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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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By The Light Of
      Burning Bridges

A Morning's Fun And Excitement

Starship Berth      In his stateroom, Sir Terin had woken and worked his way through his morning routine.  Entered the crew lounge from his stateroom, he said, "Greetings gentlemen.  Any leftovers from breakfast?"  Terin's chipper tone showed the others he'd slept well.  Terin checked the galley while speaking, but didn't see any obvious leftovers.  Rol was working on someone's armor and Aiden reading his newest handgun manual from a datapad while the news played in the background.  The others waved back and Rol joked, "There are emergency rations in the ship's locker if you want?"  Ignoring the jibe, Terin checked the galley's cooling unit, and found leftovers.  He decided what was left was 'one serving', so Terin re-heated the food and sat to eat.  When he asked, Terin learned Inger had got some work at the port and Mikah had gone with Zimzod to the Duke's Court.  The others were below, in the cargo bay.

Terin sat to eat and watch the mid-morning news, but the local news didn't matter to him and the global news was largely about various activities of Their Graces in-system.  Arch Duke Norris' administrative teams were working on setting up housekeeping on Rhylanor Prime.  Duchess Muktheswara stood by to serve at his pleasure with no comment on when she might return to the Glisten system or what she was even doing?  And Duke Leonard was holding court, with the day's sessions happening at his palace on-station.  This last part was no surprise to any in the crew, since Sir Zimzod had been given permission to appear before the Duke on his quest to find a weapon he could carry that might rival his ego.  Zimzod was also perhaps the only member of the crew who didn't feel that way about his hopes, or giggle when they thought about it without cringing.

While eating, Terin decided to dig into the data the networks gave them on the upcoming competitions, like some of the others had.  Terin knew he'd have to know about the teams if he was going to be able to comment on them and earn his pay.  Terin also hit on the idea of looking of vid's, on-line, of the teams in previous battles.  This would give him a first-hand feel, helping him understand the dry data.  Terin planned to do that for several hours, checking emails in-between to see if he'd gotten anything he needed to respond to?  Things seemed to be pretty quiet until Aiden's comms began to buzz.

That was odd because he rarely got direct calls from anyone but the crew, so he set his datapad down.  After Aiden quickly answered, "Hello?"  The man he found himself talking to could have been any mid-level professional functionary as he greeted Aiden and confirmed he was Sir Aiden Radetsky?  When Aiden confirmed he was, the man identified himself as calling from TAS, regarding Sir Aiden's stent class.  When Aiden happily greeted the news, the man said his class would be at 10am on the 312th day of the year.  That would be the coming Wednesday.  Aiden was speaking with the caller when Rol's comms also began to buzz.

Wondering who'd be calling that early, Rol answered to find he was also being called by a TAS representative.  Answering and greeting the caller, Rol was told he'd be attending the same class Aiden had just been told about.  Terin watched and listened to Aiden and Rol, and overheard the two others confirming the name of the facility TAS had booked them at.  Pulling out his comms, Terin did a search to find it was an out-patient support clinic and called to see if he could get into the same class?  After identifying himself, Terin was told that class was filled, but he could book himself into the same class at 10am the day before.  When Terin accepted that, he was charged Cr 500.

An Awkward Talk With Lunch

     At the Duke's Palace, Zimzod was going down in flames as Mikah watched.  Then, her comms buzzed and she checked to see it was Aali.  Answering the call, she found her Chief Engineer was asking for ship's funds for the housekeeping 'droids they'd talked about some time before.  Not able to help Zimzod, and pretty sure she didn't want to, Mikah asked for a better understanding of what the 'droids would do for the ship while she considered the request.  Eventually, Mikah settled things with Aali as Zimzod flared out and left the presence.  He failed to get the permission he was after but did manage to get a personal audience, in private, with the Duke at 2pm.  Of course, Zimzod hadn't missed the fact the Duke didn't seem to be on Zimzod's side at all.  Moving back to Mikah, Zimzod was surprised to get a call on his comms.  Checking it, he found the caller to be from TAS.

Mikah watched, wondering who had the galaxy's best or worst timing as Zimzod learned he was signed up for his stent class at 10am on the 311th.  Off the comms, Zimzod explained the call and then asked Mikah if she had any thoughts?  He said he had 3.5 hours before he had to hand the Duke a good answer or lose the chance all together.  Mikah, who didn't think Zimzod should get permission to buy an FGMP-15, happily told Zimzod he was taking her to an early lunch.  Zimzod accepted that, saying they could talk about how to convince the Duke as they ate.  Leaving the Palace, the couple knew they were in a "high rent district" of the station, with embassy facilities and high-end venues of all kinds.  More concerned with his problems, Zimzod asked Mikah where she'd like to go for lunch?  She chose to wander a bit before finding a restaurant that interested her.

This got them closer to 11am and actual lunch time.  After being seated, Zimzod was happy the prices on the menu weren't "that bad", and they ordered.  But despite Zimzod's trying, Mikah really wasn't interested in taking his getting an FGMP-class weapon seriously.  She was still helpful, shooting down a number of bad or sad options he came up with.  While they ate, the restaurant's layout and management kept the ever-present tail of media from doing anything other than filming through the windows.  Waiting for their food, Mikah checked her comms and saw a message from Aali.  The 'droid deal was done and they were off to pick up the lot.  Soon, the couple were served their entrées.  They were talking when Mikah looked up to see they were being approached by Dame Ashlee, which didn't improve her dining experience.

Mikah did her best to be gracious, and Ashlee greeted them asking "What are you doing in this high stakes neighborhood?"  Cutting Zimzod off, Mikah off-handedly said, "We have a meeting with the Duke later." as if that was to be expected.  The Ashlee grabbed a chair and invited herself to sit with them, and her face brightened up as she said, "Oh!  Do tell!  About what?" as if she were asking for the day's gossip.  Zimzod flatly replied, "Personal business." as Mikah nodded and agreed.  Elongating the first word, Ashlee asked, "Anything...interesting?" obviously fishing for information.  Zimzod shrugged and tried to be evasive, saying "Umm, just a little thing I'm trying to get for a weapon purchase.  Trying to get permission for that."

Raising an eyebrow in real surprise, Ashlee asked, "Weapons should be right up your alley.  What's so difficult you can't just go out and buy one at InstellArms?  I hear you're rather famous for shopping there."  Still trying to keep something private, Zimzod answered, "Yeah, well...  It's a high caliber weapon, ah, and it's....regulated."  Encouragingly, Ashlee put her elbow on the table with her chin in her hand as she leaned a bit forward saying, "Do tell." conspiratorially.  Deciding he'd tried every other contact, Zimzod figured "in for a credit..." and asked Dame Ashlee if she might be able to help get the Duke's permission to buy a regulated weapon?  Ashlee shot back, "What kind of weapon?"

When Zimzod said, "An FGMP-15", Ashlee couldn't help herself and laughed at first.  Also unable to help herself, Mikah let loose some giggles too.  After the laughing was over, Dame Ashlee asked, "Why are you going through the Duke?" in a serious tone.  When Zimzod told her he thought that would be the right way to get permission, Ashlee corrected him.  She said it was the Imperial Navy who regulated ownership of weapons.  Zimzod did his best to hide his surprise by sputtering out a "Thanks for the advice!"  That was heartfelt even if it was a cover.  Breaking the brief pause that followed, Ashlee said, "You know, I have friends who can get you permission", which Mikah saw as an invitation to walk down two roads she didn't want to consider.  One meaning accepting possibly suicidal missions and the other being owing Dame Ashlee a debt.

Not catching the hook right off, Zimzod brightened up saying, "Really?  Outstanding!"  Mikah followed that up immediately, asking, "What's the price?" in as flat a tone as she could, so she didn't slip into an aggressively defensive tone.  Without missing a beat, Ashlee smiled primly as she said, "Do us a favor or two." as if she were asking them to hang out.  Something Mikah couldn't get out of her mind was the thought of them hanging.  By their necks.  Still interested, Zimzod asked, "Like what?" and Ashlee said she was sure they'd find a favor soon enough.  Mikah shrugged and said, "I'm sure you will, but were not going to that crazy planet", referring to the job offer Ashlee's people made, asking the crew to go to the Pavabid system (District 268).

The Knight shrugged off Mikah's comment as she and Zimzod talked about weapons regulation.  Zimzod learned that, since the Imperial Navy was responsible for inspections, they were also tasked with weapons regulation in space.  On worlds, the task fell to the individual governments.  When Zimzod asked, Ashlee said her people were doing well but, as always, had many issues to work on.  Turning things back to the crew's activities, Ashlee asked, "I understand you're going to visit more of your friends in InstellArms?"  Mikah responded in a confused voice, "We are?  Are we?  I don't know."

Despite Mikah's comments, Dame Ashlee asked if they knew what their cargo was and Zimzod shrugged and matter of factly said, "Not gonna ask."  Realizing Ashlee was talking about their trip to D'Ganzio, Mikah said, "Oh that?  How did you know about that?"  Not giving Mikah any more than she'd offered, Ashlee said, "Word gets around" and Mikah asked, "From?"  Ashlee just answered, "Friends" with a satisfied look on her face.  After another pause, Ashlee asked, "Do you think you'll have extra cargo space on the ship?"  Mikah knew they'd eaten up five of their fourteen tons of cargo space for a safe, and would have to devote up to five more for the tattooed man's cargo.  Knowing that, both Mikah and Zimzod said they would.  Ashlee said she had two tons of cargo to ship to someone in the D'Ganzio system at standard rates.

That would be Cr 1,000 per ton per jump.  So payment for the two tons over six jumps would pay Cr 12,000.  That would add to the cargo they were already hauling to Lanth for Baron Sir Kelslundtb, in their X-mail safe.  So that would get them Cr 52,000 per jump to D'Ganzio and Cr 50,000 to Lanth.  When they agreed to carry the cargo, Ashlee said it had to leave the system in the next two weeks, and was able to give them all the data on the cargo, including the name and contact data for the recipient.  She also said the customs paperwork would be cleared and posted to the cargo when it was delivered.  Zimzod and Mikah were happy because it was obviously a legitimate cargo.

After that was done, Ashlee stood saying, "It was good catching up with you.  Let me know if you ever need a favor?" as she started to leave.  Zimzod answered, "Will do."  After everyting else, Zimzod was happy to have gotten a more legitimate job and more information on getting permission on buying an FGMP-15.  Once Ashlee was gone, Zimzod turned to Mikah asking, "Why didn't you know I should go to the Navy for that sort of stuff?"  Not wanting to say, 'Because you don't need an FGMP-15', Mikah glared and said, "Seriously?  I'm a doctor, not an arms specialist.  Besides, why didn't Rol know that?"  After that, they ate and shared small talk for the rest of the meal.  They finished by 12:30 and Zimzod paid the Cr 150 bill before they moved on.

Mid-Day Madness In Many Directions

     The car got her to the port, and Dame Inger was met by a worker in a cart who brought her to central offices.  There, she met with a few of the senior crew and a friend who was one of the Deputy Directors.  He told her one of the many outstanding work orders to be handled was an upgrade of the port's base computer systems.  The rub was, as Inger knew, that someone of Executive rank had to 'administer' the work, which would take all day.  And since Inger's credentials could be reactivated while all the other directors were busy, the Executive Director hoped Inger would agree to babysit for Cr 750?  Inger said she would, because she knew she could take calls and do her own research at the same time.  So, they had the cart driver take her to the systems pit, underneath the main structure, to meet the technicians.

Until lunch, Rol worked on armor while Aiden read and Terin worked on his emails and the competitive team statistics.  In the cargo bay, Aali and Munarshu had enjoyed watching the x-mail safe installation and were set to go back to their other work.  With much of what the ship needed already done, it was time to look at what they had been planning?  For Aali, that meant the lot of housekeeping 'droids she'd had Admiral Kiamman pull for them.  But moving on that meant coming up with the cash, and they only had KCr 85 left from the datapad fiasco.  So either she and Emkir would have to pay directly or the ship, if Mikah approved the cost.  So Aali called Mikah, to get the Knight while Zimzod was in court.

When Mikah asked Aali to explain the housekeeping 'droids, Aali said the word "housekeeping" was really wrong.  What the androids did was mostly keeping up on the minor maintenance and management of things like filter-cleaning and swapping, etc...  What these androids cleaned and maintained would free her and Munarshu up for the serious engineering issues the ship might face.  They would translate time spent on minor scut work to hours available for more critical issues.  When Mikah asked if they really needed all five, Aali said they came 'as a lot' from the Admiral and they could always consider selling some later.  If they didn't need to cannibalize some for parts.

Shrugging, Mikah said, "Well, buy them.  See what they can do and we'll sell what you don't need."  Aali confirmed spending ship's funds on the 'droids and let Mikah go to call the Admiral to pay for the lot and set up a pick up.  This pleased the Admiral, and she sent Aali the forms required and the office she'd need to call to pay and set the pickup data.  Off the comms with the Admiral, Aali called the office, made the payment.  She also asked if they could bring their ship's cutter, since their air-raft had been taken by their captain.  After the payment was confirmed, the NCO on the call said they could pull up to a cargo bay and naval techs would move the pallet directly into their cutter.  Finishing up with the Navy, Aali told Emkir he was flying her out to get the androids, so she called Mikah again to say the deal had been made.

Getting Mikah's voice mail, Aali left the message, "Captain, the deal is done and we're taking the ship's boat to get the 'droids."  Then, telling Munarshu they were going out, Aali and Emkir went above decks to put on some armor before hitting the cutter bay.  Aali put executive armor on under her clothes while Emkir wore cloth armor.  Sparking up the cutter's systems, Emkir called the port for authorizations and accepted their offer of nav-beacons.  Telling them his destination, the port gave Emkir a frequency to tune his nav systems to so he could follow the markers along an authorized course.  Especially since they'd literally leave the station completely to fly in clear space, making the trip to and from the naval port faster.  Emkir estimated they'd be back in ninety minutes' time plus the delivery time.

After they left, Munarshu continued removing the grav-lock from the one android until just before lunch.  When he had the unit clear, and set aside to test, the engineer decided to take a break and research the derelicts lost since the attack on the Selat Atrara.  While Munarshu had been aboard one of the many ships sent out to hunt the derelicts, the "easy to locate" hulks had all been recovered.  Search vessels had to proceed out from the attack site on calculated vectors with computer generated estimates of how local gravitational forces might have influenced them.  It was largely like flying blindly into the dark of space hoping to get a hit on a drifting mass.  But Munarshu had only just started that research when he heard Rol was starting to cook lunch.  So he moved his work to a terminal in the ship's lounge.  After he ate, Munarshu planned to spend the afternoon following up that research.

Rol started cooking and Aiden put his book up before checking on the on-line auction he'd started for his High Passage.  He saw the hints of interest were still there, but the auction was still too far from ending for anyone to have bid yet.  Rol cooked after squaring away his armor work for the moment, and Aiden saw Munarshu come up to the lounge and apparently transfer some work he'd been doing to a terminal there.  Curious, the pilot wandered over and asked what he was doing?  Munarshu said he'd been aboard one of the very many ships looking for hulks which had been lost from the Selat Atrara archology.  Saying he had some idea of the area of space his ship was assigned to search, he told Aiden he was hoping to get some further information off the local net from news released about the attack.  Aiden decided to join in with Munarshu on the work, adding his skills to the mix.

At the port, Inger had spent the morning checking into a number of issues.  She first checked the local legal notices, making use of the port's special access to check on those detained for both Zach's shooting and the jewelry store shootings.  Inger found that the one thug who'd survived the shootout after Zach's ambush had been found guilty in a trial which was fairly swift.  Especially since the station was able to provide sensor and video data surrounding the event.  Because the man was guilty of murder, conspiracy to commit, assault on Imperial Nobility and more, the decision on what to do with him was also brief.  He was held for a week's time, to see if he would turn over more information than he had?  When he couldn't produce enough new data on the others involved, he was executed, and his remains used to fertilize the station's hydroponics systems.

Following up on that, Inger happened on coverage about the things stolen from them during the drunken party when they returned to the Rhylanor system.  Seeing a 'Detective Shurlashi' had been put in charge of the case after they left the system, Inger decided to call the man and see what his results were?  But, when she got through to the office he worked out of, she was told the detective was in fact out on a case at the time.  So she left her comms data and a request for him to call her about the case when he could.  Getting back to other things, Inger followed up on the preparations for the trial to be held regarding the jewelry store thugs.  The surviving criminals would all be tried for the murders and shootings "in common".  This was based on the legal precept that all those participating in a crime should be considered responsible for the worst acts committed by any of them, unless it could be proven by the defense that any suspect actively worked to stop it.

But as Inger read up on the case, things looked pretty bad for the thugs given what the authorities had already made public.  And that was before they got into the involvement of the 'celebrity Knights'.  Emkir and Aali's involvement were something the media were playing up heavily.  And some networks had tied that case to the coming 'weekend of commentary' by those very Knights during a sim-combat competition.  Inger was surprised to see how much energy was being pumped into the event because the crew hadn't yet really heard a peep about it.  And the more she read of the hype, the more she wondered just how none of it happened to play on any of the channels they watched?  Investigating, Inger found that the 'games' networks knew their jobs well and had dominated their own networks to build a frenzy which they expected would break into the mainstream on its own.  That saved them money while the frenzied fans created news events on their own.  After that, Inger decided that after today, she'd better stay aboard the ship and planned to recommend that to the others.

Work continued while Inger planned where to get lunch sent in from, and Rol cooked aboard the ship.  He considered his wounds, rom 21 days before, and started mentally planning for when he could start his workout schedule back up again?  Both he and Mikah were still suffering some effects due to their wounds though Sir Emkir had fully healed.  But Rol had his hopes and planned to spend his afternoon working on that as they readied for lunch.  While Rol was cooking, they got a call from Inger asking what was going on back at the ship?  Terin answeredthe call, and said that nothing much was happening.  Inger told them she'd be having lunch at the port, and cut the line to meet and eat with some of her friends.  She kept the building frenzy to herself because she figured she'd only be convincing enough in-person.  After that call, another came in from Emkir, saying he and Aali were getting close to docking the cutter.  Hearing that, Terin offered to help Rol cook and the retired marine added ingredients to feed more crew.

Singing: We're...Off To Get Some Androids!

     For Emkir and Aali, the flight out to the naval base was just as boring as anyone could want a flight to be.  Undocking the cutter, they saw the port cleared a transit corridor back to the station's exterior.  From there, they flew a large half-circle flight path to the naval base's port facilities.  Flying into a literal canyon, Emkir followed naval control instructions after sending the authorization codes the base had given them before they left.  Soon, Emkir burned the turns that moved the cutter to an opening bay door and settled the vessel into a cradle as the bay was sealed and repressurized.

Now secured, Emkir was told to open the cutter's cargo bay and meet the chief at the bay doors.  Aali waited as the cargo door parted, with the lower section becoming a contoured ramp down to the station deck and the upper part extending like an awning over the entrance.  Stepping out with Emkir, to meet the naval personnel, they found an NCO, a tech and a Lieutenant advancing to meet them.  When they met, the Lieutenant asked for their paperwork and Aali pulled up the data on her Ident before displaying it for the officer.  With the data, the officer said he would handle payment while telling the NCO which lot to bring out.  The petty officer passed on instructions to the tech while he began making settings on some equipment in the bay.

At the same time, the Lieutenant asked how they would be paying for the lot?  Aali gave him the ship's account data.  When he wrote up the payment request, Aali signed it and the request was sent.  Soon after, the authorization passed and the Lieutenant got confirmation of the payment.  The tech, with the help of a cargo 'droid, moved out the pallet of 'droids, hovering thanks to grav-lifters.  The petty officer monitored and managed systems in the bay while the Lieutenant, Aali and Emkir stood back.  The tech and 'droid moved the pallet into place, and lowered it to the cutter's deck.  They next removed the grav lifters, which the cargo 'droid returned into the facility, and the tech confirmed the pallet was settled before he left.

After that was done, the Lieutenant signed off that the transaction had been completed and said his farewells.  As the Lieutenant left and Emkir and Aali boarded the cutter and started sealing up their craft, the NCO prepared to seal the bay.  When the ship was sealed, and all systems sparked up, Emkir call the port for clearance to return to the ship before lifting out of the bay and making for open space.  Like with the outbound trip, the port offered nav-beacons and Emkir happily accepted.  Because of that and other conditions, their trip home was as boring as the trip out, and Emkir called to speak to Terin when they got close.  When Terin answered, Emkir said, "We're just about back with the 'droids."  Before he could continue, Terin said, "I didn't even know you were gone." which was the truth as he had woken very late.

When Terin asked if he needed to help them dock, Emkir said that wasn't needed but they did need help moving the 'droids out of the cutter.  Confused, Terin asked, "Don't they work?" since they'd been told the androids were to be bought as "functional".  Seeing Terin had a point, Emkir called back to Aali, who was checking the androids.  Aali said she was testing them and there was no guarantee they wouldn't need help.  Terin said, "OK, when you get to the dock, let me know." with all the eagerness of a butcher being hired for a K'kree feast.  Signing off with Emkir, Terin even offered to help Rol cook, putting an exclamation point on how little he looked forward to unloading expensive non-working androids.

While they'd maneuvered through the port to the berth, Aali had cut the binding that tied the 'droids down and tested the units.  The first android barely had enough power in its batteries to do more than complete a power-on self-test.  Reporting a 2% charge in the batteries, the screen said all systems seemed to be functional.  From there, Aali moved on to the second, which had 50% power, and third android before Emkir announced they were docking.  Being an experienced spacer, Aali trusted her husband but also grabbed a hold bar, just in case.  She also considered grabbing cables to connect the first android to the cutter's power.  When they'd docked up and Emkir set about confirming all seals were good, Aali continued checking the third unit.

That unit showed a 20% battery charge but also indicated a minor system glitch on start up.  Checking the details on the failure, Aali found it was a software load failure, so the issue could be with anything from a glitch in the 'droid's brain or data systems to a corrupt program.  Oddly enough, Aali knew that Emkir would be most qualified to investigate it once they got the unit onto the ship.  At the moment, she was just concerned with getting the android off the cutter and into a space where they could work on it.  By the time Aali was ready to check the fourth unit, Emkir had settled and secured the cutter and was ready to help.

Emkir watched while Aali sparked up the fourth unit, which showed a 70% charge and indicated the failure of one of its light arms.  Balancing that unit out, the fifth android showed fully powered and 100% operational.  Aali confirmed the three working 'droids could move the non-functional ones while Emkir opened the cargo bay doors.  Accessing the ship, they opened an access down through the lower deck and into the cargo bay below.  This happened while Emkir leaned on his comms and announced, "We're baaaack" in a tone that was...very animated.  Munarshu was certain the Admiral was imitating some media personality or bit but could not identify it and couldn't care less either.  After the androids were clear, Emkir closed and locked the bay doors while Aali was already on the way down to the cargo bay using the regular access.  After Aali got to the bay and ordered the androids to settle in specific spots in the cargo bay and connect to power sources, she went up to meet Emkir and they went to the lounge for lunch.

She met up with Emkir, who'd secured the cutter, and he asked if things were all set in the cargo bay?  Aali said they were and the two went to the lounge to have lunch with the others.  Aali was happy she could report two apparently 100% operational units.  When they were all in the lounge, Emkir switched gears and said he would try to sort the data from the studio to figure the best odds on the coming competition.  After he said this, Terin pulled up one of many betting sites to show Emkir he didn't have to reinvent the wheel.  Thanking Terin, Emkir asked if Terin wanted to get in on the 'betting team' he was organizing?  When Terin asked for more information, Emkir explained it to everyone in the compartment.  Terin said the "bookies" did that work every dayand were likely waiting for the officers to try to beat them with glee.  Either way, Terin didn't want to get involved, but wished the Admiral luck.

Terin debated the advantage of the officer's "fan-based knowledge", admittedly with the added studio data, being pitted against the professional odds makers and betting machinery.  Rol clarified, "Is this a friendly bet?  Or is this real money?"  And Emkir and Terin both said it was real money, with their own points of view on the wisdom of the idea.  Rol said it sounded uncomfortably like 'insider financial trading'.  When Emkir said it was all publicly available data, Rol countered that, while it was "available", few members of the public had the time to gather, organize and analyze the data the way the studio had.  Terin threw in, "Except the bookies", reinforcing his point that the betting professionals would still have an edge.  Rol also pointed out there was bound to be some underworld involvement in betting, even though it was legal, just because of the nature of the underworld in the Rhylanor system.

Emkir shrugged that off, saying "They're no less involved in betting here than they are in everything else."  To clarify things, Emkir explained they'd be betting on the most likely winners identified by the studio, be they favorites or not.  And, using a "faceman" to place the bets late in the game, so the odds wouldn't shift early or by much.  Terin stepped in again, saying that, given how large the betting industry was in-system, the officer's cabal wasn't likely to raise enough bets to skew the odds on the competition, or need to use a faceman to bet behind.  Exasperated with all the issues others had with the idea, Emkir finally said, "Well, I just wanted to know if you wanted to get involved?" and was firmly told "No" by everyone else in the compartment.

Munarshu threw fuel on the fire, saying, "If we already have the refined data from the studio, why don't we just get a betting AI to sift through it and tell us who is most likely to win?"  Then, he pointed out, they could check the differences between their results and the public betting odds.  Aiden sat watching, trying to control the level of horror his over-reaction was reaching for as Emkir enthusiastically admitted that was a great idea.  When Emkir said that was why he had thought about building a data-sort, Munarshu pointed out he could buy one or log into a public package on-line and dump their data there.  Emkir shot down logging into one on-line as any data they had could become public if they put it into an on-line application.  Still, Emkir had hopes and asked Munarshu if he wanted to get in on it?  The engineer emphatically said, "Hell no!"  Rol said he'd be happy to comment and Aiden's constant negative comments made it plain what his answer would have been if asked.

Emkir had already gotten permission from Aali to bet Cr 5,000, which was already posted to the group.  Now he wanted to get some software to better his betting odds.  When he considered getting an account with an on-line odds bot, he realized any data he ran through the bot would be shared with that bot's membership, which he didn't want.  So Emkir asked about the idea of getting a software package and loading it on the ship's computer.  Aiden was against that, complaining about possible malware.  When Rol said Emkir could always buy one and load it on the port's computers in the berth, he began researching costs and capabilities.  Setting to, Emkir figured he'd research until 4pm.

In station's offices, Inger and the workers she was supervising took a relaxing lunch in different sections.  The workers went their way and Inger met with some of her friends from central offices.  Going to meet friends, Inger called the ship briefly, to check in and see if anything had happened?  Getting the 'all clear', she met the others and made it clear she wanted to talk about anything except what she and her crew were up to, or had been involved in.  She did admit it was nice to periodically spend a day doing something which couldn't possibly go wrong unless the rest of the local universe was playing against them.  So under those restrictions, the group had fun hanging out and eating until it was time to return to their stations.  Figuring she would get a call if anything had changed since she called the ship, Inger went back to supervising.

Picking Up Speed Past Noon

     Finishing up an hour's lunch, Zimzod was no closer to figuring out what he would tell the Duke?  It didn't help that Mikah thought the whole idea was stupid.  Her one truly helpful comment had been, "Call Rol.  Maybe he has an idea?"  That was quickly followed by her snarking, "That's a long shot", to which Zimzod agreed.  Zimzod wrestled with his political demons while they decided to walk back from the restaurant to the palace and sight-see.  When they were getting close, Mikah's comms buzzed and she answered to find it was Terin, calling about the Darrians.  When Mikah said, "Make it quick", Terin said, "Hello Captain.  I just spoke to the Darrian Embassy and they wanted for me and you and anyone else you thought was important to meet them there at four this afternoon."

Sighing, Mikah acerbically asked, "Important?  So why do they want you?"  Ignoring that, Terin continued, saying "They want to talk about the cybernetics."  Having not caught the time before, Mikah asked when the Darrians wanted to meet and he repeated "four pm".  When Mikah asked, "Today?" Terin confirmed that and Mikah had a quick conference with Zimzod, to make sure they 'could' make it to the embassy by 4pm.  Zimzod was certain his business with the Duke wouldn't take two hours, regardless of what happened.  So Mikah told Terin, "I'll call you once we know anything."  With that done, they continued towards the palace.  But as they got close, they saw Baron Shwarii Ahkuariyo at the palace entrance.  Both remembered meeting him when they got to the Rhylanor system originally, four months before  And both were worried, remembering the impression Zimzod had made with the man.

The Baron had been assigned, as one of the Duke's ministers, to help the seneschalate make a recommendation on confirming their titles.  In those meetings, Mikah's nearly single-minded focus on getting the ship a replacement fuel filtration system led her to be dismissive and uncooperative while Zimzod's attitude was one of outright arrogance that this man would judge them.  Of course, this was before they learned he was a Baron, among other things.  And the man did finally seem to see some value in the Knights, when they stopped going door to door demanding help and actually made moves on their own to solve their ship's problems.  As the two Knights saw him, he saw and recognized them.  He greeted them and congratulated them on their titles having been confirmed.

Despite their past history, there was no sign at all on the Baron's face if he'd approved of or been disappointed by the decision.  He also congratulated them on their, spectacular return to Rhylanor.  They all chuckled a bit at that.  Getting serious, the Baron said, "So what, may I ask, are you doing today?"  Zimzod shrugged, saying "I got a thing with the Duke", causing the Baron to raise an eyebrow enquiringly.  In a subdued voice, Zimzod continued, "Just a personal favor I'm asking of him."  Sweeping them both with a gaze, the Baron said, "Well.  It seems you've both learned a bit of discretion."  When Mikah joked, "He's on better med's now", Baron Shwarii accepted that with a nod and no other comment.  And with that, the three separated and entered the palace, heading off on their own tasks as Zimzod realized he was about thirty minutes early.

Targets And Decisions

     After eating lunch, Munarshu jumped back on his terminal and re-started his research on the Selat Atrara derelicts.  Part of this was not only trying to rebuild and document his own experience, but trying to recover what was made public.  Then he tried reaching out to those others in crews he had worked with and who'd been part of the search.  While he started that, Rol decided to take a break from working on armor and go to a firing range for practice.  Deciding to return to the InstellArms range, Rol called to set things up and was overheard by Terin.

Deciding to take a break from the team stats himself, Terin asked if he could go along with Rol?  After Rol paid for the taxi, the pair enjoyed the concierge experience yet again as they were escorted to a range with all the amenities.  Spending the time until 3pm at InstellArms, Rol spent Cr 60 on ammo and Terin, who'd brought both his gauss rifle and snub pistol spent Cr 50.  During the practice, Terin made it a point to ask Rol for pointers as a combat expert.  At the same time, Emkir was researching his options for an odds AI and Aali divided that time between more intensive diagnostics and pricing parts for the androids.

After the lunchtime gambling conversation was done, Aiden re-joined asked Munarshu, helping with the navigational data, as they tried to track the hulks still listed as missing from the Selat Atrara attack.  Aiden started mapping out ideas for a search.  Munarshu said he wanted to reach out to some friends, to try to get any sensor data he could from the official search.  Munarshu also said the data from the ships which had been found would give them some idea of the forces acting on the other hulks.  Accepting that, Aiden also suggested he could speak to the commander of the Scout base, since he was on good terms with the Scouts at the moment.  Munarshu was happy to accept Aiden's help.

At nearly 2pm, on the firing range, Terin's comms began buzzing.  Setting the safety on his weapon before setting it on a stand, Terin answered, "Hello?"  The person he found himself talking to was calling from the Darrian Embassy, regarding the cybernetic parts and their "finder's fee".  The caller said, "The Ambassador is certain we can discuss a finder's fee with you, your ship's Captain and any other members of your crew you feel important to the matter.  Would you like to meet us at the embassy at 4pm today?"  Pausing to think, Terin answered, "My Captain is currently out, meeting with the Duke, so I will need to get back to you to..."

The man from the embassy stepped in as Terin groped for the right way to say "we'll call you" and said, "We'll set up the meeting and you can let us know if the time works out or not?"  Terin accepted that as the man bounced him a number to call to confirm or re-set the time of the meeting.  Done with that call, Terin comm'd Lady Mikah to reach her as she and Zimzod were approaching the Duke's palace.  When Terin was done with the call, he could do nothing more than go back to shooting while waiting for Mikah to call him back.

Parts Played And Purchased

     Signed in at the Seneschalate, then he and Mikah were assigned a functionary android which led them into the building, up a lift and to a meeting room.  Letting the door close, they waited a few minutes before the Duke entered with his Seneschal.  And Baron Shwarii Ahkuariyo.  Seeing that, both Zimzod and Mikah knew the day had taken a definite course descending from the positive.  But since they were all now gathered, Duke Leonard sat down and looked at Zimzod saying, "OK, the floor is yours Sir Zimzod, convince me." in a tone that was, at once, inviting, demanding and completely skeptical.

Zimzod first reminded the Duke of classified work the crew had done which he felt he could not talk about, with a glance at Baron Shwarii.  He then spoke about the events in the Inthe system, as an example of the service the crew had provided, and would be expected to continue, for the Imperium.  Zimzod also covered, briefly, his training and military background before wrapping things up by describing how having a weapon of that class available to him would increase his ability to act.  When Zimzod finished his comments, Mikah was asked if she wanted to speak on the subject?  She said she was there for moral support only.  When it was clear Zimzod had made his case, he and Mikah were asked to step out of the room for a moment so they could discuss.

Doing that, they found that part of the corridor had been secured by a pair of the Duke's personal guards in either direction.  So they only had a short span of hall to wait in while the Duke discussed Zimzod's case with the other two men.  After some minutes, the Duke's Seneschal opened the door and asked them back inside.  They returned and were seated before Duke Leonard said, "Sir Zimzod.  Given the past history of your crew, we can understand why you would want such a weapon.  Given your service to the Imperium since you joined the crew, we can understand where there may have been cases where such a weapon may have...assisted.  But, in all those cases you have proven yourself resourceful and we expect you will be resourceful in the future.  And therefore, at this time, we can advise you to keep in contact with Imperial forces.  Should the occasion arise where you really feel you need such a weapon to deal with a situation, call them for help."

The Duke continued to say, "While we have deliberated carefully on this subject, and do not regret the time spent, we are not granting your request at this time."  With nothing else to do, Zimzod was as gracious as he could be, and thanked the Duke for his time in considering the request.  With that, the meeting broke up and the Knights headed for the door, expecting the guards.  But before they left the room, the Baron said, "By the way, check this out" and handed Zimzod a card before leaving the room himself.  Zimzod barely got a "thank you" out in the exchange as he checked the data-card.  It appeared to be the card of a Naval Admiral whose name Zimzod had never heard of.  But it had the officer's contact and office data, which seemed to be in provisioning and quartermaster.

Mikah and Zimzod left the office as two members of the Duke's guard entered, and it was clear Duke Leonard was busy enough an interruption would be unwise.  In addition, their android guide was waiting at the door and led them out of the building.  It was roughly 2:30 pm when Mikah and Zimzod were escorted from the building after the meeting ended.  While they walked, Mikah called Terin and said they could meet him at the Darrian Embassy at 4pm.  Then, Zimzod shared the Admiral's card with Mikah.  Still on the range, Terin was blasting away as he realized his comms was buzzing.  Again, switching the selector to 'safe', he answered to find it was Lady Mikah.  When he answered, Mikah said, "Get dressed up nice and pretty, we're going to the Darrian Embassy."  Terin said, "OK." and considered it would take 30 minutes to get to the embassy from the ship.  And since he had to go change, Terin let Rol know he had to return to the ship.

Because it was Terin's need, he paid for the taxi back to the ship as Rol rode along.  While riding, Terin came up with the idea that having pictures of the devices might help, but he didn't have enough time to change, travel and take the pictures.  So he asked Rol to do it and Rol agreed to take and send the pictures to Terin's comms.  At the same time, Mikah and Zimzod walked to the embassy and left the air-raft parked where they could walk back.  Since they had an hour and a half and not as much of a walk, Mikah and Zimzod thought about who else they might need?  Mikah decided to call Inger and ask her to join them.  The former port director was out earning a day's pay handling something for the port, so Mikah figured she should be easy to reach on her comms.

When Inger answered her comms, she expected something a bit more urgent than visiting an embassy to sell something.  Still, when Mikah started with, "Meet us at the Darrian Embassy and dress pretty", Inger could only stutter out, "Umm, what?"  Mikah said, "We're going to the Darrian Embassy.  Meet us there and dress pretty."  Inger countered with, "What am I dressing pretty for?" as she wondered how much worse than she imagined things had gotten?  When Mikah answered, "We're going to the Darrian Embassy", Inger asked, "What did we do?" working hard not to use that tone of voice one used with a five year old when trying to get them to explain their misdeeds.  Pointedly, Mikah told her, "We did nothing.  We're going to discuss our finder's fee." in a tone which demanded to know why Inger thought the worst?  Still not sure what was going on, as she'd been suddenly surprised by the demand, Inger asked "Finder's fee for what?"

Already annoyed at how long the conversation was taking, Mikah snapped back, "For some cargo we have."  Inger shrugged, despite knowing Mikah couldn't see the gesture, and said "OK."  Inger resigned herself to going back to the ship and hoped she wasn't being used as a distraction.  She planned to dress in one of her best suits.  Still, she'd signed up for a full day administering the workers and that had to be cut short.  So she told Mikah she'd get to the embassy as soon as she could and then called the Director's office and station central.  Inger's departure was made easier not only because the work was mostly done, but because Inger could tell Director Ukamugigis her Captain was leaving a meeting with Duke Leonard and going to a meeting at the Darrian Embassy.  So she was soon wrapping things up and thanking her choices when she dressed that morning.  She'd have no time to get to the ship even though the Director did offer her a car to drive her to the ship.

About the time people started returning to the ship in a rush, Aali had gotten a list of what she needed as well as how much it would cost to bring as many of the 'droids to fully operational as they wanted.  The rest would be sold or spare parts.  Two of the engineering units had both a grav transmission and treads.  With spare parts, they would need one grav-lock and could salvage the treads from unit 5.  The fuel cells and batteries needed were already salvaged from unit 1.  A needed light-work arm could come from units 1 or 5 along with the two needed medium-work arms.  One of the two heavy arms needed was in unit 3, but they'd have to buy one.  There was a spare medium tentacle in unit 5 to replace one of the two bad ones in other units.  Where it came to internal systems, they didn't need basic sensor sets and had a spare set of visual and touch sensors as well as a spotlight from unit 1, a speaker, spare voder and radiation sensors in unit 5.  They only had one set of replacement audio sensors, from unit 5 and a magnetic sensor package from unit 1, so they'd need to by those.

They'd also need to replace one of the brain interfaces, but they could replace the program interface from unit 1.  A radio and 2D video recorder could be recovered from unit 1 too.  They could also salvage one of two metalworking and carpentry packages from unit 1 but they had no replacement for either of the dead laser welders.  This meant that if they could find the parts at book price, it would cost the ship quite a bit.  In addition to "Thing 1" and "Thing 2"(as she referred to the engineering 'droids) Aali'd checked WALL-e's needs and found it needed a replacement grav unit as well as electronic and mechanical tool kits.  Those would come to less, Since the smaller grav unit was cheaper and they had a spare electronic tool kit.  For the housekeeping androids, Aali figured it would cost roughly Cr 15,000 in parts to bring them all to 100%.  So that was a total of KCr 83 to get all the 'droids to full operations.

Considering that number, Aali remembered they still had the last KCr 85 from the datapads.  That had been earmarked for buying the housekeeping droids.  But since the ship had paid the full KCr 500, she and Emkir had the money to buy all new parts and more to spare.  Realizing that, Aali decided to save herself the heartache of wheeling and dealing and spent the cash to buy all new replacement parts.  So, she dove into an on-line shopping spree that would guarantee deliveries arriving in the next few days.  In the end, this work would keep her busy until dinner time.  And while she started in on that, Terin and Rol arrived and Rol set to taking pictures of the cybernetics while Terin changed.  Soon, Inger arrived and hit the all-ship, asking who else was going to the Embassy?  After she learned it was just her and Terin, she asked him to give her a few minutes and began changing too.

Official And Unofficial Data

     Munarshu began organizing his call list while Aiden opened a channel to the scout base and asked for the commander.  He hoped to use the fame of the crew as he had in the Mora system.  And despite a hint of issues from their last visit, when Aiden tried to get scout charts for the Pavabid system, Aiden was able to ask for some level of help.  Especially when he reminded the scout that the Hotel California had been involved in the Selat Atrara incident.  Eventually, the scout commander agreed to see what he could do to help, and promised to call Aiden if he came up with anything.  He didn't hold out much hope, saying all that data had been put under Imperial Seal by the Duke himself.  When he offered to help Aiden with a petition to the Duke's office, Aiden said, "Let me talk to my fellow researcher and I'll get back to you."

With aiden on the other line, Munarshu was calling out to any of the crew of the ISS Aagiamu Umiik, on which he'd served.  During the end of Munarshu's service aboard the Donosev Class Scout Cruiser, the ship had been recalled to the Rhylanor system to help in the hunt for vessels which had apparently slipped into the system and attacked a civilian station!  In-system, the Aagiamu Umiik had joined other ships already involved in searching for the attackers.  And, or, involved in the recovery of the drifting hulks which had been set adrift from the station in the attack.  Lucky for him, the Umiik was still in-system and Munarshu was able to reach some of his friends from the crew.  When he told them what he was looking for, they reminded him the search data had been collected by the Imperial Navy, not the Scouts.

Munarshu's hopes started to fade, and a few of the scouts said they'd been comparing notes with crews from other ships after the search was called off.  Reminding him that official and unofficial data storage were not the same thing, they asked Munarshu what he had in mind?  The engineer said he was interested in going to search for a hulk, to possibly strike it rich on salvage.  When they asked if he had a ship, Munarshu had to admit he was just paid crew on his current ride.  So he couldn't order that ship into the search.  That pause ended as a few of the scouts working base maintenance said they had to "flight test" some of the ships being worked on, either to find malfunctioning systems or to test repairs.  Either way, they had a small handful of ships they could use.

When Munarshu's former crew-mates said they'd call him back when they had things set up, Munarshu cut the line and Aiden told him about the idea to petition the Duke's office.  Munarshu filled Aiden in on what he'd learned, and they considered not starting on the petition until they knew what the other scouts had?  Aiden did point out the captain offered to help with submitting the petition, so it would come from his office and not the Hotel California or themselves.  When Munarshu considered that, he agreed it was a good idea and Aiden called the scout base commander back to put those wheels in motion.  From that point, they were stuck in "wait and see mode" on searching for the hulks, so Aiden and Munarshu returned to researching the competition teams.

At the same time, Emkir continued researching an odds-bot in the ship's lounge.  While he overheard their work, Emkir very much wanted to find the best program he could and stuck to his research.  Also in the lounge, Aali was working on identifying the correct outlets and ordering 'droid parts, getting promises from some that they would begin delivering that evening!  Rol was taking more pictures and shipping them to Terin's comms as the navigator called the embassy to confirm their appointment after getting changed.  He then called a cab and he and Inger left for the embassy.  In the meantime, Mikah and Zimzod wasted time and walked to the embassy.

On the ship, Inger had finished dressing as Terin checked with Rol on progress and had called a cab.  Rol was "getting there" with the pictures and Terin had called a cab while Inger finished dressing.  After they got in the cab, the driver told them the ride would cost Cr 40.  Hearing that, Inger steadily gazed at Terin until he asked, "What?"  She said, "Your cab, you pay" and when Terin began to protest, she pointed out she was supposed to earn a full day's pay from the port until this issue cut that short.  So unless he wanted to make up her losses, he would pay the cab fare.  At that point, Terin caved and paid for the ride.  When they arrived, Terin comm'd Mikah to see where they were?

The Road From Smoke To Fire

     In the high-rent district, Mikah and Zimzod wandered along.  They were trying to get to the embassy while wasting the best part of an hour and a half to not get there too early.  Leaving the area of the Ducal Palace, they could still see official vehicles arriving.  And they couldn't help noticing some of the vehicles appeared to be Darrian, not Imperial.  Pausing to watch, they saw they didn't have to worry about arriving too early since the Darrian Ambassador was getting out of a vehicle to enter the palace.  And while that made them think, both Knights agreed there had to be regular contact between the governments.  And since Duke Leonard had come up to the station from the planet, there might be many reasons for him to meet with the Ambassador.  So, there was no reason to get paranoid about their pending good fortune.

Riding to the embassy, Terin worked through the still arriving pictures Rol had been sending.  Inger asked him for as much information on what was happening, to be as prepared as she could be for the meeting.  Despite the sudden nature of it, the whole thing seemed pretty straight forward though.  Inger wasn't certain why Mikah even thought she was needed?  But what the captain wants, the captain gets.  And the reactions on several faces as she told the Director she was needed by her Captain for a visit to the Darrian Ambassador after leaving the Duke's presence could do nothing but raise their social status in the port.  While the port administration were friends of hers, it never hurt to be seen as moving up in social importance.

While Zimzod and Mikah walked, they went over how they'd acquired the cybernetics to make sure what they could and couldn't share with the Darrians.  Talking, both Knights were certain the Darrians would ask a great many questions, hoping to recover as much of their lost technology as they could.  And since they had been, at least partly, involved in looting on the Podesti archology during the crisis, they had to make sure there weren't trip-ups that would let the Darrians say, "Well, given those circumstances, perhaps you would be happy to gift these to us so we don't turn you in?"  When they got close to the embassy, Zimzod noticed a large number of Imperial officers from various services in groups and pointed them out to Mikah.

Ignoring the officers as much as they could, the two loitered and crowd watched until they got Terin's call.  He and Inger soon arrived and the four gathered together and went in to introduce themselves for their appointment.  After they were welcomed, they were led to a meeting room where they briefly waited until functionaries opened the door.  That happened, and a man of high rank who wasn't the ambassador entered.  This wasn't a surprise but what was surprising was that the man, who seemed happy to be there, was followed by Duke Leonard's Seneschal.  And he was decidedly not pleased to be there.  Those two men were then followed by two Senior Imperial Naval Admirals!  And as they entered, and the hearts of the crew sank, the Darrian authority said, "Please, be seated." in a friendly tone while indicating the chairs.

After everyone sat, the Darrian began, "If you don't mind," and looked over to the Duke's Seneschal.  When the Seneschal nodded, the man continued, "Since we're being asked to pay a finder's fee for these artifacts, perhaps you would be so good as to tell us how you came into possession of them?"  Mikah sparked up first, saying, "We found them in the warehouse of a smuggler in the Risek system during the hunt for a cure for the mass illnesses in that system."  At that, one of the Admirals referred to a datapad he had and said, "It was my understanding that anything you had gathered from the bay, for your research, had been recovered by the Imperial Marines.  How was it that this particular box was not retrieved by the Marines?"  Mikah shrugged and said, "We had a Marine officer who told us it was OK to take it." in her most innocent voice.  That Captain Leedor had apparently disappeared into a very deep hole, possibly due to the affair, was something she kept to herself.

When the Admiral asked the officer's name, Mikah said it had been a Captain Leedor, with no further comment.  The Admiral also didn't comment, but started adding notes to the document on his datapad.  Returning his attention to the crew, the Darrian continued, "So, you removed these because you believed they had something to do with the Podesti outbreak?"  Mikah decided to throw in the standard red herrings as she answered, "It was very possible at the time.  Especially as we were attacked by a Zhodani warbot when we entered the warehouse."  Rather than providing specific support for her comments, she happily kicked the doors open for any conspiracy to slip into the narrative.  Jumping on that, the second Admiral said, "Yes, we read that report and were understood the smuggler in question most likely had reprogrammed that android and was using it for his own purposes.  We're still following leads as to where he got the android, though many were left inert after battles during the war."

The Admiral's dismissive tone suggested the warbot meant nothing to the overall narrative and should be ignored.  Picking things back up again, the Darrian said, "OK.  So you found these parts and have been traveling around some months with them, but were not the rightful owners, and you're only turning them in now.  So why do you feel you deserve a finder's fee?  If you were truly honest about returning them, you would have done so when you first arrived in Rhylanor, months ago."  Mikah said they'd actually forgotten about them as she and Zimzod pointed out there had been a lot going on in their universe.  Zimzod elaborated on that saying that, thanks to all the issues they were dealing with, the parts fell to the bottom of their list of concerns.

When one of the Admirals said they'd have done well to ask for a finder's fee when they were looking for money to replace their fuel plant, Mikah very acerbically spat back that their finding the box was a small footnote in everything they were involved in.  In Risek, in Jae Tellona and Rhylanor.  She didn't even mention the attack and side trip to Mora.  Mikah pointed out they were finally getting out from under all the issues.  And they now had a Darrian crewman, and realized they still had the box.  And there was a Darrian Embassy nearby.  It was clear to all that her anger was rising and she felt her explanations answered any mysteries they were, in her opinion, trying to create.

Trying for a more moderate stance as Mikah finished, Terin said, "If we didn't want to return them, we wouldn't be here now.  You know the crew got sidetracked with a lot of different things coming from a lot of different high-powered people.  Now it's understandable that something like this wasn't on the top of their priorities.  So now that things have settled down..."  Nodding, The Darrian broke in saying, "Essentially, this is something that could have benefited the Knights had they thought about it earlier, and it leads to questions of proper ownership.  At least, to questions of the propriety of being rewarded."

Terin started to say, "Well, the ship is trying to get them back to you...", but Mikah interrupted angrily.  She said, "If you want them, take them." because she was fed up with even that short round of questioning.  After her outburst, Terin continued, "We're returning them because we realize they are Darrian and of historic value and we're doing the right thing."  More calmly, Mikah reminded the Darrian, "It wasn't important to us at first." and Zimzod said, "We didn't even know what they were at first."  Mikah chimed in, "Right."  After the pause that created, Mikah seized on that and pointed at Terin, saying, "We didn't know what they were until we showed them to him."  Inger pointed out, "And Sir Terin only just joined our crew recently."

When that was said, there was a pause during which the Admirals conferred with the Darrian and the Darrian asked to confirm, "Did you have any idea what they were?"  Mikah clipped, "No."  She then continued, "Some kind of devices.  That's all we knew."  Picking up quickly on that before it started to fall apart, Terin said, "And rather than sell them on the black market, they wanted to return them to their proper owners.  So I don't think it's asking a lot to help us out for helping you out."  Again, there was a pause before the Darrian came at them from a completely different direction, saying "We understand you've been investigating navigational data, and we understand you are asking about possible transits of the Darrian Confederation?"

When both Mikah and Terin admitted they were, uncertain where this was leading, the man asked, "Would you consider KCr 500 Imperial and free fueling and consumables at Darrian military facilities during your passage through the Confederation for your planned trip?"  The man was finishing when Mikah nearly interrupted him to firmly say, "Yes!"  She followed that up, happily saying, "That would be more than fair."  And with that, the Darrian sat back in his chair and said "Done" with a satisfied expression on his face.  At the same time, it appeared the Duke's Seneschal wanted to say something before the deal was closed, but never had the chance.  When the Darrian diplomat turned to him, the man simply sat back in his seat and let things proceed.

And as if he'd been listening from the next room, the silence was broken as a door opened and the Darrian Ambassador walked in with a contented look on his face.  After everyone was greeted, the Ambassador told them all that a team had been sent to the ship to retrieve the artifacts, with the apparent presumption a deal would be worked out at the meeting.  When Mikah said they'd better tell the ship, the Ambassador smiled and said, "Don't worry.  There are Imperial authorities with them." in a reassuring tone.  Mikah said she still wanted to notify her ship and the Ambassador continued, "At the same time, we would like to invite your entire crew to an official public statement that these artifacts have been recovered and are being turned over to our administration."  Going with the tide for the moment, Mikah asked, "What are they, exactly?" and Terin said, "I have pictures of them if you'd like to see them?"

The Ambassador looked at Terin and said, "I have rooms full of technicians who can't wait to do just that, but we can get to that later."  Turning to Mikah, he said, "I have no idea what they are but I know they are pre-Maghiz, and so they are of importance.  They are of a technology that we can not, at this moment, duplicate ourselves.  And despite their age, they are of a technology that makes it likely they are still functional even after this much time has passed."  And as he spoke, the Ambassador's voice went from 'matter of fact' to almost religious in nature.  As the Ambassador made his remarks, and said the ceremony would be held at lunch the next day, the Duke's Seneschal seemed to be glowering a bit for reasons they could only guess at.  The only obvious possibility might be that perhaps the Imperium had hoped to end up with the parts instead of the Darrians.  Next to him, the Admirals were maintaining a studied quiet.  Taking advantage of the invitation for the whole crew, Mikah asked the Ambassador to hold one while she notified the rest of her crew.

Not So Smooth Transitions

     Done taking pictures for Terin, Rol returned to working on the armor and weapons the crew handed over while Aali shopped for 'droid parts.  Emkir was still researching his odds-AI while Munarshu and Aiden were pouring over the competition team data while waiting for an answer from Munarshu's former crew-mates.  They were all gathered in the lounge working when every comms device in the ship suddenly appeared to start spewing the announcement, "Attention!  We are representatives of the Duke of Rhylanor.  Please give us access to your ship's bay." in a very official and commanding voice.  Reacting in surprise, Rol looked up and murmured, "No."  After a pause, he set his tools down and moved to the comms while Munarshu started removing the tranq rounds from his snub pistol to load ball ammunition.  Aali activated a comms panel and looked at the image presented to see who it was that was making this demand?

Rol reached out to Mikah's comms, not konwing Mikah was trying to reach the ship.  But to her, it seemed every comms link to the ship was in use!  As Aali scanned their appearances and uniforms to see if they looked legitimate, Aiden asked those assembled at the bay entrance for some form of authorization or ID.  And as both started to get where they were going, the ship received a broad-channel broadcast giving them official authentication these were the Duke's forces.  That happened, and Aali hit the bay unlock, while Aiden showed Munarshu and Rol the authorization.  Munarshu muttered, "I hate this ship", and started swapping the tranq rounds back into his weapon.

After the berth was unlocked, those in the ship watched as a force of the Duke's Own Marines swept into the berth in assault formation, moving in to secure the bay.  Behind that force appeared to be a group of Darrians, being led by the Marines.  Meeting the force with like kind, and not at all certain what was happening in the bay, Aali broadcast via the comms to the entire berth, "How can we help you?"  She hoped the orders were not 'shoot to kill, and question all survivors before executing them'.  The last any on the ship had known, the crew were on decent terms with Duke Leonard and their Captain was actually negotiating with the Darrians at the moment.  Moving to action, Emkir grabbed a comms, cleared it and then tried Zimzod's comms, planning to try Terin's next.

The connection was made, and Zimzod answered Emkir's call, so the others could watch a feed from the berth as the apparent force commander for the Imperial troops halted his line's advance and announced they were receiving an update.  All the troops hulled down or took nearby cover, and there was a pause in the local action while Zimzod said to Emkir, "Hey!  We made a deal on the Darrian artifacts and a teams coming to get them.  So, when they show up, let them have it."  After Zimzod spoke his piece, Emkir explained that the berth had been swarmed by a combined Imperial and Darrian armed force and the folks aboard the ship were concerned.  Zimzod assured Emkir that was probably a contingency, in case a deal wasn't worked out.  Hearing that, the Admiral hit the 'all ship' and told the others everything was OK and the situation should calm down.

Looking at Munarshu, who was still swapping ammo, Aali emphatically said "Put the guns away!"  At the same time, the officer in the berth responded to Aali's offer to help and said he was being updated on his situation, obviously from off-sight command.  After a brief pause, the officer then signaled his troops with a hand sign as he stood and said, "I need to apologize.  It seems a deal was worked out and we were not notified with an update."  All Aali and Aiden could say to that was "Oh great" because they had no idea what "deal" the man referred to, or how it could possibly lead to an all-out assault on the ship?  Without giving them much time to consider the shift, the officer said he would leave them in the hands of the Darrians and ordered his troops to fall in and move out.  This wasn't as comforting as it might have been because the Darrians were also armed and armored.

While the crew aboard absorbed that, and the media around the outside of the berth filmed everything, the Darrians obviously shouldered weapons and unbuttoned while they advanced to the ship's open cargo bay.  Reacting to that, the crew met the Darrians below decks and their senior person asked permission to board the California?  Half those on the ship burned off shock giggling at him NOW asking for permission as Aali granted it quickly, hoping to further defuse the situation.  The man introduced himself as the Darrian military liaison to the Duke and introduced his senior officer.  The two then boarded and followed Aali above decks.  While moving, the man apologized again and explained they'd been sent because it was feared the crew might be less than cooperative in working out a deal for the artifacts.

While Aiden's thought was, "Nice.  Negotiating over fire arms", Aali thought it would have worked better if the crew had been 'told' they would be under threat if they didn't turn the artifacts over.  Meanwhile, the book said it was best to be prepared to deliver a firm military strike before those refusing to surrender an objective had a chance to realize they needed to prepare a defense.  While it wasn't discussed, it would remain for the crew to consider which books they were taking direction from in future situations?  Moving through the ship, the senior officer did all the talking while it appeared to the others his first officer was very studiously concentrating on playing the role of quiet sidekick.

Getting to the ship's lounge, the Darrian officer asked them to bring him to the parts?  Aali started to lead them towards the ship's locker on the bridge, but Rol pointed to the box he'd been taking pictures from for some time.  Now closed again, Rol opened the box to show off the first layer of parts.  Seeing them, the Darrian officer moved over to inspect the parts immediately.  Doing that, the man's second asked, "So, exactly how did you come into possession of these parts?" before locking eyes with the knight.  Rol said, "As I understand it, this is an item we brought in during a state of emergency aboard the Podesti archology in the Risek system.  And, until recently, I didn't know what these were.  I was asked to provide photographic evidence for the team we sent to represent us and that's the limit of what I know."

While Rol spoke, he could almost feel the man's eyes seeming to bore into his and thought he was imagining an almost fuzzy feeling in his head.  And when he finished, the man asked, "Are you sure that is all you knew?"  Rol considered what he wasn't saying.  He had known about the looting, and the Imperial Marines taking most of the looted goods back from the cutter before Mikah, Zimzod and Zach had returned to station 371.  He had also known that Zach had identified them well before he was killed.  And the crew had considered what to do with them and even if they could use them before deciding to return them to the Darrians.  But all he said was, "No, that's all I can recall about them."  Still, the intent stare and fussy feeling persisted for a bit before it seemed to subside leaving Rol to wonder if he'd imagined it?

With that, the officer nodded and went back to his studious silence as his commanding officer finished his inspection of the parts and called out to their troopers to have a team come up and secure the box.  When they had the box closed and secured, the officer thanked the crew and he and his people left the berth for their own set of vehicles before buttoning up and leaving.  Watching them leave, Munarshu muttered, "I am installing an automated defense system." with a conviction he didn't have the authority for.  Aiden simply turned to him and began listing the reasons that would lead to disaster.  At the same time, Emkir had given an almost live coverage to Zimzod of the activities on the ship and was ready to end that call.  When Zimzod confirmed the parts had been recovered, the Ambassador turned to the Seneschal and admirals to say, "I believe your part in this process is done." which was an out-right dismissal.

The Admirals rose up 'quite correctly' and the Seneschal stood at his own speed, before stalking off with the officers following.  While they did that, the Ambassador hit a stud on the table top and a comms line was opened as he asked Mikah, "To what account are we sending the money?"  Mikah quickly answered, "To the ship's account" as she watched the backs of the Imperials and considered how soon the other shoe would drop?  They watched as the Ambassador worked with his people and KCr 500 was sent to the ship's account, replacing the money spent earlier that day to buy the housekeeping androids.  After that, the Ambassador had a voucher created for them, good for the next calendar year, allowing them to receive the promised support at Darrian military bases.

After getting paid, the team thanked the Ambassador and left the embassy, doing a time check to see it was 4:20 before deciding to go back to the ship.  They were pleased to see there was a car waiting for them, to take them to their air-raft and Inger said, "Well, we certainly know how to have a good time at an embassy."  Mikah looked at Terin and said, "Terin, you Darrian people are big tight asses, aren't you?"  Terin pointed out, "We're just like other Humans.  Some of us are and some of us aren't."  In the vehicle, Terin said "That went well.  I'm pleased."  Mikah looked at him and then said, "That was fucked up!" and Inger followed up, saying "Seriously."  After a pause, Terin said, "The Duke is gonna be pissed at us for a looong time" but Mikah wasn't as concerned about that.  She said, "No he won't.  He'll get over it."  When she continued defensively, "They didn't tell us they wanted them," Terin reminded her, "They didn't know we had them." as he wondered if she was trying to convince him or herself?

Based on the Seneschal's presence at the meeting, Mikah turned on Terin to say, "Apparently they did!" and Terin denied, "No, they probably only found out after I made that call.."  Mikah interrupted him, saying "I seriously doubt it."  Terin continued to build his case, saying "We didn't tell anybody.  The only ones we told were the Darrian Embassy", to which Mikah had to agree.  Then Terin asked, "So how else would they know?"  Eventually, the argument died out as they felt the vehicle stop and hopped out to get to the air-raft.  But as they disembarked, the found they'd been brought to the Duke's palace instead of where Mikah parked the air-raft...  With a sinking feeling, Mikah and the others realized Terin might have had a point after all.  Outside the palace were a crowd of people who were all in uniform as their apparent senior officer stepped forward and said they were invited upstairs for a conference.

They started moving, and Terin had the bad taste to quip, "I told you" in a near-gloating tone.  Mikah glared at him snapping, "That went well, did it?" and he answered, "It went well with the Darrians.  I didn't say it went well with the Duke.  What was the first thing I said?  The Duke's gonna be pissed?"  As they talked, they were escorted into the building and up to an audience chamber where they found Duke Leonard, sitting and already waiting for them with his Seneschal.  The look on Duke Leonard's face said something like "I didn't expect to be talking to you again today."  A sentiment they could agree with.  They sat and the Duke sighed and said, "My Seneschal came to me, shortly after our last meeting, with two Admirals and a pile of records."

They waited as the Duke continued, "Apparently, the records that I reviewed involve you," pointing to Mikah, "Sir Zimzod, the late Sir Zachariah Wood and a Marine Captain whose career, shall we say was not the most stellar."  Mikah nodded and said, "We found that out later", which didn't change the temperature in the room.  "We understand from these records," the Duke continued, "that while you were 'saving' the Podesti nation, you were also involved in a bit of looting.  And we understand that the artifacts that you turned over to the Darrians today were fruits of that looting."  Duke Leonard allowed for a pause, to see if anyone would react before he asked, "What do you have to say?"  Mikah stepped up, because she was the Captain, saying "Well...  After we were attacked by the warbot, and we knew the smuggler who had it was part of the.."  At that point, the Duke could see she had nothing and interrupted, making it clear they would have preferred the crew to have come to the Imperium with the parts instead of the Darrians.

Seeing that, Mikah got defensive and fell back on the old answer, "We didn't even know what they were until he came along" pointing at Terin.  "He said they looked Darrian, so we said 'Let's give it back to the Darrians!'" as her voice rose defensively.  The Duke both accepted that and swept it aside, saying there were a number of Imperial agencies which would have liked to have investigated the artifacts.  He repeated that the crew should have considered that before turning them over to the Darrians.  Hopefully, Mikah offered, "We have pictures." but the Duke said pictures would not help as he continued, "So that leaves me in a particular situation, because now I have to preside over this.  And the Imperial Navy is not exactly pleased with your performance.  As a result, I am going to consider this and let you know what my decision is.  And you will return to your ship and endeavor not to visit me again for at least a week unless I invite you."

When Mikah answered, "Well, we're leaving in a week." the Duke replied, "Works out well that way, doesn't it?"  Rather than accepting that, Sir Terin told the Duke, "You could put a positive spin on it."  Duke Leonard fixed Terin with a look as he asked, "And how would you suggest we do that?"  When Terin suggested, "Citizens of the Imperium strengthening relations with our Darrian allies" it clearly showed Terin had no idea what the problem was?  Relations between the Darrians and Imperials were fine.  The issue was that the crew happened on advanced technology and denied it to Imperial scientists.  So the issue was all the Imperial organizations "they" had pissed off and had nothing to do with the diplomatic situation.  Mikah simply wished that when her crew had no clue, they would keep their mouths shut instead of advertising it as she tried not to react before the Duke.  With that, they were dismissed and went to get the air-raft as Mikah considered making Terin walk back to the ship.

More Fires At Home

     On the ship, Aali had opted for a stiff drink and a bit of relaxation and Emkir joined her.  Rol rubbed his forehead as he considered the odd sensations he'd suffered before recalling some briefings he'd had in the event of capture by Zhodani during the war.  That gave him a very good idea what he thought had happened.  Not sure what to do next, Rol decided to wait until Mikah got back and talk to her before talking to the rest of the crew.  Still, he decided to make a call and stepped into his stateroom to consider "who" to call?  When he couldn't decide who he should call, Rol gave up until he could speak to Mikah.  He then went back into the lounge and worked at a terminal, to put together the report he knew he'd have to provide later anyway.  While he did that, Aiden pulled out his book and tried to lose his concerns in reading about hand-made handguns as Munarshu went back to researching the competition teams.

They all worked to recover from recent events in their own ways, until Munarshu's comms began to buzz.  Answering, "Munarshu.  How can I help you", he found the caller was one of the scouts he'd worked with.  When he asked, "What's up", the caller said they'd found some bridge crews who'd made personal copies of some of the search data.  And they'd checked on a number of the ships mentioned in the earlier call and figured which ships could be "borrowed" under the guise of function tests.  Especially those vessels which weren't suffering life support or sensor issues.  When Munarshu said he could be considered a reserve rating, they asked what he and Aiden would be doing for the next couple of days?

Going over things in his head, Munarshu said, as far as he knew, they weren't planning to leave until after the next weekend.  They were just waiting for medical clearance for a few of their crew and some interviews.  So when he was asked if he wanted to go on a 'hunting expedition', Munarshu said "No problem!  Let's go find something." and was told to grab a taxi and head to the scout base.  They said they'd pick him up.  Again, Munarshu said, "No problem." and cut the call before inviting Aiden.  But the pilot didn't have to even think about it when he decided to stay with the crew, based on everything that was happening.  Aiden did promise to help by working on any data they needed crunched.

When Munarshu was disappointed, Aiden also pointed out he'd gotten a stent and needed to attend a class on it in a few days.  So, he didn't want to be off hunting derelicts and miss the class.  Munarshu shrugged and said, "Alright" while regretting the loss of Aiden's skills.  Aiden promised to contact Munarshu if he heard anything from the scout base.  When the taxi arrived, Munarshu was told it would cost Cr 100 to get to the scout base and he paid that and rode off.  The others went back to their various projects until Mikah's team returned from the Duke's palace.  When they arrived, Terin led with the good news, saying they were all invited to the Darrian Embassy for lunch the next day.  This got Zimzod thinking as he asked if they ate weird kinds of food there?

When that started a minor conversation, Mikah considered calling a crew meeting and Rol walked over to her.  He said he had an issue he needed to talk to her private.  When Mikah asked if Zimzod should come along, Rol said he'd prefer it between them for now.  Saying "OK", Mikah followed him into the bridge where Rol turned and said "We've got a problem" in as serious a voice as she'd ever heard the man use.  When Mikah almost dismissively asked, "What's your problem?" Rol answered, "I believe one of the members of the Darrian party who came aboard the ship was a telepath."  That was absolutely not the kind of problem Mikah was ready for.  Mikah asked "Really?" in a voice that was a lot closer to ridicule than she wanted it to be.  Mikah got hold of her emotions and Rol continued, "I think he tried to mind-scan me."  As much as she didn't want this issue "now", Rol's grim and serious manner convinced her he believed it.

Still, her concern with what he knew warred with her instant response that a telepath could get nothing from an empty head.  She started to say, "OK, we're going to have to get in touch with..."  But Rol interrupted, saying "I don't think you quite understand.  I don't know what he got." with a gaze reinforced by concern secrets like the Quasar Viper might have leaked out.  Rol continued, "I think he was trying to find out about the cargo", meaning the cybernetic parts, "But we know things."  When Mikah challenged, "About?" still did not wanting this to be as bad as it was, Rol answered, "Well, we know quite a lot...don't we." as he fixed her with a stare.  Mikah weakly answered, "Yes", finally admitting it to herself and continued, "Alright, I'm going to call the Seneschal's office."

Quickly, Rol said, "Before you do that.  Remember, we know about IRIS." and Mikah answered, "I know.  But we have to call the Seneschal's office.  The Duke knows about IRIS."  With a knowing look, Rol said, "Maybe someone else knows about it too, now.  I can't contact the people we need to contact.  I think you might be able to."  Shrugging that off for the moment, Mikah stuck with her own plan and called the Seneschal's office, asking for the Seneschal himself.  When he came on the line, the man simply asked, "How many troops is this going to take?" in a voice that showed more than a little resignation and exasperation.  Mikah answered plainly, "I don't know.  I can tell you that one of my crew members, Sir Rol Kaihvos, has just informed me that he believes one of the people in the Darrian contingent that came to the ship was a telepath."

After a pause to let the man absorb that, Mikah continued, "And he believes the man performed a mind scan on him."  That was as much not what the Seneschal expected to hear as it had not been what Mikah wanted to say.  While he worked that out in his own mind, Mikah reflected that she really seemed to specialize in ruining this man's day.  Having gotten his thoughts organized, the Seneschal asked, "And how, exactly, would Sir Kaihvos know if a telepath was mind scanning him?"  Despite the doubt in his words, Mikah could sense the seriousness with which the question was asked.  Putting the call on speaker, Mikah said, "I don't know.  Sir Rol, would you mind explaining to the Seneschal how you knew you were being scanned?"  Rol first described the circumstances and what he felt at the time.  He then described his anti-interrigation training and the sensations he'd been taught to beware of.

Nodding, the Seneschal said, "As you both are aware, the legal and social restrictions we enforce in the Imperium on psions are not universal.  In addition, the Darrians are known to make use of psions in government circles.  Still, we prefer they make us aware of it and respect our laws while they are within our borders."  Pausing once more, the Seneschal then said, "I would appreciate it very much if you kept this quiet until we decide what to do about it and I will discuss it with the Duke."  Rol grunted an agreement and said, "Understood." and the Seneschal said, "I would remind you that his Grace is not likely to be excessively happy about this and it has not been unknown for people to shoot the messenger just to burn off frustration."  At that, Mikah stepped in, saying "Well, just remember it's Rol that's the messenger."  Looking back at her seriously, the Seneschal said, "Oh, we know exactly who the messenger is, Lady Mikah." stressing the word "exactly".

With the clouds around them darkening, Mikah even considered blowing out all the contracts or agreements and leaving port that night.  Out in the lounge, Terin's news had sparked conversations on what the Darrians actually eat and what happened at the embassy, especially in light of the near assault on the ship.  So, they sat and Terin played 'answer man' while Inger sat watching the party swirl.  Terin told the others the terms they'd been given by the Darrians, including both the cash and free ship consumables.  When Emkir asked how it affected their plans to return Zach home, Terin said it made it cheaper to pass through Darrian space, which was a bit longer but much safer.  Emkir wasn't aware how important his question would become as he wondered aloud, "Why do they want us there so much, I wonder?"

Also unaware of other oars in the water, Inger said, "They don't 'want' us there, they're just paying us back for doing them a favor."  Both Zimzod and Terin agreed with her sentiment.  Ever the paranoid, Aiden said he was going to demand the crew stay in the ship while they're in Darrian space.  He said this just when Mikah and Rol returned from the bridge, and she called the crew to order.  Getting their attention, Mikah turned to Terin and said, "Terin, I assume you've told the crew about the deal we made and, given the conversation that's coming out, I assume you've told everyone about our invitation to lunch?"  When Terin said "Yes" while wondering about Mikah's tone, she firmly said, "We are declining that invitation."  Stunned, Terin asked, "Why?" in a tone that showed his confusion and Mikah fixed him with a look and said, "We have reasons.  So you will call the embassy and you will tell them, with our regrets, that our schedule prohibits us from being at their ceremony."

When Terin showed he still hadn't caught on, asking "What are we doing tomorrow?" even Inger joined in with those saying, "Not going to the Darrian Embassy." in firm tones.  Still stuck in neutral, Terin asked "Why?" in a tone that suggested Mikah had lost something, and Zimzod said, "Damn, you're a nosy little prick, ain't ya?"  Mikah jumped on that bandwagon too, finishing up with "I don't have to answer to you" when he wouldn't let it go.  When she had order restored again, she told Terin, "So you will call the Darrian Embassy and give them our deepest regrets we cannot be there.  We are very grateful for what they've done, and we will see what we can do later on.  But, for the rest of our stay here in Rhylanor, our schedule is so full that we unfortunately can't accept their invitation."

Having been forced to accept it, Terin agreed and then called the embassy to quickly be bounced to a high-level diplomat.  Connected, Terin said, "Um, about the lunch that we're invited to.  It seems that the crew must send our regrets and we can't make it."  After he said that, the diplomat he was speaking to said they would be truly disappointed they couldn't attend.  Terin said, "As am I" and the call ended with Terin regretting having missed out on some real properly-cooked Darrian food.  For free even!  While Terin spoke to the Darrians, both he and Mikah realized Munarshu wasn't in the lounge.  When she asked, both Emkir and Aali also echoed their surprise too.  Terin asked if he was in the cargo bay working on the 'droids, and Aali admitted she didn't know before Aiden said, "He's meeting a former shipmate from the scout service at the scout base."

When Emkir asked, "To do what?" Aiden continued, "Apparently, he has this side project.  He's gone looking for a couple of derelict ships in the system for a couple of days."  Not at all impressed, Mikah angrily said, "For a couple of days?  And he didn't check with anybody?  He just left?"  Emkir said, "He didn't check with Aali."  Mikah asked, "He didn't check with Aali?" in a surprised tone and Aali admitted, "This is the first I'm hearing of this."  Mikah thought about it and said, "Well Aali.  I think you should call your recalcitrant little minion."  So Aali sparked up her comms and called her junior engineer.  In the cab, some distance out, and heading to the scout base, Munarshu's comms started buzzing and he answered, "Munarshu here, how can I help you?".

Aali said, "Hello.  Where are you?"  When Munarshu said, "In a taxi", Aali asked, "And going where?"  When Munarshu said, "To meet up with some friends", Aali said, "OK.  It's customary to let somebody know where you're going and how long you're going to be, etcetera, so we..."  At that, Munarshu interrupted, saying "I let somebody know." meaning Aiden.  Aali said, "Well, you report to me" and he agreed that he should have let her know right off the bat, "but everybody was so busy at the moment."  Getting past that, Aali asked, "So what was so important that you couldn't wait a few minutes."  Trying not to spill the beans on his plan, Munarshu said, "Meeting some friends to evaluate some data to..uh".  Then, he reached a point where there was no other way to say it.  So he finished, "hunt down some derelict starships."

Assessing that, Aali asked, "Ah!  And how long will this take?"  Munarshu said, "They'll be looking for a couple of days.  But I don't think I'll be gone a couple of days."  Saying that, Munarshu realized he might not have thought things through completely, because he'd agreed to go for a couple of days.  Aali said, "Well, bad form for you to not get clearance from me before leaving the ship for an extended period of time.  Now, skating off for a period of time to do shopping on station is one thing.  Going off station...  Problematical.  Sorry, we need you back here."  Breaking the line with Munarshu, Aali heard Terin making an impassioned plea for them to consider joining the search for the derelicts, and share in the treasure.  He suggested that finding even one of them would be worth tens of millions.  Aali only shook her head and left him to Mikah to possibly launch out to search for ships without a ship or a vacc suit.

Trying to convince Mikah and the others to join the search, Terin repeatedly complained of his personal poverty.  Zimzod jumped in and said "Well, you're no longer as poor as you were."  He then said he was giving Terin a share of the Darrian finder's fee, per ship's policy.  Zimzod explained it was policy whenever the ship made money that those who helped got a share.  On how much, Mikah limited that to Cr 5,000.  And while Sir Terin was grateful, this only increased his interest in getting them to try searching for derelicts.  Still, that wasn't washing with the rest of the crew.  Especially under the circumstances.  When Terin tried to push one last time, Mikah put her foot down with a raised voice, that she wasn't taking the ship and crew out on a wild goose chase when they had other obligations.  She said Terin could check the sensor data available to him, and earn another Cr 1,000 if he found anything in the next three days.

In the cab, Munarshu told the cabbie to turn around, then called his former crewmates to tell them his chief engineer had recalled him to the ship.  While they acknowledged the loss of his skills, they already had the data they needed from him.  And without him, there'd be one less share to pay out.  In the end, Munarshu was only a short distance out and the ride only cost him Cr 20.  He reported in ten minutes later.  After the drama, Rol went back to working on armor and Aiden watched Terin get dressed down for pushing the derelict-hunting idea until Mikah snapped.  Aiden just read his book while Mikah wound down.  Emkir pulled up his application data and saw some good ones for KCr 5 to 10.  Considering the computer space it might take up, Emkir figured it would be best to ask Mikah.

When he did, she wanted to know how much memory would be used to run it.  Emkir admitted it would get in the way of serious navigational processing.  Considering that, Mikah said she wasn't interested in letting that run on the ship's computer.  Mikah said he could run it on the station's computers in the berth if he wanted, but he couldn't run it on the ship.  Especially since she wasn't certain what the Duke would do to "punish them" because of the cybernetics.  They had to be ready for that, the stent classes, the commenting on the competitions, the cargo they needed to load and any other crisis which came up in the days in between.  So, no loading up the computer.  In the end, Emkir decided to roll the dice and buy a bot to run in the berth.  He spent Cr 8,000, and downloaded it to a data crystal so he could install it in the berth and start crunching numbers.

Where everyone is at the beginning of next Session

    Aiden: In the lounge reading
    Aali: Waiting in the lounge for Munarshu so she can explain employee/employer relationship
    Emkir: In the lounge Downloading the odds bot
    Inger: In the lounge watching the news after the fireworks with Mikah and Terin
    Mikah: In the lounge after telling Terin "no derelict hunting" and Emkir "no using the AI aboard"
    Munarshu: In a cab returning to the ship
    Rol: In the lounge working on armor
    Terin: In the lounge sulking over Mikah's decision the derelict hunts
    Zimzod: In the lounge relaxing

Next: Lies, Drinks, Pranks And Punishments