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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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Different Perspectives
Station     Bored, Aiden was aboard the Hotel California, watching the port engineers do their work on the ship's back-logged maintenance.  To "encourage" the engineers, he spent some of his time cleaning and polishing his snub pistol, hiding that he had tranq loads...  Out in the ship's berth, Emkir was trying his best to preside over the circus that had exploded from his offer to receive written offers to interview Rol Kaihvos.  While port security had shown their ability to carry out acts of legal control quite well, the lack of any control where laws were not bent or broken left the rest of the mess in the Admiral's hands.  Besides the flimsies and actual paper items he was stuffing into his duffel bag, they were placing electronic data devices in the transfer box too.  Emkir had built up a pile of these, which he had been setting down and ignoring.

Having finished her interview at the coffee shop earlier, Captain Eikusdi Piirirshu was given the ship's berth number and told, by her new Captain, she'd make the calls to prepare for her arrival from the ship's side.  This meant those on the ship would know she was coming, and she'd be added to the crew roster.  It also meant the Captain would call station services and have her added to the ship's crew roster according to station records.  Most importantly, though Eikusdi was not aware of it, this included calling station security to make sure she could get to the ship through the media circus.  While she was not aware of that one issue, Eikusdi mentally ticked off those things she needed to take of, and was glad she hadn't bothered to unpack her gear.

So Eikusdi went back to her rental to pack her recently worn items and organize her luggage.  She then made a final sweep of the room before heading out, with her luggage, to the clerk at the rental office.  Having rented the room for a week to start, Eikusdi said she'd gotten a berth and eventually got refunded all but Cr 50 of her week's advance.  By 10:15am, Eikusdi'd called a port-cab and was heading to the berth.  The ride was Cr 10, and she sat back to relax as the vehicle carried her through the station.  The driver said the ride was usually half an hour to forty-five minutes.  But as they entered the radial arm containing the concourse where the Hotel California was berthed, he saw there was a lot of unexpected traffic.

Hearing the driver reacting to the increasing crowd, Eikusdi leaned forward to look, and got her first view of the increasing 'army' of media, on-lookers and the general curious.  Eikusdi remembered having been warned about something like this near the end of her interview, and adjusted to a reality well beyond her expectations.  This didn't bother her, as she'd seen this sort of thing before.  But she knew this was just the 'nebula' surrounding a true core of insanity.  Interrupting the driver's private dialog, Eikusdi realized she'd likely have to have him park at the edge of the crowd and move her items to the ship manually.

As Eikusdi started telling the driver her thoughts, he interrupted her.  Saying, "Hang on and strap in", he then played his hands on the vehicle's controls as she said "ok" and complied.  Very quickly, the taxi maneuvered up onto one of the passage's walls, avoiding most of the crowd directly while maneuvering to avoid those using lifter packs or anti-grav devices of their own.  This didn't seem to include a handful of media-bots which the driver seemed not to mind 'bumping'.  Soon, those 'droids figured out they'd better clear a path on their own.

A New Arrival At The Berth

     Working like a devil, it took a rise in the noise level of the berth to get Emkir to look up.  When he did, he saw a port-taxi had entered the berth by driving along the bay wall!  As he saw it, the car appeared to be making its way toward the ship-end of the space.  Meanwhile, the noise came from the press, reacting to this new surprise, and the security response.  Expecting to escape the crowd once he got into the berth, the driver hadn't expected things to get worse!  Nor did he expect to blow past a security check point, set at the berth entrance.  And security hadn't set up a physical barrier, expecting their visible presence to work for those approaching the berth.  At the speed the driver was moving to avoid the crowd, he didn't see them because he didn't expect to have to look for them.  So he had no chance to slow or stop, and could only think to ask Eikusdi, "Lady.  What kind of party is this I'm driving you to?" in a slightly annoyed voice.

When Eikusdi admitted she'd been warned something like that was happeing, the driver said there'd be a surcharge on this trip.  Eikusdi wasn't surprised, as she'd also been considering a big tip.  So she simply nodded and thought to herself, he'd get it one way or another.  As security moved in, the driver signaled that he'd be setting down the cab near the personnel entrance.  That let the reporters clear a space rather than being landed on.  The security, who'd been warned a taxi was expected, moved in swiftly to secure the cab once it was down.  They would then confirm this was the expected vehicle or take the unexpected arrivals into custody.  Once the cab was flat on the deck, the officers moved in, challenging the driver to hand over his documents.  As that was done, they had the driver also get Captain Piirirshu to pass her data forward, so he could hand it to the officers.  This way, the passenger was still contained in the vehicle if they needed to get aggressive.

As the media took in everything with rolling electronics, and as Emkir watched from his side of the plexiglas, the process of identification was soon completed, and security cleared a space.  The taxi finished its run the few feet to the portal so the new arrival could conduct her business.  As Emkir watched, the officers cleared a passage to the portal.  Having ridden in grav-controlled comfort the entire trip, Eikusdi was now concentrating on gathering her gear and preparing to make a dash into the berth's portal quickly.  That meant, she wasn't even looking up to do more than confirm there was a figure at the controls to let her enter.  "Who it was" didn't register at all from what she saw.  Before Eikusdi left the cab, she settled up with the driver, paying Cr 25 for a Cr 10 ride.  But she figured it was worth it, given how close to the berth entrance he'd gotten her.

Wondering what fresh idiocy this was, Emkir considered the lock-box which was nearing full, but not there.  He knew he was not warned about anyone coming back to the ship, so it wasn't anyone from the crew.  So he decided to prioritize getting the flimsies out of the box as the press were pushed back.  While the vehicle moved and settled in, Emkir worked to pull the lot, and stuff them into the duffel.  He took the minutes to dump any electronic devices onto the growing pile.  Emkir did all this while, from time to time, glancing up at the taxi to see if anyone had emerged.  As a result, there was not much for either Eikusdi or Emkir to see in those few glances.

Eikusdi managed to see a male figure in a ship's suit through the plexiglas, while she waited at the access portal.  Her mind on other things, she noted a vague familiarity, which could match him with thousands of other spacers she'd encountered.  As he worked to stuff the huge mess of flimsies into the duffel, Emkir caught half a glimpse at the tall figure with white hair, but was so concerned with his task that her gender barely registered, much less her features.  Widening her point of view, Eikusdi looked at the duffel he was loading and recognized it was IISS issue, as she waited at the door.  And it was a short time before Emkir finished sorting the various electronic devices from the flimsies.  He then straightened up to concentrate on more than the new arrival's Scout uniform.  And as he stood up, they finally got a good look at each other and realized they were each looking at a ghost!

With a shocked look on his face, Emkir blurted out, "Aali!!  I thought you were dead!", using her "private nickname" rather than her "public" name.  In her surprise, and unable to hear a word he was saying, Eikusdi swallowed her surprise and thought to herself this job should be interesting.  As she nodded, Emkir realized he needed to hit the comms stud on the panel and did, repeating "Aali!  Aali cat!  I thought you were dead!"  Thinking this was a novel approach for falling off the edge of the universe, Aali said, "So that's why you never wrote or called, or anything?" in a voice suggesting some doubt and disappointment.  Emkir stuttered in reaction as he said, "I...I didn't know I was supposed to!"  She said, "Well, if you thought I was dead...obviously." with more contemplation in her voice.

Finding he could move again, Emkir quickly cleared the debris of his work to open the portal as Aali started speaking and the press started shouting even more behind her.  "Your Captain has hired an assistant engineer and that's me."  As the door opened and she entered, with all the media filming, Emkir made sure his hands were empty so he could embrace her.  The press exploded with questions as they filmed the scene, the embrace was returned and Emkir advanced a somewhat timid kiss to see if the old feelings remained?  As their lips met, the remembered flames of their passionate war-time relationship were remembered and renewed.  Before things could get too far along, Aali pulled back a bit, glancing at the media horde and said, "Not in front of the cling-ons and livestock..."  Emkir grunted that they qualified as both.

Hitting the comms stud on the panel, Emkir told Sergeant Heardin that he needed to get the new crew member settled, and directed his attention to the crowd saying "Be back in 30 guys!"  Aali smiled and she said, "Trust me.  Budget an hour."  Smiling back, Emkir happily said, "That's an engineer for you.  Haven't changed a bit, Aali Cat."  She just smiled back before asking why he was so surprised, since his captain sent a message when she was hired.  This made Emkir pause, as he reached for his comms and saw the messages there for the first time.  Seeing a message from 9:30 that morning, he read that "Captain Eikusdi Piirirshu" had been hired on and would, for the time being, berth in the medical bay.

Emkir also saw a message from Sir Brian, and checked that to find the Knight had bought a wrecked grav vehicle, and was having it delivered to the berth.  This got an odd and quizzical look from Aali, but Emkir simply said that the Knights did weird things.  Looking up, Emkir asked, "You're being berthed in the med-bay?"  As Aali said yes, he chided, "We can do better than that!" with a plotting glance.  Aali could only chuckle as she answered, "I can imagine."  The smile on her face mirrored Emkir's.  With a wink, Emkir continued, "There's this nice little cozy cabin down the hall, which is conveniently located near the ship's computer systems, and the bridge, and all kinds of stuff.  As Emkir's sales pitch spun out, Aali just nodded at each point smiling and saying "ah" every so often.  Finally, he wound down and reached for her gear, to lead her into the ship.

As they started to walk, Emkir realized he'd best call Mikah and let her know about the change in staterooms.  He was unaware that when he was calling, Mikah and the other Knights were with Countess Ursara.  All he knew was that his call was routed to voicemail.  Putting on his most appropriate voice, Emkir recorded, "Your new crew member is aboard and is an old friend of mine.  So we are moving her into my cabin."  That done, Emkir led Aali into the open cargo bay of the ship.  As they walked and whispered sweet nothings back and forth, the couple entered Aiden's view.  While he did recognize the woman, from the picture sent earlier by Mikah of the new engineer, Aiden could tell by the way they were acting that this woman was 'none too new' to Emkir.

Trying to push thoughts of Interstel-Order Brides from his mind, or at least comments, the pilot asked, "Hi, who is this?"  Despite the message from Mikah, he felt he'd learn more from Emkir.  Happily, Emkir jumped in saying, "Aali, Aiden.  Aiden, Aali, another Scout.  Scouts are cheap on this ship."  Aiden muttered, "Apparently" derisively as Emkir reclaimed Aali's attention with the comment.  They returned their attention to him as Aiden introduced himself more properly, and asked what was going on?  He also quipped that they'd finally have someone who'll ride Brian's ass.  Aali assumed her officer's voice and said, "Only in a professional capacity."  Emkir asked, "Can you still do a vargr split Aali?", with an evil grin.  Emkir continued, "He's a little round.  He's like riding a Clydesdale."  Having heard much more than he wanted to, Aiden simply said, "Well, if he gets out of hand, feel free to use blunt objects.  The crew can be amazingly blind and deaf when we need to be."

Emkir was already leading the new engineer away as Aali said, "Nice to meet you Aiden, see ya."  She then skipped forward, to catch up to the man pulling her luggage and hand.  As they started moving off, Aiden asked after them, if she was going to start right away or if there would be a honeymoon?  This reminded Aali she promised to take charge of the engineers as she said to Emkir, "Hmm, we're going to have to cut this a bit short." in a disappointed voice.  He agreed, as he had to get back to the press too.  Aiden sent a text to Mikah that the new engineer was settling in.  Up in Emkir's stateroom, they decided on their priorities as they unpacked each other before unpacking any of Aali's belongings.  They didn't abandon discipline, and restrained themselves to a "quickie".  After that, Emkir reminded Aali he had said he'd be back in half an hour in a martyr's voice.  With the edge taken off their reunion, and after a quick shower, the two returned to their duties.

Ms. Vik and Mr. Jasani

     Arriving at the berth for Countess Ursara's Ship, Zach, Ms. Vik and Rol saw a man in livery at the berth portal.  After they were close enough, he asked about their business.  Once they introduced themselves, he asked for their Idents, which were handed over.  After he checked the Idents, he nodded saying, "Ah Yes. Dame Mikah's staff."  Turning to Ms. Vik, he said, "You are the Seneschal?  The Countess' Seneschal would like to speak with you privately."  Inger nodded, not certain what that meant.  As they were led into the berth they found that a sitting room had been set up in the berth offices, much like the one aboard the Dulcinea on Jae Tellona.  As a result, the three were not led to the ship proper.  Zach and Rol were told to wait there.  As the two men look around, they saw staff were present to provide drinks and service.  They both watched briefly as Ms. Vik was led aboard Dulcinea itself.

Once led into the ship, Inger found the sitting rooms had been reorganized.  Somehow, more intimate, as if for more important clients or for more significant displays.  These were now accessed from an initial entrance which appeared to be a media conference and press room.  Eventually, Ms. Vik was lead into a small compartment that appeared to be an office, where an older human male sat at a desk.  This surprised Inger, as she recalled that all the spaces aboard Dulcinea had been set up for dual-use, and were primarily 'sales and display' while she'd been in the Jae Tellona System.  As Ms. Vik was led in, Ms. Vik recognized the man as he stood to extend a hand.  She had first been introduced to Aanshik Jasani, the Countess' Seneschal, as part of the group Ursara had brought with her into the desert from Runips.

As she returned the greeting, Aanshik asked her to sit.  They first talked about a number of the upcoming events in-system as he asked about the Knight's plans?  Ms. Vik played things close to the vest, not knowing what was next herself, and she had few answers and no plans.  While Jasani didn't seem concerned or annoyed, he eventually and efficiently covered much of what the Knights might be planning himself.  Inger listened to this, as well as the smooth transition he made when he said, "This lack of advanced planning must bother you as a former port administrator."  That changed the conversation, as he clearly showed he'd done research on Inger herself!  With that, the conversation switched from Ms. Vik's past to discuss each of the members of the Knight's "staff".  The more he displayed his gained knowledge of the team, the less happy and more professional Ms. Vik's demeanor became.  Her one happy thought was that none of his research seemed to have turned up anything more than the inconsistencies and rumors about their past.

She was also pleased that he never once ventured to ask or speculate about those rumors, or questioned where they rose from.  But once he was done discussing the issues as he saw them, he got to the point of the meeting.  Mr. Jasani asked Inger, quite bluntly, why a former SPA Executive was masquerading as the Seneschal for a minor Imperial Knight?  Inger did her best to piece together a diplomatic answer, explaining that the 'team' aboard the Hotel California was not a random group.  She admitted they were troubleshooters, while straying from who they worked for.  Jasani accepted the information without pushing for more, or commenting on those points from his research that didn't make sense.  In the end, Ms. Vik explained that, while she was not a Seneschal, it was easier to fit into molds people expected rather than getting them to accept your definitions.  She continued, "That's the Knight's job..."  Mr. Jasani nodded, but pointed out that playing any role required some research.  Especially if the intent was to play it for long, or in a growing public manner.

He pointed out a number of the issues the folks from the Hotel California had encountered, and said that these were the sort of issues a Seneschal specialized in foreseeing and smoothing out for their employer.  As things were snowballing, especially given that the Duke of Rhylanor might soon have to step in, playing that role could lead to bad things.  As he was sure Ms. Vik knew, he pointed out that a Seneschal was a bonded and documented professional, with many licenses and certifications needed.  Ms. Vik said she knew this, but admitted she didn't see this role going outside the relationship between the Knights and Countess Ursara.  She didn't say that she 'really' didn't like the turn of the conversation.  Seeming to anticipate her thoughts, Aanshik calmed her worries while finishing his comments on the qualifications of a proper Seneschal.  When Inger got a chance, she asked if she should just clear the air and stop?

Mr. Jasani said that it should stop as soon as possible, but he had wanted to talk to her before bringing the issue to his Countess.  Now that he understood the situation more clearly, he felt he was ready to discuss it with Countess Ursara, as soon as that evening.  When Inger asked what that meant for their relationships with the Countess, he said it wouldn't change things too much.  He did admit it would alter things between the Countess and those she currently saw as Staff.  Glancing at the screen he was consulting, Mr. Jasani said that each of the members of the Hotel California's crew seemed to be, interesting individuals.  He also said it would be interesting to see if they managed to reach their potential as a team, though he wouldn't explain that.  Mr. Jasani did recommend Ms. Vik significantly pull in any appearance that she was the Knight's seneschal.  And that they either formalize or stop making reference to any supposed working relationship.  Looking at Inger significantly, he said, "You never know when you will be found to have crossed a line of certification, or will create an expectation by playing with titles.  Especially in legal arenas."

Inger simply nodded, thankful this was coming from an apparently friendly source.  Despite this, Ms. Vik harbored no illusions that Mr. Jasani was simply protecting himself by protecting his Countess.  There was no real way to measure how much of an actual friend they had aboard this ship.  Or how much danger these people represented.  Especially as they began to display more of their own resources.  As Inger took in his words, he invited her to join him, as the Countess was ready, and they should rejoin her crewmates.  Before that happened, Ms. Vik took the moment to ask what he meant when Mr. Jasani had said, "especially given the Duke of Rhylanor will soon have to step in"?  Recalling his earlier comments, he explained that the Knights were going to have to meet with him during their visit in-system.  And given the amount of noise Major Rol Kaihvos' appearance in-system was making, he doubted the Duke would have any choice but to get involved.

He didn't say more on the subject, so Ms. Vik stood, and they walked from his office to one of the other 'sitting rooms'.  During this, Ms. Vik got the chance to ask about the redecoration, and Aanshik said that was a frequent thing.  He explained that the many solar systems had such differing styles that supplies were kept aboard the Gypsy Girl, Countess Ursara's yacht.  Ms. Vik recalled that Dulcinea was just the 200 ton, jump-capable 'ship's boat'.  She concentrated on not allowing her thought's to reach her face as she thought that it must be nice to have money.  Soon enough, they entered another display/sitting room and found the Countess, just finishing up some work as she folded a tablet into the table top she was sitting at and straightened her gown.  Countess Ursara greeted Ms. Vik nicely, and told her that the Knights had arrived and it was time to gather everyone up and prepare to leave.

Buying A Wreck

     After interviewing Captain Piirirshu, the Knights couldn't get to the pawn shops near the station's military sectors.  They still burned time before going to Dulcinea's berth, stopping at the shops they found along the way.  Brian hoped to find things he could use to fix the new 'droid's gravitic anchor modules.  Mikah just window shopped while Zimzod looked for military items and civilian weapons.  In one of the shops, they found a broken down grav vehicle with working grav modules.  Before looking, Brian asked if they were willing to sell only the modules, as that would make the rest of the vehicle less valuable as a hulk.  He was surprised to find they would, and began scrounging around the vehicle, deciding if he really wanted them.  He also worked to figure how much they were worth, realizing he hadn't checked the size of the 'droid's grav modules.

As Brian looked over the vehicle, Mikah joined him as Zimzod cruised the aisles for anything of interest.  But Mikah was looking at things like the interior and fittings.  As a result, it was she who noticed the really nice entertainment console in the vehicle.  When she wondered about pulling the unit out, as well as the grav modules, the store owner started suggesting that perhaps they should buy the entire thing.  He didn't want to be left with a bared skeleton.  Hearing this, Brian poked his head up and asked if she'd consider just buying the whole vehicle and dragging it back to the ship to scrounge?  Mikah agreed, and Brian asked how much they wanted for the wreck?  When the owner quoted KCr 20 for the unit, Mikah laughed outright, even though that was a very good price for a wrecked grav vehicle.

Knowing he was in trouble still, Brian leaned over and offered that, since he needed to make amends, he'd pay for the vehicle.  Mikah smiled saying, "That will be a good down payment. I accept."  Brian was momentarily stunned, and came back with, "Down payment?"  Mikah just responded smugly, "I'll let you know the percentage later."  Deciding to ignore that for the moment, Brian examined the wreck to see if he really wanted it, and to consider how they'd get it back to the ship?  Having overheard enough of the money talk to think he had a buyer on the hook, the owner threw in that he'd even give them four hours to have the wreck moved from the shop.  This forced Brian to consider both how they would move it and where they'd store it?  While they could store it in the berth's open space, he didn't really want the press gawking or watching him disassemble it.

Tackling the first issue, Brian asked the store owner if he knew of a service to move the vehicle, if they bought it?  The man said, "Well. for a thousand credits I can have my boys move it for you."  Considering the value of the wreck and the offer, Brian said, "Deal!"  He was sure he could find enough of value to make it pay.  Brian then continued, "And I'll ride back with it", in a satisfied tone.  That was stepped on by Zimzod, who mockingly said, "You can't."  Caught by surprise, Brian turned to the former Marine, to see his smug face as he asked, "Why not?"

This got a second's blank stare from Zimzod who answered, "We have to go to the Countess' ship, remember?  This whole shopping trip was to burn off time."  Brian's shoulders slumped as he saw Zimzod was right.  He wondered if the wreck would actually get back to the ship with all the media there?  Trusting to a purchase receipt, Brian agreed to buy the grav vehicle and paid the man to have his people move it.  Once the payment was made, the shop owner promised his people would have it delivered by the end of the day.  At that point, Mikah jumped back in, telling Brian to comm the ship and let them know the delivery was coming.  Brian decided to comm both Aiden and Emkir as they were both back at the berth.

Gathering at the Dulcinea

     As Emkir worked to try to keep up with the level of activity, handling the press, Brian got his voicemail and left a message about the wreck being delivered.  After leaving Emkir a message, Brian called Aiden, and said, "Hey, we just bought a broken grav vehicle that we're pretty much going to scavenge for parts.  It's being delivered by Tequesta Spares, and it should be there by the end of the day.  I just want you to be aware, so there's someone to receive it.  And that there's minimal problems with the media or anything else."  Aiden's chief concern was how much work Brian had created for him as he asked, "Did you pay for them to put it on board the ship?"  Brian said he did.  Aiden then asked if Brian considered if they had the cargo space for it?  Brian was fairly certain they did.  The pilot then asked if they had an ETA, and Brian repeated that the only estimate was 'by the end of the day'.  This didn't please Aiden, who now had his entire day tied up watching engineers and waiting for deliveries.

Once that was done, Brian and Aiden cut the connection so the Knight could finish signing the paperwork.  The store owner then sent the requisite copies to station operations and thanked them before they left the shop.  Once walking on, Brian considered that he'd spent nearly KCr 40 so far on this station, and was actually running low on coin.  At yet another store, Zimzod found low-thinness, High-Density plates he could ask Rol to work into some kind of personal armor he could wear.  Not only until he got his battledress fixed, but in places like this station.  Before buying them, Zimzod asked if the store delivered, and for Cr 150, the plates were set aside to be packaged and delivered.  Eventually, the Knights arrived at Dulcinea's berth to find the man in livery at his post.  As he saw them, the Knights could tell he recognized them.  Rather than challenging them for their Idents, he announced that their staff had arrived and that the Countess would see them.

Once allowed inside, they were led to a sitting room where they found Rol and Zach.  As they looked around, the servant who led them in announced the Countess was on her way.  Waiting, Mikah asked the men, "So how was your trip over here?  Any problems?" as she hoped to measure the effect of the media circus.  Zach casually said they had no problems with a shrug.  With a smile, Rol said, "Actually, it was very profitable."  As Mikah looked for an explanation, Zach said, "A very friendly cabbie gave us a couple of leads to various things."  Mikah said, "Good" with a smile, and asked, "I hope you tipped him well?"  Rol continued, "We got a lot of information" as Zach joked, "I don't know who paid him?"  Rol confirmed that Ms. Vik paid him as Zimzod asked, "Where's red?"  As a joke, Rol flatly said, "They took her away." and Mikah said, "OK" in a neutral voice.  Rol continued, "Oh, I'm sorry.  They escorted her someplace else."

Again, Mikah responded in a neutral voice saying, "All right. Whatever."  Being red-haired himself, and not completely paying attention to the others as he looked around, Brian said to Zimzod, "I'm right here." and Zimzod said, "Not you, stupid."  Becoming more direct, Rol said, "They said the Countess' Seneschal wanted to speak with her."  The group discussed what that could mean, and other issues, until the Countess arrived with a small entourage of her own people and a chastised-looking Ms. Vik.  Seeing Ms. Vik's demeanor, Mikah moved forward to greet Ursara.  As they said helloes, Ursara said she was looking forward to the trade show and ordered a transport.  Almost as an afterthought, she said to Mikah, "I hope you didn't have anything prepared?"  Mikah said she didn't.  Once the greetings were over, the Countess asked if Dame Mikah wanted to do anything in addition to the trade fair?

Mikah said she had no plans but was open for anything.  With a smirk on his face, Brian asked if hookers would be there, and got a back handed slap from Mikah while the Countess ignored him.  After the flying hand, Ms. Vik reminded Mikah that the Countess' Seneschal had set up for them to meet with her Excellency’s lawyers at three that afternoon, for legal consultation.  Mikah said it was not like they'd be at the trade fair all day.  With that settled, Ursara said, "OK.  If we have nothing else planned, let's get moving", with a smile.  As a group, they left the office and, at the berth entrance, found an elongated version of a port-taxi with a raised roof and more room inside.  Entering the passenger cabin, they found a few surprises.  Not much larger than a normal port-taxi, the cabin had grav-controls inside, letting passengers sit on all the internal surfaces.  Various "comfort surfaces" were pre-set on the cabin's floor, walls and even ceiling.  As they examined the controls, they found they could change the opacity of surfaces, creating or covering up windows as they desired.

As Rol started exploring with a grin on his face, Mikah quipped, "Don't get used to it."  Feigning dejection, he faced her asking, "We can't get one of these?" and she flatly responded, "No".  Rol returned, "I thought you had enough money?" and she answered, "I do", in a tone that said 'I don't care about your interest' rather than it being about money.  To the side, the Countess was chatting with Sir's Brian and Zimzod while also being slightly amused by the conversation Mikah was having with her staffer.  At a point where the Countess was finding a comfortable place to sit, Ms. Vik quietly let Mikah know that the Countess' seneschal knew she was not a real seneschal, which was apparently legally important.  This surprised Mikah, who had no idea why it was an issue at all?  Not having tried to hire one, she figured a Nobleperson could hire whoever they wanted to manage their business.  Not caring to deal with yet another issue at the moment, Mikah nodded this off and she and Ms. Vik found places to sit.

Visiting The Trade Fair

     The trip to the trade fair was about an hour away, though not directly through a section of the station.  The vehicle actually went outward, to the space-side skin of the station, and exited out a vehicle bay to a ferry-port.  The driver then drove onto a waiting ferry, which navigated through a cloud of other small spacecraft until it reached another bay.  This saved a lot of time trying to make their way through internal traffic, and navigating around internal structures.  As they re-entered the station and left the ferry, Rol joked that he really liked these highway bypasses.  Those who watched out the windows during the passage got to see just how huge the station was.  That made an impact as it was one of a number of such stations in this area of Rhylanor's orbit.  The experienced spacers were used to this sort of thing, as such stations existed orbiting almost all advanced and busy systems.

Once they got close, the vehicle entered an obvious exposition space, where the trade fair was being held.  The trade fair was exactly that, a large space filled with booths, chat areas and large advertising displays.  There were, in the space, built-in discussion rooms which passersby could look into through transparent walls.  Especially if those speaking wanted passersby to recognize them and join in to listen.  The entire thing was organized disorganization.  There were the obviously well dressed and the obviously desperate.  Because this was largely advertising and exposure, there weren't sales venues set up, though they certainly could find someone to pull to the side and make deals with.  And there were certainly many who had the ability to electronically complete deals to deliver goods.  Many software venders didn't need a store to sell from.  And there were branded knickknacks and samples galore.

The goods came from everywhere in the Spinward Marches, as well as the neighboring Deneb sector, closer to the Imperial Core.  Goods also came from Vargr space in the Gvurrddon sector and Imperial colonies in the Trojan Reaches sector.  There were goods from the Reft sector on display, from shippers trying to develop markets from across the great rift and the distant Gushemege sector, half way to Terra.  The goods were so wide and diverse that there were even Zhodani trade firms represented, with some as Honored Guests.  Mikah saw some Zhodani and quietly commented, "Everyone get your aluminum foil hats."  The comment was only half joking, given her experiences in the war.

As they entered the exposition, they were each handed a disposable electronic vender guide which Zach quickly connected to his handcomp, so he could take and exchange information with the venders.  As they wandered the fair, they met many different kinds of people, and the Knights encountered other members of the nobility.  The Countess introduced one or two of them, while some others nodded in passing.  They moved through the aisles as a diffuse group, in the same general area but not "together".  Mikah and the Countess did stick together largely, and exchanged comments on various displays as they walked.  After some time, Mikah was looking up as she noticed a man suddenly start moving.  Watching, as Rol and Brian also tracked him, she saw the man dart toward Rol.  Having grabbed what looked like a substantial rod, he started screaming "Murderer!"  Everyone in the area except Zach, who's attention had been grabbed by a vender, stopped and turned towards the cry.

Excitement At The Trade Fair

     The cry was let out as the man began a half-circle swing of the rod, as if it were a club or bat.  Caught suddenly, Rol reflexively moved to stop the man, and remove the threat.  He did this ducking the swing and striking for the man's xiphoid process.  This would briefly shut down his nervous processes.  The strike that he placed, with the heel of his hand, was more damaging because he caught his attacker directly in line with the man's own line of travel.  So their speeds of movement were added and the attacker was not only stopped, but backed up and knocked back.  He fell, to land on his back, apparently unconscious.  Caught flat-footed as they watched, those around Rol were amazed as he used speed and combat skills they'd never seen from him.  As the two Knights were surprised by his skills, Rol was disappointed, having 'felt' a snap.  He realized he'd hit the man harder than intended.  In the split seconds immediately following the action, Rol sadly reflected that he was out of practice.

All this happened before the sound of surprised and angry cries.  There was a thud as rod the attacker lost his grip on landed some distance off, interrupting activity at a display table.  Almost at the same time, everyone around them froze as those media who'd been discreetly shadowing Rol went into full court press and security moved to secure the area and respond to the incident.  Worried he may have done more damage than he intended, Rol stepped close to the man, to access the situation as those around him tried to figure out just what happened.  A few, including Mikah and Brian, saw the whole thing and were still fitting what they saw into their impressions and opinions of Rol.  The others looked up in reaction to the cry and either saw the tail end of the attack or the results of Rol's counter-strike.  Either way, most missed a lot.  Zach had been finishing a transaction with a vender when the attack happened.  He suddenly saw reporters and police moving toward Rol while others moved away, so he turned to see what was happening.

Zach saw Rol had just apparently beaten someone to the ground, and he was out cold or dead.  As Zach moved up to ask, "What happened?  What happened", Brian mumbled with just a bit of awe saying, "Some guy attacked Rol and Rol kind of, like...  broke him."  Nearby, Ms. Vik was watching the scene with a fatalistic expression.  When Zach asked her if she saw anything, she answered, "No.  I was looking at something on this table and...  All hell broke loose."  While she didn't say it, everyone knew she was thinking, 'Every Fucking planet"  As the scene started to unlock and settle, Mikah asked, "Rol, are you hurt?" in a professional tone, as she was about to step up to check the man.  Rol was just kneeling down to check on his attacker when authoritative voices commanded, "Don't Move!"  As security forces moved in, they made it clear they expected everyone in the area to pretend they were statues until instructed otherwise.

While all this was happening, the media in the area filmed it all.  Noticing this, Mikah despairingly thought to herself, 'I hope they got the attack.'  Stepping in, to secure and access the situation, security called for backup and one of the first officers on the scene called for a medical response.  As more officers arrived, they began a classic 'isolate and detain' process.  Caught in the area of effect, Countess Ursara began protesting the treatment she was being subjected to as her Seneschal began to calm and advise her.  Having caught the tail end of everything, Zimzod simply looked over to Rol and said, "Dude.  I'm actually impressed.  You didn't get your ass handed to you."  As he finished, he had a smirk on his face to punctuate his obviously sarcastic remark.  Rol simply replied, "I slipped." in a flat voice.  Zimzod answered, "You'll learn better later." with smug superiority.

Then security officers separated them with one asking Rol, "Sir.  Why did you attack this gentleman?"  Pausing, Rol answered, "He was coming at me with a rod and I reacted."  The officer asked, "So you're claiming self-defense?" and, when Rol agreed, he said Rol had to come with them to continue the investigation.  Rol said, "I understand", cooperating as he looked for Dame Mikah.  She was close to him, speaking with an officer, and officers were interviewing everyone in the area, to see what evidence they could give.  Asked what she saw, Mikah said, "I saw the guy attack him!"  The officer asked if she could be more descriptive, and she said, "The guy came at him, shouted 'murderer' and started swinging his thing.  And then Rol defended himself."  She then turned the tables saying, "I'm a doctor.  If you want me to look at the guy on the ground."  The guy on the ground did not look good.

When asked, Sir Brian said, "I didn't see everything.  It happened pretty quickly, but I heard somebody shout 'murderer'.  Then come at Rol with a weapon raised, and Rol just knocked the guy down.  Defended himself."  As the police were starting to process things, and began to apparently take Rol into custody, Countess Ursara was attempting to use all of her influence as a Countess to change the direction of events.  A Sergeant and her seneschal appeared to be trying to placate her.  As he was about to be led off, Mikah looked up at Rol and he caught her attention, telling her he had to go.  When she asked "Now?", he explained that he was being taken in while they investigated.

Mikah ok'd that, but said she was going to find out where they were taking him and how long they intended to hold him?  Backing the officer questioning her off with a glare, and saying she needed to contact her lawyer, Mikah moved over to the Countess and asked how soon their lawyers could be there?  Ursara, who was not at all happy about the events, stopped talking to the police and glared down at her seneschal.  To his credit Mr. Jasani had already stopped talking to the Countess and police, and seemed to have dialed up a connection while having tried to calm things.  He was just finishing up a conversation and replied, "Your Excellency, I will have legal representation here in minutes."

As that was happening, Rol was scanned by the officers for any weapons, and his pockets and so forth were emptied into sealed bags.  They secured his Ident, and then led him to a police vehicle, being trailed by the entire media horde.  As Mikah watched this, the officer who had questioned her earlier asked, "Is there anything else you would like to add to your statement?"  Annoyed, Mikah snapped back, "No!" before reiterating, "Rol was attacked and he defended himself."  Pausing before entering anything on his datapad, the officer then asks her, "OK.  Do you have credentials as a medical doctor?"  When Mikah said yes, he confirmed her certifications and asked her to treat the man on the ground, warning that things would get much worse if he died.  As she kneeled beside the attacker, she activated her comms to call Emkir.

After having given his initial statement, the officer talking to Sir Brian asked him for any more details he could provide?  Brian, who was still trying to make sense of things, thought of the rod and told the officer about it.  As he talked to the officer, Brian pointed out where it landed.  Brian explained about the weapon as the officer used a kind of hand signal to other officers, having them recover and investigate the rod as a possible weapon.  As Brian watched the officers, he saw that the crowd had been completely rolled back from the area.  So, except for their team, the Countess' people, the attacker and the police, the area was clear.

Zach and Ms. Vik were on the edge of the crowd, being pushed away to clear the area as Brian looked around.  Brian confirmed what Ms. Vik was saying as she was trying to convince an officer they should not be sent away.  So Ms. Vik and Zach were allowed to stay, but kept isolated from the others.  They were also more intensively interviewed about anything they might have seen?  Rol was escorted to a secure vehicle, and placed in the rear cabin where there was obviously space for questioning.  Once the doors were closed and the vehicle started moving, the officers with him started the interview, asking him to start repeating his defense.  They also questioned specific points and asked questions from alternate perspectives.  Rol recognized the interrogation tactic, and realized this was going to be even a longer day than he had thought.

Meanwhile, Back On The Ship

     Once done with their quickie and cleaning up, Emkir returned to the media circus while Aali went below decks to relieve Aiden.  Once told she was taking over, Aiden headed up to the bridge to feed his ever-present paranoia.  The pilot kept an eye on the circus as Emkir was swallowed whole by the madness.  As a result, the Admiral didn't hear the call he received later.  Mikah's call to Emkir went unanswered so she killed the line and called Aiden.  When Aiden answered, she told him she needed Emkir immediately.  When he asked what was going on, she explained someone attacked Rol and he'd been taken away by the police.  She told Aiden she needed "the Admiral that was friends with Emkir" to know about it and to do something about it.  She even snapped at him when Aiden's words suggested a less than immediate response.

As Aiden went below decks, he marveled there had been a major act of violence and Zimzod wasn't involved!  Once on the stairway, Aiden looked out at the madness to notice new movement.  While it was obvious Emkir hadn't seen it yet, a definite flow of press was moving out of the berth!  They were leaving.  Having been told the story was elsewhere, the piranha were off, and Aiden heaved a sigh of thanks that the company had, if only for a short time, left.  Soon, he reached the Admiral, who was still recovering and stuffing flimsies into his duffel.  Emkir stood to scan the crowd once more, and marvel at the madness.  As he heard Aiden, he also realized that something was happening, and the crowd seemed to be leaving.  As he considered this, Aiden came up and explained the situation to him.  Aiden finished up telling Emkir to call Mikah for details first, but she wanted him to call Admiral Uuela asap.  With that, Emkir sparked up his comms to call Mikah.

Next: Where The Dust Settles