In the afternoon, a group of Stepozhevaci officials called a meeting with the crew to introduced them to a "Contractor". The man was an older, clean cut man named "Mr. Mattin".  When he was introduced, Ms. Vik had a feeling of vague memory.  She felt she should remember him for some reason but couldn't place him.  Since the contracts had been signed, the Stepozhevaci said the team could have the facts.
Mr. Mattin began explaining the job from the beginning, as far as the crew were concerned.  Mattin said the Stepozhevaci freighter they had helped was named the Enlightened Measure".  Dame Mikah whispered to those around her," I bet it's not..."  Mattin either didn't hear the comment or ignored.  He went on, saying she had been outbound on the same mission then as the team were now hired to accomplish.  The team aboard were to recover an Imperial Naval Destroyer, Fer d'Lance Class, discovered as a drifting hulk in deep space.  Then, Mr. Mattin told one of the aides turn on a projector and began explaining from images and data which had been recovered by scan.
Data on the hulk was sketchy, but there was enough to show a Fer d'Lance destroyer drifting dead in space.  After repeatedly using the term "dead in space", Brian interrupted to ask Mr. Mattin to stop saying "dead".  Nodding, the contractor changed to "drifting" as much as possible.  Mr. Mattin said it was believed that, if the hulk could be located, it could possibly be repaired.  The most difficult issue would be hacking the ship's computer so a prize crew could take control and deliver it to a specified destination.  They were reminded they'd be using navigational tapes held secure by Councilor Saamsen.  After the briefing, those most skilled with computers would sit through a week's training to hack a simulated Imperial warship computer's security.  The rest of the Dawnstar Horizon's crew would prepare for the operation in other ways.
After Mattin's presentation, the crew were told they were free to ask questions.  The first was how the ship was found?  The Councilor said, while they were against off-world interests controlling their resources, that didn't stop the Stepozhevaci seeking off-world resources themselves.  As part of that program, their government "funded" unscheduled stops by ships visiting the Porozlo system.  These would be merchanters who were able to jump into deep space within their schedules.  They were paid to execute a scan of that part of space before jumping to their final destination.  There, they would be paid for the scans.
Saamsen said one of those ships had done a scan and was preparing to jump when they spotted the hulk, completely "In the dark".  First, they thought it had been an anti-pirate or anti-Zhodani patrol but weren't sure.  Either way, they could only take a quick scan as they jumped.  Once in jump, the officers reviewed the data and saw the ship was just a drifting hulk.  When the name or identification of the ship was asked, the Councilor said the quick scan didn't show any identification.
Someone asked when the ship was found and they were told it happened 18 months before, in mid-1110.  That was well before the end if the Fifth Frontier War, so they couldn't move to recover the hulk earlier.  Especially with Imperial patrols in deep space leading to a risk of "shoot first-investigate later" incidents.  The crew were most bothered that the ship had been drifting for 18 months, and would have to be found again.  Ryddoth asked if the scan included a drift vector and they were told it didn't.  When asked about electronics, to help hacking the computer, Mr. Mattin admitted they'd had one, bought at very great expense.  But it had been on the Enlightened Measure.  At the best, it would remain there until the hulk was returned.  At worst, it was destroyed or lost in the explosion.  He also said they had collected valuable details, which were apparently lost with Councilor Helmik's computer.  That, too, had been lost aboard The Enlightened Measure.  When asked about the crew requirements for this destroyer class, they were told a normal crew included 13 sentients.  But a minimum of 3 [Pilot, Navigator and Engineer] could fly it if desperate.  Mr. Mattin pointed out they would have two engineers.
When evening came, the crew were told they could stay on the ship or in the tents as they wished.  They all choose to stay aboard, since cots had been delivered to use, until the ship could get back to the IISS Base in-system.  Doing that had been opposed by all the Stepozhevaci, but it was required for both refueling the ship and refitting the staterooms.  Scout Ryddoth left unsaid that he doubted Imperial officials would let the Horizon leave the system without a stop at the base.  But, with the crew released for the evening, they set about moving their gear into their assigned staterooms.  A bed was also assigned to Councilor Saamsen, who's gear had been delivered earlier.  The staterooms had been assigned:
Stateroom 1:  Scouts Kyle Van Ryddoth and Aiden Radetsky
Stateroom 2:  Scout Admiral Emkir Meshrumiikiim and Councilor Saamsen
Stateroom 3:  Ms. Inger Martinusdtr Vik and Dame Mikah Kirlim
Stateroom 4:  Sir Brian Montgomery and Sir Zimzod Egosion
Admiral Meshrumiikiim, Ms. Vik and Sir Brian spent the rest of the week in the computer training.  The others spent some time in a detailed study of the deck plans of the Fer d'Lance class destroyer, based on a commonly documented configuration of the class.  While the ship design was generic, there could have been differences or modification in service.  But the deck plans they had should be basically correct according to Mr. Mattin.
The hacker trainees weren't pushed hard, but encouraged to work very hard because the instructors wouldn't be available in the field.  And that could affect the success of their operation...and their pay checks.  Early on, things were a bit strained since most of the crew didn't know each other well.  That added to the strain of "Behaving" in the presence of the Stepozhevaci.  Councilor Saamsen very studiously enforced his observation of the mission and the crew, except in one startling area.
At first, Dame Mikah wasn't even certain, while testing how far the Councilor would push things?  By the third night, Mikah was sure the Councilor wouldn't press people in their own staterooms.  Be it some odd Stepozhevaci social custom or personal quirk, Mikah was sure what she did in any stateroom other than his would be safe.  Ms. Vik also used this discovery to have a call patched to the SPA on the special frequency.  In that call, she described Mr. Mattin and asked Mr. Saaried to see if he struck a chord at all?  Mr. Saaried had no memory of the man, but had a check done of the port records.  While that came up empty, he said he'd keep people checking into it for her.
After Mikah was sure of her discovery, she told Sir Brian she had a job for him, right in line with his classes.  She first checked her stateroom, to make sure Ms. Vik was out in the lounge.  Then she knocked on Sir Brian's stateroom door to get him to come with her.  But once they got back to her stateroom, Ms. Vik had gone there to relax a bit.  Wanting as few people as possible to know about what was going on, Mikah turned Brian about and left a somewhat confused Ms. Vik behind.
They went back to his, now vacant stateroom only to find Sir Zimzod had returned!  Disgusted with trying, Mikah decided to move forward with Zimzod too.  Closing and securing the door, Mikah told both Zimzod and Brian about the pocket computer she'd taken while treating Councilor Helmik, during the rescue.  "Think you can hack this?" she asked as Brian looked at the device.  Brian only looked back with a gleam in his eyes and said, "Milady, I can do anything.  I'm a regular McGuiver."  The reference was lost on Mikah as she snorted, guessed and replied, "McQuiver, maybe."
Over the rest of the week, before the Saturday ( 063-1112 ) launch window, the three computer-skilled crew members worked hard.  Emkir also spent much of his free time studying the deck plans of the destroyer with the rest of the crew.  Those not working on hacking researched lost ships in the region, using the local Porozlo data-net.  Ms. Vik also used her connections to do some quiet research through the port.  Sadly, with interstellar data a week away at best, and because Porozlo was off the Xboat route, not much data was available.  And none on their specific subject.  By the launch date, Scout Ryddoth had a list of consumables and other items he'd either need or like from the Scout Base.  Brian had hacked and decrypted all of the file space on the stolen pocket computer and the Knights had actually found a file containing data on the destroyer, including the ship's name!
This proved the Stepozhevaci had been lying to the crew.  The three had opened the actual scan data and learned the ship still seemed to have pressurized sections and, possibly more than fifty percent of her fuel tankage.  But those were not their chief concern anymore.  The name of the ship, the INS Quasar Viper, changed the entire game.  Mikah and Zimzod knew exactly what it meant if that hulk was actually the Viper, and Brian wasn't slow to remember.  Still, Brian's short delay led Mikah and Zimzod to scoff about "civilians", as Brian's career had mostly been in merchant trade fleets.
But history said that, during the worst of the Fifth Frontier War, Duke Norris of Regina had arrived in the Rhylanor system with an Imperial Warrant he claimed to have recovered from the Quasar Viper wreck.  That warrant let him take command of Imperial forces.  When pressed to prove this was the legitimate warrant, Norris and his people said the ship had crashed on the surface of a world and the wreck was destroyed in the recovery action.  Still, Under Norris' strategy, Imperial forces quickly recovered from near-defeat at the hands of the Zhodani to achieve a stunning victory.  The first in all five of the frontier wars.  Still, the Duke had made powerful enemies.  So, if this ship really was the Quasar Viper, it was proof the Duke had lied.  And if it got out that Norris had lied, the Spinward Marches was headed for civil war!
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Leaving Porozlo