NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen
Location: Tagan Spaceways Flight 14
System: Jumpspace between Tagan and Igodosakfell
Joe and Arthur busied themselves with combat sims in the VR suites. Even Captain
Nokh joined in a couple times. Joe had to beg off for a couple of days due to a
lack of sleep, but once he got a proper night's rest, he took advantage of the
VR time to take part in noteworthy land and space battles.
Mazun's VR time was spent looking at simulations of planets in the Tagan Pack and nearby, plus simulations involving standard starships within the Pack. All four made use of the exercise facilities to trim the slack out of their muscles and get in some solid cardio.
Joe had a grand time exploring the buffets at meal times. Though he's still quite white, some of the gray has left his complexion and a ruddiness has returned to his cheeks.
Darrurz assisted Arthur with his language lessons. Arthur has made progress and has begun to pick up a few words.
Socializing with the other passengers has gone well. Mazun has met several young humans who appeared to be quite content with their lives as doctors, farmers, administrators, and teachers. They all seem to be headed to refugee camps and recently annexed worlds to assist in recovery efforts.
Joe's story, what little is told, seems to evoke feelings of pity and hope, not to mention fear and dread. The latter pair of emotions rise up when they contemplate what is going on in the Wilds. Death and destruction seem to be something they're prepared for; cybernetic assimilation into slavery is another matter entirely. But, at least in Joe's case, it seems reversible.
Joe had some trouble sleeping for the first couple of nights as nightmares plagued him. Mazun's sleep suffered as a result. But as the nights progressed, the nightmares waned. Joe feels that Jumpspace is having a calming effect on them. Feeling rested, he found that he could study history and review bridge protocols for Ueknou class ships.
NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen
Location: Tagan Spaceways Flight 14
System: Jumpspace between Tagan and Igodosakfell
Nokh assembles the group in his room—his roommate is out—for a
briefing. He reaches into a duffel bag and pulls out a small cardboard box. He
tosses it over to Arthur.
Arthur examines it and notes that it's a headset with a built-in language translator. Nokh gestures for Arthur to put it on.
After he does, Nokh speaks in Gvegh and the unit translates, "Until you learn Gvegh, I want you to wear this during all non-combat situations. It'll make my life easier knowing that you can understand your crewmates. So if some wolf picks a fight with you, you'll know whether it's just an upstart pup looking to gain dominance and prestige or someone who really has a beef with you and actually intends to harm you. This way you'll know when to exercise suitable restraint and when to snap his neck. Clear?"
Arthur sits back, squints his eyes, and does a thorough eye sweep of everyone in the room. He then says, "Roger that, sir. To be clear: nobody but those that need it."
Nokh elaborates further. "While I try to keep fools out of my crewpack, command will stuff them in sometimes. Foolishness can be cured, but death is permanent.
"But if someone wants you to die, you have every right to defend yourself. I'm telling you this because if you have to defend yourself, I don't want you to think I'm going to take the other wolf's side just because he's vargr. Either way, dead crew are hard to replace when your pack is many parsecs from home."
"Once we arrive at Igodosakfell, we'll be transferring directly to the naval base where our ship is docked. Unless the dogs in the yard have been napping the whole time, it should be ready to go so there won't be time to go sniffing around to admire the scents.
"I don't know who else will be among my crew-pack; personnel are moved around a lot. Obviously you four are in, but I won't get the crew list until we get there.
"After this meeting, I want you to compile a list of personal weapons and equipment you feel you'll need to perform your jobs. Don't worry about protective gear; that will be handled." He looks at Arthur. "And don't requisition heavy weapons or explosives. That's for the special hunt wolves. We're the friendly dogs who wag our tails and prefer to bark more than bite." To the group as a whole, he says with a wink, "You get more tail with beer than bullets."
Mazun grins. "I'll drink to that first chance I get."
Arthur does another impassive eye sweep and keeps his lips in a neutral position. He says in a soto voice, "Good thing there ain't no tail to be had, from my point of view."
Nokh tilts his head to the side and an ear droops, Then he shakes his head and continues.
"Pack Security Leader Kfarollakh gave me our mission before we left. It was one of two possible assignments. Igodosakfell knows and should be prepared to load up our ship according to which one was chosen."
He brings up a map on the monitor. "We're headed rimward. I know there are teams contacting Unarsukhgnargvo and Korstsouth. We've been assigned to Tsougak." He points to it for emphasis, then taps the screen, which brings up a close up of a pleasant looking world.
"Tsougak was the capital of the Tsougak Trade Federation before the 17th Disjuncture came in and forced it to join. As you can see from the file video, the world was hospitable, so we're expecting survivors. A billion people lived there before; no idea what their numbers are now, but with a standard atmosphere and 50% water, the Pack expects most of them to have survived.
"Tech level was 11 and they had an 'A' starport with a naval base. Again, no idea how much of that survived but Pack Security wants us to assess the overall situation with an emphasis on the naval base, the starport, and the shipyards. Our long term survival depends on our ability to build new ships, not just repair what we can find in the Wilds.
"The world was balkanized before; it probably still is. I'd like to think that we'll be able to find a pack or a state down there that will work with us. Obviously we could get tangled up in local turf wars, but if we can stay neutral that would be best. Once you start picking sides, you start making enemies. What we do here will have profound implications for the Pack. The Pack would prefer to assist in the recovery of Tsougak, not get bogged down in peacekeeping.
"Any questions so far?"
Mazun asks, "Do we have information on how many spaceports were there? Balkanized planets with a billion inhabitants tend to have a number of those. Only the starport had an orbital part, I assume?"
"One orbital starport, and it was rather large. It was administered by a neutral body whose members were selected by the various states. Four spaceports, each owned by a separate state."
"Shipyards and naval base in the same orbital complex? Anyway, first stop should be the orbital starport then."
Nokh answers, "No, the naval base is separate from the shipyards. We'll want to make sure the naval base is inactive before we start nosing around the starport."
Mazun makes a note to look into Tsougak's pre-Fall info as soon as possible.
Joe sits still through the entire briefing, his eyes unfocused. Then he comes to life, his features animated and steely focused. He says to Nokh, “I know this is your ship and mission, but my advice would be to jump into system with an inward ballistic vector. The ship could then maintain full stealth and complete a passive sensor screen of the mainworld without exposing ourselves to any local sensors or Vakh lying inert in system. If your navigator is good, we should be able to use a vector that will use the mainworld gravity to redirect our orbit behind the star before we commence powered operations and return to the mainworld. If you have any remote sensors or tactical systems that can be deployed, then we can also use our ballistic pass of the mainworld to insert them into orbit. That should give us a window into the situation, what is still there, who the power players are, and any changes to the survey data. With that added intelligence we can then formulate a plan of what to do next, whether to approach a local power group, to investigate whatever remains of the orbital infrastructure, or take advantage of some other opportunity!”
Nokh nods. "That is, in fact, quite similar to the approach we take. Very good, Joe."
After this dialogue Joe's features return passive and his body relaxes.
As there are no more questions or comments, the meeting concludes.
NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen
Location: Tagan Spaceways Flight 14 then Igodosakfell Naval Base
The rest of the week in jumpspace has gone by without a hitch. Arthur's
introduction to Gvegh has gone well. Joe is sleeping better. Mazun has improved
his familiarity with Pack worlds and their destination.
A momentary spell of disorientation is felt by all—a clear indication that the ship is back in normal space.
Despite its primary being a puny red dwarf (M1 V), Igodosakfell is close enough to it to stay comfortably warm (average temp 11.4°C). The atmosphere still bears a residual taint from centuries of industrialization.
Anyone making use of the external sensors, and Mazun is certainly one of them, can get a sense of the traffic in orbit above Igodosakfell. It is far busier than Tagan.
Dozens of ships, of various displacements and classes, can be observed either parked in orbit, docked at the orbital starport, or making their way to and from the planet. Most vessels appear to be of vargr design, though a significant fraction are old Imperial relics: Type S Scout Ships, Garu class Far Traders, Type T Patrol Cruisers, a Gazelle class Close Escort, and a Chrysanthemum class destroyer escort. Mazun is seen staring dreamingly at the Chrysanthemum.
Among the vargr ships are Ueknou class corsairs, Enkongsuerrgvo class Packets, Rangongoer class Scout Ships, Angrorghag class Seekers, and Thaksoeghuksaknag class Frigates.
There was also a Foghoks class cruiser parked above the north pole. It was the first time that either Arthur or Mazun had ever seen one that wasn't shooting at them.
The group packs up their belongings and disembark the way they came.
A launch takes them away from the riftjumper, but instead of going to the starport the craft heads towards a small moon (No, it really is a small moon). The moon appears to be airless and pockmarked with craters. Making their way across the surface, you can see that several craters appear to form the foundation for domed settlements and small cities, and a few of these have been punctured or destroyed outright.
The launch descends into a small crater adjacent to a large one, as it does so a rectangle opens in the floor of the crater to admit the tiny craft. Underneath this false crater floor lies a small hangar bay. Once the launch has come to rest on the floor and the crater hatch has closed, the walls pull away and the floor descends into a much larger cavern.
The platform halts and everyone disembarks. The group steps onto a platform and enters a waiting lounge occupied by personnel waiting to embark. Joe is surprised and impressed that the cavern is pressurized; he assumes that the hangar bay was also a small craft airlock.
Nokh instructs the group to wait in the lounge. He talks to someone behind a counter while the group looks out the window and watches the platform rise up from whence it came. Now that the launch is gone, the group can see that the cavern below has multiple levels. Small craft can be seen parked on those levels but the angle is all wrong to see much more. Joe watches the other groups with interest; silently playing a mental game, guessing their jobs and travel purpose.
After a few minutes, Nokh beckons the group with a nod of his head. They pick up their gear and follow him down a long corridor to an elevator. He says, "My first officer has inspected the ship and says she's ready enough for boarding but we're still waiting for the rest of the supplies to be delivered."
The elevator descends several five levels and then the door opens on the opposite of where they came in. A corridor with a cement floor, natural walls, and lighting and electrical conduit overhead runs to the left and right. Nokh leads the group to the right. The corridor curves inward slightly, enough that the group can deduce that it must be circular overall. They pass three hatches and on the fourth Nokh steps through.
Once inside the hangar bay, the group sees an old, but obviously well-maintained Ueknou class corsair. Nokh says, with an air of pride, "Gentlewolves, allow me to introduce Aengkfaertoezthuedou, the Seeker of Prime Hunting Grounds."
Mazun grins and, to Arthur, says "The Seeker it is."
The nose is pointed away from the group. Mazun quickly scans the exhaust nozzles and surrounding hull for obvious signs of damage and neglect and is pleased to note that it looks good so far.
A human male descends the boarding ramp amidships and greets the group. "Welcome back, Captain."
"Thank you, Reg." He addresses the group. "Allow me to introduce you to my first officer, Reginald Gunderson." He then introduces each of the group to Gunderson who shakes their hands/paws and even performs the vargr sniffing-of-the-air greeting with Darrurz.
Darrurz notes that the human seems perfectly comfortable around vargr and maintains an open, yet authoritative posture.
Gunderson says to Joe, "Hello, Joe. You're looking much better than when you left with the Captain."
Joe's memory of his departure from the ship are fuzzy, but he remembers Gunderson as a friendly person. He simply stares at the man.
Gunderson looks over to Nokh with a quizzical glance. Nokh shrugs.
Gunderson continues, "So these are the new recruits, eh?"
Nokh says, "Yes, they're the frozen assets that Pack Leader Kfarollakh spoke of."
"Oh, I see. That happened a lot sooner than I was led to believe."
"Yes, well it was felt that their skills would prove useful on our mission."
"Out of the freezer and onto the plate." He shakes his head and asks the group, "How are you gentlemen holding up? I hope you're adjusting to your new surroundings well enough."
Mazun shrugs. "Didn't really see much up to now, but so far so good."
Gunderson replies, "What? The Captain didn't take you sightseeing on Tagan?"
Mazun grins and seems about to answer, but Nokh beats him to it.
Nokh says, "They've been asleep for about 80 years; they're eager to get back to work." Playfully, he adds, "Unlike you, you lazy dog."
The jab rolls off Gunderson's back. "Well, that's a shame. R-n-R on Tagan is a rare thing." In a mock conspiratorial tone, he says, "I think there's an executive order keeping anyone who isn't at least a captain away."
Mazun winks at Gunderson. "We'll have to go undercover at some point then."
"Absolutely. A bit of cloak and dagger."
"All right, Reg, that's enough out of you." Nokh's tail is wagging in a relaxed manner.
Gunderson comes to attention, "Yes, sir."
Mazun looks at the ship. "I see the ship is well-maintained. Looking forward to seeing her entrails."
Gunderson nods toward Mazun while he addresses Nokh, "He's the new engineer then."
Mazun grins, "It shows, huh? Used to be a Chief Engineer, actually."
"A little. You gave yourself away when you said that you were 'looking forward to seeing her entrails.' Only an engineer would say that." To Nokh, he says, "Do you think Onguk will like him?"
"No, I don't. Onguk will howl and moan in protest, but he doesn't have a choice. And besides, Mr. Contreras here will be out in the field helping us identify what we scavenge."
Mazun raises an eyebrow but says nothing.
Gunderson nods. "And the boulder with legs is Arthur McClendon?"
"Yes, and the scarred wolf is Darrurz. He was a merchant back then."
Gunderson looks over Darrurz and nods his head approvingly. He says to him, "You commanded your own ship, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did."
Nokh says, "Well, if you're done inspecting the new recruits, Mr. Gunderson, let's go meet the rest of the crew."
"Shall I have Doctor Arkummu standing by?"
Nokh shoots a glance at Gunderson and growls with his mouth closed.
"Right, sir, enough of the wisecracks. Ok, gentleman, if you'll follow the captain on board, please."
NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen, First Officer Gunderson, the crew
Location: Aengkfaertoezthuedou, parked at Igodosakfell Naval Base
Nokh leads the way on board the ship. It feels strange for the group. This is
Arthur's first time going aboard a Ueknou that wasn't a boarding action.
For Mazun, it's all just alien. For Darrurz, well, his memories of corsairs
makes this an odd circumstance. For Joe, it's like returning to a dream.
The group enters the main airlock and proceeds up the stairs to the second deck. Exiting the stairwell, they enter the crew common area where the crew has assembled to await the return of Nokh.
"Captain on deck," Gunderson barks in Gvegh.
The crew snaps to attention.
"Cut that out," Nokh barks in return.
The crew relax.
[OOC: From here out the conversation is in Gvegh. Exceptions noted. The ship's computer is translating for Arthur's sake via an earpiece.]
"Sorry, Captain. You haven't been around in a few weeks so I figured we'd show you that the crew hasn't slacked off."
Nokh sighs. "Duly noted and appreciated, but no one else is around so no need to put on a show."
The crew find their chairs and Gunderson introduces them to the new recruits. There are two gunners, Rrokoth and Doukhken, both young male vargr and of decent size. Chief Engineer Onguk is an older male vargr who looks about Darrurz's size. Doctor Arkummu is a human female. She has short auburn hair with gray peeking through and could be early 40's. There are also two fit, young vargr females: Dathuel and Aru. Gunderson explains that they're technicians.
Nokh introduces the three new guys and explains that they were revived from cryosleep after several decades.
Doctor Arkummu exclaims, "Amazing!"
She seems about to launch into a series of questions but Nokh interrupts her. "I'll have their files transferred to you. Doctor Zan Aegzgorr revived them and provided me with fully detailed reports to pass on to you."
That seems to satisfy her.
"Arthur McClendon was an Imperial Marine and will serve as gunner. His Gvegh isn't so good so he'll be relying on a translator until he picks it up."
Both Rrokoth and Doukhken, sniff the air, nod their heads, and wag their tails.
Arthur attempts a "Good to meet you all," in Gvegh. It comes out as, "You good introduce."
There are polite nods around the room.
"Darrurz was a merchant and is an exceptional pilot so he'll be taking on that role."
Aru and Dathuel sniff the air and tilt their heads to the side.
Darrurz looks back at them and tilts his head to match theirs, looking from one to the other. After a split second, his left ear stands up and a slight smile crosses his snout.
Dathuel pants for a bit then licks her nose. Aru bumps her playfully.
"Mazun Contreras served in the Imperial Scouts and was a skilled engineer. A Chief Engineer at that."
Onguk scowls and can't help but let out a brief growl. A sharp glance from Nokh is enough to silence him.
"Mazun will serve as second engineer and will gladly look to learn our systems from our experienced crew. He will be invaluable in the field as we come across relics."
Onguk folds his arms across his chest. Aru and Dathuel turn their heads to asses Mazun, smelling the air, wagging their tails.
Mazun smiles at the two technicians, ignoring Onguk, and unfolds his own arms expansively, taking as much space as he can. Humans might notice a slight, amused grin. He says, "Glad to meet you all."
The crew seem pleasantly surprised that Mazun can speak Gvegh.
Darrurz can't help a small smile as he notes the subtle change in Mazun's smell.
"And you should know Joe, who is returning as a permanent member of our crew. He will be a gunner as he so aptly demonstrated his skills before."
Rrokoth and Doukhken bark something positive and sniff the air. Rrokoth looks over to Nokh. Nokh says, "Joe underwent surgery on Tagan to remove the Vakh tech from his head. He seems to be recovering nicely and been cleared to join us on the hunt."
Doukhken howls and then says, "Good to have you back in the pack, Joe." He pronounces Joe's name as 'Ghoe'.
Joe stares at each crew member as they are introduced; no sign of recognition is seen on his face. When Doukhken pronounces his name, however, he howls in laughter and steps forward to greet the Vargr with a hug. "It's good to be back, Ducken," he mispronounces his name. Something frozen seems to have broken and he turns to warmly greet each of the crew members. "This seems so impossible. I thought it a dream."
Nokh lets out a sigh of relief. Gunderson smiles. Each crewmember acknowledges Joe. The gunners are the most enthusiastic.
While everyone is milling about, Mazun purposefully catches Doctor Akummu's eye and smiles. In Galanglic, he says, "The Seeker looks like a fine ship."
She replies in kind. "She is a fine ship. And she has a good crew. I'm hoping Joe's return and you new arrivals will make up for those who died or transferred."
Mazun nods respectfully.
Darrurz takes in a long smell of all the crew and the ship. He touches the bulkhead with his paw and closes his eyes for a brief moment and mutters, “Llallaeknuez, show me the path.”
Nokh barks to get everyone's attention. "There will be plenty of time for chatter later. Right now, I need our new packmates to go with Gunderson to pick up some gear. The rest of you start prepping the ship for departure."
Next: Picking Up Equipment