New Roommates

Characters: Darrurz & Mazun
NPC: Dr. Aegzgorr
Location: A hospital in a city
System: Tagan

1202.12.5 - 11:40 (Local Time)

From Darrurz's perspective:
Darrurz pushes open the door to his room to take a look at his roommate, who is sitting up in bed using the monitor. Darrurz looks him up and down, noting that he was startled by his arrival. The human appears to be of average height and build, early 40's in age. Darrurz takes in his scent and in Galanglic says, "Morning."

From Mazun's perspective:
Mazun is busy reading the library data on Tagan Pack worlds, when, without warning, his door bursts open. A short, seasoned male vargr wearing what looks to be light, non-descript clothing strides in. An old, faded scar runs across the left side of his snout and up to his cheek. He sizes up Mazun, sniffs the air, and says in perfect Galanglic, "Morning."

Mazun looks at the newcomer straight in the eye and says "Good morning to you too."

Now we merge the two and proceed onward:
Dr. Aegzgorr follows Darrurz into the room and sniffs the air. "Darrurz, this is Mazun. Mazun, Darrurz." She addresses Darrurz, "Mazun was forced into a cryoberth against his will by corsairs in 1122 in Lishun sector." She then addresses Mazun, "Darrurz says that he was frozen in 1126." Her tail wags. She appears to be watching to see how the two new roommates react to one another.

Mazun nods, says, "Hi, doc," and stands up. He offers his hand to Darrurz. "Pleased to meet you. More exactly, my name is Mazun Contreras, starship's engineer and former Imperial scout."

Darrurz takes Mazun’s hand in his paw and shakes it. "I'm just Darrurz, a merchant. I worked for Shiishirnii in Lishun before heading out on my own. I piloted my ship before losing it to corsairs. I ended up trading through Vland before being shot and dosed with slow on Ugarun in Vland sector during the year 1126 by some of the same lot that took my first ship. I guess they put me in a berth shortly after that.

"Count yourself lucky that you missed the Black War. It was bad. Lucan pretty much killed anything he could, and the rest just followed his lead. It didn't take much for the Vilani to get back to their ruthless ways, but at least they were trying to defend their borders when I dropped out of time."

Mazun nods. "I hope you'll find the time to tell me about those years all the same. Can't believe it's all gone...It's the strangest thing, I am glad I did not have to live through the rest of the war, but I still feel cheated out of it." He shakes his head and breaths in.

After a pause, Mazun adds, "I've been doing some reading about this brave new universe we've woken up to. It's going to need some getting used to, don't you think?"

Darrurz replies, "We'll adapt. Vargr always do. We're probably better at adapting than humans are. Having said that, humans are far better at providing stability and longevity than we seem to be." Darrurz's left ear picks up a little as he turns to Zan and asks in Gvegh, "Has the Tagan Pack had the good sense to include humans at the top level of its government?"

Mazun seems somewhat amused. He smiles slightly (remembering not to show his teeth) and looks at the doc.

"Oh yes," she answers in Gvegh. "There's Inis Ariigi, who's the Director of Refugee Affairs, and Hamilton Montague, who's the Secretary of the Treasury." She breaks eye contact and looks over at Mazun. She whimpers for a second then repeats Darrurz's question and her answer in Galanglic for his benefit.

Her tail wags. "Well, I see that the two of you are getting along. Unless you need me for something else, I have to get back to work. She checks her datapad. "I'm sure that Nurse Aegazae will be by soon with lunch." With that she departs the room leaving the two cryotube refugees alone.

Mazun gives Darrurz time to settle back into his bed or chair. Once he seems comfortable he says, "Have you been allowed outside already? All I've seen of the Tagan Pack so far is this room and the view from the window. I hope I can get a look at their starships soon."

From the chair by his bed, Darrurz says, "Same here. I've only seen out the window and the physio room. I think we need to impress our good doctor to progress to where they might be going next. I expect that they might want you for your experience with high tech engines. Not sure what they will want from me. I wouldn't expect too much from their ships though. What are you used to working on?"

Mazun replies, "Pretty much everything, but the bigger the better. I used to be Chief Engineer on large ships and scout bases. During the war it seems the ships we had to work with shrank constantly, though." He sighs. "Somehow I don't expect the Tagan Pack will have a 10,000 dton escort handy. Which kind of ship did you have?"

"Personally a Garu class and an Angrorghag class, but I've flown stuff up to 10,000 tons when I was in Shiishirnii. I couldn't get a berth on any of the mega-freighters, but then that's not really my area of expertise. I'm a broker and a trader. I follow the markets and know when to trade and with whom. Piloting ships was just something to do while getting to the next market and a job to fall back on if needed.

"If it comes down to it, if they don't need me for anything, I can always play the markets here to earn a living or set up a brokerage."

"I wouldn't know the first thing about that, I've spent all my life in the scout service. Come to think of it, I figure all my savings are gone. Anyway, it seems Pack Security wants to talk to us soon. Sounds to me like they have a proposal in mind. Apparently they did not wake up everybody they found."

Darrurz looks at Mazun, and his ears go up while his head tilts slightly to left. His tail is still but twitches slightly. "Now thaat my friend is intereestiing neeewwwwws." His head tilts to the right and he looks away from Mazun and in Gvegh he asks himself out loud, "But then how did they know I wasn't a corsair?" Looking back to Mazun he asks in Galanglic, "Did they tell you any information that was on your low berth? They said on mine all they had was my name." Darrurz's ears go back and his nostrils flair a little to take in Mazun's scent as he waits for him to answer.

Mazun thinks back for a minute, then says, "Funny. Doctor Aegzgorr said that the fact I was an engineer and a technician was listed on my pod next to my name. Makes sense, after all the pirates who captured me wanted to sell me, and somehow I doubt it was for my good looks. She also said that the military decided who they wanted revived, so I deduce they did not pick up everybody. She added that they hoped I would agree to help them against this...Vakh. Sounds to me they have something specific in store for us. I mean, all this doesn't come cheap, right?"

Darrurz's ears pick back up and in Gvegh says, "Then why me?" and to Mazun in Galanglic, "I can see that they would want your expertise. You'll be good at not only running ships but identifying what might be still working and thus worth having. They probably don't have much expertise in Imperial level tech out here. Zan mentioned salvage teams entering the 'Wilds' bringing back what they think is useful and that survivors were always considered useful. Low berths go into quarantine, and then someone decides that those inside should be revived.

"That they want you to help them against the Vakh is natural. You're human, and that makes you loyal and dependable. Less likely to cut and run. More likely to stay the course. If you agree to help them that pretty much guarantees that you will.

"As for the cost, this," Darrurz indicates the hospital room with a sweep of his paw, "is marginal to a normal medical infrastructure unless this is a specific institution set up just for those like us. The presence of Zan might indicate the latter. The payoff would be the salvage of the berths themselves and the expertise of the people in them." Darrurz indicates Mazun with his paw. "With the priority being the sophonts inside. Otherwise they would just turn them off and let those inside die and not choose those they wish to revive while leaving others in their berths.

"My guess is that we were 'salvaged' from a corsair or from a pirate base as that would fit both of our pasts, and that there are probably a number of corsairs...sorry, pirates, among those that were salvaged with us. They revived us while keeping those they suspect as pirates in their berths.

"The question, my friend, I have to ask myself is 'How did they know I wasn't a corsair?' and 'What use to them am I?'"

Mazun lets Darrurz speak, nodding now and then. "Good points, and good questions too. Maybe they do not care what you were. I doubt they would have left me frozen if my pod had said 'pirate engineer'. Maybe the doc got it mixed up and your pod did say you were a pilot. I don't think they have many people who knew how to pilot 'relic' ships. Or maybe they just did some random sampling on the pods without info. We'll find out soon enough I guess."

Mazun breaths slowly, then adds, "What do you make of that Vakh story? Sounds pretty wild. Do you think they are exaggerating a bit?"

Darrurz replies, "Sounds like it was the ultimate end to the Black War. When your navy starts nuking high population worlds so they are no longer high population worlds, and taking out civilian infrastructure to deny it to the enemy, it's bad. Really bad. The complete destruction of the universe by its own computer infrastructure? We'll have to see. Maybe we'll get to see it firsthand."

Mazun shudders. "Not a happy thought. I guess many starship systems run in manual mode now. Checklists a parsec long. Gonna be fun."

The Rest of Mazun's Afternoon

Character: Mazun
NPC: Unksarga
Location: A hospital in a city
System: Tagan

1202.12.5 - 13:00 (Local Time)

After a surprisingly delicious lunch, a female vargr nurse arrives to escort Mazun to physical therapy. She brings him some navy blue clothes that are obviously designed for exercising. Mazun pulls a curtain over for some privacy and puts on the clothes. They fit well.

After professing he's ready, the nurse escorts Mazun to physical therapy.

The physical therapist, a middle-aged, sturdy-looking vargr woman named Unksarga, guides him into the small gym. It has various low impact equipment and several elderly vargr and even a couple humans are present. Unksarga puts him through a series of exercises directing him with her basic Galanglic. She pushes him just enough, but notes that Mazun pushes himself harder.

Mazun pays close attention and tries to find out the specific purpose of the exercises (target muscle group etc), showing interest and politely asking Unksarga. His objective is to be able to continue the program on his own a bit after he is deemed fit, which he suspects might be a bit on the early side.

Unksarga is pleased that Mazun is showing interest in the exercise routines and explains to him what he can do.

By the end of the workout, Unksarga praises Mazun for his efforts and tells him that he's made great progress. "Tomorrow we make hard you work."

The nurse escorts Mazun back to his room and shows him the bathroom. Darrurz is not there. After she leaves, Mazun takes a shower.

Mazun decides to go back to the computer to complete his investigations. He knows Darrurz will come back. The first thing he looks up are the most recent reports he can find about the state of Imperial space. He sadly suspects that it will be very quick, but is proven wrong.

Most of what he finds are video interviews with people who fled the Imperium. Each talks about desperate escapes as starships fire upon other starships or cities until stripped of their weapons and then ramming them. Mazun notes that the interviews are conducted in Galanglic with Gvegh subtitles. And they match. One guy tells the tale of his ship's arrival at an orbital habitat only to discover all of the airlocks open to space. Another woman tells a tale of witnessing starships and orbital habitats falling from the sky. When asked how she escaped, she explains that the communications array was shut down for a remod and the ship's transponder was being swapped out by the Vilani authorities. "The captain saw that all hell was breaking loose, and he just took off. He figured it was preferable risking the wrath of a Vilani naval patrol than sticking around watching the sky fall down on our heads."

There are some declassified Tagan Security reports that list the status of Imperial factions, Vargr states and the nations of other alien races. Most state "unknown" with negative outlooks. The testimonies of many of the survivors is used as evidence to back many claims. Of note, the Julian Protectorate was listed as "definitely lost" by several verified accounts by 1140.

The Domain of Deneb's survival likelihood is "possible" with reference to a rumored (but unsubstantiated) "Quarantine". Included in the report is a message from the DoD claiming that it was sealing itself off from the former Imperium. War gamers within Pack Security have suggested that the DoD might be able to pull it off due to low exposure to the War and the astrography of Corridor.

Mazun notes that the dates of the reports are from 1140 with decadal updates. However, in each update, he sees a familiar refrain: "No new data. No change in assessment." Each is signed by a Pack Security Intelligence (PSI) officer. Mazun sees that sometimes the officer had a human name.

There are also recent unsubstantiated rumors (sources withheld) that the Vilani Empire has recovered from the Vakh Attack and is reclaiming its old worlds. Despite its rumor status, they wanted the listing anyway so that they can plan for this contingency.

Intrigued, Mazun tracks down the rumor to one text transcript of an interview. Apparently the interviewee declined to be identified in the report. The interview was conducted in 1195 and both PSI officers who conducted the interview (a human and a vargr) believed that the interviewee was truthful.

In the body of the interview, the interviewee claimed that the Vilani were vengeful, intent upon restoring the original Ziru Sirka and crushing anyone who got in their way.

At this point, Darrurz returns to the room.

Meeting With Sociologist

Character: Darrurz
NPC: Dr. Ann Patel & Nurse Aegazae
Location: A hospital in a city
System: Tagan

1202.12.5 - 13:00 (Local Time)

After a delicious lunch, the pretty nurse escorted Mazun away for physical therapy. Shortly after they left, there came a knock at the door.

"Enter," Darrurz barks.

A human female of straight dark hair and medium complexion enters the room. She wears a white lab coat with a photo ID badge attached to her lapel and glasses on her face. She appears to be in her 50's and is about 1.6 meters in height with an average build. In Gvegh, she says, "Hello, Darrurz. I'm Dr. Ann Patel. How do you do?"

Darrurz's head turns slightly to the left and his right ear picks up. As he takes in her scent, he says, "I've not been asked that question in a long time, Ann. I'm doing quite well, thank you for asking. How do you do?" He notes that there's a hint of spice to her. He thinks it's curry.

"I'm good, thank you. Do you mean that in light of your time spent in the cryoberth or were you referring to your life before?"

"My life before. It's a very particular phrase not often in common usage."

She nods her head and continues, "As Dr. Aegzgorr explained, there was little data about you in the cryoberth computer. Do you know why that is?"

"I don't. I wish I did, but I don't."

"To help you adjust to this new world you've woken up in, we'd like to know a little more about you, like, what was your occupation and what your skills are. We have a job placement program for refugees and knowing this would help us find some potential employers for you."

She pulls out her datapad and taps its screen a few times and listens to what Darrurz has to say.

Darrurz’s head returns to its normal position as does his ear. “I went to business school and ended up working for Shiishirnii where I applied myself and put the effort in to find a shipboard role. I learnt to pilot starships while working on my brokerage and trading skills."

Ann is looking at her datapad when she asks him, "Shiishirnii was a Vilani trading company, correct?"


"Please continue."

"With the Rebellion I was put to work on cross border trading which was when I made Shiishirnii a fortune. They promoted me to captain and with my own trading made enough money to head out alone. I went into partnership with my good friend, Hazel Zaanirin. We were doing well. It was the Black War period and we were plugging the gaps that the majors were withdrawing from. We were shipping the goods that the worlds needed that our competitors had moved out of. We were looking at expanding in fact when we were jumped by a couple of Corsairs. It wasn't pretty. I was the only one left alive, and they gave me this." Darrurz points at the scar on his left cheek.

Ann shudders in sympathy.

"The world I was hospitalized on, Naloz, didn't have re-gen technology so they weren't able to re-grow my fur. After that I drifted a little until I landed a job as a trader on a vilani registered free trader with a merc's license. We headed into Vilani space because the other side of the border was going downhill."

"So you were in Lucan's territory?"

"That is correct. I made them quite a bit of money before we had to take on a merc job looking for a couple of lost Sharurshid ships and crew. The captain and I had some differences of opinion, and we parted ways after destroying a corsair base in the Gamgilebo system where I collected the debt that the corsairs owed me by claiming one of their ships. I 'inherited' a couple of crew from the corsairs who then decided that it was better that I was no longer captain. I was shot, dosed with slow, and then apparently frozen."

Ann's eyes go wide after hearing the news of Darrurz's betrayal.

"76 years later and I'm here. Although for me it was two days ago. I'm not dead. I don't seem to be in imminent danger, although the universe seems to have gone down the pan. You're in need of help, with the Vakh at your door. Hazel used to use a human saying that is quite apt," Darrurz changes to Galanglic, "Out of the frying pan, into the fire?"

"Oh my, yes, it would seem so. I certainly hope that your life here in the Pack will be better than the one you've just left. Despite the death of friends and betrayal of your last crew, you're holding your own remarkably well. On top of that, your old life is gone. Most humans, even many vargr, would be struggling to cope with those events." Darrurz thinks he hears a note of admiration in her voice.

Darrurz changes back to Gvegh. "As I've had not much else to do I've been looking at your economy and stock market. It seems to be the grain harvest is upon us in a few weeks, and while that doesn't register with Vargr too much because it's only mainly animal feed to us, to humans it's a more important staple. The harvest looks to be quite a good one by all accounts. The Agree stocks..."

"The what?"

"Agree, it's a term in my profession used for Agricultural stocks."

"Oh, I see."

"Anyway, the Agree stocks have already picked up because of it so there’s only a little profit to be make there, however there’s a processed food company called Gregor’s that will benefit from the cost reduction, and is picking up market share. The Human traders seem to have picked up on this as people has been purchasing stock in the last day or two, but not enough to push the price up. The Vargr traders will pick up on this in the next day or two as there is more stock take-up and they realise they've missed a trick. If I had any money I would be buying Gregor's stock and looking for about a 5% return in the next day or two, and about a 20% return when the harvest results are officially released in the next two weeks, following which the stock will dip by about 10% due to profit taking."

Ann is following Darrurz's words, clearly interested in what he's saying.

"I tell you what. As I have no money. You buy Cr10,000 of Gregor's stock now, and we’ll split the profits. We’ll sell half of them in two days time for the initial bounce, and then the rest an hour after the harvest announcement in two weeks. If it all goes wrong and the stock doesn't go the way I've just described and we lose money I'll pay you back the losses."

"Oh my. I don't have that kind of money lying around. However, I'll talk to my husband. Maybe we can do something smaller."

Darrurz replies, "Don’t wait too long to make the decision because the window of opportunity is only a small one. Also the amount is important because the percent change is only significant in the short term. If you have only a small amount to invest the fees will likely take too much of the profit to make it worthwhile for day trading. Having said that Gregor’s seems like a good medium term investment. You should get good value for the stock now, and a good dividend yield and stock growth over 5 years.

"Ok, then. I won't delay." She nods then says, "So besides your obvious expertise in trading, are there other skills that you have?"

"As I said, I pilot a starship and run the bridge position, comms, sensor ops, and I was studying the Imperial Navigation’s course for the last few weeks. I can shoot a laser rifle, teach a little I understand the basics of legal systems and can fill in forms and run office procedures adequately. Other than that, nothing."

She chuckles. "That's quite a list in its own right. Would you be interested in taking a standardized test to ascertain your level of skill in the piloting, communications, and sensor operations areas?

Darrurz replies, "Yes, I’d be happy to."

"Good," she says with a closed mouth smile. "Fae, bring up the starship pilot test."

The monitor displays a form on its screen.

"Fae will guide you through the testing process. Some of the questions will simply require a verbal response. There's an interactive simulation. Your movements will be read by Fae who will then translate those onscreen so that you can get some visual feedback. Once the test is complete, Fae will send me your raw data which I will forward on to the test evaluators. If you don't like the results of the test, you can always re-take it at a proper testing facility.

"Once you're done, I'll see to it that you get some time outside in the courtyard for some fresh air. Ok?"

Darrurz replies, "Ok, no problem."


Three hours of testing on piloting, sensor operations, and communications technology later, Darrurz is finished. Nurse Aegazae knocks before entering and explains that she's hear to escort Darrurz outside for some fresh air.

The pair walk along in silence; Darrurz catching the many scents of others beneath the cloak of disinfectant.

Once they enter the courtyard, a 15-meter square of green grass and flower beds, Darrurz's nose delivers a wondrous bouquet of life. He can't help but wag his tail. Behind him, the hospital rises up on two sides, but the other sides are only one-story high. Darrurz can see mountains in the distance.

Aegazae interrupts his moment of tranquility. In Gvegh she asks, "What was it like?"


"The Human Imperium. What was it like? My uncle said that when it wasn't all warfare it was an oppressive, monolithic monument to human domination over space."

Darrurz laughs and smiles an amusing smile at Aegazae. "It might have looked like that, but it was nothing of the sort.

"The Imperium was basically a big trade federation. All the Imperium was mostly worried about was the free flow of trade between the systems. On the planets themselves and within the systems they were allowed to do as they please to an extent. It was only when you went between the systems themselves when the Imperium got involved. 'Ruling the space between the stars' they used to say.

"The Human cultures were diverse and different with all the sorts of systems of government and ways of living that you can think of in the many different star systems. There was conformity in places, around Vland the Vilani had a large cultural area where societies were similar, and there were others as well."

He pauses for a moment thinking before continuing, "What was it like? Full of opportunity and stable. One thing that Humans do is bring stability. They don’t change dynamically like we do. It means that if a company is working and is good at what it does it's likely to still be there year after year. If the government works they keep it. The agreement you made with someone for a three-year contract lasts those three years.

"Don't get me wrong, companies go bust, governments change, and stuff happens much like it does with us, but it's harder to break it and takes a long time to reach tipping point. The problem is when it goes wrong it usually does it big style. Like the Rebellion.

"Humans and Vargr work well together when we work out how to."

Aegazae nods attentively and wags her tail while Darrurz reminisces. She says, "We do work well together here on Tagan, though my uncle says that's because we're in charge. I think he's wrong. The humans I've met don't seem pre-occupied with taking over. They seem to be just as loyal to us as their own."

"Humans don’t change loyalties like we do; they seem to be much more stubborn about it. They seem to stay loyal even if their leader loses Charisma, even if their cause is lost, even if they don't have contact with their leader or government for years at a time, and even if they are alone." Darrurz shudders at the thought of being on his own for any extended period of time. "Humans seem just to stay loyal. Can you imagine a Vargr Government the size of the Imperium lasting for over a millennia?"

"No, I can't. I remember from history class that there was the Empire of Varroerth that lasted several centuries. It was beginning to break up during the humans' war. But that was an exception."


Aegazae says, "I better get you back to your room. They're going to be taking dinner orders soon." With that she walks Darrurz back to his room.

Dinner and Evening

Characters: Darrurz & Mazun
NPC: Dr. Aegzgorr
Location: A hospital in a city
System: Tagan

1202.12.5 - 17:00 (Local Time)

Mazun is engrossed in his research at the monitor when Darrurz returns to the room. Darrurz sniffs the air, noting that Mazun has showered.

Darrurz nods to Mazun and in Gvegh says, “How was your day?”

Mazun greets Darrurz and answers, "Fine, physical training and some reading. And yours?"

Darrurz replies, “Pilot, Sensor Ops and Comms tests mostly. Their simulation was a bit clunky and there seemed to be a lack of integration that was annoying. I got to go outside into a courtyard, escorted. Every new planet has its smell and this one seemed ok. The mountain ranges looked inviting, but they didn’t let me loose out of the grounds.”

Mazun nods. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Some people called me a spacer, but I really miss a long, quiet hike without having to worry whether orbital bombardment will start any minute."

Both monitors flash a message, "Please put in your dinner order now so that we may have it ready for you in a timely manner."

Mazun and Darrurz pore over the wide menu selection and make their selections. Mazun is impressed by the breadth of human-oriented meals to choose from.

Shortly after they place their orders, there's a knock on the door. After permission has been granted, Dr. Aegzgorr enters.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen," she says in Galanglic.

Darrurz ears pick up as he takes in her scent and in Gvegh replies, “It is now, Zan.”

She smiles sheepishly, apparently embarrassed by the complement.

Mazun greets the doc, "Good afternoon!"

Zan addresses Mazun in Galanglic, "Did you know a man named Arthur McClendon?"


"I revived him today. All of his vitals are good. If he is up to it, you can meet with him tomorrow."

"That's great news! Yes, I would like to. And, knowing him, I would be surprised if he was not up to it."

"Good. I'll let him know when he wakes up." She changes topics and asks both of them the next question. "Has your physical therapy been going well? Any aches or pains?"

Darrurz replies in Galanglic, "No physical aches or pains. I'd like to run," Darrurz snarls very slightly, "and not on the treadmills," before relaxing again at the memory of the smells of the courtyard, "but through the plains, and those mountains look inviting. I haven't felt snow on my paws for a long time."

"Good! Vargr need to run. And you, Mazun?"

Mazun says, "All is fine, thanks, though I'm a little tired from today's physical therapy. I'd really like to complement it with some long walks."

"Well, you'll be pleased to know that we have a ten square kilometer mixed terrain park just outside of the city. The hospital has access to it for rehabilitation. I can get you two signed up to head over there tomorrow for a couple of hours. There's a shuttle bus that will take you there and bring you back."

"Great," both say.

"Ok then. Do not stay up too late tonight. The bus leaves right after breakfast. When you get back, Pack Security wants to meet with you to discuss job opportunities with them. I gave my permission that both of you were healthy enough to discuss those matters. Good night!" With that she leaves.

About thirty minutes later, both meals are brought to the room. Each meal continues to be a treat for Darrurz. Mazun is impressed by the quality of his meal.

Mazun savors the meal, trying to identify the spices.

Darrurz asks, "Who is Arthur McClendon?"

Mazun replies, "An Imperial Marine officer in my former unit. He must have been captured as I was. Tough combat specialist."

Darrurz rolls his head. "O great, a Jarhead! One of the last ones I knew was called Vladgorkfeg. He was Vargr but an Imperial Marine. He'd had enough of killing the wrong people and left the military.

"Well at least you'll have someone familiar to talk to.

"Find anything interesting in your reading?"

Mazun replies, "Actually, yes. It seems most major states collapsed a long time ago, but the Domain of Deneb seems to have attempted a quarantine of sorts. They survived at least until 1140. More interesting, I traced an interview dated just seven years ago reporting that the ol' Vilani Imperium might have made it through all this. The interviewee apparently considered them rather xenophobic, if I got it right."

Darrurz says, "I expect that the continued bombardment by the Vakh would make anyone xenophobic. I expect the Vilani had to adapt to survive the onslaught, which is so much against their nature I can't think what they are like now.

"We traded through Vilani space before I was made a popsicle. They were ok back then. They were introducing more paperwork of course, but there were still opportunities, and the one thing you have to give the Vilani is that it all ran like a well oiled machine.

"It's all gone now of course, even the great Imperium falls. The first, the second, and the third. I wonder if there will ever be a fourth? Looks like Tsaerrgae was right more than he could possibly know. Not sure about the new era of prosperity though.

"I hope the Tagan Pack survives long enough to make a difference. Sometimes I think it would be better if we Vargr were more like Humans, I mean sometimes stability is a good thing. I hope I can be of help.”

Darrurz thinks to himself, "I hope I can live up to the expectations of Llallaeknuez."

After dinner, Mazun tells Darrurz he wants to keep looking for information on the Vakh and the Tagan Pack and listen to Darrurz's plans. He does not mind Darrurz watching, although if they could somehow split research tasks it might be quicker and more efficient.

Darrurz says that he will check out the markets and companies of the Tagan pack, and where the government is spending its money and expending its effort in an effort to try and understand the complexities of the Pack.

Evening Research

Characters: Darrurz & Mazun
Location: A hospital in a city
System: Tagan

1202.12.5 - 19:30 (Local Time)

Mazun learns that a vakh is a palm-sized arthropod native to Tagan's swampy areas. It attaches to its host along the spine and uses its hollow pincers to inject a local anesthetic so the host is unaware of its presence. As the vakh feeds on the blood of its host it secretes a virus into the bloodstream that targets the brain, making it susceptible to the primal suggestions of the vakh. These are no more than impulses such as "eat" and "fight."

OOC: Parts of this appeared in Survival Margin and Out of the Darkness.

The term "Vakh" is slang for the AI computer virus that originated in the former Third Imperium. In its initial form, it made use of the Deyo transponder suite which was required for all ships wishing to operate in Imperial space. The Deyo transponder suite utilizes dormant Cymbeline chips, a silicon life form native to Cymbeline (Solomani Rim 2527). The computer virus awakens the chips and imprints instructions upon them. Building on the Cymbeline chips ability to cut their own circuit pathways, the virus thus can exist in software and embedded in hardware.

While there was a learning curve to overcome when moving to vargr systems free of the Deyo transponder suite, ultimately silicon is silicon and code is code. Over time, the computer virus mutated and adapted to its new surroundings. Just as our bodies process the prey we eat to make sex cells for reproduction, so too does the AI computer virus use silicon to make new copies of itself. That steak you ate doesn't know how to be a vargr, but your body uses some of it as the raw material to spawn pups of your own.

As there is considerable code involved, only large computer systems can be infected. Equipment below tech level 9 has proven to have insufficient capacity for full blown infection but are carriers of "eggs", code that has been condensed for storage but is incapable of operation until presented with ample space to operate.

Mazun re-reads the material looking for holes and making sure he understands what's been discovered. He is pretty amazed at the description of the Cymbeline chips. He passes the info to Darrurz and comments, "I guess transponders are not in use anymore."

He adds, "If that Virus was able to infect all the wildly varying systems in the Extents, it has to be pretty resilient. It's amazing the Tagan Pack has held out."

Darrurz discovers that the largest companies on Tagan are in the agricultural sector, with only small ones in manufacturing. Much larger manufacturing companies are on Igodosakfell. Studying the history of the markets on these two worlds, both were terribly depressed for decades following the collapse of interstellar trade. Tagan corps showed modest growth starting in the 1160s of around 1% with banner years of 3%. Once Tagan opened up to interstellar trade again, growth of 5-10% was more common. ROI's for companies assisting in the rebuilding of Igodosakfell were great.

Igodosakfell's economy was stuck in recession, with bouts of depression, for decades, but once nations begin signing on to Kaelthaen's peace accord, the economy stabilized itself, fluctuating between modest growth and mild recessions. Once Tagan contacted them and offered humanitarian aid and assistance in the form of capital investment, a boom period returned. Igodosakfell's economy surpassed Tagan's in the early 1190's.

The government of the Tagan Pack spends its money on humanitarian assistance and defense. After expeditionary forces have secured a world, humanitarian groups move in to provide the survivors with their basic needs. Investment companies are then permitted to provide capital for development projects in return for a percentage of the profits (or interest on loans to governments). The Pack taxes the investment firms and funnels those revenues into the budgets for defense and humanitarian aid. The Pack acts as mediator in disputes between the investors and the recovering worlds. It regulates the investors, watching out for exploitative contracts.

It discourages its citizens from leaving Pack space and entering the Wilds. It can not guarantee their safety. Also, trafficking in merchandise of non-Pack origin, and which has not been proven virus free, is a capital offense. Penalties range from confiscation of all one's possessions to jail time and even the death penalty. The courts have free reign to punish according to the level of the offense. While no one has ever been executed (there have been no deaths from infected equipment brought back from the Wilds), 10-year prison terms have been common.

To encourage the use of safety inspections, the government provides this service free of charge. It also offers "Scrounger Licenses". After paying a fee and taking some classes, the licensed individual can be hired to venture into the Wilds to find things. The government's rationale here is that it can't stop people from entering the Wilds to find stuff, but it can educate them about the dangers of infected equipment. Licensed Scroungers are given prevalence in safety inspection lines and typically command higher prices for their services (OOC: higher charisma too).

Speculation on the capital investment market is that the Pack will expand rimward towards Tsougak (Windhorn 3020), the former subsector capital, and trailing to Kir (Meshan 0316) and Kfothoeghuel (Meshan 0513), the former capital of the Kfothoeghuel Concordat.

After sharing these discoveries, the pair talk a while then head off to sleep. Neither wants to miss the opportunity for the trip to the park by oversleeping.

Next: Mazun and Darrurz Meet Joe