After finishing up in Stepozhevac, Ryddoth sent his flight plan to the IISS Base and SPA before checking his boards to make sure his ship was ready.  Ryddoth was in the pilot's seat with Radetsky in the navigator's position and Sir Brian in engineering.  Just before lifting, Ryddoth sent a final wish-list of services the Horizon needed while in-berth.  After that, they lit the engines and launched for a sub-orbital flight to the base without escort or incident.  There were no delays, though the crew sat assured of the fact that many authorities would be tracking the flight very carefully.  Off the ground, Ms. Vik found a well-reasoned opportunity to leave the lounge and have the bridge connect her to the SPA via her special frequency.  During that contact, Inger asked about missing ships in the region?  Perhaps notably unusual military or civilian ship losses.  The quick answer back was disappointing and a detailed search of Stepozhevaci contacts had found no matches with her mystery man.
Despite the protests of the Stepozhevaci, they eventually agreed the ship had to land at the IISS base for supplies and internal re-configuration.  After they were down and secure, a well-oiled and organized burst of activity formed aound the Horizon as base crews swarmed her to connect umbilicals, move in fuel lines and connect a crew access ramp along with other needed activities.  The berth was also secured against the unauthorized and the curious.  On landing, and per his contract, Councilor Saamsen insisted that all crew remain aboard the ship and, except where needed, in the crew common lounge when not in their staterooms.  Saamsen also insisted on the right to be present during all conversations between the crew and Imperial or Port officials.  While this didn't make the crew happy, it enfuriated the planet-side officials even more.
The first visitors to arrive in the berth were a group of scouts, including Porozlo Scout Commander hault-Treeasliin.  The Commander wanted to speak to the Scouts aboard.  Privately.  Councilor Saamsen was abject in his right to deny the request according to his contract, signed by the crew.  In the end, hault-Treeasliin repeated his demand, made via comms earlier in the week, that a written report be made as soon as possible.  The second incident occurred when a comms request arrived for the knights to report to the residence of the Marquis, now that they had returned to Imperial territory.
When this was refused, it resulted in a member of the Marquis' staff arriving at the ship's berth, only to be verbally chased off by Sir Zimzod, in a very aggressive manner.  He even poked the lead functionary in the chest repeatedly with his finger.  Unfortunately for both Zimzod and the Councilor, the Knight was acting on authority he not only didn't have but couldn't dream of.  Soon, Scout Ryddoth got agreements from the Lead Scout to refit the furniture and refuel the ship.  But he wouldn't sell them snub pistols, ammunition or defensive armor.  Shortly after that, a team of battledressed marines surprised everyone, arriving and setting up a defensive position that blocked all from entering or leaving the berth without their consent.  As Ryddoth stepped up to address them, three armored figures stepped through the cordon towards him.  The lead figure identified himself as Marine Major Kellic.Under The Velvet Glove
While the Major was not new to Ryddoth, his statement was a shock as the Major produced a document and announced he was "present to place the Knights under arrest, by order of the Marquis!"  Ryddoth simply nodded, saying "follow me" and turned to lead the Major into the ship.  Onboard, the Major read an official writ for the arrest of the Knights and had his troopers cuff and search each of them.  Most of their "attention" was reserved for Sir Zimzod.  Now cuffed, and over the protests of the Councilor, the Knights were led out to a waiting transport.  The Councilor was told a breach of Imperial Law terminated all contractual agreements until such time as the charges were judged.  The rest of the crew were left behind as the Knights were taken to the Marquis' residence, and directly into the presence of the Marquis himself!  The Marquis allowed both Sir Brian and Dame Mikah to be unshackled before he addressed the three, notably using the titles for Mikah and Brian but not Zimzod.  The Marquis lectured Zimzod on his arrogance and lack of understanding of the powers he served.  He reminded Zimzod of the fact their titles were not yet confirmed and may yet not be.  In short, reminding Zimzod just how small a speck he could become under the wrong circumstances.
And for his part, Zimzod completely understood, for perhaps the first time, what his title, position and recent past meant.  Not just what he had, but what it meant to him.  And most of all, how fast he was moving on a course to lose it.  Once Marquis Manerdagur was finished with Zimzod, he focused on the two main items on his agenda.  Sweeping all the knights with his gaze, the Marquis brought them back into a single group and asked, "So, now that we've dealt with that.  I'd like someone to explain to me why you attempted an armed hijack of a Tukera Long liner?"  For a moment's pause, that brought silence to the chamber.  Dame Mikah broke the silence, stepping forward and beginning, "My Lord..."  She then explained how they'd been kidnapped, forced to perform a combat mission and then dumped on the Tukera liner.  All between repeated knock-out gas attacks and other abuses.  Respectfully but honestly, Mikah laid out the line of indignities and broken laws that led to a ship who's crew very obviously knew "something" about their kidnappers.
So she proposed that it wasn't unreasonable for the three of them to be more than a bit upset.  Mikah then continued, saying they'd never had any intent to cause any damage.  They just did what they had to do under the circumstances they'd been forced into.  As she spoke, the Marquis obviously appreciated both her candor and her points.  In the end, The Marquis nodded and was very willing to accept her position as, at the least, reasonable.  Not that it would be so easy to convince their Lords Tukera, should it come to that.  Allowing the contemplative pause to finish the first piece of business, Marquis Manerdagur moved on, asking about this "contract" they had undertaken with the officials of Stepozhevac?  He was interested not only in the details of the contract, but also the circumstances of the time they'd spent in the nation already?  How they were treated, anything they learned of or saw that might be of any value with a nation so completely closed to Imperial diplomats?  Unfortunately, the Knights were caught in the trap of not knowing what they could and couldn't say?  So, for the time, they said much of the contract was covered by a non-disclosure agreement which they chose to honor for the moment.
They did point out that success in the mission could well spell improvements between the Imperium and Stepozhevac.  As a second point, they willingly shared as much as they felt they could about conditions around the airfield where the ship had sat, and the people they encountered.  Finally, as things were drawing to a close, the Marquis said he understood that the contract was protected by non-disclosure but the Knights should remember.  After a pause, he continued, "There are many things going on in the Porozlo system, and many things are happening all the time that many people believe are secret.  But you might be surprised to find that we know more about many things than you think we do.  So long as what you do doesn't harm the Imperium or its citizens, you will be fine.  But if any Imperial interests are damaged due to your actions, you 'will' be held accountable.  With that, the interview was over and the knights were escorted back to the transport.After The Meeting Was Over
From there, it was a quick ride back to the port, where the Knights were allowed to return to the ship and their 'partners'.  They learned, on their return, that despite the Councilor's displeasure, reconstruction of the staterooms had begun and would take another day in port.  During their remaining time in port, the Knights tried to hunt for the name Quasar Viper, and were very annoyed to come up with nothing new at all.  The rest of the crew also did searches and investigations based on the amount of knowledge they had.  But no one came up with anything of value.  Disappointed, and just ready to get on with it, the work was finished and the crew spent their last hours getting a full night's sleep before the hours of flight to the 100 planetary diameter jump limit.  Without telling the others, Zimzod wrote a letter to the Marquis and the Duke explaining everything, and sent it the first chance he got without the rest of the crew knowing.  Zimzod was realizing that a Knight was little more than a pawn.  But now, he was a larger pawn, and wanted to become a bigger pawn still.  But that would come in time.  Zimzod hoped to start a slow change in nature, thanks to the epiphany he'd had standing before the Marquis.
The next day, after the rest of the work was done, supplies loaded, prepared and in place, the crew took their positions and Scout Ryddoth told base flight ops they were ready to leave.  All clearances were granted, and an outbound vector was given, so the ship lifted and burned for a departure vector.  Leaving Porozlo's atmosphere was followed by hours of flight to the 100 diameter jump limit, in which Councilor Saamsen finally turned over the target coordinates for their destination.  This let Scout Ryddoth plot and enter a jump program using a tape provided by Saamsen.  Reaching the jump limit, Ryddoth took care of his last minute pre-launch settings before suddenly noticing a flashing discrete on his comm board!  Checking the incoming message, Ryddoth saw it on the special frequency the starport set up, and checked the inbound message.  He was surprised to be greeted by Administrator Saaried's voice.  Saaried was very pleased to have reached the ship before it jumped with news he considered vital to Ms. Vik.
As the ship hung there for moments, they talked and Ryddoth received the message.  Finally, he dimmed the ship's lights in traditional Imperial fashion, and released the power collected by the jump capacitors into the ship's hull as the lanthanum grid glowed to life.  Forces ripped open the very fabric of the universe and they slipped into jump.  After all stations were secured in jump, Ryddoth would deliver to Ms. Vik a short, cryptic message: "He is from Natoko".  Until then, Ryddoth would finish his work and wonder exactly which "he" was from the Natoko system?  After that, there was largely little to do for week but maintain the ship and manage its systems between sleeping, eating and practicing skills or following hobbies.  The Knights also privately talked about their discoveries from the stolen computer, and considered what use to make of it?  The Councilor relaxed in the security of jumpspace, and the others did as they pleased, letting the week pass.The Jump To Deep Space
During the jump out, Brian continued secretly working on the hand-comp from Dame Mikah while appearing to participate in ship-board life.  There wasn't much to do but see what kind of fun he could have?  He listened for info from Dame Mikah, from the Councilor and the others aboard.  Secretly, Brian shared the secrets from the hand-computer with his fellow knights as he found them.  He also made sure to copy the data to his own comp.  Brian had been targeting data files on the destroyer they were looking for before and during the jump.  He also agreed with Mikah, who wanted to talk freely without the Councilor overhearing.
Ms. Vik, who'd never lived aboard ship, was getting used to a whole new way of living in close spaces.  Something she'd not been through since 1102.  Then, she had worked in the small cramped Heroni Highport offices.  Because she wasn't there to fly or scan, her biggest job was to not spill anything she was learning to the Stepozhevaci Councilor.  Zimzod cleaned, prepared and tested his gear while partially participating in ship-board life with the crew as they traveled.  There wasn't much to do except adjust to the close quarters conditions aboard a starship.  He also made an effort to take part in Dame Mikah's work to get any data from the Stepozhevaci Councilor forced onto the crew and the others aboard.
Ship-board life was something familiar to Emkir.  Keeping an eye on Councilor Saamsen, of the Ruling Council of Stepozhevac, wasn't.  He'd been assigned to share a stateroom with Councilor Saamsen, because he was the crew 'Diplomat'.  So, rooming with the man made that job that much easier, especially as the Councilor was easy going where anything seemed not to affect the mission.  It was easy for Emkir to get him into games of chance, like poker.  As he took the Councilor's money, Emkir also got the Councilor to spill that the Stepozhevaci didn't care about the ship they were after.  They expected to gain from something found aboard the ship, and pass the vessel on to their partners.
Zimzod covered for Mikah whenever she judiciously shared word of what she learned and told the others they'd eventually need to talk freely.  Without the risk the Councilor would overhear.  By the time they were in deep space, the others in the crew had been told their employers knew a lot more than they'd said, and shared info on the expected hulk.  Including the ship's name and ID data.  Aidan took part in ship-board life, sharing activities with the crew in jump without much more to do.  He made sure to keep as far from, or out of the way of, the Stepozhevaci Councilor.  Aidan's biggest concern was the growing worry the Knights planned to kill the Councilor at the first chance, getting him involved in the murder.
At last, just over one percent off their predicted jump time, the ship's computers signaled impending precipitation from jump.  When this happened, they rushed to their stations or strapped into the lounge.  Everyone got into vacc suits except for Zimzod, who wore his battledress.  All at their posts or waiting, the ship emerged from jump space back to normal space.  On the bridge, Scout Radetsky started taking readings to verify their position against their plotted arrival.  He soon said they'd hit, plus or minus 10k Kilometers.  Secure from jump, the Councilor rushed to the bridge, realistic but hopeful for a stroke of extreme luck.  He wasn't surprised to be disappointed.  It was time to get serious as Radetsky climbed to the sensor operator's post above the bridge to use the ship's advanced and enhanced sensor suite.  As he began scanning, Ryddoth loaded the prepared search pattern they'd selected back on Porozlo, and the ship began moving into its search grid.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Hunt For the Viper