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The Morning 'Droid Hunt

     In Munarshu's stateroom, his alarm woke him bright and early as the engineer launched himself out of sleep towards being awake. By 5am, he was up and ready to begin his exercise and morning routine. This took him roughly forty five minutes, and still led to him finding himself completely alone in the ship's lounge as the clock moved towards 6am. About that time, Zimzod woke up on his own. Checking the clock, Zimzod was disappointed see his plans to 'sleep in' had failed. In the lounge, Munarshu made some caff and grabbed a foil pack to eat breakfast. When Zimzod did eventually step into the lounge, he saw the new engineer eating something and said hello. Not really caring which nickname Mikah had awarded each of the men, Zimzod simply said, "Hey Gladys" as he raised his hand in a greeting wave. Station

Ignoring the joke, Munarshu answered, "Hey Zee" with a nod of his head. Looking at the food, Zimzod asked, "What are you eating there?" and Munarshu shrugged and said, "Oh, just a foil pack and some caff." Considering they had better food supplies aboard, Zimzod said Munarshu's choice was 'kinda weird'. Munarshu pointed out there were a lot of places where it would be considered a delicacy. Shrugging and giving Munarshu an "Ok!", Zimzod went about fixing some real food for himself as well as some coffee. As the scent of the coffee began to spread, Munarshu sniffed at the brew and asked, "Is that real?" in an astonished tone. When Zimzod said it was, Munarshu was amazed, mentally comparing the value of the single cup to the large percentage of his monthly salary it represented.

Not highly concerned with the cost, Zimzod offered Munarshu a cup and the engineer wasn't stupid enough to say no. So Zimzod handed him a cup into which he'd put enough ground coffee for Munarshu to cook himself up a cup of the treasure. And as Munarshu made his cup of coffee, Zimzod grabbed a foil pack and cooked himself some food. At the same time, in her stateroom, Mikah woke in some pain. She realized this was mostly due to how she must have twisted and turned while sleeping, and was especially annoyed at how early she woke up. Ironically, Rol was also waking up in his hospital bed. After Mikah went through a shortened morning routine, she stepped into the lounge to see Zimzod finishing his breakfast. Munarshu had finished eating, cleaned up and moved to engineering until Dame Aali grabbed him for their field trip.

Shortly after Mikah got to a seat in the lounge, Aali and Emkir joined Mikah and Zimzod. When Aali asked if Munarshu was awake, Mikah said he was down in engineering. Aali nodded with a smile and said she'd grab breakfast before heading out 'droid hunting with him. Emkir grumbled that he could have used a bit more sleep to heal as Aali pointed out he needed to come with her and Munarshu to the base. As Zimzod was cleaning up, Mikah asked if she could have a cup of coffee? Zimzod said, "Sure" and made her a cup. Looking up as Aali and Emkir grabbed themselves foil packs, Emkir asked, "Can the rest of us have coffee?" and Zimzod easily said, "Sure." With permission, Emkir grabbed the fixings for a cup, brewed the mix and worshiped it as he drank.

While the couple cooked chow, Zimzod said they had to refresh the ship's food supplies and Mikah said she'd have someone do that later. She said her concerns were checking to see just how much food they needed and making sure of Skippy's dietary needs, using a new nickname for Sir Terin. Aiden was the next person to wake, and eventually grabbed a foil pack when he saw there were not leftovers from anything the others had cooked. While he'd saved two meals from the dish Sir Terin had made, Aiden wanted to save those for a later time. Once Aali finished eating and cleaned up, she asked those awake if anyone wanted to come with her and Munarshu to check out the Androids? Everyone else had other plans or wanted to relax and recover, so there were no others joining them.

After confirming they were on ship's business and could draw taxi fare from ship's funds, Aali called for a ride and got Munarshu from engineering. Emkir goit himself ready as he needed to return to the scout base offices and continue his work. Eventually, the cab picked them up and they made their way to the warehouse, dropping Emkir off first. As Aali led Munarshu to the android lot she had asked the Admiral about, the new junior engineer looked around. The "warehouse" was more correctly a number of connected station compartments which had been re-organized and connected by cutting through non-critical bulkheads. In that space were numbers of every manner of android the Imperial Navy used as the force demobilized older or roughly used units and spare hardware.

Once at the pallet Aali was interested in, Munarshu was disappointed to see the 'droids were bundled and bound to a pallet, so they couldn't run cables or use the control panels to power the units up. They did have access to a number of data ports and the workers in the warehouse were willing to lend them a hand unit for testing. This would put enough voltage into the 'droids to function test all electronic pathways and switches in each 'droid. After an hour testing the five units, they found that the five units were 58% operational, 40% operational, 14% operational, 52% operational and 34% operational respectively. More importantly, the grav-Lockdown system only tested "Good" on one of the androids, where Aali admitted to Munarshu that even Wall-e had a grav-lock that had issues.

This meant that they could only swap parts around to get one of the androids 100% operational. Based on the tests, another unit could be brought to 95% operational, but they'd have to tear apart the various grav-lock modules to see if they could repair one. Despite the dismal numbers, Aali had to admit she only expected to get one working 'droid form the batch. After they checked the data, they saw that they could get two working units if they could replace just one grab-Lock unit. Especially when the kind of units Munarshu was more impressed with would cost MCr 1.8 each new. One new LSP unit like the ones on the pallet would cost KCr 750, so they could get one and almost a second complete for KCr 500, along with a supply of spare parts. Of course, this was what Aali could determine on her own, and had brought Munarshu in hopes of finding better 'droids or a better deal. So having spent an hour with the pallet of 'droids after an hour's ride, Aali and Munarshu decided to spend four more hours looking for a better deal.

Emkir's Roll Of The Dice

     After arriving at the base, Emkir took a free on-base taxi to the proper offices to look into Captain Iligir Musnim, the man who would be assigned their case. Thanks to his work the day before, Emkir knew the office and name of the person he needed to deal with. Once at the correct address, Emkir checked on the facilities available in the office and found there were a number of logistic operations housed there, and that it was secure. That told him he'd need to trick someone into getting him into the building. Luckily, for a member of the crew of the Hotel California, this wouldn't be much of a problem.

Waiting outside the entrance, Emkir watched the workers passing in and out. Thanks to his research the day before, Emkir knew which technicians could have been assigned their application. He'd seen the basic covers of their office contact records, which were displayed whenever someone needing to work with them comm'd their desk numbers. So he knew who to look for by their names and appearances. So he waited until he saw one of Musnim's co-workers leaving the office for what appeared to be a break. Discretely following the her, Emkir saw as she went to a small shop nearby and bought some personal items. As she left the shop, he paralleled her path, to make sure she was going back to the office before stepping up his own pace to enter the building before she returned.

Entering into the vestibule before her, Emkir began asking questions about the detached services support office, knowing it wasn't even in that building. As he talked to the security officer's, he explained he was hoping his ship could apply for a contract with the office. And as the officer's respected his Admiral's rank, and Emkir timed out his conversation, he waited until the returning woman had entered and waiting as security dealt with this "lost officer". It was then Emkir said, "You asked what ship I am on. I'm crew for the Hotel California." Of course, everyone in the lobby had heard of the Hotel California. And as security became much friendlier, the others got excited by the celebrity suddenly in their midst.

And while the office Emkir was supposedly looking for could be found, with the help of security, there were others in the lobby who were interested in meeting a member of the California's crew. So when a senior member of one of the offices in the building signed Emkir in as a guest, the Admiral was gracious and friendly with all. Figuring her work could wait, Musnim's co-worker "extended" her break and followed the crowd. After twenty more minutes with the whole crowd, even the man who'd signed Emkir in admitted it was time for everyone to get back to work. As he prepared to lead Emkir back to security, the woman Emkir had targeted spoke up for reasons Emkir already knew. Emkir knew the whole office had seen their application as Musnim drew it.

Because of this, Emkir gambled that she'd want to learn more from him about the ship and crew than the others. And he gambled that she might even introduce Emkir to Captain Musnim himself. As she began walking Emkir out from the part of the building they'd been in, the woman introduced herself as Sedase Sash-Kirguu. Emkir played her, thanking her for leading him out to security while hoping she had more interest in him than he was showing in her. And as he played coy, she played her gambit, hoping to get more of his attention. So she told him which office she worked for, explaining what he already knew. That her office was currently considering the California's x-package application. Emkir continued to play it low key, saying, "I knew Lady Mikah had more angles planned than she'd told us. I guess this is one of them."

When it seemed Admiral Meshrumiikiim was dropping private information in her lap, Sedase decided to try for more. Of course, she also had to return to her desk, having appeared to have taken her entire lunch break very early, leaving her co-workers wondering. So Ms. Sash-Kirguu made the choice to bring the Admiral back to their office and introduce him around, even if it was against normal rules. Obviously, the crew of the Hotel California were not a "normal" situation. And so, Emkir got to meet Iligir Musnim. Of course, this put the Captain in a bind, because he wasn't supposed to have dealings with any of the crews he was assigned to investigate. If there were any issues uncovered, these were to be referred to investigators who would work to resolve the issue.

If they couldn't resolve the issue, the application would be denied or referred for more significant investigation. But Emkir wasn't just anyone and the California wasn't just any ship. So the office, including Captain Musnim, set aside their work to greet Emkir. Of course, whenever there were questions about his ship or at all to do with their application, Emkir made it clear he didn't want any special treatment. He was emphatic that he'd arrived in their office by mistake and coincidence. Still, he couldn't avoid those issues that would touch on their application, and he hid his awareness of Captain Musnim just as the Captain tried to hide his note-taking. Of course, Emkir knew what he was doing, and also what Musnim would do as soon as Emkir left the office.

Still, this would only get the investigation rolling and, soon enough, Emkir had to say his good byes. Once again, Sedase escorted him, though this time to security as her curiosity was satisfied. And, as he left, Emkir noted as Captain Musnim quickly turned back to his workstation and feverishly got to work. Once out of the building, Emkir found a place to sit and relax in the square between the offices, other concourses and facilities. There, he sparked up his hand-computer, logged into the IISS application site and waited. It was almost an hour and a half after he'd left Aali and Munarshu when the application status started to update. Needing a bit more time before acting again, Emkir waited for a base taxi and rode back to the warehouse where the 'droids were stored.

Once outside the warehouse, Emkir figured it was safe and comm'd Captain Musnim. Surprised, the technician asked how he could help the Admiral and Emkir turned on the charm. He said he knew he'd put the man in a bad situation by actually meeting someone who had an application with his office. When the man played it close to his own vest, Emkir said it was obvious he was the only member of that work group who was nervous about his presence, so it was clear he'd drawn their application. As Emkir's comments clearly made the technician even more uncomfortable, Emkir announced he had a way to clear the issue up. Now the Captain was leaning forward with curiosity all over his face as he waited. In the brief silence, Emkir explained that Captain Musnim could join him at a poker game that night with a number of other Admirals, to make it clear there were no special or clandestine meetings happening regarding the application.

Musnim immediately knew he should say "no" but realized he couldn't. Not just because of Emkir's visit. The added call from the Admiral to his desk would turn up in their standard weekly audits, and the Captain needed an explanation for something he could no longer hide. So he accepted the invitation and Emkir told him where and when to present himself. And as Emkir told the man to make certain the California's application was furthest from his mind, he was already lining up which Admirals he'd call to set up the poker game that night. The last thing Emkir did was perhaps the most damning. He connected his Ident to his comms and sent the man Cr 750, saying "Here's some cash to buy chips with tonight", and signed off before the man could react. Once off the comms, it took a few more minutes to reach out to some friends and set up a poker game in the officer's club, right where and when he'd told Captain Musnim to present himself. First was Admiral Saigacrem, who would certainly accept given his interest and investment in the California and her crew.

After he finished lining up the players, Emkir saw a message on his comms from Mikah. Calling her back, Emkir explained the Cr 750 from ship's funds before he went into the warehouse. A few hours after he left them, Emkir returned to Aali and Munarshu appearing very pleased with himself. When Munarshu said, "You look happy", Emkir's smile actually increased as he answered, "I am." He then gave Aali a hug and wet kiss. When Munarshu asked, "Good news?" Emkir happily said, "Yeah. I've got a poker game later tonight." Aali immediately rolled her eyes at the mention of the game. Sharing his smile as he looked from Aali to Munarshu, Emkir asked, "So Who else's up for a poker game tonight?" Without missing a beat, Aali asked Emkir, "Am I going to have to punish you tonight?" Emkir leaned against her sensuously saying, "Make it hurt so good..." as Munarshu realized he might have to just walk away.

As their junior engineer considered being elsewhere, Emkir asked if he wanted to play and Munarshu said, "I could try to play." Smiling, Emkir said, "Great! Your money is just as good as anyone else's." Munarshu suggested he'd prefer to go as an observer and Aali quietly suggested it might be better not to go if he wasn't going to play. Turning to Emkir, Aali said, "I probably shouldn't go either." and Emkir protested that he wanted to show her off. As Aali held firm, Emkir was bummed but he did tell them he'd managed to get their application fast-tracked. And he hoped to win back the cash he'd paid the man Emkir said he'd paid off. At least some of it.

Bynames And Battle Toys

     Aboard the ship, Mikah decided to relax after breakfast. As she watched vids with Zimzod, Aiden had sniffed the scent of coffee and asked if he could have some too? Zimzod said, "Damn! He's perceptive, ain't he?" and got a laugh from Mikah as he told Aiden the fixings were on the counter. This continued to astound Aiden as Zimzod graciously shared the treasure. Once Zimzod and Mikah watched, and Aiden ate his foil pack, Terin stepped out of his stateroom and looked at who was present saying, "Hi everyone." After Terin realized it was "foil packs for all" he popped one in the galley's cooker and then started making some morning tea. In addition to himself, Terin made a cup for Mikah, who was surprised and thanked the knight.

Despite the moment, Mikah continued, asking Terin "Please sit, Sir Skippy. We have to talk about your special dietary needs, being that you're Darrian and all." Ignoring the pet name, Terin said, "I can pretty much eat what I want, now that I had my stomach fixed." Mikah accepted that saying, "Oh. I didn't even know you could fix your stomach." Terin, who had assumed the Order had told them about his injuries in the military, explained the wounds he'd received in combat and the issue it caused after the fact. After he confirmed he could eat anything, Mikah explained that they were preparing to stock up the ship's food supplies and wanted to be sure what they could or should order.

That done, Terin asked them if there had been any leftover pizza from the night before and was told there wasn't. As a joke, Mikah said they had leftovers of the stuff he'd made, and Terin made a face and made it clear that didn't come out at all edible. That got another laugh from Mikah and Zimzod. When Inger came out of her stateroom, Mikah asked about the information from the port? Inger told Mikah what she'd gotten, saying they had no problems performing any religious ceremony the crew wanted. Inger also told Mikah she should consider seeing some shows, since the crew had time. Mikah acerbically said she would as soon as she was done healing. When Inger pointed out that sitting in a theater was pretty relaxing, Mikah lifted the cup Terin gave her saying, "That's what the tea's for."

Confused, Inger asked, "The tea? What's with that?" and Mikah said, "I don't know. Skippy made it for me." As she spoke, she indicated their new navigator, Sir Terin. Reacting to the stream of confusing comments, Inger asked, "Skippy?" Mikah said, "Skippy" in a tone that indicated Inger should understand already. When Mikah reinforced that, saying, "Sir Skippy." and again gestured at Sir Terin, the navigator said "I guess she has pet names for people?" Nodding, Inger said, "OK. Skippy. I can deal with that." Terin said, "Call me Geryen." and Dame Inger went for the intentional joke, answering, "Ok Skippy." This got laughs from Mikah and Zimzod but not from Terin, who just nodded in acceptance.

After watching vids for a while, Zimzod finally decided to try and get something done. Moving to a terminal, Zimzod called Duke Leonard's office and began exploring his options on getting permission from the Duke to buy and use an FGMP-15. The technician who dealt with the initial questions and answers realized this was beyond his authority and transferred Zimzod to another representative. After briefly looking into the data the first technician provided him, the next representative asked Zimzod "why" he felt he needed an FGMP-15? When Zimzod suggested it could prove necessary if they traveled to the Hammermium system, the representative asked for more of an explanation. As he did, the tech pointed out that Hammermium was a secure and law-abiding member world of the Imperium, which wasn't under any particular threat.

Considering his options, Zimzod simply said, "That's classified." When the representative asked, "According to what organization?" Zimzod suggested it had to do with the crew trying to hunt down the ships which had attacked the Selat Atrara salvage platform. Given that, the representative asked if they were mercenaries? When Zimzod said they were not mercenaries but were knights, the representative asked if His Grace had tasked them with hunting the ship's down? Hoping to turn the tide without lying outright, Zimzod said, "Not yet." With that, the representative became very formal as he asked if Sir Zimzod felt an infantry heavy weapon would help his crew fight the mystery ships in a naval engagement, if they did track the ships down?

Zimzod suggested they might find the ships and need to conduct a boarding action, needing the weapon. Zimzod was disappointed when the representative suggested they get tracking data on the ship's, if his crew found them, and then call in reinforcements. He also advised against carrying a massive and rarely-legal infantry weapon which could easily fall into the incorrect hands with bad or fool-hardy planning. As Zimzod thanked the man for his advice and cut the connection, he let the others in on his disappointing results. Coming up with a better idea, Mikah told Zimzod to call the Arch Duke's office. Once on the line, she had him request permission to purchase the weapon as the head of Lady Mikah's bodyguard.

Once they were talking to a representative of the Arch Duke, that representative was curious what threat Lady Kirlim was under that warranted this level of weapons? With Mikah on the line, she answered "Many threats" while Zimzod pointed out she had been shot two days before. His comment was so unexpected that Mikah had to fight her own laughter. The representative admitted that he had heard about the shooting, but said he understood the event was an ambush by thugs that she accidentally walked into. Zimzod tried to play the conspiracy card saying, "Maybe that's what they wanted us to think?" But the man missed no beats saying, "Sir Knight, I'm a government employee. They don't pay me to think."

Mikah mentioned the Stepozhevaci and the man looked up the very public data file on what was known about the crew's involvement with them. He said it was the understanding of the Arch Duke's office that the Stepozhevaci were not a threat unless the crew landed in their territory. Looking a bit deeper into the file, the man also said it appeared that if the crew did that, the classes of weapons which could be brought against them might only be as dangerous as the ones used in the ambush. But it was clear the Stepozhevaci did not appear to be a real threat at all. Laying it on the deck, because he was getting tired of the questions, Zimzod said, "I'm a knight, I'm not dangerous and I want one!"

The Arch Duke's man answered by nodding his understanding as he said what he could do was point them to the proper forms. He then explained the steps they needed to take in order to apply for permission to buy an FGMP-15. But he made it clear he could not promise them anything, including the Arch Duke's support. Zimzod was gracious in saying, "Well, that's good enough for me. Thank you." They then spent the next few minutes following the representative's instructions as he led them to where to find the correct forms and listening to how to fill them out and submit them. As Zimzod and Mikah started to work on the forms, they considered that "official" channels were not working for them as well as they might have hoped.

As they worked, they considered other options. They knew they could incorporate as a mercenary unit, but that would force them to take missions. And few of those would allow them the control and comfort they'd like. And that wasn't worth an infantry weapon of any class. Nor would that even get them permission to buy the weapon automatically. They'd still need to start applying and wait for the paperwork to be done. As they went through their options, Zimzod mentioned the advice Sir Gihe Rielepo gave them when they'd called him. As he mentioned that, Mikah got a text ping on her comms. When she read it, it appeared someone had spent Cr 750 of ship's funds! Checking the transaction codes, Mikah saw the funds were transmitted from Emkir's comms, so she called the Admiral to ask what they were getting for their cash?

But she only got a recording. After the tone, Mikah said, "Emkir... For Cryin' out loud. Keep your comms on. Call me as soon as you get this." Once she signed off, Mikah and Zimzod went back to their options. They could go mercenary, or fill out the paperwork and find someone to bribe. Outside that, they could try visiting high-tech systems with reduced legal restrictions or little government in hopes of finding one to buy there. But that meant they'd have to smuggle the weapon into almost every Imperial system or risk both losing it to an inspection and being fined, or arrested. So the drawbacks sucked. But Zimzod filled out the paperwork for permission. Mikah considered that it would be two more days before the first of the surgeries, and considered what to do with the time?

Emkir Plans A Gamble

     As she considered the new crew, and thought about "Skippy's" interest in herbs, Mikah decided to show him how to make the 'vargr juice' Inger ran into in the Inthe system. Mikah figured that would blow the top off his brain and show him what real drugs and herbs could do. When she invited Terin into the med-bay to watch, Terin asked "Vargr juice?" Mikah said it was enough to take down a Vargr. But as she led Terin into the bay, Mikah's comms went off. Answering in an annoyed voice, Mikah demanded, "What?" then saw the code and realized it was Emkir. She then changed her tone saying, "Emkir! Hi. Did you just take Cr 750 from the ship's accounts?" In a very satisfied voice, Emkir answered "Yes, your Captain-ship, I did." Allowing a heartbeat's pause, Mikah said, "Oh! You're sounding way too pleased with yourself. What'd you do?"

Not at all bothered by her question, Emkir said, "Well, you should be pleased too. I got us on the fast list!" When Mikah said "OK" in a tone that showed she was not sure why that was good, Emkir explained, "So we are probably going to be certified to carry x-Parcels." Mikah said, "Cool." but still uncertain, asked, "In the next two weeks or so?" Letting a pause play out, Emkir answered, "Well, that depends on the poker game tonight." as Mikah sighed and realized they were lost. With a harder edge to her voice, Mikah asked, "What poker game?"

When Emkir asked, "You remember my Admiral friends", Mikah almost growled, "Yes, I do. Very well." Not letting any dust settle, Emkir said, "The Captain in charge of investigating us was a very friendly sort. And as we were talking, as you've already noticed, I had to loan him Cr 750." Of course, Emkir stressed the word "loan". Continuing, Emkir said, "Then, I asked him if he was a poker man, and he said he was. And I said, Well, I can probably scare up a game of poker."

When Mikah still sounded concerned, Emkir lied, telling her the Captain was still not convinced they should be certified, even with the cash in his hands. But when he started calling his friends the Admirals, the Captain was duly impressed. Putting "a bit more" into it, Emkir promised that the Captain said he'd expedite their paperwork. He even said he hoped to know "when" they would be certified by the end of the game.

Perhaps getting deeper into the hole he had dug, Emkir invited Mikah to play and she said she didn't think so. Still happy with himself, Emkir said, "OK, no problems." When Mikah said she'd get the word out, Emkir said she should see if Rol felt healthy enough to come, since he was getting out of the hospital later. Not thinking Rol would be up to it, Mikah told everyone aboard about Emkir's invitation and told them to comm him if they were interested? Terin shrugged and said, "Well, if he pays I'll go", which got a laugh out of everyone in the lounge. Mikah had to fight the laughter, given the pain it caused, as she said "You don't know Emkir very well, do you?" Zimzod dubbed Terin "the Village Idiot".

As Terin shrugged, not knowing what the joke was all about, Mikah said "Unless you're Aali, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, He's not paying for anything for anybody." Because the media said all the knights aboard were rich, Terin decided he needed to learn more about the crew, outside what the news claims were. Pushing past that conversation, Terin said, "So show me about this Vargr juice", which got Mikah's attention back. But once they were in the med-bay, Terin discovered that most of the ingredients for this cocktail were heavy stuff, real drugs and controlled substances that he'd never think of touching. As he watched and she worked, Mikah explained the circumstances surrounding Dame Inger's "date" and the events on Inthe.

Mid-Day With Little Direction

     Once Zimzod finished the forms, he realized the "official" way to do this sucked and he decided to go schmooze a bit more at the Order's member rooms, to see what he could find. After a Cr 15 taxi ride, Zimzod spent the rest of the morning there making contacts. And while Rol relaxed and waited for more tests or updates on his condition and looked forward to returning to the ship, Aiden did some gear maintenance. Inger stopped by the Med-bay to talk to Mikah about the port doing a Darrian ceremony for Zach and the crew and only wanted to know how many people the knights expected would attend the funeral? She said a guess was good as the port needed to know how much space they'd need? Mikah said she would call the Duke's Seneschal and tell them know what the crew had planned. As Inger left, Mikah grabbed her comms.

Once she got on line with the Duke's office, Mikah updated them on what was decided. She also made it clear they wanted to plan the event with an eye to the Duke's convenience, since he wanted to speak at the event. While talking, she also did her best to fish for an idea how large the event could get, based on their data and experiences. While uncertain how many of the local nobility might come to the funeral "just because", a guessed maximum was around 100 people not counting event staff. Then, there would be walk-in traffic. When Mikah asked when was convenient for the Duke, they said they'd just need to give His Grace twenty four hours warning so his schedule could be changed. Considering the surgeries they planned, Mikah suggested they set the date of the funeral for the 306th day of the year. That was the day after the last operations. After that, Mikah went back to working with Terin and made a liter of vargr juice before lunch. When they started to get hungry, those still at the ship grabbed foil packs to eat from.

In the hospital, Rol had a visit from his doctor along with lunch, and was told things were looking good for them to release him back to his ship. When Rol asked about returning to work and workouts, he was advised to give it a few weeks. Once done with the doctor, Rol called Mikah to tell her they were planning to release him soon. He also asked if she'd set up a date to implant his stent? Mikah said that she had scheduled him to go back under the knife. When she told him it would be on the 303rd day at 1pm, Rol thanked her and said he had to call his insurance company. Once the call was done, Rol called his insurer and updated them. They reminded him they'd be watching, as this would decide if his policy should continue or be canceled. After that, Rol endured the continuing medical care until he was released.

As Mikah cut her side of the connection and decided to relax again, there was a buzz from the entrance to their berth. Looking around, Mikah asked, "Anybody expecting anyone?" When no one answered, Mikah checked the cameras data the berth entry to see station security waiting there. Terin, answered the comms first, and asked what he could help them with? The lead of the small group said they had a parcel to drop off to the ship's captain. Asking what it was, they announced they could only reveal that to the captain or acting captain. Terin then asked for their Idents and the three men plugged their devices into the door's comms-pad, proving their credentials.

At the same time, Mikah looked over at Inger and said, "Hey Ms. Vik. You're action captain." Inger replied, I can't. I'm a port administrator", suggesting there might be some conflict of interest. When Mikah pointed out, "you're retired" Inger reminded her that a Port Administrator outranked a ship's captain. Still, Mikah persisted and Inger eventually said, "Sure, what do you need?" Mikah just told her to go out and find out what the group were delivering? Shrugging, Inger said "Sure, why not." and headed out to the berth entrance wondering why Mikah suddenly felt the need to delegate?

As the men examined her Ident, which didn't indicate she was in the ship's command staff, Mikah overheard while listening at the comms console. Jumping into the debate about to begin, Mikah announced, "She's the acting captain because I just got shot", and killed the comms to punctuate her point. Shrugging at the odd behavior, the lead officer addressed Inger and explained that they had recovered a weapon from the shootout scene. From the testimony, it was made clear the gauss pistol had been the property of the late Sir Zachariah Wood. They had recovered it after Sir Rol Kaihvos dropped it, and were now returning it to the ship, since it was no longer needed for evidence.

Once the delivery was done, Inger returned with the gauss pistol and handed it over to Mikah. She planned to put it in the ship's locker with the rest of Zach's leftover gear. But as she headed for the bridge, Mikah decided to swap her gauss pistol for Zach's and put her old one in the ship's locker. As she did this, she found Aiden on the bridge, who had sat down to do some refresher work on his navigational skills before doing some basic calisthenics. As he did that, Terin hit a terminal and dug back into the port's herbal forums again. He also spent some time investigating places to jog or run for exercise. But as he looked into that, he saw many references from those who just ran along the various concourses of the station as opposed to paying to use a facility.

As Terin planned his afternoon out, he considered that he certainly didn't want to wear anything that identified himself as either a member of the Order or a member of the crew. As he thought about that, Terin realized he hadn't seen any artwork for the ship or its crew and asked about that. He was told the crew specifically didn't have artwork created for the ship. Shrugging, Terin said he'd be spending a few hours doing research before going out for a two-hour run. He asked if any of the others wanted to come along? They just glared back at him for a moment before ignoring him all the more.

Mikah sat down and pulled up some medical journals, in order to keep up. During lunch and after, Zimzod worked the members at the Order's common rooms, doing his best to make connections. While eating a Cr 20 lunch there, Zimzod considered his progress, looking for weapons and ministry contacts. He realized he'd gotten a lot of names but not found a lot of help. Still, given his options, Zimzod figured he'd keep at it until he found a better contact or some other inspiration struck.

Technical Manuvers

     At the android warehouse, the workers there brought the three lunch as they continued to search through a literal horde of powered-down devices of all classes. By the end of the afternoon's search, the only items of interest they'd found were a lot of five '1 foot tall' basic maintenance 'droids which tested from the hand unit at nearly 100% operational. And when they checked, the lot were set to open bidding at KCr 100. Not rated for engineering, theses were ship-board "housekeeping" systems. The only real value the three thought the 'droids could provide would be cleaning the ship's services ducts. Doing some research, they found the 'droids were worth KCr 40 each.

A bit later, they found a pallet containing two R-series engineering 'droids where one tested 98% operation and the other tested as spare parts, at best. When they checked with the warehouse staff, they found that lot would open bidding at MCr 1.5. When Munarshu checked, they were series two androids of the R Class, and he was very curious what was working on the dead unit? The rumors from those working the warehouse were that the Navy expected this lot to draw heated bidding, casting doubt the Admiral would help them with it. Beyond that, the three didn't find much of value, and Munarshu decided not to spend the rest of the afternoon on tests for an android set they'd not likely get.

In the end, Aali decided to call the ship and talk to Mikah. Once on the line with Mikah, Aali described what they'd found, not only about the first lot but also what they learned about the new 'droids. When asked, Aali said she didn't think they could get the R-class 'droid lot Munarshu liked for a good price if they could afford it at all. That said, she still liked the first lot of LSP 'droids because she felt they could get two of them completely operational with a little extra cost. That would give her three 'droids and two humans working the engineering section, which she'd feel comfortable with. Aali also mentioned the housekeeping android lot, but pointed out it was a KCr 100 lot too. Considering Aali's thoughts, Mikah told her they should try for both the LSP 'droids and the housekeeping units too.

As Aali was talking to Mikah, Emkir made a play for ship funds to cover a bit more of their trip. He asked is, since everyone's missions were going so well, it would be OK for them to have dinner on the ship's funds? When Mikah asked if he was talking about the whole crew going out for dinner, Emkir said he meant Munarshu, Aali and himself, since they were so far from the ship. That clarified, Mikah said no, and said they could easily get back to the ship before dinner. Mikah also pointed out that the ship was even paying for them to get back home. She also said they could see who would cook makes dinner, since Rol wasn't likely to feel up to it, and Emkir gave in. As he did, Mikah looked at Terin and said, "See what I mean about a cheap bastard?"

Once off the line with Mikah, Aali called Admiral Kiamman again, to continue chasing the first lot and to tell her they were interested in the housekeeping 'droid lot too. Aali played down the value of the housekeepers, suggesting they were unlikely to sell for the opening price as used, and they were low-functioning. The Admiral confirmed she had the correct details on the new lot and said, "Well, we'll see what happens." before obviously checking another screen. Looking back into her comms, Admiral Kiamman said she'd gotten the paperwork back on the LSP lot and it appeared they could let the crew buy that pallet out-right for the opening bid.

Order Up At The Corner Hospital

     When Rol called the ship for a ride back, Mikah considered who to send until Terin stepped up to volunteer. Looking at the new navigator, Mikah said, "But you don't even know him." Terin shrugged and said, "He's a fellow crew member." When she was doubtful, Terin reminded her she was recovering from being shot and shouldn't be driving around. Once he convinced her, Mikah told Rol, who was still on the comms, "I'm sending Sir Skippy to pick you up." Rol skeptically asked, "Sir Skippy? Is he armed?" and Mikah said she was certain he had two while holding in her own laughter at the joke. Rol asked, "OK, what does he look like?" Mikah accessed Terin as she said, "Uhh, Darrian."

When Rol asked, "Another one?" referring to Zach, who had been half-Darrian, Mikah said, "Yeah. A real one this time." Rol told Mikah he'd be waiting out front for the ride. Once that was done, Terin went out to the berth to talk to the leader of the current guard shift to ask about their driver. As they talked, Terin wasn't surprised to see that he'd not met the man, as there were many members of the Order in-system and all of those available had been mustered by the Order. After a quick discussion with him, Terin was soon in their gravCar riding to the hospital. And as they rode, they talked about events and traded guesses at what was really happening?

When they pulled up, Terin recognized Rol, even from a distance, as he'd seen the knight often enough in news coverage. As Rol watched the traffic flow, he eventually saw a gravCar settle and two men climb out. One was in the uniform of their shared Order and the other was a short dark-haired man who Rol thought was definitely Not Darrian. At first, the short dark man waived and, when Rol didn't immediately react, walked up to Rol. As the former Marine said "Hello?" in a confused voice, Terin asked, "Sir Rol?" Rol said, "Umm, yes?" in a still confused voice and Terin said, "I'm Sir Terin Yundis Geryen, and I'm a new member of your crew."

After pausing to consider that, Rol cautiously said, "I was waiting for Sir Skippy. Is he around?" He looked past Terin to the uniformed knight as he spoke. Terin forced a smile and swallowed the joke as he answered, "No, He couldn't make it." Still not sure, Rol held one hand up while reaching for the other and said, "Umm, one moment." As Terin waited patiently, Rol comm'd Mikah and said, "I have someone here who's not skippy." At first, not sure what Rol's problem was, Mikah realized he wouldn't have introduced himself as "Skippy". So Mikah asked, "Oh, is he Terin the Darrian", playing on the rhyme for all it was worth. Rol looked at the short man and said "Terin", as half question and half confirmation. Terin spoke in confirmation as Mikah said, "Yeah, that's skippy."

Nodding, Rol said, "Got it" and ended the call as he said to Terin, "OK, I guess you're my ride?" Terin confirmed, "Yes." Rol said, "Well, good to meet you. I guess we'd better get going." As they helped Rol into the gravCar, Rol asked what Terin's new position on the ship was. Terin said he was their new navigator. Nodding as he settled in, Rol asked, "OK. You've done this before?" When Terin said, "Yes" Rol said, "good, we could use a good navigator." Once they were all in the vehicle and settled in, Rol asked Terin about his past and the navigator said he had been in the Scout service.

As they traded war stories, Rol asked if Terin had been to the Efate system and Terin said he hadn't. Talking about his interests, Terin said he was into herbalism, specifying plants and spices. Terin also said he researched their usage and medicinal values. When Rol asked if Terin was more into the medicinal side of things, alluding to recreational uses, Terin missed the suggestion saying he was involved in all sides of herbalism. Rol asked how Terin found out about the ship and Terin explained how he was pretty much placed by their Order. Rol was surprised Terin was in the Order and Terin said Knight Commander Trekera had been the one to recommend him to the crew.

Terin said he was "pretty good" with weapons when Rol asked, and "not so good" when Rol asked about hand to hand. Terin did say he really wanted to work on his skills in zero-g. When Rol asked about his experience troubleshooting, Terin admitted he wasn't sure what Rol was asking. Rol said he meant 'working free-lance to solve problems from system to system'. Terin admitted he hadn't had a lot of experience working free-lance but had a career as a Scout, so he was up for anything. Terin said the ship was interesting when Rol asked what he thought about the Hotel California? That reaction got a laugh from Rol. As he chuckled, Rol admitted they ran a rather unusual ship.

Terin confessed to having seen a bit about them in the news over the recent weeks and Rol said they got along fairly well with their friends. Terin said he was at the funeral for the dead of the INS Khurmumshuuna Khangu. Rol nodded as Terin asked what he did on the ship? When Rol confirmed he was asking what role Rol held in the crew, he joked, "I shoot things. I get shot." Terin just nodded saying, "I see that." in a tone that suggested he approved of how well Rol had been doing his job. Finishing up the comic bit, Terin said, "You're getting good at that part, huh", which comment even got a laugh from the knight driving. Getting more serious, Rol said he was a some-time advisor and that he kept everyone's armor up and running.

Terin was pleased as he said, "Oh, you're an armorer! Great." Rol nodded and said, "I get a lot of work too." in a satisfied tone. Turning the conversation back, Rol asked how long Terin expected to stay aboard the ship? Terin said, "At least two years." and Rol connected the dots saying, "Oh! You're the guy on long-term contract to us then?" As Terin admitted that was true, Rol asked, "What possessed you to do that?" Terin explained that he wanted to get a stent and had no money, so this was the best way to get what he wanted. When Rol suggested the fee was perhaps not what he thought would be worth it, Terin pointed out that he hadn't planned to leave the ship any time soon anyway. Rol said, "Well, that's most definitely assured now." in an slightly sarcastic tone. As Terin ignored the tone and agreed, Rol said, "I guess you will work out one way or another.

Getting back to his specialties, Rol asked if Terin had any training at all in hand to hand, and Terin said he'd had a bit here and there but was not skilled. Especially compared to Rol, as a former Marine Commando. Rol admitted that his own training had been, "Patchy" as he patted some of his bandages. Terin ignored what appeared to be an inside joke Rol had with himself as he said he was always up for learning new things. He also told Rol he was somewhat skilled with a sword and Rol asked what kind of sword? As Terin said, just a regular straight out sword, Rol asked if he had any skill with a cutlass. Terin said, "Not that kind of sword." When Rol asked Terin how long he'd been in the Scouts, Terin said 16 years.

Rol said, "So you didn't get all the way to retirement then?" At that, Terin admitted he'd gotten shot up fairly badly fighting Zhodani commandos in the Lanth system. He said he'd been on a scout cruiser which had just finished frontier refueling when a Zhodani war fleet arrived to make a grab for the gas giant and refuel. The squadron his ship was in scattered. Rol realized that would have been their only chance of survival, given the vast difference in their numbers. As Terin talked, he remembered their attempt to flee to the 100 diameter mark so they could safely jump out of the system. From there, Terin described the attack by the teleporting Zhodani commandos and the desperate fight for the ship.

As Terin talked, and Rol asked questions, the navigator described a force Rol had been trained to fight but ironically never had faced in person. The literal "ultimate nightmare" of an Imperial Navy crewperson. A force of well-armed, armored and extremely well-trained commandos who didn't need to fight their way into your ship or cut their way through the hull or bulkheads. They just concentrated and appeared inside an enemy vessel's most secure compartments. And Terin's duty station, as a navigator, had been on the ship's bridge. So he'd been in the thick of one of the fights for control of the cruiser. Rol nodded with respect saying, "But you're still here." and Terin pointed out it was not without luck as he'd taken a laser weapon gut wound.

When Rol said he had been very fortunate, Terin said the trooper who wounded Terin thought he'd killed the scout and was leaving him for dead. And as the trooper moved to pass, Terin had emptied his magazine at the figure and torn the Zhodani commando apart. Nodding, Rol said, "Well, you are a very fortunate man." and then joked, "Up til now." Ignoring the sudden jab, Terin said, "Yeah, I've always had a bit of luck, which is a good thing." He said the pilot of their cruiser made an emergency jump in the middle of the battle, from the 50 diameter point. And despite the many risks taken, their luck served them well and they didn't die in a misjump. Eventually, the conversation continued through the return to the Hotel California.

Plans Before Dinner

     As Rol returned, he saw everyone was glad to have the cook back. Entering the lounge, Rol looked around couldn't help but notice that many visible items were out of place in the galley. They appeared to be clean, but out of place. Using it as a relaxing exercise while not wanting to sit down just yet, Rol began setting the galley to rights. While he did that, and after they welcomed Rol back to the ship, Terin went back to the herbology forums. The others went about their evening activities.

Mikah told Inger to call the port and tell them the funeral would be in five days, and they'd need space for at least 100 people plus walk-ins and food service. Mikah also had her tell the port they'd decided to have a Darrian ceremony. Once Inger got on the line, the conversation she had with station central was friendly and relaxed. once the details were settled, they asked Inger if any of the crew wanted to come to a concert? Telling her friend to hold on, Inger asked those still aboard who was interested? When Mikah asked, "What kind of concert?" Inger said "Traditional Rhylanori Music." Hearing the offer, Terin said he'd go, as did Aiden. Considering the offer, Mikah agreed too. Rol sain no thanks as he just wanted to relax and recover.

Once the details were set, they started preparing for the evening out before the port's car came to pick them up. The evening plans not only included the concert, but dinner and transportation too. At the same time, at the Order's facilities, Zimzod's continued hours of hob nobbing brought him to the attention of Baron Sir Kelslundt. The Baron admitted he "might know a guy." Zimzod took that to very definitely mean his "contact" was unofficial to say the least. When they talked about what this guy might be able to help with, Baron Kelslundt said the man could help in getting a Naval permit to own an FGMP-class weapon. The Baron made it clear this was not a guarantee, but thought his contact could help Sir Zimzod. Then Zimzod would have to go shopping.

When Zimzod said he'd be very appreciative to be connected with the Baron's contact, Kelslundt bumped him an address and said, "Stop by for drinks tonight." in a friendly tone. Checking the address, Zimzod said, "OK. I'll do that." Knowing he couldn't make any decision without knowing the ship's plans, Zimzod decided to call Mikah and get her to join him. When he called her and explained the invitation he had, Mikah decided she should be there to make sure Zimzod didn't trade the ship away for his toy. So she told Zimzod she'd join him and let Inger know her plans had changed. Inger then called the port to say there'd be one less.

Unfortunate Evenings Out

     For those staying with the ship, Rol cooked dinner, and Mikah and Zimzod stayed to eat before leaving. As he went to check what the others had used for food while he was in the hospital, Rol was told they'd mostly been eating from foil packs. Terin dressed in his expensive suit and was ready and waiting as Rol was finishing cooking. Seeing the knight work, he offered Rol any herbs or spices he might want. But Rol had things in hand and only thanked Terin for the offer. Having some minutes as the others dressed, Terin logged into a terminal to check his responses. Now that he had a permanent berth, Terin had been able to be more forward in looking for sources. He saw a few responses from people whose ID's he thought he could trust.

As he was getting ready to sign off, an email arrived from a 'Doctor Pimiliseho' asking if Sir Terin was working with Admiral Meshrumiikiim? Looking around, Terin realized the Admiral and his wife must have gone into their stateroom and decided he'd ask the Admiral about it at another time as he logged off. While the others were changing for their evening plans, Zimzod returned to the ship to change and to pick up Mikah. Mikah chose to wear her black party dress, though she used the bustle to hide the gauss pistol she'd swapped for. She also used her thigh holster for her snub pistol, loaded with ball ammunition and put two extra magazines in her purse. Of course, for that Mikah needed a raid into Zach's left over ammunition, as she had no ball ammo for that weapon.

Zimzod dressed in the uniform of the Order, wearing his executive armor beneith. He also had his vibro-cutlass and .45. For the concert, Inger dressed in her black gown and hung one of her 9mm's from her hip. She also had her blade and ankle scabbard. Aiden got into one of his suits and armed himself with his snub pistol, now loaded with tranq and ball ammunition. Terin also put on a suit and armed himself with a snub pistol. He loaded a ball ammo magazine into the weapon and brought one magazine each of ball and tranq. Terin also wore his best pair of sunglasses.

Eventually, the car from the port arrived for the three and they went to dinner out. As Inger introduced Terin and Aiden to the Port's Executive Director, both men were surprised to be dealing socially with someone with the power of a system governor or even Marquis or Baron. This also further served to remind them that Inger had been one of these people and moved in those circles. It also made them wonder what power she could wield if she chose to pull the right strings? Aiden also wondered why she had played things so low key, given the access she had?

The director and those others with him were pleased to be introduced to one of the new members of the California's crew. In addition, Aiden carried with him the cache of his recent knighting, at the hands of Grand Duchess Delphine. As the evening proceeded, the men enjoyed an expensive and all-expenses paid dinner at a very fine restaurant before heading off to the theater for the concert. There, the conversation was good, if hushed to not bother the rest of the audience. But the men also found it necessary to pass the time as the music was not only not to their tastes, but most agreed the music...SUCKED!" Despite their opinions, Inger seemed to enjoy it fairly well. Afterwards, the drinks and conversation were interesting and educational, and the two men found the contacts valuable.

After dinner on the ship, Mikah and Zimzod grabbed a Cr 20 taxi to the address the Baron had given Zimzod. As they traveled, Mikah and Zimzod discussed what little Zimzod knew of the Baron and decided to check him on the cab's port-link. The information on the port database said the Baron actually worked for the Order, supporting their presence on the port station. This explained why he had a residence on-station. His "Primary estate" was actually on Rhylanor Prime. Checking on that more, the location of his estate, which they saw was part of the Hereditary title, was in a very expensive neighborhood.

As they dug into the history of the title, they learned the Baron's family had their title since before the Aella family passed the Rhylanor Duchy to the Stephanos family. So the Baron's family had their title since from before the period of the Second Frontier War and Imperial Civil War. This guy's title, and perhaps his connections, went way back. Both knights were encouraged to wonder how deep they reached? As they arrived, the Baron's house staff greeted them and brought them to the Baron, who warmly welcomed them and offered drinks. The Baron also admitted he was a bit embarrassed to be in casual clothes as they had dressed up.

Zimzod said he wasn't sure what to expect as he and Mikah noticed the staff cleaning up a bit more. When Zimzod said that wasn't needed, the Baron said others were coming and appearances needed to be kept up. Soon enough, as they talked, a servant arrived to say, "Your Excellency, your other guests have arrived." Once the Baron ordered them shown in, the butler led in a man dressed as a dock worker followed by a woman in station-trash couture. As Mikah and Zimzod looked the couple up and down, it appeared they had tattoos from their hair lines to their toes, if their exposed flesh were any indication. This screamed, "Underworld Involved".

It was obvious that neither was wearing armor, or had an obvious weapon. And both were fairly shocked when they saw Zimzod and Mikah. As the couple got over their surprise, the man comfortably led his woman to sit with him as if he were comfortable in the Baron's home. The message was that they'd been there before as they accepted drinks the staff delivered without asking preferences. After a brief pause as everyone settled in, and without waiting to be introduced, the man off-handedly asked Zimzod, "So, how can I help you?" Looking around the room at the others before deciding 'what the hell', Zimzod told him he was looking to get permission to own an FGMP-15.

The man asked, "So...you folks are crew on a ship?" and Zimzod said they were. After another pause, the man asked, "How much cargo space you got?" and Zimzod said "15 tons." When he asked them when their ship was scheduled to leave the system, Mikah said they planned on leaving in two weeks, but also pointed out they were applying for x-Parcel certification so having a 7 ton safe installed might take some more time. After nodding and considering that, the man asked if they planned a destination and Mikah admitted they hadn't discussed it with the crew but were likely to be bound for the Hammermium system. When the man asked if that was a firm destination, Mikah said it could change and the man nodded again.

Leaning forward finally, the man said, "OK. So here's the deal. If you were an agent of a certain government, that government could give you permission to carry the weapon you're interested in as an agent of their government. If you want to be an agent of the government, in this case, you could do that government a favor. And it just so happens we have a cargo we need moved, and we'd rather not send it through regular channels. It's not a particularly large cargo, and if you'd be willing to carry and deliver this no questions asked... If you were interested in carrying this cargo and it got to its ultimate destination unmolested, then we're certain that government would have no problem completing the paperwork to make you agents and grant you permission to own the weapon." Of course, that also didn't address the KCr 700 list price of the weapon and its powerpack. And that was Imperial Military list price, which civilians never got.

As Mikah and Zimzod considered the lack of information provided, the man continued, saying that Zimzod would then be able to go to Instel-Arms and buy any weapon they could afford. They would also be able to own any weapon, unless it was used to violate any Imperial laws. When it appeared to the man that the knights were considering his offer, he added that they could see their way to giving the crew a payment of Cr 10,000. Of course, everyone knew that KCr 10 was nothing compared to the cost of fuel they'd use in even one jump. While it was obviously an up-front good-faith measure, the fact was the man and his squeeze were connected to the underworld. And while they were not even necessarily polite, they were obviously there to cut a deal.

And just as obviously, the Baron had invited them as well as Zimzod. The more it was apparent the knights might be having issues with the discussion, the more blunt the man became. And there was no way of knowing if the girl was decoration or just being quiet until she decided how she should react to any given stimulus. As Zimzod wondered just who this Baron was connected to, as they'd not done that kind of research, he regretted not having a way to contact Aali. She was the crew's 'go-to' resource for information on Imperial Nobility.

When Zimzod asked what general direction this cargo needed to go in, not pushing for a destination, the man suggested it would need to go towards the Lanth system. While Zimzod didn't have an issue with that, he was concerned how that would affect delivering Zach's remains to his family in the Gothe system. Although that would be easier to do from the Lanth or Vilis regions than from the Hammermium system too. Still, he figured he'd discuss that with Mikah later. Leaning in, Mikah said, "I'm sure you've noticed our ship has a bit of notoriety attached to it. How would that affect this delivery?" The man matter of factly answered, "Not at all." Seeing the knights chewing on things, the man said he didn't expect an answer right then, though he'd welcome it if it did.

That "inch" made both Zimzod and Mikah more comfortable, and they decided to consider things overnight and come up with an answer the next day. When Mikah asked how they'd contact the man, he gave them a comms code to call. That would connect them to him. As things moved on, a part of Zimzod's mind was still chewing on the cost and difficulty of getting this weapon just because he liked it. He also had to admit, to himself if no one else, that even if he had one, its use would be limited to the need for specific force. And having one would make him a target for everyone who wanted to take it away from him, not to mention the likely investigations every time he used it in Imperial space. But this was a gun that shoots through tanks. Even some Imperial tanks...

Setting this job aside for the time being, Zimzod asked about other deliveries they had a need for help with and the man said there would be other jobs if they did well on this job. He also admitted they had clients who enjoyed being taken care of under certain circumstances and in certain ways. Guessing the man's connections from his appearance, they could also guess who those clients might be. The man continued, "But if you can help us take care of those clients, I'm sure a relationship will grow." Mikah was curious which government they would be doing this favor for, and what the man's impression of Zachariah Wood was?

When she did ask about the government, the man explained that the "government" was one of many in a patchwork of competing interests in the D'Ganzio system. When Mikah asked what that meant, he said the world had no government, officially listed as a corporate-owned system. This meant that the corporation made and enforced the laws as they pleased system-wide, so enforcement could be sudden and brutal. He was quick to point out that this did not mean the government was free to make or enforce laws on a whim. But there would be little chance of an Imperial intervention. Digesting that for the moment, Mikah changed directions asking if the cargo was illegal in the Imperium? The man instantly answered, "No. Absolutely not." in a flat and direct tone. He then added, "But owning it might be."

With that, Mikah decided to take the dive and asked which corporation owned the D'ganzio system and found she really wasn't ready for the answer. The man answered, "Instel-Arms". Mistaking the sudden silence in the room for shock, he started to explain that the system was a logistics base and sector depot for Instel-Arms operations in the entire Spinward Marches sector. Of course, this faded as Mikah burst out laughing, despite the pain it caused her wounds. After she recovered enough, Mikah explained they had absolutely no issues with Instel-Arms in a very comfortable tone.

What she didn't say was that there were interesting questions connected to this. Because the system was owned by Instel-Arms, and someone wanted this box shipped into that system and delivered outside the standard channels. That begged questions like who wanted to ship something in without the local executives knowing about it? Still, Zimzod decided the best way to look at the situation was a win-win. If they took the job or not, they had made a connection in the Baron. And since the couple came to them through the Baron, they were future-contacts with the underworld who Zimzod and Mikah could trust. But they were there to do business and not hang out. So Zimzod and Mikah asked a few more questions before saying they had enough and would give the couple an answer the next day. So, as the meeting came to an end, the knights headed back to the ship.

A Game Between Friends And Marks

     After cooking, eating and cleaning up after dinner, Rol relaxed in the lounge and watched the news. Despite the advance of a few days, the stories had not really changed. No advances had been made on any of the headlines, including the presence of Duchess Muktheswara in-system. As he watched, Rol pulled out and cleaned his weapons. Emkir noticed that and said, "A little late for that huh?" Rol ignored the jibe. Still, Rol made an early night of it, in order to continuehealing while Emkir did take a nap in preparation for his poker game. During the quiet time, and until the others returned to the ship after Emkir left, Aali worked on connecting with her stent and Munarshu relaxed before cleaning up and going to bed.

Aali did make sure Emkir brought med-packs with him to the game, just in case. Emkir assured Aali that a room filled with Admirals and a Captain would have proper medical support. By the time Mikah and Zimzod returned, Emkir was already gone. Ready to talk to the crew about this newest of offers, they found Rol was sleeping, Aali was working with her stent and Munarshu was getting ready for bed. And Inger, Aiden and Terin were not back from the concert yet. Looking at Zimzod, Mikah said, "Let's talk about this in the morning." They then discussed what to do for the rest of the night and Mikah suggested watching vids. When Zimzod said, "Your bunk or mine?" Mikah didn't care and they ended up watching vids in Zimzod's bunk until Mikah fell asleep.

Emkir waited until a Naval staff car arrived to pick him up. The knight was disappointed that no one else joined him in coming to the poker game. But he went out and slipped into the back seat, relaxing as the driver pulled out of the berth and drove to the base. During the long ride, Emkir thought back on his call to Admiral Saigacrem. Surprised to be hearing from Emkir so soon, the Admiral asked what he could do for his friend and Emkir said, "I kind of need an ace in the hole." After the briefest of pauses, Muth Saigacrem asked for the details and Emkir explained about the x-Package certification.

When Saigacrem didn't see the issue, Emkir pointed out that the crew didn't want to be tied down in-system for months of application investigation and such. He also suggested they just might be a bit more valuable to Saigacrem's investigations while out there. Emkir let his friend consider the data they'd already brought him. So when Saigacrem asked how he could help, Emkir told him he'd found the captain in charge of investigating the ship and gotten him to agree to come to a poker game. Ignoring the host of regulations, and even some minor ,laws Emkir had just admitted to breaking Saigacrem said he was in. Emkir smiled because he knew his audience this time. And knew he had nothing to worry about even before he'd picked up the comms.

Getting more details from Emkir, Saigacrem was sure he could clear the man's call log and buffer the cash transfer Emkir had made. This would stop any automatic audits from resulting in investigations or charges, either against Emkir or the captain. When Saigacrem said this, Emkir suggested they might want to not tell the captain up front, and let him sweat it a bit more. Saigacrem agreed, but made it clear that Emkir should not be playing especially well that night at the game. When Emkir grudgingly agreed, Saigacrem said he'd send the staff car to get him and bring him to the base. The game would be held in Officer's quarters, as it would be best not to do any of this in a public place. Saigacrem also said he'd invite another Admiral to fill out the quartet.

Emkir arrived at the base quarters structure shortly before Captain Musnim, which gave him time for introductions. The other Admiral who Saigacrem roped into the game was a fleet Admiral. He was apparently owed a favor by Admiral Saigacrem, and somehow Emkir's losses that night would help pay that debt too. Even though it was clearly not a financial debt. In either case, the Admiral didn't care a fig if the rules for carrying x-Parcels was bent a bit for anyone who was a veteran of the Fifth Frontier War, and was even quite pleased to be meeting a member of the crew of the Hotel California. So he was good with his role in the night's events.

As the men got down to playing, Captain Musnim had a very obvious case of nerves which the other officers very actively ignored. Thanks to the friendly attitudes of the Admirals and an early rush of apparent luck, the captain settled in quickly enough and managed to feel comfortable in the moment. As phase one of Emkir's evil plan worked out, it was time to play phase two, as the other Admirals asked about the Captain's work for the IISS? And as the man described his work, Emkir said it was such a coincidence that his ship was undergoing exactly the regulatory investigation the captain performed.

Despite the Captain's horrified reaction, the Admirals continued to play as Emkir advanced the bid on a hand he knew he couldn't win. This was the most painful part of the plan for Emkir as he fed the captain winnings. But the plan had to be stuck to as Admiral Saigacrem stepped in to play his part. Actually laughing at the captain's discomfort, Muth Saigacrem commented on the growing stack of chips the captain had and asked what was with the face? And that was when the Captain broke. Knowing an automatic audit would catch the activity on his work comms and system, the captain both confessed and complained about the situation Emkir had put him in.

In the pause this caused in the game, the othter two Admirals sat back and regarded the captain before the Fleet Admiral commented on how his commands benefitted from the certified carrier program during the war. He also said he could see little issue with a ship of knights, including a former IISS Admiral, being certified. He then pointedly suggested the investigation should be quick and easy in the first place. When the captain said it hardly mattered, because of the automatic audits and checks done by his office, Admiral Saigacrem asked if the man, "meant these audits?" As the man turned, Saigacrem held up a datapad he'd set near his seat. Right then, the captain knew he'd been set up as he looked at a view of the audit system he'd never seen before.

This was an administrative panel, allowing administrators to manage and even alter the audits and reports. As Captain Musnim watched, Admiral Saigacrem made the changes needed to prevent Emkir's actions appearing in any reports and then back-cleared the system to remove the footprints of his own activity in the system. When Captain Musnim demanded to know what kind of conspiracy this was, Admiral Saigacrem looked the man directly in the eyes as he said, "Sometimes, it's necessary for servants of the Imperium to step outside Imperial rules in order to get the right things done." He assured the captain he was just playing his part in keeping the people of the Imperium safe and suggested they get back to the game.

Hearing that, Captain Musnim settled in and considered his situation for the rest of the evening. This was helped by doses of cash, liberally spent by Emkir through a losing streak, which eventually amounted to Cr 1,500 over the evening. Eventually, they decided to put the "cherry" on top as Emkir said that he should consider getting back to his ship, as he was still recovering from his injuries in the shooting. This reminded Captain Musnim of recent events, as Admiral Saigacrem said, "Yeah, getting illegal weapons out of the hands of criminals can be dangerous." While this had nothing to do with what "actually" happened when the crew had been ambushed, the Admiral's comment suggested to Captain Musnim that the entire shooting had possibly been the result of an undercover program!

And with all the rumors about the Hotel California, the captain had to wonder if Admiral Meshrumiikiim had been working covertly for Admiral Saigacrem? If he was still? Was the need to be certified for the x-Parcel system part of that service? The result of this consideration brought the lines of rumor to a point as the game came to an end and Emkir prepared to leave. As they totaled their winnings and credits were exchanged, the captain made a firm commitment to insure the ship would be certified for x-Mail the next morning. This allowed Emkir to thank his friends and the captain before settling into his seat in the staff car and surrendering to the doctor Admiral Saigacrem made sure was aboard to make sure Emkir was OK. He even napped as he rode back to the ship.

The others eventually returned to the ship from their various excursions and compared notes before drifting off to sleep in their staterooms. When Terin got back, he felt the need to turn on some of his favorite music and play it loud, to cleanse his ears and mind. Of course, he used headphones as the others in the lounge didn't need to hear his blast of sound. Still, Terin made for Mikah a cup of that tea he claimed would help her wounds heal. He even tried to serve Emkir a cup as the Admiral returned to the ship. But Emkir was more interested in bed and Aali was interested in helping him get there. Despite his desire for sleep, Emkir did share the happy news that they would be certified to carry x-Parcels by the end of the next day. And, Of course, Aali set her clock at wake them at 8am to teach Emkir something of a lesson. But soon enough, the crew were all asleep.


Return To A Normal Morning

     First up, in the very early morning was Munarshu. The former scout was tired, given how late he'd gone to sleep the night before. Still, he completed his morning routine and then went into the lounge to find himself alone. After taking in the silence, Munarshu ripped open a foil pack and made chow for himself before planning to head into engineering. As he ate, Rol's alarm went off and Mikah woke up to find herself still dressed and in Zimzod's bed. As Rol began his morning routine, Mikah dealt with a moment's confusion until she remembered the events of the night before. Gathering her shoes and other personal items, Mikah stood to make her way to her stateroom. Because he was a light enough sleeper, her moving woke Zimzod

Lucky for her, there was no one in the passage which separated the doors of her stateroom and Zimzod's, and there was no line of sight to the open area of the lounge. So while Munarshu heard two doors open and close in succession from the starboard side of the ship, he saw nothing. As Zimzod, Mikah and Rol make their way through their routines, Mikah and Rol avoided any real exercise, given their fresh wounds. As he finished his meal, Munarshu convinced himself that, for some reason, Wall-e had been moving through the ship's crew spaces. Zimzod worked through his full morning routine.

Because of the reduced preparation, Rol emerged from his stateroom to cook breakfast as Munarshu was cleaning up after his. Mikah also left her stateroom and met the two men at about that time. Exchanging "good morning" greetings, Rol saw Munarshu was up early and the engineer nodded, saying "Go to bed early, get up early." When Rol started to cook, Mikah asked if he was sure he was up to cooking? Rol said "Sure", and asked, how bad can cooking eggs be?" That just set her laughing as Mikah recalled Rol asking how dangerous walking to dinner could be just a couple nights before.

After Rol had been cooking a bit, Zimzod emerged from his stateroom and joined Mikah and Rol in the lounge as Munarshu moveded into engineering. As they struggled to wake up, Zimzod shared out the last bit of the half of his coffee he bought for public sharing. Then, he made a cup each of the private stock for himself and Mikah. As Mikah saw him giving Rol a cup and calling Munarshu to get a cup, she chided, "You treat the crew too well Zimzod." in a joking tone.

Soon enough, Rol had served breakfast and those awake were eating as alarms went off in Inger and Aiden's staterooms. As Rol transitioned to cleaning up, Mikah and Zimzod told him there would be a crew meeting when everyone was awake. He then called down to engineering to let Munarshu know he'd be called forward to join the meeting when it was time. As they waited, Mikah and Zimzod relaxed and watched the vid. Soon, Aiden and Inger emerged and had breakfast, glad to see Rol was back at his job. After he cleaned up, Rol joined Mikah and Zimzod, relaxing as she told him she'd have skippy make him some tea when he got up. When she saw the comment confused Rol, Mikah explained that Skippy liked making and giving out herbal teas.

As Inger and Aiden sat down to start eating, Mikah asked how the concert was and Inger said she thought it was OK. When Mikah asked how Skippy liked it, Aiden made it clear what he and Terin had been subjected to was not music. As Mikah chuckled at the exchange, Inger said Aiden just needed to be exposed to more culture. The pilot only made a horrified face as he said, "And get my insurance to cover replacing my ears from a clone" as the tone in his voice put a spike through the heart of any idea he might ever like that stuff. When Mikah asked what was wrong with it, the pilot almost shrieked, "It had no harmony!" Inger Answered, "It had harmony. You just didn't understand it."

As they talked about the quality, or lack thereof, of the concert and relaxed, they waited for the others to wake up so they could have the planned crew meeting. MIkah and Zimzod planned to talk about the offer from the man the Baron introduced them to. While they would be uncomfortable with the idea that no one knew who this underworld man the Baron introduced them to was, they figured they'd be making a delivery to Instel-Arms in a system owned by the company. There had to be some comfort in that they could use as a selling point.

Mikah also went over the surgical schedule again with those awake, reminding them the first surgeries would be the next day. They would have to get up early so that they could be ready for the surgeries. Zimzod's operation would be at 9am, meaning they had to be at the hospital by 7am. Then Terin's operation would happen at 1pm. The next day's operations would first take care of Aiden and then Rol. Beyond that, they had Zach's funeral in four days, and no one had called to deal with getting Zach's body from the hospital and preparing it for the funeral, or contracting someone to handle the body.

While Mikah had decided to have Zach cremated, they hadn't decided if this would be before or after the ceremony, nor what they would do after that. Once awake, Aali's only real concerns were dealing with buying the androids and getting the ones she could working, as well as repairing Wall-e. That and having her ring sized. Emkir only had to worry about recovering. Rol remembered that he had to consider when to testify in the case against his attacker from Jesedipere. And that didn't address checking on their stolen items or watching out for more teams inspired by Itium Tirulli. And while they no longer needed engineering help, they had to deal with Brian's Books and the Darrian cybernetic artifacts. Zimzod and Mikah also remembered they had to deal with the chip from the Tellona Diamond.

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Next: Arts And Shopping Adventures