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Last Updated     February 5 2018
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After The Shooting Was Over

Risek     Once the battle with the warbot was done, the Marines secured the black marketer's cargo bay as the Knights and marine medics treated the wounded.  Despite some mild injuries, all the wounded were isolated, to be observed as "test cases" in case any of them became infected due to exposure to the unsterilized atmosphere.  On the positive side, the marine medics would take half hourly blood samples and count all detected cell structures in their own labs.  So, if one or more of the wounded became infected, they could provide yet another path to determining the disease's nature and treating it.  After less than an hour, the marine medics had everything in hand and Mikah's team were free to start examining the bay and its contents.

Mikah first investigated that very small box which had gotten her attention when they'd started exploring the cargo bay.  It was a shipment of pharmaceuticals and she wondered if she could pull the box aside to take with her.  However, when she mentioned it, a marine informed her that the site was being sealed until a proper investigation could be completed.  So nothing could be removed without authorization and documentation.  As they split up, Sir Zimzod concentrated on some standard cargo containers.  Using the enhanced strength from his battledress, he forced some open.  Moving from place to place as the others did, Zimzod found a wide collection of trade goods from Textiles, Electronic Parts, Machine Tools and canned or dried Fruits to bottles of fluids and powders and metal plate.  Zach and Mikah concentrated on shipments crated in less advanced packaging.  Zach found a crated air/raft, textiles, a container marked petrochemicals and a crate with oddly packed rocks.

Moving on, Mikah found crystals and more textiles before hearing Zach mention the strangely packed rocks.  Mikah told Zach they should switch search areas and went over to see what Zach was talking about?  The rocks looked normal enough and, based on her interest gems and minerals as a hobby, she understood more of what she saw.  There was something crystalline in the matrix of the rock.  But she mostly noticed the packing method just as Zach had.  The crate, which Zach had opened, had a metal rod rising vertically on each corner.  Braced between the rods were paired shelves made of metal wiring which formed a top and bottom "cage".  It was between these 1/2 inch wire grid shelf halves that the rocks were caught in voids created in a grid four deep by four long.  So each shelf contained sixteen rocks.  As Mikah examined them, she couldn't tell anything real about them and considered prying a rock out.

As she worked it in her mind, Mikah recalled Zimzod say he found some kind of tools earlier.  Thinking about that, she called, "Zimzod, can you come over here and break a rock out of this shelf?"  Zimzod moved over to check the unit, saying he could absolutely rip a rock free.  But as he stepped up to reach into the container, a flashing alert on his HUD gave a radiation alarm!  Pulling Mikah back slightly he told her his suit sensors picked up hazardous radiation!  Mikah immediately called the senior marine sergeant over and filled him in.  He had a team of marines move over with grav-handles and move the crate into a corner of the bay.  They then cleared off the other crates and containers there to create a quarantine space.  They cordoned the area off and posted a warning of hazardous materials until the rocks could be properly dealt with.

Finally continuing on, Mikah came across an ATV and drum of petrochemicals before finding a lone 3ft x 2 ft x 5 ft tall computer in a wood slatted crate.  This was odd because wood was generally not used as a shipping medium on any world where computer technology existed.  Indeed, with garden worlds so rare, wood was often a very valuable material and was not wasted on shipping crates.  Having found nothing real of note to the investigation, Mikah asked the marine sergeant to have his men take the drum of petrochemicals to the hospital, to be investigated in the event something was suspended in the oil or if the "oil" wasn't really oil.

Ms. Vik Works To Identify Ships

     On naval station 371, Ms. Vik and Emkir worked together as they reached out to the Podesta government and found an acting port official.  While Emkir worked, Ms. Vik also reached out to Captain Kristianson, to update her on what the team was doing.  When the Captain said she was fully up to date, Inger said she'd also like to change the priority of video feeds going out to be checked.  Inger explained that the Knights had identified a cargo bay on the infected arcology.  It was a location of importance, as one of the suspects had worked with what turned out to be a smuggler.  So, they now needed pictures of all the people who entered or left the bay he'd leased in the last thirty days, so identities could be made out.  Captain Kristianson said she'd let the techs know about the change.  She also gave Ms. Vik a file which turned out to be Rol's earlier requested list of all ships the Navy felt could have docked at the Bay in the last 20 days:

The Quantum Debt (Far Trader) The Nova's Shining Blast (Long haul cargo ship)
The Snow's Retreat (Long haul cargo ship) The Rose Widow (Corporate run vessels)
The Satin Sin (Far Trader) The Discreet Tongue (Free Trader)
The Terrible Deal (Free Trader) The Antebellum Wave (Long haul cargo vessel)
The Lanthanum Credit (Long haul cargo vessel) The Scarlet Tree (Corporate run vessel)
The Nephew`s Prayer (Long haul cargo vessel) The Jade`s Infamy (Corporate run vessel)
The Totaled Slate (Corporate run vessel) The Filled Tankard (Long haul passenger liner)
The Song of Grey Space (Long haul cargo vessel) The Light Wall (Far Trader)
The Trader`s Brethren (Free Trader) The Panther`s Satire (Corporate run vessel)
The Owner`s Call (Free Trader) The Technocrat`s Glory (Long haul passenger liner)

Kristianson also told Ms. Vik the navy was working to pull flight plan details and statistics for the listed ships on frequency of visits to the system. Ms. Vik thanked the Captain for the work and broke contact.

Running Supplies And Attitudes

     As Ms. Vik worked with Captain Kristianson, Sir Brian called Mikah to see what he could do to help out?  Mikah told him to get Aiden and see if they could bring her, Zimzod and Zach weapons.  In light of the incident with the warbot and the general lawlessness on the arcology, she wanted to be armed.  She also asked Brian to get more decontamination supplies and drop them at the cutter too.  Brian agreed and called over to Aiden, who was looking over the video processing.  When Brian asked for help with moving the supplies, Aiden said "Sure, no problem", glad to get away from a vid terminal.

When Aiden got on the link to ask Mikah how she wanted the delivery done, Brian said they'd fly the Pilot Error to the infected arcology and dock near the bay where the team currently were.  Mikah corrected him, saying she wanted Aiden to bring the ship close to the bay.  Zimzod would do an EVA from a personnel hatch so Brian could throw him the gear in a bundle.  Chuckling to himself, Aiden responded "shuuure" in a tone suggesting they'd get permission from the navy and started heading off to the ship to gear up.  Watching this, Rol decided to grab some more rest as things worked out, so he could be ready if an emergency developed.

Emkir worked his way through a number of contacts trying to reach the acting port master, and was assured by each person that they were getting him on the line.  Now aboard the Pilot Error, Aiden first went to his stateroom to armor up and grab a few weapons "just in case" before going to the bridge.  Brian went into the other's staterooms to grab their weapons.  He snagged a gun belt, gauss rifle and gauss pistol from Mikah's with five clips each.  He grabbed Zimzod's gauss rifle with five clips and Zach's gauss rifle and replacement gauss pistol with two clips each.  Once he had them, Brian began trying to work out some sort of bundle for the weapons and magazines.

Sparking up the power plant from idle, Aiden began plotting a flight path from the base to the infected station.  When he was sure of his plan, he called naval operations for permission to approach the Podesta arcology.  They wouldn't authorize the flight right off, but Aiden eventually got approval.  Despite that approval, he was reminded that even an "accidental" landing or docking wouldn't be viewed as a "pilot error" by naval command.  Aiden ignored the play on their ship's name as he was also told the ship would be shadowed.  If they were seen to dock, they wouldn't be allowed to depart without approval from the Admiralty.  Accepting those limits, Aiden warned Brian that he was undocking and pulled away from the naval station.

Brian spent much of the flight bundling the equipment and gathering all the detergents and supplies Mikah's team would need.  Finally, he got the decontam items in a vacc-tight bag and made a tight bundle of the weapons.  He connected tethers, in case the first throw was a miss.  When Brian heard about the computer Mikah found in the black market bay, he asked Zimzod to video capture it with his battledress.  That way, he could see it once Zimzod returned to the cutter to download it.  Zimzod agreed and shot some footage for Brian.  As they flew, Aiden remained well aware of the three fighters that lined up behind him, as well as the now silenced but blinking warning of the hot weapons lock they maintained.  He made very certain not to deviate from his submitted flight plan and brought the ship to a stop without getting too close to the Podesta station.  During that flight, Zimzod asked a marine for directions from the bay to a personnel sized lock so he could "step outside" and receive their delivery.

Once at the airlock, Zimzod cycled the valve, activated the magnets in his foot pads and stepped out onto the surface of the arcology.  With the ship floating nearby, Zimzod comm'd Brian and waved until the other Knight saw him on the surface.  Then Brian attempted a set of throws followed by retrievals after his misses.  After three tries, Brian had missed and nearly thrown himself out the lock at least once.  Finally, he asked Aiden to get closer and Aiden asked their "naval escort" as Zimzod turned to a marine who'd followed him out the lock.  Shaking his head back and forth Zimzod signaled "no" and the marine simply shrugged.

The lead fighter pilot approved the maneuver but warned he'd be watching very closely for any kind of pilot error.  Aiden dryly said, "tanks", again not appreciating the repeated play on the ship's name.  Then Aiden set his board and prepared the burns on the space maneuvering system(SMS) before executing the first set.  Brian held on in the air lock as the ship reoriented itself to drift less than three meters from Zimzod and the arcology's exterior.  At that distance, all Brian had to do was aim the bundle and push gently.  After that, he watched as the bundle drifted directly into Zimzod's waiting grasp.  Once that was done, Brian let Aiden know the stuff was delivered.

Aiden then said, "hold on", and barely waited for a response before hitting the execute again to start the burn taking them away from the station.  He also hoped it would relax the 'fun-happy' fighter jocks.  Updating the fighter entourage, Aiden executed the next step of his flight plan.  He first did a five second "burst", to nose away from the station, before turning the ship and burning the side thrusters repeatedly.  This swung the ship in a bowed arc, first away from the station and then back towards it.  He nearly brought them into an impact with the cutter as Aiden again spun the ship, slowing the arrival.

This both gave him an aft-aspect on the cutter and allowed him to see the fighters, out the viewport, making straight line burns in surprise as they avoided his fancy flourish maneuver.  Aiden enjoyed a chuckle to himself, both that the fighters were unprepared for his maneuver and he bet himself most of them couldn't duplicate it in their fancy high tech gun-toys.  On arriving, they were reminded no one was allowed to dock with the cutter or arcology, and Brian couldn't enter the cutter.  The Knights may claim the cutter was clean, but the Admiral's orders still held.  So Brian had to tie the bundle of supplies on an external knob for the Knights and Zach to recover when they returned to it.  Finishing this, Brian returned to the ship and secured the air lock.  Aiden asked for clearance to return to Station 371.  Once approved, he made a sudden burn that wouldn't out run the fighters but would make a final point of how he felt about their attitudes.

Ms. Vik reaching out to the Ports

     On the station, the Brevet Port Administrator finally contacted Ms. Vik thanks to her efforts as well as Emkir's.  When contacted, Inger introduced herself and said she was part of the investigations into the outbreak and the connected cargo bay incident.  She asked for any feed or video he could get her.  He told her all the surviving video had been secured by the Imperial Navy.  He also explained that damage to the software and network controls insured no further video had been captured.  Noting his somewhat harried and disgruntled attitude, Inger asked what he did before being 'promoted'?  He told her he'd been the head of the station's Merchant Shipping Liaison office.  That inspired her to ask if he had any data on "Shaslu Kishman", the black marketer that had leased the cargo bay?

He assured her that, in his position, he only met with shipping company executives, and rarely ever ship captains or those leasing cargo capacity.  When she asked if he might have had any contact at all with the man, the port administrator said he'd look into it and get back to her.  Before he broke the connection, she managed to ask what relationships the Starport Authority Administration had with their port?  The Podesti administrator said their port and the SPA had combined dealings all the time, and the port's Executive Director was named Dessie Wortman.  Thinking over her past, Inger knew she'd never dealt with this person.  Wanting to move on, now she'd learned what she needed at the moment, Ms. Vik congratulated the man on his promotion and having survived the plague.  Trumping her words with his attitude, the man reminded her the disease hadn't stopped its advance.  And, as yet, no one on the station could be expected to survive the plague.  With that, he broke contact leaving Ms. Vik to consider her crew mates on the station before reaching out to the SPA, and Director Wortman.

Once Ms. Vik connected with the Podesti port master, Emkir reached out to Admiral Resljeva's people again, to see if the officer had returned?  Once on the comms, Captain Braud said the Admiral hadn't returned from fleet command yet.  When Emkir asked for an ETA, he was dryly told, "As I am certain you are aware, the situation is fluid and there is no ETA."  As he broke the connection, Emkir tried to land a verbal guilt barb, but the connection broke before he had any hope of seeing if it landed.  On the team's comms, Ms. Vik explained what she learned from the Podesta official.  Brian suggested Ms. Vik go to the port personally, to look for anyone who had direct experience with the black marketer.  Shortly after, Ms. Vik called the port to identify herself and speak to the SPA Director.

Director Wortman connected with Inger quickly, and they exchange pleasantries before Inger told the other woman she was investigating the Podesta outbreak.  She asked if they could discuss anything the Director might have bearing on the situation?  There was a pause and Wortman said, "I am sure you agree that this is not the sort of thing that should be discussed over a comm link.  Why don't you come over to the port and we'll meet in my office?"  Not pleased, due to the absence of her wardrobe at the moment, Inger agreed and they set an appointment.  That gave Ms. Vik time to catch a shuttle to the port arcology.

After that, they signed off and Ms. Vik considered her appearance.  More used to making visits in a suit and proper attire, she'd have to settle for her ship's jumpsuit on this one.  Contacting Captain Kristianson again, Ms. Vik asked for a transport to the port as professional courtesy.  Kristianson said she could get Inger on the next shuttle, due to leave in under 20 minutes if that was acceptable?  Ms. Vik said it was, and started preparing the few things she'd need to take with her.  After a final adjustment of her jumpsuit, Inger headed out to the shuttle docks to board.

Emkir, Captain Kristianson and the Cult

     As Ms. Vik prepared to leave she was surprised when Captain Kristianson called back.  This time she asked for Emkir.  When he answered, the captain asked him if he, specifically, was expecting any follow-on personnel?  Emkir was confused by the question and said he wasn't expecting anyone.  When he asked why she asked, Kristianson said a ship had just arrived in-system claiming to be "Here for Emkir".  Suddenly guessing someone from his "cult" may have had, or hired a starship, and followed him, Emkir said he was not expecting anyone but they could be sent on to the naval station.

While trying to infiltrate the subcultures and underworld of the Republic of Inthe in New Port Dunslade, Emkir had made extensive use of the local social media and it seemed there had been an after effect.  His creation of an alter-ego had intensified as they began searching for Administrator Vougazgi.  And as he created the on-line persona, that identity gained force.  The result was that he developed a following that he and the crew began calling "The Cult of Emkir".  He was not sure how this would work out, but he hoped someone on the ship could help.

When Captain Kristianson's tone was skeptical, Emkir promised to get her the paperwork on the people. That got her approval, after which she signed off.  Noting the look on her face before Ms. Vik left, Emkir said to her, "Just to cheer you up, I have a shipload of 'Cult of Emkir' People coming in from jump."  Thinking he was joking, Inger just chuckled as she left.  Once she was out the door, Emkir began creating a fake set of paperwork for a generic shipload of people.  While he almost never used the word "cult", Emkir described them as 'persons of use, devoted to following him and helping him in a respectful way'.  No one was there to question why he omitted their description as "partiers"?

Once Emkir finished his "paperwork", he sent the file to the Captain and decided to wander the station looking for a place where people congregated to get a game up.  But within five minutes, the Captain called Emkir back, asking him to further explain the situation with "these people"?  Needing some time to prepare an answer out of whole cloth, he asked if he could come to her office?  She agreed, in a firm and less than happy voice, and gave directions before breaking the line.  As Emkir headed off, Aiden and Brian returned to the naval station, docking as instructed.  Aiden planned to return to managing the video work, and Brian to finish the designs on the decontamination system.

Brian called Rol to help him as they reached out to Captain Kristianson again, saying they needed access to the techs handling the job of investigating SuSAG's data.  Expecting Emkir imminently, she said she'd get back to them in five minutes.  When he arrived, Emkir explained the people on the ship, "found his words and presence calming" and followed him around.  As he talked, Emkir tried to convince Kristianson to not only accept the idea but also consider hearing more.  Either way, she was not happy and not buying it.  She let Emkir know he'd be responsible for 'his people' and said she had other business to tend to.

Investigating SuSAG

     Now armed, Mikah reached out to the marines, saying she needed to investigate SuSAG locations on the Podesta arcology.  She asked if they had an available computer terminal she could use to identify the locations?  The marines sent her a kart-accessible location where she could meet with a team of officers and use their battle computer.  Once they had the location, the three grabbed their kart and went to meet up.  They got to the marines, where Mikah asked the senior sergeant if he could see if the navy had compromised the computers at any of the SuSAG offices?  The marine said, as far as he knew, that the Navy had pulled all the data from all on-line computers on the station.  Mikah then called Brian, asking him to contact the Navy to start looking for SuSAG data while She, Zimzod and Zach investigated physical locations.  Mikah got a quick list from the marines of SuSAG locations.  Zimzod was able to download this to his battledress battle computer.

After that, Zimzod could connect his suit computer to the simple computers on the Karts to direct them to any location.  So, the trio boarded and rode off to the closest SuSAG location.  Emkir went back to the team headquarters to help Aiden manage the video.  After Emkir left her office, Captain Kristianson called Brian and Rol back and asked them to meet her at a specific compartment.  As they arrived, they met the Captain in a compartment of people working at computer terminals.  Kristianson explained these were the system admins handling the data load.  She said they could work with any available admin to get the data they needed.  After a pause, to let the two men look over the compartment and its staff, she asked, "What is up with Emkir and this ship of people following him?"  Both men were taken completely by surprise with this comment and Sir Brian said, "Excuse me?"

When the Captain explained about the shipload of people, and showed them the paperwork Emkir gave her, Brian asked the Captain to excuse them.  After she stepped away, Brian comm'd Mikah directly to ask how to respond to this new situation?  When Mikah started hearing what was going on, she burst out laughing.  As she did, Zimzod and Zach wanted to know what the hell had her laughing so hard?  Zimzod started saying "lemme in, lemme in..."  So, leaving Zach to wonder what the hell, Mikah linked Zimzod into the loop and brought him up to speed.  After talking to the Knights, Brian and Rol returned to the Captain saying, "Emkir can be quite persuasive and, as far as we know, the entourage is not harmful and, in fact, could be helpful.  Any other questions should be directed to Admiral Meshrumiikiim."  Then it was her turn to pause as she looked them up and down doubtfully before responding.  In the pause, Rol managed to ask when the ship was due?  Kristianson said, "It will arrive on this station in two days.  Good luck getting your data gentlemen."  She then left them in the operations room.

Brian approached the nearest petty officer and described the search they need to do to find any SuSAG data.  Together, Brian, Rol and the techs began what would be a two-day process writing a search of the data grabbed by the Imperial Navy.  Brian told Mikah the estimate for the process was two days before they could even start running the routine.  As they started working, the Captain returned and asked Brian who Zach was?  Brian was confused, thinking she believed he was Zach, and said, "I'm not Zach and he's not Zach", pointing to Rol, "Zach's on the arcology."  She then asked Brian to get her in touch with Zach and Brian said that his comms were down at the moment so he couldn't connect him.  The captain thanked him and said she'd contact him through the marines on-station.

Inger Leaves For the SPA Port

     Once at the shuttle bay, Ms. Vik identified herself to the first deck control officer she found and he checked his datapad.  He saw a seat was reserved for her aboard the next shuttle and had her escorted by a flight line tech to the shuttle.  Once aboard, Ms. Vik found her seat was in the shuttle's cramped bridge.  The flight crew barely acknowledged her arrival as they continued their pre-flight.  One of the in-flight stewards made sure she was belted in properly and gave her a skull cap to hold down her hair so it did not interfere with flight operations.  When Ms. Vik asked about that last, it was pointed out the craft didn't have grav plates, so her long hair had to be controlled on the flight deck.  The flight to the SPA port opened a new world of visuals for someone who'd never had so wide a view of open space before except on a screen.

Ms. Vik decided whoever set up her seating deserved a dinner!  The in-system shuttle made up for its failings in simple ways, though the one she enjoyed most, at the time, was the wide and unobstructed cockpit viewport.  She saw many small craft moving about on their missions among the monstrously huge naval capital ships, near enough to see in detail.  These were, themselves, dwarfed by the handful of nearly sky-filling arcologies, including the infected Podesta station.  And there was activity everywhere, lighting up the backdrop of star-spotted velvet.  A view of space only a pilot or vacc suit jockey could get.  Forgetting everything as the crew quietly worked around her, Ms. Vik did her best to completely enjoy the ride.  Finally, a large station began to loom in front of the shuttle and she could tell from a distance that it was octagonal in shape.  As they approached, the station developed a cloud around it which slowly resolved into a literal armada of active small craft and moored ships.

Even hemmed in and isolated by the navy, there were some missions that needed to be handled by the port.  Soon the shuttle was drifting in among the cloud of small craft, and space became overrun by craft moving in all directions against the backdrop of the station as it blocked out all else.  And then the main docking bay yawned open before them as station control took remote control of the shuttle's flight systems.  Still working on their boards, the flight crew could relax a bit as the station brought them in and guided them to a landing platform.  Ms. Vik watched as the ship settled onto the low grav platform and was secured down by station technicians, who increased the local gravity once they landed.  Then giant machinery on all sides began its symphony, moving the platform into another huge opening and along a massive internal railway.  Comms were cluttered as Ms. Vik relaxed into the buzz and recognized the chatter of station technicians and responding flight crew members.

She recognized the point where the platform was routed down-tunnel into a branch length after which the bay locks closed behind it.  She felt as well as heard it when the command was given to halt the platform until the ship's bay was pressurized.  And then the forward bay doors unclamped and she saw the slip at which the landing platform would come to rest, among a number of port service and naval small craft.  Then they were securing their boards and it was all over as Ms. Vik unbelted and prepared to disembark.  It was at this time only that most of the flight crew got to acknowledge their passenger.  And it was clear she was not what they expected, as they exchanged pleasantries.  A steward came forward and recovered the hair cap as he told Ms. Vik that there was a party waiting for her at the lock.

Stepping out of the shuttle onto the docking slip, Ms. Vik was again treated to a "not what I was expecting" expression as the waiting man quickly marshalled his face and advanced.  He introduced himself as having been sent to greet her and bring her to the Executive Offices.  She was then led to a port carriage.  Almost a set of bubbles on tracks, the carriage could carry a party in complete privacy along with a moderate amount of luggage.  The tracks were able to be magnetized so the carriages could climb walls and the compartments were spherical.  This allowed the internal compartment to roll to orient with local gravity.  Once she was seated in the carriage, the man stepped into the drive compartment and started the drive.  The ride was comfortable, and lasted almost ten minutes as Ms. Vik was able to look out onto the main bay of the port, from which all arrival and departure paths sprout.

Inger Meets With Director Wortman

     Filled with milling sophonts, concessions, service kiosks, platforms, advertising, displays and seating, the bay was a massive highway of travelers and workers.  Some walked the floors while others moved above, in grav-assisted devices.  Added to this were the regular movement of smaller baggage and cargo trains drifting above the throng.  Some of this, Ms. Vik saw from the ground level and some as the carriage began climbing one of the many walls in the cavernous hall.  Soon enough, the carriage levelled off and passed through an entrance in yet another wall before coming to a stop in what seemed to Inger to be a well-appointed personal carriage stop.  It was, in fact, the management arrival entry to the executive offices and Ms. Vik was lead into the maze of support and management offices until being brought abruptly to a reception desk.  Once more, her appearance was not what they expected as the receptionist's face snapped almost instantly back to "professional at work" mode.  The reception aide comm'd into the offices, announcing Inger's arrival as reception checked Ms. Vik's credentials.  And the voice of the Director asked her receptionist to send Ms. Vik in.

Once actually in the office, Director Wortman rose from behind her desk with no sign other than that she was meeting someone of equal rank and status to herself.  She invited Ms. Vik to relax and waited until after the door was closed as they exchanged greetings.  Once alone and settled, Dessie Wortman looked Inger in the eyes and asked how she could help with the investigation?  The tone and conversation ware friendly and open, and remained that way as Ms. Vik dove in.  Inger said she had questions about a number of people and a list of ships.  Saying this, she also handed the Director the datapad Captain Kristianson had provided, with the list of ships.  The Director barely glanced at the list, saying she'd have her people provide a work up on all the ships for any data the port had before asking what else she could do.  Ms. Vik began explaining about the black marketer, and how he could be connected to the case?  When Inger mentioned the name "Shaslu Kishman", the director interrupted her with a big, "Hmmm, we want him on a number of warrants ourselves."  Ms. Wortman immediately started fishing for a file on her screen before bringing up a data file.

"Shaslu Kishman", Wortman continued, "AKA Sam Kaz, Erkeaum Deshku and Len Hardik.  Master of the IMS The Scarlet Tree AKA The Rose o'The Marches".  Ms. Vik couldn't help a slight smile when she heard one of the names, "The Scarlet Tree", which was on the navy's list!  Wortman then hit her comms board, calling a man asking him to "come to my office with Kishman's file."  Once he acknowledged the request and dropped off comms, there was a pause before, with a pained look, she asked, "So, how bad it is over there...really?"  The request said more than the words, giving in to the lack of information flow since the navy clamped down, if not before.  Ms. Vik decided the best policy was 100% open, and she described what she'd learned from Mikah bluntly, seeing that the truth was appreciated after all the controlled releases and guarded answers from the military.

As they discussed the events in Podesta, the man arrived carrying his own data pad which even showed a picture of a man.  Suddenly, and very briefly, Ms. Vik had a wonderful split-second daydream that the picture would match that of the captured man, George Sipos.  That would have made many things much simpler, but the dream died as it was born when the pad was turned full on and she saw a very different face staring from it.  During introductions, Ms. Vik learned the man with the datapad was the station's security chief.  After introductions, they sat and discussed Kishman, his possible connection to the outbreak on the Podesta arcology and his likely connection to the other outbreaks.  Finally, the security master left to speed up tracking the ship movements from the Navy's list.  Especially as one was one of Kishman's ship's names appeared on their lists.  The picture on the pad was Kishman, from when they'd had him in custody, briefly, before he escaped.  They'd found the shuttle he used drifting in the outer system, along with the body of the female security tech he'd seduced.

Once the security master left, Director Wortman looked Ms. Vik in the eye and asked, "So your Ident says that less than a year ago you were the Executive director of the Porozlo port.  How did you go from that to ending up with this crew?"  Ms. Vik paused, with a wistful smile on her face and said, "I retired."  Certain there was more to the story, Wortman prompted her to continue.  Inger said they'd been hired for a job and ended up getting involved with the Duke of Regina."  Her comments were interrupted at that when Wortman responded with a wistful look of her own saying, "The Duke!" in a dreamy voice.  That was the given response for a healthy enough percentage of the female population of the Marches.  Middle aged, single except for a daughter, rumored to be a genetically created female version of his strengths, and near enough to absolute wealth and power in the region.  It made sense that he inspired a following, even without his heroics.  That made him damn near irresistible to even many of the level headed.  And seemed Director Wortman was a member of that club.

Inger wanted to ask, "Really?"  But she held her tongue and waited it out until the director asked, "Have you really met him?" in a voice that almost suggested she wasn't sure she wanted the answer.  Ms. Vik switched into ultra-smooth 'speaking to the press' mode and said she hadn't actually met the Duke, but had worked, and continued to work, with his people.  "But", she added at the Director's slight show of disappointment, "I do expect we will be meeting him once we reach Mora.  At least that is the plan."  And with that, Director Wortman seemed to return to her senses and the present.  "Well", she said, "Time for us to find you and your Knights some answers.  Can't have you keeping the Duke waiting."  And with that Ms. Vik was on her way with a promise the port would help as they could.

Linking back into the team comms to update them, she found a conversation already going on.  Aiden was promoting the idea that the team change the name of their ship from "Pilot Error", based on his experiences with the other pilots and other issues he had.  As Inger joined the conversation, she found it largely nearing an end as Mikah decided that Aiden might have a point.  In the end, as Ms. Vik made her way to the shuttle bay for a ride back to station 371, it was decided that the ship would be renamed the "Resting Parrot" when circumstances permitted.

Next: More of the Strange