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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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Dicing With Details
      And Death

Getting Up And Out To The Interview

Station      Alarms woke Emkir, Aali, Aiden and Zach at 7am as they all began their morning routine before going to the lounge for breakfast.  The last to emerge, due to his healing injuries, was Zach.  Stepping out, they found that Rol was actually at the galley working on breakfast!  Emkir gave him a round of applauds and Aali joined in as Aiden grabbed a seat that didn't hurt "that much".  Eventually, Zach joined them and both Ms. Vik and Zimzod managed to get to the food before the Huscarles started to arrive.  Mikah came out of her quarters as the Huscarles commander and his officers were meeting Rol and Zimzod, exchanging introductions.  She joined in before grabbing chow.

Rol, Zimzod and Mikah met the Huscarles commander and they talked, and Count Sir Lisush-Amimkig Iduushin arrived to join the conversation.  He told Rol the Huscarles would provide security but the Order of the March Protectors of Rhylanor would be transporting Rol.  When those forces arrived, Rol could see a pair of APC's escorted by battledressed figures.  The entourage was led by a station security vehicle, to ensure there was no confusion over notification and jurisdiction.  Because the port had given advanced warning to stand clear, the troopers had no issues with being both physical and forceful in clearing the passage leading to the berth.

During the next hour, as the Huscarles and Order of the March Protectors organized themselves, Mikah offered the crew's help with any needs.  She was told they had things in hand.  Having been told Zach and Emkir would be traveling with Rol, the officers had all the new information they needed.  The crew learned station security were providing a clearance of the travel route for the Huscarles.  Another detachment of Huscarles had secured the appropriate compartments in the TAS facility.  So the last item they needed to clear was to have their doctor check Rol over and give him the all clear.  In the center of the circus, Rol had dressed in formal civilian clothes.

While preparing, Emkir made sure he had an e-copy of the contract available on a datapad he'd grabbed from the pile before they were sold.  Zach was comfortable traveling light while everyone got themselves set up.  Not involved with the interview, Mikah made sure she was not needed before deciding to take another class in pilot training.  She paid the Cr 1,000 and told Zimzod as she grabbed a foil pack meal to take along.  Zimzod came along, taking a gunnery class and paid the Cr 60 taxi costs because Mikah had the last time they'd gone.

Without even a berthed ship to check on, Aali went back in to tackle the pile of datapads until Emkir and the others returned.  Aiden spent the morning watching the other media outlets, who were having a field day with the sudden apparent militarization of the berth.  This had squashed speculation the knights left the berth or the station, much less the system.  What started out in confusion became clear as station security secured a path to the TAS offices.  After that happened, news outlets started bringing on experts and talking heads who speculated what new information would be learned from what was obviously going to be "the interview"?

As that spun on speculation, Aiden decided to do some reading before working to finish off the nav work Zach had prepared for him.  Ms. Vik decided she was clear to put in some time working for the port and making cash.  She even had the advantage of calling them and getting a car sent to pick her up.  Brian called the team to check in, but was still working on the station and not yet planning to return to the port.  Ironically, as the convoy was preparing to leave, an InstellArms van pulled up to deliver Rol's executive armor.

Rol's TAS Interview

     At TAS, Emkir and Zach were each assigned a gofer, to help them take care of Rol's needs as they prepared for and began the interview.  It was estimated they'd be done by 2pm, but no promises were made at that point.  The doctor had been brought in, 'just in case', and each hour would consist of fifty minutes 'question and answer' followed by a ten-minute break for the doctor to confirm the activity was not stressing Rol.  With things getting started, the doctor actually gave Rol a telemetric bracelet to wear which would monitor his vitals.  Rol reflected on his hopes while this was happening.  Knowing what happened, Rol hoped not to dispute any real events, but to give context to them.  To make them real to the viewer in a way that allowed them to see the true need for those actions.

With that explained and everything else ready, the first quarter of the interview began.  Emkir and Zach watched while the interviewer really seemed to play it soft.  While Rol had some early issues, deciding what questions he could answer and details he could give, this smoothed out and the interviewer didn't push.  As they moved into the second quarter of the interview, it seemed to them as if the interviewer had decided to cede control to Rol.  The knight was not challenged at all.  The TAS questions appeared designed to help Rol get his message out.  During this half of the interview, Zach and Emkir were well able to organize their needs with the help of the gofers.

When the interview turned into the third quarter, the interviewer started to finally dig on an angle.  He worked to determine where the orders came from?  He appeared consistently unwilling to accept that an Imperial military officer was able to simply choose to involve his unit in such actions.  Rol was firm that he had been operating on his own authority to carry out his orders as he saw them.  He was also firm that the orders, and the decisions that led to his unit's actions, were completely his own.  In that move, he refused to surrender to any narrative but his truth.  The interviewer's response, while not stated, appeared to be a belief Rol was falling on his sword to protect "someone".  The interviewer repeatedly suggested this in the thread of his continued questions.

Suggesting Rol was led by suggestion or quiet encouragement, the interviewer didn't seem to want to accept that a lone Imperial officer would have had that much leeway to commit his unit so freely.  But Rol held firm to his responsibility and the questions didn't shake his resolve.  The interview continued on as Zach and Emkir cooperated to keep the gofers working during some slow spots in support.  In the final stretch, the interviewer started hitting the gaps in the context Rol had provided.  While this seemed hard hitting to the others, Rol saw the interviewer was challenging him to fill in gaps in the flow of "cause and event" after accepting it had been "Rol's show".  He pushed Rol to fill in as complete an understanding as he could for the audience.

It helped that the interviewer didn't challenge the statements or events, but dug deeper, to get at the small parts which had not come to light.  This resulted in helping a sketchy story line bloom into a fully intact whole, which was complete and self-consistent.  When everything was done, Rol felt good in his belief he'd succeeded in his goals.  He'd not only taken control of the narrative and placed it squarely on a legitimate, if not entirely legal, footing.  He also clearly took ownership, and earned the support of those in command who could clearly support him without being accused of using him as a foil to protect themselves.  The bad news was that he would now become even more of an example and role model, used to exemplify what an Imperial Soldier should be.

In the end, if regs were broken, Rol made it clear it was done 'of necessity', and without challenge.  And he could be pleased with that.  After the interview, TAS paid the Cr 35,000 per Rol's requests.  A first payment of Cr 1,500 was made to Emkir, to cover out of pocket expenses with the lawyers.  Next, a remaining Cr 3,500 was sent to Brigg, Tander and hault-Vineschenz for the final part of their bill.  After that, Rol chose to split the remaining Cr 30,000 with a quarter each to Emkir and Zach.  He also gave Cr 10,000 to the ship's funds and Cr 1,000 to his Chivalric Order.  Emkir chose to give Cr 1,800 to their ship's funds as well.  After the payments were made, the entourage made its way back to the berth.

En route, Rol got a call from Duke Leonard, who made it clear he'd had feedback on the interview and was very pleased with what he'd been told.  The Duke congratulated Rol as well as thanking him for his service again.  Leonard was also complimentary on Rol not following the path so often followed by other members of his crew.  Rol accepted the accolades with humility and a smile.  By 2:20, they'd returned to the berth and the Huscarles packed up and left once the unit commander congratulated Rol on a task well handled.  They agreed the interviewer seemed more interested in understanding Rol's reasoning than opposing him.

That had benefited Rol, by having the facts drawn out more completely through questions, without the appearance of conflict.  Outside the berth, a newly grown cluster of media were better managed than before.  This was because the line of knights kept them out of the entire berth and pushed them back to the actual concourse.  When the cluster blocked commerce on the concourse, this triggered responses from station security.  They were not gentle with those who pretended the needs of their organization were more important than commerce and activity in the docks.

Back To The Berth And To Work

     In the berth, they found Aiden had finished the nav plots Zach prepared and, had cooked lunch for himself.  When they arrived, he was reading, with the news playing in the background.  Aali had also cooked for herself before returning to the datapads.  Seeing they arrived, the ever-paranoid Aiden asked how far behind them the lynch mobs were, and Zach joked they should attack "any minute now".  Aiden asked how safe it was to leave the berth and was soundly told things were fine.  In fact, despite his many bizarre fears, he was told Rol did a perfect job of it and things were great.  When Zach joyfully prodded the former Scout, suggesting he go hang out with and join the line of knights guarding the berth, Aiden sardonically responded, "And I should go step out an air-lock without a vacc suit, right?"  Recovering from that, Aiden asked Zach about his nav-work, as he'd finished all the plots.

Zach said he'd set up more exercises after he got done with his business work.  With that, Aiden just shrugged and went to watch some vids and read.  On tracking Kishman, there was no progress as yet, but they were working two main theories.  The first was that Kishman masked his ship until he was able to jump out-system.  So scout ships were sent to every possible port for ten parsecs with all the data needed to hunt his ship down.  The second was that Kishman masked his ship out to a designated jump arrival zone before unmasking with a clean transponder message and then returned to the system to go to ground.  In either event, they hoped to track the vessel so the crew could assist in a capture.  But those odds were getting longer at the moment.

Zach dove into his emails to find Apa-aeawes had responded to his email earlier that day.  The bad news was that Zach saw it had also sent its updated proposal to the Count and his people too!  So Zach dove in to see what the Bwap had to say?  Zach was happy that it had sent some comments to Zach only and not to the Count's team.  In those comments, it was mystified how the Humans failed to comprehend that organizing and regularizing the delivery system would reduce costs and provide both savings and protections as a matter of course?  It requested Zach re-compute the costs according to the estimate schedules it had included.  It also added some protections, but as Zach worked through them, he didn't feel this would be enough for the Count or his team.

When Zach checked, he saw the Bwap had sent its data roughly an hour before, and neither side had responded yet.  In response, Zach answered Apa-aeawes, saying he'd been otherwise engaged.  He then gave a number of reasons why he felt the deal would not be acceptable.  He also included some explanations of theoretic models under which the prices might change in damaging ways.  Zach hoped the Bwap would be willing to rethink its position.  After finishing that message, Zach wandered through the rest of the emails.  The messages aimed at hunting the knights down when that information could have been sold had fallen off.  There were the standard hopes for him to use his influence for them or even offers for, or to assist in, getting interviews.

These included chances for Zach to tell his side of the story now that he had been exonerated.  Zach got a laugh out of the thought of holding interviews targeting the time he was ensnared in the Quasar Viper affair.  He could just guess how badly that could spiral out of control.  So, despite hopes of one day getting past the shadow those events had cast over his life, he had to simply delete those offers.  Zach also looked for messages from Open Skies, but there was no apparent shift on attitudes from that quarter.  There was also no sign of the bill for payment he'd likely have to make for the political capital of such a public action.

Done with his emails, Zach saw it was an hour before the crew usually ate dinner and decided to work on nav plots for Aiden.  He started by checking Aiden's work.  Zach saw the pilot's work was not "all there", but he was learning.  And improving.  The plots were not up to his standards, but he'd been doing it a lot longer and had more training.  It got closer to dinner time as he worked on number-checking.  Also as he worked, Zach got an email from Dame Mikah asking, "Well??" and showing that Rol and Emkir both donated some of their earnings to the ship.  Zach just shrugged that off and kept working until it was nearly time to eat.  He then volunteered to help Rol cook chow.

After returning from TAS, Emkir went to join Aali working on the datapads.  As he checked on her progress and started picking up the task, Emkir said he'd like to get some executive armor for himself and Aali, his treat even.  When Aali agreed, but told Emkir he didn't have to pay, he pointed out it was a lot more practical than a piece of jewelry.  After half an hour working and talking, Emkir got a comms from Mr. Morvello from TAS.  The executive was very pleased and friendly as he thanked Emkir for his work.  He asked if Emkir had a chance to talk to the former members of the Dawnstar Horizon crew?  When he suggested the pay would be similar to what Rol got, especially if one of the knights agreed to be interviewed, Emkir said they'd been a bit busy.  He promised to bring the subject up and call Morvello back in a day or two.  He also reminded Morvello he could ask those who might have been aboard if they were willing, but they might not be at liberty to discuss things.  Morvello asked if Emkir, or anyone on the ship, had a statement on the publicly broadcast change of position Duke Leonard had regarding Mr. Wood?  Emkir said he'd have to check on that too, to see what they might be at liberty to say.  With that done, Emkir returned to working with Aali until dinner.

After returning to greetings and welcomes, Rol said he was going into his room for an hour to decompress.  Aali simply pointed and flatly joked, "Air lock is that way."  Rol made his way back and relaxed until about half past three.  He then spent the rest of the time before dinner catching up on the news.  From local news service, operations and crime reports about the station, to orbital and planetary news, the stories were nothing new except coverage on his activities.  There was a remnant edge reaction to Sir Jeremy's book, which led into the rest of the "fun".  But, in the absence of facts, it was mostly speculation and rehashing what had been said.  Rol was pleased no mention had been made of any violence or fatalities on any archologies in the system.  Still, he'd heard a great deal about the Navy's current campaign, kicking in doors and forcing evacuations and inspections.

Rol watched a fair bit of the news, to make sure there was nothing commented on which might signal the start of anything that had been missed.  The "big piece" for the media seemed to be that the inspection campaign had started well before any reporting was done.  So they admitted they were playing catch up, even as they were seeking answers from the various agencies why there was no warning?  There were any number of interview segments where Rol could watch people complaining about their treatment at the hands of the Navy.  He even heard about Brian's gleeful call from the salvage platform over how he got paid to nap thanks to the whole situation.  But the more he watched, the less they had to say which hadn't already been said.

The details of the search method had troop ships docking with each archology.  Then everyone was forced to completely evacuate onto guarded spaces aboard the transport while marines and some unspecified civilians boarded.  And after what appeared to be an intensive search, they let everyone back aboard and moved on.  After a check to make sure they didn't make a mess of his work in the search, it had been back to work for Brian.  As the news switched to coverage of Ardella Mestler's clone, and the fight over her financial empire with her family, Rol decided to watch through the rotating cycle.  From the continuing news on the Natokan investigation, run by Senator Kudila, to continued reporting on the court arguments over the robotic upgrade liabilities.  News updates came from as far away as the taxi price fixing schemes in Inthe system.  News from Porozlo continued to be the same, except the names and places involved.

Mikah And Zimzod's Return For Dinner

     At the virtual training school, when she finished her class, Mikah checked her comms and saw the updates to the ship's funds from Rol and Emkir.  Pleased, she copied a piece of each payment statement into one email to Zach asking, "Well??"  When she met up with Zimzod, they considered stopping for chow at a restaurant but decided it would be safer to return to the berth.  They grabbed a cab back and, as they arrived, the others were called to eat as dinner was served.  Mikah asked how the interview went as they ate, and was told it went very well.  Zach said the interviewer was not very tough but Rol still rocked it.  Ever the pragmatist, when Rol simply said, "There could be repercussions" Mikah wasn't surprised.

Emkir said he and Aali would be shopping for executive armor later that evening or the next day.  As they talked about armor, Emkir decided it might be best for him to buy a set of cloth armor for himself as well as the executive armor.  After the meal, Emkir sparked up InstellArms's web site to do some research and found a suit of cloth would cost him Cr 250.  That was in addition to two suits of executive armor at Cr 500 each.  This disparity was because the executive armor only reduced damage rather than stopping it, but was made of more modern and expensive materials.  Those needed a higher technology base to produce.  While Aali let Emkir pay for her executive armor, she bought a set of cloth for herself too.

The costs would come to Cr 1,250 for Emkir and Cr 250 for Aali.  As Emkir continued browsing their on-line catalog, a small window popped up and a tech chat-greeted Emkir by title, asking if there was anything the tech could do to help?  When Emkir asked who he was talking to, he was told this was his personal assistant since the "incident" with InstellArms.  That established, Emkir asked the agent if they had pistol ranges for weapons practice and was told InstellArms had a number of ranges available for clients.  The agent offered that the client needed to purchase ammunition to use on the ranges, for security reasons, and sent a file containing the ammunition costs and varieties:

     Ball Ammo - Cr 200 for a 20 rnd clip,
     Hollow points: Cr 200 for a 20 rnd clip,
     Spin-Stabilizer Ammo - Cr 300 for a 10 rnd clip
     Mercury Injected Hollow points: Cr 500 for a 10 rnd clip
     Steel Jacket Copperheads: Cr 200 for a 10 rnd clip

When Emkir said they'd decide what ammunition to buy for practice when they came in the next day, the tech told them InstellArms would rent them a private firing range at the regular price rather than at the premium.  Emkir thanked the tech very much for that help.  And since they would be at InstellArms the next day, they were told they could get their armor dialed in then.  Done with InstellArms, Aali and Emkir decided to head into their quarters and catch up on time lost while she 'recovered' from her surgery.

Having not checked his auctions in over a day, Aiden got a comms from the winner of his High Passage.  The passage eventually sold for Cr 7,500, where it had been hovering for some time.  Aiden apologized for not watching the auction closely and set up to have the passage ownership changed.  After payment was made, Aiden checked his accounts to find he had enough to pay off his loan from Mikah for the combat armor.  Despite this, he didn't want to cut his funds too close, so he paid her Cr 10,000.  This left him just over KCr 12, with a remaining debt of Cr 5,000.

Mikah checked her calendar and saw the ball hosted by Viscountess McQuillin would be held the next evening.  She decided to call Ursara to see if she was planning to attend?  When she got to the Countess, Ursara said she had not planned on it.  Mikah asked if attending would have its benefits and Ursara said she'd thought Mikah might have been planning to go because the woman ran a starship refurbishment operation.  So it might be helpful to have her as a contact, if they needed to modify their ship in the future.  Mikah realized that would be a good contact to have, and decided to attend the party even if Ursara wasn't going.

After that Mikah asked how things were going for the Countess, who said her life was not as exciting as Mikah's.  But she said word of the diamond auction was increasing, and also, coyly, that she had a surprise for Mikah.  When Mikah asked, Ursara reminded her that she asked about the original measurements for the diamond, before it was cut.  When Mikah recalled that, Ursara revealed that she had a facsimile diamond cut from lab grown crystal, which she was going to add to her in-ship display.  But she'd decided to make it available for Cr 2,000, if Mikah wanted it?

When Mikah said she wanted it, Ursara suggested they get together the next day and go over the details so Mikah could buy the stone.  Mikah asked what time would be best for Ursara and the Countess suggested getting together for lunch.  Mikah said that was good for her, and they set the plans for Mikah to meet Ursara at her berth.  Ursara also said that the Baroness she'd met at dinner had very nice things to say about Mikah.  This was surprising, since the Baroness didn't appear impressed at all with her at the time.  Mikah told Ursara this was nice to hear while privately being happy to have changed the mind of one more self-important noble-person in the crowd.  It helped to change normally closed minds.  Ursara said this would hopefully effect the Baroness' bidding as Mikah recalled her interest in the diamond.

Finding A Nugget In The News

     The rest of the conversation was small talk and, after they disconnected, Mikah decided to check the news and watch vids.  Listening a bit closer to the robotic upgrades lawsuit, Mikah was surprised to find Aiden had paid some attention to it, given the large amount of androids and robots in use on Rhylanor.  There were also news stories about the Risek restoration, investigation of Natoko, the Inthe transport price fixing investigation, the clone singer estate fight, the Pavabid choir planning and others.  Eventually, Mikah spent an hour watching reports.  As she watched, she saw a segment on new diplomatic missions from a number of the independent nations of Porozlo.  Included in this, she spotted the mission from Stepozhevac and noticed that one of the mission members was Mr. Mattin, the man Ms. Vik identified as a member of the Government of Natoko!

Thinking this was something Lord William might need to know, she dialed the IRIS contact number and got the ever-polite communications tech.  After explaining that she had identified a Natokan involved in warship smuggling with the Stepozhevaci, she was connected to an intelligence specialist.  Of course, there was a phase spent vetting the information as Mikah waited and the analyst communicated with someone else via text.  Because of the issues this man's presence touched, it was not long before the screen split and Lord William appeared.  When he did, Mikah politely made it clear this was the level of access she was used to for the benefit of the IRIS Tech on the line.

William greeted Mikah and told the technician he could handle this privately.  The agent gone, they got to the bare facts without decoration.  Mikah reminded William that Mr. Mattin was the Natokan who had trained them on hacking Imperial warship computer security!  Mikah also reminded William that Ms. Vik was able to identify him as a member of the global government controlling Natoko, since she was a native of that world.  William agreed this was important because he thought it further linked to the world's covert attempt to evade Imperial restrictions to build a combat fleet.  Neitgher mentioned he was a loose thread regarding the Quasar Viper.

After that, there was a bit of a pause and then the screen split as Ms. Vik joined the call.  Having worked hard with her friends at the port, they were all out for a late dinner when Lord William had called.  And it was apparent the place Inger was in was very public, as the former port executive joined the call.  Exchanging greetings, William asked Inger to please move to a more private location.  After Ms. Vik found the lady's room and assured all it was empty, the conversation continued.  During this time, Lord William had his techs pull the footage from the news feed Mikah had watched.  When Ms. Vik was ready, William waited as the clip played until freezing and enhancing the view of Mr. Mattin's face.  When that happened, William asked Inger what she could tell him about the man?

Inger explained that when she was working for the SPA on Natoko, the person called "Mr. Mattin" had been a high ranking regional political leader with a fairly high rank in the local government.  She was surprised to see him, years later, when she and the crew of the Dawnstar Horizon were hired by the Stepozhevaci.  She explained his role in providing the crew training on how to hack the security core of an Imperial Warship.  Her additional opinions were, given the Quasar Viper affair, that he was now involved in the clandestine attempts by the world to secretly build a combat fleet.  After she had her say, Lord William suggested it might just be time this Mr. Mattin met some of his people to exchange information on common interests.  Mikah laughed as Lord William thanked the ladies for bringing this to his attention.

When the call ended, Mikah was happy she could both buildup brownie points with Lord William and so eloquently pay back Mr. Mattin for the events he set in motion in the lives of herself and her crew.  After that, Mikah relaxed before getting to sleep.  Having worked at the port all day, Ms. Vik had gone out for a long dinner with friends from central offices.  It was during this dinner that she took the call from Lord William.  As the screen was black until Inger got into the bathroom stall, the call and her departure set off a round of rumors the end of which she could sense.  But her companions didn't ask any questions and she was certain it was best not to offer.  Inger eventually returned to the berth for sleep after hanging out and relaxing with her friends.

Zimzod's Night Of Adventure

     After dinner, Rol returned to his quarters and did a basic work out, getting back into the habit after his medical issues.  He then did gear maintenance before going to sleep.  Aiden hung out in the berth reading and watching vids since Zach had not set up more exercises.  After dinner, Zimzod reached out to his lady friend from the night before and found her ship had loaded its cargo and was outward bound.  Failing the simple route, he decided to head out to the bars when he got a call.  Answering it, Zimzod found the caller was a lady who introduced herself as Dame Ligirsi Khilurka [Lig-Ear-See Kh-hil-Ur-Kah].  She said she had recently heard of his activities and was interested in getting together with him.  Checking her out on the comms, she appeared average looking if young.  When he invited her to the berth, she said she would rather he joined her at her home.  Before deciding how to dress, Zimzod decided to talk a bit on the comms, to see what she had in mind?  When he realized she just wanted him to come over so she could get to know him better, he decided to dress nicely.

After dressing, Zimzod told Mikah where he was headed.  When she heard the name of the woman he was visiting, she recognized her and told Zimzod about the dinner, warning him she was a gold digger and fame hunter.  Zimzod said he was good with that, as he wasn't looking for anything serious.  She told him to do what he wanted but beware of her.  Mikah also said the girl was rich, thanks to the family lands she'd inherited with her title.  This only made the date more interesting to Zimzod, who considered his Tellona diamond ring just the right prop to "get what I want."  Mikah said to say hello for her and Zimzod agreed.  But when he got to the family's suites on-station, he found he was in for an evening he hadn't expected.  Not only was he meeting the knight, but her three younger siblings.  As they spent time together, Zimzod was treated to dinner and an "evening of refined entertainment".

Despite his intent to play the role, Zimzod was not raised to the standards of decorum she, her siblings and her staff were used to.  And because she was secure in his potential wealth, Dame Ligirsi was very forgiving.  As she fished for an idea of his unknown wealth, Zimzod played it cool, saying he "did OK."  The understated treasure in his ring kept her wondering as she held court until 10pm.  By then, she suggested it was time for a final drink before the end of the evening.  Normally, Zimzod would wonder if she was kicking him out or everyone else, but the rest of them lived there.  And while it was not the evening he'd hoped for, Zimzod knew she was still sniffing.  And that he'd been a hit with the knight's 12 year old brother.  After that, Zimzod was out and wandering.  Headed in the general direction of the berth, Zimzod hit a few brightly lit bars along the way, looking for the tourist crowd and thrill seekers.

Nursing a drink and wandering through a bar, Zimzod passed a table of guys as one raised a drink and toasted, "One last drink before the heavy lifting."  Zimzod decided to check into things as he turned asking what was happening?  Reacting as anyone would when they were interrupted by a stranger, they said they were drinking and one demanded, "What's it to you?"  Zimzod recovered well, asking if they were involved in some kind of lifting competition?  They said they had a late-night job on the docks, but didn't look like dock workers or ship's crew.  Looking for a lady, Zimzod turned away wishing them a good night, but as he did so, he noted a knife holster under one of the men's jackets.

Walking away, Zimzod decided to keep an eye out for their activities.  True to their word, they soon finished that round of drinks, paid their tab and left.  As they went, Zimzod decided to call station security, as any weapons were certainly illegal.  Especially concealed weapons.  The dispatcher who took the call thanked Zimzod for his information and made it clear Zimzod should stay away from the men.  Port security would take care of things.  Done with his good deed for the day, Zimzod continued to cruise the bars, but only found "rental units".  Not willing to rent a girl and get a free bonus package his medic would have to treat, Zimzod just returned to the berth.

Early In The Morning, Late To The Crisis

     At 4am, after everyone had returned to the berth and bedded down for the night, they were all awakened as every possible alarm in the berth started going off.  Emkir, Zimzod, Aali and Zach all managed to grab their comms first and each found a different contact urgently trying to reach anyone in the crew.  Each of them found their contact was a member of the Duke's office staff, and they were telling the crew, as the others got on line, to get armored up and be prepared to defend themselves in the event of attack!  They were told others had contacted the knights securing the berth and the crew should contact them once they had geared up.  For his part, Emkir could only think "Of course!" as he realized the only armor he had was the vacc suit which he recently replaced and didn't want to see damaged.  But he'd rather see his suit damaged than himself, so he donned the suit as Aali stepped into her combat armor.

While Zimzod, Mikah and Rol shook off the dust and moved fast, it took almost twenty minutes for the entire crew to finish arming up.  Ms. Vik and Zach were the last out into the berth space.  There, Zimzod and Mikah were talking with the Knight Protectors.  The Knight Protectors were also now armed, as someone had arrived with weapons for them, although they were not armored.  When asked, they said they'd been told there had been "an incident", but not given details past the warning to prepare for an attack.  Calling in to the Seneschal's office to get information, they were each linked into a large conference call attended by not only the Duke's Seneschal but the Duke himself.  On line, they asked what had happened and Duke Leonard himself said, "You're not gonna like the news." with a grim look on his face.

He then nodded to an Imperial Navy Admiral who began recounting events which began at 3:30am that morning.  At that time, the Selat Atrara salvage platform, where their ship was being worked on, was attacked.  At this time, they had no data on survivors or damage done to the platform, but understood the damage was heavy.  They had activated all vessels in, and able to respond to, that part of the system and also dispatched a fleet carrier whose fighters had all been dedicated to searching for the vessels believed to have taken part in the attack.  When the crew asked, they were told there wasn't yet any data on Sir Brian or their ship.  They were told that some of the attacks were on other stations in the same general region of the system's space.  Reports said damage to those archologies was light and had confirmed the ships appeared to concentrate on the Selat Atrara platform.

While the Navy had a trace they were tracking on the attackers, that led out-system, they were also concerned with unknown elements which might be on the starport too.  So they wanted to evacuate the crew to a safe location as they responded to the evolving situation.  It was made clear this could be a random event, caused by the activities of the salvagers.  But it could also have been related to Rol having been shot, and that station targeted because Sir Brian and their ship were on it.  While the Navy reacted and responded to the situation, they wanted the crew to remain both safe and out of the way as a distraction.  With that, Duke Leonard spoke up, saying he wanted the crew to remain ready to act, but needed them out of the way.  So, while his people looked into their ship and Sir Brian, he was getting them out of the way for now.

The Duke said he was offering them "a deal" as he explained what they would accept.  As he spoke, he pulled up a datapad and sent some ship specifications to their comms.  The ship was a "Gazelle Light escort" class warship named Sable Addix, armed with four turrets.  Even Ms. Vik had seen this class of vessel as Tukera used them, bought from the Imperial Navy, for their anti-piracy escorts.  In addition to use of the ship, the Duke was issuing them bienvenues for passage through the Gerome and 457-973 systems, with assistance orders to give to the interdiction fleets.  The Duke and his Seneschal explained the expected flight path they had designated from Rhylanor System to the Gerome system.  From there to the 457-973 system and from there to the Rorise system and on to Mora.

When the course was questioned, as the ship was jump-4 capable, the Naval officers pointed out stopping at military bases could speed up their in-system interfaces.  As well, the Duke was providing an 'order to assist', so the crew could demand fuel and support in the Rorise system, where they would be dealing with a civilian port rather than a military base.  Finally, he was providing them documents to present to Grand Duchess Delphine in regards to confirming their titles and their role in the unfolding events.  When Mikah asked, The Duke said he expected them to spend as little time in the Mora system as possible and return to be at his disposal.  He also said he would be supporting the confirmation of their titles and would provide documentation of that to Delphine, in addition to stating how valuable and necessary they've become to his operations.

As the good news turned sour, the meeting came to an end and those people in the berth helped the crew gather everything to prepare their belongings to move.  While this happened, a number of armored vehicles arrived, supported by battledressed troops who cleared the concourse forcefully.  Members of the media were physically removed from the area as all recording devices were ordered shut down on Duke Leonard's command.  The few responses to questions were to direct the media to the Duke's Seneschal for answers and threats that non-compliance would result in arrests because the media had no authority to hinder military operations.

The vehicles arrived and the crew were ordered aboard and dispatched to a launch bay and waiting shuttle.  They were told those in the berth would strip it and pack their possessions, to be delivered to the Sable Addix.  Once aboard the shuttle, they were flown to a naval station supporting the fleet.  They were told they'd be given a chance to sleep some more as the Addix was prepared for its new mission.  During that time, their gear would arrive and be secured aboard the ship for them.  When Emkir asked about the ordered armor from InstellArms, they said that would be taken care of.

Mikah asked about their planned purchase of battledress parts from InstellArms and was told they'd look into concluding that order.  Mikah also confirmed she'd be able to call Countess Ursara, to tell her she had to leave the system but still wanted the replica of the uncut diamond.  They said the crew would have time to make limited contacts once they were in a secure location.  Past that, the veterans had no issues racking out wherever they could make themselves comfortable.  Even Ms. Vik was used to grabbing small amounts of sleep during a crisis, so only Zach had issues even trying to get to sleep.  Eventually he slipped off to sleep, only to be awakened about ninety minutes later, around 10am.

Waking To More Bad News

     Once they were all awake, and had had a chance to wash up, the crew were directed to a briefing room where they found Lord William waiting for them.  He'd very obviously not had the chance to rest up as they had.  Officially acting as the Duke's "Consul", to prevent any questions, he had brought new information they'd developed on the situation.  Naval data provided that three well-armed vessels appeared to have jumped into the system's outer reaches and drifted in, to execute an attack on the cluster of archologies around the Selat Atrara platform.  While the initial attack struck multiple stations, the firepower eventually appeared to have shifted to punish if not destroy the Selat Atrara station specifically.  He further told them that the Imperial Navy estimated fatalities at 89%.  While the Navy had not yet learned this, William said IRIS had confirmed Sir Brian was killed in the attack.  The irony was not lost on Zach that Brian never completed the steps necessary to have himself cloned.

As the meeting played out, Zach checked his handcomp for emails that the frozen KCr 32 had been unlocked, meaning the shipment he'd set up arrived.  He was concerned about that, as he'd hoped to also purchase cloning insurance, and perhaps trade his current body in for a healthier replacement.  Mikah considered the KCr 10 Brian still owed her, after borrowing for the cloning insurance and surgery.  When the crew asked about their ship, Lord William said there had been at least two vessels of the Stingray Yacht class being worked on at the station when it was attacked.  Troops and specialty forces were aboard, but they hadn't sorted out those details yet.  When he could see this appeared to be an issue, Lord William said Duke Leonard was committed to making them whole.

If their ship couldn't be recovered, the Duke would make sure they ended up with another vessel.  When Mikah asked, he confirmed they would have a working fuel purification system aboard whatever ship they got.  On another matter, it seemed the spending on the plant cut into the funds Mikah had earmarked for Zimzod's battledress.  So the deals planned by the crew were completed, leaving them in debt to Duke Leonard for KCr 300 of that cost.  One reason neither Mikah nor Zimzod complained was that the Duke's actions cut through the regulatory issues they faced buying the parts on their own.  They gave their thanks and considered this but Lord William said thanks weren't needed.  He reminded them the Duke was sure he would have a need for a team of troubleshooters.

When Rol asked about their mandate from Duke Norris, to announce their arrival in any system and offer help, Lord William said Duke Leonard was specifically countermanding that.  William said they would still announce their arrival in any system.  But they would do so as part of a broadcast that they were on Duke Leonard's business and required the ports in-system to provide support under his authority, as they were on a schedule.  When Zimzod asked about the armed men he'd reported the night before at the bar, Lord William was completely unaware what he was talking about.  After the knight started explaining, William pointed out IRIS didn't get involved in simple police activity and affairs.  Getting back to the attacks, the crew asked about the scale of the destruction and were told there were hundreds of lives lost.  The working theory was that the group of archologies were attacked while the ships determined which was the salvage platform?

When Zach muttered the crew were marked, Lord William said the platform could have been a coincidence, because of some deal the salvagers were involved in.  But the working theory at that point was that they were attacked because Brian and/or the ship were there.  What the authorities were more concerned about was where those ships came from?  Especially given the activities of Mr. Mattin, as reported by the crew, and the known destination and expected use of the Quasar Viper if it had been recovered.  So great was the remaining threat that William actually checked the security of the room before mentioning the destroyer.  This was why the arrival of Mr. Mattin in-system was so interesting.  His arrival was a key reason Duke Leonard wanted the crew out of the system.  Lord William pointed out this man may have been a forward director, or played some other role in the attacks.

So, for the moment, the government would keep Sir Brian's fate, and that of their ship, quiet.  If they had an intent to attack other members of the crew, the government would like to make such plans as difficult as possible.  Grimly, he reminded the crew that if they were found, they would be outnumbered three to one by larger vessels.  So there should be no thought about hunting their attackers and playing hero.  That said, Lord William said he was done with the crew and they needed to work with the Navy on loading their property onto the Addix, as well as learning the specifics about handling a vessel of her class.  After he left, a group of Navy officers began six hours of training and simulations aimed at familiarizing the crew with the ship and determining the positions each person should hold aboard.  Of course, these were only recommendations.

During this work, the crew were allowed minimal contacts with people they were connected to in-system.  They were also told to keep comments very short and to protect the secrecy of their activities.  When Mikah called Ursara, she got the overnight watch crewman as it was still well before the Countess would wake that morning.  He was caught by surprise by Mikah's tone as she gave her apologies to Ursara for having to act, and not being able to explain.  She did tell the crewman to tell the Countess she should watch the over-night news once she was awake.  She also stressed that she wanted to buy the diamond replica, and hoped to be able to deal with that on their return to Rhylanor.  But couldn't promise that would be timely.  Ms. Vik contacted the port, telling them she'd be unavailable and even leaving the system briefly.  So she requested they send the Cr 4,000 she'd earned working for them to her accounts.  Zach called Apa-aeawes and Count Krenowl, to advise them of his change of status.  When Zach also tried to notify Erum, he was told they really didn't want the crew's activity being advertised.  He was eventually allowed to send a very terse email saying he'd be unavailable for a few months.

Learning The Ship And Jumping Out

     The officers training the crew were some of the top training officers from a collection of military training squadrons in the core of the system.  They were brought in to help the crew configure the ship and settle in.  As Aali, Zach and Zimzod were checked in on the ship's weapons, they found the traditional "nose barbette" had been replaced by a turret.  So the ship had one triple laser turret, one triple missile turret, one triple sandcaster turret.  They also had a mixed turret, with two lasers and one missile launcher.  But that one missile battery was special, as it was fed from a small magazine of nuclear-tipped missiles.  The officers were specific those missiles should only be used if the three shadow vessels which attacked the salvage platform made an appearance.  If they attacked, the crew were instructed to turn away, burn hard and fire the nuclear tipped missiles behind them in a steady stream.

This would create an intermittent shield of nuclear blasts while potentially vaporizing any attackers who got close.  Aali said she had the most training and experience on that system if it came down to a critical shot needed with the missiles.  So it was decided that Aali, now the crew's Chief Engineer, could use her training in the event it was needed.  As for managing the ship, the crew found themselves in much the same circumstances they had been in before hiring Aali.  That meant Mikah, Ms. Vik and even Zimzod and Rol would need to help with electronic and mechanical work, along with Wall-e.  Aiden would remain the crew's chief pilot and sensor tech, with Rol as his sensor back up and Emkir as the number two pilot.  Emkir remained the senior computer tech.  Ms. Vik would help Rol in vacc suit maintenance.  The most surprising thing, after all the tests and simulations, was that Aali appeared to be the most qualified to command a starship crew in combat situations!

While Zach was the only currently qualified navigator, Aiden tested out well and accepted when offered the certification test.  Passing the test, he was certified by the Imperial Navy as a Junior Navigator and became the ship's back up navigator.  Zach was happy to see that a number of the primary officer's consoles on the bridge were "configurable glass", allowing a crew member to organize a console so it suited them, and configure consoles for specific tasks.  This let Zach create a console specifically for tactical work, like operating the turrets, then another used only for developing navigation plots.  Aiden could also set separate consoles for piloting and for sensor operations.  The biggest deal for Zach was that he could set his consoles up in grey-scale as he was color blind.  The crew also learned, as they worked, that this ship was relatively new, at an age of 30 years.  Built at General Shipyards in the Pixie system, it was one of the earlier vessels of the class, which became a work horse of the Fifth Frontier War patrol fleet.

After the six hours training, they gave the crew four more hours to rest and relax before departure.  This, while they confirmed all personal items were stowed in the claimed staterooms and the bulk items (the spare parts from both the 'droid and grav-Vehicle along with the datapads) were stowed in the small amount of cargo space.  Mikah noted with satisfaction that the ship's gig, a belly-mounted escape craft, was equipped with three low berths.  Each could hold up to two people.  Emkir and Aali both noted with dissatisfaction that, in their work packing up the berth, the folks who'd packed the nearly sorted datapads mixed them all together and boxed them none too gently.

During breaks in training, a number of the crew reached out to people to at least say, "I'm headed out-system".  Again, the Navy was adamant no one give out any real details, so all the messages were short and sweet.  The most significant response back was from Mr. Morvello, when Emkir notified the TAS executive they were leaving the system on the Duke's business.  Ever the promoter, Mr. Morvello sent Emkir back a comms address which should be usable in any system with a TAS presence and computer network.  He asked Emkir to send any data to that address if it could be published and serialized.  Of course, the Navy officers were none too pleased that Emkir alerted the media about their activities at all, but the damage was done.

Considering her schedule and their sudden activity, Aali contacted Traveller's Aid to advise them of her change in plans.  As a result of missing the class, they delivered to her a holographic version of the class that eventually turned out was better than the class she would have taken.  They also sent her the data needed to get the scan done and submitted to her insurance company from any TAS office without penalty or additional cost.  TAS also said they'd notify the Insurer of the delay in her being scanned, to prevent cancellation of her policy.  They also sent her the data for the Traveller's Aid offices in the local systems, in the event she was travelling through any of them.

At her request, Traveller's Aid sent a set of files on the Gerome and 457-973 systems.  Regarding the Gerome system, they recommended no ships enter the atmosphere, as the world was recovering from a destructive war.  The atmosphere was described as "not highly survivable if not properly protected" and the people were described as "not highly survivable if encountered while armed."  457-973 was rumored to be a Dryone world, which meant any approach without authorization would draw live fire, no matter who you worked for or were.  This protection, unlike most interdicted worlds, was requested by the world's population and provided by The Imperium.

Techs from InstellArms arrived to deliver the parts for Zimzod's battledress and to fit Emkir and Aali into their executive armor.  Since it was ballistic cloth, there were no adjustments to the cloth armor suits.  An hour out from departure, Zach started working on his nav plots for the jump to the Gerome system.  Aiden helped, because he was still took every chance to learn.  Eventually, the crew took their places, got the proper clearances from naval operations and the order was given to cast off.  The outward burn to the jump limit was uneventful and short, as Zach loaded his plot into the navigation banks and let Aiden know all was ready.  At that point, Aiden dimmed the lights before initiating the jump.

The transition to jump space was as smooth as expected, and they settled into the weeks' time in jump space.  Emkir began familiarizing himself more with the ship's computer.  The available pilots discussed bridge shifts and it was decided Aiden would take the night shift, certain Zach would fall asleep on them if not put on the day shift.  Emkir got the swing shift.  Zimzod and Rol worked on the bag o'parts and the remains of his battledress.  Working on that, Zach bothered Emkir by starting to work on his computer skills.  In addition to working in engineering, Mikah read medical journals and relaxed.  Aali spent most of her waking time in engineering working on systems or directing Wall-e and her volunteers.  Wall-e took its change of ownership stoically when Mikah informed it Sir Brian was dead and it was now owned by Aali.

Aali's Classes Using The Stent

     When she figured it was best, Aali took the holographic class on the stent in her stateroom.  She was lucky the ship was new enough that the in-stateroom computer systems could project holograms.  When instructed to, Aali jacked into the correct computer port and got her first view of the cyber-world.  Her first jack-in was very anti-climactic until the holo-instructor led her in a "guided imagination" tour.  She realized it wasn't anything like in the vids, and you didn't just "see" the cyber-world.  The structures and maps existed as defined by the programs running the computer systems, but were not seen until properly called.  Like requesting a directory listing via a console, Aali realized she had to imagine the basic structures in order for her mind to make the call that made them visible in her mind's eye.

After understanding how to "see" by imagining, Aali went through jacking in and out repeatedly, getting used to the experience and making the process normal.  The next steps led her through navigating via mental direction, as her entertainment vid-based expectations were further shattered.  Aali realized there was data she could either analyze or manipulate navigating a mental maze of data addresses leading between and to data storage.  She soon could perceive the objects in the cyber-world as pseudo-visual objects in her mind.  But it wasn't like in the vids, where you could interact with the world as if it were aware of or would react to your avatar.  The next hurtle was to open her eyes.  Until this step, Aali had been told to do all the work with her eyes closed, and she understood why after she was first instructed to open them while jacked in.

Instantly Aali suffered from the collision of what she was seeing in her mind's eye with what she saw through her open eyes.  The neuro-responses her brain had in trying to correct for the many issues created visual dislocation.  After the first two classes, Aali continued working, two hours a day, splitting her self-education between 'gaining better control or understanding of using the interface' and mentally exploring the ship's many interlaced computer systems.  Perhaps most disappointing, Aali couldn't just think about a system and manipulate it.  She had to mentally travel the data links to the system, explore its internal links to subsystems and navigate those to the actual desired system.  Then, she had to mentally identify and manipulate the data there to check or change settings.

Of course, the more she did each of these things, the more memories were built.  At some time in the future, if she stayed aboard that ship long enough, it could become reflex to reach out to those systems she touched often enough.  But it would never be reflex for a large number of the ship's systems and functions, especially outside the engineering systems.  One set of systems she didn't try jacking into were the weapons fire control system.  Of course, she never intended to use the stent in this way, as she only had the stent to let herself be cloned in case of death, so she wasn't that put out.

Everyone's Work As They Settle In And Research

     Emkir had a handle on the computers, which didn't take that long, he started research on the Mora system in the ship's library data.  Mora was a very large, metal core world that was 90% covered with oceans and small ice caps and was mostly a resort.  The atmosphere was dense and algae-tainted but breathable with low-impact high-tech filters.  The most common issue was usually one of allergens and allergic reactions.  The government was a direct dictatorship under the Duchess herself, and was a matrilineal hierarchy.  Ironically, the laws were described as a bit more relaxed than Rhylanor, with average citizens able to carry blades and some long arms visibly in some social settings.  After researching Mora, Emkir switched to researching the Rorise system.  That system was the fief of an Imperial Grand Admiral and Duke who was also a close friend and confidant of Duchess Delphine.

Emkir decided this was certainly enemy territory, considering Duke Norris was their primary patron.  Ironically, given Duchess Delphine's matrilineal and "female first" philosophy, this supporter, close friend and ally had two wives!  This was not a standard Vilani arrangement with a male, female and breeding enabler, but closer to the ancient Solomani religion called "Mormon".  Despite this seeming contradiction, the Duke seemed to be intensely loyal to Delphine and she appeared to support him firmly.  The world was just larger than Terra, with a dense, tainted atmosphere containing ash, radioactive dust and volcanic gasses.  While it's climate was more or less normal, the seas were acidic and the "official population" was 10.  The unofficial population of thousands of workers in the starport and small military garrison were not included in that, of course.

The world was both a valued research opportunity and a key fuel and support site for low-jump trade vessels travelling to and from the Mora system.  What seemed a hellish punishment to the unimaginative was actually a fairly important political possession to be appointed to.  The Imperial scientific community had devoted a great deal of money and effort to understanding how the volcanic activity was naturally radioactive?  In addition to working on the computer, and getting data on the systems they planned to pass through, Emkir worked on the Risek glyphs with the data he'd gotten from Duke Leonard's library.

With Brian dead, Ms. Vik and Mikah accepted the necessary and returned to helping Aali with engineering and learning what they could.  And now, Aali had to accept that she was the crew's chief engineer.  Inger dug into the ship's library data for any classes or text on learning the various tasks and theory behind the work.  Outside that, she spent time relaxing and watching vids or reading from the entertainment section of the ship's library.  Aiden monitored the bridge systems and ship's operations while on shift and relaxed off shift.  Zimzod spent much of his time exploring the ship's weapons system and laser turret.  Aali relaxed with Emkir when she could.  Zach split his time between the ship's computers and weapons.  Rol worked on the armor and weapons the others needed help with.


     As the crew went about their regular duties or relaxed, Aiden and the other pilots were looking forward to emerging from jump in the Gerome system.  Aiden and Emkir had pulled visual stellar files to compare while Zach had pulled the stellar ephemera to confirm their arrival.  But as the day continued, the members of the crew started feeling a growing nausea and illness that was the first suggestion they had misjumped!  While some of the crew begin reacting mechanically, to take the few actions they could, other members of the crew had no experience or expectations, only having heard the horror stories.  While Ms. Vik had nothing but the horror stories, Zach was slammed by the sudden memories of his experience aboard the Raining Coins.  Rol too could only swallow his panic and try to follow the other crew.

Despite all the horror stories, as the crew gathered to decide what to do next, the truth was there was a lot of 'How to' from those who'd survived misjumps.  The first thing they all agreed on was that they had no idea how long the misjump would last?  Stories they'd heard, and reports in the ship's data library, showed some were even just a week long, but delivered the ship to radically different destinations than expected.  Other misjumps had gone on for weeks or even months.  And there had been the drifting derelicts found with dead crews who had run out of food and water or even breathable atmosphere.  They also discussed the "where" of their misjump.  There had been relatively short misjumps, of one or two parsecs, and bizarrely large misjumps.  The largest misjump they could find recorded was 120 parsecs.  Zach could speak from experience, as his misjump aboard the Raining Coins was seven parsecs.

Zach said he could start reviewing his jump plot to see what went wrong, but admitted that wouldn't help them now.  Aali also said she wanted to go through the jump systems, to the best she could with them in use and unable to be shut down for testing.  Glaring at Zach as they discussed cutting rations and the use of consumables to survive as long as possible, Mikah suggested possibly making a sacrifice to the gods.  When Zach pointed out Aiden even helped with the plot, Aiden simply spit back, "Don't hang this on me.  You're the guy who keeps misjumping ships."  But beyond that, they took the situation as it was.  They admitted they couldn't predict how long they'd be stuck in jump space.  Nor could they guarantee the ship would emerge near a populated region of space they could reach before running out of fuel, power and supplies.  And they couldn't even see out of jump space, to get any bearings relative to real space.

Mikah did manage to get a grim laugh in reference to the Navy recommending Aali for command.  The knight turned to her to ask, "Well Captain?"  After the short laugh, they settled down to taking account of the food, water and other consumables aboard, and other resources they had.  The key alternate resources were the three "two-person capacity" low berths in the ship's gig.  As a last-ditch action, the crew could place six of their compliment in suspended animation with the understanding that not all those placed in low berths would necessarily survive.  Since the odds of surviving improved with medical treatment on resuscitation, they decided Mikah would have to stay awake if they used that last ditch option.  Aali said she would also be needed as the ship's engineer.

After they defined the broad responses, the math told them that if they cut their intake to subsistence levels, the entire crew could last for two months.  They also agreed they didn't want to wait until they were near the end of the supplies, as it wouldn't leave much for Mikah and Aali to continue on while they kept the ship alive.  When they talked about how long to wait before deciding on the low berths, Rol suggested waiting a month.  Aali said, "If that long."  Mikah said they should wait a week and then reconsider, as there was no way they could even guess how long the misjump would last?

Despite spending a significant amount of time working on his plot, Zach could find no errors in his data.  This told him the misjump was either caused by some unknown stellar event or even perhaps an issue with a component in the jump drive system.  From her work, Aali said the jump and ship control systems were all showing fully operational, with no issues.  Wall-e had even been instrumental in reading energy throughput for some of those components which allowed testing while under power.  Aali felt comfortable that the issue was not systems based.

Arrival And Apprehension

     Manning his shift on the bridge, Emkir reacted as the computer issued a jump field dissipation warning!  Carrying out the proper actions, Emkir happily broadcast on the all-ship that they were coming out of jump.  Aiden and Zach quickly manned their positions and Aiden took over as command pilot.  Zach started preparing to help figure out where they were in the universe?  Thanks to discussions of the situation, they were all prepared to emerge in deep space, or somewhere else where help and supplies were not accessible.  There was an undercurrent of agreement that they'd prefer to emerge in deep space rather than three months from rescue with two months of supplies.  As things proceeded, everyone else was aft in the engineering section working with Aali.

The crew were all monitoring and reacting to energy flow as Aali directed them, in hopes they could prevent surges and other issues from blowing out components, starting fires or even exploding in the engineering machinery.  Aiden, Rol and Zach donned their vacc suits "just in case".  All bracing for transition, the ship made a surprisingly gentile shift from thirteen days of jump to normal space.  Those on the bridge saw the grey of jump space dissipate to the jeweled black velvet of a stellar starscape.  As soon as they'd made the shift, Aiden worked to bring the ship to a zero vector, not knowing where in space they were as Zach began locking up stars and searching for patterns.  Done with the ship's inertia, Aiden grabbed his sensors control panel and started enhancing the data fed to Zach and Emkir, who both worked to fix their location.

In the engineering section, Aali was supervising the complete shut down and energy-bleed of the jump systems, and doing her best to shunt any residual power to batteries, in the event they were not near inhabited space and needed each last bit.  Eventually, as the numbers resolved, there was some chatter on the ship's comms which only resolved as Zach announced he had tracked their arrival to the Fosey system in the Mora subsector!  This appeared confirmed as strident and official sounding broadcasts started reaching the ship, ordering any unauthorized vessels to prepare to submit to Naval inspection or be fired upon!  As Zach refined his numbers, Emkir began broadcasting a misjump Signal GQ and requesting aid and support.  Aiden broadcast the data from Duke Leonard as the confusion started to briefly build and sensors detected an incoming warship.

The scanners read the vessel as a 30,000 ton light cruiser, similar to the one they fought against in the Rech system months before.  But in this case, the INS Rahu-tuki Chu and her officers simply ordered the crew of the Sable Addix to stand by as they investigated.  In the engineering section, Aali was happily shutting down any systems she could without affecting life support or the bridge's ability to respond to the instructions coming in.  A quick check from the ship's data library said the system was, in part, highly restricted.  While there was a major trade route passing through the system, emergence from jump space to access the SPA port and services was limited to specific parts of the system.  They had emerged well outside those zones.

Considering their planned travel, the ship moved six parsecs rimward over thirteen days rather than three parsecs trailing to the Gerome system over seven days.  They also now had a clear jump to the Rorise system if the ship's systems were not damaged by the misjump.  That put them potentially half a week ahead of schedule, since they'd not stopped at Gerome.  Resetting systems in the Fosey system would take nearly the same time as in the 457-973 system.  That wouldn't account any time spent investigating the misjump.  But that was looking like it might eat up sometime while the naval cruiser bore down on them.

While waiting, they also looked for any information on what the situation was in this system?  The tens of thousands of population lived in settlements surrounding the one large and very saline sea on-world.  However, the key fact jumpping out was that the world was controlled by the Imperial Ministry of Intelligence, and maintained as a regional records archive.  All of the system's population either worked for Imperial intelligence offices, the Starport Authority or the military.  And all civilian vessels entering and operating in the system's space were strictly monitored and managed.  While the Rahu-tuki Chu still closed on them, Aiden got orders to proceed on a specific vector in-system.  He was told the Rahu-tuki Chu would match vector with them and teams would shuttle over to confirm the crew's situation.

Unwinding from the stress, Emkir asked Rol to cook something up, since they were now back on full rations again.  Aali happily joked on the comms, "Meat's back on the menu!"  Aiden brought the ship to the ordered vector and tracked the Rahu-tuki Chu, making sure the two ship's tracks would meet as desired.  He didn't comment on the multiple "small craft" tracks likely a cloud of small fighters accompanying the cruiser.  It was still four hours before the two ships would meet up when they were advised plans had changed.

Rather than meeting officers from the cruiser via shuttle, when the ship came along side, the Sable Addix was simply brought into an open landing bay aboard the cruiser.  The bay was heavily armored and fortified, and was apparently used for inspecting captured small craft.  While the bay had many armed and armored troops in it, their extended boarding platform was approached by unarmored, unarmed uniformed Naval officers.  Ms. Vik had dressed in a business suit, Aali in her former Scout uniform and Aiden and Emkir in their uniforms as Retired Scouts.  Zach and the others dressed in formal civilian clothes.

When they boarded, one of the officers demanded their paperwork, Idents and cargo manifest and started going through the data.  Doing that, they saw visible markers of his reaction as he read and his eyebrows raised.  This cascaded through the other officers as he passed the items along.  After the investigation, the lead officer said their paperwork and mission statement were all well and good.  None of their data suggested they should be, or had reason to be in, the Fosey system.  Not waiting for the man to get to the point, Mikah pointed at Zach saying, "We misjumped.  He's our navigator and it's his fault."  Ignoring everything implicit in the statement except the raw data, the officer asked which system they misjumped from?  When he was told they had just left Rhylanor, he simply and disapprovingly said, "So.  Starting off well, are we?"

Despite his personal opinions, the officer read the statements from Duke Leonard's office and waved off the attempts to explain as unnecessary.  He made it clear the crew were restricted to their ship, or the bay it was held in, while his crew and engineers went over their engineering, computer and flight controls with a fine-tooth comb.  They would be refueled and sent on their way.  There was no sympathy, or even inter-service camaraderie, in his response.  Just simple firm Naval command.  He also made it clear he would resolve things with his commanders as the paperwork presented left no room for question.  The Duke's orders would be respected, even in Duchess Delphine's fiefdom.  The work got underway while Aali and those in the crew with such skills worked hard alongside those assigned from the cruiser's crew.

The cruiser's commander eventually returned during the work, in a much friendlier tone, and conveyed the compliments of the Marchioness Fosey.  She also hoped the crew would convey her greetings to Duchess Delphine when they arrived at Mora.  She did send apologies for the limited support the crew were receiving but this was due to their appearance on the very edge of the system.  Quite distant from almost all forces or services.  Left unspoken was the thought that the cruiser was the "lone defender" assigned to take on any size attack force that might arrive that fat our.  Other forces would respond in the following days.  Things eased as the people the crew dealt with became much more friendly.  There was soon a good deal of sharing between them.  At a point, Zach said it was a good thing the ship had enough fuel for them without having to return in-system.  Aali laughed at Zach, saying the cruiser had bigger ship's boats than their entire vessel.

The Jump To The Rorise System

     After five days' work, the naval crews had tested the engineering down to the atoms while also ripping apart Zach's nav plot.  In the end, they cleared Zach's math and the ship's systems, chalking the misjump up to some random factor of interstellar flux.  Despite this, Mikah still held Zach responsible.  While the work was done and the ship prepared for departure, the cruiser's command navigator developed a nav-plot which would let them to jump out from a designated point in-system to the Rorise system to get back on plot.  At the same time, Aali's work load had been helped greatly.  The ship's engines had not only been reset for jump, but had been all but overhauled by the cruiser's crew.  They swapped stories and tall tales during the work, with one man recounting the events of his ship while transiting the J-5 route crossing the great rift.  They'd misjumped "into" the rift, only to find a drifting 100,000 ton carrier dead in space!

After scrounging food, fuel and electronics from the drifting fighter-carrier, they made repairs and jumped towards civilization.  Their only hope was to get close enough to contact rescue.  They still ended up adrift, two days' flight from a station that could offer only fuel.  The Addix finally lifted from the bay and made her way to the course and location their provided jump plot designated, then jumped out of the system.

Ironically, this happened the same day the news of Zach's finances reached the Fosey system by xBoat from Rhylanor.  But, the merchant wasn't in-system by the time the message could be delivered.  He would have to wait until news reached him in the Mora system, since they weren't following the express boat route.  Also, it was the day after the diamond auction was held in the Rhylanor system.  Word of that wouldn't reach Fosey for sixteen more days, and not get to Mora for another thirty seven after that.

In addition to continuing his work on the Risek glyphs and his bridge shifts, Emkir decided to spend the week making sure he and Aali got "fed and fucked", figuring they'd earned it.  For her part, Aali knew she had work to do, and spent at least half the week fighting off Emkir's advances so she could get a proper night's sleep after the last two weeks.  At one point, listening to the two talking at breakfast, Zach said they could find Brian's blow up doll to keep Emkir happy.  That got a lot of laughs.

Having finished repairing Zimzod's battledress, Rol spent time on his sensor operations studies, and ramping back up his workouts again.  Zimzod also increased his workouts while practicing and testing the newly repaired battledress.  Aiden manned the bridge on his shifts or read while helping the crew out as asked.  Ms. Vik spent her time helping Aali, reading, watching vids and working on any engineering education files in the computer.  Mikah helped in engineering, read medical journals and relaxed.  Zach handled bridge shifts and did what small amounts of physical work he could to try to assist his recovery.  Throughout, Wall-e was set to a 24-hour schedule, including almost constant work with short breaks every three days to recharge.

Taking The Last Steps To The Next Stop

     On the seventh day in jump, the computer signaled a jump field dissipation warning and they exited jump space in the Rorise system.  Even as they were first checking their locations, they started receiving broadcasts from the system ports of Rorise and everyone aboard gave a sigh of relief.  When contacted by the port, Mikah asked Ms. Vik to handle the communications and they were given a priority vector in.  Bowing to the Duke's orders, they were promoted to "First in Line" for refueling and resupply.  Freed from other concerns, they all spent three days helping Aali with the engineering work before Zach and Aiden plotted the jump navigation for the Mora system and they left Rorise.

After a visit that was all business, they jumped out-system on Sunday 246-1112.

Arriving At Mora

     After yet another week in jump space, Zach was able to walk more than riding his chair.  Despite the small amount of progress, Zach was forced to accept what his doctors said up front, that he may not see a significant physical recovery from his wounds.  Zimzod found he had more time to relax and watch vids.  Aali worked out a more stable schedule of working on the engineering and her stent practice.  She was even getting better at reaching some systems she had been regularly accessing mentally.  As expected, the jump to the Mora system ended and they arrived in the Mora system.  They planned to spend a week there, and complete their business with Grand Duchess Delphine.

Next: Fast Moving Events Arriving In Mora