After a number of additional battles, the crew cleaned up and moved to the common spaces of the venue to find increasing numbers of "regular media crews".  Coverage ranged from the very obviously disparaging to theorists saying the crew couldn't that bad and had to have been hoping to sandbag some possible opponent watching the matches.  Where they had contact and commented at all, the crew were happy to do their best to increase the level of confusion in the media.  But, soon enough, they started getting hungry, and they still had to meet with the sports network, to deal with contracts to do commentary for them the following weekend.
As they left, the crew agreed they wanted food but didn't agree where to go.  Terin said he'd prefer it be inexpensive so Mikah demanded they go to the most expensive place they could get to!  When Terin went pale and squeaked out, "Are you paying", Mikah said she was kidding.  As others called out joke restaurant names, Mikah said, "Whatever's closest.  Who cares?" in a tone that showed she really didn't.  When Munarshu asked, "Why not here?  They have a great venue?" he was nearly smacked down by the negative reaction to eating at a health grill!  In the rush to punish, Zimzod actually stepped forward and whacked the engineer a smack up the back of his head.
As others called out more joke restaurant names, Zimzod preached the value of hunting down galactic tube steaks.  Mikah said they should grab fast food if they had to, as long as it was within walking distance and they weren't wasting more time and money in needless travel.  Because they were in an entertainment section of the station, there were lots of places selling food, drink and other services to spacers on leave, travelers on layover, stationers out for adventure, etc...  Finding food, both human and alien, nearby would be easy once they stepped out the door and looked.
Of course, as the crew left the sim-combat arcade, they had a healthy following, mostly of media with some tourists and fanboys to fill.  Eventually, the procession crossed the short space to a fast food joint which Mikah thought they'd survive eating at.  Piling up at the counter, the crew ordered and dug in.  They joked as they ate, speculating how soon the place would have "Crew of the Hotel California ate here!" added to their advertising?  As they talked about what to do in-between eating and meeting the executives, Inger decided to go to the studio with the crew rather than paying to get back to the ship on her own.
Emkir suggested they script some of their conversations before meeting the network people, to keep from saying anything accidentally.  He was quietly reminded they were being filmed by rumor hungry media right there.  As that suggestion died, Rol said that they could just nominate a spokesperson for the crew.  Responding to that, Inger reminded them all they'd hired a lawyer for that, but the crew jumped and made Mikah their speaker.  After the chat and meal, the crew talked about burning off their spare time.  When Zimzod suggested a bar, some of the others suggested sitting where they were and people watching.  Aali laughed and agreed they could turn the tables on the media and the public by sitting and watching them for a change.  Mikah liked that.  Especially because going to a bar before a business meeting suggested more problems than not.  When Zimzod was disappointed, Mikah said they could go to a bar later in a consoling tone.  Satisfied with that, Zimzod began picking out people in his view who he thought looked like celebrities.  Emkir relaxed with his drink and listened to the crowd for any talk of cargo activity.
Because few of the people passing actually looked like anyone famous, Zimzod soon started describing what physical changes passersby might need to "maybe" look like celebrities.  And, as time passed, the comments started to become “snarkier” at the least, and sometimes outright insulting.  Eventually, Zimzod relaxed enough to make comments like, "Look at that pencil-necked geek over there.  If you put him in a dress and gave him a nose job he'd look like that famous dancer..." and kick out a female celebrity name.  Still, after more than one negative response from a targeted person, Zimzod was reminded reporters were filming and he should consider how it would look on the news...
As the others sat considering just how much of Zimzod's behavior would end up on the ever-churning news cycle, Terin asked how long they had before they had to leave to meet with the network people?  As Mikah missed the hint, 'perhaps we should get out of here before things go south', Terin suggested they look for a data/vid store.  To drive the hint home, he even started pulling up locations of stores on his hand-comp.  Soon, Terin had everyone talking about a trip to a nearby store.  Rol was the first 'stone to fall' as he agreed to go with Terin.  After that happened, Mikah agreed and the rest of the team joined in before they got moving.Gathering Threads
Of course, on the walk to the store, the team were followed by the ever-present media.  Almost halfway between store and restaurant, Inger got a call on her comms and answered to find it was the purser from "New Stars, LLC", the company formed by the crew of the "Cursed Bastards of Sol".  He wanted to tell Inger the IMV Durgarna Kishgi had made port and cleared customs.  So the ship was available for the tour Inger asked for, and they just wanted to know if she still wanted to check the vessel out?  When Inger said she did, they asked when she'd like to visit?  Inger had them hold before telling the others about the tour.  With the call on hold, Inger told them about the inspection offer and the whole crew decided they'd go.  That led to questions about when they all could visit the freighter?  Emkir said they should do it after signing contracts at the network.  As the others agreed, Inger got back on the call and said they wanted to tour the ship around dinner time.
After the purser said that was fine, Inger set up the plans guessing they'd be on the freighter's deck around 5pm.  Because that was close enough, the Solomani said they could set up a buffet if the crew wanted?  Inger agreed that would be great, calling it an "Investor Dinner".  By the time she'd set up the tour, they'd gotten to the store.  The place was an open space with terminals on tables, where shoppers could look up the books, periodicals or other data they wanted to download to a storage device or portable computer.  The store also provided data-crystals or, at extreme luxury, sold services like having it printed to a stack of plastic flimsies secured in a binder.  The store also had any number of stylish and utilitarian accessories.
Terin browsed for herbalistic data as Rol looked into military periodicals.  While Emkir tried to pin Aali against a display and investigate her tonsils, she denied him while looking for articles on the perfidy of the media in the Rhylanor system.  This became a dance which Emkir did his best to turn into a waltz step until Aali got some hits and moved to the right section to check what was available.  With an eye to the trail of media, Mikah began a search of medical data on poisons.  Zimzod checked for any new datafiles on myths and legends as Inger hit the literature section.  Munarshu hit the robotics section while Aiden looked up handgun data.
After burning time wandering and browsing, Aiden was the only one to find anything worth buying, and Emkir only ended up put off and frustrated.  Aiden's datafile was a weapon maker's manual which delved into extreme details, for only Cr 100.  When the clerk asked him about delivery, Aiden was told he could get the data downloaded to a datapad for Cr 50, but decided to have it loaded onto a crystal.  The clerk agreed to do that in a clipped tone which suggested he'd hoped for a commission.  As Aiden checked out, Rol called for a cab to get to the contract signing and gave the dispatcher their party size.  Rol also confirmed with Mikah that they'd only need a one-way ride and would head back to the docks after before updating the dispatcher.  After a brief wait shop-side, the cab arrived and they all piled in and rode off to the studio offices.  The ride, while quick, cost Cr 50, which Rol paid.  After getting out of the cab, the crew found their lawyer waiting, and he asked what the team's concerns and objectives were?
Mikah led off, telling the lawyer she wanted to make certain there would be no questions outside those directly related to the matches they were commenting on.  When Mikah said they should be able to leave if any reporters violated that rule, the lawyer scaled her back.  He suggested they'd have to give the reporter one try to bring their question back in-bounds before they could just walk out.  After that, the crew went in with their lawyer, to meet with the studio.  Once in with the executives, the contract was fairly basic and mostly boiler plate.  And the clause restricting questions was added easily.  After the language was worked out, the crew's lawyer confirmed it would work as expected but said there would be a grievance procedure covering the match from which they walked out.  One clause covered heavily in the meeting said the crew had to make material comments during coverage.  They couldn't just nod and agree or disagree without backing up their statements.  And "one word" answers would be an issue unless the question specifically called for it.
When Rol asked about security as they moved from match to match, the executives clarified the filming plan.  They said the team wouldn't be visiting the competition sites.  Those would be filmed by local camera teams and fed to the studio.  So competition and fan sites would be remote unless any of the crew wanted to contract for that as an added rider?  It was made clear the studios would be significantly less in control of the event in those cases.  And the time spent in travel would reduce the number of events which a travelling VIP could comment on.  But when Terin asked, they were told they'd get an extra Cr 500 per event site visited.  As the rest of the team backed off on the offer, Munarshu said he'd be OK with that, and they added the language into his specific contract.  When Rol asked about slander protections, the studio man made it clear that, if any of the crew chose to say anything particularly incorrect or inflammatory, it would be their issue to deal with individually.  He pointed out their participation was for their views and opinions, not those of the studio.  Once that was covered, the team consulted the lawyer again, to be sure they hadn't missed any obvious loopholes or issues.
After they agreed all the contracts were up to expectations, the lawyer's 15% fee was written in as "direct pay from the studio". Then, tablets were given to each of the crew to affix their thumb-prints to as an electronic signature.  After they confirmed the signatures, Terin asked for data files on all the teams, so they could brush up on the competitors?  The executives were happy to give them more data on the competitors than anyone could read in a calendar year, and Terin gave them the address for one of the ship's data-receiving accounts.  After an hour or so, the business was done and the crew were asked what they had planned and where they were headed?  Terin quipped "Out" as Emkir rattled out, "We have a few meetings scheduled but we are not at liberty to divulge with whom or when." in his most official tone.
The senior executive accepted that and offered a ride, which Mikah quickly accepted.  This surprised the others, as the studio would know where they were going, but Mikah planned to return to the Hotel California before visiting the Durgarna Kishgi's berth.  In the car, Mikah told the crew what she had planned as she told the driver to get them back to the ship's berth.  There, Mikah checked which berth the Kishgi was docked in, to see how far it was away?  It was close enough to walk to, with enough time, but it was 4:30pm at the moment and they'd said they'd be on the Kishgi's deck by 5pm.Walking The Deckplate Carpet
As Mikah checked on the Kishgi, Aali and Emkir hit their stateroom to clean up a bit.  Rol skimmed the New Stars prospectus again as Inger and the others also freshened up.  Inger decided she'd do the visit without a weapon before finding out she was the only one unarmed other than Munarshu.  And he didn't have carry rights.  But Inger did change into one of her better business suits, which also happened to be made with a ballistic armor cloth.  After Mikah did the math, she called a cab before freshening up herself.  When they arrived, the Cr 40 cab ride brought the crew to a cargo bay which connected to the currently off-loading vessel via direct connect cargo doors and dock-extension arms.  This was because the vessel was large enough it couldn't be brought into a berth entirely.  So its cargo had to be off-loaded into station-side cargo bays to be trans-shipped to receivers or sold to other firms.
Beyond this very normal docking operation for ships of the Kishgi's size and larger, what first struck some of the crew was how busy the space was.  It was obvious the Kishgi's cargo bays were pretty full, which meant the ship was earning money.  As the crew began to wander into the bay, they were quickly spotted, greeted and told the captain would be called.  A few minutes later, the crew were met by the Captain of the Far Trader, Cursed Bastards Of Sol, who was now the President of New Stars LLC.  The crew were happily greeted and asked what they'd like to do first?  With that open an offer, they asked to check out the cargo operation first, then move on to the ship's cargo capabilities.  Touring the docks, some noticed the balance of the cargo seemed to be raw materials.  These were apparently mined in the outer worlds in-system and imported for processing into industrial materials.  Most interesting of all was a section of the dock which was apparently reserved completely for cargo bound to the corporation 'Denzetti Motors'.
This impressed Munarshu, who'd heard about the luxury vehicle manufacturer.  They specialized in wheeled ground vehicles.  While they were most famous for their flashy sports cars, Munarshu had heard more about their high-end jungle and forest hunting vehicles.  Well respected for their intended purpose, they were also known as highly-armored entertainment vehicles.  Mikah had also heard of, and seen, the high-end sports cars owned by some of the doctors she'd worked under during her career.  As the team considered the large cache of Denzetti cargo, some decided to ask if Denzetti's regular shipper had developed an issue or if New Stars had managed to scoop the contract?  After spending some time dock-side, the tour moved into the ship's cargo bays.  The Kishgi's interior space was segmented, with holds for hot, cold and pressurized cargo requirements that were able to be customized to handle more exotic needs.  At least one bay they inspected had space-lock doors and could hold the entire Hotel California.  Before they moved from the cargo spaces to the interior of the ship, they were led to a conference room.  There, Emkir and Munarshu asked about the Denzetti canisters?  Captain Eukse Laretach relaxed with a smile as if he were expecting the question.
Captain Laretach happily admitted they'd signed a contract with Denzetti, which was their most recent success.  It was obvious the captain knew this would raise the value of the company in the eyes of investors.  The captain said that any new business ties they made could help with their pending legal issues.  As well as the Denzetti contract, the ship was looking to write contracts, at straight tonnage rates, to carry maintenance supplies out from Rhylanor Prime.  While paying less than the standard Cr 1,000 per ton carried, it was still worth quite a bit of cash.  If they could pull that off, the group thought they could eventually set up a chartered circuit run from remote station to station in-system.  After discussing plans in the conference room, they went to the ship's engineering section.  As they moved, the ship they saw was an austere one which had been used hard but was functional.  When Emkir asked, Aali gave it a nod of approval.
One thing that would have been a surprise, if they hadn't known first, was that all the jump systems were powered down and secured so they couldn't be used.  Another actual surprise were the newly installed accommodations for a full platoon of troops, in the event New Stars got permission to make one of the limited number of out-system runs their restrictions allowed.  So that would clearly be accomplished only under significant guard.  In the end, they found the ship was clearly an old but functional freighter of a decent size.  As they toured, the captain hit all the high points, as well as what they needed. And that was to get out from under a Cr 100m debt.  They planned on selling off 40% of the company to raise funds to use as operating capital.  In this case Cr 1,000,000.  That would let them pursue their business plan and capitalize on the connections and contracts they had made so far.
When they asked about what the funds raised would be used for, Captain Laretach reminded them the New Stars mission was to create an in-system cargo hauling firm.  While it would cost them too much to remove the actual jump drives and those engineering systems that support it, they planned to cut up the 20% volume of the ship devoted to jump fuel tankage.  This would be devoted to additional cargo space and more amenities, allowing them to handle even more roles in-system.  They discussed this, as well as other plans and contacts the LLC had as they made their way from engineering to the forward compartments.  Much of the conversation covered the process of removing the jump fuel tanks to expand the current cargo space from 14,954.5 tons to 18,955 tons.  Eventually, they got to officer's country where the LLC had brought in caterers and laid out a decent sized buffet.  As Aiden looked for grilled cheese, the others noted the spread wasn't over-expensive or high-end.  But this was expected, as they were trying to raise operating capital.  Considering all angles, Zimzod asked about any guarantee their investments would be covered if the crew of the Cursed Bastards were convicted of espionage?
Captain Laretach admitted there was no way to hedge that, and it would be up to the courts if the firm were forced to liquidate.  When Munarshu suggested they might get ownership of the ship from any court action, he was corrected.  The ship would be seized to pay for the outstanding loans, as well as the IMV Cursed Bastards of Sol.  Then, both ships and their uncontracted contents would be sold at auction.  None of the crew missed the bitter note in Laretach's voice as he educated Munarshu on Imperial law.  When Emkir asked about possible dividends from the shares, he was told any dividends would be based on the profit margin of the company.  For some time, that would be weighed down by servicing their existing debt.  After all the questions were answered, the crew invested varying amounts:       Emkir and Aali: 4% ownership for KCr 40        Rol: 10% ownership for KCr 100        Aiden: 1% ownership for KCr 10        Inger: 5% ownership for KCr 50        Mikah: 5% ownership for KCr 50        Munarshu: 1% ownership for KCr 10        Zimzod: 5% ownership for KCr 50
After the contracts were prepared and handed around, and the crew began signing, Captain Laretach had a new question for them.  When he asked if New Stars could advertise that the crew of the California had invested with them, Mikah said, "If you want to".  Her tone made it clear she thought their involvement could hurt as much as help New Stars.  Emkir asked the others if it would be better to use their ship's name instead of individual names, but Inger reminded him they were already public celebrities.  With that, and the fact Sir Terin hadn't invested, they OK'd the use of their names.  After the signing, delivery of the certificates was set up as they all enjoyed dinner before the evening came to a close.Making Extra Stops
Once dinner was over, the couples wanted to go back to the ship to celebrate as couples do, in their respective staterooms.  Having spent more than he thought he would, Munarshu also wanted to get back to the ship, as it was close to his regular sleep time.  Inger had planned to return to the ship and check in with her friends in the port before relaxing.  Terin, Aiden and Rol decided they wanted to hit a bar.
But as they stepped out of the Kishgi's dock and moved to call a cab, the crew saw a stranger leaning on a large black transport.  Oddly, the man and his vehicle were alone in a cleared off space on the dock.  This was weird because the rest of the spaces near the exit were filled with media waiting to cover the crew.  As they stepped onto the dock, the man held up a datapad with the words "Crew of the Hotel California" on it.  Looking more closely, the man looked like a chauffeur.  When Mikah moved up and asked, "Who the hell are you?" with a challenge in her voice, the man straightened up.  His expression made it clear he recognized the crew as he handed Mikah a card.  The device was blank except to indicate a space for a finger print reader.
Placing her thumb on the reader, Mikah saw the card's surface briefly resolve into a picture of Lord William.  The card also showed the words, "I'd like you to come have a little chat with me." on it.  Given Lord William's position within the local IRIS organization, and the charges placed against the people they'd just visited, Mikah knew this wasn't something they could say "no" to.  Looking back at the driver, Mikah saw the man's face had that confident look that said, "I know I hold all the cards."  Turning to the others, Mikah told them their plans had changed and everyone had to board the transport and see where things led.  Once in the car, Mikah explained, surprising Terin and Munarshu with both the late-night summons and the apparent authority exercised over the crew by someone they knew of only as a Literature Professor.  Even if he was the Duke's brother.
As they piled into the austere transport, Emkir wasn't the only one who was disappointed to see there were no amenities, like a bar.  But they were assured the trip was "all expenses paid", so they relaxed as best they could.  When Mikah asked if the vehicle would also take them back to their ship, she was told they were going to meet with Lord William "for now".  The driver's lack of further comment didn't invite more questions.  An interesting set of strange coincidences during the ride let the driver strip away the trailing media vehicles, eventually leaving them unobserved.  And after they arrived, the crew were escorted to a living space beyond where His Lordship's family spent their time.  As they briefly looked around for sitting space, an entire wall of the room suddenly slid out of place.  This opened an alcove with a staircase descending from it!
Again, Munarshu and Terin had to pause and wonder how this sudden surprise was completely accepted by the others?  Their guide then led them towards the steps down as Terin wondered, out loud, why they were being led to the dungeon?  Still, he followed more quietly as they went down what seemed to be at least two levels, landing in what looked like a surveillance operations center!  Munarshu and Terin added the double surprise of the operations center and complete lack of reaction from the crew to their growing list of things they couldn't explain!  The only reaction they saw was Inger's impressed remarks that His Lordship chose to walk down stairs rather than have a secret elevator installed.  It seemed as if the others in the crew felt this was normal and happened every day.
As they walked, Terin and Munarshu were treated to the same mix of civilian and military scenes which the knights had first encountered in Lord William's box at the stadium.  As they moved through the space, Munarshu made a clear and firm attempt to ignore and not see anything while Terin eagerly explored what he could with his eyes.  With little data on any of the scenes, Terin decided many of them were secure spaces, which shouldn't be casually filmed remotely.  Terin even looked for any screens showing the Hotel California, but didn't see it represented.  Still, the size of the facility under Lord William's family home was growing more impressive as they were led further in, to a conference room.
Once there, the crew were left waiting alone for a short time before Lord William finally arrived and greeted them.  As he did, William casually acknowledged that they had two new crew members to "indoctrinate".  A term that didn't make Munarshu feel any better about the situation.  As Lord William sat, his hands moved over the surface of the table near him and that part of the surface became a data-screen.  Asking everyone to sit at the table, he then brought Terin and Munarshu through what was essentially a generic job interview with a nearly painfully deep scrub attachment!  After he'd dug into their respective pasts and gotten a feel for the men, Lord William decided to more fully introduce himself to them.  Stating the obvious, he recognized they had realized he was more than just a Literary professor by that point.  William then slid each of them a copy of "his card".  That card introduced Lord William Kirgashii as a Senior Operative of the Imperial Regency Intelligence Service!  As with the others, the two men had to come to grips with the sudden reality of what history taught was an organization centuries dead and gone.
"IRIS", they knew, had existed after the Imperial Civil War and through the Second Frontier War. It had the single task of tracking down any surviving members of the Imperial family after the many assassinations and purges of the Barracks Emperors.  The service was tied to the office of the Regent, as then Regent Arbellatra Khatami Alkhalikoi had refused to ascend the Iridium Throne while overseeing the search for a legitimate heir.  But once it became clear there were no surviving legitimate heirs, and as it became more clear The Imperium needed a ruler, Arbellatra became the 32nd ruler of The Imperium.  After that, IRIS was supposed to have been completely dismantled by the order of the Empress.  Since then, many conspiracy theories claimed IRIS still existed and served a shadow government.  Long, it was the subject of dark tales and rumors behind the evil fates which would befall those who discovered them.  The phantom service now turned out to be very very real to the two crewmen.  Recovering first, Munarshu asked if IRIS was still looking for legitimate heirs to the Empress Nicholle and the Lentuli Dynasty?
Munarshu was told that the mission of IRIS had changed.  Significantly.  As most waited for Lord William to "drop the boom" on Terin and Munarshu, His Lordship said, "Ever since the installation of Empress Arbellatra, the missions of IRIS were two-fold.  First, they were to operate as an Imperium-wide intelligence service to protect the Imperial Family as well as the Regent-Designate.  Second, the assets of IRIS were to act, in the event of instability, to protect the Imperial Family and assure that at least one heir survived.  As such, the agency was completely separate from all other Imperial agencies and reported only to the Regent-Designate, the Grand Princess Iphegenia."
Once he'd let the two men digest that for a time, Lord William continued.  "So now that you understand who we are," as he gestured to the facility around them, "You need to understand who they are."  And with that, he gestured to the knights.  Lord William then spent some time explaining that IRIS had found it valuable to maintain a working relationship with the crew, so long as they didn't screw up and reveal anything critical.  During this, William didn't explain any of the missions but left it as understood that these things should remain secret.  This included a warning that revealing any secrets learned, including the existence of IRIS, were grounds for termination.  In the silence that followed that pronouncement, not one person in the room doubted what the word meant.  Lord William impressed on the two that they would undoubtedly come on information considered either secret or of confidential value to IRIS.  And all such discoveries were now covered by his warnings.  Any discovered data they needed to report to an official agency would be reported to IRIS and IRIS only, unless otherwise officially released.  When he asked if they understood this, Terin answered "Crystal clear" and Munarshu said, "thoroughly."
Sitting back with a content smile on his face, Lord William said, "Excellent.  Now let's talk about the Cursed Bastards of Sol", and the rest of the crew felt a bit of a shiver.  Zimzod jumped into the pause saying, "I hope you're not gonna tell me this was a bad investment?" in a concerned tone.  Pausing a bit more to look Zimzod in the eyes, William answered, "We're kind of curious what kind of investments you made with their new company?"  After Mikah glumly said she'd invested KCr 50 for a five percent ownership in the LLC, the others followed suit.  Zimzod went further, saying, "We just bought into the company because it looked like they were turning into a very competitive hauler."  Granting Zimzod's claim, Lord William admitted that even if they survived their legal issues, they would not likely be more than a very small hauler.  He was interrupted by Aiden, who said, "They will be a profitable hauler."
As Lord William prepared to react to that, Mikah stepped in saying, "We know we're taking a risk because we know they're under indictment, but Dame Inger said she thought they were getting a raw deal, so..."  As she spoke, William nodded and then interrupted her saying, "Based on what I know at this point, many of the problems the Cursed Bastards are having are based on the time needed to communicate.  When you reach out to systems in the Deneb sector, or even Capitol, to get messages back and forth, it can take up to seven months round trip by the fastest ship.  So communications will take a long time.  Another large part of their problem is that the Imperial government is legitimately trying to build a case against them rather than a local government acting on an anti-Solomani bias.  Of course, this case is not going to hinge on circumstantial evidence unless that evidence is highly prejudicial."
As Lord William continued, he said that, from what he knew, the case against the Cursed Bastards was not significant.  As that excited more than one of the investors, he reminded them all that IRIS was completely separate from all other Imperial intelligence and law enforcement agencies.  So there would be gaps in what IRIS could learn or even what he would be told about the case.  At this point, the conversation changed directions as Lord William smiled and said, "Still, it's good to have shareholders inside their organization, even if you won't be local."  Oddly, Lord William didn't seem at all disappointed about that fact.  Emkir misunderstood, and sparked up, saying "We're not necessarily going to be privy to all their dealings, but we'll certainly pass along what we can."  As Emkir finished his remark, Lord William's smile actually grew as he said, "Right.  And this is where you can be of help.  Because you're not necessarily going to be local.  And since you won't be local, you're going to need a local agent to look after your investments.  So we're establishing an investment division which will integrate into an actual brokerage firm.  They believe they're working with an investigative arm of the Ministry of Justice.  We would like you to sign up as clients of this firm, and to allow them to handle your...investments."
After a few seconds where everyone expected Lord William to "drop the other shoe", those who'd bought shares quickly agreed to his plan and were quietly very glad that was all he asked.  When they asked for details on how the relationship would work, they were told:      They were expected to sign up with the firm as part of their current visit.      Once the certificates were minted, they would be delivered to, and held by, the brokerage firm.      That firm's regular investment staff would manage the investments and function            outside IRIS interests at a cost of 5% of the investment profits.      In recognition of their cooperation, IRIS would refund them that 5% fee.      The benefit was that this would let IRIS teams demand access and inspections "to assure the        investor's money was being properly spent."  And since the crew had invested over 33% of the        total target goal, their investment block would hold that weight. The crew realized their "brokerage account" would hand IRIS the ability to give the New Stars LLC regular financial rectal exams while their espionage agents appeared to be nothing more than regular financial investigators.
Switching hats, and making it very clear his next words were unofficial, Lord William asked what the crew were doing regarding tracking the ownership of Sir Brian's book collection?  As the others considered their responses, Emkir explained the various routes they were thinking of taking to where Sir Brian's family had lived and beyond.  Saying they had a cargo job taking them to the D'Ganzio system, and could easily extend their line of travel to the Lanth system, Emkir also said they were considering two routes to Sir Zachariah's homeworld.  And while that had nothing to do with Lord William's interests, Emkir wondered if his lordship had any interests that would be served along one or the other route?  The ball back in his court, Lord William considered the question before pointing out the obvious.  He advised that it was a good idea to avoid Sword Worlds space.  The crew listened while not mentioning the invitation given to Dame Inger to visit the homeworld of the Star Daughter in the Sacnoth system.  Lord William did hedge that all the Sword Worlds systems were still occupied by Imperial watchdog fleets if the crew chose that route.  Beyond that, Lord William said his office had no responsibilities in Darrian space so he'd have no reason to want their ship to use that route.
William did consider before saying there might be a last-minute need to carry something to Lanth.  But he wasn't certain if that would come to pass.  And there were faster ships even if they were official.  When Terin asked if IRIS had language training software to learn the Darrian language, Lord William asked and Terin admitted to knowing some Darrian but not much.  Nodding, William told Terin IRIS certainly had training programs for agents, but they were not for release to the public.  As they talked, Aali started realizing she'd started hearing more normally.  She'd just been too distracted to notice when her hearing had started to return with the distraction of more interesting events.  While Aali realized this as the meeting was winding down, she still almost missed the nearly-meek voice Munarshu used when he asked if his request for a fire-arms carry permit could be streamlined at all?  Lord William said he'd look into that, but could make no promises.  Munarshu thanked him, saying that was all he could ask.
Back to the shares they'd bought, Aali asked if they would get notifications if any irregularities rose in their investments?  Lord William would only say, "As long as it's appropriate", which was the best answer she could hope for.  When Zimzod asked if they'd be given any protection, in case the investment were to sink, Lord William pointed out that could raise questions of insider trading which could then lead back to IRIS.  After that, in a moment of silence, the crew considered some of the new differences that could exist between 'their own good' and the good of IRIS.  On the heels of that, Zimzod asked if, since their investments made the investigation of New Stars possible, it might be possible to insure some of the profits were invested in more stable and real investments?  As compensation for their services rendered.
Lord William said he could look into that, as part of the proper role of an investment advisor.  So the crew could relax a bit, hoping any meaningful income would diversify their portfolio.  As a joke, Zimzod asked if IRIS could make sure they died if the advisors put in charge of their account were really stupid.  Lord William laughed as he said "No".  Changing topics, Zimzod asked if Lord William could help with his audience with the Duke and his interest in an FGMP-15?  William flatly said, "No.  I can't provide any influence there."  As they finished up, William did offer them a ride as he believed they were all returning to the ship.  As the meeting broke up and the crew left, they were in better spirits than when they'd been summoned.  While leaving, they even joked about making the unarmed Munarshu their point man, until it was suggested he might use his shiny weapons and give them away.  This led to jokes about Munarshu and his shiny weapons.  As an aside, Emkir joked to Munarshu that he now knew how complicated their lives were.  Mikah answered Emkir, "No he doesn't.  But he'll find out soon enough."  That got even more laughs.
Leaving the residence, the crew found the same chauffeur waiting, with the same transport, to take them back to the ship.  The return was quick, efficient and they arrived around 8:30pm.  Once back, Zimzod and Mikah went to Zimzod's stateroom.  Emkir and Aali hit the computers to look up the teams for the following weekend's competition.  After that, they planned to hit the bed around 10:30.  Inger and Rol sat in the crew's common area to watch vids.  Munarshu relaxed for half an hour before he went through his normal bedtime schedule at 9pm.  Aiden joined Inger and Rol, watching vids before hitting the rack at 9:30.  With plans to hit a bar dead, Terin went through his emails and checked up on his herbology lists before setting that aside.  He then looked into the data on the teams for the competition the next weekend.  Because Emkir and Aali were already wading through the large amount of data and beginning to organize it, Terin was able to just join in.  They'd found some threads on which initial matches should be expected to be exciting.  So the three worked on that file until 10:30 when Emkir and Aali sacked out.  Then, Terin worked on it more until he went to sleep.    Saturday, 308 1112: 5 am Breakfast And A Show
At 5am, alarms went off in Zimzod's stateroom as well as in Munarshu's.  Munarshu went about his morning routine as Mikah and Zimzod cleaned up before breakfast.  After that, she and Zimzod would dress and prepare for his appearance in Duke Leonard's court.  The way they planned it, they would leave the ship to arrive well before 9am as Zimzod had to be prepared for his 10am appearance.  Lucky for him, the court would be held in the Duke's palace on-station, so he planned to spend any spare time in the court making connections.  Mikah planned to be there to support him, and dressed as appropriate to be his 'eye-candy'.  As plans always did, their plan met the unexpected very early, as Munarshu finished his morning routine.  When he came into the crew common spaces, with Mikah still getting ready, he found Zimzod already there!
Shocked, Munarshu blurted out, "Holy stars!  What the hell happened?  What are you doing up so early?"  Zimzod gave him a look as he said, "I'm, ah...going to see the Duke." in a tone that suggested Munarshu should have known this.  Munarshu had been confused because he didn't realize Zimzod would have to get up so early.  Still, it appeared to Zimzod Munarshu didn't understand, so he explained, "I have a personal audience to meet with the Duke this morning." in the same tone.  Putting things together, Munarshu said, "Outstanding!  I hope all goes well." and Zimzod patronized, "Um, Yeah, sure.  You probably would hope all goes well."  As Munarshu stepped to the auto-serve, he ignored the tone and asked, "Coffee?"  Zimzod mockingly said, "Yeah, Sure!  You gonna make it for me?" even as he remembered this was the 'step down' supply Mikah had bought for the ship.  Zimzod mourned that his 'high test' stuff had run out.  Zimzod did remind himself to get more real coffee after he appeared before the Duke.  Soon, both men were eating and Mikah arrived for breakfast.  Neither were "dressed up" yet but both had a mission and went about it.
As Mikah joined the men, Zimzod asked, "You want some coffee, sweet cheeks?" and Mikah said "Sure" as Munarshu said, in a voice half-surprised and half awe-filled, "She's up before dawn."  Zimzod disagreed, but then said, "Then again, since this is a crappy planet and we don't have windows.  How would you know if was dawn or not?"  Munarshu admitted the only time he'd seen her up this early was when she was scheduled to be in surgery, and he wasn't aware of any surgeries planned.  Mikah smiled evilly as she offered, "Well, I can do surgery tomorrow morning at 5am" with a predatory look in his direction.  Zimzod nodded and said, "Before you wake up." with a menacing smile, Munarshu answered, "Nooo.  I can go without that."
Both knights quickly and solicitously asked, "Are you sure?" and joked about installing a brain.  But they settled down to eat before going back into their staterooms to change out of their shipsuits and dress for court.  As the three were eating and talking in the common area, alarms had gone off in Rol and Inger's staterooms.  For Rol, it was his morning routine and Inger planned to work with the port that day.  As they dressed, Zimzod decided to wear the Order uniform, making sure to wear his decorations correctly.  Mikah dressed in her blue, tea-length gown and accessorized with her Domain of Deneb earrings and lanthanum/Tellona Diamond ring.
For weapons, Mikah wore her advanced-tech laser pistol and Zimzod wore his vibro-cutlass and .45 semi.  As they dressed, Munarshu went down to the cargo bay to start working on the androids.  Reviewing the work done before, Munarshu committed himself to getting the grav-lock off the fourth android to use it in the one 'droid they could get fully working.  As he checked WALL-e's work, Munarshu found the 'droid had started working on the other 'droids after charging itself.  The first of the parts 'droids was now nothing but a hollowed-out chassis beside a pile of parts.  Some of the parts had to be tested and set aside to get 'droid #2 working.  They included fuel cells and batteries, a medium arm, visual sensors, magnetic sensors, a spotlight, a radio(5km), a metalwork package and a carpentry package.  The other parts stripped out of 'droid #1 were either fried or spares to be tested for usability.  The spares listed so far were a 'droid chassis, Brain, light arm, medium arm, basic sensor package, voder, torch and radiation sensors and a program interface.  They'd pulled as non-functional, a "2 Tread" transmission, 2 grav-locks, a light arm, 3 heavy arms, 4 medium tentacles, 2 audio sensors, 2 speakers, a radio(5km), a visual sensor, a magnetic sensor, power interface, brain interface, 2D video recorder, flat video display, spotlight, 2 laser welders, a metalwork package, carpentry package, mechanical package and an electronic package.
Eventually, Inger and Rol left their staterooms and Rol quickly saw his galley had been used.  Deciding this made his morning that much easier, Rol also planned to prove a point.  So he set about making waffles for those who had not yet eaten.  As he prepared to cook, Rol sparked up the news to see the morning's stories.  He and Inger listened to local stories, which were always a tapestry woven by the cultures of the station's many sections and populations.  Eventually, the news moved to larger issues, which were dominated by the continuing transition as authority was ceded to the Arch-Duke's temporary governmental structures in-system.  Of course, the dislocation caused was also creating a lot of economic gain which the media were eager to cover.  As that story ran, Inger called station's central offices to check in and tell the station management members of the crew had bought into the investment offer from "New Stars".  She figured it would be better if she warned them than having the executive staff learn it from the news.  Especially given the suspicions and charges in the ether.  As Rol listened, Inger made it clear the port should take the extra steps to insure the people of New Stars were treated fairly because they could very well be cleared of charges.
Inger's sentiments were something Rol could feel viscerally, given his experiences with both public judgment and the media.  As this happened, Aiden was waking in his stateroom to begin his morning routine.  And soon, Mikah and Zimzod returned to the lounge in a state of stunning finery...for their crew.  Rol looked and asked, "Is it that time of the year again?"  With no clue what he was on about, Mikah deadpanned, "Yeah, it's prom season."  When Rol offered the couple breakfast, Mikah said they'd already eaten, but brought over her new and damaged gear for Rol to work on when he had time.  Zimzod responded by posing with a flourish of his hands to indicate his uniform and declared, "No! Fuck off!"  That got Inger's attention, and she nodded and said, "Huh, getting out the fancy duds." in a tone that was accepting if nothing else.  Zimzod shifted his hips and lifted his hands to point at her and said, "Yeah yeah." with the sly smile of a wannabe 'Joe Cool'.
Inger let a half smile slip as she asked, "So you dress up for a firing squad these days?"  Zimzod kept the smile, winked at Inger and said, "Yep" in meaningless bravado.  "So, if you get your big gun", Inger asked, "are you gonna call to warn us or just show up and surprise everybody?"  Less certain, Zimzod said, "Uhhh, we'll see how it goes."  From where he was cooking, Rol said, "Remember not to come back unless you bring enough for everybody."  That got a laugh from everyone in the compartment.  Zimzod said that was no problem so long as Rol wanted to be on the receiving end of it with a smile turned a bit predatory.  After things quieted down, the couple decided it was time as Zimzod said, "Mikah, let's go hob nob with the goober smoochers!"  Aiden was just stepping out of his stateroom as that show was ending, and muttered, "Wow.  Who died?"
Mikah shot back, "Your left cheek" referring to the wound he'd received from Emkir's misfire.  Trying to get the momentum back, Aiden loudly demanded, "And you're just having the wake now?!"  On the heels of Aiden's failure to respond, Then, Mikah and Zimzod grabbed the ship's air raft and called the Duke's office for nav-beacons before lifting from the berth.  During the byplay, Inger's call turned to negotiating with the port for a days' work, provided it was something more than basic functionary work.  Sadly, things were fairly settled in Rhylanor and the best she could hope for was a decent days' pay handling administrative work.  This was because some jobs could only be done by or with oversight from those of an appropriate rank and certification.  Aiden sat for breakfast and considered what to do with his day?  He finally decided to spend the morning reading his new book until he came up with something else to do.
Inger worked out a deal with the port by the time Rol served the waffles, and then went to change into a business suit while they sent a car for her.  It wouldn't get her out where she could make personal deals, but it was a good Cr 1,000 for handling issues which, while very mundane, required certifications she had.  So, as a deputized Administrator, Dame Inger would have her SPA authorities and rights completely restored for the day.  Aiden ignored this activity as he ate and read while the engineers worked in the cargo bay.  It was nearly 9am, as Rol watched the news and worked on armor, that Emkir and Aali left their stateroom, preparing to deal with the installation of the X-Mail safe.  Once they'd found breakfast and eaten, Emkir went below to wait for the installers and offer any help he could.  He also planned to help later installing the software for the 'droid brains if needed.  But soon, as he waited, Emkir decided to sit at a console and dig into the data the network had given them on the teams.  He also thought about calling to the officer's club to see if he could set up a bit of betting on the competitions?  Soon, Inger's car pulled up and she was off to the station's central office.
After Rol finished cooking, cleaning up after and eating breakfast, he'd checked on his High Passage auction.  The auction showed a level of interest, but there were not yet any bids.  Rol accepted that, as it was early yet, having started the auction the day before.  After that, Rol worked on the various armor and weapon projects he'd planned for the others in the crew.  Since Mikah had given him her damaged armor and the HUD, to integrate her new pistol, Rol planned to work on that.  When he was able to, Rol went to engineering looking for Munarshu, and found him working on one of the more intact android hulks in the cargo bay.  Rol made sure Munarshu wanted him to work on his new shotgun.  When Munarshu said he did, Rol told Munarshu to bring the weapon to him when he was free of what he was doing.  Rol then went back above-decks to get out his gear and started working on projects in the crew lounge.  Munarshu figured he'd bring Rol his shotgun after he got the grav-lock clear of the hulk.
Emkir followed up his call to the O-club with a few calls to officers he knew, to drum up possible interest.  Of course, he was asked what his interest was?  Wanting to keep his opportunities as open as possible, Emkir admitted that, since the crew's grav-sim the day before, they'd been hired as celebrity commenters for the competition coming that weekend.  That also got him an amount of ribbing and jokes over the now well-watched matches the crew had fought out.  Especially his stint as a 'human thrown weapon'.  Some of the officers also threatened to set up viewing parties, to enjoy his media moments.  As he talked with others, and some officers became more interested, Emkir came up with the idea of sharing his data with them in exchange for theirs.  As his delusions of grandeur grew, Emkir started talking of "raiding the bookies" with high quality bets.  And as he started suggesting that, some of his brother officers seemed very willing to go along.  Soon, some of those brought their own connections into a conference call growing larger as some officers recruited others to the cause of bilking the gambling houses.Setting The Safe
As the call grew, Emkir had to drop off comms to work with those installing the safe.  But he promised to link back in once the safe was installed.  Aali also squared away her work to oversee the installation after re-evaluating her process.  She'd first intended to remove all components from each of the androids, except unit 2.  Then she'd test the parts before rebuilding that unit.  Now, Aali planned to target and harvest the components needed to get unit 2 up and running.  As WALL-e and Munarshu did that, she'd soft-wire them into a harness to test before installing good devices until unit 2 was up and working.  After that, they'd target unit 4, for which they'd have to buy parts to get it running 100%.  When the workers showed up hauling a safe larger than a starship stateroom, the foreman checked out where Aali and Munarshu were working on the androids.  He said that wouldn't get in the way as they also confirmed where the safe was planned to be installed.  Sizing up the footprint the crew had in mind, he had his people mark the placement on the deck and then the foreman said, "You're gonna love this."  Not sure what that meant, Emkir and Aali watched as they unlimbered the safe from the transport and then threw a number of switches.
As grav-modules kicked in, two workers carefully guided the safe with one pushing from the back right corner and the other steering on the front left.  With the mass moving, the two workers very delicately maneuvered the hulk into place and lined it up with footprint markings they'd laid out.  After that was done, two more workers moved in to help anchor the safe while some others laid out nearly-flat, almost one-foot-square pads under the floating box.  They also put some of the pads on the wall where the safe would be pushed to contact.  After the pads were all set, the workers again gently maneuvered the safe into place and also slowly settled it into its final position.  They followed that up with a few checks before the foreman looked up and called back to another man on the crew.  That man was holding a datapad, and the foreman asked him, "You ready?"  As the guy with the pad answered, "Yeah, I'm ready", everyone else stepped back while he activated some software application or control.  When he hit the control, the pads set under and behind the safe seemed to almost self-illuminate and the safe settled an infinitesimal bit more.
They all watched as the safe settled and then was self-welded to the cargo bay deck and wall.  With that, the foreman said to Emkir and Aali, "It's now set.  Nuthin' short of destroying the ship or ripping the whole cargo bay out will remove it."  The foreman then spent the next twenty minutes teaching the crew how to operate the safe, between setting locking combinations, setting the time-limits so the safe couldn't be opened too frequently on any given day, etc...  As they did this, Aali entered all the data into the engineering computer while Emkir loaded it onto a crystal using a non-networked storage device.  After that, Emkir used the code Mikah had given him and paid the KCr 50, from ship's funds, for the installation and safe.
Then, after seeing the work crew out of the berth, Emkir got back on the comms with his fellow officers.  As he did, he learned another vector had developed.  In addition to firming up the plans and sharing more data, those on the call had hatched the idea of placing bets later, to not affect the betting odds.  As commitments were made, Emkir risked Cr 1,000 of his money without asking his wife.  As this happened, Aiden took a break from his reading to check on his high passage auction, and saw that, like Rol's, interest had been shown, but there were no bids.  Once Munarshu had the grav-lock off 'droid 4, he went up to the ship's locker to pull his newest shotgun and his gear so Rol could integrate it into his HUD.  Rol was working on Mikah's armor and watching the news in the crew lounge.After The Show
Zimzod and Mikah arrived at the Duke's Palace at roughly 8:30am.  Since he had to meet with the Duke's protocol people at 9am, they had half an hour to wander and meet with others.  The two found they were popular because they were "current news".  The signals also put out by Mikah's Deneb Domain jewelry created a social wave which got reaction.  Sadly for Zimzod, a large percentage of the crowd really wanted to get acquainted or make a connection which might be followed up on later.  So there was nothing of real substance in the half hour wandering.  The experience was like creatures coming forward to taste the air and get information from the scent.  Certainly predators.  Still, the cross section of people were interesting, from those sweating and worried about their court summons to those above or even below the first, who might even seek favors from the crew of the Hotel California.  This despite not having any power to help the knights with their needs.  Still, one never knew when they'd need a friend in low places.  And data was exchanged from time to time.  One of the people Mikah spent some time talking to was a Master Alan Disadii.  She'd met the man while seeking a quiet place to check her comms and he'd asked if she was having trouble with the device?
Mikah said she was checking for messages as her crew were expecting to have a safe installed that morning while she was at court.  At that, Master Disadii brightened up, introducing himself as "Master" of the Aler Irkhi Shusgididi Corporation providing ship's services.  The title instantly down-checked him in her book as it really was a self-appointed rank, created by a corporate executive who felt himself worthy of a title without having earned one.  Still, she listened politely to him talk of his firm's hopes for a concession from Duke Leonard, to provide his personal trading fleet ship's needed services.  Mikah knew it might always be good to have friends who could provide help with things like repairing or modifying a starship.  As she listened, Mikah heard this was the corporation's fourth or fifth time attending the Duke in his court, hoping to sway support for their cause.  As they parted, she wished him luck and exchanged credentials with the man, trying to give an impression of "who knows what the future holds?"  Soon, 9am arrived and Zimzod confirmed he was on the docket as he gave himself over to the officials of the court.  He was told court had been running smoothly that morning and they didn't expect his audience to be delayed.
Finally, just after 10am, the Duke's Herald called, "His Grace invites into his court, Sir Zimzod Egosion, Knight of the Imperium and Companion of the Order of the Knight Defenders of the Marches, who begs a favor."  Squaring his shoulders, Zimzod strode into the Duke's presence as Mikah watched from the gallery.  In the space before the Duke's throne, within the circle of guards, courtiers and staff, Zimzod bowed to Duke Leonard and began laying his case out.  Zimzod began by describing the work of the Hotel California's crew as hard to predict but of obvious value to the Sector, Domain and Imperium.  He then described the FGMP-15 as a tool that would be needed on occasion, so his request was simply designed to fill that need when it rose.  Duke Leonard considered before saying, "By that argument, every citizen of the Imperium should have such a weapon." and the comment got a brief wave of laughter before he continued.  "Given that this is a specifically controlled and very powerful weapon, why should we give you permission to have one?  Especially when we have teams trained to use them as a regular part of their job, who can provide you support should you need it?"  Zimzod stood firm as he answered, "Because a lot of times I am far enough from any of these teams for them to come or support me."
Again, the Duke considered before asking, "So you would have us authorize you to take one of these devices out on the bleeding edge, where you have no support?  And where you can more easily be robbed and have it taken and used by our enemies?"  Zimzod considered that before he pointed out that those enemies of the Imperium who really wanted an FGMP might already have it on the black market.  "So", he pointed out, "such an enemy would not attack me only to get the weapon, let alone even know I had it."  Duke Leonard made it clear he didn't feel Zimzod's logic was sound, pointing out the strength of Imperial troops was not in their very powerful weapons but in their ability to operate in an environment of broad support.  If Zimzod considered the Duke's comments in the light of what happened on Jae Tellona, he'd have to have wondered just how much the Duke had been briefed on those events?  Especially since he'd been swarmed by nomads and his Battledress damaged because he moved into danger alone and unsupported.
As Zimzod considered his next tack, the Duke made it clear he still wanted to know why the knight felt he deserved the right to own an FGMP-15?  This suggested to Zimzod that the Duke hadn't closed the door fully and there might be a path open if Zimzod could only find it.  Thinking that his best tactics might be based on his classified activities, Zimzod made his best diplomatic request to discuss more significant evidence of his need in private chambers.  That request bought him a pause in the action as the Duke conferred with one of those who served him in executing his courts.  With a doubtful look, the Duke agreed to meet with Zimzod that afternoon at 2pm, with his Seneschal and another officer-designate also attending.  Getting that much, Zimzod thanked His Grace and was escorted out of court.  After he left the presence, Zimzod was given the data he needed to attend the newly scheduled meeting.
After leaving the court, Zimzod met with Mikah and asked her what her take was on how he should proceed?  Mikah said it looked like the Duke was up on events and she couldn't be sure what Zimzod should say.  Especially when she didn't know what officer would be there to make things worse?  Zimzod said, "Why don't you come with me?" and she asked if she could do that?  Not sure himself, Zimzod led her to one of the Seneschalate officers to ask.  After some checking, they took Zimzod's contact data and said they'd get back to him.  Out of Court before 10:15, they now had between then and 2pm to talk about Zimzod's thoughts and build a plan.
Still, Zimzod quickly found out Mikah had no idea how he should move forward and didn't even think he should keep trying.  That pushed Zimzod back to the truth, which was that he wanted the FGMP-15, but had no reason why he should get one other than that.  He also knew he had to walk in to the meeting that afternoon and hand the Duke and his people an answer that said, hands down, "Yes, this is correct."  As he struggled with ideas, Mikah reminded him they couldn't mention IRIS at all.  Or anything that might lead discussion back to the agency.  Looking for other angles, Mikah mentioned Baron Sir Kelslundtb, who had introduced them to the tattooed man and his girlfriend.  Once he sparked up his comms, Zimzod reached the Baron's assistant, who asked for Zimzod's information.  Once Zimzod introduced himself, a message was passed and Baron Kelslundtb got on the line to ask, "How can I help you Sir Zimzod?"  Zimzod explained that he'd just appeared before Duke Leonard for permission to own an FGMP-15 and got a private meeting for later that day.  So he was curious if the Baron could help him come up with ideas on how to sway the Duke?
After Zimzod finished speaking, the Baron's face seemed almost frozen for a moment before the man broke out laughing.  That wasn't what Zimzod hoped for.  Zimzod prompted the man, saying, "Just picking your brain here.  Hoping you could help me out."  The Baron told Zimzod there was no good reason for a private citizen to have that kind of weapon.  But, as Zimzod considered what his next step might be, the Baron thought about the question and suggested Zimzod lie, and say they were starting a mercenary company.  Of course, the downside of that was that the crew would actually have to make it look like they were setting a company up.  The Duke and his people would notice if they didn't.  The only other suggestion the Baron had was to find someone very good at forging the paperwork and shop outside the proper laws to get the weapon.  Then they'd only have to hope the forgery held up long enough to get them through customs inspections.  "As for going through the Duke", the Baron said with an almost blank expression, "I can't suggest anything that might work.  Sorry I can't be of any help."  Accepting that, Zimzod thanked the man, suggesting that he may have helped out after all.  After he said he was glad to be of service, the Baron asked, "By the way, I understand your ship is having an x-mail safe installed?"
When Zimzod said they did, the Baron asked, "And do you know what your out-bound itinerary is beyond the favor you're doing our mutual friend?"  When Zimzod said they'd decided to go to the Lanth system after D'Ganzio, the Baron admitted he'd "heard rumors to that effect."  After another silence, the Baron said, "I'd like to lease your x-mail safe." and Zimzod said he'd have to defer to Mikah as the ship's captain as he turned to look at her.  When Mikah stepped up and asked, "Standard rates?" the Baron surprised her, saying, "Actually no.  Not standard rates.  fifty thousand credits per jump.  Five tons cargo, sealed in your x-mail safe until you reach the Lanth system.  Delivery with a letter of credit at Lanth.  You get paid when you hand the letter of credit in at the appropriate bank with the recipient's seal on it."
Mikah and Zimzod shared looks before Zimzod asked, "Does that sound good to you cappy?" and Mikah said "I guess." because it sounded like a good deal.  The KCr 50 per jump would be twice what they could make hauling a full safe for the X-Mail service and a full safe normally was nowhere near guaranteed or likely.  Mikah asked, "Will we have any difficulties making delivery?" and the Baron quickly said, "You shouldn't."  At the same time, Zimzod was trying to decide how to ask the Baron if the cargo was legal or not?  Before he could decide on that, Mikah accepted the cargo, based on the Baron giving them all the proper paperwork and data on the receiving party.  Once the agreement was made, Mikah called Emkir to let him know they'd booked the first cargo for the safe.  The Admiral's response was, "Well, that was quick."  Especially as the call got him at 10:30, half an hour after the safe installation began!Where everyone is at the beginning of next Session
Aali: In the cargo bay just after the installation of the safe    Aiden: In the ship's lounge reading    Emkir: In the cargo bay just after the installation of the safe    Inger: Arriving at the station offices to work as an administrator.    Mikah: With Zimzod, outside Leonard's station-side palace after court and talking to Baron    Munarshu: In the cargo bay just after the installation of the safe working on 'droids    Rol: In lounge working on Mikah's armor    Terin: to wake up at 10am    Zimzod: With Mikah, outside Leonard's station-side palace after court and talking to the Baron
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: By The Light Of Burning Bridges