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Hitting The Books For Breakfast

Rhylanor Prime In the ship's lounge, Zimzod worked to learn more about the corporate structure of Instel-Arms in the D'Ganzio system. And as he worked, Zimzod found that, while the main depot for Instel-Arms, there were three Instel-Arms depots in the sector. D'Ganzio was just the main, and largest depot. In addition, there were trans-shipping locations in systems like Rhylanor, which broke out large amounts of cargo tonnage to route correctly before being shipped to the large depots. But D'Ganzio not only was the 'senior' depot, but also contained Instel-Arms primary shipping link from the core of the Imperium to the other nations and independent space spinward of the Imperial border.

So Several business units were clustered there including groups serving Imperial and non-Imperial sales and acquisitions. As a result of that, the System's chief administrative officer ran sub-divisions for operations serving Darrian, Sword Worlds and even Zhodani customers as well as specialized divisions for independent systems and customers. The system also served as a conduit, bringing Imperial technology to the Foreven sector, just spinward of the Marches, as well as the Gvurrdon sector, just coreward. So the divisions of Instel-Arms in-system were responsible for a range of equipment ranging from Imperial-Legal to Imperial-forbidden. As he researched this, Zimzod could find many tables of organization which identified the various executives in-charge of these divisions.

Included in the sales and acquisitions were also the defensive "business units" which were actually the system's defenses. With as much military hardware, ranging from the smallest handgun to some of the most powerful warships, in their sales stock, all Instel-Arms depots had to be very heavily defended. So well defended that when Sword Worlds fleets had struck in the region, they studiously concentrated on the Lanth system and did not strike into D'Ganzio. Within the structure, in addition to the senior CEO and executives of each Sale or Acquisition unit, Zimzod saw a Senior Admiral, a Senior "Surface Actions" Command officer and a Senior Special Operations officer. And former Imperial Admiral and Generals held each of these positions.

As Zimzod continued his research until it was time for lunch, Inger also worked on her leads. At the spacer's hall, Inger had collected data on seventeen vessels who'd been locked in issues with the port. Unfortunately for Inger, all of these issues seemed to be infractions the crew Were guilty of. Most only wanted Inger's help to reduce the penalties instead of avoiding them all together. Over time, the larger and more convoluted issues she'd made cash from had been either resolved or gotten under management. So they weren't opportunities for Inger to step in. The result was that Inger's only chance to scrape a few thousand credits out of what she'd collected was to dig in, research everything and hope to get a hundred or more credits from some of the crews.

At the same time, Emkir had taken a break from work to get back into his notes translating the one book he'd worked hardest on. As he worked, his comms buzzed and Emkir answered to find he Lord William was calling him! After he asked how he could be of service, Lord William asked how Emkir had enjoyed dinner the night before in a friendly tone. Emkir said, "It was a most wonderful occasion. Thank you. I was happy to be a part of it." William said, as promised, he'd looked into the business end of how the University handles its auctions. As he talked, William reminded Emkir they largely used the facilities and faculties of the University for such auctions, but Emkir had been concerned about everything from security to handling the finances, etc...

Lord William explained that the University's legal and finance departments could be brought in to handle those as they cobbled together the equivalent services of a big auction house. Listening, Emkir couldn't help but feel that this was a lot of work to re-invent the wheel and might have some concerning gaps. Especially when they would have to sit down and establish contracts with the different divisions of the University to get the work done. This would be in hopes of getting a bigger chunk of the bids despite possibly having less of the high-end bidders a big auction house could bring in. After finishing his conversation with Lord William, Emkir decided he needed to talk to the crew about this issue and any other issues surrounding selling the books.

While he lined up the issues, Emkir was happy Duke Leonard had ordered the Museum of Rhylanor to test and certify the books as authentic. This prevented any question due to the crew's lack of provenance and even a sales receipt proving Sir Brian's ownership of them. The next issue was the current right of ownership. Once Emkir looked into it, he realized Sir Brian's parents, or heirs surviving of his family under Imperial law, might still be alive! Having been raised in the Lanth system, Brian may well have heirs who had a right to the books and prevented the crew selling any of them. Especially as Emkir had already established a verbal agreement to sell one of the books to the University of Rhylanor.

As Emkir began his research, he realized an x-message to Brian's parents at the last address Emkir could find would take one month just to arrive if they were still there? The good news was that the Lanth system was technologically advanced enough that a message properly addressed could be delivered to them anywhere in that system. But if they'd moved out of the system, there were no promises. Of course, once under way to the D'Ganzio system, the Lanth system was only one jump away, and could be visited on the way to Zach's homeworld.

Realizing this would force them to put the books into a vault for safe keeping until they confirmed their right to sell, Emkir started looking into how to do that? He considered the University's ability to store the books safely as well as the abilities of other organizations to store them. He also decided he'd have to check how well any storage organization could shift from storing the books to selling them? And building out what they needed from the University's resources might be a strain, so they might have to work with an auction house. Emkir decided to just ball up his research and discuss it with the whole crew. From there, Emkir realized he needed data on the auction houses to give the crew too. So he began researching those firms on Rhylanor until lunch time came. As Zimzod got up and started opening up the galley to make himself a foil pack, Inger followed his lead. As they did this, Emkir comm'd Aali to see what she was doing for lunch?

Plotting Out The Afternoon

     At the Scout base, Aali, Munarshu and Terin were finishing up getting paid for their tin hemorrhoids and were getting ready to head back to the ship to work on the androids. As they were getting back to the parked cutter, Aali received Emkir's call. He told her he was planning to make lunch for everyone and wondered if she wanted to have lunch with him and how far they were out? When Aali guessed they were about 30 to 40 minutes out, Emkir decided to continue his research on auction houses until they returned. Taking a break from his research on Instel-Arms as he ate, Zimzod wondered if he could make use of his connections more directly?

Since he had the right of appearance, Zimzod called the Duke's Seneschalate and requested an appearance in Duke Leonard's court. It was first pointed out that Sir Zimzod had been granted the "Right of Appearance" in the Arch-Duke's court, not Duke Leonard's. However, it was felt that His Grace could certainly see Sir Zimzod, and would be granted an audience at 10am on the 308th day. Once they had him on the docket, Zimzod was asked the nature of the personal request and explained he was seeking permission to own an FGMP-15. Confused, the officer asked Zimzod what current issue this was in regard to and Zimzod stretched a point suggesting it was related to system security.

Without other comment, Zimzod was told the data would be forwarded to the Seneschalate and Zimzod would either appear in Court or be notified of a summary judgment. After that, Zimzod went back to his research for the rest of the afternoon. Inger also returned to her research for the afternoon. As they worked, Emkir eventually got a comms from Aali that they were about to arrive at the berth. When Emkir asked if they needed help with the androids, Aali said they did. So Emkir let the others know help was needed. As they arrived, Terin guided the Probe into the berth close to the ship's open cargo bay.

Once Terin had the cutter down and the cargo port opened, the six crew accessed the job ahead. While they could kill the gravity on the cutter and the ship's cargo bay, they could not kill the gravity in the berth. As a result, they were realizing they'd need to gather around each android and lift it, as a group, in order to move each unit. At this, Terin asked if the Hotel California had cargo grav-lifters and was told they had talked about it but never gotten any. Nodding in disbelief, Terin stepped away, as the others started unstrapping the androids from the pallet, to search the berth. And soon, he found a wheeled, hand-cranked mobile lift and called the others to let them know what he'd located. After they pushed the gurney over, it took them forty minutes to move the androids into the cargo bay. Once there, Aali was able to move each 'droid to suit, turning off sections of the grav-plating as needed.

With the 'droids in place, Aali pulled the report she and Munarshu had generated at the depot before they were permitted to buy them. From that report, Aali decided that the most viable unit was Unit 2, which still had its power, brain and program interfaces working once power could be restored. Especially as those components were in the central cavities of the 'droid and the most work to get to and replace. Getting in the way of those, its fuel storage and grav-unit were trashed or missing. Also on the report, the worst off of the units was unit three. She decided to first strip that unit of the fuel cells and batteries and a working heavy arm to replace dead systems on unit 2. And as she planned the work on the 'droid, Munarshu ran a cable from an outlet to get the 'droid up and running to support its own reconstruction.

With that underway, Inger and Zimzod returned to their research as Emkir went to the galley to cook for himself, Terin, Aali and Munarshu. before returning to his terminal, Terin considered the need to schedule a class on his stent use and asked Aali if she could teach him what she learned in hers. But Aali pointed out she was still trying to figure out and apply what she'd learned and could not teach it. So he went to the lounge and checked his messages to see if the Darrians had responded with the "finder's fee" for the cybernetic parts? He saw they hadn't, so he looked into finding a stent class to schedule. Once he found the most affordable class, Terin paid the Cr 200 and scheduled it for the 311th day of the year.

At the hospital, Rol's operation had gone as had Zimzod's the day before. Because she had a second surgery to scrub in on, one of the doctors on the team closed Rol's incisions and made sure the healing flap of skin would cover the stent port properly. As that happened, Mikah scrubbed out and joined Aiden for what lunch he was allowed to eat prior to his surgery. Once they were done and the hospital was ready, Aiden was led off to be prepared as Mikah checked on Rol in the recovery room and then scrubbed in. As Aiden's operation proceeded, Rol slowly came out of his anesthetic and participated in post-operative checkups. As this happened, he was served a small meal. Rol's care continued as did Aiden's operation through the afternoon.

An Afternoon's Plotting

     Once Aiden's operation had ended, his recovery was allowed to proceed as Terin's would have if not rushed by the reception the night before. As a result, Mikah ate a dinner with Rol as Aiden lay sleeping off the last of the anesthetic. They would remain at the hospital until well after six in the evening and then return once both men were released. Rol had been told he was already able to be released and signed the documents and paid the fees. Offered the chance to return to the ship first, Rol waited to ride back with the others.

After cooking lunch, Emkir first set up two separate search routines. The first located and mined details on the auction houses in-system. The second would gather information on what organizations might have a copy of Sir Brian's will. Emkir hoped the second search would give him a list of where to look for a copy of the will? It might also mine data on how to apply to get a copy of anything they might find? Once those were set up, Emkir set them to run for the rest of the afternoon while he started checking up on and calling firms to get price quotes to buy and have an x-mail safe installed?

By the time the afternoon was fading, Aiden's surgery was done. While he was in the recovery room, and a bit under the influence of the anesthetic, he started singing some odd type of drinking songs. Rol had recovered through the afternoon, using the time before he signed himself out to check up on the news. The first announcements Rol read were news the Domain government was renting a large block of station-side offices as well as planet-side office space. That was followed by the announcement, by the Imperial Navy, that all major commanders were being called to the Rhylanor system for meetings related to the Sector and Domain needs as well as the Arch Duke's announced Grand Tour.

Next, it was announced that the Admiralty had ordered a muster of the Deneb Sector fleet, currently on assignment in the Spinward Marches due to the Fifth Frontier War. The office of the Arch Duke had also sent messages to all the landed Sector nobility above the rank of Baronet to plan to visit the Arch Duke on Rhylanor in the next six months! This was the most likely to cause a stir as that message may not reach some parts of the Five Sisters subsector for nearly two months at Jump 6. And while commenters assumed some nobility would be given leeway, the real crunch would come when word reached those hired to manage a fiefdom for nobility who regularly lived outside the sector, or even the domain. What was most noticed about this requirement was that the Arch Duke had ordered a jump-6 courier to Capital. That system was nearly 30 weeks away if one could create a hard-pressed jump-6 chain of couriors where each ship would beam its message to the next with orders to jump immediately on the carried orders.

Such levels of communications were usually limited to critical war news or disaster. There was some speculation this may be an intentional move on the part of the Arch Duke to divest absentee nobility of their holdings. This would both allow the Arch Duke to reward those the he wanted to elevate and to improve system representation by nobles who would actually live in or near their fiefdoms. This hope would be to improve the actual understanding of the needs of a system or cluster by the person representing that system or cluster. And it was a shot across the bow of all nobility of what the Arch Duke expected of his juniors. There was also commentary about the eventual elevation of the Arch Duke's True Daughter to the rank of Duchess of Regina as the "in-residence" Noblewoman while her father dealt with the rulership of the Domain.

While the call to all landed nobility caused the most comment, there was also the first announcement of the beginning of the formation of the Domain Guard, being the Arch Duke's personal guard. the announcement was important because it said the 4518th Lift Infantry Regiment, the Duke's Own Huscarles, were not to be the core of the new unit. And that was the most direct evidence yet that Arch Duke Norris intended to elevate a new Duke or Duchess to Regina. Minor commentary discussed the fun the station would have designating jurisdictions.

Once things on the ship wound down towards dinner, Emkir checked his running research. He saw that while they "could" re-invent the wheel trying to cobble together the various departments of the University of Rhylanor, all of the auction houses did everything on the list automatically. And while some of them had rather steep pricing in percentages and separate services charges, not all of them were that bad. On the research into possibly finding Brian's will, Emkir received a list of offices that might have the filed wills of military members in and out of the system and methods of contact and document request.

His personal research had worked out differently. His initial work led him to one scout office. And when he called that office and identified himself and his ship, Emkir was told they had to pay a Cr 3,000 license fee before they could set up the installation of the safe. Once that was done, installation of a five ton x-mail safe could be scheduled at a cost of Cr 50,000. Emkir took the data down and said he needed to discuss it with his captain and crew.

In the cargo bay, Munarshu had connected unit 2 to a power source and it had started disassembling those sections of itself which were damaged. Because one of those was its grav-unit, and because of Aali's orders until they knew how stable the unit's systems were, the unit was unable to move significantly. After connecting the unit to power, Munarshu began testing the other units to see if they had any working control functions at all, but found they didn't. At the same time, Aali began working on disassembling the parts from unit 3. After that start, they spent the entire afternoon working to prepare unit 2 for replacement parts while removing the few usable parts from unit 3. Once they had the fuel storage removed from unit 3, Munarshu started removing the heavy work arm while Aali started installing the fuel storage on unit 2 and the 'droid continued its own self-disassembly.

As Zimzod was working on his research, he got a comms call. Answering, he was greeted by the tattooed man who asked him if they had set a date to leave the system? He also wondered if they had a date when they could receive the cargo he planned to ship? Zimzod said they had not yet finished their business in-system and could only say they were leaving in less than two weeks but not within the week. On the cargo, he explained they were having work done on the cargo bay and didn't want the cargo on their deck while the work was performed. When the man asked what kind of work they were having done, Zimzod said they were having an x-mail safe installed.

When the man then asked if they had a plan yet for how to get the cargo into the D'Ganzio system without customs inspection, Zimzod replied, "We haven't discussed it yet, unless you have any brilliant plans?" That got an acerbic, "That's why we hired you" back with a look that made it clear Zimzod's answer was not the one he expected. Shrugging, Zimzod said, "Well, I guess we'll just have to figure that out. We'll get back to you on that." With that, the man nodded and said, "I look forward to hearing from you." and cut the comms signal. Once off the comms, Zimzod turned to the others in the compartment to ask if any of them had any ideas on bypassing customs?

When he asked about the question, both Terin and Emkir looked at Inger who obviously had the most experience dealing with people who'd tried to get things past customs. In response to becoming the sudden center of attention, Inger pointed out that her experiences were based on those people that had been caught. She could hardly be expected to know about those methods which worked because they worked, the smugglers weren't caught and the smart ones didn't tend to brag about it.

Into that silence, Terin asked how large the cargo was and Zimzod admitted he didn't know. But he and Mikah were told it would fit into their cargo bay, even after the x-mail safe was installed. After that, they talked about the deal and rehashed the many things they didn't know about it. When Terin asked to be reminded how Zimzod met this patron, Zimzod said he'd met Baron Sir Kelslundt while fishing for connections in the Order meeting rooms, to get an FGMP-15. And the Baron introduced him and Mikah to the man and his girlfriend. Terin reflected on the name of the Baron because he'd heard of the man but didn't know him.

Again, there was a pause. And during this pause, Terin wondered if he perhaps knew anyone who might have a talent at forgery. While Terin recalled more than one person mentioning in passing that they'd managed to fake their way through an issue, he could not say he knew anyone who could fake customs papers. Still, he felt he might have a starting point to begin digging from. Of course, these were people who might have been passing through the system, so there was no guarantee they were still on Rhylanor. Still, Terin told the others he might have some contacts he could follow up with.

As the others nodded, Inger said that one of those tactics she'd had warnings about but rarely saw captures one was a method of using a "fake wrapper". When the expressions of the others showed they had no idea what she was talking about, she said the warning was for smugglers who would seal a cargo container in a second cargo container. Doing that, they could fly into a system with a cargo pod obviously to be delivered in another system, so it would only get a cursory external-only scan. Once in-system, they would open the outer container and deliver the goods before re-sealing the outer container. Then, when they left the system, the seals would be checked and seen to have not been tampered with and the customs would pass them out-system without inspection.

The downfalls for that were that the smuggler almost always had access to a cargo-sealing system and someone who could fake the customs data. Additionally, you needed access to the codes a customs technician used in order to program the replacement seal correctly. Smugglers could easily have the gear on their ships, as many ships carried the systems to manage cargo traded at low tech ports. If not, they often had someone in-system who had the gear and could get to them before a customs search. As for the trade data, that was often sold on the black market and was as often correct as it was bogus. Of course, if you tried to slip past customs with a bogus code, you went to jail.

Inger admitted, the only times she'd seen someone busted for trying that method was when the smuggler had used bad customs codes, so a healthy part of the deal would be getting the right codes from someone in customs or in the port. After discussing the need to get a sealing machine to start with, Zimzod asked if they could just cut the bottom of the container, assuming customs would not lift the container up to inspect the bottom of it. Inger said that customs inspectors in the systems they'll be passing through could be expected to have hand scanners which would identify panels which had been cut open and welded shut. In fact, she'd worked on one of those crews for a year during her work in the SPA.

As they discussed exactly what would be needed to beat a customs inspection, Inger said they could just buy the ship a cargo sealing system. When asked how comment they were, she shrugged and repeated that a lot of ships have them. Especially if they traded often in low tech systems. Almost at the same time, Zimzod and Terin asked how much one of those would cost and they agreed they'd have to look into that. Then they discussed something more important at the moment. Specifically, who would cook dinner? When Terin volunteered, to cook, he was emphatically reminded he was not allowed to cook anymore after the last time. Finally, Zimzod announced he was cooking foil packs for everyone

After being rebuffed, and while Zimzod cooked up the foil packs, Terin checked up on cargo sealing systems on the port-web. What he found was that there were several grades of sealing systems, starting from as cheap as Cr 100,000. As he looked over the hits, Terin saw the one the crew would most likely need in an auction of spare hardware and systems being sold by the port itself. The current bid on the system was Cr 40,000 and the system sported a built-in customs terminal, so crews could enter customs-specific data and create a fully documented seal. Of course, having one of those visibly aboard would mean customs teams would look at their seals all that much harder.

When Terin asked Inger about the auction code the port had in the description, Inger said the unit had been seized from a ship. Telling the navigator to keep the auction on his screen, Inger sparked up her comms and called her friends in the port to ask about the auction. Once she was on with one of her friends in operations, Inger learned the system had been pulled from a ship seized for smuggling. No great surprise. The ship was scheduled to be sold off at a later date but the port was making certain some systems were not sold with the vessel to make it that much harder to try to put the pieces of the smuggling operation back together. Inger was asked why she was interested, and told her friend the ship had just started accepting cargo for transport and needed the gear to handle that work.

She was told the crew could likely get less expensive used devices that didn't have the customs interface built in, Inger said that they might be trading in ports which don't have the tech or infrastructure to properly seal cargos. She also pointed out that with her aboard the ship, they could certainly properly use the system. Agreeing with that, the man asked Inger if her ship wanted to put a bid in on the device and she said she'd have to check with her executive officer as the ship's captain was busy off-ship. Once the call was cut, Inger asked, "Sir Zimzod, do we want to put a bid on it or do you want me to talk to the port director after the funeral?"

When Zimzod asked what could be gained by talking to the Executive Director, Inger said it was a good bet they had more of them if they had one sealing system on auction. And she could not only see those, but compare the features on the ones not being sold yet. She also said she might be able to cut a deal with the port on one not yet listed too. When Zimzod heard that, he agreed the idea sounded good and told Inger to go with it. After that, Inger comm'd the Executive Director and asked the man what he was doing for dinner? After a brief conversation in which the other three heard inger suggest they could do each other a favor, Inger finished the call and said that the Director was sending her a car. So she'd be having dinner elsewhere.

Relaxing Into Evening

     As Inger was changing and finalizing her plans, and Zimzod was finishing the foil packs and joking about the others getting to fight over the extras, Emkir decided to call Mikah. He figured it would be OK as the surgeries should be over already. Once Mikah answered, Emkir updated her on the cost for the x-mail license fee and the cost to install the safe. After the easy bits, Emkir said he asked Mikah if Brian had a will? When Mikah said she didn't know, and asked why Emkir was asking, Emkir explained the possible issue with inheritance. When Emkir said they should try to contact his parents, Mikah authorized him to send a text-only x-mail to them in the Lanth system.

After that, Emkir asked how long they'd be staying in system, in order to help him set things up with the auction house, as most auction houses could handle the whole deal even once they left after he set things up and delivered the books. When Mikah asked why, Emkir explained that the x-message could take quite a bit of time. As she waited for her ride, Inger listened to Emkir's side of the conversation and stepped up with a suggestion. As Emkir put the conversation on speaker, Inger suggested that they could put the libraries in the hands of an auction house on hold. Then they could travel to the Lanth system in search of Sir Brian's parents or family.

Inger pointed out auction houses specialized in this sort of waiting game. The books would be secure in the Rhylanor system, which would be one of the best places in local space to auction them off. Once they arrived in the Lanth system, they could try to track down Brian's family. If they could locate Brian's family and set up some deal for permission to sell the books, they'd only need to send an x-message to the auction house to let the auctions go forward. If the family refused permission to sell, they could hand the heirs the auction house's contact data and let them pay for both the shipping of the books and the storage fees. A sort of 'poison pill' against refusal. Mikah especially liked the poison pill idea.

After that was decided, Emkir finished up with Mikah as he decided his next mission would be to find the right auction house to set up a contract with. As he was finishing the call, Aali and Munarshu arrived, having left the one android to continue disassembling itself. As they arrived, they found Zimzod had cooked for himself, Emkir, Terin and Inger. Since Inger was leaving to have dinner elsewhere, Zimzod said one of them would get fed and the other was screwed. And while Aali was all for even odds to decide who got to eat, Munarshu decided to be the gentleman and let Aali eat with Emkir.

As the others sat down to eat, Munarshu decided to head out for real food. After a short wander along the concourse, he found a restaurant geared to those passengers taking a bit of a break from ship-board fare and had dinner for Cr 40. After Munarshu left, the port car arrived for Inger and she left for her dinner with the Executive Director. Soon, at the hospital, Aiden woke and was given a meal supplement, because they didn't want to load him down with a full meal. By 7:30, Aiden was ready to be released and Mikah paid for the cab ride, getting them back to the berth by 8pm.

After dinner, Zimzod relaxed and continued his recovery as he sipped wine and watched vids. Terin joined Zimzod as he also relaxed and recovered. As Emkir and Aali finished eating, Aali called the shop they had gone to have her lanthanum and Tellona diamond ring sized to find out if they were still open? Once told they were open, Aali told Emkir she wanted to pick up her ring. When Emkir said he'd go with her, they stepped into their stateroom to change and head out. Emkir wore a set of executive armor under a ship's suit and holstered his 9mm on his hip. Aali dressed similarly, though she carried her semi-automatic snub pistol. She did make sure, after the admonitions of the port, her weapon was loaded with ball ammo only.

As he ate, Munarshu considered the Cr 1,000 voucher burning a hole in his pocket and decided to head back to that shop to get a really good pair of boots. After a Cr 5 bus ride, Munarshu arrived at the shop and was greeted well and welcomed in as he was recognized. When asked how they could help him, Munarshu described a pair of boots that not only did well over rough and natural terrains but also was proof against many issues. These included a wide variety of protection against environmental factors as well as being proof against electrical threats. As they could fabricate the boots on-site, they took very complete measures of his footprint and pressure and built a sole to completely support his walking feet.

Outside of the usual options, when Munarshu asked about camouflage, they offered an option with a battery stored in the heel and a chameleon surface, so the footwear would fit into surrounding terrain or settings. When Munarshu said he wanted that feature, and they did the math, it came out that the boots would price out at Cr 300. Along with a 10-year warrantee for an additional Cr 100, that cost Cr 400 of the Cr 1,000 voucher he had. The shop made it clear that they would replace warrantied failures and ship anywhere in the sector. Once done at the shop, Munarshu called over to Instel-Arms and said he was heading in that direction and went out to catch a bus.

Once Munarshu arrived at Instel-Arms, he found his Concierge waiting with cart at the ready. Despite expecting it this time, the engineer still experienced a thrill at the level of service. As he was greeted, the Concierge asked about his interests on this visit? When Munarshu said he was looking into explosives and hand grenades, they were off. Once in the proper section, Munarshu was treated to a host of explosive devices and systems ranging from tech level 3 such as would have been used by the first Terrains to use black powder to the most modern items. Some of these were even semi-intelligent AI driven systems and many of the most impressive or effective could not be displayed directly. They were displayed on pre-programmed vid-cards.

When Munarshu said he was thinking about simple explosives, the Concierge asked if he wanted hand grenades, placed explosives with detonators or something else? What Munarshu really wanted was a grenade that could serve multiple roles as either just concussive or concussive and anti-personnel. Eventually, he settled on some TL A concussion grenades which could be fit into a covering which was filled with bearing-like pellets serving as anti-personnel shot. Those cost Cr 15 for the grenade and Cr 10 for the jackets, and Munarshu bought 25 grenades and 10 jackets. So the cost for the grenades was Cr 475, plus Cr 50 to have them shipped to the Hotel California.

Once that was set, Munarshu asked about thirty-round magazines for his brand of ACR? They checked his weapon model data against their database. Not surprisingly, they were not only available but in stock, so Munarshu ordered five at Cr 10 each. That added Cr 50 to his bill. Once that was added, they asked Munarshu what else he might be interested in and the engineer said that was all he needed. So, with that wrapped up, Munarshu headed out to wander the concourses. He timed that so he could be back to the ship in order to hit the rack at nine, as he normally did.

Rising Questions About The Funeral

     When Mikah got back to the ship, she saw Zimzod was relaxing with wine, and watching vids. She joined him. Together, they planned to relax for the rest of the evening. As Rol arrived, he recommended the crew at the ship watch the news because of the reports he'd been watching. Hearing that, Mikah asked if Zimzod and Terin were really invested in what they'd been watching and no one really cared, so they shifted the vid screen to an in-system news broadcast. They seemed to have hit a local news segment as they tuned in. One of the first segments they saw covered the reaction by station security to all the new dignitaries and activities happening on-station.

During that coverage, the reports did go live as an on-the-scene reporter managed to be where the port's Executive Director was arriving. And as he moved up to the arriving vehicle, they watched as the Director exited the vehicle followed by a red-head they all recognized. Sparking up, Mikah said, in a joking but excited tone, "Isn't that Inger...what's her face? She's with the Hotel California, isn't she?" And as Mikah made fun of the reaction she expected, the others watched as the reporter first tried to ask the Director a number of questions while the executive waved him off. As the couple moved off, the reporter wrapped up his failure to learn anything including the identity of the red-head the director had been with.

But, back at the studio, they'd pumped the vid through facial recognition software and the anchors let the system know the director's date was none other than former SPA Executive Director Inger Martinusdtr Vik, currently crew on the Hotel California. The banter then shifted as the other anchor asked, "Wouldn't that be Lady Kirlim's ship?" and was answered, "Yes, it is!" This automatically led to speculation on the roles to be played, in local Domain activities, by Dame Inger, Lady Kirlim and the rest of the California crew. Of course, as they watched, the crew knew none of the speculation was based on anything but the flimsiest of actual facts.

It was automatically assumed that Dame Inger had been deputized by the Arch Duke to handle business between the Domain government and the port. As that report ran on, the comms on the ship started to buzz and Terin volunteered to answer the line. When he did, the caller identified himself as a member of one of the many free-lance news agencies in-system and asked to speak to Lady Kirlim? Terin answered, "Sorry, she's not available at the moment. Please call back tomorrow." Once Terin hung up on the first caller, the comms started to go again. Looking at the comms, Terin realized it was another media call. Seeing they were going to deal with this for a while, Terin sat down and spent the next ten minutes building a filter for calls from identified media outlets.

As Terin worked, there was a steady stream of calls coming in which he ignored. At the same time, Rol watched the call waiting. Some time in, a call came with an ID from the office of the Seneschal of the Deneb Domain. So either they were working very fast in setting things up or someone had worked up a spoof they knew would work. And Rol knew they couldn't risk ignoring the Arch Duke's Seneschal, so he picked up. And when the screen came up, Rol did recognize Baron Sir Kamashkhi. As Rol greeted the Baron, the Seneschal asked for Lady Kirlim and Rol handed over the comms.

Greeting Mikah, the Baron said he hoped her surgeries went well and Mikah said they appeared to have. After a pause he jokingly asked if that was a good thing or if condolences were involved? When Mikah said that wouldbe based on how one looked at things, she got an understanding nod from the Baron. Getting down to business, the Baron said His Grace wanted him to speak with her regarding the funeral the next day. Saying, "Yes, the funeral", Mikah told the Baron where the funeral would be held and what time it would start. Unfortunately, she also realized at that time that this was the sum of what she knew, as she had directed Sir Terin to make the arrangements. When Mikah suggested that Duke Leonard and the Arch Duke might not be the only ranking nobility at the funeral, the Baron confirmed that all of their Graces would be attending.

When Mikah said they had planned a Darrian ceremony, the Baron asked if they'd contacted the Darrian Embassy in-system to see if they wanted to send a representative? Realizing she was not aware of that, Mikah said she'd check and called Sir Terin over. When she asked if Terin had called the Embassy, he said he hadn't. As she conferenced him into the call, Terin worked to roll with events as he was introduced to the Arch Duke's Seneschal. Admitting to the Baron that he had not considered the interests of the Darrian Embassy, he said he'd call them once off that call. Accepting that, the Baron asked Terin if he could get a run-down of the plan for the ceremony?

As with Mikah, Terin realized he did not know a lot about the plan as he'd left it in the hands of the funeral home and had not asked for a great many details. Terin explained that they'd set up a viewing before the actual ceremony, and then admitted they hadn't received the timing plans for their various Graces, including the Arch Duke. So he said the exact timing wasn't yet fully set. The Baron just nodded patiently and waited for Terin to get to the schedule. Not actually having the data, Terin admitted that he had a funeral director planning the ceremony and asked the Baron if he'd like to have the director conferenced into the call?

Nodding with the patience of a person who'd obviously dealt with many people of varying levels of incompetence, the Baron relaxed as Terin put him on hold and called the funeral director. As the director saw it was Terin calling, he greeted the Knight happily saying, "Ah, Sir Terin. So good to see you. We have everything in hand." Nodding, Terin said "I have the Arch Duke's Seneschal on the line and he wants to run over the numbers and the time frames with you now." As the man went white and wide eyed, like a beast caught in a spotlight, Terin asked if he was prepared or needed someone to help him? Taking a deep breath, the director said, "Yes. Sure! I'm fully prepared to discuss the event."

Saying, "Good!" Terin hit the key to integrate the calls and the director said, "Your Excellency! It's so good to meet you, if only by vid-phone." After that, the man explained again that they had everything in hand and somewhat nervously asked what role the Arch Duke would like to have in the funeral? To everyone's relief, Baron said the Arch Duke only planned to attend the ceremony and not participate. And nor were any of their other combined Graces, beyond Duke Leonard. As this was said, the blood very clearly returned to the funeral director's face as he went over the schedules for the gathering of mourners, the viewing, the opening of the ceremony and the speakers followed by the close of the funeral.

While they discussed this, Mikah was surprised to learn she was scheduled to speak after Duke Leonard, as the ship's captain. To say the least, Mikah was not happy but Terin assured her it was required. After the ceremony, the body would be packed and shipped to the funeral home to be cremated. Once done discussing the schedule, Terin asked the Baron if he felt anything should be added or changed and the Baron said he was satisfied. He did remind Terin to call the embassy, and said that if the Ambassador did attend, he should be seated next to the Arch Duke as the de facto Head of State for the Darrians at the funeral. Agreeing, Terin assured the Baron he would be calling the embassy right after the current call.

Calling The Darrians - Part 2

     Once that call ended, Terin called the Embassy and introduced himself using some of the small amount of formal Darrian language he knew. Following that, and continuing in galanglic, Terin explained that he was calling to ask if the Ambassador would be attending the funeral for Sir Zachariah Wood? When the receptionist did not immediately answer in any way, Terin explained Sir Zachariah was half-Darrian and wondered who he would speak to on the subject? After being briefly put on hold, Terin's call was transferred to another person in the Embassy who was obviously pulling data up on a terminal even as he greeted the Knight.

Confirming Zach had been racially half-Darrian from the data on his screen, the man confirmed with Terin that Zach had been an Imperial citizen. Terin added that he never knew Sir Zachariah, and only was calling given the attendance of the Arch Duke and other nobility. As he spoke, the embassy working was obviously pulling up data on his own terminal and investigating the invitation, funeral and the man. Finally, the official told Terin he did understand why the crew were extending the invitation and thanked them for it. But he explained this was not something the Darrian Ambassador needed to attend.

While extending the condolences of the Darrian people to the crew for their loss, the Darrian Embassy would not involve itself in the ceremony further. Terin said, "We'll let the Arch Duke and Grand Duchess know of your decisions and thank you for your thoughts on this matter." Once that was dealt with, Terin mentioned that he'd spoken to the Embassy once before and let the representative know who he'd spoken to regarding the cybernetic parts. When he asked about that, the man placed him on pause and did some research. After that brief wait, Terin was transferred to the man he'd cut the deal with initially.

Once Terin was transferred, Dakihe Lolza greeted him with a friendly tone, saying he was surprised to hear from Sir Terin so soon, but asked how he could help? When Terin asked about the "finder's fee", Mr. Lolza said he'd not received any official numbers yet but would be in contact with Sir Terin and the Hotel California as soon as he did. After that, he confirmed that once the amount was decided, it would be very quickly transferred to the ship's accounts and a team sent to the vessel to retrieve the parts. When Terin didn't raise any issues, Mr. Lolza said, "We thank you very much for returning to us a part of our heritage." The tone used, while friendly, reinforced the fact that there was not even a thought of turning back at this point.

A Surprise At The Jeweler's

     When Emkir and Aali arrived at the jewelry store, they saw a number of workers and an apparent customer in the place. The customer was leaning forward, apparently whispering something to the clerk he was dealing with as the others leaned against the wall taking no action at all. As the couple stepped into the shop, they watched the Emkir and Aali. Emkir selected a clerk, behind a center section of the counters, to ask about Aali's ring. When he said, "We'd like to ask about the ring being sized for my lady?", the clerk nodded and said "OK, stand by". And then the man quickly opened a door to the back stock area and disappeared! While Emkir figured the clerk remembered them, the odd behavior bothered Aali a bit.

As they stood there waiting, and issues bothered Aali a bit more, she looked around. As she turned to see behind them, Aali saw the shop's security gate was coming down to prevent anyone from entering or exiting the shop! Seeing this, she allowed her hand to drift to the grip of her holstered pistol. As Aali was noticing those odd things, Emkir, quietly waited for the clerk to return. Suddenly, a man started rising from behind one of the counters with a shotgun in hand! Unable to piece the situation together quickly, Emkir complained, "This is totally out of order! We're good customers!"

Hearing Emkir's outburst, Aali turned her head and saw the man out of the corner of her eye. But, with her peripheral vision, she couldn't see him clearly and was still unaware of the shotgun. Continuing to turn, Aali began to draw her weapon as she rotated. Then they all heard a round chambered into some kind of weapon! At that, Emkir yelled, "Down!" and grabbed at Aali's belt. Hearing the command, Aali dove, with Emkir's hand looped into her belt firmly as he also dropped. As they dove and the shotgun went off, they saw one of the clerks lurch towards the gunman. Now cut off from view of what was happening by the display cases, they could only hear the sounds of a scuffle behind the cases.

Once on the ground, Aali, who dove just a bit after Emkir, realized she'd caught the edge of the shotgun blast and was bleeding a bit. Checking her wounds quickly, Aali realized she was not seriously hurt and the adrenaline was certainly covering the pain nicely. With her left hand still on the grip of her snub pistol, Aali caught the rise of another gunman from behind the counters that had been to her left as she and Emkir entered. As he rose to look for a target, and the clerk and customer who had been his prisoners dove to the sides, Aali quickly drew to a snap shot. Beating him to the shot, Aali hit the man in his right arm and spun him back against the cases behind him. As he hit the cases and they slammed the wall, the man went down with a cry but was out of her line of sight. So there was no way to know how bad off he was.

As she examined the blood splatter he left, and heard a continued scuffle at the back of the shop, Aali heard a yell from what was now behind them! Behind the displays to what had been their right as they entered, another gunman had been hidden. As Aali's attention had been drawn to her left by the man Aali had shot, this put the third man directly behind her. He yelled, "Everybody fuckin' freeze!" as Emkir, with his weapon drawn, saw he was out of position for the new man. The couple froze as the man continued, saying, "That's right. Just let go of the weapons and let them drop." in a savage voice. His tone made it clear he was certain he was in control of the situation.

Figuring surrender wasn't an option after the shooting had already begun, Emkir counted heartbeats as he watched the man. The Admiral's one advantage was that he only had to watch one person at the moment where shotgun boy had to figure out what both he and Aali might do. So when the man's eyes shifted, Emkir rolled the dice as he made his play, bringing his pistol to bear and squeezed off a round. Having thought he was in control, the gunman missed a beat as he'd expected the couple to drop their weapons. So his shotgun went off just after he'd been hit and the gunman's aim was thrown off by a flinch. Still, the man remained standing and was obviously not seriously hurt.

Coming late to that party as she was hearing the fire and knowing she had not been hit, Aali rolled onto her back and extended her left arm to aim over Emkir's prone body as she snapped off a shot too. And that round took him square in the chest and put him down behind the displays. Of course, body armor being the wonderful thing it was, they had no way to know if he'd just had the breath knocked out of his lungs or his lungs out of his chest. Regardless, satisfaction was short-lived as a shotgun blast sounded from where the first man had gone down after being jumped by a store clerk.

Taking risks, Emkir began crawling towards the case that concealed the struggle between the clerk and the gunman while Aali held the center ground and tried to cover the three fire alleys. So as Emkir was caught roughly halfway to the counter, Aali spotted the gunman at the back of the shop rising again and showing no sign what happened to the clerk he'd been fighting. Not giving the guy a chance to level his shotgun, Aali swung her arm and fired as she grabbed her left hand with her right to try and steady the shot.

In the moment of the shot, the man dropped. But it only caught up to her afterward that the shot only grazed the gunman. Was he diving to maneuver behind cover? Was he in shock? There were too many variables for Aali to guess. With the target behind cover, Aali considered and discarded the idea of peppering that section of cabinets with rounds because she was not sure if there were innocents back there too. Keeping cover on the area where the man dropped, Aali glanced at Emkir, who had started moving again to the counters along the shop's left wall. Once there, he bunched himself for a spring and popped up to extend his pistol over the counter and down. As he did, Emkir could see the gunman was on the floor behind the counters, writhing in pain from his wound. Emkir could see the man had dropped his weapon in pain.

Sadly, Emkir also saw the body of a clerk who had obviously been shot with a shotgun at close range. Figuring this guy was not getting up any time soon, Emkir said to Aali, "I'm going to the right." Aali agreed and covered the back of the shop in case the other known gunman popped up again. As Emkir rushed in a half-crouch to the right, Aali propped herself and then did a short sprint to the back displays with her weapon ready. As Emkir hit the right-side display counter and looked over, he saw a half-bound female clerk struggling on the shop floor.

Next to the struggling woman was the body of the gunman who'd been tying her when Emkir and Aali had arrived. The bleeding wounds and glossy unfocused eyes showed he was obviously dead. He lay next to the woman and the shotgun, which had fallen from his lifeless hands. Aali was less fortunate as she followed her aim to see behind the display cases and found herself face to muzzle with a raised sawed off shotgun! As her awareness widened from that fatal bore, Aali could see a man holding the weapon one-handed with a clerk as a human-shield, held with the other hand in a one-armed choke hold. And as he had Aali dead to rights, the man snarled, "Hands in the air motha fuckah's!"

Figuring she was dead anyway, Aali shifted her aim at the same time she squeezed the trigger and relaxed her legs to let herself drop to the floor. It was the one move that the gunman was apparently sure she'd never try, and he died for his over-confidence. His weapon was pulled off aim as a blast exploded from the shotgun muzzle and her round exploded the gunman's head. As the now headless body dropped and the released clerk screamed and fought to flee, Aali could only hear a profound ringing accenting a sudden and complete silence.

It took long seconds for the shock to fade and for Aali to come to grips with the fact that being deaf was a small price to pay for not having died. As the blasts erupted, Emkir spun and shouted, "Aali!" as his wife stood there still aiming at the empty air between her and the splattered mass which had re-painted the shop wall. As Aali started to slowly move, and lowered her weapon, Emkir realized she wasn't hurt or threatened and decided to leap the counter and free the bound clerk.

And after those second behind the counter, as he freed and helped the clerk up, Emkir saw Aali was still in the same place and nearly in the same position she'd been in after the shooting. Moving to Aali, Emkir asked, "Are you ok? Can you hear me?" As he said that, Emkir looked at the clerk, who showed she could hear him. So he asked her, "Are you ok?" When she stuttered, "Yes", he asked her to call station security and she agreed to do that. Then Emkir moved back to Aali, who had not moved appreciably. As Emkir got close, he grabbed Aali from behind only to have his wife swing her weapon around, ready to fire on the new attacker! But she quickly recognized Emkir and pulled her aim up.

As Emkir asked again, "Are you ok?" Aali said, "I see you talking but I can't hear anything." Pointing at her right ear with the hand not holding her snub pistol, Aali said, "Shotgun blast next to head. Can't hear a word you said." Speaking with exaggerated movements, Emkir repeated "OK" three times as he struggled to think what to do or try next. But that was taken out of his hands as an official sounding voice from outside said, "We are going to raise the security gate. Everyone drop your weapons or you will be fired on." Aali watched as Emkir reacted to something she could not sense as he straightened up and set his weapon down on the floor.

After The Gunfight Was Over

     Quickly, as the gate started to raise, Emkir grabbed Aali's weapon from her hand and set it down as station security forced their way into the shop. Still less than a full minute after the couple arrived, they were being followed by station security in full combat load out as the couple sat on the floor with empty hands raised. As officers swarmed in, Emkir, Aali and the one unbound clerk were secured as other officers searched behind the counters calling out alerts like "Body Here!" and "Clear!" As the front of the shop was secured, one more clerk and an unharmed customer were also secured. At the same time, teams assaulted the back spaces of the shop and drove even more teams through the door even as medics were called for those up front.

Following a set of flash-bangs tossed into the door, several teams rushed the back spaces of the shop. As Emkir started trying to call anyone's attention to Aali's wounds he was politely told to hold on, and they began scanning him. As the scanner chirped, the officer called out, "Got an Ident here!" and several officers moved forward to place Emkir under threat as one of them recovered his Ident. Once that was checked, the apparent senior officer announced, "Admiral Sir Emkir Meshrumiikiim, crew on the Hotel California. Imperial Knight" Turning to Emkir, the officer said, "OK. Sir Knight, please forgive us for being blunt and securing you as we're clearing this up."

As this happened, another team had gone through Aali's Ident, even as medics had moved up to investigate and treat her wounds. As their identities were established, Emkir and Aali were escorted out of the shop onto the concourse with repeated apologies for the treatment as Emkir asked for treatment for Aali and was assured that was being taken care of. The other surviving customer was also escorted out of the shop along with the clerks, but everyone was still contained so they could be asked to explain what they had experienced? As they also tried to explain their desires to Aali, she pointed out that she was not able to hear anything.

As the team guided Aali with hand signals, the cluster of survivors found the concourse swarmed with official vehicles including a number of medical transports. Each survivor was swarmed by med-techs to start treating for any wounds and against the on-set of shock. Still, Emkir could hear as the officers inside began to identify bodies as bad guys or victims. As this happened, Emkir was satisfied to hear at least one of the gunmen survived to receive punishment. Another voice was soon heard in the tone of a sharp report as a trooper announced, "Back rooms secure, Sir!"

Despite his protests, Emkir was sat down and checked out by the medics separate from Aali, who was being more directly treated. As the medical work and investigations settled down, a team of officers did bring out an unwounded gunman who they'd apparently trapped and captured in the shop's offices. This was in addition to the secured and wounded gunman they had been treating in custody. As the on-site questioning started, Emkir was able to overhear that this was no more than an attempted robbery. He realized, as he listened, that he and Aali had simply walked in at the wrong moment, and interrupted the robbery early in its progress. Two men had the front shop under arms as a third was to tie people up. The fourth had the manager and moved to the back offices to close the shop's security gate and open the safe.

As things settled down, security officers and medical personnel checked up on and treated the survivors and even worked hard to keep the one wounded gunman alive. Officers also called the Hotel California, interrupting Mikah's post-surgical relaxation. Sipping wine and sitting with Zimzod as they watched vids, Mikah answered the comms to be greeted by a security NCO asking for the ship's captain. When Mikah said she was the captain, the sergeant told her some of her crew had been involved in an attempted robbery and shoot out! As Mikah could only think, "Seriously!? Really!?" Zimzod, who'd overheard, asked, "Who'd they rob and who'd they shoot?"

Accepting Mikah's outburst of disgust, the officer continued, "I'm sorry My Lady, we are going to transport them to the hospital and we needed to notify you." When Mikah asked, she was disappointed to learn the destination was a different hospital than the one she'd spent all day in or any they had visited. Once she had the data, and been told who had been involved, Mikah said she'd be right there. As Zimzod also got up to get ready to go, Terin asked "What happened?" and Mikah said "Aali and Emkir got themselves shot during a robbery." Terin asked, "Did you ask how bad?" and Mikah shrugged saying, "They're still alive."

Zimzod repeated, "So who were they robbing?", and got a laugh from Aiden. When Rol asked, "Do you need an escort?", Mikah said, "Sure. You gonna bring a gun this time?" referring to the dinner walk ambush in which Zach had died. Zimzod laughed with Mikah, who could not hold it back, as Rol joked, "I don't know. I just had my head examined..." To the side, Terin asked, "Do you want me to go?" in a not very enthusiastic tone. Zimzod said, "Just the two of us." as Mikah confirmed they'd go alone while the others would call the rest of the crew and tell them to get back to the ship...just in case. As the two prepared to leave, Rol hit the comms to call Inger and Terin called Munarshu.

Knowing station security wouldn't appreciate them showing up in combat armor, Zimzod put on his executive armor under a shipsuit and threw his poly-weave duster while Mikah slipped out of her shipsuit only long enough to slip into some executive armor before getting dressed again. As they emerged from their staterooms, Mikah saw Zimzod's coat and was reminded of Rol's mad dash against the Vargr in the Inthe system. Reminding Zimzod of that incident, she asked, "You're not gonna do any of that crazy stuff, are you?" and Zimzod said he wasn't. She had holstered her gauss pistol and Zimzod had his snub with him as she said they'd be taking the air-raft.

Getting The Word Out

     After being told to by Mikah, Rol comm'd Inger as Aiden tried to reach Munarshu. When she answered her comms, Inger said, "Don't tell me. Let me guess. Something went wrong." in a flat tone. When Rol answered, "You've got a very good instinct for these things", she said, "You forget who I'm out with." Her tone, as she said that, was disappointed. When Inger guessed that it had to do with Rol, the retired Marine said it wasn't and Inger asked who it was?

Rol said it was Aali and Emkir, saying, "They went shopping." Inger just shook her head and said, "I guess they were due." Continuing to comment, Inger said, "I knew Emkir would be a bad influence on her." in a disapproving voice. Rol decided to get into the jokes as he admitted he did not have the full data on the incident and did not know how many times Emkir's weapon had discharged accidentally. He did promise to let Inger know as soon as he had any details if she was interested. Inger again reminded the man who she was out with and said, "It was a good evening so far. Let's see if it gets better."

When Rol said she could look at the bright side of things, Inger asked, "There's a bright side?" Rol pointed out that they were in the hospital, so they were not in the morgue, finishing up asking, "How bad could it be?" As Inger was duly unimpressed with Rol's opinion, he again promised to update her if she liked and said, "Enjoy your dinner." Inger gave him an elongated "Thanks." as they broke the contact.

As Terin called Munarshu, the engineer was wandering concourses on the station. When Munarshu answered, Terin said, "Munarshu, you may want to head back to the ship." When the engineer asked, "What? We're leaving?" Terin said, "No, Aali and Emkir were just shot and they're in the hospital right now." When Munarshu asked if they were all right, Terin admitted he didn't know. As Munarshu let slip a few emotional words, Terin said, "So we need to preserve the secondary engineer on the ship. So get back here."

When Munarshu did not answer immediately, Terin asked if he was in the middle of something? When Munarshu emphatically said, "I was having fun, dammit", Terin sarcastically said, "Well, give her another Cr 20 and tell her to hurry the process along." Ignoring the comment, Munarshu said he was on the way and Terin thanked him, saying they wanted to keep everyone safe since they did not know what happened yet. When Munarshu asked what Terin did know, the navigator said it was something about a robbery.

Surprised, Munarshu asked, "What? They were rolling a place?" and Terin admitted he did not think they were the ones doing the robbing, but also said "With this crew, anything is possible." Accepting that, Munarshu said he was on his way as he broke the contact and started musing to himself that he needed a weapons carry permit for defense and a score card to figure out the crew. Giving up on the presumed safety of public transportation, Munarshu decided to spend for safety and called for a taxi and even offered a Cr 25 bonus if they got their fast.

Once the call was done, it was less than five minutes before a driver pulled up and asked if he was Munarshu? Munarshu said he was as the driver snapped, "Get in" and he opened the cab's door to check if there was anyone in the back seat. Reacting to the urgency and the fact he'd been told the passenger was headed to the Hotel California, the driver hit the acceleration as Munarshu found himself falling the last bit into his seat. Munarshu decided the driver was certainly working to earn the Cr 25 bonus and a tip.

Once on the way, the driver asked, "You people get around, don't cha?" and Munarshu answered, "No comment." As Munarshu was settling in, the driver played his hands over the taxi's controls to set the destination into the vehicle's computer. Once that was done, the man spun his seat around to face the engineer and handed him a digital card, saying, "Give this to your captain and tell her I said 'hi'." Of course, this completely shocked Munarshu stuttered out, "No problem. When I see her. I hear they're out and about."

Now it was the driver's turn to be surprised as he asked, "They're off the ship too?" in a concerned tone. Catching himself, and becoming more professional, the driver asked, "Can you confirm they are off ship too?" As Munarshu had to wonder what business it was of a taxi driver, he had to admit to himself that the man seemed genuinely concerned. Shrugging mentally, Munarshu reviewed what he'd been told and admitted he could not confirm what he'd said. After that, the driver turned back to his console and grabbed a comms, all but ignoring Munarshu.

As the engineer listened, the man said, "Yeah. Yeah, it's me. Can you confirm the locations of Lady Kirlim and any other members of the crew outstanding?" After a pause and some information apparently received, the driver thanked the person on the other end and disconnected. Turning back to Munarshu saying, "I've confirmed that Lady Kirlim and Sir Zimzod are on their way to the hospital where Sir Emkir and Dame Eikusdi are being treated." Surprised even more, Munarshu accepted the information and thanked the driver even as he considered the situation.

Continuing, the driver said, "I've also confirmed that Dame Inger is out with the station's executive director, so she's secure." Accepting the situation, Munarshu admitted that he knew she'd planned that outing and doubted she'd be returning to the ship. As he said that, Munarshu checked out the card the driver had given him. It was a standard issue, programmable electronic business card. It advertised a wide number of services he claimed to provide and the driver's comms data. After scanning over the card, Munarshu asked, "So, is there anything else you do?"

The cabbie shrugged and asked, "What do you have in mind?" Changing his mind, Munarshu asked, "I take it you know this crew?" and the driver admitted, "I've encountered them before. You can say that." Nodding, Munarshu said, "OK, so you know my dilemma." and the driver simply said, "Yes." As Munarshu lamented that he was the only one aboard without right to carry, and that he'd likely be the one to die next, the driver suggested that at least the torture of waiting would be short.

When Munarshu asked if he knew a way to get a quick carry permit, the driver gamely said, "Sure. Tomorrow... Well, not tomorrow because you're busy tomorrow. The day after tomorrow, go to the station admin offices and fill out an application and apply." The matter of fact delivery cut off at the knees Munarshu's reaction to being told to follow the rules when he was obviously looking for a less...legal answer. As Munarshu looked at him, the driver seemed to think of something and said, "Hold on." Then turning to his console, he rooted through the items there.

Turning back to Munarshu, he said, "You may want to start, when you get back to your ship, by slipping this into your computer console. This will get you to the right place to download the form." Munarshu put the data card into a pocket as he thanked the driver and smiled at the gift. As they rode to the ship, Munarshu noticed increasing amounts of security until they got to the entrance to the concourse where the ship was berthed. That was completely closed off by security, but as they arrived, the driver hit a few controls and went 'anti-grav' to float over the armed presence without being challenged by anyone in security.

By the time this display had occurred, Munarshu was impressed to have found a cabbie and intelligence operative all rolled into one. Considering the assistance he'd been given on the paperwork for a carry permit, Munarshu had to repeat to himself again, "Outstanding!" But soon they were in the berth and he was stepping out while paying the cabbie for the ride. While the price was Cr 15, Munarshu paid that, the promised Cr 25 bonus and an additional Cr 20 more.

After that, the cabbie thanked him very much and drove off as Munarshu went into the ship. As he entered, Munarshu was updated that what the cabbie had told him was true, and there was no more information on what had happened to Emkir and Aali. Realizing the media was not going to have much detail for some time, Munarshu did his evening routine and waited for Mikah, Zimzod and the others to arrive.

Leaving Another Emergency Room

     As Mikah powered up the vehicle, she comm'd the port and asked for directions to the hospital and advised them she'd be piloting the ship's air-raft. Port services gave them the frequencies for directional beacons she could set the raft's nav systems to so the vehicle would automatically pilot them to the location. From there, it would be a ten to fifteen-minute flight to the hospital. of course, as they traveled, they passed security forces moving in the direction of their berth. Dodging where she needed to, Mikah moved through the traffic and followed the beacons.

Once there, they were taken to the ward in which Aali was being treated. Updated on Aali's treatment, Mikah was also told Emkir had been given a clean bill of health. While Emkir had not been wounded, he had been treated for shock. Aali's wounds were minor puncture wounds, with some of them "through and through". The treatment prescribed was to inject growth hormones along with sedatives, anti-bacterials and a local anesthetic beneath a spray-on skin growth covering under hygienic bandaging.

Mikah and Aali were told her ears would heal but there was both shock and concussion damage to some of the internal structures of her ears. During the transport, they had used hand scanners to confirm no fragments remained within Aali's body. Once they'd arrived at the hospital, the medical teams took over with more powerful versions of the scanners used on the scene, took blood and re-ran many tests as they worked to heal her.

Left alone for a brief period with a finger-pad, Emkir had written, "Are you ok sweetheart?" and Aali answered, "Other than not being able to hear, I'm fine." Emkir next wrote, "Good shooting in there." and Aali nodded as Emkir wrote, "that last one was kind of scary." referring to the man who'd literally had a shotgun to her head. Aali agreed, "Oh, Hell yeah." after which Emkir nodded and said, "Every freaking store." Soon enough, with Mikah and Zimzod there, the couple were signed out and Aali given some pain killers and an ointment to promote cellular regrowth.

As they organized for the trip back to the ship, Emkir handed back the datapad he'd been using to talk to Aali knowing he had one back at the ship. He also continued making jokes suggesting that his head hurting and he needed opiates. This was similar to the wheedling lies addicts had used to get drugs from medics. Mikah and Zimzod had both been exposed to that and soon, Zimzod stomped on Emkir's foot. As he did, he said Emkir now had something else to take his attention away from his headache. Aali had to try to piece things together as she watched the conversation progress to the accompaniment of ringing in her ears.

Aali was alarmed when, after Emkir apparently said something to Mikah, Zimzod moved up and very viciously stomped down on Emkir's right foot! Then, as Zimzod stepped back laughing, Emkir suddenly appeared to start howling as he hopped around on his left foot, holding his now-stomped right foot. As Mikah waved Aali forward towards the exit, Emkir complained he now hurt more and needed drugs. In a growling tone, Mikah promised him she had something back at the ship which would put him right out.

Soon, they were in the air raft and heading back to the berth. Along the way, Emkir explained to Mikah and Zimzod what had happened at the shop, pointing out they were not only not at fault but heroes. And while Zimzod and Mikah had their doubts, they soon got to the berth entranceand found it secured by a small army! As they approached, Mikah swiveled her seat back on Emkir and said, "You did this!" in an accusing voice. She then turned back and flashed the security cordon their ID's before guiding the air-raft past the cordon. Emkir answered, "I shot three bogeys and this is the thanks I get! And my foot hurts too now."

When they got back to the ship, Terin had the news going full blast as he, Rol and Munarshu watched the shooting take over the bulk of the headline news cycle. Aiden missed the news, having gone to bed early after his surgery. The story of the small-time robbery attempt was explained fairly accurately, and took on a larger significance when it was reported some crew of the Hotel California had been involved. Aali and Emkir were even portrayed as members of the Arch Duke's personal staff! When Munarshu had arrived and heard this for the first time, he asked if there'd been a call yet and was told by Rol, "Not yet."

Once Mikah docked the air-raft and everyone moved into the lounge, Terin asked, "OK, what happened?" as Emkir took great pains to help Aali along. After settling Aali down, Emkir gave Mikah and Zimzod a second run through as he explained what happened to the others in the lounge. He especially highlighted a point in the shootout when Aali had shot a man despite him having a gun to her head! Terin responded, "That's pretty ballsy." while Rol disbelievingly asked, "You did what??"

As Emkir ignored Rol and continued explaining the situation, Mikah grabbed a shotglass from the autoserv and stepped into the med-bay. As the Admiral regaled the crew, describing various points of the shootout, Mikah filled the glass with the "vargr juice" she'd shown Terin how to make. Deciding her need to "test the batch" coincided with Emkir's need to sleep off the excitement, Mikah served him the glass saying it was for his aching foot and head.

Taking the prescription, Emkir tossed back the contents of the glass in one shot and was not even able to hand back the glass before he dropped to the floor! As Mikah looked down at Emkir's form, she commented, "We really should have waited for Ms. Vik to get back to see that." Those who remembered Inger's Date in the Inthe system laughed. As Terin asked after the contents of the glass, Mikah held the glass up in offer to Aali who got the gist and said, "No thanks!"

Once Terin was told this was the stuff he'd watched Mikah mix up, he asked if there was some sort of antidote in case Emkir actually slept through the funeral the next day. Mikah assured him the affects would wear off before then, though she really had little data to base that on. Still, she didn't plan to tell him that. Finally, the piper needed to be paid as they assembled and carried Emkir's limp body to the couple's stateroom and settled him into bed.

Once Emkir and Aali were settled in to sleep and recover, the others returned to the lounge and news. The shooting was now a top news story as involvement of 'the Arch Duke's personal staff' was reported. That misrepresentation disgusted Mikah. As well, there were now video clips being played from the incident and there were even cheers when Aali's rush into a 'nose to shotgun' move was shown, frozen and the miraculous and heroic outcome described by the reporter.

Soon, the crew find beginning to end coverage with video clips which showed exactly how things unfolded. From the first entry of the crooks to the arrival of Emkir and Aali just before the shop's security gate was lowered. Everyone was disappointed there was no sound as it prevented them hearing what was being said. More video segments with reporter commentary took the watching audience through the shootout. At the end, as part of a wrap up summary, there was an obviously hastily assembled but caring memorial to the one shop clerk who had been killed.

The most impressive, and to Rol horrifying, moment in the video was that nose to gun act as Rol could not figure out how Aali had not been shot. Soon, as they watched, Munarshu dropped off to sleep. The rest of the crew relaxed until a port vehicle eventually returned Inger to the ship. Once she arrived, having been told everything during her evening out, her reaction was, "You know....every fucking planet." Her frustration showed in her voice as well as her failure to come up with anything original to cover what was a sadly regular crew activity.

As Terin said, "I take it you saw the news?" Mikah held up the glass and asked if Inger wanted to take a shot? Giving Mikah an appraising look, she asked, "What's in it?" and Mikah answered, "Clear stuff." When Inger was still more than a bit skeptical, Mikah said, "You've had it before." and Inger responded, "Oh, Really?" Deciding the direction of the conversation needed to change, Inger took a breath and said, "Well, the good news is, I've talked to the Executive Director and they do have saleable equipment to off load. So I've set up a deal, and for Cr 25,000 we can buy a cargo sealing machine and a set of two grav-Cargo lifters."

Everyone in the lounge cheered that news, as it would make it at least possible for them to try to smuggle the hired cargo into the D'Ganzio system. Not seeing the forest for the trees, Munarshu said, "Oh sure, now that we've already moved the 'droids in." and Terin said "We'll need them again" as others agreed with Terin. Zimzod pointed out they'd be hauling cargo and had needed lifters before, so they'd need them again. As that conversation wound down and people faded to their own interests, Mikah reminded them all of the funeral the next day before they went to sleep.

Since some had gone to sleep before the news from Inger, Terin said, "Lady Mikah?" and she turned to see what he needed. Terin continued, "In the morning, I'd like to have a little discussion with the crew about Knight stuff. Order stuff." Not sure what that meant, Mikah said, "OK, then you don't need Munarshu, right?" Terin said he'd still like to have the engineer be part of the discussion and she said "OK" again, not sure what the navigator was on about. After that, while others had set their alarms, Mikah set an all-ship alarm to wake everyone for the funeral.


A Morning Concert Before The Funeral

     At 5am, as was his pattern, Munarshu's alarm went off and he went through his morning routine. Having searched out his gear the night before, Munarshu dressed in a IISS 'Class A' uniform despite it's being inappropriate for a civilian to do so. Not authorized to carry a weapon, Munarshu decided not to try to smuggle one with him. Despite his dressing taking longer than usual, Munarshu was still out into the darkened lounge well before anyone else. Grabbing a cup of caff, Munarshu sparked up the news and relaxed to watch until the others joined him.

The robbery and shoot-out were still part of the news cycle, but had faded because it was just a small time robbery gone bad after all. Regarless of the celebrities involved. The days' big story was turning out to be Sir Zachariah's funeral, with coverage from the highlights of Zach's life to commentary on the nobility known to be attending. While Zach's recent activities included his actions against the ragtag fleet, some time was spent on the mysteries surrounding his activities.

One segment of the report focused on the unknown events from the evening of Saturday 203 1112 to the morning of Tuesday, 206. Somehow, that night, Sir Zachariah had gone from a healthy and active individual to a man seriously injured and needing a grav-Chair to move around at all. There had been a short period, in those days, where he was presumably in-hospital, but there had never been any explanation of what happened to the Knight?

This sparked rumors the crew the Hotel California were involved in a small but nasty battle involving the warehouse of an underworld crime boss during the same period. That segment was also tied to the ambush in which Sir Zachariah had been killed, by thugs believed to be chasing a bounty offered by another underworld boss. Speculation rose from this, asking just what the crew's relationship to the underworld in the Rhylanor system was? And this also raised questions and rumors of just who the crew were working for?

There was speculation in the reports that Zach and the crew planned an assassination of Arcea and possibly Tarulli, who reports said was still alive and at large. Reasons behind these attempts ranged from the personal to the possibility the crew were on a direct mission for the Emperor himself! Video was included of Zach's speech at the funeral for the dead of the INS Khurmumshuuna Khangu. AS he watched, Munarshu was learning more of the history and rumors surrounding his crew than he'd had time to pay attention to while serving his last berth.

Munarshu watched until an all-ship alarm jarred him, at 6:30 am, playing from all speakers! In his surprise, Munarshu reached for his hip, where a holster would have been during the four years of wartime service. But, as his surroundings came back to him, Munarshu secured what he'd been doing and moved quickly through the bridge to the ship's locker. There, he grabbed his gauss rifle and slammed a magazine to the receiver as he visually checked the weapon.

Once armed, Munarshu grabbed a carry bag of magazines and headed back into the bridge. Firing up a console there, Munarshu began checking all the ship's entries and portals. The only unsecured portal was the ship's cargo bay, which was open to the berth, and through which entry could be gained to the ship's engineering section and the rest of the ship. Realizing anyone who'd found a way into the berth could now be aboard the ship, Munarshu decided he needed to fire up some sensors and considered which ones to activate?

Searching through the internal sensors menus, Munarshu found the internal cameras he'd been told the crew had installed and sparked up the main spaces, as well as those cameras in engineering. As he began to scan the screens, the only movement Munarshu could see were the 'droids, as Wall-e and the one engineering 'droid continued their assigned tasks. When he could find no reason for the alarm, Munarshu began digging into the alarm to see what triggered it?

It took the engineer a few key strokes and selections to get into the alarm log and search for what he wanted. When he found the data, Munarshu saw the alarm had been manually set to go off at the time it did! Checking the ID on the action, Munarshu saw it had been set by Lady Mikah the night before. She had made setting from the console, in her stateroom. Realizing she must have set up a wake-up alarm for the entire ship, Munarshu secured his weapon and then returned to the console, activating a ship-wide comms.

As the others on board were waking up, with Emkir waking, nudging Aali and pointing to the clock, Munarshu searched through the ship's library before making his selection. He then hit the stud and activated a high-volume playback of Vilani opera over the ship's internal speakers! The piece he selected was the most abusive piece, in his opinion, that Munarshu could find. As the music blasted into Terin's stateroom, his head snapped around as he looked for a source and volume controls. As Terin realized it was coming from the ship's comms, and he couldn't turn the sound down, Terin threw on a ship's suit and abandoned his morning routine to head for the bridge.

Rol also was in the beginning of his routine as he grabbed his snub pistol and headed out to see what was happening. Zimzod abandoned his morning preparations to step to the door of Mikah's stateroom across the passage and ask if she had a taser? As he arrived, Mikah was loading tranq rounds into her snub pistol with a look on her face which said she considered the music a hostile act. The two then joined forces and moved out.

In her stateroom, Inger paused at the sudden onset of the music and considered it before deciding someone had taste. She then continued her morning routine as she enjoyed the music. In his stateroom, Aiden's head ached a bit and the so-called music was not helping. To make matters worse, the selection sounded suspiciously like that concert Inger had taken him and Munarshu to days before. An actfor which he had yet to forgive the former port official. Ignoring the music, figuring he'd figure out what was behind it later, Aiden headed to the med-bay for drugs for his headache.

In their stateroom, Aali felt some odd vibrations as she saw Emkir suddenly react to the music, dropping to the floor and covering his ears. As Emkir cried out that the music was too loud, Aali rushed down to his side to see what was causing his actions. All she could tell was that Emkir was shouting something, but she couldn't make out what. That he was hearing something she could not was obvious, and was relieved it was not a stroke as she investigated.

As Terin stepped out of his stateroom, he could see Aiden holding his head. Terin made a direct line to the bridge as Rol came from the starboard, he was joined by Zimzod and Mikah, and each noticed that Mikah and Rol were carrying snub pistols. As they greeted Rol, he shouted, "Did you do this?" and Mikah shouted back that she didn't. As those in motion made their way towards the bridge, or the med-bay in Aiden's case, the music suddenly ended. Terin was in the lead, and was already opening the access valve to the bridge.

After The Music Was Over

     Seeing the crew reacting to the music, some of them armed, Munarshu killed the music, much to Inger's disappointment and everyone else's relief. As Terin saw Munarshu standing at the consoles and put two and two together, he advanced on the engineer growling, "Get off my fucking bridge!" When the others arrived at the portal, they saw Terin had physically grabbed Munarshu, who was wearing an active duty IISS uniform, and was pushing the engineer out of the bridge.

As she saw this, Mikah demanded, "Was this you?" and Munarshu proudly said, "Yeah." When Mikah demanded, "Why?", Munarshu complained, "The alarm went off." Mikah responded, "Yeah! I set it last night." in an angry tone. Munarshu defended, "I thought we were being boarded!" and Mikah told him, "You're an idiot!" Munarshu snapped back, "I may be an idiot but at least I was awake to repel the borders." Rol simply nodded as he cleared his weapon and returned to his stateroom muttering, "I thought Brian was dead."

Standing at the access to the bridge, Terin firmly said, "Remember, your workspace is back there", pointing aft to the engineering section. "Stay off my bridge." Munarshu responded by indicating the entire ship with his hands as he said, "Wait. See this? This is all my work space", stressing the word 'all'. Disregarding Munarshu's statement with an "Uh huh", Terin returned to his stateroom to continue preparing for the funeral.

As the others did the same, Aiden asked Mikah for some analgesics. Zimzod asked if they could still hit Munarshu with a tranq round to punish him? But the round's effects would certainly take too long to wear off and they needed the whole crew to turn out for the funeral. Zimzod just shrugged and figured he'd shoot Munarshu some other time. Smiling, as he now had something fun to think about, Zimzod returned to his preparations as Mikah gave Aiden drugs and they did too.

Terin decided to dress in his best suit and bring his snub pistol in a shoulder holster. Rol wore his Vilani robes and wore his gauss pistol in a hip-holster. Zimzod put on the uniform of their order and wore his cutlass and gauss pistol with it. Mikah wore her grey Solomani business suit over executive armor, and holstered her gauss pistol. Aali dressed in executive armor, her Order uniform and was armed with her gauss pistol. Emkir wore his ballistic fabric Vilani suit over his executive armor, and holstered his 9mm.

Aiden wore his solemn black ballistic-resistant suit over his executive armor and holstered his snub pistol. Inger dressed in her black skirt suit and holstered one of her mag-fed 9mm pistols. As the crew were finishing up preparing, the ship's comms began to alert. Since he had already dressed and was ready, Munarshu answered the comms to find it was the funeral home calling to check up on the crew's planned arrival time?

Munarshu admitted the crew were still getting ready and he was unaware when they had planned on leaving the ship. The caller said that things were in place and waiting on the crew, so they asked to be advised when the crew were on their way. Munarshu said he'd make sure that happened and the call ended. Munarshu then comm'd Terin to let him know about the call and Terin wondered who the hell was calling him? Picking up, he saw that Munarshu was calling and stepped over to his stateroom door to ask, "What?!"

Munarshu said, "The mortuary called." and when Terin asked, "Yes?" Munarshu continued, "They'd like to know when we're planning to arrive?" When Terin told him to ask Lady Mikah, Munarshu said he'd asked Terin first as he was in charge of the funeral planning. Terin pointed out that Mikah was the one in charge and closed his stateroom door to finish getting ready.

Hitting his comms, Munarshu called Mikah, who asked what he wanted? Munarshu said, "The mortuary called and wanted to know when we're planning to leave, as they're waiting on us." Considering for a second, Mika said, "We will be leaving at eight thirty." and Munarshu said he'd let them know. Before they broke the line, Mikah told Munarshu to call the crew a cab and that reminded him of the cabbie and card from the day before.

Mentioning that he had a card for her, "from a particular cabbie", Munarshu read his name when she asked. Hearing the name, Mikah remembered the agent and said, "Really? Call him. Call him and tell him we need a ride." Accepting that as they ended the call, Munarshu checked the number and called the cabbie. But when the comms was answered, Munarshu heard a different voice from the one he expected.

Confused, Munarshu asked, "Who is this?" and the person who answered introduced himself. When Munarshu said whom he thought he was calling, he was told he had called that number, but the cabbie he expected was off-shift. When the man prompted Munarshu, the engineer said they needed transport for nine, and was answered, "Tell Lady Mikah we'll be there as soon as possible." Accepting that, Munarshu said "OK" and they cut the call as Munarshu made the announcement transport was on the way.

As folks finished up getting ready, Terin asked about breakfast and Rol moved to the galley to cook. About that time, the cab arrived and signaled it was outside and waiting. Mikah got on the comms and asked the driver to come in and have breakfast with them as they had time. The driver agreed, though he pointed out he'd have to leave the meter running. Terin pointed out that he had wanted to talk to the crew and Mikah told him, "He's OK." When Terin asked, "Are you sure?" Mikah said she was and Terin accepted that. But overhearing, the driver said he'd wait outside.

So as the crew gathered for Terin, Mikah asked, "What's up?" Terin said, "The little incident that happened..." and Mikah asked, "Yeah? Which one?" Terin continued, "With Sir Aiden basically electrocuting Gladys in the middle of a department store..." Again, he was interrupted as Zimzod asked, "So what's your point?" and, as if suddenly remembering, Mikah turned to Emkir and said, "Emkir, Since we have that video clip of Gladys getting tased, I want you to set that up as the screen saver for all the ship's terminals."

At that, Terin said, "I really think that would be a bad idea..." and was cut off by several of the crew asking why? Terin continued, "First of all, what Aiden did was criminal. If Gladys here really wanted to press charges, one of your crew members would be getting thrown in jail for an investigation. And not only that... I mean, I can understand a hazing prank or that kind of thing, but doing it right in the middle of a major fucking department store? Where he's doing the flounder and pissing all over himself?" Pointing at Aiden, Terin continued, in an angered voice, "And he's there laughing over top of him?" But already, some of the crew were holding back giggles, and barely at that.

The control ended as Zimzod literally squeaked out, "That was the best part" and started laughing out right. Terin found himself having to shout down the release of laughter as he said, "Yeah, it's the best part until Grand Duchess Delphine sees the fucking video of this." Against the multiple excuses that came up from some of the crew, Terin pushed on saying, "Do you people have any type of...of concept of what the implications this could lead to for the ship and this crew?" He finished on an incredulous note.

In the silence Terin finally got, he said, "I mean, I should go to the Order right now and make a report of this, being I've been in this Order several years now. And this kind of behavior out in public is completely unacceptable. This order that you've just been in for what, a week now? It's extremely prestigious. And they would really frown upon shit like this happening." Finally responding, Mikah asked, "Well what do you want us to do?" in a challenging tone.

Terin admitted, "I don't know. I think you, as captain, need to think of some of the implications. Hopefully, this will be kept secret by Instel-Arms. 'Cause they said they don't want this to get out either. But all it takes is one person with a little camera on their comms to take a vid of this and the next thing you know..." Mikah interrupted him, demanding, "Has it come out yet?" and Terin said, "Not yet" in a tone that suggested that was certainly not 'final'. Mikah challenged, don't you think that, if anyone had anything, it would have come out already?"

Terin pointed out, "It's only been three days" and Mikah replied, "And with all the stuff that goes on with us, you don't think someone would have jumped on that and said 'Hey, look what I have'?" Terin calmly said, "Maybe they're still negotiating the price. I don't know." When Mikah said, "I don't believe this. Emkir, do you have anything to do with this?" the Admiral sparked up in a confused tone saying, "Who me? Not that I know of." Terin asked, "Why would he have anything to do with this? All I'm saying is, if some bloody schlep has something, they are gonna want a lot of money for it."

As Terin tried to continue, "What I 'm trying to say is..." Mikah cut him off, asking emphatically, "What do you think we can do about it?" as she enunciated each word. Terin answered slowly at first, "Well, first thing, if the Arch Duke or the Grand Duchess invite you over to have a discussion about what you did about this incident as it broke out, saying 'We watched the video of it a dozen times, laughed our asses off and told Aiden not to do it again'... Do you think the Grand Duchess will find that appropriate?"

Terin continued, "I'm just saying, this shit could get all of us in a lot of trouble." When Mikah demanded, "Are you involved?" Terin stated abjectly, "No! I'm trying to hope it doesn't get out, because now that I'm involved with you, that would look bad for me too." Shrugging, Mikah said, "if you want to buy back your servitude, you can pay us back if you want. Then you can get off the ship."

Terin answered her back, "I didn't plan on getting off the ship. I'm trying to help the ship." But Mikah said, "Well, if you're gonna be like this every time something goes..." Terin then interrupted her, saying "I understand pulling a prank on somebody, I totally get it. I'm just saying, doing it in the middle of a major department store isn't the place to do it." Glaring at Terin, Mikah said, "I can't control what he did. OK? If you have a problem with what he did, you tell him, and hash it out with him." stressing the words 'he' and 'him'.

Terin pointed out, "You're the captain." and Mikah agreed, "Yeah, I'm the captain of the ship. But where he did it, is totally 100% his fault." Terin agreed with that as Mikah continued, "It has no bearing on me, he's not upset.." pointing to Munarshu. Terin said, "He's really upset." as Munarshu said, "I am upset but..." Mikah interrupted again, pointing to Munarshu and then Aiden as she said, "He'll get even with him, just like everybody on this crew gets even."

Terin took control back, saying, "I'm just saying, you are the captain, and you're in charge of disciplining the crew." As Mikah angrily snapped, "OK", Terin started to say, "If anything happens..." and Mikah interrupted him saying to Aiden, "Consider yourself disciplined. You're grounded. Except for funerals, you're not allowed off the ship." Zimzod added, "And going someplace to get shot at, let's not forget about that." Standing up straighter, Mikah eyed them all, coming back to Munarshu as she said, "The next person who pulls a prank, Munarshu... Who pulls a prank on the entire ship, is also grounded. Ok? So you guys go to the funeral and that's it. Neither one of you are allowed off the ship."

When Munarshu asked, "Wait a minute. You get grounded for electrocuting someone in public and I get grounded for bringing everyone culture, on the ship?" Aiden pointed out, "I pissed you off. You pissed her off." as he pointed at Mikah. Munarshu agreed with Aiden that the pilot had gotten him. Aiden added, "Not to mention, I made her laugh." Rol followed that up, saying "You do stuff like that off the ship, it's the captain's job to decide what the penalty would be. You do it on the ship, we could space you." as he finished up with a smile." Aiden admitted, "Mom and Dad are not interested in justice. They're interested in quiet."

Picking the topic back up, Terin said, "I'm just more concerned about... I'm not saying anyone will find out about this, but if they do, you gotta show some type of response. You know what I'm saying?" As Mikah demanded, "Why do I have to show anything? Why can't I just tell them I already took care of it." and Terin pushed back, "Because you're the captain." Mikah asked, "Are you gonna tell them 'No they didn't'?" and when Terin said he was not going to say anything, Mikah said, "Well then shut up!"

After Terin said, "OK", Rol said, "I've got one thing to ask, though, about this whole thing. Is the standing order about no pranks on the ship still in effect?" As he finished, Mikah snapped, "Yes." in a venomous tone. As Rol said, "OK, there we are", Zimzod said, "There it is. No pranks on the ship." Aiden pointed out, "And I've just been grounded on the ship." and Munarshu answered, "So have I."

But Terin pointed out to Aiden, "You better pray that Grand Duchess Delphine doesn't find out about this, because... You know what kind of a sense of humor she has. And watching someone she just Knighted a month ago in a very public ceremony on the Sector Capital, would just love seeing her man electrocuting a commoner in the middle of a store." Sarcastically, Terin continued, "I'm sure she would laugh and laugh and laugh about that all the way to her jeweler." The reference to hate stones, while unstated, was clear.

After a pause, Terin more calmly said, "I'm just saying we have to be more careful about how we represent ourselves, especially now that everyone here is a Knight." Nodding but angry, Mikah said, "OK Mr. Paladin, you will set the example." As Terin protested, saying he never claimed to be a paladin, Mikah re-stated, "You set the example." and Terin said, "OK. You will never see me electrocuting a fellow crew member in public." But Mikah pushed, "You will never do anything that will endanger or transgress any kind of things against the Order or anyone on this ship." Terin simply answered back, "Well, I try very hard not to."

At that, Zimzod asked to have a few words and calmly asked, "Now Terin, you've been on the ship for what, four days now?" and when Terin agreed, Zimzod said, "So far, you're sitting through a funeral, a firefight, a dinner with High Nobility and a bunch of other stuff. You gotta understand that with this crew..." At that, Terin interrupted, saying, "I know you guys are shakers and movers. Everyone in the whole system understands that." Zimzod took up what he was saying again, "You gotta understand that this crew has a certain responsibility to where there is a certain level of danger. And some people have a peculiar way of blowing off steam and amusing themselves."

Terin said, "Yes! I understand that. Just don't do it out in public. That's all I'm saying." Mikah agreed to that saying, "OK. You guys get that?" And while the others were agreeing, Zimzod pointed a finger at Aiden and said, "No more public executions for you, Mister!" in a comedically self-important voice. Feeling they were now on track again, Terin said, "Like I said, if he had done it in the middle of the bridge, it would be bad but it wouldn't have the potential to explode like it does now. Aiden put some major turds in the stream, and hopefully they're gonna go downstream and no one's gonna notice them..."

Mikah assured, "They are gonna go down the stream and no one's gonna notice them. Because if they were noticed, it would have gotten out already." in a voice of pure conviction. Stepping in, Emkir asked, "Do you still want that screensaver ma'am?" and Mikah said, "Yes. And make sure it's in his cabin too." pointing at Terin. Terin shrugged and said it was only a configuration setting and could be removed quickly. Zimzod pointed out that if they watched it in enough detail, like he had, and really studied it as art, they would appreciate it.

Once that was wrapped up, Emkir took advantage of everyone being present to recap. He reminded them they'd gotten the OK to install the safe and hire an auction house. He then said they wanted to try to reach out to Brian's family in the Lanth system with a visit there after the current job was done. This brought up a point and Rol asked if the crew should not be encouraged to draw up wills in the event something does happen? When Terin asked if Sir Brian's will from his prior service might not be in force, they admitted it might. He then asked what service Sir Brian had been in and was told he was a merchanter, which could mean any corporation or even crew on a free trader.

When Emkir asked if Terin wanted to help on the search for wills, Terin asked if anyone knew who Sir Brian worked for last? Mikah said he could start looking for data from the Emerald system around the end of the Fifth Frontier War, as that is where she and Zimzod met him. Terin decided to check into that once back to the ship from the funeral. Inger confirmed Emkir said Brian's last survivors were in the Lanth system and they talked about methods to find Brian's will as Emkir reminded them the cab was waiting.

Now that the conversation was done, and Rol announced breakfast was ready, Mikah again invited the cabbie in to eat. Emkir planned to set up the screen savers for Mikah after the funeral. As they ate, Munarshu asked Emkir, as the ship's computer officer, for help getting the dead brains out of the androids and the Admiral said he'd help. Once they'd all eaten and all the chatter was done, the crew boarded the grav-Vehicle for the ride to the funeral site.

Zach's Funeral

     After arriving at the venue, the funeral was everything the crew expected. In addition to the expected nobility, it seemed every member of the Open Skies corporation turned out for the event. All in Line jackets displaying the corporate logo and displaying a dazzling display of smiles. Despite the possible repercussions, the group remained smiling throughout the entire ceremony. In addition, at the salient and most poignant moments in the ceremony, the Open Skies section were the only group applauding and, at times, even cheering.

The crew quietly enjoyed the display, even as some of the armed and armored retinue of the Arch Duke moved to 'oversee' the section. Especially because the Open Skies Captains didn't let that dampen their mood, showing the power merchant spacers had over stationers and the planet-bound, who needed trade to flow. Their actions provided an emotional outlet for the crew of the Hotel California, who had to play for the cameras and crowd.

Still, there were key moments, such as Duke Leonard's comments. His Grace opened with praise for those successes Sir Zachariah achieved on behalf of the Imperium and its people. The Duke praised his quiet service as a merchant, working to keep the many worlds of the Imperium supplied and healthy. He then slowly stepped up to Zach's one public battle honor, painting all of Zach's awards and actions large, hiding the fact many of his "awards" were actually punishments. And once that opening had lifted the crowd's opinion of Zach, despite a few jeers from Open Skies, Duke Leonard turned his comments into a public service performance.

Leonard's narration once more returned to Sir Zachariah's humble roots, and worked their way up his path to nobility. As the Duke laid it on, promoting his message to the populous, Sir Terin quietly jabbed Munarshu, telling him to listen up for his opportunity. This got a quick sharp rebuke from Lady Mikah, who pointed out that he was not only inappropriately hazing a crew mate, but doing so in public at a very high level event! Hardly the behavior of a paladin. Terin simply said, "I didn't do anything! I just whispered some good advice." Mikah snarked, "I guess someone else is grounded now."

Finally, Duke Leonard wrapped his comments, saying, that Sir Zachariah's life was a sign to all commoners that they too can rise, from both usual and unusual circumstances, to the nobility. "Sadly, Sir Zachariah's light burned only briefly before becoming a guiding light in the firmament." And once His Grace was done, it was Lady Mikah's turn to make her comments. Marshaling her wits and thoughts, Mikah told the crowd a stirring, heart-rending story of Zach. She punctuated her comments with the highlights of Zach's few achievements while she was his Captain. And but for those achievements, those listening had no way to know the other words Mikah spoke were about others she really respected or cared about.

So even Mikah's appearance of true emotion played real as she made her way past her personal mine field of the day. Despite the impact she was having with the crowd in general, when she looked over at Open Skies, they were all still smiling happily and humming some tune or other. Eventually, the final ceremonies played out and an empty coffin was fired into the star as the funeral came to an end. As everyone was then released to their regularly scheduled lives, Rol said, "That was touching. Let's go eat." and Emkir agreed with him.

As Emkir asked if they wanted to go back to the ship or hit a restaurant, Sir Terin said, "Lady Mikah, that was fantastic speech. Fantastic." and Mikah responded, "Thank you. You're still grounded." Terin said, "But you didn't even hear me say anything. I whispered it to him." pointing to Munarshu. Mikah answered, "But he laughed. During a solemn moment." and she turned away to lead them out to find a ride. As she did this, her comms buzzed and Mikah found she was getting a call from her favorite taxi driver, saying he was waiting.

As they were almost to the location of the taxi, a group of the senior most in-system captains of Open Skies stepped up, bowed respectfully to Lady Mikah and the senior Captain asked how they enjoyed the chocolates? Mikah frankly admitted, "Well, the rest of the crew had some but I didn't trust them." Nodding, the man said, "Well, that is unfortunate because that was a heart-felt gesture. While we had problems with Zachariah Wood, we don't have or want problems with you and your crew, and if we can be of service, please let us know." Mikah accepted that, saying they'd see what the future held and the Captains thanked Mikah, bowed again and left.

As Emkir asked if there were boxes left? When they did the math, they saw there were some unopened boxes left and the uneaten chocolates in the possession of crew members. Once they worked that out, Emkir said they should have a big meal and celebrate with the last boxes of the chocolates for dessert. Darkly, Mikah said she still didn't trust them and it was pointed out by more than one person that they could all end up dead or sick if there was something wrong with them.

Once in the cab, it was asked what restaurant they wanted to hit and Emkir alternatively asked what the cabbie recommended and also asked if there was a place called "Steak and Ale" nearby? Rol made a badly worded joke about Astroburgers. Zimzod asked about an Irish pub and Mikah suggested having an Irish wake for Zach as he was Solomani. Munarshu looked around confused and asked, "What is Irish?" Mikah just turned to him saying, "You'll find out." as they told the cabbie to take them someplace properly Irish and Mikah quietly planned to get plastered.

With Zimzod also planning to drink a fair bit, Rol decided to be the designated driver. Aiden planned on not drinking because of his recent surgery. After they got to the place, and Emkir saw the lay of things, he decided he wouldn't let his commanders drink alone. So he joined them in getting plastered. Terin and Munarshu planned to keep things light, along with Aali. Despite their invitation, the cabbie couldn't stay with them, sying he had work to do.

As the drinking began, Munarshu was pleased with the décor and attitude of the place, and wondered where this planet Ireland was, and when it was settled? Looking about, Munarshu took in the culture with the others and Mikah began the serious work of getting plastered. Soon she was lamenting her inability to shoot various members of the crew when she very frequently developed the urge to do so. This was reinforced by Zimzod, who pointed out these were not just figures of speech.

Things really went into left field as Mikah complained about not being able to shoot her crew and Emkir grabbed a plate. Throwing it against the ceiling, he urged, "Well shoot this!" As Mikah watched the plate hit the ceiling and shatter to fall on the floor, Emkir grabbed another plate, throwing it for her to shoot as others in the place started paying attention to the crew at their tables. As the second plate was grabbed, Aali and Terin reacted to stop Emkir while Zimzod realized Mikah 'just might' be that plastered and made sure her weapon stayed secured and she was occupied by another drink.

Once the crisis was passed, the crew all decided it was time to go home. Once back at the ship, with Zimzod taking custody of Mikah's weapon, it was just mid-afternoon as they poured Mikah and Emkir into their beds. After that, Zimzod decided to help Mikah work off the alcohol and slipped into bed to 'take advantage of her drunken state'. With the drunks settled, Rol started cooking a late lunch for the rest and Terin went down to check the boxes of chocolates left. He found there were three left unopened and grabbed them all. Returning to the ship, Terin made his way in to drop one in his stateroom before returning to the lounge with the last two.

Once back, Terin shared the remaining chocolates around as they ate. After chow, Terin started looking into Sir Brian's past history to see where they might find a will. What he found, after digging for some hours, was largely from his obituary and the articles published around his death. Sir Brian had been in the Imperial Navy for one term before being discharged. After that, he had created a career for himself aboard a number of free traders, which would be a nightmare to try and track down.

Finally, he'd served aboard the Far Trader IMS Urlaegidl, which the owner had sold to the Fledgling Dankunlig Trading Line. It was aboard that ship that he came to the Emerald system at the end of the war. Carrying relief supplies, the Navy commandeered the vessel and stranded almost all of the crew, keeping the ship's Captain and First Officer only. So Sir Brian was available and desperate to get off that rock when the mission aboard the IMS Spinward Star was offered. Investigating that, Terin found Dankunlig Trading was based in the Regina system. Realizing how small the line was, Terin decided to ignore them as an avenue to investigate.

After cooking and cleaning up, Rol relaxed and devoted some time to recovering from his wounds. Beginning to relax, Rol looked into making financial investments in the Rhylanori economy. Searching, Rol found many links to those who would take his money. When he mentioned his thoughts, Inger said, "Funny think you should mention that." As the others listened, Inger described the 'investment opportunity' offered by the Officers of the Cursed Bastards of Sol. Rol listened as Inger made if clear they were still under investigation for espionage.

But she explained, should those charges be proved to be false, they'd been allowed to launch am in-system hauling company and had good legal representation. They had also had the chance to buy the IMV Durgarna Kishgi, a 20,000 dTon Dragger-class bulk freighter. So their assets were significantly more valuable than the KCr 120 debt the company held. That ship, she said, would be coming into port the next day and she was going to be offered a tour with an eye to getting investors.

Inger also told them the fund raiser was aimed at operating 100% debt free as they grew their operation. Considering the information, Rol asked Inger what her impression was of the crew? Inger admitted she'd only met them on a few limited occasions and the early meetings had not gone well at all. Beyond the looming possibility of the crew being convicted of espionage for the Solomani, they seemed to her to be very honest in their intent. When Rol said he'd consider it, she bounced him their prospectus.

After pouring Emkir into bed, Aali changed into a shipsuit and had lunch with the others. As she ate, Aali comm'd the jewelry shop to see if they had re-opened after the events of the night before because she still needed to recover the ring. Once the line was answered, Aali introduced herself, using text, to one of the shop's managers and made it clear she couldn't hear. The manager made it clear the shop would not be open until the investigation was completed and the space cleaned up.

Knowing her role in events, he confirmed she had been looking to pick up her ring. Knowing that, the manager told Aali he'd have the ring brought over by a courier as soon as possible and she thanked him. The manager emphatically said, "No, thank you. Thank you for saving our people." After that call, Aali considered her damaged ballistic shipsuit and executive armor. But the damage to both were so minimal that the executive armor could still be used and the shipsuit could be repaired. Eventually, she went down to the cargo bay to work on the androids.

Aiden sparked up a terminal to order a 100-round box of snub pistol ball ammo and delivery for Cr 200.

Munarshu figured it was time to get himself a carry permit, even if it was just for the Rhylanor station. Taking out the card the cabbie had given him, Munarshu slipped it into a reader slot and was instantly taken to a site which had on it all the official forms anyone could want to fill out for any reason at all, on-station. After a brief search, Munarshu found the form he needed and realized he only needed to fill it out and then submit it electronically with the funds required to start the application process. After twenty minutes completing that, Munarshu submitted the form with a Cr 100 fee and joined Aali to work on the androids.

As Aali and Munarshu worked, the jeweler's courier arrived with the ring. As well, he had an emerald and gold broach, as a gift, in the shape of a starship. The broach was a gift from the shop in thanks to Emkir and Aali for saving the staff of the shop. Along with the piece, there was a note thanking the couple for their actions and saying she and Emkir could buy anything they wanted in the shop for 50% off for the duration of their stay in-system.

Sending her thanks back to the shop, Aali also asked for the managers to copy the video from the shop's security cameras and send it to the ship. Used to the odd requests of nobility, the courier said he could carry the message and didn't doubt they would be able to send her the video. That done, Aali went back to work until dinner time.

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Next: Potential Profits And Virtual Death