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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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Lies, Drinks, Pranks
    And Punishments


A Lie, By Any Other Name

     As the day closed on dinner, the entire crew were in the ship's lounge except for Munarshu.  He was ride back to the berth, after having had the driver turn the taxi around while Mikah and Aali discussed how to punish their wandering employee?  They were sure theyhad to make clear he was an employee of the ship.  And in apparently more direct terms than he'd learned from the Scout Service.  As they waited for this drama to play out, Aiden sat and read and Emkir was finishing up downloading the AI he'd bought.  Inger played at watching vids while also watching the fireworks.  There were first flares between Terin, as he tried to convince Mikah the ship should go derelict hunting.  And would soon be more, between Mikah, Aali and Munarshu.

Mikah sat as she waited, watching the vids and trying to get her blood pressure down after having to verbally stomp Terin's stupidity into the deck plates.  Rol was cooking, after having worked on armor for a bit more of the day.  Terin went back to his emails and herbology as he sulked over Mikah's decision and attitude.  Everyone else's emotions and interests flared as Zimzod sat with a drink and relaxed.  And Munarshu rode in his cab, unaware just how much emotion he would face when he got back.  Only ten minutes out, Munarshu's fare had been reduced to Cr 20, which he paid as he got out of the cab at the berth.  Once he was back, Aali immediately said, "Munarshu, we need to have a talk."  Terin moved to get a 'better seat' when she said this, while Mikah produced a kit she'd apparently kept near.  And then began very obviously cleaning her auto-pistol in the sight of the engineers.

Getting Munarshu's attention, Aali angrily said, "You, my friend, are an employee." stressing that final word.  She continued, "That means you don't get to just bugger off wherever you feel like without telling anybody.  And that means someone actually has to acknowledge your.."  As Aali grasped for a word that fit her intent, Munarshu said, "Yes, Ma'am.  I will not make that error again."  Somewhat mollified, Aali said, "OK.  It has also come down from on high", nodding towards Mikah, "that you will be docked a day's pay."  When Munarshu accepted that, Aali told she would accept his apology so long as this never happened again.  From where he was cooking, Rol muttered that he could fit Munarshu with a tracking bracelet as a joke, and Mikah almost leapt on that asking if he could?

The dressing down then devolved into jokes about possible ankle bracelets and other appliances they could use on Munarshu.  At first, just tracking, then possibly loaded with explosives and getting even more elaborate until Mikah said, "Aali, let's go shopping!" with real glee in her voice.  As the entertainment dissolved, Terin again offered to help Rol cook, but had come to the offer too late.  Still, Mikah gave Rol permission to take Terin's hand and use it as an ingrediant for dinner.  Things settled down as Terin listened in while Aali continued to tell Munarshu how to go about requesting time for his side interests.  That was, so long as the ship's needs were managed first.  As Aali mentioned things like the android repairs and possibility their in-port status might change, she commented on Munarshu's planned "prolonged absence".

Munarshu tried to downplay his mistake by claiming, "I was going to talk to a bunch of friends in order to talk them out of doing something stupid."  This, despite it having been clear to Aiden Munarshu had not only left the ship intending to join his friends for three days, but even tried to get Aiden to come with him.  He also ignored the fact Aiden was sitting very close to where he was offering his excuse.  Not OK with that, Aiden dryly sparked up, "Dude.  You were going for three days."  His tone was, 'I have no problem throwing your lies under the ship.'  When Munarshu protested, "I was going to try to convince them not to go." Aiden continued, "Dude, you tried to convince me to go with you for three days."  That made it clear to all in the compartment Munarshu was trying to lie himself out of part of his punishment.  Especially when Aiden nailed the lie out in the bright starlight for all to see.

As Aali muttered, "Interesting" and Mikah gave Munarshu a harder look as Munarshu made his last play.  He claimed, "I was going to ask you to help me convince them not to go."  Done playing whatever game the engineer thought he was running, Aiden simply looked at Mikah and Aali and said, "He's lying."  The statement was a flat out conviction rather than an accusation.  Into the pause, as Mikah rose to join in, Rol asked, "Anyone want cheese with this?" as he pointed to the mostly cooked meal.  Those in the compartment ignored his attempt to add some laughs to the situation.  As Mikah rose, Aali asked, "Captain, how do you want to handle this?"  Taking a breath before speaking, Mikah said, "Well.  First off, he's confined to the ship."  She notably left out a period of time, making that punishment for an unspecified period.  Turning to face Munarshu, Mikah continued, "You are not to use any comms except for ship's business."

In that pause, Terin asked Rol what kind of flavorings he was using and Rol said he thought the crew would need something salty.  Mikah heard and snapped, "Why don't you make some humble pie for dessert?"  Turning back to Munarshu, Mikah continued, "And if this situation ever occurs again, that you're going to run off and leave the ship for three days with your friends or any kind of like scenario, you will be removed from your position if you lie to any member of this crew again."  In the face of that, Munarshu did the only thing he could and said "Yes, Ma'am."  Asshe finished, Aiden settled to read until dinner was ready with a bit of a smug look on his face.  Terin did help Rol finish the meal.  Aali went over to chat with Emkir about the new toy he was downloading.

As Aali joined him, Emkir began telling her about all the great things he'd found the software did while going through the software documentation.  As they talked, Emkir told Aali the download would be done by the end of dinner, so he could head into the berth to start installing it on a station-side computer.  Those were apparently his plans for the entire evening, and he thought he might have the thing completely set up if he burned the lights for a late night.  Given that, and the fact she was a bit less pleased having to see Munarshu for the evening, Aali assigned Munarshu to work on the androids after dinner while she worked on the ship's systems.  As this happened, Inger relaxed and watched the news with Zimzod and Mikah.

The Calm Before The Drinks

     After dinner was served and eaten, Emkir confirmed his download was done and took the data crystal down to the berth to start installing the software.  But, once he'd sparked up the installer and it ran its system test of the berth computer, Emkir got a warning.  Their account didn't have enough computer space for the software to be installed, much less run.  An error screen gave Emkir the info he needed to figure the amount of memory he would need to let the installation run and give space for the AI to build its databases.  When Emkir checked into expanding their computer access, he saw he had to lease the extra memory space at a cost of Cr 1,000 for access for a week's time.  With that information, Emkir comm'd Aali to discuss paying for it?  Aali agreed to pay, as they'd already spent Cr 8,000 on the AI and it would be stupid not to then use it.

Rol relaxed, after dinner, watching for any information on the Cursed Bastards of Sol while new stories in the news included:

    Entrope ( E336AAA-C Green Hi 720 G6 V M1 D)                                     Date: 147-1112
    Spokesperson Lt. Commander Ranie Beyr Mehloae has delivered an update
    on the significant damage done by the Sword Worlds to all system facilities
    at the end of their former occupation.

    The Lt. Commander reminded all the reporters, using images from the field,
    that all facilities had been destroyed by retreating Sword Worlders forces to
    prevent their use as a Darrian naval base.  The briefing given covered current
    and planned relief efforts and, in cases graphically, covered the atrocities
    committed and the continuing human crisis in that system.

    In addition, the system of Entrope was littered with the debris of countless
    space battles and minor skirmishes over the centuries.  They were now listed
    by the Darrian Navy as restricted space.  A team of archaeologists from the
    University of Zlodh, have begun researching changes and developments in
    Sword Worlder warship design over the centuries.
    The announcement included some permitted cooperation granted by major
    Imperial universities.                 

In addition to the specific news, the report continued to cover the counter-claims from various Sword Worlds planetary governments.  It also covered the long-taught saga of the Solomani merchants who fled the collapsing Second Imperium through Aslan space to eventually settle the systems which became known as the Sword Worlds Confederation.  This history was the usual basis for any claims made by the Confederation on systems in the Spinward Marches.  Especially, as the Third Imperium didn't enter this region of space for settlement until centuries after they arrived.  This was generally countered by historians and archaeologists of all cultures, who pointed to the 'high-water mark' of Sword Worlds expansion and the clear decline of their influence as formerly allied systems joined the Imperium.

    567-908 ( E532000-8 Green La Sa Ni Po 310 NA M9 V Ml D)                Date: 273-1112
    The Imperial Navy re-iterated that this world was reclassified as a Red Zone
    for the foreseeable future.  The system has also been renamed "Denuli".  As
    the Navy works to establish a permanent base in that system it is announced
    it was now punishable by death to own or sell the gemstones known as "Denuli
    Crystals".                                   

Hearing that story, Mikah's first comment was, "OK!  Where do we get some?"  Despite that, she remembered talking about those crystals with Countess Ursara during the crew's last stay in the Rhylanor system.  At the time, the Countess suggested they were about to become very 'Ultra-Rare' very soon.  This suggested the Countess had an inside line she hadn't shared.  When Terin asked, "What are Denuli crystals?" Mikah frostily answered him, "None of your business."  Terin asked why he was in trouble and Rol answered for Mikah, saying "You asked the wrong question."  As the news droned on, Terin sparked up a computer to learn about the crystals.  But he found very little because the stones were extremely rare to begin with.  When they'd come on the markets tracked in the Rhylanori system, they invariably came from the system now named Denuli.  The only property Terin could find ascribed to them was a "strange, translucent opalescence."

    Regina ( A788899-C A Ca 703 Im F7V M6 V M8 D )                               Date: 273-1112
    Oberlindes Lines formally announced its new route to the Arden system would
    now run on a regular schedule.  The new Jump-3 route had been introduced and
    some runs had suffered "irregularities" which were all minor.  Having resolved
    those issues and strengthened the travel links, the Oberlindes family were
    pleased to announce their progress.

    On a smaller note, it has been noticed by the media that Baron Marc Oberlindes
    appeared to have begun campaigning to be named a Marquis.  However, the
    early going will be rough as his Liege Lord, Count Evan of Roup was competing
    with Countess Josephine for the administration of the Duchy of Regina as the
    Arch Duke concentrated on Domain issues.  Political observers relied more on the
    likelihood Lady Seldrian Aledon, the Arch Duke's True Daughter, would succeed
    him to the Duchy.                                   

    Arden ( C5549CB-8 Green Fed Arden Hi 810 M4 V M5 D )                     Date: 273-1112
    Following up on their announcement that the Federation of Zenopit had
    joined the "Federation of Arden" the Arden government announced exchanging
    teams to expand trade ties between the two systems.  Zenopit, was a society just
    slightly behind the technology of Arden.  Those who analyzed such things
    wondered what the deal would provide the Charismatic Oligarchy of Arden,
    as that system was over populated to start and Zenopit was another poor
    well populated system with little in trade prospects.                     

Following that story, the news moved back into coverage of the Arch Duke's coming grand tour of the Domain.  As they listened, the only new data they heard was that plans were beginning to be made for Duchess Muktheswara to return to the Glisten system.  As ears perked up, there was still no information on what the Duchess had been doing other than taking part in discussion of the formation of the Domain and the grand tour.  What was very apparent in talks about the evolving Domain government was that there were obvious efforts to stay in lock-step with the Grand Duchess Delphine.  Those in the crew were sure this was because the Arch Duke had to leave the Domain government nominally in her hands as he traveled, and certainly the Spinward Marches.

They listened as pundits commented on how well the Grand Duchess was taking the transition.  Terin was the first to snicker at that.  Rol suggested Delphine might simply know that Norris had risen too high for her to attack him at the moment?  He suggested the Grand Duchess was playing for time and a future opportunity.  While she waited, he figured she'd be lining her own gilded cage until it was time to do battle.  Finally, they received news from the Vland system, home of the Vilani race.

    Vland ( A967A9A-F 2 Hi Cp 820 Im F8V )                                               Date: 077-1112
    A news brief from the Vland system announced that Royal Prince Varian's
    fleet had entered the system as of that report, nearly eight months old.
    The bulletin suggested the Prince planned an extended stay in that
    system, which was the homeworld of the Vilani race and foundation of the
    First Imperium.  The report proceeded to discuss the Prince's plans to meet
    with Arch Duke Norris somewhere in the Spinward Marches in order to perform
    the actual ceremony of the Arch Duke's elevation to lead the Duchy.                      

Rol assumed that meant meeting Norris in the Rhylanor system and he suggested they might be able to be there for the ceremony if they could return to the system in time?  Aiden said that Mikah would like that as he showed a graphic from the story displaying the Prince's flagship, which was a Tigress class Battleship.  This led to a discussion of the pros and cons of the Tigress class.  Mikah ignored that talk as she got Zimzod and pulled out the replica of the full sized Tellona diamond and the data chip they'd found inside it.  Mikah then called the Arch Duke's Seneschalate and said she had a gift for the Arch Duke.  After a pause, the representative asked what the nature of the gift was?

Mikah said, "Well, we got it on Jae Tellona, from one of the Nomad leaders.  And even though the diamond itself was cut up, we've had made a replica of the diamond itself.  And we have the chip that was planted within the diamond.  We also have a file of the data we got off the chip, which appear to be grid coordinates."  The more she said, the more it was obvious the officer she was talking to had decided this 'gift' actually did have value.  So impressive he invited them to the Arch Duke's offices the next day at 10am, to examine the gift with the Seneschalate to determine the level of interest the Arch Duke might have in it?  While his comment may have had some thinking it was disparaging, his expression suggested it might be something special.  But it was clear he didn't know for certain.

As that happened, Terin went through his stock of herbs to see what his supply level was?  What he found was that he'd dug deep into stocks usually limited to his own use on a regular basis, and less regularly for gatherings.  So he was running low on more than a few items.  Most especially, his most soothing teas.  One of Terin's biggest problems was that the Rhylanor system was certainly one of the worst places to restock on vegetable products.  All foodstuffs were either imported from out-system or grown at even greater expense in hydroponics facilities.  Anything he might find that was not a "special alert" among those who dealt in herbs and spices was likely to cost well more than he had to spend.  Sadly, there were no alerts on the web at the moment.  As he considered where he might get new supplies while the ship traveled, Terin also considered making some sort of on-ship system

This would mean designing a set of in-stateroom mountable grow boxes that would need to be enclosed, in the event of gravity-loss.  It would also need a gel into which the plant roots could grow, but which would also lock in the water needed to grow.  Of course, while Terin could 3D print the boxes, he couldn't print the specialty bulbs needed to light the mini-farm.  He'd also potentially need to speak to Aali about re-wiring his stateroom to power the system.  That in mind, Terin decided to bounce some ideas off Aali, just to build plans in his mind.  See what was really possible?  Terin found Aali working in engineering, where she certainly didn't want him touching anything.

Once Terin told Aali his ideas, she asked if they'd be hydroponic or soil-culture based installations?  Terin said he'd have to look into while wondering where he was gonna get soil if he went that route?  Certainly not on Rhylanor.  As Terin set that aside, Aali asked him for his cubic space needs and power requirements, so she could look into what could be provided in a stateroom.  As they talked, Terin wondered if she considered the gel-culture idea as hydroponic?  She also asked how many plants the navigator planned to grow, because a flowering plant also needed space outside the "pot".  One of Aali's comments reminded Terin he still had to get the seeds.  So this was a larger issue than Terin had thought it was.  Especially when Aali asked how quickly the plants would grow from seed to yield?  She also suggested collapsible containment as well as permanent, and Terin decided to do more research.


An Impromptu Party

     After getting done with the Arch Duke's Seneschals, Mikah decided to check out the ship's liqueur cabinet.  What she found was that, outside the collection Emkir and Aali had from their wedding, the ship was very well stocked to over-stocked with booze.  That on her mind, Mikah decided it was time to have a party on the ship and started pulling out bottles for the crew to empty.  She also went into the med-bay and grabbed the Vargr juice, in case she had the chance to test the batch.  This got Zimzod's attention as he had brought some gear to clean and test in the lounge.  Securing his gear, Zimzod joined Mikah as she moved to the berth to let people know and set things up.

As Mikah gathered bottles, she enlisted Rol, Aiden and Inger's help to move them and guessed Emkir would sniff the party out without her help.  Meeting Munarshu on the way down, Mikah reminded him he was restricted to the ship and the berth was "outside the ship", if only just.  As the crew gathered in the berth, they grabbed Terin and Aali along the way.  When Rol asked what the occasion was, Mikah said, "Why not?"  As they moved, Mikah did call Emkir.  When he heard of the party, Emkir plaintively said, "Really?  I was just about to install this software."  Mikah challenged him, demanding, "What's more important?"  Emkir admitted he could always do the install the next day and joined in, to the amusement of those listening to this 'pure Emkir moment'.  Even Aali had seen this as a moment to reduce their ridiculous collection a bit and make some space in their storage.

Adding to those stocks, checked the ship's locker and pulled out the leftover gear the ship was still transporting from Sir's Brian and Zach.  This included Zach's sealed combat armor and vacc suit, which none of the crew could use.  Talking about the ship's clutter, Inger asked if they were going to ever sell the parts Brian had left behind?  The only things they'd taken action on were the books.  Emkir set up scanning and storage for those through the University of Rhylanor before leaving them in the vault of a local auction house.  Since then, they were waiting until they got permission to sell them or not.  So they were waiting for that to get started, with the ball in Emkir's court to start the scanning.

Given his orders, and a drink to sip while calling, Emkir sparked up his comms and called the University to get the scanning started.  Despite the late hour, the excited conservators said they could be in the berth at 8am with all the vehicles and security needed to move the library to the University.  Emkir groaned at the early hour as he agreed.  Then, he was told it would take five days' time to scan and deliver.  With that, Emkir was told to send the University the KCr 30 it would cost, as they'd agreed to use the University but never asked the price of the service.  While Mikah agreed, she planned to take that cash from the share Sir Brian's family would get if they were able to sell the books, so and she paid personally.

While Aiden and Inger decided to drink lightly, Emkir dared the hangover and dove in with his usual flair.  As usualy, Aali decided to keep a watch on him even if this was a private party.  Deciding to make sure everyone had a good time, Mikah started the party by handing out first drinks as the "Captain's prerogative".  Mikah promised enjoyment as she chose the bottles to pour from.  Happily, the selections seemed to work and Inger even enjoyed the fruity wine Mikah had selected for her.  Once the first round of drinks were shared out, the party got underway.  There was a moment of laughs for the rest as Mikah told them the party was "in the berth", so Munarshu couldn't play.  And he was on the ship restricted.  The engineer had just returned to work on the androids, watching the rest of the crew through the open bay doors.

Soon, they had become so comfortable with Mikah serving up periodic rounds from her forest of bottles.  And as she moved, it was impossible to track just what they were each given until they took a sip.  Soon, Mikah smiled evilly as Inger took a sip of her newest "selection".  Then, Inger had a sudden and horrific split second of recognition before things went black.  Mikah quickly set the bottle of Vargr juice aside with a smirk as the others saw Inger drop and joked that she should really build up her booze tolerance.  Surprised at her sudden drop to the deck, everyone rushed over to see i she was OK?  Mikah said she just couldn't handle whatever it was she'd drunk.  Doing his first aider's best to make sure she was OK medically, Terin picked Inger up in a fireman's carry and moved her to a bed in one of the berth staterooms.  He laid her out with her head facing away from the wall and her hair behind her, in case there were any more "bad reactions".  Before leaving her there to sleep it off, Terin looked for but didn't find a bucket.  There was a fresher though, so it was all good.

A Sudden Interruption

     As Terin got ready to leave the stateroom, he heard a comms buzzing and turned to find it was Inger's comms.  Checking the caller data, he thought about answering with a joke line like, "Dame Inger's skirt" until he saw the caller was from the port's central offices.  Choosing to answer in vox-only mode, Terin slipped into his most "receptionist" tone and said, "Hi, This is Dame Inger's comms.  May I help you?"  After a pause, a male voice asked, "Is Dame Inger available?" in a halting voice that showed he didn't expectanyone else to answer.  Terin said, "She's currently unavailable right now, but if you leave a message with me, I'll make sure she calls you back when she's available."  After another pause, the caller asked, "Are you a member of her ship's crew?" in a concerned tone.  When Terin identified himself, they asked what role he played and he said he was the astrogator.  Coming to a decision, the caller said, "OK.  Umm, can we talk to your Captain?"

Now cautious himself, Terin said, "I will see if she's available.  Can you hold on a bit?"  When the caller agreed, Terin put the man on hold and went back into the berth after one last look to check on Inger.  Coming back out to where the others set up chairs and tables to sit and drink at, Terin politely called out, "Ah, Dame Mikah" in the sort of rising tone that suggested he'd like her attention.  When she answered, "What?" with her tone making it clear she was being interrupted, Terin said, "Someone's on Ms. Vik's comms asking to speak to you.  I have no idea who they are."  This, despite having seen the caller was from the port's central offices.  At her pause and murderous look in his direction, Terin asked, "Do you want me to find out who it is or..."  Mikah cut him off, saying "Why don't you find out who it is and I'll decide if I want to speak to him or not?"

Returning into one of the rooms off the berth with the door shut, Terin reactivated the comms and asked who the man was?  He said Dame Inger had been negotiating with the port for some equipment and he'd been assigned to handle it by the Director.  Not satisfied, Terin nailed down that the man's name was Senior Manager Mudushgu.  Terin than asked, "And what assets were these again?"  He was told, "gravLifters and a cargo sealing system."  With that information, Terin said, "Oh yes!  I believe the Captain is interested in those" and put him on hold again to report back to Mikah in the berth.  When Mikah heard that, she set her drink aside and got up, telling Terin she'd speak to the man.

Taking the phone from Terin and moving into the room he'd been in, which happened to have Inger's unconscious body laid out on the bed, Mikah sat on the bed next to Inger and made herself comfortable as she activated the comms.  Greeting the man, Mikah remembered Inger had set up a deal for KCr 125.  For that, they'd get a pair of gravLifters and a cargo sealing system which also had an integral customs documentation system.  As Terin stood, just inside the door to listen, he knew the gravLifters alone would cost KCr 50.  So he thought Inger had cut them a very good deal.  As she talked, Mikah asked about the installation requirements of the cargo sealer and was told they just had to secure it using grav plates.  The sealer and lifters only needed to connect to the ship's power to operate or recharge respectively.  He added that the sealer system should be connected to the ship's computer too.

Happy with that, Mikah asked when they could deliver the gear and was asked, "When do you want us there?"  Mulling that over, Mikah asked Aali in and asked her if she'd be able to handle the work?  When Aali said she could, Mikah said, "OK, if you can come by tomorrow, that would be great.  And we'll take care of everything."  Then it came down to who was paying the bill?  Mikah paid the cost from the ship's funds.  After the payment was made, the port manager said they'd be at the berth to deliver at 9am.  Mikah agreed and said they'd be there and waiting.  She then told Aali, as Mikah thanked the man and cut the comms, tossing it back next to Inger's sleeping body.  As she did that, Terin imagined that Inger would wake the next morning and wonder, "Where the heck am I??"  After that, they returned to the party in the berth.

As the three rejoined the others, Rol was busy taking advantage of the crew's unusual calm period by getting plastered!  Aali could see Emkir was also well into getting plastered himself, and was even toasting their wedding.  Aali chose to drink moderately as did Terin.  The others fell somewhere in the middle of that.  As they chatted, Rol said it was his intent to out-drink everybody, and Mikah asked, "Even Emkir?  Because that's a tall order!"  Looking Mikah in the eyes, Rol simply answered, "Challenge accepted".  Then, the competition was on.  Mikah only shrugged and said, "Alright" in a tone that made it clear the consequences were on his own head.  Ironically, the rest of the crew drank as they cheered for either Emkir or Rol, or for both to fall overwhile they watched the two drink.

As Terin lined up shots for the men, Mikah was very interested in seeing just who would fall first.  Emkir took the competition very seriously, and started calling the drinks as he got into it.  Terin got a work out reaching for the named bottles.  When the talk turned smack, Emkir was all confidence as Rol said, "I may fail, but only because of my injuries."  Still, what started after 7:30pm was over within a half hour when Rol collapsed on the table.  As he lay there, Emkir placed his empty glass down with emphasis and said, "He may have blamed his injuries, but I'm wounded too.  I blame that he's a pussy!" getting a laugh from the others.  Relaxing and drinking to enjoy himself, Zimzod got up as Rol went down and stepped up with Terin, to move the Marine's body to a bed in one of the berth staterooms.  Unlike Terin, Zimzod tried to plot a course to the same stateroom where Terin had put Inger.

As this became obvious, there was a small tug of war that Zimzod won as he had Rol by the shoulders.  Terin tried to talk some sense, but Zimzod wanted to have fun and told the Knight to fuck off.  After he'd jerked Rol's legs clear of Terin's hold, he brushed off the navigator's interference as he moved into the stateroom.  Mikah cheered him on as he moved, saying that if they got sick in the same room it would be less for Munarshu to clean up the next day.  She made the comment loudly enough the engineer could hear from where he worked in the open cargo bay.  Aali joked that he'd at least get permission to leave the ship with an evil grin.  Eventually, over Terin's protests, Zimzod laid Rol out on top of Inger after making some 'other adjustments.'  Watching, Terin promised himself he'd stay up later than Zimzod and move Rol before going to sleep himself.  Zimzod looked forward to the next morning and the "results" of his practical joke.

In the berth, Emkir got even more drunk as he celebrated his victory over Rol.  When Terin stepped up to begin serving Emkir again, Aali decided it was time for him to start drinking water.  And her authority as his wife was reinforced by the fact they had an early day the next day too.  Mikah also added her authority to the move, saying "I agree."  Eventually, the drinking wound down and the rest of the crew drifted off to sleep.  Try as he might, Terin didn't outlast Zimzod, who was still sitting, relaxing and sipping when Terin's exhaustion caught up with him.  Mikah and Zimzod had to be at the Arch Duke's office, so she had their alarms set at 7am.  Aali set their alarm clock for 8am, so they could be ready for the deliveries.  Munarshu had finished his work earlier in the evening and set his alarm for his usual 5am while Terin said "screw it" and decided to sleep in.


A Morning Of Many Surprises

     As with every day at five in the morning, Munarshu's alarm went off and he began his morning routine.  By 5:45, he stepped into the still darkened lounge then went to the ship's bridge.  In that space, Munarshu tried to log into the bridge systems to set up station profiles for him to act as a navigator or pilot.  But try as he might, Munarshu quickly found his account didn't have the rights to do that.  After failing, Munarshu went to engineering to start working on a set of pre-flight diagnostics.  This was because his version of paranoia led him to jump to the most extreme interpretation of any instruction possible.  In this case, it was the hint of a suggestion they'd have to leave because Mikah had 'mentioned' we might have to leave right away.  Between his brand of paranoia and Aiden's, the ship could be voted 'most likely to die due to the ridiculous over-reactions of her crew'.  In this case, the danger was especially real because repeatedly jump-starting some systems to test launch capabilities could damage them.

Having hoped to sleep in, Terin opened his eyes at just after 6am.  He was as pissed at waking early as he was pleased he didn't feel as bad as he expected after the night drinking.  Wondering 'why the fuck' he was up that early, Terin began his normal morning routine except shaving.  He figured he'd have breakfast about 6:45.  At the same time Terin woke, Rol wasn't nearly as awake as he realized his bunk was "lumpy" and his head hurt.  The head pain was expected.  Groaning, even without opening his eyes, Rol reached down to prop himself up and found himself taking hold of a woman's breast!  In the midst of the shock, Rol realized it was a rather full breast even as his brain reminded him, "It's not mine."  Trying to figure the puzzle out, but still unwilling to open his eyes, Rol decided to reach about him and see if his sense of touch could tell him anything new?  But he only further groped the body of the woman he appeared to be in bed with and on top of!

Eyes still closed, Rol realized things were getting even worse, especially as his sense of touch told him the woman was partly undressed!  Deciding it was time to go 'all in', Rol opened his eyes to find himself in bed with Inger, though her red hair was draped across and obscuring her face.  Not only was he in bed with her, but he was entirely on top of her mostly nude body!  While his fingers hadn't lied about her being partly dressed, her blouse had been completely unbuttoned, leaving her topless except for her bra.  He was relieved it wasn't one of the lacy or translucent garments some women wore.  Pushing up, to further explore, Rol was even more disturbed to see her skirt had also been pulled up to her hips, displaying her legs and panties.  Stuck in the frame, Rol didn't move as he panicked and was captivated by the thought, "I don't remember this."  Again, he looked to her covered face, suddenly fearing she was awake and watching him through the veil of hair, gaging his reaction to their intimacy.  Dreading the outcome, Rol reached up and gently brushed her hair to the side.

He was hugely relieved to see she was still fast asleep.  With this much information, Rol's main hope was to get off Inger's body without waking her.  The best method his mind came up with was to try gently rolling himself until he was physically off her body.  Then he'd prop himself up and stand.  Sadly, his calculations were not the best and he ended up rolling past the edge of the bed as he also tried to avoid any tactile mistakes with Inger's flesh or undergarments.  So as he rolled over the edge, Rol fell off the bed onto the stateroom floor.  To add to the comedic fugue, all of Rol's thoughts not devoted to peeling himself from Inger's body were spent trying to remember how they'd ended up in bed to begin with?  And all he could really remember was trying to drink Emkir under the table.

That left open the possibility he'd beat Emkir and, for some reason, he and Inger had gone into the stateroom to "celebrate" before succumbing to their drinks.  So Rol was caught between the dual horns of a dilemma.  He might be escaping a woman who would wake to remember her interests and be insulted.  Or somehow have ended up on top of her by mistake to have her start screaming rape when she woke.  Especially if he was somehow responsible for partially undressing her, despite the intact undergarments.  Making things more complex, Rol suddenly had an overpowering urge to empty his bladder, thanks to drinking so much the night before.  Desperately looking around, Rol realized he was in one of the staterooms in the berth, and located the fresher quickly after that.  Getting moving, Rol first crawled then rose to a stagger as he moved to the fresher.

As he hit the door controls, Rol was relieved the door had power and opened, revealing a bathroom sterilized for his protection.  Moving quickly, Rol was very relieved after letting loose and draining himself.  But as soon as he turned to clean his hands off, Rol realized luck had been with him because he also hadn't closed the fresher door!  Thankfully, Inger wasn't woken by the noises he'd made, to see him in the act.  While no longer in a sexually compromising position, Rol was glad he didn't have to explain why he was displaying his bathroom behavior to her in a stateroom while she was practically naked?  Taking a few more seconds, Rol splashed some water on his face to wake himself that much more before stepping back into the stateroom to better get his bearings.

The stateroom was a standard, if bare, space.  Inger and he were the only foreign objects in the room.  Accepting that they were alone, Rol next did a casual search for cameras or recording gear.  When he didn't see any, he was happier still, and turned his attentions back to Inger's body.  His first impulse, despite the pounding head, was to un-hook her bra and arouse her until she woke.  He even considered waking her "and treating his hangover", after removing her panties, by 'relieving himself' inside her.  Finally, deciding valor was the next best step, Rol decided to step up and try to re-dress Inger, pulling her skirt back down and trying to re-button her blouse, despite the risk of waking her as he did.  While Rol did a manageable job of it, and didn't wake her, he missed the alignment of buttons thanks to his nerviousness.  In his state, Rol didn't realize it would still look "wrong" to anyone once she got moving.

And part of why he missed this was the sexual desires he was suppressing while in control of the body of a vulnerable, attractive and nearly naked woman.  Especially whenever his hands came into contact with her curves.  Add to that, her top buttoned up tight enough there had been "some" contact no matter how polite he tried to be.  Having gotten that far, Rol decided it was time to make a tactical retreat.  Going out the main door of the stateroom, Rol found himself in the ship's berth and looking at the remains of the party the night before.  All bottles and furniture, there were no bodies.  Of course, there were suddenly-active and alert media filming Rol as he paused while staggering out of the stateroom into the open space of the berth.  Not validating parasites with a reaction, Rol continued his stagger to the open cargo bay and into the ship.  Looking over the delivered cargo containers in the berth, the bay looked much as he remembered.  Except Munarshu wasn't working on the androids and at least one of the devices looked somewhat more assembled.  So Rol continued into the engineering section to reach the ship's lift and get to the ship's lounge.

New Comedy For Old

     As Rol moved from the cargo bay into the engineering spaces, his hangover made him hyper-perceptive of sounds.  So when he heard "something or someone" moving around in the engineering section, his best guess was that no one should be in those spaces as far as he knew.  That Rol didn't know what time it was never crossed his mind.  What did cross his mind was, "saboteurs!"  Deciding he needed to investigate, Rol staggered into the section to look for the source of the sound.  Within the space, Munarshu was working on his pre-launch tests since coming below decks.  Used to the sounds of a ship's engineering systems, he had been listening for anything out of order to begin with.  So it was no surprise that he heard the sounds Rol made as he staggered into the compartment.

Munarshu also knew the sounds were not made by the normal walking gate he'd expect from a person moving casually.  There was no reason he knew of for anyone not to be moving casually, unless they were not supposed to be there.  That left 'trying to sneak in', even if they were doing a lousy job of it.  So Munarshu drew the snub pistol, which was always on his hip while in the berth or ship, and began preparing for whatever came around the machinery.  He also took the time to do breathing exercises making it as certain as possible he'd hit his target and none of the very vulnerable systems in the space.  Hearing more sounds, Munarshu began moving forward, in a sad parody of the little tactical training he'd had and halfway emulating things he'd seen in action vid's....badly.

So it was that Munarshu came around a bank of systems, saw a figure and instantly fired his pistol.  Only to realize after the shot that he was facing Major Rol Kaihvos!  Lucky for him, the snub pistol he wore was always loaded with tranq rounds.  As the round hit Rol in the chest, it apparently hit bone and didn't penetrate the chest cavity, which it could do at such close range.  Rol experienced the sudden appearance of a blurry figure which then took a combat stance and fired before his hung over wits could react.  The round did stagger him back a bit, both in surprise and due to kinetics, as he tried to look down for an explanation of the sudden painful pinch on his chest.  Rol was still trying to make sense of what he was trying to see as his vision became more blurry and the drugs from the round took effect.

As Rol dropped, Munarshu moved forward to access the situation before completely re-defining it in the most bizarrely twisted sense.  He didn't recognize he'd been lucky to be armed when both Rol and he had surprised each other.  Or that he'd shot a hung-over crew mate before he could realize his mistake.  In Munarshu's mind, he re-cast the situation as "Munarshu beat the special forces operative!"  He completely ignored the fact Rol would have made him swallow his pistol if the former Major had even been functioning at one quarter his normal level.  It was certainly a situation Munarshu could enjoy in the twisted spaces of his own mind.  But only the future would show if he made the mistake of actually casting himself as "dangerous" because of the encounter.  Of course, this was very quickly followed by the realization that he had shot the ship's cook!  Having tried Rol's fare, Munarshu knew he would suffer thanks to his thoughtlessness once Rol returned to his station.

Now thinking faster than he had before he pulled the trigger, Munarshu leaned down to pull the dart from Rol's chest and examine the wound.  There would certainly be a scar from that, but Munarshu was lucky the ship's operating mode meant the sensors were not fully active.  It they had been, the internal sensors would certainly have picked up the shot and the ship's alarms would be waking the entire crew at the moment.  Munarshu then lifted Rol in a fireman's carry, much like Terin had carried Inger the night before.  He then moved him to the ship's lift.  Once on the lift to the upper deck, Munarshu was relieved to see the lounge was still empty.  So he moved Rol's limp body to the Marine's stateroom, dumping him into his bed.  Ironically, that was where Rol had been headed in the first place, though he didn't expect to have enough drugs in him to keep him down for the next eight hours.  This all finished playing out, with Munarshu slipping back down to the engineering spaces, twenty or more minutes before Terin would finish his morning routine and come looking for breakfast.

Setting The Morning Tone

     With Munarshu back down continuing his work in engineering, Terin finished his morning routine and emerged into the lounge to find it still in 'night lighting' and himself alone.  Terin shrugged that off because they'd been up drinking and this was to be expected more than his waking up so damn early.  Sparking the lights, Terin was pretty sure Rol wasn't going to be up for cooking and realized he had the chance to thwart Zimzod after the fact.  So he went below decks to see if he could separate Rol and Inger before either woke?  As he'd wanted to put them in separate staterooms the night before, this would achieve that goal and spoil Zimzod's prank unless Zimzod had taken pictures?  But Terin arrived and only saw Inger's form, lying asleep on the bed with her hair partly covering her face and her top looking a bit "disturbed".  Terin wrote that off, as it could have accidentally happened when Rol woke and left, as he apparently had.

Looking over the space, Terin saw the fresher door was left open and had obviously been used.  While clean, it was no longer "sterile".  Moving Inger's hair out of her face and behind her again, he checked to make sure Inger was just asleep and nothing worse.  Considering the mystery, and the lack of any indicators where Rol had moved to, Terin left that stateroom and checked the others in the berth.  They were all empty with no sign any had been used.  The only other room to have been used was the office in which Emkir had started setting up to install his odds-AI.  Once done with that, Terin went back into the cargo bay and was passing engineering when he heard someone moving in that compartment.

Since he was much more awake than Rol had been, Terin remembered Munarshu had a habit of getting up "stupid early".  Figuring Munarshu had been busy working, and wouldn't have likely noticed Rol if he'd passed that way, Terin shrugged the sounds off and continued above decks.  On the main deck, Terin checked into Rol's stateroom to see the cook sprawled on his bed.  As with Inger, Terin did a quick check to make sure Rol was simply sleeping it off and, in the process of rolling him over to check his vitals, noticed a weird wound on his chest!  Completely caught off guard, Terin thought, "What the fuck is this?!" and leaned in closer to examine the wound.  Terin examined the scar and realized it was a tranq-round dart wound!  Then, he remembered another of Munarshu's habits.  Remembering the engineer always carried a tranq-loaded snub pistol, Terin secured Rol's stateroom and went back below decks.

As Terin neared the engineering spaces, he paused to consider what his best course of action would be?  Without knowing what might have gone down, Terin decided on the direct approach as he stepped into engineering calling.  He called out "Munarshu?" to not surprise the man.  When Munarshu answered, Terin asked, "You haven't happened to see Rol, have you?"  When he heard the question, Munarshu sheepishly answered, "Yeah, I did." and Terin continued, "Yeah.  And?"  After a pause, and still looking sheepish, Munarshu admitted, "He snuck up on me."  Not sure Munarshu was going to stick with that answer, Terin asked, "He snuck up on you?" and Munarshu confirmed, "Yeah."  Accepting that, but knowing he didn't nearly have the entire story, Terin asked, "And...then what happened?"  Realizing the gig was up, Munarshu admitted, "Before I knew it was him...  I put a tranq round in his chest."

With nothing else he could do, Terin sarcastically said, "That's wonderful"  Munarshu glumly answered, "Yeah, I know.  It means I'm not gonna get lunch, and maybe not dinner."  Amazed that was Munarshu's largest concern, Terin said, "Um, I think you might want to write up an incident report." in a leading tone of voice.  He then added, "Like....Soon!" emphasizing the word 'soon'.  Terin continued, "Get all your paperwork in place before the captain wakes up and tears you another asshole?"  When Munarshu asked, "You think I should fill out paperwork?" in a confused tone, Terin answered, "Your call, man.  Just my suggestion, but it's your call."  With that, Terin left the engineer and returned above decks to fix the crew a breakfast of protein-pancakes and some meat.  After Terin left, Munarshu decided it might be a smart thing to fill out a report when dealing with knights and wrote out the events as he saw them.

Eventually, Terin sat to eat after laying out food and flicking on the news.  As he realized the major stories had been covered, Terin watched minor story coverage, including some video surrounding what the media referredto as "some sort of celebration in the California's berth"!  In fact, late breaking footage suggested the 'party' couldn't have been that significant as they showed an obviously drunk Sir Rol staggering from the stateroom section of the berth back into the ship that morning.  After he waited to see if there were other clips, Terin captured Rol's shambling walk to the ship's computer.  He added it to the ship's terminal screen saver clips along with Aiden tazing Munarshu at Instel-Arms.  As Terin continued to watch the news and ate, Mikah and Zimzod eventually moved into the lounge wearing ship's suits and looking for chow.

Spreading The News

     As they sat to eat, Terin told Mikah she might want to check the ship's computer logs after she'd finished eating.  Looking up, Zimzod asked, "Why?  Did you break something?"  When Terin said, "I don't break things." Zimzod asked, "So what's on the ship's log that's so important?" and Terin answered, "I'm not sure.  I didn't put anything on there."  This seemedto be an obvious lie, as he wouldn't be goading Mikah to check if he didn't know 'something' was there to be seen.  Hearing this, Zimzod went to the food and stacked a pile of pancakes on his plate before stepping over to a terminal to access the log, one-handed.  As the computer listed events added to the log, Zimzod ate casually and waited for it to populate as Mikah joined him there.

Seeing and selecting Munarshu's "report", the two knights nibbled as they read, and Terin watched them.  Suddenly, both of them busted out laughing and Mikah nodded, smiling and laughing as she admitted she still needed to punish Munarshu.  The report detailed how Sir Rol had "snuck up" on Munarshu in the engineering section of the ship.  According to Munarshu, that forced him to shoot Rol in the chest with a tranq round.  Turning to Terin, Mikah tried to be serious as she asked how he'd found out about the incident?  Terin said, "I went down and asked Munarshu."  Prompted by Mikah's continued look, Terin added, "When I got up, I figured I'd check on the drunks passed out in the berth and one was missing."  Of course, there was a pause there and none of them could keep from busting out laughing at the situation.

After they'd calmed back down again, Terin explained the rest, and showed Mikah and Zimzod the news video of Rol.  When she saw Rol staggering across the berth, she incredulously said, "THAT snuck up on Munarshu??  That?" as both Zimzod and Terin lost it into laughter again.  Finally, things calmed down again and Terin admitted he'd checked up on Rol in his stateroom, where he noticed the tranq round wound.  Then he questioned Munarshu.  As he got his breath back, Zimzod said, "I sense combat effectiveness drills happening on the ship three times a day for the next week."  Mikah added, "Especially for engineering."  Still, Mikah had to consider how dehydrated Rol would be and discussed with Zimzod and Terin moving the cook to the med-bay so she could hook up a few units of saline to prevent serious medical damage.

Terin went to Rol's stateroom to move him and threw Rol over his shoulder again, to move him to the med-bay with only a few accidental "bumps."  There, Mikah checked the first aid Terin had applied to the tranq wound before setting Rol up with enough of a saline drip to cover the eight hours Rol would be out.  Mikah also made sure to find the brightest and most "child-friendly" band-ade displaying an animated character to put on the wound.  After taking a picture of Rol on the treatment bed with the bandage showing, Mikah gathered her supplies and also went down into the berth to check on Inger's condition.

In the berth stateroom, it was obvious Inger's blouse had been tampered with and not buttoned correctly.  Mikah checked Inger's condition to see if she was close enough to waking to not need the saline, and Inger did begin to rise from the dead.  Inger woke enough to realize she wasn't in her stateroom and Mikah was standing over her;  Working up to it, Inger slurred a "What's up?"  Mikah asked, "How's your head?"  As the pause for an answer became a pregnant pause and even a bit longer, Mikah had her answer and said, "We'll get you some hydration, Dearie."  Not even trying to get up, Inger asked, "What happened to me?"  Her plan had been to drink lightly so something went wrong.  Mikah answered, "You drank a little too much honey." with that med-tech serving you while answering the obvious tone.  While this obviously didn't square with what Inger remembered, she kept that to herself until she had more memory, facts or both.

As it appered to Mikah Inger was accepting that, Mikah continued, "Oh, your friends from the port will be delivering the electronics at 9 o'clock, but you don't have to be up."  That provided Inger's brain a bit too much to process as it demanded multiple streams of thought at the same time.  After Mikah hooked up a saline drip, she asked, "Do you think you can get up and walk back to the ship?  Or do you want me to get some of the guys to carry you?"  Inger simply lay back down saying she'd prefer to relax where she was for a bit, and Mikah agreed.  On the way back to the lounge for breakfast, Mikah stopped in engineering and said, "Munarshu?  We're gonna have a talk later."  Without giving him more information on what they would talk about, Mikah went up to the lounge to have breakfast.  By the time she got back, Zimzod had finished eating breakfast and gone into his stateroom to dress up for the Arch Duke.  So Mikah rushed through her food and went to dress.

As they dressed, Terin switched from news-watching to researching his ideas for in-stateroom hydroponics.  He buried himself in that research throughout the morning.  In their stateroom, Emkir and Aali's alarm went off and Emkir didn't immediately rise to fight with the fog left by his drinking the night before.  Slapping the off tab, Aali decided to be forgiving and let him rise on his own as he had actually won the contest.  Knowing she had to supervise a delivery at 9am, Aali hopped right into her morning routine to be ready on time.  This got Aali out for breakfast by 8:30 to find a stack of protein biscuits and meat stacks.  He also saw Terin working on something on a computer terminal.  Looking over the fare, Aali said, "I'm assuming our usual cook is still out?" and Terin smoothly replied, "Ohhh, Yeah" as he pointed to the open door of the med-bay.  Through that, Aali could see the unconscious body of Rol hooked up to a saline drip with a brightly colored children's adhesive bandage on his bared chest.

Looking that scene over, Aali said, "OK!  Is there something I need to know?" and Terin said, "Yeah, you might be looking for a new junior engineer pretty soon."  Not sure how Rol's condition related to Munarshu, Aali responded, "Oh, interesting."  She also mentally searched through the events of the night before to see how Munarshu could have been involved?  As Aali was about to ask for an explanation, Terin guided her first to Munarshu's incident report and then to the video of Rol.  This left Aali wondering how a staggering drunk "snuck up" on her junior engineer??  Keeping her further thoughts to herself, Aali took food and ate as she contemplated the now more entertaining morning she had ahead of her.

Shortly after Aali settled down to eat, Mikah and Zimzod emerged from their staterooms in their 'Sunday - go to court' finery.  As she looked up at them, and noticed they were carrying a parcel, Terin asked where they were headed?  Mikah answered, "We're going to see the Arch Duke."  Aali jumped in, saying "OK.  If I might ask, about what?" and Mikah answered, "We're gonna give him a gift."  When Aali asked if she could know what the gift was, Mikah explained it was the duplicate model they'd had made of the Tellona Diamond and a chip they'd found inside it.  While Aali was familiar with this, the information was news to Terin.  But before he could say anything about it, Mikah said to Aali, "And when we get back, you and I are going to have to have a little talk."

Betting she knew exactly what was on Mikah's mind, Aali just agreed it was pathetic.  At that, Terin played the video of Rol again and Zimzod just laughed, knowing what had greeted Rol when he woke.  He only hoped Rol had behaved "like a real marine" in that situation.  As they shared laughs for different reasons, Aali told Terin to fish up the feed from her and Emkir's shootout in the jewelry store and add that to the screen savers - "to show how it was supposed to be done."  Unaware what was being decided above decks, Munarshu was progressively surprised as the screen saver was repeatedly updated as he worked the morning away.  But in that time, as Terin started working, Aiden emerged from his stateroom and was surprised to see how many people were in the lounge.  Especially with Mikah and Zimzod dressed up.  So he asked, "Oh, having a crew meeting are we?"  As he looked them over, Mikah gleefully said, "Tell him what's going on Terin", since the navigator seemed to enjoy the role of 'crew tattletale'.

Terin simply sparked up Munarshu's incident report again and then followed it with the video of Rol's zombie walk.  Realizing what he was being directed at was, in fact, an incident report, Aiden simply moaned, "Oh, what fresh hell is this?" before reading the screen of data.  After a brief period reading, Aiden leaned back on his heels and demanded, "He shot him??  And it's not Emkir??" with an incredulous look on his face.  At that point, Terin couldn't contain himself as he said, "Wait!  This is Rol sneaking up on him" as he proudly played the video for Aiden.  Aiden simply shook his head and muttered, "Remind me to lock my stateroom doors...forever."  Mikah tartly snapped, "What?  You don't already?"

When Terin said that was the morning's entertainment so far, Mikah said there were still crew who hadn't seen it.  After cataloging who hadn't seen it yet, Mikah said Terin should make sure everyone got a chance to enjoy it.  Done having his paranoia refreshed for the morning, Aiden took food and grabbed a corner chair from which he could read, eat and see everyone else in the space clearly.  Soon after that, Mikah and Zimzod took the air-raft to go visit the Arch Duke's offices.  There, they signed in and were led to a meeting room to wait.

After a good breakfast and a consideration of the shooting, Aali headed down to the cargo bay to work on androids until the port delivery arrived.  When the delivery did arrive, the port techs were precise and direct in their actions.  After first taking care of the paperwork, they asked where the gear was to go?  Aali directed them, and each piece of equipment was function tested to Aali's satisfaction.  After that, they used the cargo lifters they were delivering to move the cargo sealing system into place.  Then, the specs were gone over, basic explanations and function tests were completed and the question and answer sessions taken care of, Aali powered all the gear down and let the port team go with her thanks and all the required signatures.  So, in the end, there were manuals and in-chip tutorials for everything, so any user could take their own on-device classes in use.  The results of this were that there was finally something positive in their day to offset the stupidity of the morning.

During the delivery and testing, a very disheveled Dame Inger left the stateroom she'd been trying to recover in with a bag of saline on a rolling tree she guided with one arm.  It was clear she had the IV inserted into a vein, and it was also obvious to anyone her top, while not revealing at all, wasn't correctly buttoned.  But this seemed to be the least of the issues she was willing to pay attention to.  She briefly interrupted Aali to quietly ask, "What happened last night?" because she was certain she'd not drank that much at all.  Not able to take the time to explain as completely as she wanted, Aali said she'd tell Inger later and directed her to the lounge for breakfast.  Accepting that, for the moment, Inger made her way into the ship as more than one set of eyes followed her.

While they were working the electronics deal in the cargo bay, Munarshu heard shuffling noises in the engineering compartment for a second time that morning.  Knowing others were now awake, Munarshu only looked to see who it was and watched as Dame Inger staggered through the space to the upper deck accesses.  To be polite, Munarshu said "Morning" and she groaned an acknowledgment as she wasn't aware the treatment Rol had been given.  By the time Aali's work with the port folk was done and she caught up to Inger, the former port director had arrived at the ship's lift, being in no condition to climb to the ship's lounge.  After they rose to the main deck and came to the lounge, they met Emkir, who also looked much worse for the wear and tear.

Without shaving, showering or anything, Emkir had thrown on a ship's suit and sat, after filling the largest container he could find with electrolyte-laced water, vitamins,caff and the slightest hint of flavoring.  That sight pleased Aali and she said so, getting something unintelligible in a mumble back from Emkir.  Not wanting to just accept the assumption, Aali did step over and sniff at the fluid to make sure it was flavored water.  Comedically, once Emkir got a good look at Inger, he asked, "What happened to her?" in a tone that made it clear he felt he was much better off than Inger was.  Arriving with Inger, Aali said, "I don't know.  About the time Rol started the drinking contest with you, she had keeled over and Terin shoved her in one of the berth-side staterooms."  Reacting to the mention of the contest, Emkir quickly lifted his glass of water into the air calling out "Victory!" as he splattered water around him.

Those who had hangovers winced, including Emkir, while Inger didn't.  But she did feel very "mentally" fuzzy, in a way that was familiar but "not" at the same time.  At the same time, everyone in the lounge could see Rol lying, out cold, in the med-bay hooked up to a saline IV.  Inger simply murmured, "No more parties."  Aali then told Inger about Terin having put her in the berth stateroom and Zimzod pulling Rol's limp body from Terin's grasp and putting the drunken marine in the same stateroom.  She also admitted to not having gone into the stateroom to see what Zimzod had done with Rol's body, but assumed it was not anything serious.  Aali also recommended Inger rebuild her tolerance to alcohol.  Still, Emkir had to get moving as the University called saying they were on their way to pick up Sir Brian's books to scan.  Emkir moved quickly down to the berth, supervising the preparation and movement of the books, by conservators, into the prepared transports.  Security was very tight as the books were loaded and moved out.  After that, Emkir spent the day working on the software and ran tests on the 'droid brains which came up questionable.

New Plans And Changing Allies

     At the Arch Duke's offices, Mikah and Zimzod arrived and, since they were expected, were led to a meeting room.  There, an officer in the Arch Duke's service arrived, saying "So, you've got a gift?  Can you explain this gift or show it to us?"  With that, Mikah and Zimzod happily produced the reproduced diamond as well as the data chip.  As the man tried to decide what he was looking at, Mikah said, "We keep forgetting about this thing.  And we have no way of reading what's on it.  So we're giving it to you."  Zimzod put in, "The chip came inside the diamond we had."  When the minister asked, "Inside?" Zimzod disassembled the duplicate and showed the man how the chip fit in.  Mikah continued, "It must be something important, but we don't know and we don't have the tech to figure it out, so...  Here you go."  The last was said with an affected air of resignation, as if they'd tried all they knew.

Adding that information to the comment that they'd received the chip and original diamond from the nomads of Jae Tellona, the minister treated the items with respect as he took them and thanked the knights.  Mikah did ask if they'd let them know what the artifacts were if they found out?  Dividing his attention between Mikah and the chip, he said, "My Lady, I'll be honest with you, we'd be glad to let you know if we ever figure out what it is.  But the mysteries of the universe are vast and the Imperium has a large stockpile of things that we can't even begin to understand.  We may unlock this in a day or may never figure it out but we'll keep you informed if we can."  Mikah was firmly certain they'd figure it out as the crew had realized the data were coordinates of some kind.  She was sure they could put the shapes together, correct for the differences between the original diamond and the replica and re-create the originally intended image.

As she reminded him, it came from the nomads of Jae Tellona, the minister assured Mikah they'd give the puzzle "a crack" and Mikah said that was all they could ask.  She did again make a drive at getting word if they solved the puzzle as he agreed the nomads were not noted for their technology.  As things settled, Mikah pushed, "Please make sure the Arch Duke knows this comes to him, personally, and not via Duke Leonard."  Once the minister agreed, he had them escorted out of the building and Mikah and Zimzod returned to the air-raft.  After lifting to return to the ship, Mikah's comms went off and she saw it was Duke Leonard's office calling.  With a sigh, Mikah answered to be told the Duke would like her crew to assemble at his office at 11am that morning.  Given that it was shortly after 10am, Mikah asked, "Why?"

Mikah was firmly told, "Because the Duke ordered it." in a tone that made it clear they were not accustomed to answering that question.  Having it stuck in her face, Mikah answered, "Fine" adding that Sir Rol was medically indisposed and would not attend"  When the minister asked why, Mikah said Rol was out cold in their ship's medical bay at the time.  The man first went to ask why and then realized he didn't want to know, and accepted the situation.  Once the flunky said he'd advise "Their Excellencies", the call was done and Mikah called the ship to warn the others.  As she told the crew and questions rose, Mikah targeted Terin with an "I don't know but I'm sure it has to do with your people." stressing the word "your".  When Terin said, "Not my people." he made it clear as Mikah fingered the Darrians that he was an Imperial citizen.

Mikah and Zimzod returned to the ship while the others started to scramble to dress for the Duke.  Especially Inger, who perhaps used more makeup in the process than ever before, if only to mitigate the signs of the previous night.  Once the couple returned to the ship, Mikah checked on Rol as Aiden asked, "Do we have any idea what this meeting's about?"  When Mikah said, "Nope", Aiden played 'Captain obvious', saying they couldn't all travel in the air-raft.  That much more annoyed, Mikah had him call to get a transport for them and mandated that Terin would pay.  When he protested and asked why, Mikah said, "Because I said so, cupcake."  Cr 50 later, the crew were assembled at the office of the Duke's Seneschal in a conference room as a vid screen sparked up.

As the screen focused on Duke Leonard's face, the crew realized he was taking this call from planetside.  They all nodded to his welcome as Duke Leonard came right to the point, congratulating them on completing their business in-system and informing them their ship was now officially in countdown to launch.  He followed that up saying, "you'll be leaving the system in 48 hours."  As Mikah said, "OK", Leonard continued, "You are to contact all those people for whom you are carrying cargo and explain that you are leaving the system in 48 hours so they can take the necessary steps.  We have already called certain contractees whom you've signed agreements with and we've explained to them that you will not be honoring those contracts."  At least one person considered that when the Duke breaks your contract, you don't have to pay penalties.  Especially as this most likely meant the sports network.

Of all the reactions, the most "crushed" reaction came from Terin, who planned on using the event to earn a great deal of cash.  Before they were then dismissed, Mikah and Zimzod considered having to call the Tattooed man, Dame Ashlee and the Baron to get their cargoes delivered.  Finally, Mikah asked, "OK, you've called us all here to tell us to get out of your system, was there anything else?"  Duke Leonard said, "Nope."  Not hiding the fact she was angry, Mikah demanded, "Then why did you call us all the way over here?  You could have just sent us a message."  Once she finished, the Duke reminded her he could do these things, as Duke.  Those who had stent classes were also concerned about scheduling their activities to fit the new schedule.  Especially Terin, who had made his reservations on his own, though the other three would need to call TAS.

As Terin started doing math to see if there was any chance to get the class done, Aali reminded him the issue could be handled.  But as she reminded him TAS had taken care of her last time, Terin reminded her he was not a TAS member, not thanking her for grinding that message in.  And that was on top of Mikah telling him he had to pay for the ride back to the ship too!  Aali quipped, "We can count our luck because a firing squad was not involved." and Munarshu got the jump on Aiden, asking, "How do you know?" before the pilot could get it out of his mouth.  Aali admitted there could be one waiting for them at the ship but it would be a waste of effort and anticlimactic at that point.  As the conversations died, Mikah started issuing orders.

Mikah told Zimzod to call the Baron and tattooed man as she called Dame Ashlee.  Terin was already reaching out to the facility his class was at, to see what his options were?  When he explained as much as he wanted to of the circumstances, Terin asked if he could take the class the day before?  Unfortunately, he was told the classes for that day were full.  Disappointed, Terin thanked the clerk before asking about their cancellation policy?  Used to the issues spacers faced and well versed in the laws of Rhylanor the refund policy crafted by the firm's lawyers would give Terin back two thirds of his registration fee, or Cr 330.  Terin then tried to pull rank, telling the clerk he was only canceling due to the orders of Duke Leonard.  But his excuse didn't impress an hourly worker who had no say on the rules she had to follow or get fired.  It was even possible she didn't believe him as she put on a generic smile and said, "Have the Duke's office call us."  Terin then made his last ditch effort, asking if he could get an electronic version of the class to be told it would cost KCr 10.

With that, Terin decided to take his Cr 330 and try to remember the research he'd done when looking for a class to set up another one.  The search took him the rest of the ride to the ship and another half hour before Terin started making calls.  The first call got him the chance to take a class that afternoon...for Cr 3,000.  Not realizing he'd be adding a percentage to the cost because he had to rush, and because this would force any school to rush through their set up for him, Terin decided there had to be something cheaper out there.  But because of the short length of his search, KCr 3 was about the average he was seeing, so Terin decided to search some more, spending the rest of the morning researching.  Munarshu looked at the general star charts and listed the systems they would need to visit so he had an idea what resources were there.  He felt this would dictate some of the engineering tasks they would have to deal with during the trip.

From the Rhylanor system, they had first planned to jump to the Equus system, in the Lanth subsector.  From there, they would jump to the Skull system on the edge of the Lanth and Lunion subsectors.  The third jump would take them to the Resten system before a fourth jump would take them to the Lunion system, capital of the subsector.  After Lunion, they would jump to the Rabwhar system, which was a literal border world, on the edge of the current Imperial border.  Then, they would finally jump to the D'Ganzio system and be able to deliver their primary cargo.  Of those systems, two were well off trading lanes, which would have offered profit if their X-Mail safe wasn't already spoken for.  But at KCr 50 per jump, that was twice what they could earn unless there was something they could bill 'desperation rates' to move.  Not able to count on that, the Baron's cargo was cash in the bank.  Especially as they were carrying that an additional jump to the Lanth system.

As Terin and Munarshu did their research, Zimzod and Aiden called TAS about their classes.  When asked if this affected Sir Rol, Aiden said it did.  When they were asked why they had to leave earlier than planned, Zimzod explained it was "a mission of state" for His Grace, Duke Leonard.  He kept it to himself that the "mission" was getting out of the Duke's space.  Once this was given, the clerk quickly entered the data in her system and promised a courier would bring three customized classes for the knights so they could take them as computer-based training aboard ship.  Aali said her class had been handled the same way, which comforted the two men.  Not far away, and eavesdropping, Terin asked, "Do you think I could get a copy of one of those?"  Zimzod said he'd happily let Terin use his copy.  He didn't mention on his expectations about its effect on Terin's brain.  Not a fan of that idea, Terin finally found a school which would allow him a course the next day for Cr 2,500, and he locked in the class at 9am.

Showing he could actually learn, Terin asked for the time off after he could present a slip for the stent class he had to take.  As all this happened, Munarshu asked Zimzod and Mikah who he had to ask in order to get access to create a pilot and Navigator's station on one of the bridge flight station?  Mikah remembered his resume, and that he was a qualified flight officer and basically trained astrogator.  But Mikah wasn't too sure she wanted him able to man a bridge flight station yet.  She had some 'trust issues' that had to be ironed out.  When Munarshu said engineering was, at least, safe, Mikah tartly said, "Apparently not.  Drunks can sneak right up on you."  When Zimzod said, "He did shoot him" in a supportive tone, Munarshu defensively said, "And took him on the first shot!"  Mikah pointed out, "You didn't hit him square in the center.  That's poor shooting."  and not even Zimzod was gonna step in now Munarshu appeared proud of his sad little act.

When Munarshu said he'd only been off a couple of centimeters, Mikah said "That could make all the difference".  At the same time Aali said, "Needs work" as she mimicked filling out a progress report.  When Munarshu suggested they prop Rol up so Munarshu could get some practice, even Terin jumped in.  This time, he suggested they give Rol a weapon so he could shoot back.  Munarshu finally realized he was going to lose no matter what.  Watching this happen, Inger sat and fuzzed out as she was still feeling some of the effects of the night before.  As this conversation went on, Aali was going over the work done on the androids to see how much they could get done before leaving port.  Thanks to the work done the day before, the one engineering 'droid could be brought to 100%.  One of the housekeepers was fully operational and could be activated "now" with a second that could also be finished by day's end.

With that, Aali pulled Munarshu off his self-appointed research on their flight path and ordered him to work on the 'droids.  With WALL-e and one of the engineering androids working as they began preparing for launch the next day, their work would be a good bit easier.  The rest of the housekeeping 'droids would take a few days each and the remaining repairable engineering 'droid would take over a week itself.  So Aali had Munarshu work on the engineering 'droid while she finished fixing WALL-e.  Outside this, Emkir cut a line directly to the ship's comms to call the shop he'd bought the odds-AI from, hoping to get a refund.  But he ended up spending the time from when they returned until lunch getting exactly nowhere.  He'd bought the software and they had his cash.  Done.  Eventually, they answered his attempts to use Duke Leonard and other logic by telling the Admiral he'd have to pay for hourly support if he wanted them to stay on the line any longer.  Disgusted, Emkir hung up and let his hopes go.

As soon as Mikah had the time, she called Dame Ashlee who appeared very pleased to hear from her.  As Mikah told the knight about the change in schedule, Ashlee let an eyebrow quirk up and asked, "Sudden change of plans?"  Mikah answered, "Apparently" in a tone which may have betrayed a bit more than she wanted as Ashlee's eyebrow rose more and she asked, "Any reason?"  Mikah got control over her emotions as she said "No" and you could almost make out a disappointed tone.  As Mikah continued, "It's just time to go." Ashlee asked, "So I guess we won't see you on the sports networks this weekend?"  Mikah said she wouldn't.  With that, Ashlee said she'd have her two ton cargo on their deck by the next morning.  When Mikah called Aali to get the androids cleaned up, Aali mentioned the gravVehicle parts and other leftovers Sir Brian had left behind.  That reminded Emkir that the University had promised to have the book scans finished in five day's time.

Now, they had to leave in two days and wouldn't be able to receive the scans.  So he made some calls and tried to see how much they could rush?  The answer was that they couldn't, and they'd call him back to make delivery arraignments.  Without any cash or time, Terin looked at the bright side because the only thing he "had to do" was the class the next day.  So he planned on spending time after lunch tracking down 3D printable designs for the planters he hoped to have Aali or Munarshu re-engineer in jump.  Terin hoped to start working on his idea even if he had no money to buy seed-stock or other needs.  Aiden, who'd returned from the Duke ready to chew through nails, went into the bridge to start "very advanced" set ups for those things he might need and grumbling a bit about the still-present "lemon smell".  When Terin asked if he wanted the blow up doll on the bridge, Aiden asked, "Why?  You want to share with Munarshu now?  Are you three a threesome?"

Trying to get ahead of Aiden, Terin said, "Not at all.  I just heard from the rest of the crew you like blow up dolls."  And that got no laughs from nobody...  Aiden took the obvious opening and said, "Well, you're the one in control of it at the moment so it ain't my problem."  Not reacting to what had obviously stuck, Terin said, "No.  It's right behind you in the ship's locker." not realizing simple facts weren't funny by themselves.  Then, Aiden delivered the kill shot, reminding Terin to check with Munarshu first as it was his girl-friend and Munarshu's had taken to shooting people.  That got enough laughs that Terin knew he'd lost and gave up.  Terin changed directions, asking Mikah if there was perhaps any treatment for tranq that might wake Rol up sooner?  Mikah said militaries across known space had been searching for a safe cure since tranq was invented.

Mikah admitted they could reduce the effects safely by setting up a constant transfusion, which would provide clean blood until the system gave up any remaining drugs.  But she also said it would be far more expensive and more effort than Rol was worth.  She admitted it would be interesting to pump him full of "uppers", with the side effects that would cause.  But she didn't have time to be treating him when things went wrong.  When it looked like Terin might come up with some hair-brained ideas, she suggested using his blood.  When he said his blood type might not work, Mikah said it might not matter as she'd drain him dry testing it.  So Terin backed off and they went about the work of getting ready to launch in the 48 hours given them.

Moving On With Moving On

     With everyone except Rol awake, Terin cooked lunch and they sat or relaxed as they ate.  Dragging a seat closer to Inger, Zimzod sat and happily asked, "So, How'd you sleep?"  She suspiciously said she didn't have the night she planned on, and admitted she didn't know what happened.  Leaving the comment hanging as an invitation for explanation.  Zimzod just smirked and said, "Well, you must have drunk too much, because the last I remember you were lying underneath Rol in one of the berth staterooms."  When she asked, "What?!" Zimzod just shrugged and suggested she learn to hold her alcohol.  Inger was told Terin put her in the stateroom and Zimzod put Rol in with her, so that was one question answered.  But when she asked more questions, Zimzod would only leer at her.  And it didn't seem he knew why she had lost consciousness in the first place.  But what she did get squared with what Aali had told her, though it also did not explain what happened to the buttons on her blouse either?

After lunch, Terin went into the bridge to make sure his nav-station settings were correct and do a basic set of queries for data on the Equus system.  This included pulling the generic data any major port provided free of charge to out-bound ships.  His read on the Equus was a "B" class port system with highport providing access to a water-covered world with few island land masses.  While the port systems were safely managed by the Starport Authority, the world government was a "Feudal Technocracy", run by a dictator known as "the Trade Dictator".  The stability of the system was based on the continued consolidation of the Rugerio Family, who rose to take power in 1110 during the closing moves of the Fifth Frontier War.

While the system had sent volunteers to fight with Imperial forces in the Third Frontier War, the current population were an unknown.  Especially since most of the volunteers were lost in vicious fighting during the Battle of Porozlo.  They could get everything they needed safely at the port or scoop from the system's two gas giants.  But they could also ask permission to scoop from the world's oceans.  That would be the least favored option, forcing them to deal with the world government.  And the population largely lived in and under the sea while harvesting it's wealth from under-sea archologies.  The world also shared the oceans with a population of Tursiops galacti ( uplifted dolphins ).  Of course, the port and the world were two different locations, especially on the highport.  And the SPA ran things on the ports.

With that basic information, Terin turned to Mikah asking how they wanted to handle refueling?  Mikah made it clear she wanted to scoop fuel in order to save cash.  Thanking her, Terin turned to the charts to figure out which gas giant would be the best to target with his navigational plot?  What he found, as he examined the system schematics, was that the main star was large enough that a jump could only be made to the distance of the fourth orbit, occupied by the mainworld.  From that distance, the ship could spend roughly 5.25 days flying in-system to refuel at the gas giant.  Terin also made notes on a possible pirate point using the combined gravities of the star, gas giant and potentially all five moons.  That was gonna be some 'fun math' but that many orbital bodies meant there should be a chance to get in close and save time.

An obvious option was to overstock on food in Rhylanor before the jump, to spend nearly 14 days just making a run on the gas giant to refuel.  The second tactic would be to visit the main port either before or after visiting the gas giant.  This would let them buy food and consumables, and take as little as ten days.  Finally, Terin could use a pirate point, either on arrival to or departure from the gas giant, to shave days off either of the above plans.  A good alignment of the moons could allow a jump in or out within a day or two of the gas giant.  Of course, if they visited the main port, they could buy seafood at low cost.  Some basic math suggested the configurations of the moons might save them up to two days, depending on when they tried for a pirate point?  But that had to be better locked down.  Of course, with the Equus system being a "main feeder route" to the Rhylanor system, there were also bound to be patrols out looking for people using pirate points.

Other things to consider would be the need to spend a week doing engineering resets.  As Terin worked, Munarshu and Aali spent the time working on the androids, fixing them and clearing space for cargo in the bay.  Aiden worked on the bridge until he was satisfied, then secured that space and relaxed with one of his handgun weapons.  After Mikah finished with Dame Ashlee, she checked on Rol but he was still out cold.  Then, Mikah began a survey of the supplies they needed to restock before launch.  Arriving in-system on the 293rd day, they had been in-system for just more than two weeks.  But given the parties and times they'd eaten out, Mikah found they had to replace about 10 days food.  Despite planning to refuel from the gas giant, Mikah consider hitting the main highport to buy cheap seafood.  Despite those thoughts, Mikah decided to stock up in Rhylanor and hang the expense.

Hitting a terminal, Mikah did some shopping and figured it would cost the ship Cr 2,000 to stock up with the food they preferred.  That came out of ship's funds, which still had over MCr 1 to cover the barest hint of any emergency.  When the caterers asked, Mikah said they should deliver the next day in the morning as she also expected Dame Ashlee's cargo then.  Certain he wasn't getting his FGMP, Zimzod called the tattooed man who said he could deliver his cargo that night.  Zimzod got the same response from Baron Sir Kelslundtb too.  As he set things up with them and went through all the details, Zimzod explained the crew's cunning plan to smuggle the tattooed man's cargo into the D'Ganzio system.  He was just getting off the comms, at nearly 3pm, as Rol began to wake up.

When he woke, Rol remembered having felt worse at some point recently.  He also saw he had an IV line run to his wrist and a very bright pink band-aide with a children's animated character on it covering some kind of wound on his chest.  Thinking, "That can't be good", he realized he was in the ship's med-bay with no idea how he got there.  Rol remembered waking up on top of Inger's nearly nude body, which was essentially clad in the "bikini" of her bra and panties.  He also recalled deciding to go back to his stateroom after trying to re-dress her sleeping body.  Beyond that, things got...fuzzy.  Looking out of the Med-bay, Rol saw Mikah had seen his movements.  Zimzod, Terin and Aiden were also in the space, concentrating on other things.  And Inger, having changed to a ship's suit, was watching vids.  Emkir's voice could be heard as he was apparently trying to convince someone to buy some software he was sure could help them make money.

Being behind in events, Rol wasn't aware they were leaving and Emkir was trying to make back some part of his investment in the "odds-bot" by selling it to the officers he'd convinced to bet against the bookies.  This was after he told them he had to leave Rhylanor early.  They made it clear they'd place Emkir's bet for him too.  So having gone out when Emkir wanted the software and coming back without a context for selling made for Rol's added confusion.  Aali and Munarshu were not visible or able to be heard.  Deciding to push the envelope, Rol tried to stand and found he could, but was very unsteady on that score.  Once he was up, Rol asked, "What's going on?" before groaning a bit.  Without missing a heartbeat, Mikah said, "We're leaving."  At the same time, Inger stood and asked, "What did you do to me?"  That caught Rol completely by surprise as he asked, "Huh?  What..." and she approached him from across the lounge.

Once she got closer to him Inger said, "I understand from the others that you woke up on top of me.  And when I woke, my top was not correctly buttoned, so what did you do to me last night?"  As Rol repeated "Last night", he could see some levels of anger and even betrayal in her eyes as she waited for his answer.  Pausing to steady himself again, Rol said, "Last I remember last night, I was drinking with Emkir.  Annnnd, I think I won."  At that point, the others in the compartment broke out laughing as both Terin and Mikah assured Rol he had not won.  All this was overridden by Emkir crowing, "Noooo, you didn't" in a very self-satisfied tone despite his on-going call.  The loud comment was not a kind thing to do to any of those with hangovers.

After wincing, Rol continued, "I didn't, or don't think I did anything after that."  After a pause to think, he continued, "I think I woke up.  And, I guess I was...  Well, Yeah.  I was on top of you.  That's right.  But I don't know how I got there."  As Inger tried to figure out what to do next, she turned to the others saying, "If Rol lost, how did we end up in bed together?"  And since she was mostly facing Emkir's direction as she said it, Mikah sparked up, "Yeah Emkir?" in an accusatory tone.  Zimzod sat swallowing his giggles as Emkir could only stand there speechless.  He could really only remember that he beat Rol in the contest.  He could only assume his wife poured him into bed afterwards.  As this happened, Terin, who had most of the cards and could play them, was sure he didn't want the Captain and First officer pissed off at him.  So he kept his mouth shut and let the situation stew, earning himself some part of the blame for how things would work out.

Grasping at memories, Emkir said he vaguely remembered someone hauling Rol off somewhere and thought they'd done the same with Inger at some point.  Aiden threw in the comment that after Rol collapsed he was in no condition to do anything to anyone, including Inger.  As he finished that Terin agreed, "Both you guys were passed out pretty hard."  Inger's look went from accusatory to frustrated.  Rol grabbed onto that, turing to Terin and saying "Oh.  So you saw both of us?"  Terin half-heartedly said, "I was at the party, wasn't I?"  Rol pushed further, saying, "After we passed out." in a tone that made it clear he expected more.  When Terin gave in and admitted, "Yeah", Rol continued, "You know I'm good at getting answers when I want them." without bothering to hide the threat.  At that, Aiden planted his forehead in his palm as he stifled his response, which was not surprise.

Aiden mumbled, "And he got shot too", which took the weight slightly off Terin as Rol looked to the bandage and then at Aiden.  He slurred, "Yeah" and continued, "I remember that now." as Inger tried to figure out if she was still asleep and just having a very bad nightmare?  Hoping to have some way provided to escape the situation, Terin jumped up saying, "Oh Yeah!  Yeah!  Come here guys.  Read this report.  This is great!"  And moving forward, they first read Munarshu's report of shooting Rol.  Then they were treated to the video of Rol staggering across the berth and reminded "that" snuck up on Munarshu.  As Inger watched, she began to understand why no one thought he'd molested her, though a part of her still wasn't comforted.  Zimzod crowed the video was "fuckin' hilarious" as he sat enjoying the afternoon's entertainment.

Turning to Mikah, Rol pointed to the bandage and asked, "Do I really need this?" and she admitted he didn't.  As Rol ripped it from his chest, they were all treated to what knew was a tranq dart wound.  Mikah said he should leave the IV in until the bag drained, but it was mostly done already.  Catching up on some of the things he was told, Rol said, "So what's going on again?"  Mikah again said, "We're leaving.  We have 45 hours to leave."  When Rol asked, "Was that because of the party?" Terin said, "No.  The party was the good part."  Emkir agreed, "The party was great!"  Rol considered that and then said, "I'm going to go get cleaned up then." and pointed in the direction of his stateroom as he moved off in that direction.  Having dealt with all she could at the moment, Inger went to her stateroom too.

As Inger left, Zimzod joked, "At least this time there was no Vargr hair involved." and Mikah laughed.  As he cleaned up in his stateroom, Aiden called Rol and told him TAS would be delivering electronic classes for them to use to learn about their stents.  This was added to the gestalt of events swirling in his mind from what he was told to the events he remembered from the morning.  Including a very pleasing handful of Inger's breast and some of the arousing thoughts that had sparked.  Rol relaxed there until it was dinner time and Mikah picked up her comms and called him to come out and cook.  When Rol answered, Mikah asked "What are you making for dinner?" and Rol said, "Dinner."  Not liking how he sounded, Mikah changed her mind and told him she'd decided they would order food delivered and told Rol she'd ordered a restock of their food supplies.

Dinner And Evening Distractions

     Ordering food cost Mikah Cr 60, and that arrived quickly enough.  When Rol and Inger both came out of their staterooms to eat, Terin made them tea from his dwindling supplies.  Both wanted to know what was in the tea before they drank, and Terin said "Nothing alcoholic".  As that settled, the berth comms buzzed and Mikah gave Terin the cash to receive their food delivery.  But when Terin got down in the berth, he saw a man in a suit waiting at the entrance.  As Terin hit his comms, he said to those in the ship, "This doesn't look like the pizza guy."  When Mikah asked, "What does it look like?" Terin answered, "Some guy in a suit."  Arriving at the berth entrance, Terin asked, "Hello, can I help you?"

The man identified himself as a courier for TAS, and Terin knew what the man was about as he opened the berth entrance.  As the man stepped in, he said he had deliveries for Sir's Rol, Zimzod and Aiden.  When Terin asked if he needed to sign anything, the man said he'd prefer they signed for their packets himself, asking if they were each available?  Terin called into the ship saying the men needed to be sent down and Mikah said they'd be down.  Looking up from her comms, Mikah announced to the men, "Your brains are here!"  As Terin led the TAS man into the berth, Zimzod Aiden and the corpse formerly known as Rol went to meet them.  As they met in the cargo bay, the berth's entrance comms went off again and Terin went to receive their dinner order again.

This time, as Terin got to the berth, he saw a bunch of cargo mover types standing around a loaded gravPallet.  Calling back into the ship, Terin said, "Still not the pizza guy.  This looks like one of our cargo deliveries."  Mikah said "Alright" and sent Aali down to manage the delivery as Terin greeted the crew and asked for their paperwork.  Opening the berth entrance, Terin was given a datapad and saw this was Dame Ashlee's cargo, which they didn't expect until the next morning.  He told Mikah and she was surprised as Terin reviewed the seals, certifications and customs forms.  Terin saw it was going to a "Rafehi Thana" in the D'Ganzio system.  As the TAS man prepared to leave, Mikah looked up Mr. Thana and found he was the CEO of all Instel-Arms operations in that system.  That was significant, given how much the corporation did through that system.

As Aali arrived to sign for and supervise the delivery, she called Munarshu to make sure the androids had been cleared enough to start receiving the cargoes.  Terin told her they could just shove the 2 dTon container off to the side and move it in once they were ready to organize the cargo bay.  Aali knew they had two androids which could be activated and sent on their duties to clear space.  Other spare parts had been moved into the hulled out body of the first stripped engineering android, so they could all be moved in an organized fashion.  But Aali agreed they could set the cargo just outside the ship as they got organized.  At the same time, Emkir got a call from the university to set up getting the scans to the ship.

The only answer they could offer would be to ship the scans as high density data, by x-mail, to them in the D'Ganzio system.  That would cost Cr 1,000 to do, but the scans would ironically arrive at D'Ganzio before the ship did.  So Emkir eventually agreed to pay the cost to ship the data.  They then confirmed the transfer plans to put the books on hold with an auction house, as they'd decided.  And as this was being organized, the food finally arrived.  As Terin dealt with that, he paying the Cr 60 from Mikah and included a Cr 10 tip himself.  He then moved the food up to the lounge as Aali and Munarshu finished with Dame Ashlee's cargo.

Ashlee's cargo was soon set in the berth until they were ready to organize the cargo bay and everyone was in the ship's lounge having pizza.  As Munarshu and Rol met gazes, the engineer said, "I'm so sorry" in a tone that suggested he really was.  Rol just said, "You need training" in a disapproving tone.  What he really wanted to do was get up, grab the man by the hand inflicting a huge amount of pain as he bent the engineer over and demanded, "You needed a gun for this??" as he pointed to the joke of a wound.  Munarshu repeated, "I'm so sorry.  You startled me", after which Mikah snapped, "Now he startled you?".  She had read his report and knew he claimed to have heard someone moving and had time to ready his shot behind a bank of equipment.  At least, that was how he wrote it.  Zimzod only shook his head saying, "Not just snuck up on but startled" in a tone that suggested he could only use Munarshu as sealant for a hull leak.  As Aiden quipped, "That's sad", Munarshu said, "I was so deep into what I was doing.  By the way, the ship's engines are ready to go."

Aali said that determination was the Chief Engineer's job to make, not the junior engineer's.  When she said she would check Munarshu's work, he replied "be my guest" in a way that, if continued, was going to get him shoved out an air lock.  Not buying the 'too deep in what I was doing' excuse, Rol made sure Munarshu knew he'd be a lot more quiet the next time.  Aiden added, "And a lot more awake", expecting a planned raid to happen sooner rather than later.  Aali simply suggested they arm Munarshu with a rubber-tipped dart gun from then on.  Rol nodded and said, "Won't save him."  When Inger quoted law, saying, "It is the Captain's prerogative to allow crew to be armed aboard ship", Mikah said "Everyone's allowed except Munarshu."  The engineer countered that he was always up first and claimed to be the lightest sleeper but that was ignored.

With that order given, Munarshu stripped the rounds from his snub pistol as he stood and moved to the ship's locker to secure the weapon and ammunition.  As he moved, Rol asked, "One question.  How many tranq rounds are in that weapon?" and Munarshu said, "Standard load.  Twenty" as if there could be no other answer.  When Rol asked if there were only tranq rounds in the weapon, Munarshu said, "In this one" with a tone that was confirming.  Rol nodded and said, "I just wondered if you checked before you fired?" and Munarshu said, "Yes.  I keep this one loaded with tranq rounds but I do keep other weapons loaded differently."  Accepting that, Rol suggested Munarshu work with him to improve his marksmanship and, since he could no longer be armed on the ship, with some unarmed combat too.  Rol asked the engineer if he'd ever done that and Munarshu said he had.  Rol echoed, "Yeah? Let's find out."  Rol then speculated about all the time they'd have in jump space to "practice".

After dinner, Rol and Inger both rested and recovered more, in different compartments.  Rol crashed in his stateroom after two hours reading and Inger crashed in hers.  Rol set his alarm for 6am.  After that, the crew split up with Aali trailed by Munarshu as she spot checked his work and checked the ship's diagnostic reports.  As things panned out, Aali muttered, "At least he did that right."  That done, Aali certified to Mikah that the ship's engines were ready to go.  After that, she and Munarshu worked on the androids and Aali got Wall-e 100% operational.  Munarshu finished up another housekeeping 'droid and concentrated on the second engineering android.  As a result, they could devote all next day to getting another engineering android up and running too, and Emkir could spend the jump swapping software between 'droids to make them all 100%.

Knowing his bridge configurations were set, Aiden was free to try to relax as he imagined all the many ways the Duke might use his power to bring them down before they could leave the system.  Still, he managed to read some as the rest of the ship went about their business or recovered.  Terin was in the same boat as Aiden.  His station was set up on the bridge and he had done all the work he could until he had real data to work with.  So, Terin decided to head down to engineering and offer to help.  He admitted he had none of the skills they needed but said he could fetch and lend hands where needed.  Terin also knew computers, so he could help Emkir.  After the day she had, Mikah needed to just veg out and watched vids with Zimzod.

Eventually, both the Baron's and the Tattooed man's cargoes arrived and were settled.  The Baron's cargo was loaded directly into the X-mail safe and the other set next to Dame Ashlee's cargo until they organized the cargo bay the next day.  When Aiden finally racked out, he set his alarm for 8am.  Munarshu set his for his usual 5am and Aali made sure their alarm was set for 7am.  Mikah decided she and Zimzod would get up when they got up, without an alarm and they went into Zimzod's stateroom for the night.  Inger's alarm was set for 8am and Terin set his for 7am so he would have the time needed to go to his class.  Rol's alarm was set for 6, so he could get up to do breakfast.


The Morning Between Crisis And Prank

     As usual, Munarshu woke at 5am and was in the lounge by ~5:40 am, grabbing a cup of caff and going below decks to work in engineering.  Before working on the androids, Munarshu chose to run yet another pre-flight check of the ship's systems, heedless of the damage constant start/stop activities could create in electronic circuits.  That, and breakfast, would take a few hours before he got to his assigned tasks.  As Munarshu worked, Rol woke and did his morning routine, feeling much better than the day before.  At nearly the same time, Mikah woke up, entangled in Zimzod, and realized it was minutes after 6am.  Disgusted at the time, she said screw it and went back to sleep.  By 6:30, Rol was out in the lounge starting on breakfast.  As he worked, Rol considered opening a comms link to the engineering spaces so he could whisper, "look behind you" in a horror-vid style.

Having been out of it the day before, Rol decided to cook something special and defrosted some of their stock of berries to make pancakes and meat.  He considered making something more special for Inger, but didn't know what she liked?  He didn't know, but planned to find out later.  Ironically, his pancakes were very similar to what Terin cooked the morning before.  Terin appeared unshaven and in a shipsuit as the food was ready.  But it was obvious he'd at least showered.  As he looked at the pancakes and smirked, Terin said, "pancakes again" in a neutral tone.  Rol looked up as Terin continued, "That's cool.  Thank you Rol."  As the navigator served himself, he said, "I made them yesterday".  Rol answered, "I have no memory of that."  As Rol got into cleaning the galley and Terin started to eat, they were soon joined by Aali and Emkir.  As the couple looked at the laid out food, Rol said "I know we haven't had these in a while but I figured I'd make something special."

While Aali nodded, Emkir asked, "What do you mean we haven't had these in a while?  We had them yesterday."  Rol answered, "People need to tell me these things" and Terin said he did.  Rol growled, "Before I start making them."  Things settled as the couple served themselves and then went below decks.  Emkir would work on managing software for the 'droids and Aali worked on repairs and stowing those androids that wouldn't be finished before they launched.  She planned to get the one additional engineering 'droid working.  This was slightly hampered as calls started coming in.  Now that the port had listed them on the departure schedule, many small or dedicated businesses who called to sell the crew any number of possible needs or services.  As the most senior officer awake, Aali told those not handling engineering work to handle the calls.

Terin finished eating and called a cab, leaving for his class.  After arriving, he signed in and participated in the class learning the basics of his stent.  While the three others in the class had waited a week since their surgery as advised, and some more, Terin didn't have the time.  Terin did come to appreciate all the back-end set up work needed to include each of the students in the class.  The class continued to the middle of the afternoon and Terin had to admit the face to face method was very valuable.  A large part of the class value was the push, by the instructors, for every student to make some sort of neurological contact with a computer port.  Still, As Terin first sat down and was issued his e-workbook and starting instructions, he had to wonder what the hefty price tag was about beyond the rush to set up a station for him?

At 7:30am, Mikah woke again, and this time for good.  After 20 min trying to get back to sleep again, she went to her stateroom to get ready for the day.  By 8:30, Mikah was eating breakfast as Aiden and Inger were getting themselves ready in their staterooms.  Mikah was updated as she ate that all cargoes had been delivered and were ready to be loaded.  All projects were being packed up or finished.  The only person off-ship was Terin, who'd left for his stent class.  At roughly T-24 hours, Mikah felt like going to visit some museums as she dressed.  Mikah called over to wake Zimzod up and make sure he was ready to come with her.  After getting ready and eating breakfast, Mikah told the crew they would be off ship for the day and hopped a cab to spend about Cr 200, including lunch.

Once done cleaning up, Rol called Instel-Arms to ask about a set of sealed combat armor.  The clerk said the basic cost for a suit would be KCr 30 and adjustments were thrown in to adjust the suit to fit him more perfectly.  When Rol asked how long that would take, they said he could come to them that afternoon and have the finished suit delivered that evening.  Rol bought the suit,making an advanced payment and got a code to present when he arrived.  Then, Rol would be brought right to the technicians working on the armor.  After that call, Rol told Mikah where he would be in case he was needed.  After breakfast, Aiden set aside the entire day to start taking the stent class delivered by TAS.

As Rol made his plans, Inger left her stateroom and, finding him the only person in the lounge, asked, "So, what exactly happened?"  Rol noted that she kept some distance from him even in the lounge, which wasn't large.  Rol answered, "As I said, I don't remember very much but I woke up and, ah, we were on the same bed, there.  And, um, you were...  Well, some of your clothes weren't where they should be so I tried to cover you up and make sure you were decent."  Inger nodded, with an expression that said she'd like to break something but didn't know what?  She reluctantly asked, "How indecent was I?"  Deciding to spare her as much as he could, Rol told Inger her blouse had been partly undone.  He added, "I wish I could tell you what happened, and I am wondering that myself.  But I guess those who know don't want to tell us yet."

Nodding, Inger asked if Rol had any idea who the ones that knew were?  She didn't say she'd done her best to see if anything "physically intimate" had happened?  From the state of her body, she was pretty sure that had not happened, which didn't mean she was letting anyone off the hook.  Rol continued," Let's see.  I can think of a few people who are off the list, but there's enough people on list.  I'm going to do some investigating."  Accepting that she was making progress, and Rol seemed to be honest in his feelings about what happened, Inger asked, "So who's off the list?"  Rol considered as he said, "Well, I'm pretty sure Aali wouldn't do something like that.  And, ah...  I don't know.  It depends.  The obvious candidate, Munarshu... He has other things he has to be worried about so he wouldn't come clean.  The rest of the crew, I'm not sure about."

Inger also recalled that Aali was certain Emkir hadn't been involved.  Since Rol found her credible, that meant his judgment had to include the Admiral as off list too.  Especially if he'd been as 'three sheets to the wind' as suggested, though a drunk could do some strange things too.  As she considered this, Rol reviewed other events he'd faced, where the guilty party wasn't so clean cut and easy to find.  He especially remembered when Sir Brian was dyed blue, as well as the "team effort" that dyed Zimzod red.  So while it would be easy to jump to a conclusion, the right answer required investigation.  Rol told Inger, "I'm not ruling out anyone I think had good cause to be involved.  And I have not had much time yet to work on this, but I will investigate."  Giving the sort of nod one must when there wa nothing else they could do, Inger simply told Rol, "We'll see."  Inger then sparked up the comms to call the port and check in with some of her friends, discussing "last day in port options".

As she worked in the cargo bay, Aali had reviewed the plans the crew made and decided that she wanted a bit more in the way of spare ammo as they went out onto the bleeding edge of the Imperium.  Calling Instel-Arms, she ordered 20 more 40-Round Gauss Rifle magazines for Cr 600.  She then ordered 500 round boxes of ball ammo for her snub pistol for Cr 750.  For Emkir, she ordered 500 rounds boxed ball ammo for his 9mm at Cr 550 and then 200 rounds of boxed ball ammo for his rifle at Cr 220.  After the order was totaled, the Instel-Arms tech promised to have the it delivered quickly.  At the same time, Munarshu just kept his head down and worked.  With Mikah and Zimzod off the ship doing museums, Aiden relaxed as he could and either watched vids, watched the news or read.  Inger soon had a car arrive from the port to go have lunch with friends.  So when lunch time came, Rol cooked for those still aboard before heading to Instel-Arms for his armor.

Shortly before lunch was served, the Instel-Arms driver arrived with Aali's ammo order and Rol invited him to have lunch before the knight grabbed a ride to Instel-Arms, saving cab fare.  Once there, Rol's concierge had the expected cart waiting and asked what else they might help him with?  Joking, Rol asked about chairs for interrogation and managed to get what he thought was a surprised "what?" from her before he apologized and said it was a joke.  The rep still did her best to give Rol general categories of not only furniture but everything else that was related to those means of interrogation which were legal in the Imperium.  She didn't get far before he waved her off that subject.  As they rode, Rol asked about the authorizations needed in the Imperium to own and use Battledress?  The concierge said that, in the Imperium, one would petition the Imperial Navy for permission to own the suit.  Once that was done, one only needed the cash to buy a suit.

Sensing a chance to massively increase her commission, she did point out that it was often easier for someone to get permission to own a suit they already had.  Perhaps, recovered from outside the Imperium?  Rol already knew that Instel-Arms had many facilities outside the empire's borders and wouldn't at all be surprised if they had a suit here in their Rhylanor facility that qualified.  The concierge said that all Rol would need was the proper purchase paperwork on such a suit to approach the Navy.  She then covered some scenarios where the knights could visit Instel-Arms in a system outside the borders, after visiting D'Ganzio, and return with a battledress suit and the proper paperwork.  Rol agreed he could do that if a chance to make the cash presented itself.  As Rol considered that, she made sure her name was in the files in the event Rol changed his mind during that visit.  But Rol didn't change his order and after he was done being fitted, he caught a cab back to the ship by mid-afternoon.

At 3pm, Terin's class was done as he took the pills provided by the school before he hopped a cab back to the ship.  While he wouldn't know it unless she compared notes with him, Terin had gotten to a point in one class that took Aali a week to achieve on her own.  He also pushed to ask as many questions as he could, which the instructors handled as any long term professional would.  Shutting him down when he disrupted their balance with the other student's needs.  Still, they also handed him an e-book with a lot more to read up on and some exercises.  And since the class goal had been to connect to the port on the e-book, he was already steps into achieving those tasks.  Still, the TAS courses were likely to be of better overall quality and Terin wondered if he'd be able to get access to their courseware?  Once back at the ship, Terin went through his emails and said 'so long' to his contacts until dinner.  He also saved any files for projects he couldn't act on.


Dinner And Departure Plans

     As Rol cooked dinner and the others returned to the ship, Aiden said he'd planned to wake at 8am, depending on when they planned to leave port?  He called Mikah to ask that question, since she and Zimzod hadn't returned from dinner.  When she said, "As soon as possible", Terin asked, "What time do we need to lift?" referring to the timing in the Duke's order.  As they discussed what 'in forty eight hours' meant, they decided it would be good enough if they left before noon.  Aali said she'd gotten all the android parts she'd ordered and all the spare gravVehicle and other parts Sir Brian left behind were secured.  Those with stents said they needed to finish their first scans so Zimzod called TAS.  Aali also said she'd call bulk buyers of parts that evening.

For their last night in port, Rol cooked a special mac and cheese with pepper recipe for the crew.  Since she had some time, Aali began checking bulk parts buyers and started making calls even as chow was served.  Soon enough, she had three fims who wanted to send inspectors to the berth to see just how valuable the parts were?  One favor Sir Brian had done the ship was to break the gravCar down to its parts so a buyer interested in their value wouldn't have to pay that cost.  That was needed before any of them would give Aali an offer.  Aiden joked, "Tell them to come ready to make an offer and haul the lot away."  Terin suggested Aali get them to come at the same time so they could haggle, but she didn't have control over the buyers.  Aali had to finish her calls and be ready for the inspectors.  Aiden and Emkir started making plans for the flight out the next day.

After dinner, Inger spent time connecting with those friends she had not been able to hang out with that day due to schedules.  As she did that, Terin planned to dive into a last minute search to price the gel for his hydroponics project.  But the buzzer at the berth's entrance rang first and Terin was sent to check that out.  When he got to the berth entrance, he saw a group of big burley men waiting.  Asking, one of the men told Terin they were there to inspect the parts the ship's engineer called about.  Realizing this was for Aali, Terin called her to deal with the men and planned to head back to the lounge.  Figuring the parts were in the berth, Terin let the crew in, and led them to the stored parts, figuring he'd meet Aali on the way.  Once she was there to deal with the men, Terin decided to hang around to watch and annoy her as he got in the way.

As Aali led the men through the piles, she had to explain the gravCar deal and the scavenged parts from the android Brian had been given by the salvagers.  They started looking things over and pulled out hand-scanners which identified as much as they could about any of the parts they could scan well enough.  There was everything from possible uses of the parts to the elemental make-up of the pieces if they were melted down.  They did ask for a list of what parts they had in the lot?  Aali was relieved to have a list, left behind by Brian as he had tried to develop price expectations for the gear.  Of course, as Aali explained the events which might have affected the parts, from the attack to multiple moves and flights to and from Mora, she tried to be as general as she could.  Still, she had their complete attention as the berth buzzer went off again.

Aali responded to this one, seeing this salvager arrived with a vehicle to haul his purchases in.  Of course, the first team of men weren't real happy to see they had competition as Aali let the second team in.  And while Aali didn't really care, it very quickly became obvious there was a history between the two groups.  Re-explaining the situation to the new arrivals, and throwing in that they had to leave the system 'on a mission for Duke Leonard', Aali soon had the second team up to speed as they began to assess the parts.  She also used that as a chance to say the crew did not have much time so if one of them wanted the parts, they needed to make an offer 'now'.  Using the details she had given him against her the leader of the first team started asking about likely damage in a tactic to drive the other team's interest down.

Recognizing the tactic, Aali got a comms as she tried to answer him.  She found the call was the third team.  That crew begged off as they couldn't make it due to circumstances beyond their control.  So there were two.  Aali returned to the two crews, reminding them the ship just wanted to get rid of the parts.  Still, she did try her best, asking if either of them wanted to advance a bid?  Aali was pleased when they actually did, with the first bid at KCr 16 and the second at 20.  Aali liked the KCr 20 but wanted to give the first man a chance to better his bid.  When the first guy upped his bid to KCr 21, Aali had the opinion he was just shimming to get the second man to spend more money.  If so, the tactic failed.  The second man was happy to make the first pay more and loose that much profit.  As the looser headed for his truck to leave, the winner paid his cash into the ship's accounts and called for a truck to pick up the lot.  That done, Aali sized up the salvager with the truck before he left.  Aali thought he was tall and thin enough and asked, "Have you ever considered the need for combat armor?"

This question was an odd enough to get his attention and he asked what she had in mind?  Completing the deal with the one guy, Aali said they had a suit might fit him well and also said they had a very modern vacc suit cut for the same person.  Having the man's interest, she offered him Zach's armor and the vacc suit, though without the PLSS.  Aali felt a spare PLSS was a good thing to have on hand.  The man offered them Cr 20,000 for the items, which was the same he'd offered for the parts.  When Terin muttered that was not even half the value, Aali tried to use Terin's annoyance as a lever.  But as Terin asked, "How about KCr 25", the man just looked him up and down with a "what the fuck are you doing opening your mouth" look.  So Terin suddenly had to make this man realize his position as Aali played him up, making sure the man heard her address him as "Sir Terin".

Terin worked to establish himself in the salvager's eyes as something more than an interrupting annoyance ashe talked about the value of the deal.  He pointed out the man could easily sell the suits for a fair profit if he couldn't use them.  Guessing right, Terin thought the man wanted the suits for personal use.  So the man considered the words of a man he'd realized was a Knight and decided KCr 25 was a good enough price.  Closing the deal after the first man paid for the parts and left, Terin went to get the salvager the suit as the other paid for the vacc suit and armor, loading them into his truck before he left too.  Aali then called Mikah to let her know about the deals as Mikah got the second payment alert on her comms for the account.

Talking about the deals, Aali and Terin realized they could sell Zach's customized gauss rifle to Instel-Arms.  While they wouldn't pay top dollar, the weapon was customized and selling it would be difficult at best.  As they talked, and went over a list of Zach's gear provided by Mikah, they agreed to call Instel-Arms to sell the rifle, but keep the more generic hand weapons Zach left behind.  Once they called Instel-Arms, there was an offer for Cr 700 after they'd tested the weapon, to make sure it worked.  Aali felt the half-value offer seemed typical of salvage offers when Terin scoffed.  Aali said the deal was acceptable and they agreed to send a buyer to pick up the weapon and a representative from the ship to bring it to their ranges to test.

Having work to do, Aali nominated Terin to escort the weapon.  Then she went back to her work as Terin went back to the lounge for the half-hour until Instel-Arms arrived.  In that time, Terin worked to find out if the gel he planned to use for his hydroponics would be cheaper in the Rhylanor system, due to the locally advanced tech.  Sadly, after half an hour's investigation, he found there was enough demand for it in this system that the amount he planned to use would cost him Cr 1,000!  And that was enough to convince him not to shop in Rhylanor, though he did have a price for comparison.  Then his ride arrived and it was time to leave.  Of course, the buyer in the back seat was none other than Terin's personal concierge.

During the ride to the range, the concierge asked Terin about the weapon's history, ownership and why the crew were selling it?  Under the circumstances, Aali couldn't have chosen better as Terin really didn't know the answer to many of the questions.  So he could feign ignorance on many more.  Still, Terin did use what he knew about Zach to make up some answers to satisfy her.  And when she heard the weapon belonged to Sir Zachariah Wood, Terin noted an additional sparkle in her eyes.  She realized this wasn't just any gauss rifle she already had an agreement of Cr 700 on.  As she contemplated her bonus for this deal, they arrived via a special entrance that brought them right to the ranges.  There, a sharp shooter was waiting.

The marksman fired a few early rounds before looking at the weapon confused.  After examining the weapon and then firing a few more rounds, the man asked if the weapon was custom made for Sir Zachariah?  At this point, Terin played the innocent completely even as the sparkle in his concierge's eyes hardened.  But the weapon still worked, so the Cr 700 agreement was good.  After the marksman took the weapon for cleaning, storage and appraisal the concierge took Terin to a station to pay the ship's accounts.  Then, she provided Terin a ride back to the ship's berth.  During that ride, Terin called the ship and suggested they stop at the Order's facilities on the station to pay their respects since they were leaving the next day.  Aali agreed that would be a good idea and suggested they wait until Mikah and Zimzod returned from their dinner out.

All One Dysfunctional Crew Again

     After a day hitting museums, Mikah and Zimzod had decided to eat out that night rather than return to her crew.  They ended up spending Cr 150 on dinner for two in a reasonably up-scale but middle of the road place.  After relaxing there, the couple eventually returned to the ship around 7:30pm.  As they returned to the berth, the rest of the crew explained Terin's suggestion and Mikah asked why they wanted to go out in an annoyed voice.  Mikah figured she could get more coffee if they visited the Order's offices.  And Zimzod was thinking the same thing as Terin wondered what the big deal was?  Soon the entire crew were ready to go.  Everyone except Munarshu.  That didn't stop Mikah trying to get him to pay their cab-fare.  Eventually Rol agreed to pay and a vehicle was called so they could get moving.

After they arrived and signed in, they said they were paying their respects as they were preparing to leave.  As they checked in and explained, they were asked to wait for a bit.  And while they waited, Zimzod got a call from TAS, wanting to set up the brain scans for him, Aiden and Rol.  As Zimzod listened, the representative said TAS wanted to pick the three up at 9am the next day, at the ship, and then return them at 10:30.  When Mikah heard they planned to do the job over an hour's time, she joked that it wouldn't take nearly that long.  When Terin said their plans were to leave at 11am, they all knew it was a tight fit.  But with apologies from TAS for the issues, they agreed to the plans, figuring they could beg the port to delay their actual lift.  So the agreement was made and they went back to waiting.

Soon after that, the door finally opened and one of the Knights asked, "Lady Mikah.  Will you please accompany us?"  Not sure what was going on, Mikah agreed and followed the men.  As the others were left behind, Mikah was led into a room where it appeared the Primary of the Order was waiting to meet her, as he had happened to be on-site.  Another Knight present, Knight Commander Baron Sir Akamke Ubum Iikimkhirsa Trekera was the man who they'd met when they were first elevated to the Order.  He was the lead Knight in the Order in the Rhylanor system.  It appeared he had come up from the planet to meet the Primary and just happened to be meeting when Mikah and her crew arrived.  The Primary decided he would like to meet Mikah and talk with her to get a feel for her.

As she was invited to sit, they made it clear they not only knew the crew were leaving the system but the real reason why they were leaving.  They also suggested the crew had been a subject of research for them and they'd learned a great deal about them.  Despite that, they wondered what Mikah's short term objectives were?  Mikah suggested they wanted to start a business using the ship for hauling high-value parcels.  They then asked about Mikah's flight plan and the weeks it would take, passing through the Rabwhar system just before jumping to the D'Ganzio system.  They also made it clear that somethings happening in the Rabwhar system could be "seen to have happened" outside the Imperium.  They said that knowledge could be helpful or a problem depending on who was viewing events.

When Mikah accepted that and asked, "What, exactly, are you getting at", the Primary said "We're getting at nothing.  We just thought you might find this information interesting.  Not to mention that many of the Scouts in the Rabwhar system are very dedicated to watching the Sword Worlds.  A mission that no longer existed there, since the formation of the Border Worlds.  Many of the rest of the scouts have been sent to that system because...  Well, let's say they behaved the way your crew does but they were still in the service.  So it will depend on who you run into to determine what you can accomplish in that system.  But it's not a vacation spot."  The last was said with a bit of a smile.  Mikah flatly said, "We're not looking for a vacation spot." and the Primary said, "Oh!  We know that", again smiling, "Are there any questions you have for us?"

Looking at the Primary, Mikah asked, "What exactly do you think my crew did?" referring to the issue with Duke Leonard.  Leaning back as he recognized Mikah's anger, he said, "You came in contact with technology the Imperium generally doesn't have access to.  And before offering it to the Imperium, you offered it to somebody else.  And when they back-checked their records, they found you'd had it for some time and not told anyone about it.  So they were a bit miffed."  Smiling, the Primary said, "They get miffed." as if he were introducing Mikah to this fact about governments.  Speaking carefully, Mikah said, "It does a lot to show the caliber of their character when they treat people in such a way when the honest truth was they were giving it back to the rightful owners."  Of course, Mikah knew the real truth was that the crew were simply trying to make what money they could while not descending into the black market.

Ignoring that, the Primary said, "When it comes to advanced technology, they don't care about the rightful owners.  They care about power games."  Mikah responded, "It makes it hard to think about the Imperium in the same way I used to."  Again, ignoring a great many self-serving sins on the crew's side of the ledger, the Primary leaned back in his seat and said, "Welcome to a wider universe." in a tone that didn't suggest anything of his feelings on the subject.  He continued, "People often wonder why members of the nobility spend more time on their own pursuits than on the pursuits of the Imperium.  You will perhaps notice this is one of the many reasons why people wander rather than stay on the path."

When Mikah accepted that, the Primary said, "Now it will be up to you if you stay on the path or if you wander."  Mikah accepted that with silence before saying, "We'll see.  I haven't come to a decision yet."  With that, they thanked her for meeting them and escorted her back to the crew.  As they returned Mikah to the room, they asked to speak to Sir Zimzod, and Mikah said, "Good luck."  As Zimzod also met with the two leaders of his Order, they also talked about the Rabwhar system.  They also made it clear the system could be considered outside the Imperium, and there were some Imperial Scouts there who would sell anything for good cash.  After that, they also asked about Zimzod's feelings on the issues with the Duke?  Zimzod was more philosophical, accepting that they were stealing when they got the cybernetics and were just trying to get some money when they sold them.  He also wasn't as bothered that the Duke was upset at not getting them.

In the end, they mentioned the facility had just gotten a very good shipment of coffee in and they were certain he'd like it.  With that, Zimzod returned to the crew empty handed but smiling broadly.  Then, the crew were given their freedom to enjoy the facility.  Rol chose to tour their collection of relics and prized objects.  Aiden checked out their weapons storage.  While Emkir moved about, looking for anyone who wanted an odds-AI, Aali joined Rol.  As she and Rol toured the collection, Aali saw what was called "Genealogy Case", each containing the family history of a particular Knight of the Order.  The small oblong, palm-sized, sometimes ornate and bejeweled fob-shaped objects reminded her of the Fob she'd picked up in the Mora system.

Mikah and Zimzod both made a direct line to where they could buy coffee.  At Cr 2,000 a pound, Mikah bought two pounds and so did Zimzod.  As this happened, Terin wandered the facility greeting those he'd met or perhaps worked with, or had helped him when he arrived, and said his goodbyes.  On arriving, Inger set about looking for certain contacts, not mentioning her search with the rest of the crew.  At nearly 9pm, Munarshu comm'd Mikah requesting permission to fire up the ship's reactor.  By that time, the crew had gathered, except for Dame Inger, who let them know she would be getting back to the ship on her own.  So the rest of the crew were on their way back to the ship, and Mikah told Munarshu lighting the reactor was Aali's job and to wait for her.  On the ride back, Rol was told he was again paying the cab-fare but knew Zimzod would likely share his coffee.  While they had shopped, Aali had looked into teas, but as tea was usually a lot more specialized than coffee, the price for a pound of near-Terran teas was Cr 5,000.

Inger's Audience

     Still very upset with her treatment at the hands of the crew, Dame Inger was certain someone had slipped her a drug.  And as bad as that was, the worst part was that they had exposed her to the risk of damage from whatever drugs had been used on her!  In addition to getting lucky there were no residual effects of the drug, Inger also recognized how lucky she had been to have not been raped.  While she was certain Sir Rol would not have intentionally raped her, she could see the situation from angles where he might have presumed permission given their circumstances.  And it wouldn't have taken much, in his drunken and confused state, to assume he had permission to "wake his partner" in a very direct and intimate way.

And given this was her team, whom she had worked and lived in close quarters with for months, she had to worry about what they could do if she simply wrote this off or tried to move past it with them.  So Inger's immediate objective was to get through to the Duke and seek special permission to sever herself from the ship and crew.  Given the circumstances, Inger knew it would be difficult.  Duke Leonard hadn't been given a great deal of reason to have confidence in them, but she had to try with both Duke Leonard and possibly even Arch Duke Norris.  Given the hour and the situation, Inger knew better than to try directly for either of the men, and reached out to her friends in the port, to create a "team approach" with people of rank in-system who would support her.

The processes they set up were to get her an audience with those who would support her application while also having a team of Port Security officers remove her gear from the ship.  Inger could only guess how Lady Mikah would feel with port security forcing their way onto the ship to recover her gear?  But Inger felt that was scant repayment for her treatment while a member of Mikah's crew.  In the end, she was given a port provided apartment where she was offered any medical and other support as they helped Inger move her case forward.  As friends and former co-workers of Inger's there was a significant amount of support for allowing her to remain behind as the Hotel California left the system.


Where everyone is at the beginning of next Session

   Inger: In a port-provided apartment working on her request to sever her
             relationship with the ship and crew.
   Munarshu: In the ship, working on the engineering.
   Everyone Else: On the way back to the ship in a cab after visiting the Order's facilities
             on the station.

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Next: The Music Changes, The Dance Goes On