Characters: Joe, Arthur, Darrurz
NPC: Mazun, Commander Thaedznou, Captain Azafaghur, Vuksaerz, Aerrak
The Orruengoerr arrives at Akofitsadano's sole gas giant. Once it is
apparent that they're alone, the ship descends to refuel.
7:20 IST In to skim.
8:20 IST Skimming complete.
13:25 IST Safe jump distance from gas giant.
13:30 IST Arrival at Akofitsidano. Passive scans begun.
15:30 IST Initial passive scans completed.
Akfotsidano Topography and Cities map:
Scans indicate a tremendously reduced level of habitation. Whole cities appear to have been burned to the ground. IR indicates that activity seems strongest in cities around bodies of water. The starport appears ok. Most of its structures are intact, and there are no craters in the tarmac.
The atmosphere still holds high enough levels of particulates and sulfur to require filter masks.
The captain would like a closer inspection of the starport, but would also like to make contact with one of the surviving cities. Of course, he doesn't want a repeat of Dueks.
Darrurz looks for any evidence of communications, radio or otherwise, but doesn't find any. He has better luck when he looks for major starship crashes, finding seven of them, all in ruined cities. He puts up the scan on the screen. "Vakh" is all he says as he cycles through the crash sites. While the rest of the group ponders the images, he looks for satellite networks or evidence of space systems, but comes up empty.
He then says, "Probably worth a full mapping scan of the planet. Now where do we think those mystery ships taking people away would have landed?
" Captain Azafaghur says, "Obviously near where there are people, but not the larger concentrations. At least that's what we should infer from our friends on Gungaerrg. They couldn't confirm the rumors they'd heard. We may have to send down a landing party to establish contact and see if we can pick up anything that the Gungaerrgans missed."
Mazun says, "Shouldn't we visit the crash sites? There might be valuable tech or weaponry there for salvage."
Thaedznou counters, "But wouldn't the locals have plundered them already?"
Mazun replies, "I don't think so. They might be able to use some of the scrap materials, but the tech would be too advanced for them to make use of. A tech level five society isn't going to have the means or knowledgebase to utilize tech level eleven plus gear. Small arms, sure. But the really important stuff is going to be passed over."
Captain Azafaghur asks, "Does anyone disagree? If not, let's send a landing team down to the crash sites to investigate."
No one disagrees.
Captain Azafaghur adds, "Thaedznou and Aerrak, I'd like you to accompany the landing party. It seems like there's a lot going on down there, and I want there to be adequate security down there while the world is assessed."
"But, Captain, you'll be short-staffed up here," Thaedznou protests.
"Oh, it'll be alright, Commander. Vuksaerz's teeth are sharp enough for two turrets, and I know enough about piloting a starship to get us someplace safe should trouble appear."
Thaedznou is silent for a moment, he bites his lip, then says, "As you wish, Captain."
"Don't look so troubled, Thaedznou. I truly believe that you'll face greater dangers on the surface than we will up here in orbit." He pauses, waiting for Thaedznou to say something in reply. When the older wolf says nothing, Azafaghur says, "Very well, get suited up, grab your gear, and get to it gentlewolves."
Characters: Joe, Arthur, Darrurz
NPC: Mazun, Thaedznou, Aerrak
Location: Orruengoerr's ship's boat
After disembarking from the ship, the ship's boat makes its way over to
Oegzuzerrghgurrgoksa, the city closest to the starport with obvious starship
wreckage in it. The skies over the city are clear with mild temperatures
The boat flies low enough for good scans of the city but high enough to avoid getting shot down by small arms fire. Finding a place to land is difficult with the wreckage and the urban landscape, but a block-sized park has been found about 500 meters south of the crash site. There's also a large, intact parking garage 300 meters west of the crash site. Darrurz asks the team where he should set the boat down.
Arthur replies, "I suggest the park. It's easier to fight back to the boat, if necessary. Getting wrapped up in a structure fight would blow dead goats with our limited numbers."
Thaedznou concurs. "We also don't know if the structural integrity of the parking garage is sound. Landing in the park puts us out in the open, but it would be easier for the Orruengoerr to provide cover without fear of bringing something down around our heads."
"The park it is," Darrurz says.
The park's flora appears to have undergone a transformation. Thirsty trees have died off, their wizened remnants are just trunks. Only hints of branches remain. Wild grasses have taken over. There appears to have been an attempt at farming in a couple corners—straight lines of crop rows still visible from the air—but they're mostly weeds now.
Darrurz sets the boat down on the opposite side of the park from the failed farms. It's closer to the wreckage anyway.
The landing party disembark and lock up the boat. Arthur, Joe, Thaedznou, and Aerrak visually scan the buildings surrounding the park. Although the boat's sensors didn't register any signs of habitation, they rely on their eyes to be sure. Once the boat is locked up, the group heads towards a street that directly lines up with the crash site.
Arthur, Joe, and Darrurz keep to the right side of the street while Thaedznou, Aerrak, and Mazun stay on the left. Eyes are kept on alert for snipers and scouts.
The streets are littered with rusty ground cars, random debris, even the shattered skeletons of decades long dead vargr. All shop windows on the ground level are shattered, store fronts looted. Many second floor windows are broken, too. At one intersection, it appears that a bonfire was constructed for electronic gadgets. The nearby buildings are blackened with soot from burnt plastic and silicon.
Twice along the way, the group encountered bombed out blocks where nothing remained except the rubble from collapsed buildings.
Upon reaching the crash site, the group stands in awe of wreckage. The ship looks like it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 tons. Looking right, the group spots the path from whence the ship came. The ship's hull too tough for the local construction materials, buildings in the crash zone were clipped and toppled. The ship itself hardly looks affected by the impact, a dragon asleep in a pile of bricks and mortar.
Mazun breaks the silence. "Arthur, recognize the class?"
Arthur responds without hesitation, "Foghoks class cruiser. Tech level 11. Slow as molasses in an Oort cloud. Average jump range. Usually loaded up with missiles."
Aerrak whines for a moment, then sets to panting.
Darrurz says, "They look big up close and personal, don't they? There will be some turrets and sandcasters as well as missile bays. About 150 crew, but minimal cargo mostly used to carry supplies for the crew." Darrurz pauses for a moment. "I hope to Llallaeknuez they died quickly."
Joe nods at Arthur's ID and assertion. "Lucky us. The crash was too gentle to trigger the missiles' detonators, otherwise we'd be looking at a crater the size of a small city." He doesn't mention the more likely possibility that the ship had no missiles left aboard.
Joe looks at the others. "Before you get any ideas on salvaging the missiles, their guidance systems are most probably Vakh infected, they've laid unmaintained for goodness knows how long, and we don't have any grav lifters—and those buggers are heavy."
Thaedznou replies without tearing his eyes away from the wreck, "We assume all derelict ships are Vakh infected."
Joe continues, "Still we can head inside and see if their equipment lockers haven't been raided, or if the holds have anything valuable. Let's see if we can find a way in."
Darrurz snaps his jaws. "Agreed. Let's look for the door, and see if there is anything left. Probably like with the server in Gvoksaedo Down, if it doesn't have enough power for the Vakh, there will be eggs."
"As Joe heads closer to the ship's hull, he adds, "Speaking of Vakh, be careful in there. It may be wrecked, but it is possible that Ship still has some power and control systems active. Let's try and not wake up the Dragon as we root through its entrails."
Mazun mutters something under his breath and sighs.
As the group climbs the rubble, Joe says, "It looks like the cargo bay doors and lower personnel airlocks are buried." He looks towards higher up. "We can try some of those," he gestures to iris valve airlocks several stories up on the hull, "or head back to the stern. It's not blocked by debris, and there are hatches near the primary thruster nozzles. They'll bring us into engineering, but it seems the safest way in."
Darrurz checks the readouts of the ship's boat from his hand computer and sets it up to alert him if there are any sensor readings indicating activity around the landing site as well as any electromagnetic communications or indications of civilization. While doing so, he says, "Engineering. The non-electronic parts that could be reclaimed from the maneuver and jump drive alone would be worth any expedition, if we were going back that is."
Thaedznou tilts his head to the side. "What do you mean? Of course we're going back. We're just not going back with salvage; intel gathering is our purpose. Has been all along."
Darrurz looks back at Thaedznou. "I know. It's just that there is so much that's been lost, and so much that could be done if we could go back with salvage. You never know there might be the air-rafts still aboard. The shuttle would be good as well, not that we could get it out of the system."
Thaedznou yips in agreement. "I'll let you in on a secret: If you four hadn't come along, this mission never happens. The captain petitioned for years to get this mission approved. Everyone was either too afraid, didn't see the value in salvage, or thought we lacked the expertise to figure out the difference between meat and gristle. When Azafaghur heard about you, he knew getting you on board would convince enough of the naysayers to change their minds.
"We've already proven that there's value and allies out here. A functional air-raft would be the cherry on top."
The group successfully climbs on top of the rubble and reaches the stern of the fallen ship. The massive primary thruster nozzles are within reach if one person stood on the other's shoulders. Higher up and between the nozzles is the location of one of the stern hatches. And it is open.
Darrurz frowns. "Already open...noses keen."
Characters: Joe, Arthur, Darrurz
NPC: Mazun, Thaedznou, Aerrak
Location: Orruengoerr's ship's boat
While Thaedznou contacts the captain with the sitrep, Aerrak fires a grapnel gun
up to the hatch. It catches on the first try, and he climbs up. When he comes
within a meter of the opening, he stops, sniffing the air. "Yuck. Smells like
"What kind of shit?" Thaedznou asks.
Aerrak sniffs several times. "Like ammonia."
"Judging by the size of the opening and the distance from the ground, probably something avian."
Aerrak finishes his climb and proceeds inside. Half a minute later, he returns to the opening. "Bats of some kind. They're roosting all over the upper decks of engineering. It's an open design that runs several decks. Lots of ramps instead of ladders, but they're perforated."
Joe nods as if expecting that.
One by one, the group climbs up and joins Aerrak. The smell is as bad as he said.
Shining lights around from where they're standing, the compartment looks intact. While there could still be minor damage—the lights only go so far—there isn't any indication that this wreck is just scrap metal.
"Where to?" asks Thaedznou.
"I wouldn't mind a closer inspection of the drives," Mazun replies.
"That's fine, but it's not like we're hauling these suckers home," Thaedznou says. "It would be better if you could find something like what Darrurz and I were just talking about."
"Surely, you don't need me for that." Mazun makes no effort to hide the irritation in his voice.
Thaedznou chews his lip. "No, I suppose not. Aerrak, go with Mazun. Make sure nothing shits on him."
Aerrak's ears droop.
"The rest of us will go look for something to bring to the captain."
Darrurz turns his head to Mazun. "We might need you for that. Stay on comm and if we come across anything we need you for we'll call ok?"
Mazun politely replies, "Yes, Darrurz."
Darrurz continues, "Also, as you're going to look at the drives, give us a report we can take back, and also look at uninfected parts that would be useful for other stuff, and bits we can take away now that if the drives are in a good condition would render them inoperative, so someone else can't use them. If the drives and main power are good then that might be an indication of the state of the rest of the ship."
Mazun chews his lip and stares at the drives. "Yeah, sure."
Turning to the others, Darrurz says, "Good places to start are the obvious ones for portable salvage: ship's locker, the shuttle bay and its ship's locker, the air-raft bays, main cargo hold, ship's magazine, and then crew recreation areas, and then door to door through the crew staterooms. We might want to check out a turret or two to see if they are worth salvaging."
Thaedznou says, "I doubt we'll have enough time for all that."
Joe says, “The armory and ship’s locker are probably the best source of mobile tech. The armory may be the harder to access, but we should check out both it and the locker."
Thaedznou nods in agreement. "Yes, we should start there."
Darrurz says, "Noses, ears and eyes open." To the Humans he asks, "Have you seen anything apart from the bats that might make you think there is trouble ahead?" All three say no.
Darrurz tries to smell any scent that isn't bat shit, but right now it's all he can pick up. He checks his laser rifle and activates his inertial locator and the camera on his headset. He gives a nod when he's ready.
Joe indicates that the best way to the armory and ship's locker is to cross engineering, make use of the stair well to climb the five decks, and then see if they can find an open hatch or pry one open.
This strikes everyone as a good plan, and so they set out.
[...to be continued...]