Characters: Mazun Contreras, Darrurz, & Joseph Wright
NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen, Pack Leader Kfarollakh, Dr. Ann Patel
Location: Darrurz and Mazun's room at the hospital
OOC: Just so there's no confusion "Pack Leader" is a military rank
above captain. Kfarollakh is not the leader of the Tagan Pack.
Mazun and Darrurz are back in their room after a trip out to Agzaghorstoung Park. While they weren't alone on the trip (there were several patients from the hospital there for their own rehabilitation) and each was given a GPS-comm tag (in case of emergencies) on an adjustable leather loop to put around their necks (OOC: Like a "press" or "staff" badge that dangles down to the chest), they were given free reign to roam through the park alone. For Darrurz the trip was wonderful: fresh air full of the scents of a world in spring, room to run with abandon. For Mazun, it felt too supervised, though he appreciated the chance to get outside.
There's a knock at the door, followed by the entrance of Dr. Patel. "Good morning," she says in Galanglic. "You have visitors."
She enters the room and is followed by two vargr and a human. The vargr are dressed in officers' uniforms and immediately sniff the air to gauge the scent of its occupants. The elder looking one is definitely the senior of the two. The human, also in uniform and wearing a beret over his shaven head, looks around the room and at its occupants with slightly jerky movements.
Darrurz's ears snap to attention and he sniffs the new arrivals. He notes that both of the vargr are calmly confident and take a non-aggressive yet commanding posture. The human mostly smells of antiseptic, as if he's had surgery recently. He seems preoccupied with getting the details of the room just right.
Dr. Patel introduces the two groups. "Darrurz and Mazun Contreras, allow me to introduce you to Pack Leader Kfarollakh, Captain Nokh Khoen, and Ensign Joseph Wright."
Mazun offers his hand to the newcomers and uses the chance to look up the human one more closely.
Joe pauses for a second before offering his hand—his eyes glance quickly toward Kfarollakh who nods approvingly—then with a firm grip Joe shakes the offered hand. “Hi, just call me Joe.”
Mazun nods. "Call me Mazun."
Looking closely. Darrurz and Mazun see Joe's face is gaunt, grey and pale, with sunken eyes (although they simmer with a dark glare). He looks ill at ease, uncomfortable with something; you can see a red mark on his temple disappearing under the beret (the obvious residue from quick heal and surgery). Another similar mark is on the back of hand and disappears under the sleeve of his uniform. The uniform is unadorned, with just his rank and service insignia on one shoulder.
Joe takes a closer look at Mazun and then Darrurz.
He sees that Mazun bears a slight smile and his eyes are bright and attentive and dart briefly towards the Vargr while Joe is looking. His hair is dark and his skin is slightly brown. He is wearing athletic apparel emblazoned with the hospital logo.
Darrurz is wearing the vargr equivalent of the hospital athletic apparel. He's short, even by vargr standards, but appears not to know this. He has a scar across the left side of his face. It has all the characteristics of a laser burn.
After the pleasantries, Dr. Patel excuses herself and leaves the room.
"Thank you, Doctor," Kfarollakh says in Galanglic. After she is gone, Kfarollakh asks Mazun in Gvegh, "Do you speak Gvegh? I'd prefer not to rely on the computer for translation."
Mazun takes a moment to answer, staring at Kfarollakh. Then, he smiles, hiding his teeth, and replies in Gvegh, without breaking eye contact. "Yes, I do. You are the first one who bothers to ask."
Nokh chuckles while Kfarollakh permits himself a small smile. He says, "Good. It will make your transition to life here much easier on you."
Darrurz barks up with, “If there are nuances needed in any transitions I will be able to assist.” Darrurz’s head tilts to the left slightly and one ear drops while the other stays up. His posture is respectful, but without deference. “How may we be of help?”
Kfarollakh regards Darrurz for a moment then address the pair in Gvegh. "If no one has said so, welcome to Tagan and the Tagan Pack."
Darrurz replies, “Thank you for the welcome.”
Mazun nods. "Thanks."
Kfarollakh stands tall, commanding attention. "I understand that the hospital staff has explained to you that many decades have transpired since you were forced into cryotubes and that this part of the galaxy no longer resembles the one you left. I trust that your curiosity has compelled you to learn what you can about your new surroundings." He gestures at the monitors to clarify his statement. "Over the decades of isolation, Tagan didn't have much of a need for starship pilots or engineers. We kept things simple and stayed hidden. Our neighbor, Igodosakfell, was too busy fighting for its survival to afford the luxury of roaming the stars to hunt. As such, we don't have as many people with skills in those fields as we would like. In our war against the Vakh, we have a need for wolves with your skills and knowledge. We are sending patrols out into the Wilds to contact other worlds, forage for technology that will help us, and find Vakh nests to destroy."
Nokh lends a short growl to emphasize that last part.
Kfarollakh places a paw on Joe's shoulder and regards him with pride. "Captain Nokh found Joe and the rest of his crew out in the Wilds while on a scrounging run. They were all slaves on a Vakh ship, controlled through sophisticated cybernetic implants. After Nokh and his crew rescued them, his ship came under attack from other Vakh ships. Joe took over for an incapacitated gunner crew and blinded the Vakh that would've prevented their escape. His bravery, not to mention his teeth," Kfarollakh adds with a wink, "is why they're here today." Nokh wags his tail.
Mazun looks at Joe, seeing how he takes this introduction.
Joe looks surprised, but not from the introduction. The look on his face changed about half way through Kfarollakh’s first sentence. By the time the introductions come, Joe appears to be reflecting on the story, his face shows he is reliving the sensations and emotions as the events are described.
Kfarollakh continues, all levity gone from his voice, "The Vakh don't care if you're human or vargr. We are all their prey. This is why it is so important that we fight them together."
Kfarollakh addresses Darrurz with praise in his stance and tone. "We know from your tests, Darrurz, that your pilot skills are very good." He turns to address Mazun with a similar posture. "Mazun, although we haven't tested your technical knowledge, your captors thought enough of your skills to note them in your cryoberth computer along with what appears to your personnel file from the IISS." He then addresses both of them. "Out in the Wilds, your knowledge of the Imperium's old technology, which our cousins couldn't stop themselves from coveting, will prove invaluable.
"I realize that you must be accustomed to better... everything, but this is the den we have and we fill fight to defend it all costs. Although you are new here, Tagan Pack Security would very much like it if you would join our pack and hunt with us. Before you give me your answer, I'm sure you have questions of your own. It is only fair. I will answer them as best I can."
Mazun nods again, trying to remember all he can about the odd Vargr pack-joining, pack-leaving, and pack-switching behavior.
As Kfarollakh talks, Darrurz’s head returns upright, his ear drops, and his stance changes slightly almost deflating, in contrast to the praise Darrurz’s voice seems weary. “What particular type of work did you have in mind for us? Is it what you said? Contact, forage and fight? And how would you envisage using us? On the same ship, across different ships? Apologies if I don’t seem to wish to jump at your offer, and please believe me when I say I want to help, by Llallaeknuez I do.”
Darrurz pauses for a moment before continuing, “I’m a merchant. My hunt was for profit. Long hard hours shifting freight, plying the space lanes, analyzing the markets and finding the opportunities so I’m not sure that I’d fit well into a military structure. Although I can fight for me and my pack.” Darrurz thinks back to just days ago when he was fighting for his life against that toothless disloyal corsair, and his whole stance changes again his hackles come up, as well as his ears, his nostrils flare his lips curl, teeth gnash and a low deadly menacing growl leaves his throat as he remembers the taste of blood. “Fucking Corsairs.”
As Darrurz curses, Joe drops into the stance of a natural fighter; one hand flinches towards his right shoulder (dropping back when it finds nothing there). And as soon as Mazun thinks Darrurz might actually rip his throat out his stance changes back again.
“Apologies Kfarollakh, for me the centuries ago are merely days. I do not intend to offer offense.”
It is only after snapping out his reverie and offering his apology that Darrurz notices that Nokh has positioned himself between Darrurz and Kfarollakh. Nokh's teeth are visible as his face is couched in a snarl. His laser beam focus is dead set on him, poised to strike Darrurz should he so much as flinch.
Kfarollakh is respectfully calm though his brow is furrowed with concern. "I understand, Darrurz."
Nokh stands down but doesn't move. His eyes don't leave Darrurz.
As the tension eases Joe's body relaxes and he steps away from the vargr (plural).
Mazun looks at the vargr with some bewilderment and wills himself to stay firmly set in place.
Kfarollakh continues after a pause. "If you need to talk with someone about your ordeal, it can be arranged. The humans have educated us about the damaging effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a mange upon the mind and some of us have benefited from being treated for it." He lets Darrurz consider it before continuing.
"Our intent is to keep revived groups of people together. Just as pups from the same litter form strong bonds, we hope the same from you. If there's friction in the group, we'll transfer personnel.
"Missions will depend upon the skill set of the group. Some packs are better suited for fighting, others at scrounging. But being a merchant offers a different role." He scratches behind his ear. "The Wilds aren't all death and destruction. Some worlds are rebuilding on their own. We could bully our way in and take what we want, and many have argued that is what we should do. But I would wager that that corsair mentality doesn't sit well with you either. The Pack needs allies. Today's emaciated stragglers can be tomorrow's packmates in arms.
"In those situations, it makes more sense to trade for what we need. Both sides get what they want and the dividend is goodwill. When the battlefield is business, a merchant is better armed than a soldier."
Darrurz inclines his head slightly to Kfarollakh and replies, “Wise words, well said. And you are right that the corsair mentality does not sit well with me. Mutual benefit through trade is the lifeblood what builds economies and societies, and there can be no more immediate example of that than the Tagan Pack itself. Piracy is parasitic drawing off that lifeblood, sometimes to the extent that it kills the lifeblood and thus the parasite as well.
“If there are opportunities where I can help in building trade, forging links, and building societies then I’ll be more than happy to help.”
"Excellent!" Kfarollakh's tail wags. "The last thing we need are more corsairs. We have enough of them if you ask me."
Even Nokh seems to finally relax. His eyes soften and his tail wags slightly.
Joe fully relaxes again, and smiles. "I wouldn't be alive today if they took the attitude of their own first. It was the Captain's crew here who picked me up from the Vakh they were raiding. The Vakh had initiated a reactor overload and the boarding party were evacuating, time was short yet they still grabbed me and a couple of other's of," Joe cough's, "err, the slave crew, and took us with them. If their thoughts were for their own interest first, they would have left us to our fate; yet they took me to their sick bay and treated my wounds. Yes, I was able to repay their immediate kindness by helping them escape from another attacking Vakh, but at the time they acted they had no idea I was going to be such a factor in their immediate survival."
Kfarollakh and Nokh look on Joe with smiles.
Joe looks surprised again, "I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was quite so fluent in Gvegh!"
Nokh replies, "It was probably downloaded to your implants by the Vakh ship."
Now that the tension has abated, Mazun clears his throat and says, "Thank you and your pack for bringing me back to the space of the living and offering me a future. That is a very interesting proposal, and indeed I have a few questions."
"Please, ask them," Kfarollakh says.
Joe smiles and thinks back to his own questions of the previous day.
"First "what does joining your pack entail? I assume we will be joining the crew of a starship for missions in the Wilds. What can you tell us about our responsibilities and duties?"
He smiles slightly. "Humans tend to stumble on the word 'pack'. It has various levels of meaning. In this case, we're asking you to join our... team. Think of it as a job offer." He chuckles, "There isn't any kind of blood oath or branding ritual."
Nokh permits himself a small smile.
Mazun returns the smile. "Good. Branding is awfully inconvenient without fur on your skin."
Kfarollakh and Nokh chuckle.
Kfarollakh answers, "Captain Nokh needs additions to his crew. There were casualties on the last hunting trip and not everyone will be recovered in time before he heads back out. This seemed like a good time to look outside our current ranks for new recruits.
"Should you join us, your responsibilities and duties will be to do what it takes to ensure the success of the mission, whatever that may be. That shouldn't be any different from your time with the Imperial Scouts."
Mazun says, "Hopefully the time before the war."
Kfarollakh cocks his head to the side, then replies. "Darrurz has stated his preference for more diplomatic missions. I trust that is yours as well. If that is where your pack's strengths lie, then I can see to it that the missions that require a 'bite first' approach go to someone else."
Mazun nods and continues, "Second, what can we count on for our future, on the practical side? Will we be given citizenship, living quarters planetside, income? What will be our chances for improvement and development?"
"Right now your legal status is 'potential military asset.' Should you accept our invitation, we'll immediately start on the paperwork to grant you citizenship. All Pack Security personnel receive a salary with benefits. Living quarters are provided so long as you're in the service. Housing is limited on Tagan, so your permanent residence will likely be on Igodosakfell, but if you prefer another Pack world, arrangements can be made."
Darrurz considers for a moment and pipes up, “Tagan for me. This is where Llallaeknuez brought me. This is where it started. These are those who had the vision and took the responsibility. This is where I wish to call 'Home'."
"I'll see what I can do," Kfarollakh says.
Mazun makes a mental note to look up "Lal-Ay-k-Noois". He shrugs and adds, "Any world with a breathable atmosphere and a mountain range to hike will do for me, although I imagine the... team should stay together. I would very much appreciate it if the world had a reasonable human minority. No offense guys, but there are things better kept within race boundaries." He winks, and as he does, wonders whether these vargr react to human gestures as shrugs and winks.
It takes a moment or two but Nokh finally gets it and he starts to laugh. When Kfarollakh nudges him for an explanation, Nokh utters a few guttural sounds and moves his head around a bit. When Kfarollakh gets it, he nods and smiles. "Tagan is probably around 5% human."
Then Kfarollakh cocks his head to the side, and continues to answer Mazun's last question. "But I'm not sure what you mean by 'improvement and development.'"
Mazun is about to ask about the salary, but he realizes he does not have an idea about the value of money in this region of space. "On improvement and development, I mean what are the mid- and long-term possibilities for advancement. You see, I used to be a Chief Engineer commanding a full team, and I am more used to large ships and scout bases than to small scout ships. I understand the need to start as a mere crewmember, but I would not like to be stuck there forever."
Kfarollakh nods his head in understanding. "Darrurz will probably tell you that advancement is something many of our people seek out—sometimes a bit prematurely—and it is there for the taking. As the Tagan Pack grows, there will be many opportunities for leadership. As we salvage ships and build new ones, they will need to be captained by those whose hearts and teeth are in the right place.
"We test all new recruits. If you're as good as your captors thought you were, then your position in Nokh's pack will be a good one."
"Third, I have been told that you have reanimated a former... pack co-member of mine, Lieutenant Arthur McClendon. Will he be offered the same as us?"
"Yes, we're going to meet with him today or tomorrow, depending on his recovery."
"If you think it would help, I would like to be present when you meet him. It might help if he sees a... known face."
"Yes, that would be a good idea."
Once it seems like everyone is done asking each other questions, Kfarollakh says, "Good. Good! We'll leave you two for now and talk to your doctor about getting you released. We'll see you later in Lieutenant McClendon's room."
With that, Kfarollakh, Nokh, and Joe leave the room.
Characters: Mazun Contreras & Darrurz
NPC: Dr. Zan Aegzgorr
Location: Darrurz and Mazun's room at the hospital
The guys from Pack Security have just left. There's a rumbling in your stomachs
so you put in an order for lunch.
Darrurz looks at Mazun. “5% human hay? Well that means there are there are 250,000 human females out there just waiting for a member of Pack Security to be their alpha.”
Mazun laughs out loud. "Well, with 95% Vargr, that puts you in an even better position."
Darrurz laughs as well. “My problem is that they all think that I’m the runt!” and he laughs again.
While you're eating, there's a knock at the door. Darrurz takes in the scent of the person at the door and realizes its Dr. Zan Aegzgorr. His tail wags in anticipation of the knock. After giving your consent, she enters the room.
"Good morning, gentlemen," she says in Galanglic. "Did you enjoy your run in the park?"
"Yes, very much," Mazun replies.
Darrurz replies in Gvegh, "Yes I did. Thank you Zan. Maybe I could repay your kindness by taking you to dinner some time?"
Mazun hides his amusement the best he can, wishing to avoid getting in the middle of the conversation.
Zan's tail wags and her head bobs a bit. She replies in Gvegh, "Oh my! Two dinner invitations in one day. I thought for certain that I didn't put the sex pheromones on this morning." She laughs. "Yes, Darrurz that would be nice."
Darrurz’s head tilts to one side even though he’s still smiling. “Two invitations? Well now. Might I ask who the other was from?”
She smiles and casts a glance at Mazun. "From Mister McClendon."
Darrurz raises his ears in surprise.
Mazun knows Arthur well enough to be surprised by the offer; at least he thought he did. The man wasn't a racist but he certainly hated the vargr invaders as much as the next soldier. Mazun tries to keep a straight face but can't help raising an eyebrow. He smiles and says, "Good to know he is feeling well!"
Zan doesn't appear to notice Mazun's surprise. "Yes, I ... wait a moment. You speak Gvegh?"
Darrurz laughs a little at Zan’s surprise.
Mazun smiles sheepishly. "Yes I do. It's not as good as your Galanglic, though."
She laughs at herself. "It never occurred to me to ask. I'm sorry. Before I embarrass myself any further, does Mister McClendon speak Gvegh too?"
"No, he does not."
"Well, since you know that your friend Arthur McClendon is awake and has emerged from his cryofreezing just fine, would you like to see him?"
"I'd love to, thanks!"
"Great. Have Nurse Aegazae find me when after you've finished your lunch."
Characters: Mazun Contreras, Darrurz & Arthur McClendon
NPC: Dr. Zan Aegzgorr
Location: Darrurz and Mazun's room at the hospital
Arthur is in bed, eating a sandwich and utilizing the monitor to learn about his
new surroundings when there's a gentle knock at the door. It's Dr. Aegzgorr.
She says in Galanglic, "How are you feeling, Arthur?"
"Feeling up for visitors?"
Arthur sees a man with dark hair and slightly brown skin whom he instantly recognizes as Scout Commander Mazun Contreras, the highly skilled tech guy. Behind him is a short male vargr with a scar across the left side of his face. It has all the characteristics of a laser burn. Both are wearing dark blue athletic apparel emblazoned with the hospital logo.
Zan says, "Obviously you know Mazun, this wolf is Darrurz, a fellow cryotube survivor from your time period."
Arthur is a shorter than average human male, built like a tank; the result of growing up on a high gravity world. He looks none the worse for wear for being in a cryotube for several decades.
Mazun greets Arthur in Galanglic, keeping an eye on Zan (he is expecting her to leave). "Hi, Arthur. Great to see you." He offers Arthur his hand.
Arthur shakes his hand. “Good to see you made it."
"Did they tell you all about where and when we are?"
"Yeah, I've been reading up on the local situation.”
"Me too. Have you recovered from the shock? I did not immediately believe that the Imperium is gone. Space, I think I still do not believe it."
After Mazun and Arthur have been re-acquainted, Darrurz offers his paw in a distinctly human fashion and in perfect Galanglic with an Lishun accent says, “Good to meet you, Arthur. I’m Darrurz. A Merchant. I’m from Fokulgvu, Sotri Subsector of Lishun if you know the system. I used to pilot ships for Shiishirnii before I headed out on my own.”
Arthur shakes his paw and says, “Good to meet you. What’s your story on the long sleep?”
At this point, Zan excuses herself with a smile and leaves.
Darrurz replies, “I was on a ship running out of Vilani space, because we didn’t much like what was happening in Imperial Space, and we got a job looking for a couple of lost ships and crews coreward of the Vilani boarder. I’d lost my ship to a bunch of corsairs called the Touzagh and we came across a base of theirs in the Gamgilebo systems where there was a Seeker. They owed me so I took it and inherited a couple of crew. A few days ago the mange ridden good for nothing corsair engineer decided he wanted to be alpha and shot me. I was dosed with slow and the next thing I know I wake up here.
“Not quite sure. Last I remember was an engagement with Vargr corsairs, in the Dekilari system, then I wake up here, apparently 70 years from my last remembered event. How ‘bout you you, Mazun? Any idea what went down?”
Mazun nods. "I imagine you were taken down in combat and went directly from unconsciousness to hibernation. Remember that idiot navy commander we had? He managed to pull all the wrong moves and we were hammered. At some point the corsairs started taking prisoners, and from what I could gather when they took over my ship, they decided a bunch of us would command good prices as slaves in some central slave market in Lishun. Sending us frozen was cheaper. Apparently we were discovered still frozen in some former corsair base. No idea what went wrong with the sale. The locals here won't disclose the name of the system yet."
"Well that just fuckin’ blows dead goats, don’t it. I hope we get some clarification in the next little bit, ‘cause this is a nice place an’ all, but it is sure pissin’ me off in regards to why we’re here. They're expending all these big time medical bucks—on me at least, and probably you two as well—instead of just letting us slide into the long sleep. Woulda’ been a shit pile more cost effective, from their point of view, if what the files say is true about the current situation in this point in time. Something smells, even if the main doc is really hot for a vargr.
"I’d like to get some real time answers, closer to this timeline. Got about all I can suck outta the system, at least what they’ll let me see, and I’m not seein’ anything."
Mazun smiles. "Yep, I'm feeling the same way. But Pack Security already met with us and they are going to meet with you in a minute. I asked to be present and to talk to you before that.
"It seems that we are valuable because of our familiarity with old tech, which is now more advanced than what they have. Short story: if they find an old derelict floating out there or go into an old starport, we have far better chances to figure out what to do with it and what is valuable. They essentially want us to sign up for their exploration and trade fleet, which I am inclined to do, if not for any other reason than to get back in a ship and start getting my information firsthand. Darrurz is a pilot, I am an engineer. I imagine a combat specialist with experience in advanced weaponry fits the bill, so we might all end in the same ship. We also met a gunner who apparently was recovered from one of those Virus-infected ships with a slave crew. I gather he is as lost as we are after they took out all the computer implants.
"Oh, and one thing about the doc... don't question this Collapse story too closely with her. She gets really upset. Been there, done that."
Next: (Another) Meeting With Pack Security