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Welcome to the

Last Updated    October 12 2017
The Characters
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Campaign History Page 1
Granted Rights
The Frontier Wars
About Legends
The Spinward Marches
Artist's Credits
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Two Parties, Shopping And A

What Next?

Station      While the celebration of their elevations began, the crew still didn't know if they were free to leave or still detained?  Adding to that, they suffered the rush of the crowd with many greetings and congratulations.  Aiden negotiated the flood of well-wishers, not to mention those seeing political connection by association.  His main concern was what would happen next?  He knew they'd eventually be cut loose, and they were no longer directly tied to Arch Duke Norris' mandate to lend aid where ever they arrived.  But, as Knights, he knew they were now tied to a larger yoke.  And the many drivers of the cart they were now tied to could pull at any time.  Thinking about that, his concern over their "new" Hotel California grew.

The destroyed ship had a "military grade" sensor suite which the new version of the ship didn't.  Just replacing the hardware alone could cost the crew several million credits.  So, as Aiden began trying to work the crowd, he tried to get close to those who seemed to have connections to starship manufacture or customization.  That, or outright military officers.  He approached the officers because he was curious about the legal restrictions put on the recent battle site.  He was well aware of protections against anyone willing to attempt illegal salvage from the Graveyard fleet, Aiden thought the recent battle site might not yet have any special considerations.  Still, it was a battle site, and crews had died in the battle.  So he had to do his research.

In the end, hobbing and nobbing, Aiden learned several things.  First, he learned from ship design and customization specialists that there were three components to the sensors he knew how to manipulate so well.  The first, and least of the components were the exterior fittings.  These would be in-built or extendable systems for either receiving or broadcasting sensor data.  Anything from an extended lidar cluster, emitting xray beams and receiving reflections, to more advanced emitters and simple radar, for in-atmosphere data gathering.  These surface structures were the least expensive parts of an over-all sensor suite.

The next group of components were the electronics.  Not simply connective cabling and data storage electronics, but the actual computerized components and specialized electronics which "were" the sensor system.  These electronics were generally racked systems in a ship's avionics space, or engineering electronics tied into the ship's computer.  Other modules were built into the electronics of the weapons systems, letting the sensor suite interact with each weapon's targeting and guidance systems.  This contained many bits of highly valuable "black box" electronics in many locations on a vessel.  Finally, all that would be tied together by software, which primarily lived and ran on the ship's computer, interacting with targeting and combat software on the vessel as well as the sensor electronics.

Adding complexity, the actual computer-loaded software was specialized, in order to work with the "burned in" programming modules that were created as hard-coded data paths within the electronic components.  So "if" one were intent on salvaging the parts of a sensor suite needed to upgrade from a civilian to a partial, if not entire, military grade system, they could count on spending several weeks very obviously locating and removing undamaged components from the target wreck.  They would also have to find a method of powering up the hulk's computer systems, if those weren't damaged or fried in combat.  Any such crew would then hack the computer and locate the many patches and programs that were the sensor suite software.  After spending the weeks working on that, presuming they had the permissions and access, the team would have to bring everything to a location to test and experiment after installing what they'd salvaged.

The period of "test and confirm" would likely force the team to hire those skilled in a full sensor installation.  While Aiden could help with much more "basic" installations, and could handle some upgrades and significant repairs, he knew he'd need hired professionals for that kind of job.  Only after the systems were tested for combat damage, connected up and made to run under "test rig" circumstances would it be time to consider the process of ripping out any of the California's existing systems and replacing them.  And the time required, without access to a sensors lab, would easily be weeks for just the testing and certification.  Not even considering the weeks working on a single vessel under the glaring eyes of media cameras, as the press followed the crew's activities.  Seeing salvage wouldn't be an easy answer, Aiden also considered the option of boneyards.  These would be locations where already identified systems might be in hulks which the crew could pay for access too.

Such locations, like the salvage yard Sir Brian had died on, might even have salvaged systems for sale that would be tested or not.  Those would be easier to buy and test before having to do the upgrade.  For that, Aiden had to find boneyards and how to get access to them?  And while Aiden was aware of boneyards in various other systems, he wasn't aware of any surviving yards in Rhylanor.  He was willing to bet there were a few at least.  For that, Aiden had to reach out to those Scouts he might know in-system, or perhaps have Emkir reach out to one or more of his officer friends.  Another resource "might be" the new Order of Knights he was attached to.  Unfortunately, he didn't know any members of the Order well, and didn't know who would have the connections he might need?  So, he'd first have to find out "who" could help him before being able to ask how they could help him?  And if they would?  Sadly, the one scrap and salvage yard the crew had known about, the Selat Atrara salvage platform, had been destroyed in the attack which killed Brian.

Preparing For The Funeral

     After Zach was told about the exoskeleton he was being granted by the Duke's people, he wandered back into the crowd and tried to rejoin the crew for an hour.  Aiden was already lost into the crowd and Zimzod and Emkir had made a bee line to the "beverages", with Aali following Emkir.  Aiden found Dame Inger and Sir Rol, who were taking a more conservative view of the crowd, mingling in a crowd of well wishers.  Lady Mikah was also nearby, being congratulated, and talking with, Countess Ursara, as the crowd milled and swirled around them.  Food and drink were made available about half an hour after the ceremony in slowly larger amounts.  Feeling hungry, Zach, Rol and Inger grabbed food as they could, because they could neither escape nor ignore the crowd as the ceremony's primary honorees.  Granted, the captains and crews of the INS Khurmumshuuna Khangu and Gaamash Ikirkhir left as soon as they could.

When an hour of snacking and schmoozing became an hour and a half, Zach saw he had to get sleep and organize his needs for the funeral the next day.  Checking the time, Zach saw it was near 10:30pm and he was just now looking to get out of the party.  If he wanted to get back to his suits and other gear on the ship, Zach had to get to the naval base it was berthed in, three hours flight away.  The soonest he'd get to the ship after a trip to the port was 2am.  Then he'd have to plan to return for the funeral, which meant getting up at 5am and hoping the Navy would get him back in time.  With the math not adding up, Zach saw he'd need a suit and place to sleep.

And just as suddenly, Zach realized he was on his own.  Considering his options, Zach realized he had to reach out to any of the Duke's people to get advice.  A search finally took him from event security to someone in facility management, then someone on site for the Navy.  They connected him to someone on site from the Seneschalate.  After Zach explained his needs to that officer, the man matter of factly recommended Zach rent a room.  Not the answer Zach had hoped for, he then asked about a suit for the funeral the next day?  Not sure why this newly minted Knight couldn't seem to think for himself, the man recommended Zach buy, or hire someone to make him, a suit.  Even less happy, Zach started considering his options and decided to get out and find a room to rent, for a start.

Moving to get a ride, Zach sparked up his hand-comp and did a search for a hotel or place he considered "Decent".  Zach found a facility nearby, charging Cr 50 a night and bounced the number to his comms to call for a room.  Getting a staffer on the line, Zach was pleased to realize these people weren't plugged into the news.  Regardless of his name and status, they had no clue who he was and didn't care beyond his ability to rent a room and pay.  When the deal was done, they even sent him a room number and digital key for the room, with the hotel data.  That left hi1m able to use his Ident to unlock the door when he got there.  Looking it up, Zach figured it was a Cr 10 taxi ride from the amphitheater.

Figuring he should say something before disappearing, Zach then went in search of Mikah, to tell her he was leaving.  Another half-hour later, Zach finally found Mikah and got her inebriated attention.  When Zach started explaining the distances and suggested the need for rooms, Mikah said, "Yeah, we have a place to stay." in an unconcerned voice.  She then remembered Zach wasn't a member of the Chivalric Order they were, saying "Oh, yeah.  You don't."  Ignoring the slight, Zach said he'd just booked a room and reminded the drunk Knight they needed clothes for the next day too.  Looking back at Zach with a very satisfied expression, Mikah answered, "Yeah, I think we get that too."

Looking at his own rising costs was beginning to jump on Zach's nerves, though he kept that well behind a trader's face while telling Mikah he was leaving to get a suit.  After that, Zach grabbed a Cr 10 taxi to a shop nearby with the same kind of scanning system they'd used in the Mora system.  After he paid the hotel, Zach walked into a store with the appearance of it was where well-heeled individuals were served by a staff used to earning a commission.  Zach moved into 'let's not get our accounts cleaned out' mode as they drew in on him and he saw a discount was out of the question.  Knowing he needed a suit that was quality, the best Zach could hope for was 'full price'.  This was reinforced when they recognized Zach from the news, and knew he should still be at the party.

The questions started and Zach went with complete honesty.  He explained his isolation from his ship and wardrobe, and the funeral the next morning.  He explained the situation, while doing his best to deliver a subtext that said the shop could take advantage of him if they wanted that to become known, and go south for them.  Fast.  Because he was one of the key figures of the hour, the message was received.  It didn't stop the shop staff, and swiftly arriving manager, from giving him a perfectly fair price on what they deemed was the best suit to match his needs and taste.  But, it did prevent profiteering.  When asked about his needs and taste, Zach wanted a suit that was both solemn and respectful, while also reflecting a blend of Vilani and Darrian fashions.

Then, it was into the scanner and over to the materials catalogs.  Knowing their craft, the staff professionally handled Zach's needs.  A steady stream of offerings were brought to him, both for the suit and the accessories and accoutrements.  Slowly, an hour of work passed before they got just the correct appearance.  They even edited the design of the suit from a full size 3D holographic model of Zach dressed and accessorized.  By 1am, Zach had an ordered suit, to be delivered to his hotel for the morning at a cost of Cr 1,500.  While Zach wasn't happy with the cost, he was sure it was fair.  He was also sure he'd not do any even if he burn more time trying.  So, Zach paid the cash and took another Cr 10 cab ride to the hotel.

There, Zach sparked up his hand-comp and checked over the speech he'd tweaked with advice from the crew.  Done with that, Zach finally set a wake-up call and warned the hotel desk his suit would be arriving before going to sleep.  The last thing Zach did was check for a local transport and call them to book a ride to the funeral.  They booked him, but warned him that access would be a nightmare.  When Zach agreed, they asked him if he wanted to get around the traffic by paying the extra for an air car?  Knowing he couldn't risk being late, Zach said "I guess so" and paid the Cr 50 total in advance.  Done with that, Zach set his alarm for 7am and finally dropped on the bed at 2am, for five hours sleep.

Inger's Early Exit

     Spending her time conservatively, Dame Inger Hung with Rol and Zach for a bit before considering her options.  With the party continuing and Mikah and Zimzod still drinking, Inger figured it wouldn't be long before something went wrong.  Because of that, she started looking towards planning for the funeral the next day.  Checking the time, Inger realized none of her flight crew were considering leaving and their cutter was back with the ship.  So, she quickly realized, she'd have to find someplace to spend the night before planning further.  At first, she considered her own resources before she decided to ask someone from her new Order.  Turning to ask someone in the uniform of the Order, Inger was told the Order certainly did have resources.  She was also told the Order had been informed of the needs of the Knights, along with their schedule.

Inger tried to hide her surprise while the brother Knight she talked to suggested they should consider getting moving from the amphitheater soon, because they couldn't return to their ship.  So, they'd have to have her visit the Order's haberdashery to have an outfit made for the next day.  Inger was so surprised she could barely get out an, "OK.  Can we set that up?"  The surprises continued as the Knight told her the Order had everything prepared, down to including the transportation.  The Knight said that, since this was a significant event for the Order, their staff had lots of resources in play.  And the more effort Inger found in play to care for the crew, the more her universe was twisting.  It had been some time since she was the most important person in the universe.  Since she'd retired, she'd gotten used to being a real person until this treatment.

Following the Knight to the exits, he ticked off the things the Order were prepared to help Inger with.  On top of having a fleet of vehicles to move Knights with, Inger would need her outfit for the next day and a uniform for the Order.  But, he pointed out, the uniform could be handled with the outfit once at the local Order house.  Walking and wondering just how the Order could afford all this, Inger was told the Order had assets and investments.  It also had a number of very wealthy and powerful members who helped the Order with it's investments and needs.  It didn't hurt that, being notified by the Duke that their Order were having seven new members created, the ceremony was "Order business".  So, every member who could be was expected to attend and potentially play a role.

In the air car, it was a very short lift to the Order House.  The amphitheater was in a huge interior space, under a massive dome created of sky-concourses, built like woven vines above it.  Around the circumference of the space, massive column-like structures seemed to be built around the perimeter.  One of these massive two hundred meter diameter half-columns was entirely made up of the Order House.  All 150 stories of it!  the vehicle then turned and went back to the amphitheater after they arrived, and Inger was given a basic tour of the facility from their point of entry.  She was shown everything from private general and specialty stores to services and personal care.  Inger's tour ended at a "Tailor's shop" which was an "Order Private" scanning and clothing fabricating facility!

Delivered there, Inger was asked about her tastes and preferences in clothing.  Inger described a black skirt suit, cut just above the knee with black pumps and all the appropriate accessories.  Her most significant feeling on style was "something modest".  While that garment and her uniform were made, they had her sign in and assigned her a room.  Inger also decided she needed a sweat/workout suit, and this was put in the works.  Inger was told this luxury and service was not normally provided each member Knight free.  They said these services and supplies were being provided specifically because of their elevation and the schedule the Duke's Office had said the newly created Order members were subject to.  When Inger was surprised about the amount of data the Order had on her and her schedule, she asked what the Duke's Office had told them?

The Knight working with her said that the Order had been notified of their schedule through the funeral they were to attend the following day.  During the work and tour, Inger decided it would be a good idea to spread the word to the rest of the crew about their need to get to the Order House.  Sadly, when she set up her call and comm'd out to the team, only Aiden connected.  Accepting that, Inger told Aiden she had left and gotten the Order to take her to the Order house.  She also said they knew the crew would need supplies for the next day and asked him if he would find the others and tell them?  When Aiden said he'd tell the others, he also asked how he could get to the Order House?  Inger told him to find anyone in the uniform of the Order and ask.  She joked that they made it surprisingly easy.  After she was done talking to Aiden, Inger checked with the people working on her garments and was told they'd be delivered to her room when finished.  So, she shrugged, went to her room and went to sleep.

Like Dame Inger, Sir Rol had issues with the evening.  His were based on Sir Jeremy's book, because ome emotions were still raw.  So there were more than a few detractors while Rol tried to work through the crowd.  Even media figures and reporters!  Lucky for the retired Marine, there were more than enough members of the Order to settle things down and keep the event moving smoothly.  Still, Rol was looking for an exit soon enough.  He also wanted to find someplace quiet, to read up on the Order and learn more of his new rights and responsibilities.  He was also concerned about possible conflicts of duties between the March Defenders and the March Protectors of Rhylanor.

So Rol found an Order member and, ironically, at nearly the same time as Ms. Vik, he was taken to the Order facility and given the tour, during which a suit and uniform were made for him.  Rol's suit was more of a Vilani fashion, nearly ceremonial robes, though very appropriate for solemn occasions like funerals.  After that, Rol spent a small part of the evening meeting members in some meeting rooms before heading to his room to read.  He learned that the March Defenders were more of an "award" Order than the March Protectors of Rhylanor.  Members of the March Defenders had acted to defend and support the Imperium, where the March Protectors were expected to "seek and act" within their quadrant of the sector.

Aiden's New Mission

     Working the crowd for information on boneyards, salvage yards, etc, Aiden got a call from Dame Inger.  She told him of the resources their new Order were ready to offer their new members and asked him to spread the word.  Finishing the call, Aiden scanned the masses of people still at what had become a large party in the open space and started to realize the problem facing him.  Making his way through the crowd, Aiden had encountered well-wishers for him personally or for the entire crew.  He'd also run into people who were pleased for him but more guarded because Sir Rol was on Aiden's crew.  The variations could make one's neck snap at each turn while trying to keep a score card.  It soon became apparent to him that the task of finding and updating the others was larger than he thought.

Considering his next action, Aiden decided to look for members of the Order who might be senior to the others, or be able to help him.  And when he started looking, Aiden actually noticed there seemed to be at least one Order Member who might have been following him!  Turning to ask if the man needed help, the Knight turned the question around asking if he could help Sir Aiden?  Aiden immediately said, "Yes, please." and explained his need to talk to the others on his crew.  The Knight smiled and said "Absolutely I can help!  Let me introduce myself.  I am Baron Sir Harimmar."  He waived off Aiden's move to come to attention as he explained the Order had an 'intake team'.

Knowing how distracting an elevation ceremony can be, the Baron explained that the goals of the intake team were to make sure the new members of their Order made all their appointments and nothing happened with them to embarrass the Order.  One measure taken was to have members of the intake team discreetly follow the members of the crew.  That explained why the Baron had been more or less following Aiden.  When the pilot learned this, he relaxed a bit and decided to ask some question about the Order?  He learned the Order of the March Defenders was created nearly 125 years earlier, at the end of the Third Frontier War.  The Order was established by Imperial edict, to encourage the citizens of the Spinward Marches to their best efforts in fighting the repeated invasions of the Zhodani Consulate.

Since the Imperium lost the First, Second and Third Frontier wars, along with losing territory in those actions, it was seen as a move to further pre-mobilize the worlds of the Spinward Marches.  It was hoped that establishing the Order would encouraging citizens to act in hopes of ascending into its ranks.  Thanking the Baron for the basic overview, Aiden asked the Knight if he could help in locating the rest of his crew to remind them there was work to be done?  The Baron said he could certainly reach out to those in the intake team who were covering the other members of his crew and help with that.  Thanking the Baron, Aiden asked how he would get to the Order house and the pilot was given a comms code.  When he was ready to leave the event, Aiden was told he only had to dial that code and he'd be directed.  The Baron also warned Aiden that, once he was at the facility, he'd need about half an hour to get his clothing needs taken care of before he could sleep.

After thanking the Baron again, Aiden spent another half hour at the patry before calling for directions.  As he continued to work the crowd, he noticed the Baron continued to show up near him regularly.  When Aiden looked for more members of the Order to introduce himself to, the Baron stepped up again.  He helped Aiden find more members to meet.  He also suggested a large number of Order members may have returned to the facility and Aiden might meet more members there.  Deciding he might just want to head over to the facility, the Baron led Aiden to a waiting air car.  At the Order house, Aiden was given the same tour and ended up at the tailor's, where he requested a solemn Imperial fashioned suit made of a ballistic-resistant fabric.  They stressed to Sir Aiden that the suit wouldn't be the equivalent of cloth armor, but would help some.

Aali and Emkir's Alcoholic Adventure

     Joining the party, Aali agreed with Emkir that this event was special enough they could cut loose and party.  While Aali still meant to keep an eye out, to assure they'd both present an appropriate appearance at the funeral the next day, Emkir was taking it as a personal challenge to consume all the free alcohol he could.  Despite Aali's attempts, Emkir managed to refill whenever he was running low.  Thankfully, his past had prepared him for this role.  Aali was reminded that Emkir grew up as a "party accessory" for his parents, since his father had been invited to many a Noble Court.  So, Emkir not only remained upright and cognizant, but even functional and able to maintain his social graces.  Despite Emkir's abilities, Aali kept things to light drinks.

Wandering the crowd and receiveing congratulations, like the others, they got many comments on, and questions about, the battle and their part in it.  Unlike the others, Emkir was regularly visited by people who either seemed, or were obviously, important.  These were also people Emkir seemed to have known and had worked with in the past.  Ministers of the government or members of the Admiralty.  Sharing greetings as friends, Emkir was comfortable chatting with them all.  This twinged Aali's political interests as he introduced his wife to each.  Many were surprised he'd taken the plunge, and even more were surprised since there hadn't even been a whiff of this a few months ago, when he was last in-system.  Especially given the news that had been swirling around the crew at the time.

Still, Aali collected the names of many military officers, and a number of members of the Rhylanori government.  Most significant were a number of Ministers in the Duchy's public affairs offices.  There were also some from outreach offices, and more than a few from Inter-Government relations.  This made sense, because his last posting in the Porozlo system, was nearly ambassadorial.  Considering her understanding of the team's needs, the one thing she'd learned was that the new ship's sensors were not military grade, like the older ship.  And, while her experience with that ship and its replacement were limited, Aali personally felt the vessel was tight for a yacht.  Aali's gambit was to ask about surplus ships or government subsidized programs?  Ultimately, if they were to sell the Hotel California, she was worth just over MCr 200 new, but they were uncertain how much they could got selling her used.

If they could get a healthy part of the California's value and also get a subsidy from someone, they might end up with a better ride in the long run.  Also looking to help the crew build up more of a cash reserve, she and Emkir fished for those money making opportunities government insiders might know more about, or even control.  Working those angles, Minister Sir Igarshukme Nakii cast an ironic glance at Emkir as he said, "You should know where to find spare ships better than anyone."  He then chuckled at his own apparent private joke.  When Emkir shot back, "Oh?  Do tell?" in a tone that made it obvious he had no idea what Nakii was talking about, the minister reminded Emkir of the Selat Atrara platform, and the many derelict ships that had been orbiting it attached to station keeping 'droids.

It took a moment for Emkir to remember that was the name of the salvage platform where they'd been having the older Hotel California worked on.  While talking, Nakii reminded Emkir and Aali quite a few of those derelict craft had "gone drifting" after the station was destroyed.  While both Aali and Emkir knew that the drifting hulks around a salvage platform might not be operational, having even most of a starship to sell could be very good money.  Talking more about the issue, it became clear the Navy had worked to recover many hulks but there still might be some drifting free.  And those would be free salvage to any finder, since the owners of the Selat Atrara platform had died in the attack.  Both Aali and Emkir thought that would be very good data to share with the crew when everyone was together and sober.

Especially since they'd discussed refitting their ship, now they'd returned to Rhylanor.  Aali also asked about 'droids while talking to one of the many Admirals.  A woman named Kiamman.  she bumpped Aali some data on an office to visit now that the Navy was continuing its demobilization 'scale down' after the war.  When the Admiral mentioned the scale down, Aali got a very good feeling and confirmed she could visit any time in the coming week.  Unfortunately, Admiral Kiamman didn't say much more, though it was obvious this was a Naval office.  Finally, Aali started thinking about how late it was getting and how far away from the ship they were?  When she started casting about for some information kiosk or help, someone in the uniform of their new Order stepped up.

The unknown Knight asked if he could be of assistance and Aali explained their situation, needing a place to sleep and some other supplies for the next day.  Introducing himself, Marquis Sir Doriot Schõnrock said he'd be glad to help them in a very friendly tone.  When he started leading them off, Emkir wasn't quite ready for the party to end.  He asked if they were heading to a bar to refresh his drink?  Aali said he'd had enough and they needed clothes while the Marquis said there was certainly a bar where they were going.  With a happy "Wonderful!  Lead on", Emkir followed the Marquis to an air car.  The Knight also joined them for the ride to the Order's residence.  On the way, Emkir asked about the bar and the Marquis opened a small car-bar, to serve the Admiral something in a mug.  Surprised the liquid inside was warm, Emkir sipped before looking up with a surprised look and enthusiastically saying, "Good coffee!"

Aali breathed a sigh of relief the Marquis actually had a brain, and was also very surprised they would have so valuable a drink available and prepared!  Especially with the costs the last time the crew had priced coffee themselves.  After the tour and with Emkir kept away from alcohol, Aali asked for a pant suit in a core Vilani fashion and proper mourning colors.  This was because all of her other outfits, while acceptably solemn, were not specifically for mourning.  When it came Emkir's turn in the scanner, the Admiral wasn't as concerned about style.  He was good with a properly solemn Vilani styled suit.  However, when given his options Emkir had his suit made of ballistic-resistant cloth and styled to look proper with his holstered revolver hanging from his hip.  Done with the clothes, the pair went to their room.

Cutting Loose At The Party

     This being the first time Mikah had in a while to really cut loose, she was having a good time.  She making sure to not go 'too far' overboard, but she did open up.  Mikah made sure to keep her wits about her, and, as timed passed, she heard her comms buzzing but decided she could ignore it this once.  If it were a crisis, they'd find her.  They always did.  So, Mikah raised a glass before those around her and raised a toast to the Emperor.  Free of the rest of her crew, Mikah was out to make friends, share smiles and get more than lightly toasted.  And it went well, until late in the evening.  Suddenly, Mikah saw all those at her table stand up very quickly.  Realizing she was behind the curve, and they were looking in a direction behind her, Mikah stood and turned to see a very well dressed woman being followed by an armed and armored honor guard!

Paying more attention, Mikah realized she knew who this woman was, having seen her on many news vids.  She was Lady Dame Avaraja Astaarte Muktheswana, Duchess of Glisten!  She was one of the four most powerful nobility in the Spinward Marches, and until now was the only one of the four Mikah had not met in person.  And her presence in this part of the sector was a complete surprise as a trip from Glisten would have taken two months or more at jump four.  Her absence from the Glisten subsector should have been noted as major news and played large in speculative reports.  Indeed, Mikah recalled the Duchess's reported actions preparing the bases of the Glisten subsector 'just in case' von Kreden's forces moved that way.  Those reports had come "during the period" the Duchess would have had to have been in transit.  Mikah realized who this was as the others around her began making various signs of respect.

Duchess Avaraja looked at the group in general and said, "Hi.  I just arrived at this party.  What's going on?" in a friendly voice.  Mikah realized that she was likely the most well dressed of those at her table, not to mention she was the closest to the direction the Duchess had come from.  So Mikah was the person most directly addressed by the question.  Having the remaining sense to realize she was none too sober at the moment, Mikah responded, "Your Grace, I will defer to those who can better explain the full ceremony as my part in it was very small."  Accepting that, the Duchess turned to one of those nearby and identifiable Knights asking, "What'd I miss?"  That Knight very properly explained the ceremony.  When he got to the knightings and started explaining the battle, it turned out the Duchess had heard about that.

It also made Mikah more interesting again, when she was pointed to as a Knight who's rank had been augmented.  And the captain of the civilian ship involved.  As Mikah prepared for anything, Duchess Avaraja took her hand and congratulated her on her crew's actions.  She also thanked Mikah for her service to the Imperium.  She then looked at the Knights and off handedly asked, "Where can I find Leonard?" After she'd gotten directions, the Duchess and her honor guard moved off leaving Mikah glad she didn't know why the Duchess had snuck to the Rhylanor system?  Finally, as Mikah maintained a nice buzz, she felt a tap on her shoulder.  Mikah turned to find a Knight in a uniform she recognized as that of her new order.

With her attention, the Knight reminded her she did have the funeral the next day and there were things that had to be prepared.  Nodding, Mikah said she should start getting ready and was told everything was taken care of if she'd just follow him.  Mikah happily said "Thank you!" and followed where he led.  After wobbling her way along, and boarding the air car, Mikah was also surprised with a mug of coffee..real they flew.  Arriving at a facility, she got the same tour as the others and was then brought to be scanned.  When asked her preferences, Mikah said she wanted a pant suit that was well cut but very plain.  She wanted it to make her obvious as someone with rank, but not showy.  As with the others, she was shown her way to a room and allowed to hit the rack after that, with the promise her clothing would be delivered on time.

Like Mikah, Zimzod had decided to completely cut loose.  He also hoped to find some "entertainment" in the crowd.  He expected to score well, since he was always in the company of a number of hot female Knights.  But, no matter how he tried, none of them were into letting him find out how easily the uniforms came off?  Despite his lack of companionship, Zimzod did get to explore all the types of booze they had and actually managed to make a number of friends he might remember or not the next day.  Beyond getting a bit more than inebriated, Zimzod didn't manage to piss anyone off or make any comments he'd regret later.  He did manage to lead a small cheering section in "Blast that ship" while trying to reclaim his role as 'the man who actually took the first shot'.  Those around him just went with it, certain the Knight a bit drunk.

Soon enough, Zimzod was poured into a transport where oxychemoactives were administered while having him drink vitamin fortified water.  Soon enough, they had him functioning and explained what they were doing and what he had to do before the next morning.  It didn't hurt that there was one Knight administering to him along with two very cute female Knights encouraging him to play along.  Getting him to the facility, they bypassed the tour, accepting it would serve no purpose.  Instead, they got him to the tailor and scanned him, making him a suit based on classic Imperial styles.  That done, they slapped him with a detox patch and got him into a bed.  During the night, as the crew slept, the suits and Order Uniforms were completed for each of them.  Display pads in each room were set to provide instructions on services available in the room, and where to go for breakfast after they dressed?  Those who were even partly inebriated found advice from 'drinking water as soon as possible' to using some of the medicines in each room's medicine cabinet.

The Morning After...

     As wake-up calls were made in the rooms provided by the Order, Zimzod wasn't a happy man.  Happily for him, he wasn't the kind of drunk who forgot what happened the night before.  So, Zimzod remembered where he was and how he got there.  He also felt a bit better than he expected, so he wasn't sure if he had not been as drunk as he remembered or if the care he got was that much better?  Still, he read the display pad, filled both of the mugs available to him with water to drink and then began exploring his immediate surroundings.  The first thing he saw, on the table next to the display pad were small insta-brew canisters of coffee!

Having already drained the two mugs of water, Zimzod immediately filled them again, grabbed the two 1.5 cm diameter, 3 cm tall canisters and popped the tops before dropping one each into the mugs.  It took less than a minute for the canisters to float to the surface of the brewed coffee in the mugs as the Knight started sipping at one cup black.  For almost half a moment, Zimzod planned to savor the second mug while arriving at breakfast, to show off his treasure.  Then, he realized the others would've found the same things in their rooms.  Zimzod planned to check and see if the others had used both canisters in their rooms before leaving for the funeral.  And if not, he was gonna get into their rooms and steal anything left over.

Emkir was also not the most pleased person when the wake-up call came to their room.  But Aali got him up and moving, reminding him any discomfort was self-inflicted.  Of all those affected by the alcohol, Mikah was the least bothered, since she'd known to take precautions before going to sleep.  She'd drank a mug of water and was likely the first to see the coffee canisters and pop one in a mug while preparing.  Soon, the crew were down in one of the open serving rooms in the Order's cafeterias as they sat, most with mugs of steaming coffee, minus Zach.  As breakfast was served to them, the Knights were impressed to each be served a steaming mug of fresh brewed coffee, which tasted much more rich and deep than the instant canisters.  While gathering, Aiden took the opportunity to loudly boom, "Good Morning Everybody!"  From out of nowhere, as no one knew where he'd had it hidden, Emkir pulled his dart gun and snap shot at Aiden, hitting him in the right arm.  The table burst out laughing.

Caught unprepared, Aiden sputtered as Mikah tasked, "Emkir!  You really need to read that book!"  Emkir only asked, "What?  I aimed at him and I hit him in the right arm" as he smiled and loaded another dart.  Mikah asked, "You aimed at him?  Or you aimed at his arm?"  Emkir answered, "I aimed at him" with a tone of complete satisfaction.  When Mikah just said, "You really need to read that book", Emkir said "I need more coffee." and went for another mug full.  As they sat trading notes and checking each other's suits out, it was apparent some of these outfits would have cost between KCr 3 and 5!  And as they ate, some distance away in his hotel room, Zach received a wake-up call he couldn't remember requesting.

Feeling as if the universe had shifted under her, Inger looked across the breakfast table and asked Mikah if she had gotten this level of treatment when she, Zimzod and Brian had become Knights?  While Mikah had to admit this was better, she was able to discuss some of the benefits she'd gotten from the Duke of Vilis when they were first elevated.  But, she confirmed it was nothing like this and pointed out they had just been "Imperial Knights".  Not members of an Order with deep pockets.  Of course, Mikah added, "Except Rol" as the retired Marine ignored the old jab.  And, while they all knew it was temporary, it was nice to get the perks for once.  Rol was the only one who actually bothered to check the menu as they ate.  He found a regular Order member could order the same meal for Cr 250.  He quickly put the menu back down before they thought he was ordering something.

Answering his call, Zach was greeted by a tech from the offices of the Duke's Seneschal.  Realizing this call came in five minutes before he'd set his alarm, Zach listened as the cheery tech said the Seneschal wanted to be sure Zach made his appointments on time.  After assuring the tech he had his plans ready, the tech reviewed the plans Zach had made the night before.  Zach was surprised when the tech said they'd verified his ride with his taxi service.  Zach tried to ignore the increasingly disturbing level of knowledge the Duke's office seemed to have on him while the tech told him the hotel front desk had a data crystal.  When he checked out, he would get the crystal and give it to his driver.  That would let the cab avoid all traffic and use officially designated travel lanes.

That added disgust to to Zach's survellance unease when he realized he could've saved money and not upgraded to the air car after all.  After the call, Zach pulled himself out of bed, set the drink dispenser to prepare a cup of caff and put on a robe before checking outside his door.  There, Zach found his suit sitting in it's wrappings, including a thumb-print security tab.  Preparing to clean up, dress and pack his few possessions, Zach called down to the desk to have a Cr 30 breakfast sent up.  He would have preferred something less expensive, but that was the least expensive they had.  Cutting the call, Zach had realized their low room rates had been a trap.

Finishing up and moving out of the Order House cafeteria, the crew were told their Idents had been updated over-night with all the contact data they might need, and what help the Order could provide them.  Before they left the cafeteria, Mikah and Zimzod made sure to ask for thermoses of coffee to take with them, claiming alcohol fatigue.  These were handed over without comment or question as Emkir asked for Irish coffee and Aali sternly said "Hold the Irish."  Then, they were led to a transport and told Sir Wood had been contacted and would join them at their destination.  Joking when she heard them talking about "Sir Wood", Mikah asked "Who?" and they said "Sir Zachariah".  With a feigned look of comprehension, Mikah said, "Ah, Zach!  I'd forgotten about him." before breaking out in giggles as they walked.

Marking The Bill Paid

     The crew loaded into the air car and rode to the funeral, where they were greeted on arrival and escorted to a sort of green room.  There, it was explained this would be a straight out funeral.  After the presiding clergy, the Duke would lead personal memorial comments before an Admiral stepped up and spoke for the Navy.  After that, it would be announced that a representative of the Hotel California crew had asked to speak and Zach would be called up.  The rest of the crew would also step up and stand behind Zach as he spoke.  After Zach, there would be other speakers who would be followed by the rest of the service.  Then, the crew would be free to depart.  When Mikah asked if that meant they'd be free of their detention, they were told it did officially clear them of all restrictions.  They could hire a shuttle to recover their ship from the Naval base.  And, they were warned the ship should be moved sooner rather than later.

During the briefing, Zach saw as Mikah first, then Zimzod pulled out what looked like a foot long thermos and poured fluid into their cups.  While he had no idea what they were pouring, it smelled a hell of a lot like that coffee Zimzod had spent huge amounts of cash on.  He watched while Zimzod even lifted his cup in an unspoken toast.  If Zimzod hadn't smiled a nasty smile as he sipped from the cup, Zach might have thought it was well intentioned too.  Mikah caught Zach's glance and said, "This is on top of what they gave us last night and this morning, where you were not invited."  Aiden only muttered something about drug addicts and Aali agreed, saying "Yeah, the first hit is always free."

Soon, they were led out to where they'd be sitting with the rest of the mourners.  The families were front and center with senior crew and staff from the cruiser's crew, the Duke, his staff and members of the Admiralty.  Outside the strict security were a discreet amount of media covering the event.  When the ceremony began, it was more or less a standard military funeral like any the veterans had attended in the past.  Eventually, the Duke was invited up to speak his piece on the cost of public service and the deep respect he felt for these honored dead, who had certainly given their lives to save civilian lives.  Everyone from the crew of the Hotel California felt the harsh glare from many sets of eyes turned their way.  Gladly, there was no outbreak of emotion.

After the Duke finished his comments, the ship's squadron commander, Admiral Kiidovx Eadaxih, stepped up and spoke about the ship and crew as well as their mission.  Mercifully for the Knights, his comments didn't direct any attention at them as he praised their commitment to service and duties.  Finally it was time for the crew to step up.  And after they took their places, Zach delivered a very well crafted speech with the message "I was the man at the button aboard the Sable Addix, I was the man who controlled the weapons.  And it is my fault these people are dead.  And I am so very sorry."  While Zach continued to name the honored dead, and to speak of their courage, actions and honor, he also worked to bring the rest of the forces involved into the speech.  He hoped to convincing the military members of his respect and sorrow at the losses.

As he spoke, a metaphoric Sword of Damocles sliced the line between the families of the dead and the military members in attendance.  The crew could see, as Zach spoke, the changes in expressions between military members, who knew what happened in battle, and those of the families.  The looks on the faces of the families showed they wanted that metaphoric sword to slice Zach to pieces with it.  Then continue on to the rest of the crew.  It was obvious to Zach the families and civilians at the funeral liked him just a bit less than the people who owned the Open Skies trading firm.  And though the whole crew shared in their disdain, Zach could tell the families hated "Him".  Periodically glancing in the Duke's direction, Zach was once caught looking and could see the Duke seemed pleased at Zach's discomfort.

After Zach finished his speech, the crew got to sit in the cold wind of hatred as the rest of the ceremony continued.  While it was clear the military in the crowd didn't "hate" the crew, neither did they respect them.  At best, they considered the Knights incompetent, and some expressions showed they felt the crew were at fault at the very least.  Then, finally, the ceremony was over and a reception line formed so all the attendees could give the survivors their respects personally.  The crew made it through this knowing that after shaking the hands of those staring daggers back at them, they were free and would never deal with these people again.  So, they soldiered on and surived the gauntlet.

Leaving the gathering, they were met by a Seneschalate officer who confirmed they had fulfilled all the Duke's requirements.  He reminded them they should move their ship sooner rather than later.  Aiden suggested that they bypass the post-funeral reception as they started to consider lunch.  Rol asked why avoid it while pointing out that Zach would be welcomed because they needed a roast beast.  Aali suggested Zach would have ended up with an apple shoved up each end, and Rol said "More like a pineapple, before they pulled the pins and ran."  After that joke was played out, Mikah suggested they get a ride somewhere to eat before moving to the Naval base, to move the ship.

Sharing Lunch And Profits

     After a pause while everyone waited for someone to suggest a restaurant, Zimzod happily said, "Let's get lunch at the Order!  We can all get chow for free except him 'cause they won't let him in."  Zimzod finished with a huge smile on his face.  Someone suggested they might even get more coffee, and Zach protested that he wasn't a coffee fan.  While there might have been those in the crew who believed Zach was lying, what cut into Zach was 'what they could make selling the stuff'.  So, the knife twisted, but differently than they'd expected.  Despite Zimzod's obvious joy at screwing Zach over, Mikah had to admit the Order's facility would be an easy answer.  So, while the jokes played out, Mikah checked the data on her Ident and saw they could sign in guests.  She announced her findings and decision, and they were off.

Returning to the waiting transport provided by the Order, Mikah explained their plans and the driver was happy to help.  Arriving in the cafeteria, they found coffee wasn't served during lunch, but they did eat well.  While enjoying the quality of the food, Mikah was told their meals were free but Zach had to pay Cr 10 for his.  Despite the surprise, Zach had to admit, this would have been a five star Cr 40 or more meal in any commercial restaurant.  They talked, while eating, about where to dock the ship after they left the naval base.  Mikah made it plain she wanted to get that done soon enough that she could go shopping.  This meant nothing to the others except that they could finally spend some of the diamond money, so they agreed with Mikah.

While they talked, Mikah's comms went off and she answered it to find a man by the name of Mr. Adirman calling.  He introduced himself and asked if Mikah represented the estate of Sir Brian Montgomery?  When Mikah said she did, Mr. Adirman said he was calling on the matter of Sir Brian's "not insubstantial stock holdings".  When she heard that, Mikah admitted they had planned to do something with the stock before they had to leave the system, two months before.  Before the man could launch into the business, Mikah said she had his comms data now and would call him after they'd settled a berth for the ship and set up an appointment.  The broker told Mikah that, if they were getting a berth in a downport, they should land at the Northern Hemisphere - West port because that was closest to his offices.

Mikah said she'd consider that, but knew she could get whereever she had to no matter where they docked.  Mikah was obviously preparing to end the conversation when Mr. Adirman asked if she'd kept up on news concerning the stocks?  When she said she hadn't had the time, Mr. Adirman said the line had been surviving as an interface line.  But with the end of the war, the line had begun to flourish a bit more.  Recently, they'd announced the stock would be splitting two for one on the Rhylanor exchange in eight day's time.  Taking that information in, Mikah agreed when he said he wanted to work with her on managing the stock holdings.

While Mikah was talking to the broker, Rol called TAS to ask them to have a High passage ticket delivered when the Hotel California made port.  After identifying his ship for them, the tech said it would be no problem and Rol should receive the passage quickly after the yacht docked.  Overhearing Rol's side of the call, Aiden sparked up his comms and called the scout base to check in and see about picking up the Cr 100 for his Silver Asteroid?  When he got them on the line, they were glad to tell him he just needed to show up and the paymaster's office with his belt buckle or other proper identification.  Done with the scout base, Aiden then called TAS for a High Passage.

When Aiden said he was from the Hotel California, they set up delivery and the tech discreetly asked if the crew of the ship were undergoing some issues?  Aiden answered, "Let's just say there are creative differences among the crew."  Accepting that, the tech told Aiden everything was set up and his passage would be delivered soon after the ship docked in a local civilian port.  'In for a credit, in for a parsec' was Aali's impression when she figured she'd make her calls too.  After she set up a Passage, a bored tech said Aali just had to show up at the paymaster's office with her ID for her Silver Asteroid.  Done with their calls and eating, it was time to go to a port, charter a shuttle to the naval base and get the ship moved.

Moving To The Main Port

     From the restaurant, they hired a taxi large enough to fit the crew and Mikah stuck Rol with the Cr 50 fare.  Getting to the port, they made their way to the charter desk and found a shuttle to the base cost Cr 1,000.  When Mikah complained, the agent pointed out it was a six hour round trip flight without a paying customer for the return.  Seeing they'd have to pay, Mikah stuck Emkir with that bill.  The Admiral complained, saying Mikah should pay because she was richer than he was.  Mikah pointed out that he and Aali were actually richer than she was and Emkir said he had to split the money with Aali.  Stressing the pronoun, Emkir answered "So I am not richer than you."  This was something Aali was quick to jump in and agree with as Mikah said, "Well, remember you have to split it with her, so you'd better watch it mister."

Reacting to Mikah's suggestion that he'd cheat Aali, Emkir said, "I would never do anything like that to my Aali-cat".  While he spoke, Emkir began nibbling and fondling Aali there at the charter counter.  When Aiden whined "Get a room" at the PDA and moaned, Aali shot back, "We did.  It didn't help."  Emkir just smiled at Aiden and asked, "Wasn't it you that complained about having to buy noise canceling headphones?"  He left it unsaid that it wasn't their fault the pilot didn't have them with him...  Aiden complained he still needed to plug his nose against the vanilla lemon scent and Emkir again smiled.  Emkir then said, "Yes, the bridge was a wonderful place." with a tone of remembrance as he gazed into Aali's eyes.

Ignoring the bickering, Mikah agreed to cover the cost of the charter and paid the Cr 1,000 so they could launch.  The trip out was as boring as expected and happily so, meaning no annoying events or interruptions.  Because they were expected and had called while on the way, the base allowed them to dock in a berth directly neighboring the California.  The base told the crew they were now restricted to the ship's berth until they left the station.  After they debarked, the chartered shuttle left on its return trip as quickly as possible so no one could return to the port.  Returneing to "their ship" they were quickly asked if they had an expected flight plan?

Mikah tartly said the crew hadn't decided where to dock the ship or land yet as Zach smoothly told the bay officer they'd let them know when they had a destination.  Still, Mikah said they were sure they'd have one in two hours and the officer thanked her, saying, "Call the flight office when you're ready."  After that, the crew returned to the ship and began researching costs.  A landing on-world was always significantly more expensive than docking at any of the five main orbital ports.  There were also an entire fleet of other lesser ports, but researching them could lead to hours of madness.  Mikah and Zach both agreed they could take the cutter down to meet the broker, or even do a deal electronically if they didn't want to pay a landing fee for the cutter.

After Mikah said they'd dock at an orbital SPA port, it narrowed their options to the five stations including the main port, where they'd docked before.  When Mikah decided they should return to the main port, they reminded her they'd be stuck in the extra security harbor and charged more.  But Mikah considered that a benefit after their last visit.  Weighing the pluses and minuses, Mikah was more sure she wanted to go there because they knew what they were signing up for.  Mikah also planned to do some special shopping and remembered the InstellArms there had what she wanted from their last visits.  So, they called the port and made the deal, paying Cr 2,000 in advance, as Aiden began plotting their course with Zach watching.

It was a two-hour flight after undocking from the naval base to the port.  On the way, Inger relaxed and watched the traffic and activity in local space.  Mikah relaxed in the ship's lounge as she looked and noticed differences in paint job and tiling from their oringal ship. From time to time, she sipped at her thermos of coffee.  Rol and Zimzod also relaxed, enjoying the first calm in days while Zimzod also enjoyed his coffee.  Zimzod planned to call down to the Order and see about ordering coffee for the ship.  From time to time as they flew, Zimzod wandered into the bridge to ask, "Are we there yet?" just to taunt Aiden.  Aiden and Emkir flew the California while Zach remained to observe and help if needed.  Aali worked in the engineering section, getting her first access to the ship's systems while under way.

Shopping Lists And Stashed Surprises

     Soon enough, the crew arrived at the port and were brought into a bay by port control.  A cradel then moved them into the berth, and that was sealed before the umbilicals and support systems were connected.  With access to the port web, they were asked if there were any special services their Lord and Ladyships required?  Zach confirmed they didn't need a refresh of the atmosphere and system consumables but Mikah said they needed to order food.  While she was shutting systems down, Aali joked that they needed new fuzzy dice too.  While they talked about organizing the ship's needs, Zach asked if Mikah wanted him to reassume the role of Purser again?  Mikah off-handedly said sure.  Now having his assignment, Zach told the others they all had to go through the ship, top to bottom to figure out what he needed to order?

Organizing a provisioning team, Mikah joined and told Rol he should take part too as he'd be cooking.  Rol had no issues joining in because he had no other plans.  Inger decided to relax a bit more as she had no idea what she'd contribute?  Aali was asked to check the engineering stores for supplies.  That included critical and hard to fabricate parts as well as metal and mineral slugs for the ship's two 3D parts printers.  As she agreed, Aali also said she'd check the fabricator files in the system, to see if they needed to update the files?  She also planned to check for luxury files, for parts and systems the ship didn't need but might come in handy if they could get the files.

Checking, Rol hit the galley to make sure they had what they needed in cookware and other supplies.  Zach and Mikah started checking the common compartments, to tag and ID all the random items still not organized or placed in areas like the ship's locker.  Cataloging the items for the locker, Mikah and Zach found they had:
        a Home made solar still, Made by Sir Brian, on Jae Tellona
        Brian's sealed Combat Armor
        Brian's Collection of 20 encyclopedic volumes on legends-6 rare works
        Brian's Antique Family copy("Code of Ledriasda") religious text (From the Quasar Viper)
        Four Rescue balls
        An emergency crash landing kit
        8 basic Individual Survival kits ( Water purifying tabs, a week's meal bars, thermal blanket,
             inflatable cushion, solar power cells, etc...)
        8 Vargr Language Translators
        Vargr Lingo Program
        1/4 pound of Plastic Explosives(Breaching Charges) and Detonators
        3 sets of Infrared Goggles
        Tow Ropes/Cables
        8 Filter Masks
        8 Protective Masks
        an Electrical tool kit
        a Metal working tool kit
        a Mechanical tool kit
        1 Crew level Survival gear kit (Desert Survival kit, Camp cooking gear, Tents, Water Filtration /
             Distillation unit)

They also found one old looking-box with glyphs on it, that Zach and Mikah realized didn't belong in the ship's locker!  Looking closer, Zach recognized the older variant of Darrian glyphs on the box and Mikah remembered where they'd gotten the box from.  That and what was supposed to have happened to it?  This was the box of potentially pre-Maghiz cybernetic parts from Shaslu Kishman's cargo bay!  Like everything else Captain Leedor had let them take from the bay, they thought this box was confiscated by the Marines.  Now, they realized it must have been pushed into, and mistaken for, a box of parts for the cutter, and left behind.  When the cutter was moved by the Navy, all the goods inside it were moved to the new Hotel California with the rest of their gear.

The significant value of the parts started dancing in Zach's head when he noticed Mikah searching in the area around the box.  About to ask her what she was looking for, Mikah asked Zach, "But where's the pillow case?"  Of course, she barely got the words out before she started giggling.  Zach decided to ignore the jibe and answered, "Well, you can't have everything."  Mikah agreed, saying "Yeah?  Where's the damn chardonnay?"  Zach reminded her the parts would be worth quite a bit of money.  Mikah said he should start looking into that "legally".  Of course, Zach knew he'd need legal export certification saying the Darrians allowed the parts outside their borders as antique technology.  Zach also knew that was something he wasn't gonna get unless it was forged.

Zach told Mikah, after a brief pause, that they weren't going to be able to sell them legally, in a tone that was straight forward and firm.  When Mikah asked, "Here?", Zach said "Anywhere in Imperial space."  Considering how well things went the last time Zach tried to broker a deal on the wrong side of the law, Mikah was leery to let Zach screw them over again.  Still, she thought he had to be qualified at something.  And his resume, now that they'd seen it, showed he'd managed to work as a trader for decades.  So, hoping the last time had just have been a fluke or a really bad day, Mikah told Zach to look into it.  She also hoped she wasn't wrong in giving the merchant a second chance as she she turned back to him saying "Discreetly", in a firm voice.

Zach answered, "Of course" while hee remembered he only had one natural born leg left to lose.  He then joked, "I now know what that word means."  Zach moved the box off to the side and they continued the inventory until they were sure everything else had largely been moved onto the ship.  In the end, they needed food stuffs and Rol joked that he could use a cooking island if they could get the files to print one up.  The joke died when Mikah demanded, "Do we have room in the galley for that?" and he admitted there wasn't.  Firming up the list of wants and needs, Aali reminded Mikah about their issue with a shortage of engineers aboard.

Mikah agreed that was an issue they had to deal with, and off handedly suggested they'd look for second hand 'droids and other options.  Still, she didn't sound serious enough about it for Aali's tastes.  Aali told Mikah there was a sticker on Wall-e advertising the shop Brian got the 'droid from.  Considering Brian got the 'droid for cheap, and that Aali was the engineer and knew what they needed, Mikah told her to check out the shop and look into getting some androids.  Aali said she could do that and told Mikah about the contact she'd gotten from Admiral Kiamman.  Mikah asked if there was anything else they needed and they agreed anything else would depend on where they were going or what they wanted to do next?

Aali was the first to answer that, though only in personal terms, that, "Emkir and I have a Cr 10,000 voucher for InstellArms and we want to go shopping."  She considered her next words and said Zach was likely to need body armor.  Thinking about the suggested illegal sale of the cybernetic parts, Mikah laughed and said, "Yes you will."  Zach was the only one in the compartment who answered with more of a nervous laugh than a response to the joke.  Aali also reminded Mikah she and Emkir were giving the air-raft upgrade to the ship.  So, they had to make those plans too.  Aali did recommend they consider up-armoring the raft instead of increasing the services and bling.

Deciding they were making two stops, the group talked about who wanted to go where and in what order?  Zach and Mikah both said they wanted to go to InstellArms, so it was decided they'd go weapons shopping first, then go to the air-raft dealer.  Zimzod said he was also up for a trip to the toy shop.  Rol said he'd stay with the ship, because he remembered what happened the last time he'd gone to InstellArms on this station.  Hearing Rol was staying with the ship, Inger and Aiden also joined the shopping expedition and it soon became "everyone except Rol".  Knowing there'd be a significant amount of movement, Zach went to his stateroom and snapped into his exoskeleton.

When Zach stepped out in the exoskeleton, Zimzod pointed to the merchant and said to Rol, "It's gonna be hard to find a bumper sticker to stick on that."  Rol shrugged, remembering the sticker he'd stuck to the gravChair, which would be stored in the med-bay until someone in the crew needed it.  Thinking along similar lines, Zach said someone in the crew would need the gravChair sooner or later.  He kept it to himself that he really hoped it wasn't him again!  This being the first real try, Zach found the exoskeleton was a bit rough but it felt nice to move like a Human again.  And as they made jokes, Mikah asked again if there were other stops people wanted to add to the shopping tour?

They First talked about ordering food stores for the ship, which they could get on the port-web.  During that, Rol recommended one month's "emergency rations".  Especially after the misjump they'd ridden out on the way to Mora.  He also said they pretty much had to have a destination before they knew how much more or less they needed?  When Mikah asked why, he said they could just buy what they needed on Rhylanor if food might be cheaper "on the way", like sea food on Equus.  But if they were going someplace like Jae Tellona, where food was very expensive, they might want to over-buy and store supplies frozen in the cargo bay.  Zach said he wanted to get the process rolling to get cloning insurance set up.  Mikah also admitted she had to call the broker to deal with Brian's stock.

Talking about what they had to "go out and get" rather than what they could order on the port-net, Mikah, Zach and Rol worked together.  They connected to a port food-services provider and ordered enough for the crew for a month.  They also ordered emergency subsistence-level food to store for emergencies.  They ended up ordering 30 day's subsistence rations, 21 days regular food and 7 days of luxury food for Cr 5,760.  This was in on top of the 3 days regular food they had left from what they'd bought on the naval base.  With the deal set and money sent, the food services people said they'd be out to the berth to deliver the supplies.

After that, Mikah called Mr. Adirman and told him they'd docked the ship at the main port in orbit.  So, someone could travel or they could work things out via video comms.  Hearing that, Mr. Adirman said that he was perfectly fine with handling things via computer and video link.  Then, the broker laid out their options.  He said they could sell immediately, at the current price on the exchange while that was not an option he recommended.  They could also wait, with prices rising as the stock moved toward the split.  That would get them more money if they sold on the rise.  After the split, he said prices would obviously drop significantly and be more volitile, but Mikah pointed out they'd have twice as many shares.  So the total value would remain nearly the same.

Agreeing with Mikah, Mr. Adirman pointed out that no one knew what direction those shares might move after the split happened?  Still, he was recommending that "if" they were planning to sell off the stocks, they hold until after it split and take the risk for better profits.  With his recommendation made, Adirman told them there was an investor group banking on the stock doing well after the split, and offering a price point better than the current market strike price to buy up shares before the split.  Giving them the prices as things sat at the moment, Mr. Adirman said they could get just over Cr 46,000 if they sold to the investor group but might get upwards of Cr 50,000 after the split.

Giving a feel of the market, Mr. Adirman also explained the background of the line, to add an understanding of the risk since the line had very few ships.  The value of the company was based on keeping those ships in operation.  If the line took on debt to buy new ships, or had to take on debt to keep a ship working, that would hit the stock values.  And, if they lost one or more ships, that could hammer share values.  Mikah checked the data she was getting and saw they'd get just under Cr 45,000 "just selling" the stock with no conditions.  Mikah also had to consider that the split wouldn't happen for eight days.  That worried her now she knew the Duchess of Glisten had snuck into the system.  Wanting to be able to move fast if their Graces suddenly decided to started looking for people to handle missions, Mikah gave the order to sell to the investment group.

She then shut down Mr. Adirman's advice and convinced him this was the best option for the crew, regardless of his advice.  He agreed, and told her his share was two percent off the top.  Mikah said that was fine and worked on the screen to fill out the needed paperwork with him guiding her through the process.  After the sale paperwork was completed, Adirman began the process of connecting to the brokers for the investment group.  Because this was "off exchange", they just had to connect to the buying broker and create a deal to be executed by an organization with the authority to do so.  When the math was done, the total sale was Cr 46,500, less a total of 7% for taxes and fees including his.  So, they ended up with Cr 43,245, which Mikah added to the ship's funds.  When that was done, the crew decided to head for InstellArms and then the air-raft place.

All The New Toys

     Knowing Rol would be aboard the ship to receive the food shipments, Mikah called for a port-cab and the others left.  After Mikah paid the Cr 40 for the cab, they faced the army of greeters and outside sales-promoters holding datapads or pointing to displays, etc...  Preparing to drive through the crowd, the crew found themselves approached by a small group of concierge personnel.  "This" InstellArms also remembered what happened the last time Sir Rol visited.  They met and the lead Concierge asked, "How may we be of service to your Lord and Ladyship's today?".  She had that smoothly oiled voice which helps credits slide out of customer accounts.

Everyone ignored Aiden's snark about needing human shields and Zach asked about the end of the investigation with Rol's shooting?  Being concierge, they offered that, perhaps, the crew could check with station security.  They also admitted they were not advised on that event, other than to take better care of the Hotel California's crew.  With that, Mikah began, saying Zach needed combat armor since he was designated one of her body guards.  To their credit, none of the concierge team even cracked a smile when they heard that.  Then, a member of the team stepped forward and began consulting with Zach and led him to a transport to the armor section of the facility.  The pole and canvas cart looked flimsy if you just looked at it, but was much better built than it looked.

They moved off and Mikah announced she wanted to see the new-tech laser pistol they had for sale.  The one that took magazines in its grip.  Just like Zach, a concierge stepped forward and began discussing the weapon, showing Mikah images and details on it as they moved towards the energy weapons section of the facility in another cart.  Riding off, Mikah brought up her current combat gear and HUD, asking if the pistol could be integrated into that gear?  The concierge said any weapon could be integrated into the system with the help of a trained armorer.  If Lady Mikah didn't have an armorer on staff, they had a large staff to assist her Ladyship.  Mikah waved that off saying she did have a personal armorer, but thanked him for confirming the weapon could be integrated.

The concierge continued, saying Mikah could consider a number of HUD-integrations.  She could buy kits allowing her to tie an umbilical to the pistol's sight system and feed it to the HUD in a number of ways.  One cable kit tied the sights directly to the HUD while another ran an umbilical cable through the suit.  That way the kit cable could connect to the armor at the combatant's wrist or hip, to adjust for firing styles.  Most popular, but a bit more expensive, were wireless systems, allowing HUD integration without an umbilical cord.  While these were popular for sports users and hunters, heavy jamming in combat zones often created issues with wireless systems.  Of course, a downside of the umbilical based system would be that the combatant's armor would have to be modified.

OK with the technical details, Mikah started asking for a cost estimate on the weapon and HUD kit?  The concierge made sure Mikah knew she would need to buy any magazines she wanted for the weapon at Cr 5,000 each.  Concerned with the cost, Mikah asked how many shots each magazine allowed and was told each charge was 5 rounds.  She then asked about recharging, and was told the magazines could be recharged by plugging into any standard, fusion-powered power source, like those generally used in starships.  Seeing Mikah wasn't happy with the costs and low fire-rates, the rep very smoothly asked if Her Ladyship would like to try firing the weapon?

Like waving red in front of a Terran bull, the idea of firing this new high tech weapon blew all thoughts of cost from Mikah's mind and she said she would.  Saying "yes ma'am", the rep redirected the shop-cart and began working on his datapad to have a laser pistol and charged magazines delivered to the range the staff were setting aside for her.  At the range, Mikah was told the weapons were so new they didn't have a display and test unit while actually unwrapping a new sealed pistol.  Techs delivered two charged magazines from the service section of the shop for her to try out the pistol.  They projected targets on the range wall while Mikah got a feel for the weapon and was pleased.  Gearing up for combat required strapping on so many items before and after she'd climbed into her armor that having one less thing to fit into and worry about getting in the way of her movement was a healthy plus for this pistol.

When Mikah asked about having this technology in a rifle or carbine, she was told the tech had not been designed into those weapons forms.  But, they did have a laser sword which had been adapted to the tech.  When Mikah got the details on the laser sword, she learned the sword had fewer hours of power compared to the pack-fed unit.  It also cost Cr 500,000 since it was "very" new, cutting edge tech.  Balking at the price, Mikah said she'd pass on the sword because she preferred taking out her opponents further away than sword range.  Saying she wanted the pistol, Mikah handed over her Ident to prove she had the right to walk out of the store with the charged and ready weapon on her hip.  She also asked about the costs for a kit to have the pistol's sights integrated into her HUD?  The tech began the process of the sale while also recording her weapons-carry rights.  In the end the pistol itself cost Cr 30,000, and Mikah ordered four batteries for an additional Cr 20,000.

Getting Into New Tech And Trick Guns

     When asked about her interests, Inger said she wasn't sure, and preferred to browse.  Not an insubstantial task in a facility large enough you needed to use public trams and people-movers just to get to specific sections of the facility.  Lucky for the crew, they had personal concierge support, so each of them was driven around on a shop cart by staff.  Inger talked with the staffers about things that might be of interest and what was new, and they asked about the weapons and gear she already had?  When Inger said she had a 9mm revolver, the concierge told her about an attachable "drum kit", that peaked her curiosity.  So, they were off to the revolver sections of the hand gun section.

When they got to the proper section and made it to the display, Inger saw the "drum" was an attachable magazine.  One had an armorer, or paid InstellArms, remove the revolver's cylinder.  That was then replaced with an extension mount that fit to a "drum" that would hang down from the cylinder yoke.  The drum held six rotating sections, similar to speed loaders, which held six rounds each.  The drum also had a front and back shield, to prevent ammunition falling out during any movement.  Inger looked over the displayed examples and thought the devices looked more than a bit awkward.  She could see the weapon user would have this giant plate-like drum projecting from a hand gun less than half its size.  But, it did make a revolver a 36 round weapon.

Happily for Inger, Aiden intended to worship at the various hand weapon displays, as was his habit when visiting InstellArms.  Despite the size of the facility, when he was approached by the concierge, he had said "take me to the hand gun section.  Hearing this, and because Emkir also had a 9mm revolver, Aali grabbed her husband and said to their concierge, "Follow that shopper!"  Hopping on their shop cart, Aali and Emkir's concierge comm'd Aiden's.  And Aiden agreed to check out the revolver section with Aali and Emkir.  So, the three ended up being joined by Inger as their interests intersected.  Not looking at modifications, the three saw Inger being shown this strange weapon and decided to check it out.

Of course, the "what the hell is that?" factor was enhanced as the drum Inger was being shown had a smiley face design on its front shield.  When they got closer, and Aiden saw the drum, he had to make a number of jokes about the endless revolver of myth and Tri-d or vid legend.  Hearing Aiden's jokes, the rep said, "We do have other options for multi-feed to adapt revolvers." When Aali and Aiden asked, the man pulled another sample weapon from its cradle and showed how the cylinder of that revolver had been removed and a module swapped in.  That module accepted a chain of linked ammo to allow the revolver to be chain-fed ammunition, ejecting the brass from the opposite side.  Videos of the weapon in use showed a person firing the weapon as a chain of ammo fed out of a cargo pocket on his coveralls.

Turning to Aiden, Inger asked how hard these various solutions would be to maintain?  Aiden's opinion was that the drum might be entertaining but it could cause a lot more issues than it solved.  He pointed out she certainly wouldn't be able to put that revolver in a holster.  The rep said the belt-fed revolver could use a holster they had which contained an ammo chain reservoir.  This let the user draw the pistol from the holster with a chain of rounds already set to advance and fire.  When Aiden asked, he was told the reservoir permitted storage of a chain of 50 rounds.  Aiden also said that mounting the drum might be an issue, and the rep politely said that was Aiden's point of view as he sparked up a video of the modification being installed and used.  He also showed how the drum attachment allowed the user to pull an emptied drum from the mounts and replace it with a loaded drum.  InstellArms also sold a "thigh and belt" mounted cloth bag that could hold up to three drums.

Considering those situations where Inger had been forced to get involved in combat, or had wished eh'd been armed, She liked having more ammo when she had to fight.  She also had a thigh holster for her slinky dress and didn't like the idea of the drum not fitting into it, or dragging a chain of ammo around swinging between her legs.  When she said that, one of the gathered reps played a video showing how quickly any revolver could be re-tasked.  The process was simple, as the user loosened the screw on the locking bolt.  Then, they could withdraw the bolt and the cylinder.  After that, they swapped in the chain-feed module, which replaced the cylinder, one for one, and secured it in place with the locking bolt.  The process could be completed in minutes.  Even Aiden was impressed.

Weighing her options, Inger decided to go both ways at once.  She ordered a second 9mm revolver, so she could modify one to fire from drums while the other would either be used with a regular cylinder or chain-fed module swapped in.  She then ordered the chain-fed module adaptor at Cr 120 and six 50 round boxes of chain-linked ammo at Cr 50 each.  Inger also ordered a holster modified with the reservoir for Cr 30.  She then ordered the drum kit for Cr 100, with three more drums along with the "disk bag".  She started to place her order and a tech showed up with a 9mm revolver matching the one she already owned.  The tech showed her how to quickly swap the cylinder for either of the firing solutions.  Finally, Inger ordered a set of electronic sights for the new revolver, since she had them on her first one.  Her total cost was Cr 1,400.

Watching Inger work with the representatives, Emkir quietly thought that he had exactly the same 9mm revolver she did.  He was more and more impressed with the chain-fed module as he listened and watched.  When Inger decided to buy both alternate versions of ammo feed, Emkir had already decided to buy the chain-feed system for his weapon.  Inger started her paperwork, and he enlisted the help of another rep to order his own.  Ordering the module and the reservoir modified holster, Emkir also ordered six boxes of ammo.  His bill came to Cr 720, which he spent from the voucher.

While that was happening, one of the concierges asked Aiden if he would deliver a package to Sir Rol Kaihvos?  When Aiden agreed, the Concierge called a tech who delivered a box almost a foot long, five inches wide and two thirds of an inch thick.  The box had the ever present thumb tab, but otherwise seemed completely sealed as Aiden looked it over.  Uncertain what Rol might have ordered from InstellArms, he tucked the box under his arm and figured he'd find out when he delivered it.  Having their attention, Aiden asked about the trade-in value on his suit of unsealed combat armor?

Aiden was presented with a survey, and asked to answer questions on the use and abuse the suit had seen?  When its only "special value" was that it briefly belonged to a currently famous Knight who might not be for long, they valued it as any other used armor.  It would have cost Cr 20,000 new, but was now used and couldn't be sold anywhere near that.  It also had to be cleaned and completely sanitized, as a general precaution, before it could be added to their significant stock of used armor.  It also had to be considered how long a suit of that class would remain in stock, and what price they could pay and still make a profit given those costs.  They offered him Cr 6,000, which obviously underwhelmed Aiden.

Emkir And Aali Gear Up

     Watching Inger and her salesperson, Aali was impressed as she considered her own custom snub revolver pistol.  She'd been concerned about the 'seventh round-click' syndrome and possible needs to re-load in combat.  So, she asked if there was a similar chain feed solution for snub pistols?  When more than one representative said there was, the whole team hopped into their shop carts and drove to the snub pistol section of the zero-gravity combat section.  Soon, Aali was watching videos and playing with a sample weapon.  Making sure the module worked with the same size rounds her custom snub pistol fired, Aali decided this was the solution for her.

The rep took Aali's order for a chain-feed module for her custom snub pistol, plus with ten fifty-round chains of ammo in boxes.  Since snub ammo cost more than the 9mm rounds, the boxes cost her Cr 100 each.  Aali also bought a modified holster too, along with a bandoleer which carried the 50 round boxes.  Aali's total cost came to Cr 1,040, which they deducted from Emkir and Aali's Cr 10,000 voucher leaving Cr 8,240 for Emkir to spend on armor.  Aali finished her purchase with the rep and started to speculate about range time.  Then, she remembered the laser game she, Inger and Emkir had played a few months ago.  Mentioning it to Inger, the former port executive remembered it too, and they considered suggesting this to the rest of the crew.

They talked while Aiden noticed one of the "newest off the line" snub pistols in a display.  While it had some of the items he'd had engineered into his weapon, it didn't have nearly everything.  And the price tag for the newly engineered design, in the thousands of credits, reminded him that he had to pick up his snub pistol from the x-package station later.  After they talked about the laser game, Aali asked about ammunition, to be told she could shop for Ball, Tranq, Taser, High Explosive(HE), High Explosive Armor Piercing(HEAP) and High Explosive Anti-Tank(HEAT).  She could also buy specialized chemical rounds, though there were legalities to consider.

The first questions Aali asked were about the tasers, and she was warned the rounds were highly-charged but might not knock every target down.  Considering that, Aali thought she'd steer clear of rounds that might only piss her targets off more.  Passing on that, she asked for prices on the HEAP and HEAT rounds?  She was warned that the HEAT rounds should only be considered effective against armored troopers and lightly armored vehicles.  The costs for the HEAP were Cr 200 a clip and for the HEAT, Cr 400.  Aali ordered 40 rounds of each for a total of Cr 1,200.  She also ordered a laser sight kit, but would have to bring the weapon in or have Rol install it.  Figuring she could ask Rol, Aali paid the Cr 150.

After the crew finished upgrading their various hand weapons, both Aali and Emkir mentioned that Emkir wanted to look into combat armor, since he now had the cash for it.  Of course, the InstellArms reps were happy to help and they all hopped in their shop-carts and rode off.  On the way, the crew passed any number of clusters of shoppers moving on store trams, which could be moving several hundred people at a time, or on people mover floor sections.  Many of those looked at the crew and wondered how they rated private vehicles?  But those were just passing impressions of the less fortunate while they made their way to personal defense and the combat armor section of the facility.

Again, Combat armor was close to the section containing, and looked very much like, Battledress.  The differences they couldn't see inside the Battledress were very well represented outside by the multi-million credit price tags on the suits.  So, no one looked over much in that direction as they started getting Emkir set up.  The InstellArms folks were very pleased that Emkir knew exactly what he wanted, with pictures taken of the systems in Aali's suit.  So, they started getting him outfitted with a sealed combat armored suit sporting a HUD and integral subsystems for light intensification, infrared visual and PRIS spectrum vision.  And, they added in an inertial locator.

Unlike Aali's, the add-ons were not an after thought.  The extra systems would be incorporated directly into the suit.  While items like the PRIS goggles could be dismounted from the armor, they were better and more correctly mounted and protected.  This also gave Emkir a better range of vision with his enhancements than Aali had on her suit.  Mounted inside the armor, the devices would be less likely to suffer combat damage.  In the end, the techs who worked with Emkir zeroed in the armor so that it wouldn't need another fitting.  They then told him the modifications would be done in a days' time and the armor delivered the next day around evening time.  The bill came to Cr 34,700 all said and done.  That was reduced to Cr 26,460 by what was left from the voucher, and Emkir paid that off from his and Aali's accounts.

The Glow Of A Fusion Light

     Zimzod told the rep who stepped up to him that he had to replace his Imperial Marin Dress Uniform when the others went off with their concierge representatives.  The man asked Zimzod to show his Ident, because the laws required someone prove their status before they could order any official uniform.  After Zimzod showed his paperwork, the representative asked if Zimzod would not prefer an Imperial Army uniform?  That had been the last service he'd served in and would reflect the highest grade?  When Zimzod asked, he found the uniform he had must have been ordered by someone who was powerful enough to have his highest grade shown on a Marine uniform.  Zimzod had to consider wearing an E-3 grade on a Marine dress uniform or his E-9 grade on an Army uniform, since he earned that rank in the Imperial Army.

Before making a decision on the uniform, Zimzod thought about using his Right of Appearance to get a place on Duke Leonard's docket and ask the Duke to have an E-9 Marine Uniform made.  Still, he was pretty sure the Duke was annoyed at everyone in the crew at the moment.  He also figured that pushing his way into the Duke's Court schedule just to ask for a uniform wouldn't make Duke Leonard any happier.  So, Zimzod said "Never mind" and figured he could wear the uniform from his Order until he could find someone willing to have a Marine uniform made.  When the rep asked if there was anything else he could help with, Zimzod said he needed to buy a gauss rifle.  With that, the representative brightened up and got Zimzod on a shop-cart.  Then, they went off to check out the many models of gauss rifles.

At the displays, Zimzod remembered that day back in the Regina system when Mikah got her gauss rifle, with all the bells and whistles, from the Duke of Vilis.  While he wasn't getting his new weapon for free from a Duke, he was rich enough to get a pimped out replacement for his stolen weapon.  So, Zimzod started ordering and the concierge got techs moving to assemble his new weapon.  The base gauss rifle cost him Cr 1,500.  To that, they added a laser designator and gyrostabilizer for Cr 1,050.  Next they added electronic sights for Cr 500 and a Cr 500 interface kit to connect the weapon to his Battledress combat computer.  So, for Cr 3,550, Zimzod had a proper replacement for his stolen rifle.

That done, Zimzod decided to see if he could find something to upgrade his Battledress?  Making their way to the Battledress displays, Zimzod waved and made faces at the folks crammed on the store trams who glared back in surprise or annoyance.  Soon enough they arrived and Zimzod got an up-close look at more advanced and newer Battledress suits than his.  Looking at the upgrade packages, he found those things he wanted to play with most were not available for public purchase.  He'd need permission from the Imperial military to buy them.  He especially liked a dismountable small ballistic missile back-rack.  This would mount on the suit's back and connect to its battle computer.  The nearly three foot long missiles would fire ordinance on a high ballistic course, which would be modified by thrusters and guided by the suit's battle computer.  They let a trooper engage remote targets and take out lightly armored vehicles.

Checking out the increasing list of things he couldn't buy without permission, Zimzod came on something he would love but knew he couldn't afford.  A very clean and pretty FGMP-15.  The "fusion gun-Man portable" wasn't exactly man portable since it could only be powered and used by Battledress armored troopers.  Even with that, the weapon had a grav-generator and gyrostabilizer built in, without which even the battledressed trooper wouldn't be able to operate it.  And that FGMP-15 was the top of the line, beyond which it was rumored experimental models existed.  The concierge noticed Zimzod's interest and asked if the Knight would like to try the weapon out?  When Zimzod said he would, but didn't have his battledress with him the rep said that wasn't a problem.

Getting them back on the store-cart, the concierge sent a request back to the techs.  By the time they got to the weapon's range, an FGMP-15 had been set up as well as a loaner suit of battledress.  Zimzod looked around and could tell the range he was on was shielded.  Then, the techs snapped him into the battledress and dialed him in.  The concierge moved into a shielded observation room while the techs also snapped into battledress and stood by to assist Zimzod.  Zimzod strapped himself into the harness for the weapon and activated it's power settings.  Having only fired a PGMP a few times in his life, and an FGMP-14 once, this was something special for Zimzod.  He zeroed in on the positioned targets and started to fire.

Not far away, on another "energy weapons range, Mikah had been trying out her new laser pistol when a metal shielding plate suddenly slid into position covering the entire left-wall surface!  When Mikah asked "What the hell is that?" with a bit of concern, the Concierge said "Oh, it means someone's probably asked to test fire the FGMP's" in a tone that suggested this was a regular thing.  Hearing that, Mikah asked, "Let me guess, Zimzod's coming in?" the Concierge said he didn't know who was firing the weapons but they wouldn't be coming on that range.  Indicating the shielding plate, the rep said the plates were a legal protection just in case something went wrong.  Mikah said "I gotta see this" as she did the mental math.  Whoever it was had to have Battledress training and a suit of their own, and enough cash to possibly buy one of the guns.  So she was certain it was Zimzod.

Repeating herself, Mikah said, "I've gotta see this.  Is there a viewing platform?"  Since InstellArms was in the business of selling, any test use of merchandise was able to be displayed publically and recorded.  So, the Concierge started working on his datapad and activated a wall mounted viewing screen.  Then, Mikah watched InstellArms techs helping Zimzod into a battledress suit.  When he was all snapped in, she watched as the Knight strapped into the harness and activated the weapon.  While Zimzod prepared to fire, Mikah turned to her concierge and said, "You're really gonna have to clean out the inside of that suit when he's done, you know?"  She turned back to the screen as Zimzod strutted into the firing position before pulling the trigger.  And when he fired, the screen dimmed to protect the viewers.

After firing off a few more rounds and telling his concierge how much he liked the weapon, Zimzod asked, "How much is this again?" Mikah waited for the punch line, to see if it knocked Zimzod over.  The concierge said, "I'm sorry sir.  You need Imperial Naval permission to buy that."  Mikah watched as the figure of Zimzod tapped and lifted his wrist to his mouth and Mikah's comms started to buzz.  Picking up her comms, she knew Zimzod wanted to get her help getting permission if he could afford the gun.  Mikah just picked up saying, "No!  No, no.."  When Zimzod protested, "But you don't even know what I'm talking about!" Mikah loudly repeated "No!  No!  No!  And, yes I do."  When he challenged, "How do you know what I'm calling about?" Mikah answered, "Because I'm watching you on the vid."

Surprised by that, she watched as Zimzod first stopped and then looked around him.  Zimzod quickly spotted the camera and, as Mikah watched, lifted up the FGMP and shot it.  The screen changed to static and Mikah could hear the distant whine of an alarm.  Then, Mikah realized Zimzod would likely have to pay for a camera too.  Mikah said into her comms, "You just bought yourself a blasted camera and what ever was behind that panel" as the comms were cut along with the power to the battledress Zimzod wore.  At the same time, the techs moved in to remove Zimzod from the battledress and prepare him to be escorted to the facility's office to settle up for the damage done.

Zach's Survival Shopping

     Having done his research, Zach told the concierge helping him that he was out for a set of sealed combat armor.  Like the others, he was invited to ride on a store-cart as they moved out.  Soon, they were in the armor section where the Concierge had called in techs to help given the exoskeleton Zach was wearing.  While riding into the displays, Zach said he wanted a HUD system and found he could get LI/IR functionality with an inertial locator too.  When Zach said he wanted to hook up his gauss rifle, they said they could do that work once Zach did the paperwork to have his rifle picked up from the ship.  When Zach was told he could get the work done by an armorer, he said he knew one.  While they talked, the concierge explored a bit, suggesting Zach could buy an MMU for Cr 100,000.

After Zach had his armor ordered and dialed in, he said he had to pick up a gauss pistol.  He didn't mention this would be his third pistol in a year.  Moving into the displays, Zach quickly found a TL-E weapon that would take the magazines he had left over from the last one.  While the weapon would handle the same ammo and even magazines, it would perform better and fail less, even if the damage from the round was the same.  Exploring his options, Zach found he could get a laser sight mounted on the pistol.  He then ordered HUD kits for both the gauss pistol and for his gauss rifle.  After spending a cool Cr 40,000 on his combat survival, Zach paid to take the new gauss pistol onto the range and try it out.

While he was on the range, Zach asked about alternative ammunition for his weapons and learned about acid-load rounds for his snub pistol.  While he also learned they were highly illegal in 90 percent of the Imperium, this didn't much bother him.  So, he ordered a clip.  He also ordered a clip of HEAT rounds.  Eventually, Zach burned through two standard clips at Cr 15 each and headed out to rejoin his team.  Mikah had left the range some time before and they found Zimzod waiting with the rest after settling a bill for Cr 500 in "damage done".  Delivery details were being taken care of for the many items ordered and, once they were all together again, they left for the air-raft dealership.

Rol's Afternoon

     After the crew left for InstellArms, Rol relaxed a bit before he began organizing the galley.  First, Rol called TAS and let them know where the ship had docked.  The tech he spoke to thanked him for the information and said the courier with his High Passage would arrive soon.  After checking the collections of galley items which had been moved onto the new Hotel California, Rol began setting up and often re-cleaning the gear and the galley.  There was soon a buzz at the berth as he worked and Rol was pleased to see the TAS delivery courier.  He was also displeased to see the clusters of paparazzi also present in the berth.  While the cluster was not large, their ability to sell pictures of him in the berth suggested that might not last long.

Deciding to report it to Mikah later rather than challenging the Port Security's claim they'd been docked in a "secure berth" himself, Rol went back inside the ship.  He turned on the news and went back to work.  Braced for a "lead story" about himself, or even his ship and crew, the lead was about the surprise arrival of Duchess Avaraja Astaarte Muktheswana of Glisten!  Rol managed to tune in after the main banner for the story had passed and caught the talking heads comparing dates from various news stories with the dates she would have had to have been in transit to have arrived in system when she did.  Rol watched a bit more than worked while they compared news stories about Her Grace's broadcast actions while supposedly in the Glisten system.

They dated reports of her preparing her fief in the event the ramshackle fleet turned riftward rather than, as was then predicted, towards the Lanth system.  It was finally decided she must have left some five weeks before, and used multiple jump six capable ships to arrive.  While Rol remembered watching news stories about her actions from Glisten, he couldn't remember any stories dated well before they left Mora in the Sable Addix.  That was almost exactly two months before.  So, it only seemed to be news because there was no announcement of her visit or the fact she'd left the Glisten system on her way to Rhylanor.  This bothered Rol because it suggested something had been happening behind the scenes.

If not, any visit to Rhylanor by a significant dignitary would have been heralded by every news service.  The coverage would have been wall to wall, especially as the date of the visit neared.  Something was wrong and Rol felt it meant they should get out of the system before a request for help came from the Duke or even the Duchess.  He didn't even want to think of a request from both of them.  Still, it sparked a paranoid thought and Rol spent a good bit of time researching the news items coming out of the Mora system.  He identified the dates on stories showing Arch Duke Norris' picture, to confirm he was still on Mora Prime.  Of course, given that the most recent news from Mora was five weeks old, that was of little comfort.  On the positive side, as he spent his time alone, he got a call from InstellArms saying Sir Aiden would be carrying his package back to the ship.  That left Rol trying to decide how he felt about Aiden handling his package at all?

Dealing With The Air-Raft Upgrade

     Arriving at the air-raft dealership with the voucher, the group looked for a manager and presented the digital document.  Recognizing the levels from which the voucher came, if not more than the names of the people using it, the manager asked them if they brought their air-raft with them?  When they said they hadn't, he accepted that and brought in an android to connect to a display and take their description of the raft in their ship.  After a period of question and answer, the 'droid displayed a small number of raft designs until they saw one that they felt matched the model they owned.  It was a standard, four person open-topped ship's general service air-raft.  And, if the unit had to guess, it would have suggested the highest odds were an LSP model.

Knowing what they were dealing with now, the manager asked what the crew would like to do with their air-raft?  Having heard Aali's recommendation, Mikah said she'd like to see if they could find some way of up-armoring the raft?  Not sure where to take that, the manager asked for an indication of how "intense" the conflicts they were concerned with were?  Mikah simply answered, "Cr 10,000 worth", which the manager couldn't help but notice was the value of the voucher.  Accepting that, the manager asked, "Are you trying to avoid assassination?  Are you having issues with a bad living situation with dangerous neighbors?

When Mikah said, "Well, we definitely live in a bad neighborhood" Aali just answered "All of the above".  The man pulled out a stylus and started enhancing the picture of the air-raft on the display.  Doing that, he said, "Well, for ten grand we can give you an 'unsealed' roof for the raft, giving you some cover under fire.  And we can spray on a layer of kinetic force-absorbing materials which will bulk out the air-raft a bit but would work to absorb any slug-based fire hitting the structure of the raft.  It also wouldn't hurt the raft's performance at all."  He admitted the cover wouldn't help them at all against energy weapons, but pointed out that fire from a large enough energy weapon would screw them any way.

When Zach asked, he was told this would add some level of survivability against some nasty slug throwers.  Hearing that, Zach remembered returning to the ship in the Inthe-downport when a rogue reporter opened fire on the air-raft with a hand gun.  The next day, after the excitement ended, Zach had to actually replace panels on the vehicle and was very glad he hadn't been shot!  If they added a cap, they could put windows on the raft.  So, while it wouldn't be sealed, there would be some protection from the elements and keeping possible enemies from just targeting any occupants.  When Aali said that satisfied her ideas of up-armoring, Mikah agreed and told Aiden he could deliver the air-raft later that day.

Making Plans And Planning Parties

     Done at the dealership, Mikah wanted to go back to the ship and get ready to receive the deliveries from InstellArms.  Zimzod wanted to go back so he could start researching who to talk to to get permission to buy an FGMP-15?  Zach wanted to get moving on getting cloaning insurance, and asked Mikah about the hospital where the others got their stents?  Mikah told him to ask Aali.  Talking with Aali, Zach wondered how much media attention they'd get at the berth and Aali suggested they blast over the public address: "We shot at the Sword Worlds ship, we'll shoot at your asses too."

Back at the ship, Inger unloaded everything that didn't have to be shipped.  Done with that, she called the port to start covering ground she had planned to during the jump back to the system.  Getting her friends on the line, the big question was if Inger could finally get free to visit?  When she said she could, they suggested a party and asked when was good?  Inger suggested that night, because she didn't have plans and didn't know how long they'd be in-system?  Her port friends said that was fine and they'd set things up.  Then, they asked if the other Knights were coming, and Inger had to pause.  She'd hoped this would be decompression time.  But then she said she could ask and got a very enthusiastic thanks.

Done agreeing to the party that night, Inger got off the comms and announced on the "all ship" that there would be a party that night at the port.  She then asked who wanted to go?  In the meantime, at the port, the administrative hub lit up as they started ordering food, drinks and everything to set up a party and reception in the section of offices they'd planned to redecorate soon anyway.  Zimzod asked, "Are there going to be chicks there?" and Inger lowered her head before answering "Probably".  Eventually everyone said they would be going to the party as Zach said it was good most of the media had found someone else to harass.  Aali checked the time as Inger said the party would be at 7pm.

It was nearing 4pm when Inger called back the port to update them and the others started thinking about things like snacking before the party, and what to wear?  Zach also spent a significant time calling several places to check on cloning insurance costs.  Eventually, he found the best price he could get was Cr 550 per month, or 6,000 per year, with a discount for paying in advance.  There was also the requirement he get a neural stent implanted within the following two weeks.  From what he recalled, this was a fairly similar price to what Brian paid, and was more than Aali paid since she'd gotten a deal from TAS.  He still had to hunt hospitals and agree on a price with them for the surgery too.  Still, Zach felt sure he could get that dealt with so he did the electronic forms and signed up for a policy, paying the Cr 6,000 in advance.

After that, Zach checked his emails before having to get ready for the party, and all the standards were there.  Emails from House Kirgashii, hate mail from Open Skies, congrats from Erum warning Zach he'd have to do a dinner party instead of just drinks, after this most recent success.  Ignoring the many emails from the mud-suckers and figuring House Kirgashii could wait an evening, Zach considered inviting Erum to the port party.  Before doing that, he decided to ask Inger and she asked who the guy was?  When Zach reminded her Erum had been the man who helped them sell her machine parts, and who had been there when Zimzod gave out the rings, Inger remembered.

While that wasn't all a bunch of rosy smelling happy memories, Inger did feel they owed the guy, so she told Zach he could invite the trader.  Especially since that had been the morning before the ship was destroyed and they were rushed out of the system.  So, Erum never did get more than just paid for his help and deserved some thanks.  Nodding, Zach picked up the comms and called the man, who answered saying "Sir Zachariah!  Nice to talk to you!", using the formal greeting to let Zach know it had been some time since he should have called.  Getting right to the point, Zach asked Erum if he wanted to go to a party that night?

When Erum said he did, and asked about the party, Zach said it was being put on by the Starport Authority.  Intrigued, but still curious, Erum asked for more details.  Zach said the Senior executives of the port were creating a party for his crew.  With that huge potential to make contacts and learn information, Erum was so willing to be there.  Zach was surprised the man didn't appear magically next to him.  Zach told Erum to meet them at the Hotel California by 6:30.

While preparing, Mikah showed Rol her new laser pistol and said InstellArms was delivering a HUD-integration kit for it. She told him he had to help her connect it.  Rol was very interested in the pistol, and disappointed he didn't have more time to check it out.  But he joked that he was sure he could get her all set up for Cr 1,000.  Snapping back, Mikah said, "And I could 'not shoot you' for Cr 1,000."  Soon after that, Inger and others came to him explaining their purchases and he saw a lot of the crew had HUD interface kits that would need to be connected.  He joked about charging them all.

When he joked with Zach about paying, the merchant just quipped back, "I'll have Mikah not shoot you."  Rol replied, "Now you've got to convince me not to tell Mikah you think you control her." with a grin on his face.  In all cases, Rol made it clear he was only joking and felt sure he could count on them joining in when he needed them to back him up in the future.  He did say that, in Mikah's case, she would be not shooting him.  And in Aiden's case, it might be taking a round for him.  As he heard the comment, Aiden just snarled back at Rol.

The 'Droid Hunt Begins

     Back at the ship, Aali grabbed the contact data Admiral Kiamman had given her and made a first call to get things rolling.  She got a naval rating who said, "Automotonics Department, Spacer Kishlik speaking, how can I help you?"  Stopping to look at the comms, as the word "Automotonics" meant nothing to her, Aali launched into it saying, "Admiral Kiamman provided me this comms code regarding engineering androids?"  The rating responded with the expected level of enthusiasm, he flatly saying, "Hold on", and transferred Aali without warning.  The next rating to pick up identified his department as "Android Servicing".

More satisfied with that organization, Aali launched in with, "Hi, I'm wondering what you have in the way of engineering androids?"  The tech looked at Aali on the comms and asked, And who are you?" in a confused tone.  When Aali answered, "Dame Eikusdi Piirirshu" as she used her official name rather than her nickname.  When he asked how she got that number, Aali said, "Admiral Kiamman gave me this comms."  After she told him that, the tech had her hold, freezing the screen briefly.  Soon, he came back on line and asked, "Yes, My Lady.  How can I help you?"

Aali explained that their ship was looking for engineering androids and he said he'd just checked with the Admiral's aide and they "...want us to give you a tour of our supplies."  He continued, "After that, you would be speaking to the Admiral."  He didn't sound too sure on what was happening.  Taking control, Aali suggested she visit their office the next day and he said, "We're at your disposal My Lady."  With that, she told the tech she'd visit their offices at 10am the next morning.  When she asked, the tech sent her directions to get to their offices, which were some distance away on the station.

Aali checked the directions and tried to figure out how to get there without a taxi?  She considered using their air-raft, but knew it would be taken in for servicing by Aiden.  He was investigating travel routes to take the vehicle in for service at the same time.  Finally, Aali was resigned to the need for a taxi.  She found Emkir and asked if he wanted to join her the next morning?  He suggestively said he would if she'd join him in their stateroom until they had to dress for the party.  Having nothing more to do between then and now, Aali surrendered to her husband's evil leer.

Random Weapons Hunts

     Zimzod started making calls with his new Order.  He called and asked if there was an office, or someone who could help him get permission to purchase an FGMP?  They said the Order had a legal group and lawyers on retainer, and Sir Zimzod could set up an appointment with them, to draw up a petition for permission.  The person he talked to also recommended he come to the Order's facilities and spend some time meeting his brother and sister Knights, to see if any of them could help or guide him.

Zimzod figured meeting with the lawyers was better than trying to write a request himself.  He was going to check out heading to Rhylanor prime when Inger announced the party.  Off the comms, Zimzod decided to put the trip off and hang until he had to dress for the party.  Until then, he sparked up a first-person-shooter video game and started blasting cartoon bad guys.  While playing, Mikah came up and asked, "So how much did that camera cost you?"  Zimzod just smiled broadly as he said, "It was worth every credit!"

Before Aiden began researching moving the air-raft, he'd given Rol the box from InstellArms.  He watched while Rol thumbed the case open to reveal a set of dog tags on a surprisingly strong looking cord.  Aiden could tell it wasn't the standard neck-chain for tags, and wondered why Rol was so paranoid about loosing them?  But as he watched, Rol pulled the tags from the box, examined them and the cord before putting them around his neck and slipping them under his shirt.  After Rol's bizarre dog tag worship, Aiden called the X-Mail office and paid the Cr 50 to have his package delivered to the ship, since he wasn't sure when he'd be able to get to their office?  They promised to ship it out by the next morning.

Getting Dressed and Ready For the Party

     When it got close to time to dress and prepare, the crew decided not to snack, or have a short meal before the party.  Mikah confirmed with Inger that the port would have food and Inger said they'd told her they were calling food services.  Inger planned to wear her slinky party dress, and chose to go without a weapon.  Zach chose to wear one of his older but nice casual suits, and to wear a belt knife in its scabbard.  He was dressed well in time for Erum's arrival.  The broker showed up in a very stylish Sylean style suit.  Mikah chose to wear her "mixed red's" party dress and her snub pistol in a thigh holster.

Once they were "done" in their stateroom and cleaning up, Aali also chose to wear one of the party outfits she'd had before joining the crew.  She also wore her snub pistol on her hip.  Emkir chose to wear the suit he'd worn to the ceremony the night before, since it had been cleaned while they slept.  With that, he wore his 9mm on his hip.  Rol wore the suit he gotten in Runips, since it was rustic enough to remind people he was a 'working Knight'.  Not so rustic that he didn't want to go unarmed, and he holstered a snub pistol on his hip.  Aiden continued wearing the suit the Order made for the funeral, even though it was a bit solemn for a party.  Zimzod made the same choice though, where Aiden wore his snub pistol, Zimzod wore an autopistol.

When they were all ready, Mikah asked Inger if they had a ride and Inger called the port to get a car for the crew.  They then hung out and chatted while waiting for the cab.  Aiden called the air-raft dealership and said the delivery would be delayed until the next day.  Then, the car picked them up and they went to the party.  Arriving, there were introductions and then people started to mix and relax.  Of course, the Knights were the primary draw for the SPA staffers, so the entire group were politely mobbed.

Objectives differed between members of the crew.  Inger just wanted to hang out and have fun with her friends.  Zimzod wanted to get laid, and started looking for a red-head but was always up for a 'Neapolitan evening'.  Zach planned to mix and mingle to meet people and make contacts, and worked the party side by side with Erum for most of the time.  While Zach was Erum's host, it turned out Erum could introduce him to some of the people there.  Emkir automatically switched into "Social party mode" as he and Aali mostly hung out and made contacts.  So did Mikah.  Not used to that environment, Aiden did his best to keep a low key profile as he mixed and mingled.

Despite this, all of the crew were 'on display', and there were many questions and conversations.  Each of them got the chance to hold their own individual "court" with those interested in meeting them.  Not surprisingly, Rol was one of the bigger draws, though Inger found herself getting a lot of attention because she'd come up through the port authority.  Zach was also noticed, especially for his exoskeleton.  And Lady Mikah was quite a draw.  Aali got another slice of Emkir's life as those officials who knew of his work on Porozlo spent time talking with him.

Next: A Good Day To Die