NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen
Mazun, Darrurz, and Arthur are waiting in front of the hospital for their ride.
The air is cool, but not cold. The sky is overcast.
A grav van sets down in front of them on the street. It's long and looks like it can hold about ten people. Nokh is sitting in the front passenger seat with another vargr driving. Joe is sitting in the next row. Once at rest, the curbside doors open and Nokh's window rolls down.
Nokh says, "Good to see you wolves ready to go. Get in."
As soon as the three are in and fasten their seat belts, the grav van lifts off. The driver climbs up above the city and heads east. In a few minutes they've left the city behind. The downport is straight ahead. Looking out the windows, they can see forested hills to the south, and lots of farmland. Minutes later the van arrives at the downport.
Nokh and Joe grab their gear from the van's storage compartment and meet the others on the curb. Nokh barks something to the driver who then takes off.
"Follow me," Nokh says in Gvegh.
Mazun casts a quick glance at Arthur to make sure that he follows basic expressions as this. He seems to get the point as everyone else moves along.
Nokh leads the group into the downport. The entrance is large and spacious. Apparently the place also handles air traffic to other parts of Tagan. Nokh ignores the lines and walks up to a ticket agent, flashes some ID, and gestures to the group behind him. The ticket agent, a female vargr, nods her head and types something up at her terminal. She then hands five envelopes to Nokh.
Nokh returns to the group and gives everyone an envelope. The exterior of the envelope is decorated in Tagan Spaceways logo and branding. Inside is a boarding pass for the 9:00 flight to the starport.
With boarding passes in hand the group breezes through security and makes its way to the gate. Walking down the concourse there are various restaurants and little shops selling items to make one's flight easier.
Joe detours to the first shop, and begins to peruse around. His eyes are large with amazement as he takes in the spectacle of all the products on display. Just as you think he's forgotten that he's here to catch a shuttle, Joe shakes his head, chuckles, and runs back to the group.
"Amazing!" is all he says as he returns to the group.
The place is sparsely crowded and its makeup is 90% vargr. Several returning soldiers are seen being reunited with their families.
Mazun pays attention to the soldiers. None of them appear to have recent injuries and are walking on their own. If there's any fatigue, the sight of their loved ones has melted it away.
Arriving at the gate, the group discovers that boarding will start in a few minutes.
The group has boarded the shuttle to the starport. The craft is a long cylinder
with wings that holds 100 passengers plus a small crew. By the look of things,
the shuttle is 90% full. The seats are a bit on the small side but as the flight
will only take two hours, you can make do.
Joe sits in the chair, fastens the acceleration restraints, casually adjusts his position a few times, then sits rigidly still, head focused at the back of the seat in front. Someone might think he is nervous but his face is calm and relaxed and his breathing is slow and steady.
Oddly enough the ship takes off horizontally. The sudden rush of acceleration presses you back into your seats. After liftoff the craft climbs up at a 30° angle. This continues until the craft reaches orbit where it levels out.
Mazun tries to suppress a grin from his face. To the others he says, "Good to be in space again!"
OOC - Carlos: Any "windows" / screens which allow us to see the outside? Mazun would like to have a look at the starport as we approach.
OOC - DED: Yes, windows. As you're headed to the starport, it's in front of you and thus not visible. Looking out the sides you get to see the farms, grazing fields, and green hills of Tagan. Further up you see mountains, seas, clouds, and the occasional vehicle zip by.
The shuttle docks with the starport. You disembark along with the passengers.
Darrurz notes that the air smells fresh, as if someone found a way to bring up
Tagan's air to the station. Unlike the rest of the passengers, the group doesn't
leave the concourse wing that they're on. Instead, Nokh leads them to the other
side where several uniformed vargr and humans are waiting to depart for the
Once they spot Nokh, they grab their gear and stand up.
Mazun nods at them, noting that they look fit and disciplined. No slackers or demoralized soldiers in that bunch.
Both groups then board a launch which brings them over to the riftjumper.
The riftjumper resembles a flat head thumb tack or a round head machine screw (take your pick). The drives, bridge, and crew reside in the hemispherical head while large cargo and passenger modules are attached to the spike, which transform the ship's overall shape into a can. Fully loaded, the ship looks like it displaces 5000 tons.
The launch docks with a passenger module and everyone except the pilot disembarks. Nokh explains that military personnel are on this level while civilian passengers are on other levels.
Mazun asks, "Are there many civilians on this trip?"
Nokh shrugs. "Probably. There's plenty of business people who regularly go from one world to the next. There might be a few people relocating to Igodosakfell as there's more opportunity for jobs there. Believe it or not, there might even tourists!"
Mazun smiles. "Hey, I wouldn't mind seeing the place myself. Haven't seen a new world in a while, you know."
You don't go far before reaching your rooms. Nokh says, "It's two to a room. Who wants to be roommates?"
Mazun suggests a random number generator.
Nokh tilts his head to one side. An ear flops.
"Sure," says Joe. He then blinks four times and says, "Two," pointing at Mazun. "Five," pointing at Darrurz. "Six," pointing at Arthur and "Nine," pointing at himself.
"Does that help?"
Mazun stares at him for a second, then chuckles. "Ohhhh-kay, draw four numbers from the set 1,1,2,2, without replacement. The order is the one you just gave: Me, Darrurz, Arthur, you."
Joe blinks four more times. "Two, One, One, Two."
Darrurz’s ears prick up as he looks at Joe for a moment, following which he looks at Arthur, and in Gvegh says, “You,” pointing at Arthur, “Me,” pointing at himself, “Stateroom,” pointing at the room.
Switching to Galanglic he pipes up, “Just try and repeat the words and we’ll deal with the accent when you’re starting to string sentences together. The phoneme that humans usually have trouble with is...“ Darrurz pronounces a gutteral growl sound, “...but not being human I can’t help in how you make the sound in your mouth, but Mazun can help you with that when you have some words you remember.”
Mazun says, "But don't be in a hurry for that. It spoils your throat forever."
And back to Gvegh he holds up his only possession. “Toothbrush,” and continues with, “Door, Panel, Open,” which he accompanies with an action with his arms as he activates the panel and opens the door.
Arthur replies in Galanglic, "That works for me. The sooner I get this language gig down, the better."
Mazun turns to Joe. "OK, mate. Shall we?" he says, and opens his own door.
Each room consists of two beds, one dresser, a common nightstand, a small closet, and a small bathroom. Each bed can be converted into a sofa through a manipulation of wall panels. There is no window but there is a monitor which can be programmed to pull in any manner of external views or set to some planetary landscape and looped.
Joe picks up his bag and enters the stateroom. "Pick a bed. I'll take the other."
Mazun selects a bed. Not having anything at all to put on the closet, he just lies briefly on the bed, testing it. "I hope somebody thinks of giving us new clothes. And a toothbrush. I didn't take mine from the hospital. Come to think of it, did I steal these clothes?"
Joe drops his bag on the other bed. He then begins to unpack the bag, examining each item closely for creases/dirt, and carefully placing the items in the closet/locker. It looks like he intends to take his time over this unless he is interrupted.
The monitor comes to life. A female vargr comes on screen wearing a Tagan Spaceways vest and says, "Good afternoon. Welcome aboard Tagan Spaceways Flight 14 to Igodosakfell. We'll be departing from the starport in five minutes." It's obviously a pre-recorded message which explains how to access the services menu through the monitor.
Joe is startled by the sudden change in the monitor and drops toiletries bag he had in his hand (hitting his foot and rolling under Mazun's bed before coming to a rest). Joe turns and stands at attention watching the monitor for the duration of the announcement.
Once the announcement is over he crouches down and reaches under Mazun's bed to recover the toiletries bag which he carefully puts into its place.
Nokh appears in the doorway. He barks, "Catch!" to Mazun and tosses a large duffle bag to him. He then goes next door and does the same to Arthur and Darrurz. Each guy notes that the duffle bag has his name stitched into it. Inside are Pack Security clothes, jump suits, toiletries and grooming kits, shoes, and boots.
Mazun says, "Right on cue!" He tries the new clothes and shoes right away and starts checking the rest of the contents, putting his toiletries in the bathroom, leaving enough space for Joe.
Darrurz catches the duffle and directs it to his bed in one smooth motion. He acknowledges his thanks to Nokh with a slight yip as his tail wags. He picks out the clothes and equipment speaking the word for each in turn as he puts them on the bed. If there are any multiple items Darrurz will ask Arthur to say the word in Gvegh expecting him to remember what Darrurz called it.
Darruz dresses himself in normal Pack Security working clothes and puts on the boots. He looks at the markings and insignia on the various bits of clothing with his left ear up and his right ear down. He shakes his head a little before putting his equipment away.
He puts the hospital clothes in a laundry bag and marks them to be cleaned and returned.
The monitor comes back on. A male vargr voice says, "Tagan Spaceways welcomes you aboard the daily flight to Igodosakfell. We're now leaving Tagan Starport and heading out to the jump point." The screen shows the starport and Tagan slowly receding into the distance. "We'll reach safe jump distance in four hours. You're free to move about, however, we ask that you return to your quarters fifteen minutes before jump. There will be a ship-wide announcement when we get there. In the meantime, please familiarize yourself with your quarters and contact any of our stewards for assistance. Thank you."
Joe is not so shocked by this announcement. He causally stops what he is doing, and once again comes to attention to watch the announcement the Ship is making.
Darrurz goes the terminal and accesses communications. A map comes up showing the space around the ship. Icons represent various ships, satellites, and the starport. Darrurz selects the starport and then Tagan Spaceways. He requests the passenger and cargo manifests as well as the flight plan of Flight 14 to Igodosakfell. His request is denied. He growls at the terminal.
He exits out of communications to the main menu and calls Arthur over. Once he is there, Darrurz says "This is Vargr way of depicting Gvegh that you'll need to learn to read." And with a tap on the monitor the text changes. "And this is the human way of depicting it. These marks here indicate growls, barks and inflections of the phonemes. Vargr get this from the context of the writing and all Vargr languages use pretty much the same underlying visual and verbal communications. For example, one that you probably already know is if I showed my teeth and growled like this..." and Darrurz instantly produces a really aggressive growl—exposing his full set of teeth with his canines prominent—and then almost as quickly stops. And in Gvegh tilting his head to the left with his right ear up says, "Yes?"
Meanwhile, in the room next door, Mazun jumps up and says jovially, "Ship walk! Let's have a look at this can."
Joe glances at the remainder of his belongings not yet stashed in the locker, and then looks at Mazun. "Well it is what we were instructed us to do. So, sure! But we shouldn't forget the second part of Ship's instructions. We need to allow time to return and familiarize ourselves with the cabin before we reach jump."
Mazun smiles at Joe, walks to Darrurz and Arthur's quarter, knocks on the door, and says, "Let's see the ship! Anybody up for a walk?"
Joe gets up and follows Mazun.
Darrurz replies with a grunt of assent and wags his tail, “I would normally check out the competition, but as I’m Pack Security now I can relax a little.”
Arthur adds, "Nah, I'm good. I want to spend the first bit on ‘language lessons’ here with Darrurz." He then empties the bad and stows the contents. To Darrurz, he says, “How about a bit of show and tell if you're up to it.” He makes a note to shine the shoes, assuming the appropriate gear was included. He straps on the boots properly to ensure they’re ‘set’. As he's still recovering from defrosting, he plans on getting plenty of sack time.
Darrurz looks from Arthur to Mazun and back to Arthur. “Yer ok.” Turning back to Mazun, he says in Gvegh, “I’ll get to check out the ship at some other time. Let me know if there is anything interesting that needs a better look.”
Characters: Mazun and Joe
NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen
Location: Tagan Spaceways Flight 14
After Darrurz and Arthur have taken a pass on exploring the ship, Mazun turns to
Joe and says, "First order of business is find a viewing port to have a look at
the starport as we leave." Mazun looks down the corridor to his left and sees
the airlock they entered. No windows there. "Let's try the other way," he says
optimistically and heads down the hall to the right. Joe obediently follows.
The pair pass their room on the right, the room of other Pack Security troops (also on the right), Nokh's room on the right with a hatch marked "Engineering - Authorized Personnel Only" on the left. 1.5 meters in front of the pair, there's a four-way intersection with an iris valve in the floor.
"Hey!" Nokh barks from his room. "Where are you two going?"
Mazun and Joe turn to face Nokh. He's sharing his stateroom with another officer.
"We're trying to find a viewport to look at the starport as we leave," Mazun answers.
"You do know that you can get an external feed through the room monitor, right?"
"Yes, but it's not the same."
Nokh sighs and thinks about what he's going to say. "The starport's on our starboard side. The only viewports are in passenger staterooms that abut the hull and you can't barge in on them. Try conference room two on deck four. Since the module is plugged into the ship, the lift will be running again. Take a left. The stairs are on the right."
"Thanks!" Mazun says appreciatively.
"...And stay out of trouble!" Nokh calls out as the pair disappear from his sight.
Mazun comments, with a huge grin on his face, "That takes me waaay back, to times where other officers told me that. Sad thing is, last four years before cryo, I was the one saying that to newbies. I feel younger already!"
Sure enough, in the intersection there's a sign pointing left for the lift and right for the stairs (in Gvegh, of course). Another sign says that crew quarters, low berths, and sickbay are down the corridor straight ahead. Five meters of hallway later and they're at the lift. Once inside, Mazun says, "Deck four," in Gvegh, but there are buttons he could press too.
The lift rises to deck four without stopping. An LED display states that this is the "Recreation Deck". The pair step out on a 1.5 meter wide corridor. The stairwell is directly ahead, about 10 meters. The pair walk down the corridor. The first door on the left says "Exercise Room". The first door on the right is 3 meters down. It's marked "Conference Rooms".
"Ah ha!" Mazun says with a note of triumph. As he approaches the door, it slides open. A narrow, one meter corridor is revealed. Mazun takes the lead and passes "Room #1" and then gets to "Room #2" with 1 meter of corridor to spare. When the door doesn't automatically open upon his approach, he presses a palm on it. The door then slides open, granting them access.
The room is 3 meters wide and 5 meters long. The table has been folded up in sections and stored with the chairs against the far wall. The floor is covered with a short pile carpet. The wall decor has been shut off so the room is rather plain. However, the left wall has the view that Mazun has been searching for.
The starport is receding from sight. Small craft are still visible buzzing about it but Mazun and Joe don't see any starships. Behind the starport lies beautiful, blue, green, and white Tagan.
Mazun takes a good look at the starport. He is an engineer and a spacer. He tries to gauge size and capacity, and current state. Mostly he wants to know whether it is thriving or falling apart, and get an idea of what the traffic is based on capability of the structure. One thing is what he is told, another what he can see. He decides to comment out loud what he thinks for Joe to hear.
"This is a good-sized starport and, all things considered, it looks to be thriving. While it can only service two of these giant Riftjumpers at a time, it could easily support a dozen smaller ships. There's lots of small craft activity and what looks like in-system fuel tankers and all of the docking ports appear to in good condition." He points. "Over there are some more of these modules like what we're on and they're being connected to another Riftjumper."
Joe pays close attention to Mazun's commentary and his eyes follow where Mazun points.
"Oooo, that's a Ksosunoth class long-range courier docked over there. I've never seen one of those in person but I'd read about them during the war. They sacrifice in-system speed for jump range. Five parsecs, if I'm not mistaken.
"It looks like they've taken good care of the place. I wonder what things will look like over at Igodosakfell."
Mazun and Joe have exited the conference room and re-entered the main corridor on Deck 4. Mazun catches sight of a monitor and uses the touchscreen to get a map of the passenger module that they are in.
Meanwhile, Joe catches sight of a female vargr steward exiting the stairwell and walking in his direction.
"Excuse me, miss," he says in Gvegh.
She sniffs the air and asks, "Yes? How may I help you?"
"Pardon the interruption, but Ship did say that we should let you know if we had any questions." With a straight face he asks, "Can you tell me what Ship expects of us?"
Her head tilts to the side. She whines a second, then says, "The captain just wants you to relax and enjoy yourselves for the duration of the trip. There are plenty of recreational facilities for vargr and human alike to make use of during the jump. However, we ask that passengers refrain from using them until after we've made the trip to jumpspace."
Mazun blinks twice and joins Joe. He grabs his shoulder and—looking at the steward—says affably, "Yes, thank you very much. No worries." To Joe, he adds, "Now, let's continue, shall we?" and gently pushes him away.
The steward puts on a "safe for humans" smile and then continues on her way.
Once out of earshot from the steward, Mazun says, "Joe, we are going to need to have a little talk later. For now, just one thing: this ship is... not... ahem... not sentient. It expects nothing from you. It is just a tool for us to travel. The voice you heard before was just a standard recording."
Joe is shocked for a second then puts a finger to his lips. "Shh-sh!" He looks about furtively. "Ship probably can't hear us here, but you don't want to make Ship angry. Bad things usually happen when Ship is angry." He then stands up tall and walks casually towards the stairs.
If anybody was looking, they would see Mazun stare at the ceiling for a couple of seconds with his hands clapped behind his neck. He sighs, then grins, mumbles something to himself, and follows Joe.
The pair make their way up the stairs to the fifth and uppermost deck. To the right is a dining hall and lounge, complete with a bar—unmanned at this time. A low pile carpet covers the floor in some geometric pattern. The wall and roof are transparent.
Mazun stands in the middle of the room, looking appreciatively at the view past the ceiling and wall. To Joe, he says "Great to be in space again, right?"
Joe stares back out of the viewport and contemplates the vista. Unfortunately the light from Tagan's star is obscuring the light from the stars.
He removes his beret and runs his hand over the slight stubble beginning to regrow on his shaved head. A ‘C’ shaped scar is clearly visible, surrounded by post-surgery bruising starkly contrasting with the pale pallor of the rest of his scalp. “Although I agree with your statement, I’m not sure I understand your logic! My understanding is that you have been defrosted less than a week, surely you spent longer planet bound in your prior life? As for me I can only remember two night’s sleep before we boarded the shuttle. But yes, it is good to be in space again. One always feels like one is moving forward when your starship is accelerating away from a star."
Mazun grins. "Oh, I wasn't complaining. Still it is great to be back out here and out of that hospital room."
To the left is the galley, which has three sliding doors. Muffled sounds emanate from within. The lift is at the opposite end of the corridor.
“Hmmm, the steward said Ship did not want us using the recreation equipment before Jump, but she didn’t say anything about the Galley. Are you hungry? Shall we see what’s cooking?”
"Why not." Mazun assumes that the sliding doors will automatically slide when he approaches and strolls casually into the galley. Joe is right behind him.
The doors do indeed slide open. Inside is a full galley with pots, pans, cutlery, various counter top machines, cabinets, sinks, dishwashers, and what he assumes is a meat locker. Three vargr and a human male are inside. The male is holding a tablet and reading from it. The three vargr, two males and a female, are opening and closing various cabinets. Calling off their contents. The vargr closest to you (3 meters) and the human catch sight of you.
The human says in Galactic, "Hello, may I help you?"
Mazun smiles as pleasantly as he can manage. "Oh, sorry. When will the lounge open?"
The human smiles in return. "About 30 minutes after we jump. The galley will be open then too."
Mazun thanks the human. Joe leaves the galley and then grumbles under his breath as he leaves. This time he heads over to the elevator and presses the call button. Mazun stays close.
There's a short wait and then the elevator arrives. It is empty. Once inside, Joe says, "Four, please."
The elevator door opens on the semi-familiar fourth deck. Already familiar with the conference rooms, they peek inside the Exercise Room and then the Gym. The former has several pieces of equipment for aerobic exercise, weight machines for strength training, and even a stationary swimming tank. The Gym is a wide open room with various team sports equipment and token bleachers.
Mazun comments, "Good. No matter what the flesh-patchers say, this body of mine is still feeling weak."
There's a series of doors along the opposite side of the hall from the Exercise Room and Gym. Each one opens on a one square meter room with toilet and sink.
The sliding door next to them, closest to the stairs says "Virtual Reality Suites".
Mazun steps forward, saying, "Hey Joe, come in, this might be interesting!"
Once the door opens, Mazun and Joe see a one meter corridor straight ahead. Joe stops at the doorway and looks carefully through into the room beyond. He studiously looks about the doorway looking for boobytraps, not finding any he gingerly steps in to join Mazun.
A solitary vargr female sits behind a small desk studying something on a monitor, which is facing away from you. She's wearing a Tagan Spaceways uniform. She looks up when you enter. "Hello there," she says with a smile. "May I help you?"
Mazun puts on a smile. For a second, he asks himself whether the female is real, and looks intensely. She is. "Hello! We are not familiar with your tech here. We were wondering whether you'd have some kind of introductory program, or a catalog of available programs."
"Yes," she says with a human friendly smile, "the catalog can be found on the ship services menu on the terminal in your stateroom. We offer a variety of programs suitable to both vargr and human tastes: exercise routines, adventures, training programs, fantasies..." Her voice trails off and there's a mischievous glint in her eye. "And reservations can be made there too. Typically we try to keep each session limited to an hour so that everyone who wants to get in to a VR suite has a turn. However, longer sessions are permitted if no one is waiting to use the room."
She turns her monitor around to face the guys. "Each guest dons a VR suit and safety harness, if needed." The screen shows a human decked out from head to toe with a biofeedback suit and a pair of goggles (swimmer-sized) that fit over the eyes. "Each room has individual gravity controls and the shape of the walls and floor can be manipulated to simulate terrain textures." The pair watch as she cycles through various backgrounds: rocks, fields, roads, buildings, and so on. She concludes, "And we'll be allowed to start running programs as soon as the captain gives permission, which is typically within the first hour of jumping."
Mazun hides his disappointment at the crude suits. He's used to the advanced VR direct brain stimulation beds back home. The VR suites, which were common in the Imperium at large, just didn't measure up.
He glances over at Joe to see if he has any questions. Not seeing anything forthcoming from him, he asks, "Actually, I was interested to see whether you have VR-recreations, for instance of the Pack's planets and of typical Pack's starships. Historical episodes too."
"Yes, we do."
"Then you'll see me here again," answers Mazun, smiling. He then looks at Joe to see whether he sees any questions.
Joe has been looking carefully at the equipment and the suits. At first he seems a little perplexed by them, but then becomes a little more enthusiastic.
"Yes, we'll be back later. Can we book some time now?"
"Absolutely. Some people already have in fact. Did you have a specific day and time in mind or just first available?"
"First available, please." Joe says cheerfully.
Mazun adds, "And second available for me, thanks."
She looks at her terminal for a moment, asks for their names and room numbers, and logs them in. "You're all set for two hours after we jump, which should be four and a half hours from now."
Mazun and Joe descend the stairs to head to Deck 3. At the landing they come across a hatch in the hull wall. Signs indicate it is locked. From what you remember of your trip in, it would line up with other modules.
At the end of the stairs they reach Deck 3. After five meters they reach the intersection. Staterooms lie to the left and the right, along with airlocks. Straight ahead is the lift. It's pretty quiet and no one appears to be in the hallways.
At the end of the ship's axis corridor (which is perpendicular to the pod's axis), they enter the lift and descend to Deck 2.
Things are a bit more lively here when compared to Deck 3. Many stateroom doors are open and stewards appear to be assisting the passengers. No one pays them any notice as they cross the deck and head towards the stairs.
Descending the stairs on the far side of Deck 2, they reach Deck 1, their starting point. Once they reach the corridor intersection, they turn left and head back towards their stateroom.
Joe stops outside Nokh's room and asks him if their ship's controls were standard. He explains that he wants to take advantage of VR suite time to run a combat sim or two. Nokh nods approvingly. "They should have Ueknou class combat specs in there."
Joe checks in on Arthur and Darrurz and gives them the lowdown on the decks. He then invites all of them to participate in his combat sim in the VR suite.
Mazun grins as he thinks about Arthur's skills. He declines the invitation. "I am not the close combat type."
After that Joe returns to the cabin to finish unpacking and organizing his belongings—just in case ship orders a surprise inspection—and gets ready for Jump.
An hour later the announcement is made that the ship will be jumping in fifteen minutes and that all crew should conduct final preparations. A timer counts down on the video monitors. Once it hits zero, there is that familiar tugging at the stomach and split second of dizziness and then it's over. An announcement is made that the ship has successfully entered jumpspace and that everyone is free to move about the ship.
Next: Summary of First Five Days in Jumpspace