Having left the ship to meet Burton Wyss at the club and search for Vougazgi, Mikah, Zimzod, Inger and Rol saw Burton Wyss, waiting outside the club from the air raft.  He had been standing near the club's vehicle park in a nondescript overcoat, out in the open and not moving.  Wyss got right down to it as they greeted each other, glancing around and asking, "So where was the last place you saw the Administrator?"  Dryly, and without missing a beat, Mikah joked, "On the ground."  Wyss shot her an annoyed glance as they all knew the remark wasn't helpful.  Luckily, Ms. Vik picked up in the pause with a direct no-nonsense description of what happened, making sure to cover everything she thought important.  After everyone was up to date, Wyss suggested they see if they could go inside and take a look around?
A security guard just inside the door saw the two knights arriving outside and recognized them, as well as Rol.  Despite the club being closed while preparing for that night, he opened the door to ask what was up?  After Inger and Wyss explained what they were after, the guard said it wouldn't be a problem but called a manager over as he didn't have the authority to let them in.  When the manager heard what the team needed, he let them in to investigate and look around.  The team first asked questions about, and looked over, the area they thought the fight happened.  Rol asked about cameras in the club.
The manager said there weren't many cameras on the general floor area but all registers and exits were covered.  When they asked for the bouncers who had been working that night, they were told all the bouncers and security had been on, with extras who were friends of trusted employees.  To get them more information, the manager called over the on-shift bouncer/security manager to add details.  While the investigation widened, Zimzod asked the manager about the knight's share of the take from the party?  Saying he wasn't part of that, the manager called one of the owners and handed Zimzod the phone.
As for investigating Vougazgi's disappearance, he said he'd have his manager give them complete cooperation, and offered to have the club's security tapes duplicated in a fast-dub machine they had in their second level offices.  When Zimzod accepted this, the owner asked him to hand the phone back to the manager.  Given his instructions, the manager began to act.  When the knights asked about talking to all the bouncers and security about the night before, they were told they could speak to those on shift as they worked.  But those not working would have to be contacted and appointments made for the knights to talk to them later in the week.
Zimzod wasn't having any of that and politely pressed to have them all called in "now".  Eventually, the Manager and his senior staff agreed and began getting ready to make the calls.  Meanwhile, Rol went with the on-shift security manager to dupe the tapes as the others began to interview the working bouncers.  While in the office running the four tapes, Rol used a light touch on things as he politely interviewed the man.  As he asked questions, Rol slipped in a few of the tactics he'd picked up over his career.  Learning as much as he could about the operation, Rol asked about the management of club and its security?
In addition to that, the two generally hung out and talked about other things until the tapes were duplicated.  Putting the tapes in jackets, they went back downstairs to rejoin the others.  Returning as the other team made their rounds, Rol and the lead bouncer joined up with Mikah and Zimzod as they were questioning a pair of bouncers.  Rol noticed they were getting very little from an obviously nervous bouncer.  He could see the knights knew something was up too.  As they pulled back to bring him up to speed, they quietly wondered if they could actually interrogate the man?Questions, Pain And Answers
When Rol asked if they wanted him to take a crack at it, Mikah asked why he'd be better than anyone else?  Rol said that, over his career with the Marines, he'd had some experience with interrogation.  That was all Mikah needed to hear as she let Rol have at it.  Engaging the bouncer again, Rol tried the carrot before the stick, with the basic friendly approach.  When that didn't look like it was working out, he tried an incentive, offering Cr 50, saying more directly that he knew there was more to the story.
The bouncer cracked, and admitted he'd been working with a friend, not a regular bouncer, hired as an "extra".  They'd taken an 'unofficial break' when they hooked up with a pair of girls in the back of the club for some "stress relief".  Rol connected with the bouncer by not turning him in to the manager.  When he asked what part of the club they'd been assigned to work, Rol learned the event was so over the top that assignments went out the window, just trying to keep the roof from being blown off the club.  Accepting that, the crew moved onto the next bouncer, who was also not interested in being cooperative.
This bouncer was cool about the interview, and not sweating as Rol moved in.  Again, he tried the incentive method and the man said that it had been a pretty standard night rushing about and going crazy.  The man took Rol's offered money but only gave the same answer, at which point Rol switched tactics.  As he moved up to pin the man, the bouncer tried to dodge but ended up on the floor with Rol standing above him.  As the bouncer struggled to get his hands and feet beneath him, Rol quickly moved to pin one of his knees with a foot.  Rol then calmly pressed down until the pain began.
He didn't intend to break the knee but kept the bouncer screaming, squirming and trying to get his knee free as the others in the space watched in surprise.  Or satisfaction, when it came to Mikah and Zimzod.  Rol continued talking to the man, in a clear, calm voice saying, "When someone takes my money and continues to lie to me it is upsetting."  The bouncer protested his innocence, begging to be let go, or for anyone to help him.  So Rol increased the pressure slightly.  Howling now, the bouncer started shouting, "OK!  OK!  I'll talk.  I'll tell you anything."  Taking his foot off the knee and picking up the now discarded Cr 50 chit, Rol took a step back while remaining a present menace and said, "OK.  Let's hear what you have to say?"
After that, the bouncer managed to sit up and pull himself together before confessing that he and three others had not so much concentrated on work as people got drunk.  Instead, they were scoping out those who were overly drunk or asleep so they could pick pockets, purses and wallets.  As this came out, the security supervisor, who'd heard the noise and come to find out what was happening, got serious and called the club manager as he advanced on the man.  There was a bit more effort getting the man to give up the three other names because, even though he was caught, he didn't want to be a snitch.  But the managers took the confession very seriously, as a fairly new 'up and coming' club.  The pissed manager and supervisor rounded on the man who rose against a wall obviously looking for a way out.
Some of the other bouncers and security had also heard the sounds and a crowd of angry club workers had the thief surrounded.  Realizing he had no way out, the man gave up any pretense of hope and stopped resisting.  As he was questioned, now by the club management, the story came out and the group felt they'd gotten everything they could from the bouncer.  Once they had the names, and as they'd been getting the details, the manager called the owner again.  He then made a call to an unidentified associate and bluntly explained the situation before asking the other party to get those people to the club...ASAP.
He then told the crew the other bouncers in the "ring" would be brought to the club in under forty minutes.  His tone left no question of his methods, and the spirits of the team lifted when they felt they might get some answers on one front, at least.  Slowly over the morning, the remaining thieves were brought in and placed in the path of Rol's ice stare.  And at the same rate, the team's spirits faded as the investigation showed the thieves were nothing more than a small ring of petty thieves.  Not only were they not involved with the disappearance of Vougazgi, but their activities meant they had even less information they could provide on that score.
Stymied yet again, and facing the loss of a developing asset in the larger mission, everyone was at a loss and felt it.  Letting her disappointment show a bit, Mikah dismissed Wyss, and his attitude showed he was not at all surprised.  After a tart reply aimed at the noblewoman, Wyss turned to leave.  As the barb hit, Mikah reconsidered and asked if he could suggest anything else that might help, though her tone was still very doubtful.  Wyss was considering his own ideas, planning to return after they'd left for his own set of duplicate set of the tapes.  Setting that aside, he turned and said, "Yes actually.  I suggest we visit a friend of mine who may have some gear that could help you scan the tapes quickly."Off Visitin' Friends And Agents
Surprised, both at his bluntness and that his answer might be more helpful than expected, she allowed for a pause.  Wyss filled that in, asking "Are you interested?"  Recovering enough, Mikah said, "Yes.  Yes, let's try that", and with her approval Wyss called his friend before they mounted up in the air raft and headed out following Wyss' ground car.  About thirty minutes later they arrived in their two vehicles at the residence of his friend.  The man turned out to be a sergeant in the municipal police department!  Mikah set that piece of information next to the grain of salt she was harboring against the local police for the moment.  As she and the others entered into the apartment, they found the place comfortable enough.  But the residence was filled with many interesting electronics and devices which served many different purposes and some of which appeared higher than the tech considered average in the city.
While not "wall to ceiling" with electronics, they were fairly amazed at the number of devices, ranging from the obvious to the completely incomprehensible, the sergeant owned.  They were also startled by the obviously very high-tech items he had despite the lesser local tech available.  Once the introductions were done, they came to the meat of the gathering as the sergeant, 'Jere Jefferds', asked to see the tapes Wyss called about?  Looking them over, Jefferds said he had a tape reader that scanned images for biometrics to identify any body parts of a subject based on data they'd provide.
After they handed over the tapes, Wyss stepped aside and called port security to have them send the port's files on Administrator Vougazgi.  He then transferred the files to Jere's system, as the sergeant set the system up and started the read/scan run.  Once the process was set, Jere invited everyone to sit and relax as the process worked through.  Sitting, they talked about the tech collection sergeant Jefferds had in his home.  With Wyss' prompting at first, Jefferds said he'd moved into the area believing it was an "up and coming" section of the city.  But he was misled by his real estate agent, and others, and found too late the area was actually sinking into the social swamp of a vargr gang badlands.
"Protecting his investment" and himself as well as his neighbors, Jefferds began acting, within the law as a regular citizen, to block the growing gang activity.  That was, until they pushed back.  Then he chose to cross the line from time to time, in the name of justice.  Since then, he'd periodically acted for the good of his neighbors, himself and all law-abiding citizens.  And he'd built up the collection of devices in his apartment to help him and his friends.  Ending that part of the conversation, Jere leaned forward.  Turning their direction, he asked, "There is just one thing I am still wondering about. What are you doing on this world?"
There was a pause as the crew looked at each other and considered their answers.  Mikah spoke up first, saying they were passing through and stopped to do a bit of partying.  This parroted the suggestions they'd given to the media.  Not having any of that, Jere said, "I know that's what the talking heads are saying when they get past the 'Imperial Invasion' thing, but you're obviously not here for a party so what are you doing on-world?"  Becoming uncomfortable, Mikah said they had intended to just pass through and party, but were now helping the Marquis out with this gang issue.
Jere said they seemed to have a lot more invested in things than made sense, for a group of party nobles just helping out.  When he began pushing for some real answers, Ms. Vik broke in admitting the missing vargr had been her date and she'd invited him to the event.  She continued, saying he wouldn't have disappeared if not for her invitation.  Jere accepted that, and they sat and talked about other local issues until Jere checked and said the tapes seemed to be done.  Moving to the electronics again, they saw the results screen was showing a number of selected clips.  Each had a percentage next to it, in descending order, showing the likelihood of a match with the identified subject.Finding Pictures And Making Plans
Not looking at the number of hits or evaluating the displayed percentages, Jere simply opened the first clip, which was rated at 97%, and adjusted the display size on the screen.  Once set, Jere replayed the clip, which clearly showed a group of roughly dressed toughs half carrying/half dragging a vargr out one of a club exits!  The group, mostly vargr with two Humans included, didn't seem concerned about security or anything other than moving the Vargr they carried.  And there seemed no concern for anyone possibly chasing, confronting or interfering with them.  Imposed on the action was a red floating box that moved with the pictures and always encompassed the left haunch and leg of the carried Vargr.
The box obviously indicated the biometric match.  Freezing the playback, Jere flipped through the application looking through the pictures from the port security office until he found one with the indicated body part.  He then began to compare the indicated match with a known picture of Administrator Vougazgi.  As he fixed the graphics next to each other, all in the room saw they matched from the fur color and grain patterns to the limb measures and proportions.  Every person in the room knew they had a picture of the kidnapping of the Administrator.
At that point, Zimzod said, "Great!  Now all we need are to get their faces and we can hunt them down".  But the comment slammed into a metaphoric wall because the clip didn't show any faces.  Jere said he could hunt through the rest of the videos to see if any showed full or partial faces on any of the perps.  He said he could also take biometrics off the clip and run the tapes through again for the next 24 hours, for any clips that might have the toughs faces before or after they got to Vougazgi.  This, he said, should catch them arriving, when their faces were most likely to be filmed.  The team were all for this and thought it was a great idea, so he set about catching the areas of interest into clips for the wider search as Wyss began examining the picture they had.
As he concentrated, Wyss said, "These guys are most likely from the Duedhkhats gang".  Hearing this, they remembered the gang from the information the Marquis had given them.  Some remembered, from the Marquis' briefing or the chat as they discussed the issue, that this gang would most likely be found in the port facilities and warehouses.  They could also be found in the many storage and pre-transport facilities outside the extrality line, for the movement of cargo into and out of the port.  Knowing that, the job was suddenly both significantly larger and smaller.  The number of places they could hide, keeping the missing administrator, or disposing of his body, were very large and hard to encompass in the scope of a potential rescue action.  But the port's own records could be used once any real biometric data was brought to bear.
Jere pointed out they already had some basic biometrics on the "drag team" and he expected to improve on that, even if they didn't get faces from the search.  As he was speaking, Wyss sifted through the other clips and captured those showing various shots of the kidnappers.  He sent the data to the port with orders to begin a biometric search and a separate investigation of the port workers.  Especially the two humans, who'd be easier to recognize directly by visual features.  Wyss also ordered that the Municipal police be told a kidnapping had been verified.  The knights and Ms. Vik were happy to finally be moving forward, and that what had been a setback had turned to a move forward, digging into gang activity around the port.
Ms. Vik asked if there was anything else Jere could do to help?  He answered by glancing at Wyss and then back at her asking, "Want to come for a ride with me tonight?"  His look had a cold hard property which said there was nothing at all romantic about the invitation.  There was a pause as everyone considered the offer.  Ms. Vik broke the pause quickly to accept, wanting to appear eager to save her 'date' and keep the ruse.  After that, the others accepted too, but also asked what the ride would be about and what risks would be involved?  Being vague, Jere suggested they'd be crashing a party around midnight.  Zimzod, more than sensing combat in the air, asked if this would just be a social visit or something more intense and if they should return to their ship for some extra gear?
Jere paused and then asked Mikah for her Ident, which she handed over.  Looking briefly at the Ident, Jere's face lit up as he said, "It appears that nothing you would bring would be illegal given your credentials, so...YES!  Yes, You Should!!  Meet us back here by 11:30pm and we can hit the road."  Soon, Jere was busy checking the settings and beginning a more detailed tape process before starting to organize his own gear.  Meanwhile, Wyss escorted the knight's team out to their air/raft to head back to their ship.  Most spirits were high, as they saw themselves moving forward while few were looking as far forward as actually shooting and being shot at.  As they boarded the air/raft and lifted for the port, they switched their comms to an encrypted channel and reached out to give everyone at the ship.  Then, they gave the others a heads up that action was pending.Getting The Team Ready For Action
Back on the ship Aiden and Zach were working together, researching the starport datachip when Zach realized they'd been tripping over the same name time and again.  They hadn't followed it up because it wasn't apparently linked to anything.  The name was "anagamycin", and as he made the realization, a call came from the air/raft that things were about to get 'exciting'.  Zach made a mental note to further research the term when he could.  Clearing their activities once the word was passed, the others aboard the Pilot Error were squared away by the time the team crossed over the port and docked aboard.  As the night trip was discussed, everyone wanted a piece of the action including Zach.  The only person really reconsidering her part in the whole thing was Ms. Vik.
But she was the one person most expected if no one else showed, as pay back for Wyss' friends helping with the kidnapping of Vougazgi. And now that everyone else was reaching for guns and armor, her nerves were starting to get on edge. Inger pushed back, as she tried not to think about it while gearing up. Putting her reflec under her ballistic body armor, then grabbing an autorifle loaned from Zimzod with three spare clips, her 9mm revolver and three spare speed loaders, she was ready in short order. In her stateroom, she tested the mate-lock on the revolver's silencer and the electronic sights before donning her infantry helmet and clipping her knife to her belt. When Zach wanted to take part, Mikah laughed and said, "This requires combat experience and real combat skills. Not wanna be heroes who will most likely get us all killed!"
Zach processed that and paused before changing his tactics.  He hoped to get some credit by filling her in on the mystery of the name anagamycin.  Then, he rushed to his stateroom to grab his gear, determined to show his skill by securing the ship as the knights began discussing the invitation.  Before he geared up, Rol joined the knights, knowing his gear was mostly ready.  Aiden also walked up, pulling on his cloth armor over his ship's jumper and carrying a belt with his sword, holstered snub pistol, ammo pouches and a kit bag with an infantry helmet strapped to it.  Aiden had his LAG slung over his shoulder, LI/IR goggles strapped and hanging from his neck, and a grenade bag.
As they discussed the 'mission', Aiden asked if they wanted to just use the air/raft or wanted the cutter to be involved?  That led to questions on who would fly and who would shoot if they acted from the air.  Talking about that idea, they decided some air cover could be good to have.  So, the main team would fly out on the air/raft while Emkir and Aiden would provide a high guard.  Eventually it was decided Aiden could snipe from the cutter air-lock while Emkir flew, so Aiden stripped rounds from his ready magazine reorganizing them for two tranq and four HE.  While Aiden worked, Zimzod noticed he had at least one spare magazine with HEAT rounds! [ High Explosive-Anti Tank]
About that time, Zach returned with his armor, gauss rifle, a snub pistol, dagger and ammo pouch on a belt.  Seeing him arriving, a few of the crew laughed as he came up.  He asked if anyone had any idea what happened to his Gauss Pistol?  That only got him more laughs as the chatter debating flying vs shooting stopped completely.  Zimzod asked Zach when he saw the weapon last, and the merchant said, "At the club."  Again, there was a laugh-punctuated pause, broken as Zimzod asked, "You mean the party at the club where you were found drunk to unconscious and we've learned there was a robbery ring working?  That club?"  Zimzod ended with a deadpan stare that begged the question, "What part of this progression are you missing?"
Zach said nothing in reply but he made a mental note to reach out to the club and see what they'd learned of the thieves after the nights "fun".  He then started planning his brilliant defense of the ship.  After deciding on Aiden and Emkir, they realized they'd be taxing the air raft to its limits if they had to move prisoners along with the rest of the team.  They asked if Brian could make some last-minute modifications to help in the short term?  Brian headed to air/raft bay to check and see if he could do anything that would help.  Zimzod went to step into his Battledress and Mikah and Rol donned their combat armor as the rest continued their preparations.  Once in his armor, Zimzod holstered his .45, autopistol and k-bar before jacking the sights on his Gauss Rifle into his suit and shouldering the sling.  He then snapped in some spare ammo and some grenades and moved out.
Dame Mikah felt her spirits rise as she looked forward to testing her new gauss rifle and pistol.  She also snapped in her submachine gun and autopistol, just in case.  And she pouched some spare ammo for all her weapons.  For his part, this was just another mission for Rol as he strapped on his combat armor, snub pistol, ammo gunbelt and a rechargeable flashlight as well as pouching spare ammo.  Emkir and Aiden knew they'd reach their position faster than those in the air/raft, so they planned to launch later.  Emkir called the port giving a bogus reason why they would be hovering over sections of the city in the late night to establish a flight plan.  Since he was only flying that mission, he settled for the clothes he'd been wearing and moved into the cockpit to prepare for the sortie.
One of the first things Emkir did was raid the preset camouflage patterns for one that would help when hanging in a velvet black sky speckled with stars.  He was soon happy to pull up an automated pattern that would keep the cutter from blotting out the stars, helping them remain hidden unless someone noticed the bright muzzle flashes in the sky.  While Emkir worked on their ride and Aiden finished snapping into his gear, Brian was working furiously to reconfigure the grav-module lift centers and reinforce the overall grav support for the raft's structural integrity.  He also tested the power flows and circuit functions.
Once they were ready, they found they still had time on their hands before they had to leave, and let Brian work.  Mikah sat at a terminal and did her best to do specified searches in the port and police datachips.  She found the port was completely oblivious of the term "anagamycin", though it did oddly pop up enough.  And the police database showed the municipal police were aware it meant something, but none of their investigations had turned up any meaning or connection.  No explanation was given why they were searching for it either?  Mikah made a mental note to ask her "liaison", the Lieutenant, about it when she got the chance.  She admitted to herself that it was really a sarcastic afterthought more than anything else, dismissing his efforts as fake.
While she worked, Rol and Zimzod cleared their gear, Zach mentally reviewed his memories of the party and lost Darrian gauss pistol and Emkir worked in the cockpit.  By herself, and not prepared for the can of worms she'd found herself in, Ms. Vik sat quietly in the ship's lounge trying to pull it all together.  Without the adventurous stupidity that made Zach immune to the fear of a combat baptism, this was far out of her realm of experience.  The battle against the pirates in the Rech System had left mental scars she was glad she had no reason to revisit often.  But now that was just part of the mad merry carnival of memories that were dancing through her head.  Finally, she was glad for something to do even if it dragged her closer yet to the release of cordite.
The time came as the four members of the air raft team lifted from the ship.  Signaling the starport, they got a clear corridor thanks to Emkir's groundwork before completing a team "comm test" and moving off.  As they left, Brian started securing every part of the ship except the cutter bay, which he left until Emkir lifted for the city.  Moving out to Jefferds' place directly, the first team secured the air/raft and headed to meet Wyss at his friend's apartment.  They also saw an oddly shaped vehicle parked outside, which had a strange rear structure drawn to a point.Getting The Plan Into Action
Once inside Jefferds' place, they saw Wyss had an older model of Battledress, and there were two others with Jefferds who wore sealed combat armor.  To Rol and Zimzod's expert eyes, they all had targeting interlocks to helmet HUDs which looked similar to Mikah's, but had otherwise unexplained cabling.  Once in, they traded introductions and asked what the plan was?  Wyss said they would board the oddly shaped vehicle which was, for lack of a better description, a well-armed 'Recreational Vehicle'.  When asked for further details, they said the vehicle was an armored assault vehicle with a "rear drive" capability that allowed its odd rear shape to be used as a battering ram to punch through strong walls.  It also had a built-in battle computer and four egress points so the team could flood out the front and back of both sides at the same time.
Wyss told the new arrivals they would head from the apartment to a point near a warehouse where the night's action would be.  There, they would wait for two gangs to 'get into it' before crashing the party.  Then, Mikah decided to made sure the other team wasn't surprised, saying they had had two team members set to provide air cover aboard the yacht's cutter.  That meant there'd be a pilot and sniper team available to them too.  When she said this, Jefferds said, "Really?  Let me see", and quickly moved to an electronic device to make adjustments and check his readout intently.  For a few beats of the heart he worked before becoming confused and changing more settings.
Finally, with a very surprised look on his face, Jefferds looked up and asked, "What model cutter are your men flying?  I'd really like to take a look at it."  He thought this was clearly a type of stealth he hadn't encountered.  Picking up on his thoughts, some of the team couldn't hide hints of smiles, but the moment of tension passed quickly and the joke went unchallenged.  Then, new questions were asked like synchronizing communications.  Jefferds was ready for that, telling Zimzod to count into his comms.  As Zimzod did, Jefferds stood at a piece of equipment and turned a dial until speaking into his headset and had the others hear him on their comms, including those prepping the cutter!  That done, the location of the warehouse and all the data on the target came up.
Jefferds then led them to a holographic table already glowing with a 3D schematic of some kind of building.  As they gathered, the crew saw the structure was a warehouse.  And the more they looked, the more detail they picked out.  As they stood around the simulation, Wyss said this was the target location and everyone nodded appreciatively.  Zimzod asked if he could load the sim into his battle computer and Wyss said the assault vehicle had a battle computer aboard and he could tie his battledress into it.  With that, they discussed the meat of the action, the coming fight.  Wyss announced they'd be paying a visit on a location where two gangs were having a "party" about midnight.  They planned to crash it!
They explained the Ksuenorra gang recently hit the Sorrngerzrose and the Sorrngerzrose seemed ready to hit back.  The party crashers included Wyss, Jefferds and three of their friends as well as those from the ship.  They said they'd wait until the Sorrngerzrose began their attack and crash the party with their assault vehicle, through one of the walls.  Once inside, it would be a game of "blast the puppy" until the last one dropped.  After the discussion, they started linking the combat computers, including Zimzod's armor and Mikah's HUD.  When Jefferds became confused at being unable to contact the cutter, he asked if the crew could connect with their computer?  At that point, Zimzod admitted the spacecraft had not yet lifted from the starport and Wyss' team got in on the earlier joke.  After that, Jefferds asked that, once the ship was in range, they'd link into the combat network.  With that, they covered the remaining details before heading out to board the assault vehicle.  From there, they moved to a surveillance point near the target as Emkir and Aiden lifted off in the cutter and made for their own position over the city.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: The Overnight Battles