let the man into the berth, but surprised him by waiting there until Ms. Vik joined them as the night-shift media crews documented the unexplained activity. When Inger arrived, she moved to introduce herself and Mikah but the man brushed that aside saying he knew them and wanted to discuss the her day's activities privately. He said this with a glance at Mikah, who protested that Ms. Vik was a member of her crew. When Mikah protested more, the man said he could always take Ms. Vik into custody if the crew are not cooperative. Mikah decided to call the man's bluff, and they ended up in a staring contest for a few moments until more nondescript men showed up at the berth.
They bypassed the niceties as one slipped a control card into the access panel and opened the door without even a request. As two of the men stepped up to Ms. Vik, the third joined the first agent. He announced they were taking Ms. Vik for questioning at that time. He continued to inform Mikah that she'd be staying in the berth. As the men began to escort Inger out of the berth, Mikah called Lord William, who was surprised, though not annoyed, to be hearing from Mikah. As he asked what he could do for her, Mikah asked why some of his people were arresting Ms. Vik? At first, Lord William was confused. When Mikah explained what was happening and William reminded her that there were many intelligence agencies in the Imperium. From those of the Imperial government to those of the Domain, Sector and Subsector governments to those of the Duchy and System government. The people dealing with Ms. Vik were obviously one of those many agencies, which mostly had nothing at all to do with IRIS.
After getting more details from Mikah, Lord William told her this agency reported to the Imperial Ministry of Justice, and had nothing to do with IRIS at all. Nor did they even know about IRIS. When Mikah asked why they might be arresting Ms. Vik, he said that, without research, there was no way he could answer that question. He continued that she would be the best person to clear things up. With that, William smiled as he said that was all he could do to help and signed off as he killed the connection. Mikah shrugged as a newly arrived vehicle sat in the berth, and returned to the lounge hoping this would not be a problem for her down the road. As she talked to Lord William, the vehicle had pulled up outside the berth and the men escorted Ms. Vik aboard. As they walked, the first agent asked, "Is your Captain always this belligerent?" Inger sighed and admitted that was a mild performance. Once she was seated in the vehicle, they talked about her visit to the The Cursed Bastards of Sol as well as her connections with the current port administration.
After spending nearly an hour reviewing all of her experiences, activities, conversations and opinions of and with the crew of that ship, they admitted things squared with what they had on her. They then advised that she not go to the Solomani Embassy, as she'd planned, and that she drop the entire issue. When she questioned the warning, they made it plain they handled these investigations for the Ministry of Justice and the warning was just "very good advice." Ms. Vik thanked them and, when it seemed she would cooperate, they let her return to the berth and go about her business. When she returned to the lounge, Mikah looked up asking, "Well?" Ms. Vik explained the situation with the ship and the advice she was given after her interview. Inger did say she planned to visit the port the next day and check in with them on why they pointed her in the direction of a ship that was so hot?
Eventually, after sitting down to do more research, Ms. Vik learned more about the remaining ships she planned to visit. The Eadgar Lanzo was listed as "held for health and safety issues". Checking her notes from the port-provided data, she saw there were questions on the certifications on a number of Rhylanor-required inspection certifications. While the captain claimed to have paperwork proving the inspections were done in the D'Ganzo system(Lanth Subsector), there had been forgery issues with paperwork from that system. The port had moved to restrict the ship until it cleared a new inspection. Inger was betting the ship might have slipped a few hundred credits across a table to not overhaul expensive life support systems while at the D'Ganzo port.
The Rira Niru was holding in port on her captain's orders. Their second officer had been arrested on the charge of killing another person in a bar brawl, and the captain made it clear he wasn't leaving without his crew. He was also fighting against paying the port fees, claiming the ship needed to remain in port to deal with the legal issues. Port records had his claims, in which he tied the port fees to the arrest of his second officer. As a result, he claimed that the port's actions led to the fees and the port should either release the officer or waive the fees. Ms. Vik was certain this case was a looser for her, as the captain appeared to be plainly unreasonable.
The Last Credit was secured by the financial institution Hortalez et Cie, with a writ executed by a local skip trace firm. The crew had secured temporary housing and were fighting to get their gear and personal effects off the craft, at least, while the captain fought the bank. The Rhylanor branch of Hortalez said the owner was so far in arrears in payments, 15 months, that the ship was being repossessed for resale and all items aboard had been claimed to auction and recover lost revenues. From the port's data, this was both legal and regular, but the data admitted the port had not investigated this. It was cold-hearted, but when had a bank not been so?
As for the port, their issues were based on the actions of the crew, as they tried to prevent the bank repossession of the ship. In the process of their legal and illegal attempts, they had caused multiple administrative nightmares, security alerts, and a revolving door of low-end arrests for interference. Sadly, nothing the port could do, short of releasing the ship or committing resources to long term arrest, seemed to be likely to resolve the issue. And the port didn't want to hold people at a loss of assets while Hortalez and its agents were within their rights. From what Inger could see, her only angle was checking the legitimacy of the personal goods and claims of the owner and payment histories. This certainly promised no pay day, as these-dead beats had apparently attempted to skip out on their legitimate debts.
The Dragged Keel was also being held on a "safety" basis, but here the port was on much more shaky ground. Records said the Geonee owner / operator had not had his jump systems overhauled in over two years. This appeared to present a significant risk of mis-jump. But the Geonee claimed his drives were not able to be judged by mere Human standards, as they were based on Ancient technology. When Inger saw this, she had to re-read it and wondered how she'd missed it in the port data dump! She recalled that the Geonee were a minor Human race who claimed to be the direct descendants of the Ancients. Historians had proven this was not very likely the case though.
Around 10:20pm, a vehicle from the hospital delivered Sir Brian back to the berth. When he checked in with Mikah, he told her about the class he needed to take, as well as the instructions he was given. One of these was to not use the stent at all for a week, except in the class, and to spend the week recovering. Before they hit the rack, Aali and Emkir were pleased with the program they'd written, and believed it would do what they wanted it to. So they did a final save and started it up on their data.
Inger made sure to set her alarm so she could get to the port offices early, to discuss The Cursed Bastards with her friends. Zach also got up early for his appointment at the University of Rhylanor. The rest of the crew planned to get up at normal times. Zimzod returned to the berth earlier than he wanted to, having failed to meet up with anyone. While he eventually spent Cr 80 in his wanderings, he got home not long after midnight, and soon after everyone was asleep.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: A Day Of Work And One Of Recovery