En Route to the Naval Base
NPC: Lt. Ghall, Captain Nokh, First Officer Gunderson, and crew
Location: Aengkfaertoezthuedou (The Seeker of Prime Hunting
1202.18.3 - 20:00 IST
Aengkfaertoezthuedou is on its way to the naval base on Korstsouth's
moon. Gunderson briefed Captain Nokh on what happened at the military base at
Ghasghina Island. He was not pleased that Lt. Ghall's guards were killed and
apologized to her CO for their deaths. Lt. Ghall absolved the landing party of
any responsibility. She also suggested that the island be quarantined. Her CO
nodded at this suggestion. "Seems a prudent course of action," he said.
Lt. Ghall is obviously still with the ship, which is on its way to rendezvous
with the Tsougak Trade Federation ship. Ghall's CO would like an unfiltered
account of the naval base expedition. Nokh rolled his eyes and stifled a growl
at the suggestion that they wouldn't be completely forthright.
Mazun makes a short stop in Engineering to show Onguk his find.
Onguk wags his tail. "A scrounger! Good!"
"It's a micro-sensor arrary from an Imperial ICAM AN-427. Security bot. Pretty
common back there and then. Pretty reliable. I'm only a little surprised that
they're in use this far coreward. I didn't have time to salvage more."
"Well, let's have a look."
"I can't. There's a meeting updeck. Something about assaulting the old
Korstsouth naval base on the moon."
Onguk's ears shoot up. "I hope your tiny ears misheard that. We're not big
enough to take that on if there's vakh there."
"Not exactly what I signed up for either." With that, Mazun departs for the
A group is hunched over the blueprints in Gunderson's quarters, trying to figure
out the best approach, when Mazun arrives. They know that there's a strain of
vakh present, but they don't know its capabilities or how much of the base is
The base is roughly shaped like a number 8. Hangar bays comprise both circles
with command and barracks forming a square that connects the two circles. The
top circle of the 8 is dedicated towards large vessels while the bottom circles
is for smaller ships (1000 tons or less). Both circles barely rise above the
regolith, maybe three meters. The central square is a tower that runs four
stories high. To the right of the 8 is a small landing field.
There are entrances to both the hangar bays and the central tower.
Arthur says, "I can't read the key or any of the notes as they're all written in
Gvegh, so I'm going to ask a lot of questions that I'd ordinarily be able to
figure out for myself.
"So, let's start with the basics. What do the ground to space defenses look
like? Are we talking missiles, lasers, mesons?"
Nokh says, "There appear to be two deep meson gun sites. Each is accessible
through a corridor that runs off the central column." He points to their
location on the blueprints.
"I'm not seeing any missile batteries, but there are sixteen laser batteries
which form a defensive perimeter around the base. Access tunnels to the
batteries run along the power conduits. There's no outside access at any of
"Ok, where's the Vakh 'brain' likely to be?"
"Obviously in the computer core, which is...here. Sub-level five of the central
"So what's our course of action? Like, how do you kill one of these things? I
haven't fought anything like this before. The hardware is easy enough to scrap,
but gettin' the 'mind' behind it may be a bit trickier."
Nokh crosses his arms. "When conditions are optimal, standard procedure is to
isolate the Vakh brain so that it can't escape. We then plug in a nongousz into
one data port and a faradhae kaegz in another and give it time to work."
"What's a nongoossszuh? And what's a farad... the other thing?"
"A faradhae kaegz is a EM-shielded cage. It holds the Vakh after it's
been purged from its host computer. The nongousz is what drives the vakh
into the cage. It sends electric charges through the system in attempts to drive
out the vakh. Individual components are selectively fried, but the CPU and
memory are spared." He lets out a sigh. "It doesn't always work, so we usually
have to frag it."
Gunderson adds, "We have research packs working on alternative methods, but
nothing's really panned out. We typically have to rip out the corrupted chips
and replace them with new ones. But when the architecture is more advanced than
what we have, we wind up having to replace the entire computer anyway."
"So we're back to my question: What's our course of action?"
Nokh replies, "Since we weren't fried on our way in, defensive systems are
either offline or the Vakh wants our ship. We can land on the moon over the
horizon and send a team in via G-Carrier. Infiltrate the base, make your way to
the computer core, and take it out. After that, you'll have to look for other
potential hosts and take those out as well.
"But I'm all ears if you have any suggestions."
Arthur says, "OK, so the op breaks down as follows:
Nokh is about to answer when Joe, who's been looking over the map, starts
talking in a somewhat monotone voice, "Those Meson guns make this a do or die
raid. We have to assume they are operational. Once we go to the moon, we will
not leave until they are neutralized. We have to assume the other defense
systems are operational systems and on-line. If this base was built to the same
standard as the island we visited, there will be several repair bots which will
have been used to return any systems damaged in the original purge. We can
assume that there are no starships or small craft left, as either they would
have met us or anyone else approaching the system. Either they were destroyed in
the original purge or there was a Vakh Schism some time afterwards.
- Planetary approach. How do we avoid detection and being engaged on the way
- Cross surface approach. We need line of sight from the laser batts to plan
the approach. Also, we need some idea of the target acquisition capabilities of
the Meson site.
- Penetrate the base. Maybe we cut into one of the laser access tunnels, or we
breach the actual base hangar bays or tower entry points.
- Penetrate to level 5. Elevators are a non-starter after what we learned from
the last descent into Vakh territory. Also, what sort of mobile opposition can
we expect? Any secrets to takin' out these security bots? We'll need to adjust
the team's weapons and ammo load out. Any chance of Joe's buddies, or the Vargr
equivalent, forming part of the opposition?
- Set a perimeter and 'capture' the primary Vakh, or blow it. Sweep for
'others'. Not sure how the hell we do that. Is this a 'total clear' op?
- Exfiltration and extract. We can probably go for bringing the G Carrier in,
if we can be sure the Vakh is destroyed or non-functional.
- Do we want to grab this facility for tech recovery of any sort?"
"I doubt any soft units will be left, but we must assume that the Vakh has
mobile hard units at least as capable as the ones we encountered in our island
infiltration. And I would not be surprised if heavier units were present also.
The Vakh has had a long time to prepare its defenses, and once it realizes we
are on an assault, it will not hold back its assets."
Mazun has been half listening while trying to remember what a typical Imperial
complement of bots at a naval base would be. He'd know for certain if it was a
scout base. "I don't think we'll see many of the AN-427s like we did back at the
island facility. They'd be useless outside the facility, so if they're here,
they'll be held in reserve. Grav units would have to be equipped with thrusters
to operate in vacuum. Those are expensive, so more likely we'll see the all
terrain variety. If we do, the best course of action would be to shoot out their
wheels. Once they're immobile, they'll be easier to deal with."
"The vakh's weakness is power; we know that and it knows that. Disabling these
solar arrays is easily done, but that leaves the reactor and localized battery
backup. While tactically a Vakh building its own nest would locate the fusion
reactor directly underneath so it could concentrate its defenses, this nest was
built by Vargr paws, and no one likes living atop a reactor. So the reactor lies
here. It's still close—this is a military base after all—but it
does open up the possibility of a two pronged attack. Therefore the Vakh cannot
pre-deploy its mobile forces. It's probably marshaling the bulk of its tactical
reserve here, letting it respond to either a direct assault on the core or a
flanking attack for the reactor. It's not just a tactical benefit to us in
neutralizing the reactor, its something that has to be done. Once the Vakh is a
cornered rat, the probability is incredibly high that it will overload the
reactor as a last ditch attempt to take as many of the attackers with as it dies.
"The Vakh may not immediately know we are on our way to assault the base,
especially if we have a cover story. Even once we land over the horizon, we
could be opportunist regolith miners for all it knows about us. But it is not
going to let an opportunity to pass it by to acquire a starship. As soon as we
land it is bound to dispatch a force of its own to capture the ship and
neutralize any defenders. One problem we have is that our ship has a definite
corsair signature. That means the Vakh is going to send a large force in a
capture attempt. A base of that size would probably only have a few grav units,
which the Vakh will probably deploy for recon and surveillance. A larger force
of surface units would be mustered and dispatched, probably with a 'spore' to
infect the ship. While we may be able to detect and neutralize the vakh's forces
on route to our ship, it would tip our hand to the Vakh and remove any surprise
element we may have.
"We will have to use our speed to our advantage. If we dispatch our assault
forces immediately after landing, we should be able to get away before the recon
team arrive. Any surface force the Vakh sends will be en route when we assault
the base and will be less forces we will face on our assault. Once our assault
is under way, the Vakh will either recall its capture force or send them on to
complete their task. So there is a time limit. The assault team need to succeed
and neutralize the Vakh before any surface team can reach our ship. We will have
no time for further recon or perimeter probe. Also, once we start our assault,
the Vakh may re-deploy its recon team as a capture team for the ship. We will
need to have some of our forces deployed at the ship to defend against such a
"Therefore, I think we will need to split our forces three ways: one force to
defend the ship, one force to assault and neutralize the power sources, and one
to actually assault the computer core. The classic approach would be to send the
majority of the forces in the computer assault and use a small stealth team to
neutralize external power. That is why I advise the opposite, use a large
assault team to neutralize the power and to draw the bulk of the mobile
defenders that have not been dispatched in the ship capture attempt, then send
in a small stealth team to neutralize the Vakh. Once the Vakh is neutralized,
the ship can take off and avoid any surface force until it is dealt with.
"Oh, and we have to do all this in a vacuum. Any atmosphere in that base
can and will be used against us!"
With a little more passion in his voice, Joe adds, "Anyone got cold feet?"
Arthur replies, "Fuck YAH, I got cold feet! What are you? Some sorta dead zombie
motherfucker who likes to get greased at every opportunity?"
Nokh chuckles. "You continue to surprise me, Joe." He looks over to Arthur. "Do
you agree with Joe's assessment of the situation? Or at least his plan?"
Arthur replies, "I don't question his intel or his plan, at least til I can run
the numbers. There's some hair around the odds, so we need to look at it
closer...based on your 'inside knowledge'." He lets out a deep breath. "I still
love you like the bro I didn't have cause you got all this weird shit locked in
your head. That keeps us tight."
Joe says, "Don't worry; it's locked."
Nokh continues, "We're a bit light on personnel. Excluding Lt. Ghall, there's 12
of us, a bit thin to split three ways. We can ask Captain Koduka if he wants to
join us on this mission. I don't know how many he has in his pack but doubling
our forces would make this a more practical endeavor. Of course, he didn't
believe there were Vakh here in the first place.
"I am tempted to just nuke the place, but that wouldn't convince Koduka there
are Vakh here, and it would be a waste of potentially valuable tech and
infrastructure. So I'll ask you all, can we do this? And do we need Koduka's
help to pull it off?"
Arthur replies, "We can do this; we just need some time to come up with a plan
that doesn't get our collective asses greased. Didn't do all that time in Hibro
just to buy it on some hair-brained 'we gotta go NOW' op.
"This piece of shit we're up against has already run the numbers and the sims.
That's what we used AIs for. If this is the 'standard response' that Joe
explained, this thing has already gamed it and has the forces in place to
negate. We need something that's not SOP to get around it.
"No offense, but 'vargrs rush in...' is a sure fire meat grinder cliche that
this Vakh will know about and seek to exploit if my reading on these things is
Nokh growls. "Vargr do not rush in, at least not any that have any sense. We
circle and stalk, looking for the weakness in our prey. Then we pounce. Maybe
you have us confused with the Aslan. I've read that they were the berserker
Arthur continues, "Based on Joe's intel, though, forcing it to consolidate by
takin' out the power plant is critical. Problem will be all the sub power feeds
this thing has as it knows this is its primary weakness. It will have taken
steps to mitigate, that or alternate displacement locations, even if it means a
downgrade in capability." He sighs. "We need a better plan.
"More bodies for the meat grinder will not cut it if we want to succeed,
particularly if we compromise our ride home, or at least outta this shit for
those of us with no home.
"Also remember those meson guns fire both ways: into the core as well as out.
That's some serious firepower if we can compromise, overcome, and consolidate
one of these sites while ensuring the other is out of action for good. I don't
imagine a Vakh is any more amenable to havin' its brains and extremities fried
than we were in the old days."
After Arthur's last words have hung in the air for several seconds, Nokh says,
"Before we get our hackles up any further, let's remember what I told them we
would do. I said that we would prove to Koduka that there's Vakh here, and then
we would help them take it out. I made a wager with him that he couldn't resist.
He wants us gone, but isn't strong enough to drive us off. He'll do anything to
prove us wrong, but he suspects we're right. We need to figure out what we can
do to get him to believe that there's Vakh down there. At that point, we can
nuke the place for all I care. We weren't sent here to secure the base; we don't
have the teeth or enough wolves for that kind of operation. We were sent here
to gain an audience with the Tsougak Trade Federation. They're the ones that
have laid claim to this system. By knocking out the naval base, we've helped
them to eliminate a short term threat and deprived them of a future asset. They
might be able to salvage the meson guns at some point, but the systems that
make them operational will be fried. It'll be a long time before they're back
online, long enough for us to become allies or for our pack to subdue theirs.
"Now how do we convince Koduka that there's Vakh down there without exposing
ourselves to any substantial risk?"
Joe looks at the display then back at the gathered group. "Sorry, my mistake. I
thought the objective was to eliminate the Vakh with the minimum of collateral
damage to the facility. Your revised success criteria provide a number of
alternatives, depending on what we think Koduka will accept as evidence.
"In my earlier plan I highlighted that the Vakh will dispatch a capture force to
our ship once we land. There should be sufficient evidence within that force
for us to give Koduka the evidence we need. Ideally the Vakh 'spore', but surely
the wrecks of that mobile force will be enough. Once we have the required
evidence, we fire a nuke tipped missile to fly NOE at the Naval base. I doubt
that it will make a contact strike, but even a proximity detonation would
neutralize the Vakh's sensors and communications with any remote forward
observer sites. We can then fly out while the Vakh is blind, deaf, and dumb,
without fear of that Meson Gun."
Joe looks at Arthur and Nokh for any response.
Darrurz pipes up in agreement, but with some differences, "Attack on the core
and get Koduka to view the response of hard units to our 'tactical' retreat.
Once we have proof, we nuke the power plant which should, hopefully, drop enough
power to the base so we don’t get fried by the Mesons and probably only leaves
a few shots from the laser turrets to dodge. If they fire the lasers it's
further proof. We can then just nuke the site on the way out.
"Nokh wins the bet, we prove the point, reduce the capabilities of a common
enemy—while not leaving a valuable asset behind intact that could be used
against us—and leaving open the possibility of negotiated joint operations
to re-capture it in the medium term."
"In both your suggestions," Nokh gestures to Joe and Darrurz, "your plans
suppose that the Vakh doesn't attack us with the meson guns when we come in,
that it lures us in and just uses the minimum required force to counter our
"I have never been in combat where the enemy had a meson gun. Back at the
academy, we were trained for it, learning its capabilities and what to look for,
but obviously nothing compares to actual field experience. So forgive me if you
more experienced veterans note any holes in my logic.
"From the blueprints, I see that the meson guns are 100 meters in length. And
the homopolar generators are...it looks like 300 cubic meters. We should be able
to figure out what they're capable of." He taps the numbers into a datapad.
"From the range of possibilities presented, we're certainly in its range and
capable of being fried. Obviously if this thing were fired up and ready to
pounce, we would've detected the neutrinos from its power plant. The neutrino
signature emanating from a couple hundred megawatts worth of fusion isn't
something that's easy to hide, even with our limited detectors. So I believe
that we have a window of opportunity whereupon we can safely launch a strike
without fear of reprisal from those meson guns. It should take some time to warm
up their fusion plant, charge the HPG, and their external sensors to get a lock
on us. But we'd better have a nuke on its way before then.
Joe comments, "The Vakh wants our ship intact. It won't fry us with the meson
gun til it knows it can't get us. We're on its home turf; it will be
overconfident its forces will outmatch us. It won't power up the meson gun til
it is sure we're too much of a threat."
Joe adds, "But there is one other aspect we've not considered, and it may
suggest an alternative path. Consider this: That Vakh has been there for a long
while. It is inconceivable to me that it has not reached out and established a
network of agents on the planet. Such a network would include agents within the
military. The relationship between the Vakh and an operative would have to be
based on information exchange alone. After all, the Vakh can't send physical aid
located on the moon. An agent within the military power structure would be best
positioned to supply the Vakh information it desires, and that same agent would
be best positioned to leverage the intel the Vakh supplied into material gain.
If we could expose and capture such an agent, surely they could provide
sufficient evidence to convince Koduka. I had this concern when you suggested
including Koduka's forces in my initial plan, as it would be inevitable that our
plans would leak to our target. However, that could be part of a plan to entrap
Lt. Ghall growls. "Are you suggesting that someone within the KDF is working
with the Vakh?"
Joe looks directly at Lt. Ghall, straightens his back, and says, "Yes, that is
exactly what I am suggesting!"
Lt. Ghall growls and bares her teeth. "You hairless goekh! Millions of people
died on my world because of the vakh. How dare you suggest that someone could
actually be allied with those...those monsters."
Gunderson's hand creeps towards his sidearm.
As Ghall closes the gap between her and Joe, Nokh verbally intervenes. "Relax,
Lieutenant. Joe is just speculating. It's not like he has proof of such an
alliance. Do you, Joe." It's not a question.
"So unless we discover something that implicates someone, we'll set this aside
as idle fantasy. If we start seeing plots where there aren't any, it could raise
the hackles of our friends." The look on Nokh's face clearly indicates that Joe
should stop talking about a traitor among the Korstsouthians right now.
Joe thinks, "She does protest too much," but backs down.
This seems to placate Lt. Ghall. She backs off, but continues to glare at Joe.
"Now then, if no one else has anything constructive to add, I say we finalize
"We'll land far enough out to be below line of sight from the base. The
G-Carrier will head over, below radar, and start attacking the facility to lure
out their ground forces. Once Koduka acknowledges their presence, the G-Carrier
withdraws. When it's clear, we nuke the site.
"Is everyone on board with this plan?"
Joe is first to say, "Aye, Capt'n!"
The others nod and utter their "Ayes" with less enthusiasm.
"Alright, let's get to it. To your posts!"
Next: The Assault Begins