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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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Before The Renewal

Gathering Everyone At The Berth
Station      Aboard the Hotel California, Emkir decided he'd sort the flimsies into the evening, after calling the Seneschal's office.  In preparation, he called Mikah, to ask her to stop for stimulants on the way back to the ship, as he might have a late night.  Not surprised, she sarcastically said she'd see about it when she got back to the ship.  Realizing that was a "No", Emkir politely thanked her and asked if there was anything he could do to help?  Mikah said she didn't think so and they cut the conversation.  Earlier, Aiden had worked with Emkir to cover as many news outlets as possible until the announcement from Duke Leonard had come across.  As Emkir comm'ed the Duke's offices, Aiden decided it was time for chow.  With no idea what the others planned, the pilot made a small meal for himself.

In engineering, Aali signed off on the port engineer's data pad and let them go.  Having worked side by side with them, she didn't need to check their work so she watched them escape before the press circus returned.  Looking into the berth, Aali saw some media-types stationed 'on the scene' in case anything new happened.  Their number had shrunk since she looked, but grown since the fiasco at the trade fair ended.  And some reporters had returned.  Seeing things fairly clear down below, Aali decided to head up to the galley to get some food.  Arriving in the lounge, she saw the Scout she'd been introduced to cooking a meal fit for one.  Emkir was on the comms in the lounge and not looking very pleased.  Looking up from the call, he was just finishing, Emkir asked Aali, "Are you hungry?"  He then looked around, asking the air "Where's Rol?" before remembering the retired marine was at the trade fair with the Knights.  Taking a moment to be polite, he finished with the Seneschalate tech and disconnected.  Emkir then let the media capture program run while he and Aali scared up some food.

Riding to the ship in the port taxi, Mikah finished talking with Emkir and asked, "What are you making for dinner Rol?"  A bit surprised, he joked, "Here?  Now?" as he pantomimed looking around for any cooking gear in the passenger cabin in case she was serious.  More flatly, she said, "When we get back to the ship." and he said, "Well, I'll cook up something, I'm sure.  There isn't much left in the galley, but I'll come up with something.  Maybe I'll make grilled cheese."  The last was said with a bit of an evil grin.  Changing the topic, Rol asked, "So what have we got going on tomorrow?" and Mikah said they had the Renewal Festival.  As the others turned their attention from small talk, Mikah continued, "Everybody.  Please keep your eyes out." and Brian cut her off joking, "with my eyes out I won't see much."  Ignoring that, Mikah continued, "No shopping as we go, as we need more..." and Rol asked, "Oh?  Am I going again?"  Mikah reminded Rol that he was invited to lunch by Lord William.  So he had to come with them and Countess Ursara.

Talking about the invitation, Zach said what Ms. Vik was thinking, "That means I don't have to go."  Still, Zimzod was a bit unhappy that they'd miss the Launch of the INS Nakhikhariin Min-Dow Strike Cruiser.  He'd have preferred that, but the lunch and Duke were more important.  Soon, the port taxi slowed to a stop and they were stopped outside the berth, waiting as a huge and slowly moving vehicle worked to edge its way into the berth entrance.  Between that vehicle and them was another smaller carrier, waiting to enter too.  The larger vehicle was marked 'Tequesta Spares', the shop where they'd bought the grav-wreck.  When he saw this, Brian said he'd handle the delivery.  The other truck appeared to be from one of the myriad local catering services, and Zach realized it was the food stocking supplies they'd ordered for the galley in the port berth.  He said he'd handle that and followed Brian, who'd disembarked to guide the Tequesta delivery into the berth.

Delivering The Goods And Dinner

     In the ship's galley, Aiden, Emkir and Aali were cooking when they heard a buzz begin from the berth entrance.  Emkir grabbed a headset, answering to find it was the vehicle delivery he'd been warned about.  The man on the comms asked for someone to open the berth as his driver got the truck into the entry.  Confirming they were warned and waiting for the delivery, Emkir told Aali to help with the work and told the caller she was on the way.  They disconnected and Emkir went back to cooking.  Aali went below-decks to meet with the delivery crew as Brian exited the port taxi to guide the truck in.  As Brian approached him from behind, the driver said "Well, Damn!  That was fast." with a smile.  At the same time, Zach approached the catering truck, who's driver seemed happy, and in no rush, to get things done.  When Zach knocked on the man's window, it took a short discussion for him to realize Zach was from the ship.

Once introductions were made, and as Brian started guiding the larger truck in, the media crowded around.  In case this was something they could sell to the other outlets later.  As they got under foot, Brian wondered to himself if they could accidentally run a few over, but station security were moving in as well.  Brian did consider using his marbles, but realized he only had one bag left, and the press were too spread out to have any real effect.  As Brian started leading the truck into the berth, Aali took her post by the portal.  Seeing him guiding the truck, she was surprised, as she didn't know the Knights party had returned.  Sparking up her comms, Aali let the Knights know she was at the portal controls to help out.

While this happened, Zach told the caterer where they wanted the supplies moved to.  Once the first truck was clear, the caterer pulled in and opened his truck.  He manned a control station in the truck door and operated a number of androids slaved to it.  Those began the process of moving the catering containers into the galley and stocking the food and drink venders.  This took about twenty minutes, as rack after rack was moved.  Then, the man angled for a bit of a tip.  Zach gave him Cr 10 for his troubles once the loading was done.  He handed Zach the manifest to sign, confirming the ship would pay the Cr 6,120 bill.  Once that was done, the man wasted no time buttoning up his 'droids and moving on to his next stop.

As the Knights and Rol watched the truckers unloading the grav vehicle, the press in the bay took more interest in Rol's presence.  Security kept things from getting out of hand as the wreck filled the rest of the space in the cargo bay.  Things there were now tight, and Zach wondered when the port would deliver on moving the machine parts out of the bay?  Rol considered setting up a grill outside the ship to show he was just the cook while that happened, and considered the many different ways to cook grilled cheese.  Eventually, with the deliveries done and the vehicles gone, ignoring the growing numbers of reporters, the crew headed to the lounge.

As Brian arrived, Emkir saw him and got the Knight's attention, asking if he had any interest in the devices piled on the desk in the berth?  Besides hoping the visible pile discouraged anyone sending more, Emkir said he hoped to sell them off in bulk, or dump those of no value after ripping any data from them.  But he wanted to know if Brian, or the rest, wanted any of them, as some were obviously valuable.  Brian said they could likely erase and use some of them, and Zach eagerly said they could sell or pawn them.  When they discussed where to move the pile, Brian considered the cargo bay and decided to store them in engineering.  Zach interrupted, saying they could be bugged, have other spyware on them, so he said they should be put in the berth offices rather than on the ship.  Catching his point, Brian agreed they should be left off the ship and told Emkir to leave them on the desk as the Admiral headed out to grab the last of the bids left by the press.

This had dropped off as the media industry considered Duke Leonard's threat to investigate the coverage of Major Kaihvos' arrival.  Brian made it clear he wanted to sit and go through the devices, to save the bids and find any malicious software before they disposed of them.  He was very concerned about triggering malicious programs on them before connecting them to draw off the bids.  Aali backed that up, saying any of the devices could have a small spy fittings installed that would give the sender video or audio access inside the ship.  Rol saw Aiden and Emkir had cooked their own meals as he decided what to cook.  Zach asked if Rol preferred cooking in the ship or the berth galley?  Rol thought about it and chose to cook in the ship because they were there.

As Rol started cooking, Brian considered checking the wreck and its devices and Rol asked why they bought the vehicle?  Brian said the grav modules might be usable for his 'droid and Mikah wanted the entertainment system.  After that, Rol asked Emkir, who was heading into the berth, how things were going with the offers?  Emkir said he was hoping to take the bids that looked reasonable and planned to separate them out to 'Very High', 'High', 'Reasonable', 'Low' and 'unacceptable'.  The low end, they'd just throw out before considering offers.  Rol asked how many they had in the best category, and Emkir admitted they had thousands in each category at the moment.  He said he'd need to sort them to answer that.  This led to talk of where to sort the submissions and eventually, they decided they'd move them to the offices in the berth to work.  Emkir pushed for more help on sorting the bids and Ms. Vik readily joined up.

Brian said he'd help too, but was quickly reminded by Zach about the data pads, and said he wanted to look at them too.  Zach made a point of saying the bids were all Emkir's to deal with, as a subtle reminder he told Emkir not to take hard copy bids.  Mikah decided to help sorting while Zimzod self-importantly announced he was going to clean his gear.  Aiden, who'd helped Emkir or watched the engineers all day, decided to sit and veg out, watching some vids in the lounge as the others ate.  Once finished with their food, Emkir and Aali went down to the berth to move the duffel bag of bids to the berth offices.  Once the rest of the food was cooked, everyone ate as Rol served them grilled cheese.

A Surprise Call

     While they started to eat and chat, the ship's comms buzzed.  Mikah picked up saying, "Hello" and was surprised when the caller said, "Hello, I am Lord Khiliishviil.[Kh-Hil-Eesh-Veal] I am calling from the office of Duke Leonard's Seneschal.  I'd like to speak to Major Kaihvos if I can?"  Mikah asked him to hold and she passed the comms to Rol.  Catching her change of attitude and look, Rol answered, "This is Kaihvos.  How can I help you?"  Once Rol answered, Lord Khiliishviil asked if the line was private and Rol said he could transfer to a private one.  Once it was transferred to his stateroom Rol went back there to talk.  As he picked up, Lord Khiliishviil said, "Please hold for His Grace, the Duke."  After a brief pause, Duke Leonard came on the line, and formally welcoming Rol to the system.  When he said he hoped the media circus hadn't caused too many problems, Rol said "Not at all Your Grace."

Again, there was a brief pause before the Duke asked, "So exactly what is, if you can tell me, the objective of your ship and your crewmates in visiting my system?"  Rol answered, "Well, honestly, we're on our way to the Mora System and, as I understand it, the Nobles among our crew are here to pay their respects to you.  We're also doing some long over-due maintenance on the ship and making ourselves available, as needed, for any needs the local authorities might have for us."  On the screen the Duke nodded before saying, "I'm sure you've heard we are rearranging my schedule for tomorrow evening?  It has been a long time since I've had a chance to sit and converse with a winner of the Starburst for Extreme Heroism and, frankly, with regard to what's been going on in my Duchy and the insults that have been handed to you.  I think it would be a good thing if you were to come join me for dinner tomorrow.

Stunned, Rol tripped a bit over his tongue as he replied, "That's very gracious of you Your Grace, of course." while accepting the invite.  He added, "I'd be honored."  Once Rol accepted, Duke Leonard asked if he knew of the Renewal Festival the next day and was planning to attend?  Rol said he was both aware of it and planning to attend.  The Duke was pleased, and explained how they celebrate renewing the biospheres inside the world's contained archologies after having covered the entire globe with structures.  How the system recognized their environmental systems, which were almost entirely supported by imported or hydroponic and techno-culturally grown goods.  He finished up saying he'd have his people pick Rol up from the festival and bring him to the Duke's station-side residence.

Rol was again very polite as he accepted and mentioned the interests of the Knights in meeting with him.  The Duke confirmed they were on his schedule, though he was not sure of when exactly.  He confirmed he'd get to meeting them.  When Rol accepted the Duke's suggestions, Duke Leonard smiled saying, "Wonderful.  I'll notify my seneschal, so we can finalize the plans and publish my calendar."  The Duke then thanked Rol and apologized for the unfortunate incidents at the trade fair, and with the media.  Rol remained polite as they completed the call and the comms went dark.  After that he spent a few moments collecting himself and mentally reviewing the conversation while adjusting his outlook for the next day.  Rol also decided to check his wardrobe, to see what he could wear?  Rol settled on his best semi-formal suit.

Zach And The Seneschal

     With Rol in his stateroom to talk to the Duke, Zach logged into his mail to see what responses he'd gotten from his contacts.  Scanning the in-boxes, he found word had gotten out that he was fronting for the interviews.  As a result, thousands of news outlets had sent in a flood of contact requests and offers.  Added to that were emails from lawyers, his former associates and official station queries.  Zach first opened the station requests as they were likely the most important.  The first was a request for him to explain if he was representing Rol as an agent contracting an interview?  The second, received four hours later, again asked Zach to respond, as he had not responded to the first message.  A third message said that, since Zach had not responded, Station offices were opening a preliminary investigation, and they looked forward to hearing from him.  Zach considered writing them back, but knew they wanted him to call them.

When he sparked up a line to the station, Zach got an alter-day tech.  Once he identified himself, the call was transferred to the shift senior tech.  That tech greeted him saying, "Mr. Wood.  Thank you for contacting us."  Zach explained that he would've replied sooner but he was out.  When Zach suggested they should have seen this in the news vids, the tech said that they were busy working and didn't have time to watch vids.  Moving on, the tech said they were preparing to call Zach again, as his status had changed.  Trying not to cringe, Zach asked how, and was told the case had been taken under review by Duke Leonard's Seneschalate.  The tech explained that, while he was still under the same restrictions, the Seneschal's office was now executing the investigation.

After that, the tech said he still needed to know how Zach was acting as an agent for Major Kaihvos?  Zach said he wasn't working as an agent.  What he was doing was helping his friend collect information from the media outlets.  He said that Rol could not make the calls himself, as it would become a circus and he'd get nothing done.  So Zach was just getting information for a friend.  Nothing official about it.  He threw in that he couldn't control how his involvement was misrepresented by the media.  Accepting the answer, the tech said, "OK.  We'll enter that into the data handed to the Seneschal, and hopefully that will be as it is, and won't cause any issues later."  After a few parting comments, they disconnected and Zach wondered if he should be hopeful or frightened that the Duke's people were investigating him.

Rol Spills The Beans

     Once Rol went back to the lounge, Zimzod looked up asking, "So who's your girlfriend?" and Rol flatly answered, "The Duke."  He then added more conversationally, "If you want to talk to him, I'm sure I can help you."  Playing it off, Zimzod said, "Oh, Him?  I didn't know you bent that way."  Ignoring the Knight, Rol returned to his food and looked for Mikah.  Getting her attention, he said "It appears I won't be with you folks for a part of tomorrow.  It looks like I'll be talking to the Duke."  Mikah took it as just a continuation of the joke and said, "Oh Dear God!"  But Rol locked eyes and said, "He wants to see me."  As Mikah, and the others, realized he was serious, Rol continued, "It appears he wants to discuss the situation."

When Mikah asked, "Your situation?"  Rol answered, "Yeah.  He seems not to be too happy with the...the incident, so..."  Interrupting him, Mikah said, "Well, it was totally your fault." in a defensive tone, but obviously kidding.  Bowing his head, Rol replied, "I know.  I should have killed him, but things happen like that.  You know."  Mikah simply chided, "You need to get back into practice."  Looking around, Mikah told them all to give Rol any more comms from Duke Leonard's Seneschal.  When Rol said "I'll put in a good word for you." in a friendly voice, Emkir grumbled this was the same office he'd called for help with the media and they blew him off.

Surprised, Rol asked "You called the Seneschal's office of the Duke?" and Emkir confirmed he never got to a Seneschal and was blown off by a lower echelon tech.  Rol was so surprised he asked a second time before just shaking his head and eating his food.  Once done eating, Rol began to clean the galley and stow gear while asking Mikah how well she knew the Duke?  She said not at all.  Emkir said he reported to the Duke for a year and thought he'd get some help from them.  Rol and Emkir discussed what Emkir learned about the Duke in that time.  Emkir explained Duke Leonard's neutrality in politics and history as an Imperial Naval officer before inheriting his title.  But beyond the commonly known, Emkir knew little, having only dealt with him in official settings.  As they talked, Emkir suggested Rol use his time with the Duke to ask about the Duke's preferred media outlets.  Rol was skeptical.

Hearing much of this Ms. Vik asked Emkir if Leonard was the kind of person who'd want an angle on Rol's situation?  Emkir said, as far as he knew, Duke Leonard was a straight shooter, but Ms. Vik was still not completely convinced.  Once dinner was done and that conversation ended, Emkir and Aali headed to the berth to deal with the bids. Ms. Vik joined them and so did Mikah.  Brian followed them to the berth as Zach dealt with emails.  Once done cleaning, Rol planned to help with the sorting.  Zimzod stayed watching vids as did Aiden, but made a point of watching vids, which prompted Zach to say "Just don't get the screen sticky."  Zimzod ignored that while scanning for something more exciting.

Diving into A Data Ocean

     Just vegging, Aiden watched until Zimzod found an action - war movie.  Zach decided to sort his emails by sender addresses, looking for his preferred outlets.  After fifteen minutes, Zach's search finished, leaving nearly 100 messages from the media outlets he'd targeted.  This allowed him to delete the thousands of junk messages.  Zach eventually spent the rest of the night working on reading through the rest of the messages.  They all boiled down to the same answer: 'We won't sign anything until we sit face to face and know what we're agreeing to."

Retrieving and dragging the duffel bag into berth office space, Emkir spilled it onto the floor to start sorting.  After helping with that, Aali joined Brian, back at the desk checking the data devices while Mikah and Ms. Vik helped Emkir.  The pile Brian and Aali surveyed were all manner of data storage and presentation devices.  They agreed they could erase and re-use the data crystals and chips.  Brian made a point that they should check them first, for spy devices or software.  While they were only supposed to have bids for the interview, Brian wanted to check them to prevent viral transfers.  Aali reminded him they should only transfer data to a stand-alone computer and Brian agreed.  But he joked about connecting them to the station's network.  Brian and Aali prepared to start separating out the chips and crystals to check them, but had to search the pile for a reader first.  And after quickly digging into the pile, each found a reader handling both chips and crystals.

Each was a fairly expensive reader, obviously given with an intent to show a level of interest and suggest rich rewards.  Sparking hers up, Aali found it locked to display the intended offer.  While it started playing the included message, she couldn't do more than control the playback.  Unable to get to the device itself, Aali decided to dump it, ignoring the well-dressed spokesman and his message.  Brian's device wasn't locked, but he saw Eikusdi putting hers down and took it to see if he could unlock it.  After a good fifteen minutes working, Brian got to the base system and deleted the locking file.  Once rebooted, he got full access and could play the message or load other chips and crystals.  To be sure, Brian verified the message was not damaged before killing it and setting it down.  He then told Eikusdi they should separate out all the chips and crystals before moving the stuff they wanted to keep into the office.  As they worked, Brian periodically looked up to wave to, pose for or taunt the media.

In the office, Emkir wanted the bids sorted into piles including 'possibly too good to be believed', 'Worth looking at', 'Independent stations' and offers that were 'right out'.  As a result, those working with the bids checked each document, or set of documents, for a money value, organizing by that and ignoring any other elements of the offer.  As they worked, they discussed going to the festival the next day and comm'd Zach and Rol to discuss how to get there.  When the taxi driver was brought up, Mikah told Zach to set something up with him.  Zach agreed, planning to call the next day, as he was working with his emails at the moment.  While talking, Zach told Rol about what he was seeing in the offers from the networks.  Confused about the lack of solid results, Rol asked about the bids received in the bay?  Zach reminded him that was Emkir's plan.

Eventually, Rol finished up in his stateroom and went down to join Emkir, Mikah, and Ms. Vik in sorting.  As he arrived, he asked about any sense of how the offers were going.  Emkir was vague about his answer, as he still had no real data.  When Rol pushed, Emkir said he'd have an answer in three days, which surprised Rol.  Emkir explained that any offers they didn't consider by then would just be disposed of as he indicated the huge number of bids.  When Rol asked if they had any sense at all from the bids, Mikah grabbed a stack off the top and started reading a range of numbers that jumped all over the spectrum.  As she finished, Emkir explained he'd received a large number of electronic bids too, which he was thinking of handing off to Zach to investigate.  As Emkir looked over the piles of undealt with emails, Rol reminded him not to burn himself out because he still needed to play agent to negotiate the interview.

Mikah and Inger returned to sorting as Rol began helping and he asked, "So what do you know about our new crew member?"  Rol had the impression, from how they acted in the galley, that they'd met before she signed on.  Emkir admitted he knew her "rather well", having met her in the war.  Pausing to consider, Emkir said "She's a good Scout, good in combat and the sort of person you'd want to have at your back."  Rol nodded asking, "So where is she staying?  I know all the staterooms are taken." and Emkir said she'd be staying with him.  This caused Rol to pause before saying "I take it then that you know her quite well?"  Emkir admitted they knew each other very well, and had each thought the other died in the war.  Rol wondered what would happen when they had their first argument, but was comforted that Eikusdi was less of an unknown.

Rol then asked how she was as an engineer, and Emkir puffed up a bit boasting that Aali was almost as good as Brian.  He also said she got her job on her own, with no help from him.  Emkir shrugged and said, "It's the luck of the draw.  After years of being stationed places where no one knows me, I'm finally in a place where I found someone who likes me.  It was bound to happen."  Listening to the conversation from where she was working, Ms. Vik wondered why Rol even cared?  Inger really couldn't see any reason to dig into the apparent relationship.  Rol thanked Emkir for his information and said he looked forward to them all getting to know Eikusdi well.  That conversation eventfully died off for other comments, discussions and observations as they continued working into the evening.

A short time later Zach comm'ed Mikah, to ask if they were moving from the ship into the berth bunks?  Rol heard this and said he'd enjoy larger quarters while they were in port.  Mikah considered that it would save on ship-board consumables and expenses as Zach reminded her this was why they paid for the food in the berth galley.  Ms. Vik, unfamiliar with the technical issues of ship-board life, asked if someone should stay aboard, just to keep an eye on systems, but that was not a concern.  As a result, Mikah called everyone and had them set up time from what they're doing to move into the bunks.  They all agreed and took time to pack for a week before moving.

Despite the simplicity of the search for bid data, they saw it would still take sometimes up to a minute per offer, depending on the formatting, type and clarity of the statements.  It became clear the task would take days, if not a week, but they stayed at it until the end of the evening.  A few times, Zimzod made an appearance and, at one point, said it would be easier to find a Tellona Diamond to sell, which was met with tart snapping comments from all those helping.  He showed how much the replies affected him by saying how bright a fire the pile of bids would make.  As time burned, Emkir worked on the bids until midnight with Ms. Vik.

Aali worked with Brian until he racked out, and worked with Emkir until it was time for sleep.  Emkir planned to check his emails once in their bunk but, after logging in, he found thousands of them.  Scanning the range of subjects, he considered copying the filter program he'd written for the video feed, but that would take hours more.  This reminded him that he'd not even checked on the video data, and the Admiral began feeling like he'd jumped into an ocean and was sinking.  After logging out, Emkir set his alarm and joined Aali, who was tired and had gone to sleep.

Brian had, as Mikah and Aiden, headed to his bunk and set his alarm for the morning.  He and Eikusdi had moved much of the pile into the offices and left the junk to be sold or dumped after they pulled the data from them.  He was pleased to have sorted the chips and crystals in preparation for copying the data off, and separating the good devices from the garbage.  But he was still not looking forward to removing the data, much less digging into it to find anything dangerous.  The last to hit the rack was Zimzod, who spent some time poking through the pile of devices both in the offices and on the desk in the berth.  As he scanned through the pile of tech, he asked why this could not have happened before he bought the other reader back in the Jae Tellona system.

Still, he figured it wasn't too late for an upgrade.  So he dug through the pile, grabbing those units that looked good.  Once Zimzod had a pile of players he liked, he moved them to his bunk, where he piled them up, grabbed a drink and started checking them.  Since they should only have offers, then a few more or less wouldn't affect the thousands they were buried under.  He started checking their features and making sure he could wipe them clean to use them.  Eventually, Zimzod settled on some he liked, and connected them to the station network.  Once he downloaded a number of games and applications, he headed to sleep.

Zimzod's Breakfast Surprise

     At 6:30am, Rol's alarm went off and he began his daily routine.  By 7am, as Alarms were waking the Knights, Rol had finished his preparations and was heading out to cook breakfast.  Shortly after he started cooking, Zimzod emerged from his bunk in a ship's suit loudly asking, "Where's Food?"  Rol looked up asking, "You didn't bring any?" and Zimzod said, "You're the cook."  As Rol decided to ignore him and started grabbing ingredients, Zimzod grabbed a seat in the galley and pulled a very expensive looking device from a pocket.  As Rol began to cook, Zimzod sparked up a game and started playing, ignoring Rol.  When Rol bit, and asked "What's that?", Zimzod said, "Dunno.  I found it in the pile out in the berth and cleaned it out and downloaded some games and stuff from the station network."  Not saying exactly what he was thinking, Rol responded, "Oh.  Anyone else know you have that?" and Zimzod smiled, "They'll find out" as he returned to the game.  Not letting it go just yet, Rol asked, "Is it any good?" and Zimzod answered, "The game? Yeah."

Rol asked "Can I try it out sometime?" and Zimzod smiled broadly saying, "Sure" in a happy voice.  Getting more than he expected, Rol asked, "So what's it called?"  Zimzod said it was a single person shooter space-blaster game.  Nodding, Rol turned back to his cooking.  When he turned back to the Knight, Rol saw Zimzod had put another expensive looking device on the counter.  It had a nice large display and Rol could see a clock on it.  As he looked at it closer, Rol saw the clock was a counter of some sort, and seemed to be counting down.  Looking from the timer to Zimzod, Rol asked "Late for an appointment?" and Zimzod said "I just need to know when I need to get dressed."  Rol asked, "That doesn't go boom when it gets to zero, does it?"  Zimzod just hit him with a frown and went back to his game so Rol returned to cooking.  Eventually, as he ate, Rol heard a buzz and Zimzod said, "Ah.  Time to get dressed." and tapped something before rising and leaving the galley for his bunk.

Rol saw that Zimzod left the clock device and decided to check it out.  Without touching it, Rol could tell it was very expensive looking data reader/player with a clock application on it.  The clock read '00:00' and had a few buttons marked 'Set' 'Alarm' etc...  Rol first thought of turning it off, or even putting it in one of the storage compartments of the galley, but eventually left it sitting on the counter.  By the time Mikah and Brian emerged at 7:40, breakfast had been served and Rol was finishing eating.  Zimzod had gone to dress, leaving his dirty plates and the tech-toy behind.  Mikah said "Excellent!  Any caff?" as she saw the food, unaware her loud outburst partly matched Zimzod's.  Rol pantomimed as if he were searching as he said, "Caff...  Caff...  Yes, I think we have some of that."  But as Mikah said, "Awesome", he added, "But I think we're all out."  This confused Mikah, who also had not had her first cup of stimulant.

Mikah demanded, "Didn't we just get a delivery??" and Rol answered, "Let me check."  Making another play at checking the levels in the drink vender, he turned back to Mikah saying, "Nope, it's just the artificial stuff.  None of the really good..."  Mikah cut him off saying, "Well, we didn't think we were gonna have any really good stuff."  Rol answered, "Well, you never know. It's just something you might want to think about."  Mikah flatly said "OK" while she moved up to serve herself some breakfast and a cup of, according to the label, 'stim-caff' (by LSP Corp.)  As she settled in, Mikah noticed a fairly expensive electronic data assistant sitting on the counter next to a dirty place setting.

When Mikah asked, "What's that", pointing to the device as Brian noticed and reached for it, Rol said, "Zimzod left that there."  When Mikah asked, "He just left it there?"  Rol answered, "It was counting down and reached zero, and he left it there."  As Rol was answering Mikah, Brian picked the reader up and realized that it likely came from his pile of devices considered worth saving to use.  Investigating what Zimzod did to it, Brian checked the files, memory and user's log to find it had been completely wiped.  The only activity the unit showed were recent downloads made after he'd gone to bed.  Getting up, Brian knocked on Zimzod's bunk door to hear him shout, "Getting dressed!"

Ignoring that, Brian asked, "Do you wanna explain what this is and why..." and was interrupted by Zimzod shouting "Getting dressed!  Come back later."  But Brian persisted, and eventually a half-dressed Zimzod opened the door.  As he did, Brian saw past him to a pile of devices, obviously taken from his piles, on a table in the bunk.  Holding up the device from the galley, Brian asked "Do you want to tell me what you're doing with these?  And where you got them from?  Because Eikusdi and I were going through these and wanted to salvage some of them."  Zimzod shrugged saying, "You just left them down there.  I figured I'd take some." as if Brian had no reason to care at all.

As Mikah, who'd followed Brian, asked "Some?" Brian asked "What are you doing with them?"  Zimzod shrugged again saying "I don't know.  I'll find something to do with them."  When Brian got specific, asking what Zimzod had done with the one he was carrying, the Knight said he needed a timer.  Shaking their heads, Brian asked about the data that was on it, and Zimzod said he'd erased it because he didn't need it.  This really annoyed Brian, as he'd wanted to save all the bids on the devices.  Eventually Brian explained that he needed the data on the devices and he'd even give Zimzod any of them once he was done.  But he wanted the former Marine to stop erasing the data until then.  Not really concerned with what he thought was a blizzard of white noise, Zimzod just shrugged and agreed, allowing Brian to recover the devices he'd taken from the pile.

Eventually, as the Knights had to get dressed, they put the devices on a table in the galley.  Zimzod was handing over the ones he'd grabbed, with Mikah and Brian were moving them, when Aiden, Emkir and Aali emerged from their bunk.  Wondering what in hell was going on, Brian explained to Eikusdi, who said she'd get them back into the offices.  In the meantime, Emkir asked Zimzod if they were using a sieve for security?  He complained that any of the devices could have spy devices, and they were now brought into the offices and bunks.  Emkir then went off to the galley frustrated.

Dealing With the Bids, Devices And the Port

     After things settled, Mikah returned to the galley asking Rol if he was going to cook for the Duke that night?  The retired Marine only asked "If he asked you to, would you say no?"  When Mikah said she wouldn't refuse, Rol said she had her answer.  She then joked about him being sure to cook his finest grilled cheese, and include the finest pickle.  Emkir said someone on the Duke's level should get potato chips too.  Rol added in bacon bits and plenty of horse radish.  Eventually everyone except Aiden had eaten, or was eating.  Those going to the festival had dressed and they realized they needed transportation.  When they talked about this, Mikah decided to call the port for a taxi.  But when she did, she found the festival had things tied up and they could only promise to get a taxi to them as soon as possible.

Brian made a joke about going out to hail a cab and Mikah joked that he should ask his media friends about it.  Rol pulled the card he got from the taxi driver who took them to the trade fair, and asked about calling him.  Mikah said that, since he'd done a good job for Rol before, Rol should call.  Rol asked if she was sure "he" should be the one to call?  Mikah said she was sure he should, as she relaxed and looked forward to some entertainment erupting from the call.  So Rol sparked his comms and called the contact on the card.  When the driver picked up, it was clear he was in the middle of a conversation and appeared to be driving too.  Rol told the man he needed transport and the driver demanded, "Who are you?"

Rol said he was aboard the Hotel California, and needed to get transportation for four people.  After that, the driver repeated, Hotel California and told Rol to hold on.  There was a pause while Rol confirmed the man was driving, and then he came back on the line.  "Hotel California, huh?  Four people you said?"  When Rol agreed, the driver asked where they were going and Rol said the renewal festival.  The driver told him to hold on and Rol could hear the man claiming a family emergency and apologizing as he dropped his current fare where they were.  There was also obviously a protest and 'discussion'.  But as it escalated the driver threatened to call station security, and Rol could hear the 'fare' give in and the sounds of them getting out while hurling insults and complaints.  The last thing Rol heard, before the driver was back on the line with him, was the Driver saying, "Sorry for the inconvenience.  No charge."

Back on the line, the driver promised to be at the ship in a few minutes and they cut the line as Rol let everyone know their ride was on its way.  As this was happening, Aiden looked at the others, and the pile of electronics from where he'd grabbed a seat and some breakfast.  Brian saw his look and snapped at the pilot, "Don't touch anything!"  Aiden responded, "Not me.  That's Zimzod's job."  Brian said, "I already talked to him." worried that wouldn't matter much.  Taking yet another minute, Brian thought about locking the devices up, but didn't have the time.  The Knights headed in to finish preparing as time burned.  When the taxi arrived, Rol said grab what you need and let's go.  They headed out and loaded in, and were quickly on their way.  Left behind, Emkir had breakfast before heading down to deal with the bids while Aali started dealing with moving the electronics.

Aiden relaxed as he ate in a "Knight-Free" environment.  He was pleased the Duke had come out in support of Rol, if only because it might quiet things down.  Soon, Ms. Vik woke and went into her daily routine.  When she emerged from her bunk, she saw a pile of devices in the common area.  Looking around, Inger found food left in the galley that seemed nicely edible.  Not sure who was not awake, but counting from memory, Inger left some and took her plate to sit and watch vids in the common area.  Soon enough, Aali came in and was apparently moving the datapads somewhere.  Ms. Vik saw this and asked if Aali would like some help, and the engineer answered "Sure".  Inger ate, and considered what to do after helping.  She was surprised as she realized she had nothing she had to do.  The events surrounding Rol's interview had gotten in her head, and she remembered Rol and she still needed to visit station offices to discuss Admiral Uuela's visit.  So while she could hire out for side contracts, Inger wanted to help get the interview done first, to clean up standing issues.  After all, she thought to herself, they were in port for a full month.

So Ms. Vik helped Eikusdi get the devices moved to a lockable room before helping Emkir with the sorting again.  This allowed Aali to take time when the port engineers arrived to let them aboard.  Before she went to sort, Ms. Vik comm'd Rol to discuss meeting with the port officials.  Inger told him that sometime, possibly that day, they needed to talk with station offices about Admiral Uuela.  Rol just said, "It's going to be a tight day.  Is there any chance we could put it off til tomorrow?"  Inger said, "If we want to keep in the good graces of the port, probably not.  We've already kind of..."  Rol cut her off saying, "I'd rather be in the good graces of the Duke.  You know?"  Hearing the sounds of the crowd and recalling Rol 'had to' go with the Knights to the festival, she asked "if you don't mind me asking, what are you doing now?"  He said, "The festival, after which I meet with the Duke.  It's kind of a linear thing.  If we could put it off til later...I don't know."

Ms. Vik considered this new information and asked, if the Duke and dinner wasn't until eight that night?  Rol told her he was leaving the fair with the Duke.  He did suggest they meet with the port's night-shift afterwards.  Finally, Inger decided the port would accept 'working with the Duke' as more important.  She told Rol she'd set up an appointment for them to meet with the officials at eleven the next morning, if that was clear?  Rol said, to the best of his knowledge, he had nothing planned but reminded her how things happened with their crew.  She acknowledged that, but accepted it was the best they could do for the moment.

A Surprise Heading To The Festival

     In the berth, the taxi arrived, and pulled up so the fit was tight and none of the media could get involved, or even get more than blocked shots.  The Knights and Rol boarded with the driver's assistance, and headed off for the festival.  On the whole, a very professional job.  Once they were moving, the driver greeted them as Rol said, "Good to see you again." and confirmed they were going to the festival.  The driver started chatting again, as he had the day before.  Only this time, he started talking about the festival, and asked if they had ever been to one before?  Mikah stepped in, saying they were invited to have lunch with Lord William.  She asked if the driver could get them to the same entry that His Lordship would be using?  The driver politely admitted that he'd be working for the press if he could.  She then asked if he could point them in the right direction and he promised to do his best.

When Rol asked about the popularity and scope of the event, they learned it was one of the most important events of the system calendar.  It was celebrated system-wide, with a number of dignitaries coming in from neighboring systems.  Especially trade partners and VIP's of the other systems in Duke Leonard's fiefdom.  This included nominal supervision over all the systems in the subsector, so they could imagine the army of nobility and bureaucrats that would be in attendance.  Being talkative, the driver asked, "Meeting Lord William?  Just a social call or are you doing business?" and Mikah answered, "A little bit of everything."  Reaching for his dashboard before turning his seat, he said, "I have these pamphlets you might want" and began offering the sheets to all four of them.

As they looked around, Mikah noticed hers was a different color than the others.  As they began reading, Rol, Brian and Zimzod found the electronic pamphlet described the festival and broke it down by section and meaning.  When Mikah opened hers, her eyes were immediately - drawn to a pop up saying "I'm IRIS" with a picture of the driver!  She caught her initial statement with a loud "Ah!" and followed that up saying, "Well that's good to know!  Thank you very much for the information." in a very cheery voice.  The reaction got Rol's attention, and when he asked what was up, Mikah said "I mean the information on the ceremony."  The driver responded "No problem, let me know if you need any help?"

Mikah said she absolutely would, and asked if there were any especially significant ceremonies in the festival.  The driver directed her to read about a section of the pamphlet.  As he drove, the man told Mikah, "We're hopeful we can get you Knights together with Captain Diievard from Duke Norris' office.  His surprising comment caught Rol's attention.  He wondered who this Captain was, how the driver knew of their involvement with Diievard, and how it was that taxi drivers were involved in organizing the social lives of Imperial Knights?  As well, this was the first Rol was learning that Dame Mikah was also involved with the Captain.  Mikah asked, "He's going to be there?  He was supposed to get back to us on some things."  The driver answered, "No, but I handle transportation for a number of people and he mentioned your names, so we figured we'd do our best to be helpful."  Rol wondered who else was involved in their business, and what business they were involved in?

Mikah thanked the agent, adding, "Any help you can offer!" and wondered where they'd been in Risek?  But she then figured they were likely dying like everyone else...  Not giving the others too much time, the driver described the arrival layouts.  From his description, the high nobility were to arrive at designated gates with increased security, while there were other gates for the rich and significant nobility.  Finally, the general admission gates were for everyone else.  With a wink, he promised to see if he could get them into one of the gates for the High Nobility.  He did say they'd have to use their contacts to get in a gate if he could drop them there, as they didn't have physical invitations or credentials.  Mikah hoped Lord William had it on his calendar, since they'd be meeting with him and Countess.  "Ursara?" the driver asked.  "I remember her from yesterday, when I dropped this Major Kaihvos and his friends off at her berth."  Despite the easy explanation, this man was jumping on Rol's last nerve.

When Rol suggested the event should be very special, and have a lot of notables there, the driver confirmed everyone who was anyone would be there.  He also said the Duke would officiate, and no one missed a chance to possibly meet him.  Rol nodded, saying he could understand that.  The driver continued that everyone would be there before rattling off the names of a number of groups and even saying Former Admiral Count Santanocheev would be there, being the Count of the Fornice system and a VIP in the neighboring Mora subsector.  This caught the Knight's attention, because of who he was.  Everyone in the taxi knew Duke Norris 'fired' Admiral Santanocheev with the Imperial Warrant when he took command in the Fifth Frontier War.  And he was a personal protégé of Grand Duchess Delphine herself.  The Knights wondered, and Mikah speculated aloud, if they might have problems with the Count?  The driver just laughed aloud and said, "Not in public."

As the Knights considered that, the driver said he'd heard the Count wouldn't be in a position to bother anyone, as he'd been 'seated' next to the honored guests.  When they asked who that was, the driver answered with an evil grin, "A Zhodani Trade delegation."  As he said that, none of the passengers could keep from breaking out in laughter so they didn't even try.  Mikah managed to get out, "Wow.  Nobody likes this guy except Delphine."  Given the widely held belief that Santanocheev was being badly beaten by the Zhodani before Norris took over, it was hard to disagree.  So the driver didn't bother to comment as his passengers considered this among themselves.  Despite this, the Admiral was a Count in his own right, and had some power available to him.  But Mikah pointed out they were not even on his radar so he was not much of a consideration.  Still, Rol pointed out he received his SEH while Santanocheev was in command.  Mikah thought, "Sucks to be you."  But didn't say it.

There was a huge level of managed insanity as the taxi arrived at the festival.  Before manually driving, the agent gave them cards, and Mikah paid Cr 50 for a Cr 25 fare.  Then it was into the crowd, as some of the media figured out 'this' was Major Kaihvos' taxi.  They surged in as security followed, working to the team's advantage.  Since the media usually didn't 'jump lines' unless a vehicle's occupants were very important, the taxi was rushed past with only 'weapons and dangerous items' scans rather than stopped for credentials checks.  Once at the gate and exiting, Rol's comms went off and he discussed meeting the station folks with Ms. Vik.  When Mikah asked if this was important he waved her off.

Dealing With The Datapads

     After moving the electronics with Ms. Vik, Aali headed to the berth entrance to meet the port engineers.  Signing to verify their arrival time, she planned to spend the day working with them on the engineering systems and maintenance.  At least, until lunch time, once she finished moving the electronics.  In his stateroom, Zach woke feeling well rested about the same time Ms. Vik had comm'd Rol from the galley.  He began his morning routine and did what exercise he could, so he didn't reach the galley until the others were off at their tasks.  Zach found cold leftovers from breakfast and heated up what remained.

As he ate, Zach noticed a pile of data readers and other players as he ate.  Soon, the new engineer, Eikusdi, arrived with Ms. Vik, to move the last of the devices elsewhere.  He was curious about why they were there, and when he asked, Eikusdi answered, "Um, Zimzod appropriated them." in a very disapproving tone.  Zach just laughed and Eikusdi responded, "Yeah."  Shaking his head, Zach said, "That's not a big surprise." and asked if they needed a hand?  While they were moving the devices, Eikusdi considered the big pile of them still at the berth portal and said "Sure."  Once he agreed to help, Eikusdi explained the task, as Ms. Vik headed to the office with her armload.  She then went to help Emkir sort.  In the meantime, Zach decided to be smart about things and went looking for a container to pile the devices in and move them in bulk.

As he looked, Zach wandered out to the offices and saw Emkir working with Ms. Vik on the mass of bids.  He called in, "Hey Admiral, how's it going in there?"  Emkir only shrugged and said, "It's going", though appearances suggested it wasn't going anywhere fast.  Scanning for a container, Zach asked if Emkir was done with the now empty duffel, promising to bring it back if he could borrow it.  Emkir said 'sure' and Zach met Eikusdi at the desk with it.  She agreed that would help nicely and they began loading the devices into the duffel.  As he worked with her, Zach examined some of the players, having only just looked at them for the first time.  He found there were some really expensive units in the pile and decided to set one aside to investigate after they'd moved them.

Eikusdi said the vast majority would just get wiped and checked for spy devices before being sold off or given out to those who want them.  Once they'd moved the devices, Zach pulled the one he'd set aside.  When he activated it, he saw a very glossy video with a sales spokesperson explaining why they should allow Station-Net to handle your interview..."  As Zach watched, joe-salesman ran through the station's qualities, their numbers of affiliates and system-penetration, etc...  As he picked at the information, he listened for a money offer while also picking out those statements he knew were designed to convey security, confidence and other matters of comfort.

When the sales pitch seemed to be droning on, Zach checked the length of the recording finding the entire pitch was some forty five minutes long!  Not wanting to waste that amount of time, Zach started fast forwarding it to stop from time to time and skim.  He finally hit a segment where joe-salesman was saying, "..and I'm sure you can see the value in our offer..."  Stopping the playback, he spent a few minutes searching from that point.  But he still didn't find a money offer.  It was an unlikely chance anyway, hoping to find statement five to ten seconds long statement in 2700 of the buggers.  Now intrigued, Zach started investigating the files stored on the device, to find each seemed to be a little sub-directory off the main system.  Examining them, Zach realized there was a built in 'question and answer' feature supporting the sales pitch, with individual video files and data to handle that issue.

As Zach checked them, each video appeared to be called up from the main 45 minute spiel when appropriate.  But there was no sub-application for users to search selectively.  When Zach opened one vid-file, a splash screen for the network came up as a voice said, "So you've asked about security?  Our corporate security values are..." at which point Zach turned off the reader, having seen enough.  On the whole, the system was set up in a very slick way, to force the audience to hear the whole thing.  Zach set the unit aside as it was still valuable as data reader/players went, and went through a number of the devices.  While some of them got to a money offer quite quickly, Zach found that designing 'watch all of me' presentations must have been both common and inexpensive enough that those with money used them.  The ones that did offer numbers were nothing spectacular, and Zach found a range between Cr 10,000 and 15,000.

Aiden, who'd finished his breakfast, considered the worth of going to the festival.  Eventually he decided that, when he had the choice, anywhere the Knights were was somewhere he didn't want to be if it was just for fun.  As he considered what he 'would' like to do, Aiden saw he had a message on his comms.  The ping was from a scrounger he knew in the 1123rd Scout Training Squadron(Porozlo Scout Base) by the name of Hal, and read:
         Hi Aiden,
         Just heard you're in-system.  We have a small money-maker set up.
         We could use another Scout.  You interested?


Aiden considered the offer and shrugged it off, thinking about checking some gun shops.  First, he checked to see how much media were out in the bay?  Most of them had left, and just a small number were there 'in case something happened' they needed coverage of, or Rol returned.  So he hopped on the network, looking for shops near the bay.  Of course, the first that popped up was Instell-Arms, and he marked their location before looking for specialty stores.  With a list of locations, Aiden figured to visit Instell-Arms before doing a tour of some other 'niche' weapons shops.

Ms. Vik's Call To Station Central

     As this happened, Ms. Vik comm'd station offices and got a tech who bounced her to station central.  There she talked to Chyr Gokhman, a Senior shift manager she'd been friendly with.  Even though his position was much lower than her's while she was in the SPA.  She apologized for not acting sooner on bringing Rol there to talk.  Inger explained Rol's presence had been requested by the Duke and the best they could do was the next day at 11am.  When she asked if that was ok, the officer shook off the moment's surprise, confirming she said Rol was with Duke Leonard?  Once that was confirmed, he said "Tomorrow at 11am will have to be acceptable then", and asked if there was a reason Ms. Vik felt she needed permission from them for Rol to meet with His Grace?

Ms. Vik simply said, since it had been a couple of days, she just wanted to be polite.  Chyr joked with her that the Duke trumped everything else.  Inger promised she'd let them know as quick as she could if anything else came up.  Once done with business, Chyr asked what she was up to, and she honestly answered, "not much".  Chyr then brought up, and Inger had to explain, the bids for an interview with Rol, and how she ended up with this crew again?  And also said that, after much more of the circus, she'd need to do something, asking if he wanted to see a play or something with her?

Chyr said yes, and Inger also suggested she'd be interested in doing some work as a contractor, saying he should let her know if he heard of anything?  He agreed, but also suggested he'd look for anything he could send her on the interviews too.  Ms. Vik thanked him for that as she relaxed and let her feelings show a bit more.  Once she finished talking to Chyr, Ms. Vik went down to the offices to help Emkir sort.  Shortly after she started heading to the office, she got a message from Countess Ursara's seneschal that the Countess had been updated on who everyone in the crew really were.  Especially following the incident at the trade fair.  Inger just shrugged over the spilt milk and moved on.

Arrival Before The Festival

     Once at the gates for the festival, the crew were asked for their Idents.  After identified, the gate personnel directed the four to the non-VIP entrance, which was a very very long walk away.  The attitude the security displayed was 'no nonsense'.  While the team didn't argue, Mikah mentioned that they were there to meet with Lord William, and she wanted to be sure they were in the right place?  Being an unusual response, this got the agents to pause, and one spoke into his comms, stepping away so he wouldn't be overheard.  Soon, the man asked for Mikah's Ident again and quickly completed his call before very graciously apologizing to the four of them.  He asked for each one's Ident in turn, verifying as he explained that he'd have someone take them in and guide them to their seats.  His work was done quickly, and someone was waiting to guide them as the four thanked him for his efficiency and moved on.  When Mikah asked if they'd be able to see Lord William, she was told they were being brought to his box.

As they arrived into a kind of sports arena, they were led into a very plush and richly appointed sky box accommodation.  Instead of the event, the many monitors in the box seemed to cover a variety of news and entertainment channels.  Scanning them, Zimzod saw one was apparently covering the launch of the INS Nakhikhariin Min-Dow.  From what he could tell, coverage had not begun, and the monitor showed pre-ceremony military operations.  Despite wanting to watch, Zimzod knew he had to pay attention to the here and now.  He noticed each monitor had an assigned observer taking notes.  One thing was for certain, Lord William might be a Professor of Literature at Rhylanor University, but he was obviously a lot better connected than every other professor the Knight had ever met!  As the four got used to their surroundings, tried the snacks and checked out the view, and in Mikah's case, considered dropping a loogie on those in the seats below, Lord William arrived, accompanied by Countess Ursara.

As they arrived, William allowed Ursara to greet them first and she said hello to each, giving Mikah a hug before finishing up before Rol.  As she faced him, Rol realized her entire demeanor toward him had changed, and assumed it was because she now knew who he was.  She was much more friendly, and even respectful, as she greeted the 'Hero'.  She greeted 'Major Kaihvos', apologizing for treating him as staff, having not been told who he was.  At that point, she cast a brief accusatory glance at the Knights.  But she promised to make up for it in the future.  Ursara suggested nothing inappropriate, but it was clear his social standing had risen in her eyes.  Mikah thought to herself, 'What a suck up!' But this happened as Lord William took a seat and they all moved to do likewise.

Countess Ursara ended up taking a seat between Mikah and William as she turned to the Knight asking, "So how are you?" with very real enthusiasm.  Mikah had to wonder, having spent a large part of the day before with the Countess.  But then Ursara continued, "You have to tell me your secret."  Again, the enthusiasm was very real and Mikah was confused now, as she asked, "What secret?"  Surprised Mikah had not guessed, Ursara asked, "How did you get the senior administrator of a system-spanning port authority to serve you?"  As Rol and the Knights fought off the urge to bust out laughing, Mikah managed to squeak out that she 'couldn't just reveal that', but it was clear the Countess 'was' impressed.

The truth was that many SPA Executives of major ports earned noble titles through their service, but Ms. Vik had never run an important system.  Even rising to be a senior executive, with regional interstellar responsibilities, Inger had always suffered in the shadow of low priority postings.  Of course, Mikah didn't mention that Ms. Vik wasn't working for her, or obeying her commands, except as the ship's captain.  But it did lead to an unusual dynamic between the Lord, who was more important because of his brother the ruling Duke, the Knight who controlled a Senior SPA Executive and the merchant Countess...

The six of them talked about the upcoming festival as the minutes before the event ticked off and Lord William learned the four had never attended a renewal festival.  Realizing this, he decided to explain the event as it unfolded, and unintentionally slipped into instructor mode.  While Rol and the Knights were OK with this, as they are hoping to gain favor, Countess Ursara felt a bit 'pushed back' and had to accept it.  As it unfolded, the festival grew from the discovery, settlement and exploitation of the Rhylanor system, to celebrations of the cultures of the main and outer world societies, and orbital communities.  As the ceremony worked toward lunch, it began to blossom along the lines of the trade that developed from the system as well as taking on early undertones of the system's political beginnings.

Aiden's Gun Shopping Trip

     Aiden arrived at the Instell-Arms annex to find it large enough by itself to be a small space station.  He was almost assaulted with the expected advertisements.  As he entered, living beings and androids approached knowing they had "everything", and only needed to know what he was interested in, so they could direct him to it.  Aiden stepped up to a man holding a data pad, asking, "Handguns, please?" and the man happily responded, "Sure!  What tech?"  Aiden suggested he'd like to start with Zero-Gee and the man gleefully responded, "What type?"  When Aiden asked about high tech, the man asked "How high tech?" ready to break it down from 'Bleeding edge' tech but Aiden stopped him there.  Without needing to consult his pad, the man directed Aiden to his department and the pilot was on his way.

The directions brought him through many racks of weapons and systems, to a set of personal people movers.  having been warned that walking it himself might require several in-store meals and some over night stays, Aiden hopped a people-mover and punched in the code given him.  Eventually Aiden arrived at the sales displays for a surprisingly vast and not so surprisingly vastly expensive number of very high tech zero-gee weapons.  The display included all legally available, newly developed and "certified for public sale" high-tech toys and a small collection of advanced Darrian weapons, based on their now lost technology.  The display included decorative mock ups of what they believed were weapons from the Ancients, in order to draw the buyer in.

While he enjoyed looking at the mock ups, just to see representations of highly illegal artifacts, Aiden spent most of his time drooling over the Imperial sourced weapons.  Chief among these were versions of a laser pistol that actually managed to hold its battery pack in its grip, rather than connecting to a pack via a cable.  As he was checking the data, a pop up appeared saying they also had in stock a single laser Sword based on the same tech.  The pilot knew Sir Brian and Dame Mikah would be interested in that!  He also knew he didn't have the cash to show them 'his shiny new Better than Yours' laser weapon.  Out of morbid curiosity, Aiden checked the prices, finding the pistols cost in the area of Cr 30,000, without the battery pack.  And the laser sword cost Cr 500,000.  Again, without the battery pack.

Of course, as he examined the data on the weapons, disclaimers boldly stated the available charge and combat performance resulted in fewer pulls of the trigger for the pistol and a less combat hours for the sword.  Checking, Aiden saw a "no cable" laser foil didn't exist.  Yet.  The pistol battery pack costs Cr5,000 or Cr7,000 pre-charged.  Moving away from the ultra-expensive toys, Aiden checked out more advanced snub pistols and ammunition.  The advances in snub weapons allowed for faster exchange of clips, better self-cleaning and easier maintenance.  Some units better handled add-ons like smaller or more effective stabilizers and interfaces to HUD plug in's, etc...  The tech upgrade ideas, and their costs, expanded across the gamut.  Despite this, the ammunition showed nothing new.

Eventually leaving that section, Aiden sought out assault long arms to see what advances he could see on the light assault gun.  The displays showed many varied types of units making use of differing advanced materials.  The designs mostly centered around improved battlefield survivability.  With a weapon form as old as star travel itself, there were few real opportunities for advance.  As well, the available ammunition forms were fairly well known, if not any less expensive in the case of white phosphorus rounds.  Once done looking for possible upgrades, Aiden cruised their handgun sections, paying more attention to collectable weapons and checking out the antique weapons too.  But with those rare items starting around Cr35,000, the antiques were very much a 'look and don't touch' tour.  After that, Aiden headed out to check the specialty shops and see the sights.

Next: Points Of Karma In Transit