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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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Fast Moving Events Arriving
            In Mora

Arriving In The Heart Of A Storm

Station      Emerging from jump, the crew in the Sable Addix stepped through the process of verifying their location.  Aiden prepped his systems, waiting for the jump wash to fade.  When the instruments came back online and sensors responded, Aiden and Zach dug into the data, even when Emkir began receiving comms data.  Soon, Emkir began broadcasting their data in-system, including part of Duke Leonard's orders, requesting permission and priority to a berth dirtside on Mora Prime.  The port, and then the naval base began to respond with a, 'Yeah, that's what everyone wants' attitude but soon shifted to overworked efficiency when the crew's documents backed up their claims.  Getting the process moving along with the ports and a berth, Dame Mikah started the process of reaching out to Mora's system government and Grand Duchess Delphine's Seneschalate office.

Expecting a cool reception there, Mikah was pleased that, for whatever reason, they seemed to be in a mood to just take in the data sent and process it to see what needed doing?  That in hand, Mikah made the requests for appointments and meetings before she reached out to Duke Norris' offices.  When she got to them, the efficient comms techs told her the Duke's people were, "...very busy given the news of the day" and were not available.  Mikah thought, 'that was quick', figuring this would be their first disaster in-system.  And they weren't even in-system for an hour!  Mikah tartly asked "What's the day's news?"  That stopped the tech speaking to her as he suddenly stared out of the screen at her.  After a pause, and in a voice suggesting anyone who 'claimed to' work for Norris should already know this, the tech asked, "Don't you watch the news?!"  Mikah flatly reminded him they'd just emerged from jump space.  Nodding, the tech changed his tune and sent them a news clip in a video file.

Mikah opened the clip to find a news report on the long-rumored message said to be coming from the Core subsector, and possibly the Emperor on Capital.  The message played out and the crew realized just what kind of bomb had been dropped in the Mora system.  And the Spinward Marches, for that matter.  The message, which had arrived in the Mora system the night before, broadcast that Emperor Strephon had finally decided to create an Arch-Duke for the Deneb Domain.  This was the prize that Grand Duchess Delphine Adorania Muudashir had been working most of her life to achieve.  And, as they watched the announcement play out, it was declared The Emperor had created Duke Norris as Arch Duke Deneb!  The announcement continued that the physical trappings of office were en route with Prince Lucan, who would officiate in the actual Investiture ceremony.

But the creation of Norris' Arch-Duchy was made official in the announcement, so His Grace could begin work as soon as possible in the war-torn domain.  Of course, as this data played out, each of the crew started to understand just how significantly their universe had changed in the space of an announcement.  As it sunk in, Emkir began receiving the first non-official data from the outer beacons while Mikah worked with the officials.  The media was clearly in a state of frenzy as it reacted to the announcement.  After months of rumor and speculation on what the message was, or even if it existed, they were now speculating what the outcome of the appointment meant to Duchess Delphine, the Spinward Marches and its population?

Theories expanded from armed reactions by Duchess Delphine and her supporters to the likelihood Norris would sack her.  Or the effect of his new authority on relations with the recently hostile Zhodani, Sword Worlders and Vargr.  About the only thing anyone seemed to agree on was that the increased authority 'might' have a positive effect on the attention span of non-Imperial Vargr Lords and Captains.  Watching the clip, they saw there had been no response from the Offices of Grand Duchess Delphine.  The following had been released from the offices of Arch Duke Sir Norris in-system:
       "While completely surprised by this unexpected action, the Arch Duke is very pleased with this
          opportunity to further serve The Imperium."

After the message played, Aiden commented on how dry and firmly politically correct the statement was.  Ms. Vik pointed out that diplomacy fit the situation perfectly, and silently wondered what the former Scout expected?  But she kept it to herself, fearing another logic-faulty misguided explanation from "Captain Paranoid".  Ironically, as the crew learned of and digested the news, the people in the offices of Grand Duchess Delphine's Seneschal were dealing with keeping things as normal as they could.  And as the techs finished items, they looked at the queue to see how bad the pile was?  With so many Norris-related invitations to end your career, a ship arriving from Rhylanor with paperwork from Duke Leonard asking for an issue to be expedited looked both safe and easy.  So it was that the crew received early cooperation from Delphine's people, very unexpectedly given the circumstances.

getting the comms, Aiden found they'd moved rather quickly to clear the ship to land at an Imperial Navy base just on the outskirts of the capital city.  Given that Mora was a water world with the capital built on and around one of the larger islands, the crew knew they wouldn't be far from anything via rented air/raft.  They were also told there would be a team of techs available to help to quickly turn their ship around for departure.  Aiden piped the comms to the crew and they were all thankful for the information and assistance, as far as it went.  As the representative started receiving papers on their next needs, he realized what the knight's true business was.  He then finished the call with a prim promise that the Office of the Duchess' Seneschal would assist them with their on-world business.

The call ended with a brief and stiffly-read message from the Office of the Duchess' Seneschal reading: "Welcome to the Mora System.  We will assist you with your business before Her Grace as soon as possible."  Not surprisingly, they were also not able to get directly in touch with the smaller organization Arch Duke Norris maintained on-world.  So, everyone strapped into stations or the ship's lounge as Aiden confirmed authorizations with the Imperial Navy and received approach instructions.  It was a brief and boring ride down-well before Aiden settled the ship on one of the base's landing pads.  After that, the ship was moved to a "shuttle cradle" which moved it to its berth.  There, the vessel was treated as if it were an Imperial Naval transport because Duke Leonard got significant respect from the Navy.

Starting With The Official Contacts

     Before they were down more than minutes, and not yet tied to any networks, they got a ping on ship's comms from the Arch Duke's offices.  It read, "The Arch Duke's Office welcomes you to the Mora System and extends you greetings."  The message continued, "His Grace will be pleased to hear a report from his troubleshooters when it is appropriate for His Grace's schedule."  Reading the last part, Zimzod quipped, "Ok.  His schedule.  So, we've got a few weeks"  Aali said the Knights should have some time to massage the data with a smirk, as Mikah bemoaned having to write a report!  A small attachment at the bottom of the message asked them to confirm the class and origin of the vessel they'd arrived in?  This because the office didn't recognize the Gazelle class escort as the vessel loaned them in the Regina System.

Mikah herself responded regarding the loaner they were flying with a very brief discussion of the condition of the Hotel California.  Concerned with potential methods of escape if anything might go wrong, Rol speculated with Ms. Vik on authority.  But sadly, she admitted she had no pull at all on an Imperial Military base.  "In fact", she continued, "This is the knight's play and all.  And I'd just as well like to play tourist if I can, without something blowing up on this planet."  Expecting it, Ms. Vik was prepared to ignore the obligatory, "What crew are you serving on again?" from Aiden.  Looking around, Rol asked if there was anything else they might need from the base?  They all agreed it appeared they had what they needed from the Navy.  When Mikah suggested they contact Duke Leonard's offices in-system, they all agreed and contact was made.  When they identified themselves, Duke Leonard's people were pleased, as they'd only just learned of the crew's mission themselves.

While the crew's trip took a bit longer than expected, the distance the xboats traveled caused word of their mission from Rhylanor to arrive just before they did.  In order to best help the crew, they asked for a copy of all documents the crew could properly share with them.  Mikah began parsing through the documents, to send what she could.  Rol suggested they might want to notify the port and system defenses about Kishman's ship, in case it turned up there.  When Mikah agreed, Rol jumped on the comms, using his title to get through to system control.  But he found out word about Kishman had arrived before them, and remembered Duke Leonard had sent scouts in every direction.  Still, the system authorities asked if they had more news?  Not knowing what could and could not be shared, Rol simply said that was all the data they had.

With Mikah, Rol and Aiden busy with their communications, Zach called to check on setting up accounts in the Mora system.  Maddeningly, he found word of his restrictions had arrived, but word of the clearance had not.  So, he was as restricted in the Mora system as he had been in Rhylanor.  But here the restrictions were somewhat looser.  In the Mora system, Zach could operate as a broker, but all deals he was involved in had to be reviewed by a higher trade authority and certified after that, by the trade administration.  While that happened, Ms. Vik sent her compliments to the Executive Director of the Mora port, saying she didn't expect to have time to meet but wanted to greet them while in system.

As they waited to see what kind of rat's mazes they might face, Emkir and Aali talked of the things they had to do in system.  Aali had to contact TAS to set up for her brain scan.  Because they were not sure what kind of schedule they'd have in system, doing it sooner rather than later was the order of the day.  She also wanted to contact the Scout base and see what data they had, and what they could provide?  Overhearing the conversation, Aiden figured he could pull another High Passage from his TAS membership to sell, and pay Dame Mikah back more on the money he borrowed from her.  When he said that, Aali and Rol realized they could join Aiden in contacting a TAS facility, to get the high passage available to them.  Having settled in and while they were waiting for Mikah to tell them what's next, the three contacted TAS.

Because Mora was high enough tech, the three were able to get their High Passages assigned to their accounts.  Each dealing with a separate video concierge, they got what data they could on in-system updates.  This was more or less because the system was in shock, and no one was sure about any predictions at all.  While there'd been no update yet on the Grand Duchess Delphine Adorania Muudashir, her Grand Niece Dame Elane Shankarr Muudashir, C.E.G was handing her responsibilities as the nominal ruler of the Mora system itself.  She had been groomed for this position for some time, as Duchess Delphine ran the Sector and prepared the Knight to be her heir.  Outside the political arena, TAS was willing to advise them on the resorts, travel opportunities, natural wonders and adventure opportunities available in-system.

Since Mora was largely a resort world, and almost all industry had been moved to orbit or other worlds in the system, the environment was very clean and open to enjoyment.  Rol considered water sports packages, but first asked about Sir Jeremy's book and reactions in-system?  He learned the news had made it to Mora, but they speculated he would have few issues in the system.  Rol wondered how well they understood the scope of the issue, the TAS representative was quite willing to tell him about all manner of water, air and even near-orbital space sports and vacation adventures.  Rol, who had completely recovered from his wounds during the trip, considered in-system packages while Emkir listened in on Aali's conversation with her concierge and said they would have to see some water boat races.

Not sitting far from each other at comms terminals, Rol also speculated on how much time they'd have since their schedule wasn't their own.  Hearing lists of the possible island retreats, aquatic and underwater adventures, aerial and even orbital opportunities, Rol asked for information on island retreats for military members and veterans?  They told him they had island resorts for relaxation, for tech-gaming or even for adventure recreation such as grav-jumping.  Mikah heard that from near-by and said he should try grav-jumping, but silently added to herself that she wanted to charge any unit he might use.  This, because she had forgotten he was trained to do that as part of his job, and had done it during the war.

When Rol said he was just looking into relaxation, they emailed him an e-Booklet of resorts which was configurable by user selection to search by amenities.  Rol thanked the concierge and cut the connection as he downloaded the booklet and began investigating it.  He also checked the data provided by the base, to be sure they were free to come and go without restriction.  He noted that, in addition to a freedom to leave and return to the base according to standard security rules, he had all the rights and benefits of an Imperial Military retiree, including freely using and even renting the officer's club, shopping in the PX and commissary, etc.

The concierge began offering vacation suggestions but Aali swept those aside for the moment, and asked about completing her brain scan?  Checking the documentation and where their ship was berthed, the concierge said the crew were honored guests of the Grand Duchess, in deference to Duke Leonard.  The concierge then asked for an hour's time to reach out to the hospital on-base where the ship was berthed, to see if they could set things up there?  With that wrapped up, the concierge advised that they would recontact her in up to an hour's time to help with the scan and ship it to her insurance company.

Aiden worked with his concierge, checking on the location of any IISS bases in system to pickup the Cr 100 for his Silver Asteroid.  When the nearest base was on another island, not many hours flight away, he started considering how to get there?  The TAS agent offered to book Aiden a flight but he knew the gazelle had a gig as a subcraft.  He could also rent an air/raft, though the pay was only Cr 100.  He also knew he'd have a better chance getting permisison to take the gig if he had Aali on his side too.  After that, Aiden checked the local legal system to find the laws permitted simple rifles and basic non-concealable blades.  Moaning about this, Mikah smirked and pointed out she and the other Knights could carry what they wanted.  She didn't add that they couldn't go overboard.  Zimzod, who was also healed fully, planned to wear his vibro-cutlass, .45 and executive armor.  Mikah figured she'd have her gauss pistol and executive armor.

During Aali's call, Emkir listened in to what he could, to see what he could overhear?  Also accompanying Aali to her scan, Emkir hoped to learn where there might be an officer's club?  While they worked with TAS, and Emkir listened, Mikah considered that they were stuck waiting to be told where they had to be?  Given the tech available in Mora's capital, she knew she could get anywhere in the city from anywhere else by taxi or commercial transport.  Shrugging, Mikah pulled a list of museums to consider.  The larger and more prestigious facilities were those with static displays and actual artifacts while smaller museums relied on holographic displays and datafeed.  Of course, the holographic displays allowed a wider collection because they simply needed a data storage farm and projectors.  While she looked, Mikah saw a number of city maps.  Checking out the pictures, the capital was a beautiful place to see.

The modern city had grown up from the natural features of the island with towers made of crystal built in the most natural forms technology would allow.  Of course, there were other concerns.  The wealthier the builders and backers, the more crystalline and showy they were where.  And the less wealthy spent more on the basic forms.  Searching though the massive listings of museums, Mikah settled on geologic museums.  Looking more deeply into that category, she found the sector's "Grand Geologic Museum" and decided to check that out.

Zimzod had no care for their upcoming appointments and dove into finding a room at a resort.  In his search, Zimzod had an eye on spending as little as possible.  But since he was looking in the Capital, the best he found was a beach front room at Cr 3,000.  Booking the room, Zimzod called for a hover-cab while checking out the list of amenities he'd signed up to use.  The beach-side resort had water and submarine craft as well as aircraft.  They provided tours for relaxation, fishing and even racing experiences.  In addition to the submersible tours of underwater archologies, they also had an underwater restaurant served by cars via a translucent tube.

Ship's Business Started And Interrupted

     The crew got done with their calls and Aali considered the ship's engineering systems.  Grounded on a dirtside port, she could shut everything down and step through All the required bleeding and resets.  Even with Wall-e, she knew the work would take quite some time so she started asking those who'd helped Brian in the past to help out.  Mikah, who had planned to hit the museums, and Ms. Vik quickly volunteered.  Rol also volunteered his electronic skills.  They volunteered while Aali sent a request for status to Wall-e and the 'droid responded with a file sent to the computer for Aali to check.  Aali opened the spreadsheet and searched for anything flagged as important or critical.  After Aali put together a plan, she and her volunteers got down to the estimated three-day process of resetting systems.

Five hours into the work, a call came in for Mikah, from Arch Duke Norris' offices.  They were asking her to extend the Arch Duke's invitation to the entire crew to attend a dinner at the Arch Duke's residence in the capital.  Realizing she couldn't say no, even if she wanted to, she knew Aali also had to get the work on the ship done without delay.  Consdering her options, Aali hoped she could rely on the promised support from the naval base.  At first, Aali didn't want to come out and say they'd been invited to the Arch Duke's for dinner.  So when she called the base support group, she explained the ship was on loan from Duke Leonard and she wanted it cared for properly.  Seeing the crew boss understood what she wanted but not why, Aali continued that the people she had were not really qualified.  And only then added, "And we've all been summoned to attend the Arch Duke, and can't exactly say no."

Aali didn't know the tech's political leanings until the man made a face and responded, "So you were summoned, huh?  Not exactly pleasant, is it?"  Aali hastily agreed it wasn't and she conformed to his apparent dislike of the Arch Duke, or possibly Nobility in general, and played along with his negative interpretation of the word "summoned".  Nodding in presumed understanding, the crew chief said he could put a team on the ship as he started working on his datapad.  When Aali thanked him, he only looked up long enough to say "Don't get shot."  Aali smiled and answered that not getting shot was high on their priorities.  While Aali asked for help, and with two hours before dinner, Mikah pulled her comms and called Zimzod.

Having spent the last few hours exploring the resort, enjoying the female 'scenery' and trying to lure someone into his villa, Zimzod was still exploring when his comms started to buzz.  He shrugged and answered to hear Mikah say, "Hey honey" in a mockingly loving tone.  Disappointed he hadn't met any 'swag' yet, Zimzod asked what was up?  She told him he had to get back to the ship so they could go to Arch Duke Norris' for dinner in an hour.  Zimzod shrugged and agreed to return to the ship so he could dress up.  He also made sure to lock up the room with his vacation gear.  After Mikah got off the line with Zimzod, Ms. Vik asked if Mikah had any idea why the Arch Duke would want "all of them"?  Mikah joked about a firing squad and, when Inger responded that this sounded promising, Mikah suggested they'd put her out front.  Inger just smiled and thanked her.

Calling a cab and starting back to the ship, Zimzod considered buying cigars.  He asked the automated cab's systems about local costs?  He learned that, since Mora was a water world with little crop land, even those cigars listed as "Local" were likely imported.  That meant they came at a markup.  When he used the cab's computer to check, he found that markup was extreme, and figured the Arch Duke likely had cigars to share.  And Zimzod knew he had a few cigars back at the ship too.

Rol wore his dress uniform with a cutlass.  Aali wore her formal gown.  Mikah wore her black party dress and Ms. Vik her green gown.  Blinging up, Aali wore her lanthanum torque and Mikah wore her lanthanum bracelet, dangling Starburst ear rings as well as the ring from Zimzod.  Aiden, still healing a bit, wore his best suit and Zach, who was in better but still bad shape, wore a suit.  When Zimzod got back, he changed into formal clothes.  Rol checked the bumper sticker he'd stuck to Zach's chair to make sure it was lighting up bright.  While preparing, Emkir went through his loot to find the ring with the pink stone he had from the Quasar Viper, making sure Aali didn't see.  He also pulled out the gold cuff and opal cuff links with the ruby slivers forming an Imperial Starburst to wear.  The others mostly wore the rings they got from Zimzod.  After an hour and a half, they were ready and called a cab to pick them up for Cr 20 per person.  When offered an open or closed top, Mikah asked for a closed top to not mess up the hair.

We're Off To Meet The Arch-Duke

     When the driver arrived, he was in an actual chauffeur's uniform, and the hover-transport was clean if spartan.  Boarding and looking around Aali quietly said the vehicle looked like it was easy to hose out, so cleaning out blood and remains was easy.  The ride was short and smooth, and they arrived some twenty minutes early, to be greeted by some of the estate staff.  Arriving and checking the area, they saw the estate wasn't only "really nice and pretty", but it had open lawn space!  This was very rare on a world where all land above sea level was commercially used and well managed.  Looking over the grounds, they also saw the very explicit security, who eventually checked their Idents.  This happened while the head of security turned out to be a former Marine who was impressed to meet Rol.  He was also pleased to meet the Arch Duke's troubleshooters and soon asked the team to follow him.

After they were led into a greeting hall, they were left alone to wait and wonder.  As nervous as they were, Aali checked the ceiling for gas nozzles and Emkir checked for a bar.  Rol checked for exits.  The room was decorated with seascapes and scenes with ships as well as fishing gear.  In fact, it became obvious the Arch Duke was only renting the manor during his stay in Mora.  Despite this, the supporter renting the manor out had expensive tastes and toys.  Wandering and checking over the decor, comments about the possible owner led to comments about other collections they'd heard of.  Eventually Zach and Aali both mentioned the Grand Duchess Delphine's gemstone collection.  At different times in their research, Zach into artifacts and Aali into Nobility, they'd come on comments that there was something 'odd' about Delphine's gemstones, but not what?

This got Mikah interested in learning more, though she admitted to herself that she was not likely to.  About that time, they heard a quiet cough and looked to the room's entrance seeing a gentleman in servant's livery.  With their attention, the man told them, "The Arch Duke would like you to join him in the drawing room.  Please walk this way."  The man led them off in a very stiff and formal fashion and more than one of the crew wondered how much talcum powder that walk required?  In the drawing room, Emkir was glad to see both a bar and a bar tender as they also saw Arch Duke Norris and a handful of other people.  Despite the automatic attention, the Arch Duke commanded, the crew couldn't help noting the last person in the room.  Standing at, and looking out a window was a nearly 7.5 foot tall Aslan dressed in the uniform of an Imperial Navy Captain.  During the introductions, Zach said to the Aslan, "Kon ni zelim".  Necks almost snapped as people turned to look at Zach while trying to figure out what he'd just said and what language he'd used?

With everyone nervous about Norris' invitation to start, there were quick glances at the Arch Duke too, but his expression suggested he understood Zach's words.  At first, the Aslan assumed an expression none of them could interpret.  Then, in an interesting approximation of the same language from the fanged feline mouth, he replied "Nos ni zelim" to Zach as he nodded in apparent greeting.  The turn of events seemed to have surprised everyone, even Emkir, who could identify and speak the language, but didn't know Zach could.  As the crew froze, and Mikah wondered how much new trouble Zach had gotten them into, the Arch Duke addressed Zach saying, "Tik au zlodhl" in the tone of a question.  Zach appeared to answer, "Aah, Your Grace," with a bow of the head.  The others relaxed with the Arch Duke's validation as Mikah shot the merchant a look that said 'You're going to die once we get back to the ship and less heinously if you explain yourself!'

Additionally, as they were introduced around, they met a young Human brunette of about 15 whose name was Seldrian Aledon.  Those who'd read up on the Arch Duke realized this was his 'True Daughter', a clone of the man raised as a natural child and who's "XY" chromosomes were rematched as "XX" in the pre-gestation stage.  So she'd been "born" a girl.  The fact they were meeting her, to those who understood the stories, was very surprising as Lady Seldrian had been very protected from the public.  While they settled in, those who didn't know learned this was the unmarried Duke's one and only child.  The rest of the people assembled were his heads of staff and the Aslan was the commander of the Arch Duke's personal flagship.  When he got the chance, Rol respectfully commented to the Arch Duke that he didn't recognize the language they'd spoken and Norris said it was Darrian.

While this didn't explain why Zach used that language, Emkir knew a population of Aslan had migrated to the Spinward Marches when the Darrian had a larger empire.  Centuries later, the Confederation still had a significant minority Aslan population.  Not knowing this, Mikah decided she would shake the merchant down when they got back to the ship.  Zimzod wrote off Zach's move as an attempt to make himself seem valuable and checked out the bar and the bartender, who was programmed with every drink known in the Imperium.  Checking for not only drinks but cigars, Zimzod found the bar well stocked.  So, Zimzod got himself a cigar and glass of cognac while the rest of the group were playing with the important people."  He then decided to watch things develop as he dipped the tip of the cigar into the drink before sipping and smoking.

Relaxing Before A Possible Execution

     Arch Duke Norris waited until they'd settled in and asked them to tell him about what they'd been doing since they last met?  While this was directed at Mikah and Zimzod, it extended to the entire group, and they realized that part of their expected report was to be in oral format.  Mikah started things off, explaining the kidnapping and rescue of the scientist and the mysteries surrounding those activities.  Norris and his people nodded and listened while Mikah moved on to give her explanations for their actions aboard the TMS Equus and how they ended up in the Porozlo system.  There, she paused and asked Arch Duke Norris directly if she was free to discuss certain significant events with those in the room?  When he nodded for her to continue, Mikah explained the events aboard the IMS Enlightened Measure and how it led to the Stepozhevaci contract and the discovery of the Quasar Viper.

While the whole crew had heard the story by then, Aali and Rol were new enough to the details that they listened closer.  So did a number of the Arch Duke's people.  Especially the Aslan Captain.  Aiden simply worried this was perhaps going to be used as the perfect "final report" before the Arch Duke had them put down for their sins.  After explaining their decisions and actions in delivering the Quasar Viper to Regina, she reported on their actions in the Rech system and the mandate, put on them in Norris' name, to give aid to each system they visited.  She then covered their actions in the Inthe and Risek systems.  When it came to Jae Tellona, Mikah told the Arch Duke they were not asked for any help, so they were free to work with Countess Ursara.  With some more participation from the crew, she then told him about the expedition and the Tellona Diamond.

Along with questions asked in the earlier parts of Mikah's "Report", Norris' people asked some of their own questions about that experience and the Nomads.  Mikah said they'd sold all the data to the University of Rhylanor, which led to their experiences in Rhylanor and their trip to Mora.  When she talked about the destruction of the Hotel California, the Arch Duke pretended to be "crestfallen" that they'd destroyed his ship.  She played along, that it wasn't the team's fault and they dug into the attack as deep as they could with what Duke Leonard's people had found.  Again, the Aslan officer was intensely interested in these events as all the Arch Duke's people listened and took notes.  When Mikah finished her report, Norris nodded before turning to his Deputy Seneschal and receiving a datapad.  Norris then said the team had been very active, and confirmed his people had been "keeping tabs" on them.  He also characterized some of their "tactics" as "novel".

Continuing, the Arch Duke said he was pleased with the report, and the thanks he had gotten from the Marquis of Inthe for their work in that system, and for the Republic.  Turning to Zimzod he said he didn't enjoy the letter he had from the Marquis of Porozlo.  After a pause, where Zimzod did manage to appear disappointed in himself, Norris continued.  He recognized he'd promised them rewards for their work, and said he'd read all the reports including those from Duke Leonard.  Aiden cringed, as he spoke, at the idea the "reward" was going to be a "final" one.  Arch Duke Norris ominously told them he felt they'd reached the end of their particular mission!

Drinks And Business Before Dinner

     With the entire crew riveted to his next words, Norris said he didn't know what Duke Leonard had planned to "make them whole", but he said, "this should sweeten the pot."  With that, he handed Mikah the datapad his seneschal gave him earlier.  As Mikah looked it over, the Deputy Seneschal spoke up, explaining that all the current members of the crew were now awarded free and clear ownership of whatever ship Duke Leonard gave them in replacement of the Hotel California!  So they were each equal share holders in ownership of the new vessel.  Of course, that meant they were no longer aboard "The Duke's ship", and would lose any perks that allowed.  Arch Duke Norris continued that they were released from the requirement to offer help whenever they enter a system.

He did remind them that, as Nobles of the Imperium, he expected them to work for the betterment of the realm, and to improve the lives of Imperial citizens.  After letting that settle in, the Arch Duke told the Knights he wasn't going to intercede in Grand Duchess Delphine's decision on their confirmation.  But he had contacted her offices, and learned from her Seneschal that she would meet the knights the next afternoon.  With everyone leaning forward yet again, Arch Duke Norris said the meeting would be short and to the point.  Grand Duchess Delphine had assured him, based on her reports and the new data from Duke Leonard, that she had no idea how such qualified persons had ended up working for the Duchy of Regina?  So she intended to support confirmation.

After an almost audible sigh of relief, the Arch Duke continued, pointing out that 'at this point' the Grand Duchess was 'playing nice'.  When Mikah asked if that meant they should be leaving the system quickly, Norris said "Well, No", ratcheting the tension back up yet again.  They waited for the other shoe to drop until Arch Duke Norris said they wanted to have a celebration in-system for the life of Sir Brian Montgomery, and commemorate his loss.  The Arch Duke also said that there had been a lot more going on than just their confirmations.  He then explained that he'd decided some other rewards were due the Knights and their crew.

Saying that their activities didn't rise to the level of ennoblement, he was issuing proclamations creating Inger, Zach, Emkir, Aali and Aiden as 'Squires of the Domain'.  This gave them the right to use the title "Esquire"!  He also told them he was granting them an annual Imperial stipend of Cr 10,000.  Additionally, the Arch Duke granted the entire team the right to bear arms of a moderate level.  So they couldn't run about with an armory or highly military weapons without excuse or reason, but could go moderately armed.  This right did extend Sir Rol's rights beyond those granted by Duke Leonard at his knighting.  Norris then turned to her saying, "Mikah, I am naming you a Lady to the Court of the Court of the Deneb Domain.  You are the Fourth to be so named, and this does not require confirmation.  It does come with an additional stipend from the Domain of Cr 20,000."

To Zimzod, the Arch Duke granted an extension of his already granted fiefdom, by granting him the rank of Captain in the Arch Duke's Huscarles, the 4518th Lift Infantry Brigade as a detached officer.  Further, in view of your status as a remote officer, I am going to designate you for TAS membership."  This last statement surprised everyone for a number of reasons.  The first was that application for membership in the Traveller's Aide Society required an up front and non-refundable MCr 1 payment.  Second, even the Arch Duke could only request membership for a sponsored person.  So powerful was the independence of TAS that they could say "No" to an Arch Duke and he would lose the application fee.  Norris continued that his Seneschal would handle the paperwork and update the knight on his membership.  After that, Zimzod surprised them all by properly and graciously thanking Norris.

Becoming serious, the Arch Duke turned to Rol and gave him the "Right to lawful Dissent", which meant Rol could in fact intercede in legal proceedings in Imperial court, or even set aside motions with the requirement he later substantiate his actions.  Lesser actions that right included were to question both witnesses and the representatives for the prosecution as well as the defense.  At its most powerful, the right allowed Sir Rol to set aside the judgment of a jury and the punishment set by a court and or jury.  After awarding so great an honor, Arch Duke Norris turned to Zach saying, "Mr. Wood, you are very well spoken and daring.  I understand this has led to some, questions with regard to your activities be they legitimate or espionage.  I understand that my cousin, Duke Leonard, has some issues with your continued existence.

After pausing to let that sink in, Norris continued, "And I understand that Sir Rol has been, in part, appointed by my cousin as your watchdog.  You should be aware that if I hear of you causing trouble from any of these here assembled, it would go as badly with me as it would if Sir Rol were to report to Duke Leonard.  So it would be appreciated, Mr. Wood, if you could make sure that things you feel aren't your fault don't happen.  Because it could come home to roost, whether it's your fault or not.  Enjoy your stipend."  As if suddenly remembering, the Arch Duke turned back to Zimzod saying, "By the way, Sir Zimzod?"  With Zimzod's attention, Norris continued, "About your battledress and how it's not, quite legitimately yours.  Tomorrow I will have a writ delivered to your ship making that battledress legitimately yours.  This will prevent you facing regulatory challenges when you want to repair or augment your armor."

Aiden cringed at the word "augment", wondering what fresh new hells that could open up?  Zimzod thanked Norris, saying His Grace had lifted a heavy weight from his shoulders, and again gracefully surprised those who saw him in only one light.  Done with that, the Arch Duke invited them all into the dining room for dinner.  In the dining room was another bar, and bar tender.  Entering, they found they'd be the only guests along with the Arch Duke's staff and daughter.  Emkir made a detour to the bar getting two glasses of champaign, for himself and Aali.  Noticing the interaction, the Arch Duke grinned and said he could perform weddings.  Emkir raised his glass with a smile saying, "Let us drink to the health of our good Arch Duke, may he reign a good long time."  He then barely waited for the others to join the toast before drinking.

During dinner, Zimzod mentioned the beauty of the room they were eating in and Norris nodded, saying he liked it too.  Norris said the manor was the property of Baron Khiharn Shukaxa, who was a friend of his.  He added that he didn't believe Duchess Delphine had known of their friendship until Norris had arrived in-system and moved into the estate.  That was a brag that he had spies even on Grand Duchess Delphine's own turf.  After the expected silence following Norris' satisfied statement, Zimzod said, "At least the cigar is good" and Norris said, "They're not mine either."  When Zimzod suggested the Arch Duke might not mind him taking a few more cigars, Norris reminded Zimzod the Baron was a friend of his.  Taking the hint, Zimzod backed off his greed.  When Mikah asked him about any additional duties as a Lady of his Court, the Arch Duke said, "You are now a Lady of the Realm, so you have a new title that stands above your Knighthood.  You are also now the ranking member of your crew."

When Zimzod said he was good with that and started raising a glass, Aiden answered, "Of course, you're a kept man."  That got a huge laugh from everyone including the Arch Duke.  Resuming his comments, Mikah was told she had to keep promoting the good of the Imperium as befit any noble.  He swept all the others with his eyes as he said this.  Norris did say there would be some extra political influence, since she was one of the first five people appointed to the Court of the Domain.  But he felt he could count on her future work to benefit the Emperor, and help him get his job done.  In the pause, Aali asked who the first three Ladies created into the Domain's Court were.  Arch Duke Norris told them he had chosen his daughter as the first, and primary, Lady of the Court.  After that, politics demanded he select Grand Duchess Delphine Adorania Muudashir, and then Duchess Avaraja Astaarte Muktheswana of the Glisten Subsector.

The crew were impressed, given the company Mikah shared, and Zimzod again raised his glass saying, "You are the Ma'am!"  They all laughed as they drank, and Mikah boldly said, "Yes!"  Mikah then asked if there was some special way to approach Duchess Delphine?  Norris, with the help of his Seneschal, said they'd be summoned, and the Court's protocol officer would explain everything.  They would be called into the Duchess' court.  The protocol officer would position them in the waiting hall.  Then another officer would call their names to enter the presence.  When each of them entered before the Duchess, they would be expected to bow before Her Grace.  At that point, the Duchess' Herald would announce the business they had before the Court, and she would discuss her thoughts on completing the business before having her judgment read.  After the Herald read the decision, it would be entered into public record and you're done.  And then you'll leave the court and she'll move on to other business.

They were quiet for a while as they ate and digested that.  Then there was the best imitation of a cough an Aslan could make as everyone looked up.  In his best Galanglic, the Aslan, Captain Tloieaea Woaroueae, asked if they had all been on the Quasar Viper?  When Mikah said Sir Rol and Scout Eikusdi Piirirshu(Aali) were not, the Captain asked how they found it?  Pausing, Mikah said the ship had a large tear in it, and one of the crew was found burned to death.  Mikah explained how that woman had apparently given her life to sever the drive's power feed and force the ship out of jump.  The Captain bowed his head in honor of the bravery for the dead crew woman.  Captain Woaroueae said something that sounded like, "It is disappointing we can't do something to honor her sacrifice."

When Rol asked, "What happened to the rest of the crew", Mikah explained they found all but two bodies in the Viper.  She also said the destroyer's shuttle was also missing, so that explained the others.  As a chilling afterthought, everyone was left with the probability there were two dead crew in a shuttle out there still drifting.  Inwardly, Aiden cringed at the possibility finding them might be their next job.  Into the silence, the Arch Duke raised a toast to the crew of the Quasar Viper and they all drank.  After that, they shared small talk about events and people of note in the Marches, until it was eventually time for dessert.

A Sudden Left Turn At Dessert

     The staff cleared the dinner plates away and prepared to serve dessert, and Emkir snuck from his pocket the silver ring with gold mounted pink gemstone and, holding it towards Aali, took a knee and proposed to her.  When she matter of factly said "Of course", Emkir slid the ring on her finger while Mikah let out an long "awwwww" and smiled.  Emkir put the ring on her finger and told Aali, "I really wanted to give you something unique.  Giving you a ring of lanthanum with a Tellona diamond chip would be cheapened by its availability.  Standing after the ring, Emkir said, "I present to you all my future bride." and took her hand to help her stand.

The congratulations and applauds were short lived, and ended as the Arch Duke leaned back in his chair and asked when he was performing the wedding?  Caught by surprise, Aali found herself responding, "As soon as possible?"  Checking his chrono, the Arch Duke said, "It appears you'll be staying on Mora a couple more days then?"  Emkir responded, "As it pleases Your Grace." before anyone else could respond to the fast-moving events.  Checking a datapad suddenly offered by his seneschal, Norris said he didn't have enough time to perform a wedding until four days from then, so they would remain on Mora as his guests until then.  This allowed Emkir to muse about buying Aali a proper present, and for Mikah to start planning the pre-wedding shopping!

When Mikah made it clear that she and Ms. Vik would be taking Aali shopping, Inger wondered what kind of boutiques they had in the downport, where her influence would have effect?  Shaking his head from side to side, Rol said to Emkir, "There's nothing we can do" as if he were a doctor over a terminal patient.  In top spirits, Emkir said there was something they could do, and suggested a day out betting on speedboat races while the ladies spent all the winnings.  When Mikah asked who the best man would be, Emkir said he couldn't think of anyone better than Rol.  At that, Zach enthusiastically chipped in, "We can always have the bachelor party at some sports book shop." only to be told by Mikah, "Yeah.  You're not invited!"  When Zach answered back, "Hey, I'm part of Duke Leonard's household", Arch Duke Norris snorted loudly in humor before anyone could respond.  The result was a round of laughter from almost everyone at the table as Zach sat glumly wondering why everyone was down on him?

After a pause, Rol said, "I hope you have a good place in mind for this?"  Emkir only laughed before saying none of this was planned and they had nothing.  But Emkir found himself interrupted by the Arch Duke as Norris said, "Don't worry, we've got that covered."  Aali said "Ok" while they all ignored the sudden increase in speed with which his seneschal had been working next to him.  Emkir just answered, "Again, thank you Your Grace."  While no one was wondering why Arch Duke Norris was volunteering to officiate at their wedding, the Arch Duke was making his own plans.  Knowing well the level of shock created by the announcement, and the political fallout it had begun creating, the populace were in shock.  Despite the nice little party and laughs, it was a very real truth that the Emperor could have done things a bit better.  So, he was worried the extremist elements on both sides might well be on the edge of shooting.

Because of that, Norris needed distractions, and there was no better distraction than one that would also help humanize him before the populace.  So it was, that he was more than pleased when this group once more demonstrated the '...strange favor this crew had with Fortune...' according to the report from Branj Dilgaadin the previous April.  Back then, Norris' Seneschal had to decide if he should have killed these people in Norris' own name or not?  Lucky for Norris, his good friend had let them live.  Officiating at the Marriage of two non-Nobility who were both recognized veterans, and who some could call heroes of the Fifth Frontier War was a wonderful way to play on the dreams of the common citizen.  In fact, so were other rewards.  But Norris decided he'd have to investigate that.

In the meantime, this wedding would help bring him together with the common citizen more than anything else he could do.  With congratulations and the planning finally settling down, the Arch Duke told the crew the official ceremonies for the new Arch Duchy would start the next day.  They listened as he pointed out he'd not planned for his elevation, much less the announcement, and was short staff.  So he expected the crew to serve as part of his entourage during the public ceremonies.  When asked, his Seneschal explained the events would start around noon, and celebrations should continue past the evening.  Mikah confirmed that there would be time for it, having been told they expected to be called before Duchess Delphine at 10am the next morning.

Arch Duke Norris confirmed their time in court should be very short, and not get in the way of his needs.  When they asked about wearing uniforms, Norris said that civilian dress would likely be better.  Zimzod asked about getting a set of Imperial Marine Class A's, but was convinced he should get a dress uniform, if anything.  In the end, Zimzod decided to get both and asked the Seneschal if there was anything the Arch Duke's office could recommend?  Arch Duke Norris responded instead, saying he'd pay for Sir Zimzod's dress uniform, since the Knight was now a member of his Huscarles.  When Zimzod said he wasn't asking for anything like that, Norris made it clear he didn't care what Zimzod had 'asked for.'  Norris also told the Seneschal to order the Class A's and bill Zimzod for those.  As they talked, Emkir proposed a toast, to the look in Aali's eyes.

Soon, dessert was done and they moved on to the residence's living room, where Arch Duke Norris asked questions about their visit to Jae Tellona.  Since that wasn't something that resulted in anything official, Mikah had gone a bit light on the details.  But as he asked about conditions in the desert and other things, Mikah decided to give him a more complete description.  That included the tale of "Zach and his amazing flying Tent".  Used to what he saw as the abuse, Zach had the good sense to not protest or counter their comments before an Arch Duke that viewed him in less than a stellar light.  Eventually, the evening came to an end, and the crew returned to the base and their ship, except Zimzod who went back to his villa.  He did bring with him clothes for Court the next day as well.

A Sudden Shopping Spree

     On their return to the ship's berth around 9:30, they found the engineering crew had pulled in some extra people.  They got all the needed maintenance done except for that work the ship's 'droid could handle over the next days.  When Aali checked in with the on-shift boss, he was surprised she was in such good shape.  When she connected, the tech said the base commander was curious if they could say how long they would be visiting?  Overhearing the comms from the ship, Mikah said they'd be there at least four more days.  When he didn't react right away, Mikah added that two of them had to meet with Duchess Delphine the next day, which appeared to stun the tech boss.  When he was finally able to, he asked if it was business or pleasure and was told it was certainly business.

Back aboard, Mikah researched Court fashions, to find ceremonial robes and high fashion gowns were good, as were business suits.  She found that her sparkling black gown would be acceptable.  When Mikah also found she had the right to an entourage of two, she decided not to presume before Delphine.  Ms. Vik sat in the lounge, mentally reviewing her suits for the next day, and Mikah said she'd need a new gown.  When Zach asked why, Mikah said she had one to wear into Court, but would need another one to appear in with Arch Duke Norris.  When Zach laughed at that, she said she certainly couldn't appear in the same gown at two different high profile events.  Ms. Vik backed her up.  At that, Mikah said they needed to get Aali started shopping too.

Aiden decided to read for a bit, and check his wardrobe too, before racking out.  He knew he'd have to dress up for the ceremonies the next day.  Emkir and Aali made a bee-line for their quarters, to celebrate their very short engagement.  Rol decided to clean his uniform, as he only had the one, and felt he needed to wear it to the next day's festivities, despite the Arch Duke's comments.  Zach knew what he planned to wear, so he rushed to the ship's terminals to try to get in on some late-night dealing.

Ironically, in their stateroom while Mikah and Inger discussed them, Emkir and Aali hadn't leapt onto the bed.  They were discussing the things they felt had to get done the next day.  Top on Emkir's list was actually sending a "Dear Mom and Dad" letter back home, to announce the marriage to his family.  Checking from the terminal in their stateroom, Emkir confirmed that the standard cost for an X-Message was Cr 20.  He then began checking how much it would cost to push his message to the Roup System, where his parents still lived.  While writing, Emkir promised that, as soon they could, they'd visit.  The distance, in jumps, made the total cost of a short burst message Cr 150, with a single picture which they did not yet have.  So Emkir started writing his message to send while Aali found a message to her family in the Regina system would cost her Cr 100.

Following on her comments, Mikah went on line and started looking for a method of getting a new gown delivered in time for the morning.  Talking Ms. Vik into it, she sent Inger to pound on Emkir and Aali's door until Aali came out.  This despite Emkir's complains about being cock-blocked.  Soon the ladies were in the lounge, after having been surprised Aali and Emkir were not hard at "celebrating".  They looked at a shop that promised 24 hour 'insta-scan' tailoring and design service!  Despite the questions and reservations of the others, Mikah was adamant, and they were soon in a hover-cab on their way.  Cr 20 later, the three were in a shop supporting a large number of "browse, design or preview" terminals and a bank of body scanners.

Arriving, Mikah silenced all resistance from Aali by saying, "My treat".  Entering the shop, Mikah started off with the sure thing when an staffer asked how she could help, saying she had to present herself in the Grand Duchess' Court the next morning and had to look good.  Mikah added a bit of firm command to her voice as ehs spoke, to establish her rank.  But she didn't want to put off the woman by talking down to her.  Still dressed, and wearing the same jewelry they had on for dinner, the ladies were obviously not to be taken lightly even before the claim to Delphine's court.  So the attendant treated them as politely as any other person on commission would, and started showing the three very expensive fashions.  When Mikah said she didn't really care, so long as it was stylish and she could have it by 9am, the girl explained the process.

Listening as the staffer explained, Ms. Vik was familiar with the process, having experienced it before in other high-tech systems.  One stepped in and was scanned into the computer.  That done, every base garment or a fully executed design in the catalog could be reformatted to show the customer wearing it.  If a base garment was selected, or the customer wanted alterations or changes made to a fully executed design, they could work with an assistant to make those design changes on the computer.  After the changes were saved, real world previews were displayed for fixes of unintentional issues created by the work before the garment was sent to the fabricators.  An hour or two later, the garment was ready for a final fitting, "tailoring and adjustments" mark up.  When that work was done, the garment was delivered within half an hour to an hour.  So, they could walk out of the shop by 1 am with completed garments.

Inger had actually bought such garments in the Rhylanor system in the past on trips from her work in the Porozlo port.  The assistant asked what the ladies wanted to start with and Mikah added to the shop girl's excitement by telling her Aali was getting married in four days, and also needed a gown.  Amidst the happiness and congratulations, the girl started showing off high-end designs for both current "in" Court fashions and wedding gowns.  All of them without price data, as the women surrendered to the hunt.  And the shop girl was on her game as she asked how many gowns Aali needed?  When the former scout said, "just the one", the girl pointed out Aali needed the wedding gown, a reception gown and asked about accompanying dresses for her bridal party?  With Mikah there to help her steady things out, Aali decided on a wedding and reception gown.  When the girl asked if Aali needed a gown for court, the engineer remembered the ceremonies the next day and reminded Mikah of them.

She eventually chose a ceremonial outfit which was a gown that was more business proper.  Aali's only concession to her former career was the dominant color of the gown, which was a light green with swaths of light browns accenting her body shape.  So they settled on three gowns for Aali, along with accessories.  When Ms. Vik said she'd need an outfit for the next afternoon too, Mikah agreed to cover her as well, so long as the gown wasn't green.  Eventually, Inger selected a gown that seemed to be a cross between a 'political assistant' and a 'political wife', so business but stylish in sweeping light blues and pinks.  Mikah herself asked for something "appropriate for the station of a 'Lady of the Court'.  Nodding, the girl showed Mikah four or five fashions anywhere from high fashion to very formal to those in the middle and Mikah said she preferred the middle of the road.

So, with the final changes done, it was time to commit to the order.  After she sent the gown files to the fabricators, the girl started working out the costs.  As expected, the wedding gown and reception gown were going to be expensive and they all shrugged that off.  But Aali and Ms. Vik were not as easily able to shrug off the Cr 60,000 as Mikah did when the girl asked for her Ident.  Mikah expected the girl to plug her Ident into the store's system and make the sale as countless others had done all her life.  But as the girl plugged in Mikah's newly updated Ident, she suddenly stopped with a look of complete shock on her face!  In the data on her screen, she saw this woman was listed as a "Lady to the Court of the Domain of Deneb"!  Of course, before the previous night, there was No Court of the Domain of Deneb"!  So the only way this customer could have been appointed to the Domain Court was if she was a personal associate of the newly appointed Arch Duke himself!

So this very special Lady was here late at night, shopping in her shop!  For wedding wear too!  The shop girl realized she was going to be famous!  Hoping to assure her ability to talk about this, the girl asked Mikah if they could print her picture and get it autographed?  When Mikah agreed, as long as it was not used for advertising, the girl said they'd hang it on the wall in the shop.  She didn't say she would point it out to customers, and to reporters covering her story about meeting part of the Arch Duke's personal staff.  When Mikah said it was Ok, the girl said no one had heard of appointments to the court.  Casual as you'd please, Mikah comforted her saying, "Oh Honey, I'm only the fourth one." and got a wide eyed stare of shocked surprise back.

Managing to talk again after that bomb, the girl asked if she could get her manager?  Mikah said yes, as long as they got working on the gowns.  The shop girl quickly assured Mikah the gowns were being worked on already and grabbed a comms.  When someone on the far end apparently picked up, she said "You need to check the payment data for this customer and then I need you up front."  Not very long after that happened, one of the doors at the back of the shop opened as another woman came zipping through it from the fabricators and stock rooms.  As she arrived, she could be seen to shift into 'decorum mode' as she turned to Mikah saying, "My Lady!  We would like to thank you so very much for patronizing our shop!"  From there, the shop manager made a seamless segue into discussions of accessories, shoes, etc.  At one point she asked, "Who's the lucky bride?" and Aali raised her hand, to be addressed as a Lady herself and congratulated.

The woman did as masterful a job as she could holding in the, "I can't believe this has happened to me!" reaction while gushing.  "You're going to need accessories with those dresses!"  The manager was again thrilled when she heard about the agreement to sign a picture, and quickly offered the ladies an accessory package for each gown at only Cr 500 per package.  Since this got them matching shoes and accessories for five gowns at only Cr 2,500, the three were amazed at the deal and agreed quickly.  That added to the order, the ladies started pouring over the accessory catalogs and shoe styles.  Eventually they got jewelry, undergarments, footwear, belts etc.  Ms. Vik and Mikah both chose footwear they could run in, despite the manager's "fashion sense".  Aali cited her height and other concerns as she selected flats for all three of her shoe sets.  This ate up much of the forty minutes the machines took to print out the nearly completed garments, so the ladies waited there until the process completed.

By 1 am, Friday 251-1112, they'd been fitted, tailoring marks were made and the staff told the ladies they could wait to receive the finished garments at 2 am, or have them delivered by 8 am that morning.  Mikah said it would be best if the gowns were delivered, since they had quite a schedule the next day.  Mikah verified the delivery details and saw another short 'pleasure-gasim' as the address of their ship was a berth in an Imperial naval base!  She signed the hard-copy picture as agreed, and the three hired a taxi back to the ship.  On the way, and feeling bad about having taken advantage of Mikah, Aali got Mikah to agree to let her pay back the cost of the ceremonial dress, since it wasn't really related to the wedding.  This would cost her Cr 6,500.

The Men Go Shopping

     The ladies left to shop and Zach asked about hunting a place to have a bachelor party?  When Emkir heard this, he said Zach might take that challenge up but he had to find a place to buy a suit to get married in.  When Emkir said Rol might want a suit too, since he'd be the best man, Rol agreed.  He mostly wanted to go with the Admiral to keep him out of trouble.  Zach plaintively asked why Rol was the best man, pointing out he'd helped represent Rol on the TAS interview and helped on other deals.  Finally, Emkir turned on Zach, demanding who went drinking with him when he was not good enough for some people, and who had gambled with him?  Emkir even pointed out that Zach had stepped on his lead when he had started the deal for Rol's interview.  Tactfully, Emkir avoided making the obvious comment that he needed a best man, not a best "half-a-man".  Rol chipped in that Zach could be the chairman.  After that bit of comedy, they realized they had to get tuxedos and jumped on line.

As with the ladies, they found the pre-made garment shops, the scanner shops and the more traditional and more expensive tailors.  As Emkir started doubting he'd need to actually "own" a tux and thought about renting, Rol asked how much Aali was worth to him?  Emkir put on a dramatic and hurt tone as he asked if Rol thought Aali would define his love for her on how much he spent, as if love could be so cheapened.  Rol reminded Emkir that she was a practical engineer and, with Zach backing him up, Emkir realized he did have to "show the effort" to "prove the emotion".  Emkir agreed with Rol so they had to decide which shop to go to as Rol snarked that this would hopefully be a once in a lifetime experience.  Emkir searched for a shop while Rol called to Aiden, who was relaxing, reading and ignoring the nut jobs, except to look up from time to time, to be sure nothing was gonna explode.

Getting the scout's attention, Rol told Aiden they had a mission and Aiden simply replied, "Oh dear" with that sinking feeling in his gut.  When Rol explained the situation, Aiden happily called out, "Costume shops on me!!"  Eventually, the guys made the same choice as the ladies and headed for a scanner-based clothier.  Rol paid Cr 20 for the taxi and they were treated to all manner of tuxedos and dress clothing.  Vilani fashion called for broad shouldered suits with a "button across" collar and no tie and jackets buttoning closed just above the belly button.  As Emkir fretted about eventually sending pictures back to his parents, Zach pointed out that Emkir would be sending pictures of himself and his bride being married by the Arch Duke of the Deneb Domain!  With that point made, Emkir realized he and Aali could be naked or even consummating the marriage in the picture.  So long as Arch Duke Norris was involved, the marriage would be blessed.

As a result, Emkir went for a more basic design, made more interesting by the variations of weave and fabric causing visual texture patterns.  The eventual effect included silk-shiny lapels on a flat black jacket with standout texture visibility on the pockets.  Texture angles across the waist would provide a slimming effect.  Along with shoes and accessories, Emkir's package came out to Cr 5,250.  As with the ladies, when Emkir handed over his Ident, the shop staff realized they were dealing with an Admiral and began to move more smartly and pay more effort in caring for the party.  With the rolling, Emkir said he thought his best man needed a suit too, and Rol asked, "I do?"  Discussed what Rol thought he might wear, Zach pointed out it might be good for him to wear something civilian.  To start separating the real him from "Major Kaihvos the accused war criminal".  Besides which, this was a wedding, and he wasn't in the military anymore.  Eventually Rol agreed and began looking for his own suit.

Of course, as he began looking through catalogs and handed over his Ident to move things forward faster, the shop workers realized who Rol was!  When the manager realized this, he actually asked, "Wait!  You earned the Starburst for Extreme Heroism?" in a respectful voice.  When Rol admitted he had, they asked for his autograph.  Remembering what had happened in Rhylanor, Rol was understandably concerned.  When the shop manager offered to give him his suit for free in exchange, Rol grudgingly agreed.  His agreement was helped as there was almost no one in the shop, and no one was grabbing a comms to get a crowd running.  While Rol did end up paying Cr 150 for the shoes and accessories, he got several thousand credits worth of suit for free.

With Rol's tux was in the works, the attention turned to Aiden, who really didn't think he needed more formal wear.  But the shop workers were offering a discount at this point as Rol pointed out Aiden might have much more need of formal wear as a Squire.  When Aiden asked, they offered 35% off the work, and he had to compare the need for the clothes with his desire for more weapons.  Finally, Aiden decided to take the plunge and was charged Cr 3,400 even.  As with the ladies, it was nearing 1am as they finished up and went back to the ship.  So both the men and ladies ended up back at the ship at nearly 1:30am and everyone racked out.  Mikah warned the guard shack about the clothing deliveries expected by 8am.

At the resort, Zimzod went skirt chasing and found a number of likely girls.  He also found they didn't see him as the most objectionable of 'body hunters'.  There was also a good mix of women who were looking to 'make a mistake on vacation' as well as those getting drunk enough not to be aware they were making a mistake until it was too late.  Despite that volatile mix, Zimzod had a very fun evening chasing a number of likely ladies but didn't manage to get any of them into bed.  The only thing he had to show for the night was a Cr 50 drink bill as he hit the rack with a wakeup call for 8:30a.

Mikah And Zimzod Go To Court

     At 3am, the tuxedo shop delivered the suits for the men.  At 5am, having taken extra care, the gowns were delivered in scented packets with a few extra items and some dress brooches and rings with "pretty but less valuable" stones thrown in.  As a wakeup call rang in Zimzod's villa and Mikah's alarm clock woke her, the two knights separately began preparing for their mornings.  Mikah was very pleased when she eventually checked and found the gowns and men's suits had arrived in good order.  Mikah verified her schedule, and was happy to see she would have time to return to the ship and change if all went as expected.  This was also good because she didn't know if she could bring an outfit bag with her to Delphine's court?  In any case, she dressed up and blinged up as did Sir Zimzod, and they each called taxis from their separate locations.

Leaving the base, Mikah got a very correct salute from the guard, who appeared to be doing what was required because that batch were pro-Norris.  It wasn't very comforting to realize the base they were on was as divided as the Spinward Marches seemed to be.  As luck would have it, both taxies arrived at the same stretch of curb almost at the same time.  Zimzod saw Mikah getting out of her transport while getting her Ident back.  They went into the entrance hall together and were welcomed to the,
       "Grand Court of Her Grace, Delphine. Ruler of the Spinward Marches in the name of her
       Great Nephew Emperor Strephon, Duchess of the Mora Subsector, Prime Senator of the Senate
       of the Spinward Marches, Marchioness and Ruler of the Mora System, Lady of the Imperial
       Court, Lady of the Court of the Domain of Deneb, Guiding hand of the Imperial spinward
       expansion, Knight of the Order of the Starship and Crown, Knight of the Order of the Arrow
       and Member of the Imperial Family."

The titles went on, if you stayed to listen to them, but the knights had a schedule to keep.  They were also not aware that staying to listen marked you as one not properly educated in the affairs of Court.  One only ever listened to all the titles of a given noble person when it was required by protocol, like at the opening of Court at the beginning of a set of days, weeks or months of proceedings.  Beyond that, you listened if you had not educated yourself beforehand.  Mikah considered how little she cared to know of Delphine as she ignored the titles.  She figured she'd bring Aali as part of her entourage if she had to have the data, since the engineer seemed to know that stuff.  Zimzod just thought the announcers were making a lot of unnecessary noise.  They entered into the very grand and well decorated entry gardens leading to the entry hall of Grand Duchess Delphine's Court.  There were richly dressed and well supported and accompanied people of all manner involved in discussions, working with personal electronic devices, sitting and relaxing or even meditating, approaching or leaving the court.

Well positioned throughout the crowd, and at key locations, were well armed and armored members of the Ducal Guard in Delphine's colors.  And throughout the crowd were 'droids and members of Delphine's staff running errands, delivering messages, explaining matters of court protocol, etc.  Entering in, Mikah and Zimzod passed through a great deal of business being conducted.  Of course, there were the media and pictures were taken because Mikah had taken Zimzod's arm and he escorted her in.  She was also sure their adventures the night before were working their way through the media, but no mention of them had reached her yet.  While anyone could enter the Court, they were not long inside the entry gardens when one of the many staff intercepted them and said, "Greetings My Lord and My Lady.  Who comes to visit the Court of Her Grace, and what may I say is your business?" in a very polished and practiced delivery.

Zimzod let Mikah do the talking as she made introductions and explained they were there seeking the confirmation of their Knighthoods.  Again, with a well-practiced smile and words, the staffer said, "Wonderful!  And congratulations and welcome to the Court of Her Grace.  May I please have your Idents so I can get you signed in and on the docket?"  After the Knights handed over their Idents and the staffer began to check, she stopped saying, "Oh!  I see you're already on the docket.  Welcome and congratulations.  Please wait here while I get a protocol officer to lead you to where your place has been prepared."  After that, the staffer scurried off, leaving the Knights to wait a bit before another staffer came to them.  This man was very dressed up and wore a sash with Delphine's colors as well as a badge of the household.  As he arrived, he said, "My Lady, Sir Knight, would you please come with me?" and turned to lead them into the main entry hall of the court.

As they caught him up and walked with him, the officer explained, "This is what's going to happen.  At 10:05, your order of business will come up, unless something previous goes a bit long, which it does from time to time.  But I guarantee we can get you before Her Grace before 10:20.  Absolutely certain.  Court is a well-oiled machine here on Mora.  You'll enjoy the experience.  Your names will be called, with all your honors.  And you will proceed, one by one, before Her Grace to have your audience.  You will be announced by Her Grace's Herald and Her Grace will greet you personally.  Do not say anything to Her Grace unless Her Grace invites you to respond."  With that, the staffer paused.

Continuing, the staffer said, "Her greeting is an invitation to respond.  Make sure you keep any responses brief, as we have many items of court business to get through.  After greetings are exchanged, Her Grace will make comments, and ask why you have come before her?  You will say, as you have, that you have come seeking confirmation of your Knighthood.  Following that, Her Grace will speak of what she knows of you and your service?  What she has learned of, and how she feels about, the confirmation of your Knighthood.  And then, she will pronounce her decision.  After she has rendered her decision, it will be echoed by her Herald and you will be congratulated, or sent forth to do further work in pursuit of your confirmations.  And then it will be your pleasure to bow to Her Grace and then leave the court quickly but respectfully.  Are there any questions?"

When neither Mikah nor Zimzod had any questions, the officer continued, "My docket shows that there was a slight error in the records.  We have Your Ladyship listed as a Knight of the Third Imperium but we had no record that Your Ladyship was a Lady of the Court of the Domain of Deneb.  I do see that on your Ident, and know this was not in error, so we will adjust our records and would like to congratulate you on your further appointment and elevation.  They walked, and entered into the 'outer shell' of the Court proper, which could best be described as having the properties of a church, but of a rounder and more broad shape.

It also seemed more of a performance stage than an altar.  And the trappings were those of power and state, not religion and faith.  However, it was very colorful, and richly decorated with fine materials, artwork, precious minerals and metals, etc.  In the end, it was much more theater than church, but shared that feeling of reverent space and ingrained respect.  While neither of them commented, the extensive use of very rich and heavy wood on a world that had no forests and few trees spoke volumes.

With that done, the officer indicated where they could sit if they wanted to, and left them to watch the court proceedings and wait for their business to be called.  Mikah and Zimzod watched the Court, while both pieces of fluff and pieces of real business with significant consequences played out.  Some of these gave a feel for the real power the Grand Duchess wielded and the true danger she represented.  Not surprising, it appeared that anything of real consequence that came up had already been vetted, investigated and the real decisions had been made behind closed doors.  They were simply announced in court.  But the discussions before any decision were filled with anything from warnings to outright veiled threats which were very real, despite the appearance as theater.

Just after the pair sat to wait, a courtier was called before Her Grace for having failed to deliver on a contract.  It quickly became obvious the contract had not been delivered on, as a brief report from the Seneschal provided.  After that report, the courtier attempted some fairly obvious tactics to inflate payments, claiming unexpected difficulties and the Duchess herself took him down.  In doing so, she showed quite well that her faculties were completely intact as she ripped the man apart verbally.  She eventually ejected him from her court, telling him to leave before she had him 'escorted'.  The implication suggested a legal, rather than civil escort.  Eventually, after not waiting over long, the pair heard the Herald call out, "Mikah Kirlim, Lady to the Court of the Domain of Deneb, Knight of the Imperium, is invited before Her Grace to bring suit."

The Spotlight, The Presence And The Press

     The cry itself caused a stir, showing continued surprise at the news courtiers to the Domain Court existed.  Beneath that, there had to be an undercurrent of discomfort for those who were no longer secure in their universal view, due to this apparently secret growth of the Domain Court.  Still, Mikah rose and entered into the court before the Grand Duchess, and made her slight bow.  The Duchess looked down her nose from her raised seat and Mikah couldn't tell if this was simple court stagecraft or intent.  Delphine said, "Lady Kirlim, I would like to greet you, and welcome you into my court.  And to congratulate you on your recent elevation."  That Delphine could comment on that without any visible change of expression showed her mastery of her expressions.

After Mikah thanked Delphine, the Duchess asked, "So Lady Kirlim, what may we do for you?" as Mikah noted the use of the Royal "We".  Playing along, Mikah said, "I am here today to have your exalted person confirm my title as Knight of the Imperium."  Of course, there were some gasps in the court as people heard Mikah say " have your.." rather than " ask you to..."  To dedicated supporters and courtiers, this "Lady" had not asked for confirmation but seemed to be demanding it of the Grand Duchess!  Despite the few audible gasps, Delphine neither reacted to the supposed sleight nor allowed the perceptions of some to slow the business of court.  Still looking down on Mikah, Delphine replied, "We understand, and we have been watching your career with great interest.  We have watched as you have served around the edges of the Imperium.  We have learned greatly of your record during the war, and we have watched as you served in the areas of space around the system of Rhylanor."

That last bit seemed to be intentionally vague as the Duchess' eyes met Mikah's.  After a brief pause, the Duchess continued, "And we are very happy with your service to the Imperium, and expect it to continue.  And with that in mind, we have decided to support and certify your Knighthood."  The Duchess paused and Mikah thanked the her before Delphine continued, "We also have received words from our Cousins, then Duke Sir Norris Aella Aledon of Regina and Duke Leonard Stephanos Kirgashii of Rhylanor.  We understand the requirements for confirmation stated the three must be in accord.  I now state that the three Are in accord", stressing the word 'Are'.  She continued, "Your Knighthood is confirmed, and no longer in jeopardy except that you should commit acts of treason or crimes against the Imperium.  Or if you harm the citizens or position of the Imperium.  We expect further great things from you and We thank you for attending our court today."  The Duchess finished and her last words were very obviously a dismissal while the Herald announced Her Grace's congratulations to Lady Kirlim on the confirmation of her Knighthood.

Mikah made her curtsy and, backing out at first, left the presence as the Court was called to cheer.  Directly after Mikah's confirmation was completed, Sir Zimzod was called into court and his business followed the same pattern.  Having prepared for the audience, and having Mikah's example to follow, and only having to answer comments and not make conversation, there were fewer pitfalls for Zimzod than Mikah faced.  After they left the court, they were stopped by the inevitable gauntlet of media.  First were the pictures of the newly confirmed Knights.  This was followed by questions for Mikah on her elevation to the Domain court, because few people surprised the court.  Mikah smiled and answered that she simply served at the pleasure of the Court and didn't dictate communications.  After some more tries on that line, they shifted and started asking both Knights about their past.  Specifically about the time spent aboard the Dawnstar Horizon?  Mikah and Zimzod figured that would come up, since it was the big gap between when they were knighted and their better-known activities.

Attempting to get past the subject quickly, Mikah said the Dawnstar Horizon was destroyed, so it was ancient history.  Sadly, this was news to the press, who jumped on the statement, asking about the history of the ship, their roles aboard and especially how and when the ship was destroyed?  When they said it was lost fighting pirates, the media followed up asking about their anti-piracy mission?  Mikah jumped on that as a way out, explaining that they were simply on their way to the Regina system when they were attacked, not on an anti-piracy mission.  When she tried to play it humble, saying it wasn't anything they did, the reporters pushed until Mikah told them the Horizon was attacked and they were lucky there had been a naval vessel nearby.  Trying to get any nugget, they asked who the Imperial Naval Captain was, so they could be properly thanked?  Mikah said they'd already thanked her properly and the reporters called her to give the ship and crew the public recognition they deserved.  Mikah answered that the ship had been recognized in the Regina system after the incident.  The interview attempts continued for a bit more time before they had to move on to the next courtier leaving the presence.

The First Court Of The Domain Of Deneb

     After that, Mikah reminded Zimzod about the Domain ceremonies in a few hours.  Considering the last time he'd worn his tuxedo, Zimzod realized he had to return to the ship, pull the monkey suit off its hanger and see if it needed to be cleaned and pressed?  So, he shared the taxi back to the ship to clean up and change.  In his stateroom, after they got back, he checked his tux, Zimzod found it was good to go.  He was glad he'd had it cleaned before he packed it away.  Zimzod did that while Mikah called in advance for a transport to the ceremonial site, and then they were all dressing.  Ten minutes before they were ready to leave, they got a call from the Arch Duke's office, instructing them to travel by an alternate route to enter.  This would get them past most of the security and on the site in time to muster.  The message also included data credentials for the team to update to their Idents.

After they all did final checks and updated their Idents, they boarded the grav-transport and arrived at the site near 11:30am.  The site was an open amphitheater in a forest of giant bent and irregular shaped stone walls placed in a disorganized fashion, that could have been a maze if it had a pattern.  The only organization was a quarter of the center of the site, which had been cut out for the amphitheater.  Joining with the building organization there, the crew found this event was turning out to be much more organized than anyone expected.  Apparently, many messages had been 'in the ether' to many systems and organizations, instructing them to send delegations to Mora under the greatest secrecy.  These came by the order of the Emperor himself!  That meant all the sector and Duchy governments had delegations representing them, even if they hadn't known what they were there for?

And while there was some discovery, through social interaction or encounters aboard ships, at ports and in hotels, it turned out very few had an idea what the scope of the gathering was?  The crew were made part of the Arch Duke's entourage, and given an order to process in following the Arch Duke, his daughter and his officers.  They found they'd be following the Arch Duke's staff in ordered pairs.  Sir Zimzod and Lady Mikah would lead their section, followed by Admiral Meshrumiikiim and Captain Eikusdi Piirirshu, Esquires.  Then would come Major Sir Kaihvos and Executive Director Vik Esquire followed by Mr.'s Radetsky and Wood, Esquires.  With apologies, the event directors removed the sticker Rol had put on Zach's chair.  Beyond that, they were congratulated in being his Grace's retainers and told their procession would enter from the left while the Grand Duchess Delphine's entourage entered from the right.

In the center of the stage, Delphine and Norris' officers would form a semicircle around the Arch Duke and Grand Duchess in the center.  Their group would form the left arc of a second semicircle behind the first.  They were expected to then stand in position for the half hour to forty minutes the ceremony was planned to take.  Behind them, the additional senior delegations from the five sector governments of the Domain would form a third semicircle.  The back stage would fill with delegations from key duchies and the branches of the Imperial military.  Everyone in the party felt a brief shiver when they were told the Grand Duchess would officiate, not only as the Senior ranking Duchess present but also as a member and representative of the Imperial Family.  After the trappings of office were awarded, the Arch Duke would make his statements before the crowd dispersed.  Then, they'd move on to the additional events and the parties afterward.

The crew were expected to be the Arch Duke's escorts to and during each as those events unfolded.  It was estimated things would die down and they'd be released around 1 am.  Finally, the ceremony began with the playing of the Imperial Anthem.  After that, the Anthem of the Five sectors of the Domain were played, starting with the Spinward Marches as the host sector, and because Grand Duchess Delphine's was the senior rank.  As they looked about, the crew could see that three of the other sector Dukes and Duchesses had actually managed to attend, with the last sending a representative.  Mikah scanned those attending but couldn't see Duke Bondal a'Plena of Vilis.  The ceremony proceeded and Delphine expertly carried out her duties with no hint of enmity at all.  Her performance went smooth as glass.  Aali quietly mused she'd not realized there was that much botox in the sector.

As she found a point to whisper that to Emkir, he commented back, "Breeding shows" with his nose up in apparent disapproval of the stiff upper lip of nobility.  Finally, Grand Duchess Delphine turned and asked, "Your Grace, Arch Duke Norris.  What are your first orders for the Domain?"  Norris formally replied, "On this occasion of the creation of the Domain, we are the youngest.  We fall well behind the other Domains in many ways, and so I have these pronouncements."  With that, the Arch Duke turned to his Deputy Seneschal to take a datapad as he continued.  "First, I would like to create the First Knight of the Chivalric Order of the Deneb Domain, the Primary of that Order.  And in that position I would like to create Grand Duchess Delphine of The Spinward Marches."  Several minutes passed as he created Delphine a Knight of the Deneb Domain.  This was followed as he created each of the other sector Dukes and Duchesses Knights of the Domain.

After that, he created two more Knights of Admirals in his service.  Both were Human officers, one male and one female.  Emkir had known of them but not worked directly with either of them.  Those actions done, the Arch Duke turned to the crowd and announced there would be a further court later that evening, where he would be acting in his continued capacity as the Duke of the Regina system.  He then said, "I invite the press and public to come and attend us on that business as well.  But these are the final actions of this first court of the Domain of Deneb."  After that, the Arch Duke was joined by his daughter as he began to leave.  His entourage formed up behind him and followed off the stage and into vehicles for the next stop.

The First Party Celebrating The Domain Of Deneb

     The first stop was a short lunch, allowing them to eat so they didn't abandon their duties at the first party while assaulting the buffet table.  After that, began the process of parties and meetings.  As they accompanied the Arch Duke, Emkir did his best to carouse and listen for information.  His first impulse was to appear noticeably drunk, to encourage people to write him off.  Unfortunately, as he went into his act, Emkir had his elbow tugged by a man in the Arch Duke's livery who asked if he was actually as drunk as he seemed?  When Emkir said he wasn't, he was reminded he was there as a representative of Arch Duke Norris and told the Arch Duke would prefer him not to appear drunk at parties.  Rol elected to hang close by Zach, to make sure the merchant didn't create an issue as Zach himself dove in, looking to make mercantile connections and advance his own business.

Rol saw this wasn't creating a positive reaction and moved up to whisper into Zach's ear.  When Rol said, "This is not a trade show, Stay cool", Zach said it was a party and people made contacts at parties.  Rol put a bit more into his voice as he reminded Zach they were not there to make contacts, but to make the Arch Duke look good.  While Rol verbally dueled with Zach, Zimzod had arrived and scanned the party for his own hunting interests.  While not being obvious about his interests, Zimzod was "sniffing at" the female party staff and the attentions they were paying the nobility.  Zimzod made note that there were a few of the servers who had interests in the rich men, including him.  So he was friendly when he came in contact with some of the ladies, and even exchanged friendly comments.  Still, he played it soft because, among those plain and honest in their interest were also gold-diggers and social climbers looking to improve their own station by marrying well.

Despite the pitfalls, Zimzod continued to make chance comments, not only with an interest to the serving staff but also because being seen making friendly connections helped him with the women attending the event as guests.  Zimzod found the ladies attending the event shared some interests too, but he was sure some were only interested in him as a retainer of the Arch Duke.  After developing interest from both the serving staff and those attending, Zimzod pulled back to see who came sniffing.  Of those who came "sniffing" a bit harder than the others, Zimzod noticed a Lady of the Court of Mora, who he felt was 'better than fair to middlin' and a Baronet Ninnoma of some system or other who was outright hot.  She was almost as tall as he was, with long brunette hair and a reddish complexion.

Zimzod decided to go for the looks and concentrate on the Baronet.  Talking with her, Zimzod learned she was actually a Baroness, and the daughter of a local Duke.  Learning that, Zimzod saw this game had a chance of going real bad, since he was only out for fun.  Still, Zimzod didn't want to blow her off and create other issues.  So he spent some time with her as he could, outside his other duties.  As they talked, Zimzod learned she was the daughter of the Duke of Isurkun, in the Star Lane subsector(Deneb).  He also learned her father's Duchy included five systems, and her home system was noted for its ship yards and space industries.  She also gushed a bit about enjoying the Mora system because her homeworld was a very dry planet, forcing them to even import bulk ice for their hydroponic needs.  She traveled a good deal, as there were a number of trade routes passing from trailing to spinward through her home system.

Talking about work, Zimzod told her of his military background, and learned she was business-trained, with an MBA.  When Zimzod finally decided to make his play, he began by telling her he had a room at a resort which he'd not been able to spend any time in since arriving.  Hearing this, Ninnoma playfully suggested he must be one of those idle rich she'd heard of.  She continued on that theme and it became obvious she was joking.  Still, Zimzod mentioned how crowded his calendar had been and she asked what he had planned in the coming days?  Zimzod said he hoped to relax a bit before attending the wedding of two of his friends.  Of course, she asked if they were people she would know and Zimzod gave their names, saying he doubted she'd heard of the couple.  Despite not knowing them, the fact he was friendly enough to be invited to an Admiral's wedding spoke well of Zimzod.  That he was friends with both the Admiral and his fiancé spoke even better of Zimzod to her.

As they talked, she was interested in getting to know Zimzod, but not interested in visiting for the night, as he'd hoped.  Zimzod came to realize she wanted a more traditional relationship.  Still, she continued to be interested in him as they got to talk, and spent time together, and said she wanted to see more of him.  So Zimzod invited her to visit him at the resort the next day.  She agreed as he made it clear the Arch Duke or other responsibilities he had might interfere, but she thought the idea great.  She suggested they could hang out on the beach.  Zimzod also plotted to perhaps take her to the resort's underwater restaurant.  As the party began to fade, they traded contact data and firmed up to meet in either the late morning or at noon at the resort.

Ms. Vik spent a good part of the party avoiding the interests of a young Marquis who seemed taken with her hair, not to mention her form.  Having diplomatically agreed to dance with the young man early on, she learned he was the son of a landed Count.  But he literally tried to firmly take her hand and lead her out of the party, at which point she'd had to diplomatically disentangle herself from him as the chase began.  The rest of the team spent their time keeping their eyes and ears open as they mingled.

Rol's comments had a moderating effect on Zach, who didn't stop what he'd been doing but worked to be more discrete.  As the evening progressed, those listening heard discussions of almost every sort, from actual business deals Zach was hunting to political suppositions, relationship comments and straight out party chat.  There were both grousing about Norris as well as comments happy Delphine had been put in her place.  By midnight, things broke up and the team returned to the ship, except Zimzod who returned to his villa.  At the resort, Zimzod set a call for an attendant to clean his room in the morning to make sure it was presentable for his company.

Making The Morning News

     Aboard the ship, everyone intended to sleep in except Rol, who woke at 7am to cook breakfast.  By 8am, Zach stepped out of his stateroom and headed to a terminal in the common area as he greeted Rol.  Zach took a place near a terminal and connected to the data-net before pulling up the contact list he'd built up on his hand comp the day before.  He then started making calls and leaving introductory messages, reminding those he called they'd met at the party.  Zach also reminded those he called that he traveled with Knights, and that they were troubleshooters as he asked if there were any dealings he could assist with?

Doing that, which was fairly cut and dry work, Zach also opened a trading screen, scanning for any trade activity he could get involved with?  When Rol heard Zach saying they might have data that could help some deals, Rol tapped him on the shoulder and asked if Zach planned to clear any deals he planned to give out with the Arch Duke?  Zach said he was just looking for a chance to help out and Rol said he still thought it best that Zach clear his activities before acting. Zach just said "Yea, sure." with a smile.

Rol went back to cleaning up after eating and Ms. Vik eventually emerged and asked Rol about the party as she ate.  Rol said he thought the party was "a great opportunity to excel" and she leaned back saying, "OK...  Excel at what?"  When he commented on watching Zach, she nodded.  In the pause, Rol said he thought they'd avoided disaster.  Inger considered that for a bit before she asked, "So how long do you think it'll be before things break out in open warfare between Delphine and Norris?  Joking, Rol simply asked, "What time is it?" and they both chuckled.  Getting serious again, Rol suggested it already had, but had not affected them yet.  He did guess they'd get out of the Mora system before it did.  When Ms. Vik said they only had to get past the wedding, Rol agreed, and joked, "What could go wrong with that?"

After that, Ms. Vik logged into a terminal to check on her email accounts.  There, she found some friendly notes from the Director of the Mora port, welcoming her and inviting her to visit the port for drinks if she was free.  After Rol finished cleaning up, he sparked up the ship's entertainment screen and watched the news, as commentors talked about the earlier day's activities.  In their stateroom, Emkir awoke with his bride-to-be still asleep in his arms.  Emkir decided to watch Aali sleep for a bit before waking her up by "arousing her interests".  Thanks to that, the two didn't emerge from their stateroom for some time.  Mikah and Aiden left their staterooms at roughly the same time, seeing food prepared, Ms. Vik and Zach working at terminals and Rol watching the news.

Aiden and Mikah grabbed chow, the social report came on the screen, after a number of "experts" talked of how the Arch Duke just happened to be in the system when the news broke.  Transitioning from that, the Social report initially focused on those people the Arch Duke brought with him for the occasion.  Again, it was almost stated as fact that Norris had pre-knowledge of the event.  The report got into swing as Mikah found herself the first focus of their attention.  The report used her elevation to a Lady of the Domain to explain her importance, not to mention her connection to Norris.  This was a springboard as they started covering what they knew of Lady Dame Mikah?  While the report commented on her known military history, elevation to knighthood, service in the Risek affair and arrival in-system aboard a light escort class gunship, they played a number of pictures of Mikah from the day before.

Seeing pictures of herself, arm in arm with Zimzod, she called Zimzod.  Asleep in his villa, Zimzod was woken and answered to hear Mikah saying, "Hi sweetheart", in a tongue in cheek tone.  He laughed as he answered, "How you doin' cuddle buns?"  Mikah told him their pictures were being played on the vid and he asked what station?  The report proceeded to cover the late-night escapade in the bridal shop, complete with pictures of the shop staff showing off their signed picture of Mikah.  This was then linked to "eminent bachelor" Major Sir Rol Kaihvos, who'd also arrived aboard the same ship, and was seen with a retired Imperial Admiral and other member of their crew buying tuxedos!  In fact, there was yet another signed picture being shown to reporters at that shop.

The report did say that, while some tuxedos were worn at the previous day's ceremony, a wedding gown was bought by the ladies.  So while there were no details yet, there was perhaps a romantic link between the newly elevated Lady Kirlim and the war hero.  The report also covered the confirmation of her knighthood as a segue into coverage of Zimzod as they started working the entire crew into the coverage.  Eventually, they linked Mikah to either Rol or Zimzod, while correctly linking Emkir and Aali, if not figuring out their engagement.  Some coverage was given to the claims against Sir Rol in Sir Jeremy's book, and the reported heroic role Mikah, Zimzod and Zach played in saving lives in the Risek system.  There was even some commentary on the Dawnstar Horizon.

Coverage of Ms. Vik was the lightest while Aiden was surprised to find his actions in the Fifth Frontier War played large.  Still on the comms, Zimzod caught the end of the report and missed much of the meat of the report on himself and Mikah.  Less than impressed, he said he was going for breakfast and cut the line before throwing some clothes on and heading to spend Cr 20 on chow while enjoying the nice sunny morning.

Next: A Brief Respite Goes Bizarre