NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen, Pack Leader Kfarollakh, Dr. Zan Aegzgorr
Location: The hospital. First Arthur's room, then Cryogenics Level
Arthur is now dressed so the four sophonts open the door to find Captain Nokh
Khoen and Pack Leader Kfarollakh talking with Dr. Zan Aegzgorr in the hall.
Upon noticing them, Pack Leader Kfarollakh says, "Ready? Good. Dr. Aegzgorr will lead us there."
The group follows them to the elevator and everyone gets in. It's crowded but not uncomfortably so. The doctor stands next to a panel. There are no buttons. She places her paw on a translucent rectangle and says, "Cryogenics. Authorization, Dr. Zan Aegzgorr."
A light flashes on the panel followed by an audible ding and the elevator begins its descent.
The ride is short, but long enough to indicate a few floors may have been passed. A security guard sits a desk across from the elevator. He nods to the doctor and, upon seeing Pack Leader Kfarollakh, he leaps to his feet to salute. Kfarollakh returns the salute.
Dr. Aegzgorr leads the group down the brightly lit, but cool, corridor. There's the faint scent of expelled cryogenic gases but nothing to indicate a leak. You pass only a couple of other staff members on your walk.
The group follows the doctor as she enters a set of double doors at the end of the corridor. The room on the other side is a large storeroom, probably about 10 meters wide and 15 meters long. The ceiling is around 5 meters high. The lights come on as you enter. There's a mix of scents representing the various things stored here: cleaning supply chemicals, refrigerants, etc. There are boxes of cleaning supplies and tools, spare parts for equipment, some unused monitoring equipment, and load jacks. In a corner are eight empty cryotubes. They're powered off but the lids are closed.
"Here they are," the doctor says. She points out the ones for Darrurz, Mazun, and Arthur. The latter two are identical: a clean white finish, albeit a bit dulled by time. They look like they could be re-used for someone else. Darrurz's looks a bit beat up with obvious scratches, gouges and dents. It doesn't look like a cryoberth you'd want to use again unless you were facing imminent death. Even then the odds wouldn't look much better.
She gestures to them. "Have a look if you want."
Mazun nods to both Dr. Aegzgorr and Kfarollakh and says, "Thank you, I will."
The group watches as he walks over to a shelf to pick up a basic set of mechanical and electronics toolboxes and a flashlight. He then heads over to the cryotubes for a thorough technical examination.
He carefully examines as much as he can from the outside, noting that the cryoberths appear to be standard Naasirka LN-2000 cryoberths. Mazun proceeds to remove the cover on his own cryotube and several access panels. Everything appears to be in order without any obvious modifications, until he reaches the power cord.
The LN-2000's carry an internal battery which is designed to provide power to the unit in case of a power failure. Typically the units are powered (and the battery kept at maximum charge) via an external power source. They can either be hardwired directly into that power source or plugged in to an outlet (user discretion). There are different modules to facilitate power input to the unit (available from the manufacturer) and they can be plugged into the unit's power input matrix port. The power cord has obviously been cut at some point in the past and then spliced with another. The cords are two different colors—no attempt was made to disguise it. A small plastic box protects the joint where the two cords come together. The newer cord ends in a plug which Mazun notes will fit into the hospital's wall sockets.
"Can anyone explain this?" he asks.
The group comes over to see what he's talking about.
Dr. Aegzgorr answers, "Yes. In the briefing I received, it was stated that the pack that found the cryotubes said that the cryotubes were plugged into outlets but they were of unknown design. They didn't have a replacement connector that was compatible with the power input matrix port so they cut the cord and spliced the wires. We undid their splice and spliced our own wire with our plug receptacles attached here."
Mazun nods. He knows that the power input matrix port is hooked up to a current modulator that adapts the electrical input to the proper amperage and voltage for the unit.
Joe yawns and looks around for somewhere to sit down.
OOC Carlos: Is Mazun sure that there was no other tinkering with the unit? No extraneous components?
OOC DED: Absolutely certain. He checks components and notes their Naasirka serial #'s. He's actually impressed with the equipment. He knows that Naasirka built these things to last but didn't realize just how long they could work.
Mazun has a look at the computer interface and sees which information he can pull. He expects logs indicating possible power failures and the like. The computer screen lights up and a little battery icon appears to indicate that it's running on battery power. He accesses the unit's diagnostics screen and calls up the usage log. The freezing and thawing dates for the last occupant (himself) correspond with what he remembers of that last day in the Imperium and the date Zan told him when he was set free of its icy slumber.
The power supply log reveals that the unit went through a dozen switches between steady power supply and short breaks (a couple of hours) of internal battery usage between his freeze date in 1122 and 1126, then about one per year from then to 1131.
OOC Carlos: 1126 to 1131, regular enough to match a yearly maintenance check?
OOC DED: Quite possibly.
There was steady power until 1137 and then the unit switched to battery for... forty-five years! Is that even possible?
Mazun thinks and thinks trying to figure out how the cryoberth coolant system could keep out the heat for so long. And then it dawns on him: If the coolant system never kicked on and no one operated the computer then the only things running would be the internal clock and the thermometer and neither of those drew any real power. The onboard battery was designed to provide the power necessary to circulate and maintain cryogenic fluids; those two devices were a pittance of electrical consumption compared to that. It would be as if the unit were shut off.
But for the coolant system to never kick on, that would mean that the ambient temperature of where his unit, and presumably the others too, were kept had to be ridiculously cold. Like liquid nitrogen cold. So where were we?
But from 1182 until his rescue by the Tagan Pack weeks ago, his unit received a steady stream of power.
Mazun addresses everyone, "So far as I can tell, we are very lucky to be alive. It seems the units were cut off from power and running on batteries for 45 years, from 1137 to 1182 Imperial. Which is only possible if we were in an extremely cold environment, something like outer space or the surface of an airless rockball in the outer part of a system. From then on it was steady power, probably the Vakh. From the looks of it, we were ferried about until 1131, and then spent six years plugged in somewhere."
He scratches his chin.
"If I had to guess, we were traded in a number of times and then this Vakh Collapse hit and from 31 on we were left in a dead ship or base, the ship's remaining power run out six years later and the units turned to battery power. We must have spent half a century there until some new Vakh found us."
Then he moves over to Arthur's cryoberth to make sure they share similar histories and that it hasn't been tampered with either. His unit checks out.
Before he gets to work on Darrurz's he notices something etched in Gvegh on the back side of the casing. It says, "VOZO VARGO," meaning, "Save him."
"I see you found the message," Kfarollakh says over Mazun's shoulder.
Darrurz's ears perk up and he races over to his cryotube to see the message for himself.
Kfarollakh continues, "Someone went through an awful lot of trouble to find something hard enough to scratch that metal and leave a message. The pack that found him saw those words and took it as some kind of sign. With all the damage the unit endured they weren't sure it would survive much longer and grabbed him."
Darrurz looks at the message etched on his lowberth to see if it was scratched by a Vargr paw or a Human hand, but he can't tell. He puts his paw over the message, closes his eyes and with a low howl he gives thanks privately to Llallaeknuez. And in a voice that only Mazun can hear still with his eyes closed, “Show me how I can repay this kindness.”
Stepping away from his lowberth he turns towards Zan and points to the other two lowberths. “I used to buy these for Shiishirnii back when I worked for them. The standard Naasirka LN-2000 cryoberths have a software enabled medical function. If you bought the license, the berth can be enabled to use the cryo cycle to initiate a regenerative function."
Zan's ears perk up. "That would be useful to have."
Darrurz bursts her bubble. "It’s nothing special. Low level regen of bruises, breaks, scratches, cuts etc. Gives you a good night’s sleep ... I mean you come out refreshed and relaxed. Naasirka were a bit tight so they always charged for it, and no one used to buy the license because it cost too much and all of that stuff could be done by the auto docs anyway.
“Hacking the code is likely to be difficult, as I said Naasirka were a bit tight so security on stuff that made them money was always good. A friend of mine would have been able to do it in his sleep, but my guess is that he’s dead now." He pauses. "Do you give us old timers a collective name?"
She cocks her head to the side. "No, we don't at the hospital." She turns to face the two representatives from Pack Security.
"We don't have an offical one," Kfarollakh says, "but you've been referred to as frozen assets."
Mazun grins, thinking of a number of Frozen Cocktails back in the 3I.
"Well, if you have one of us who is a computer expert and a TL-15 hand comp, he may be able to crack it for you to reverse engineer.”
Kfarollakh says, "We'll put that on our list of items to recover from the Wilds."
Turning back to Mazun he nods at his lowberth and just says in Galanglic, “Tell me.”
Mazun replies, "I'll have a look at your unit now."
He discovers that Darrurz's unit went through numerous transitions between steady power and battery back up from 1126 to 1131. Then there was steady power to 1137. From there the power supply patterns match those of Mazun's and Arthur's.
OOC Carlos: Any chance the logs will include data exchange with the systems the unit were plugged to? Even unsuccessful attempts?
OOC DED: No.
OOC Carlos: In 1137, if Mazun's theory is correct, there must have been some kind of alarm trigger as power run out. The logs might show a difference between an active powering down (as e.g. for maintenance—a switch is actively pulled) and energy running down and disappearing (1137: no switch pulled).
OOC DED: Yes, there are entries that indicate manual power switching to and from internal battery power. In 1137, it was an unscheduled power failure. All others indicate user activated power switches. However, Darrurz's power switches for the years 1127-1129 contain a mix of planned and interrupted power losses.
Mazun turns to Darrurz. "Same story as ours. Your pod seems to have seen more action than ours in '27 to '29. Maybe some of the trades were not quite voluntary."
OOC Carlos: What about the first two uninterrupted runs of power supply in 1122? One of those must cover the trip to the Extents and its duration might give an idea of the distance travelled.
OOC DED: Not really. What was the jump drive rating on the ship(s) he was on? Did they travel around in circles? Was a ship idle on the surface of a world(s)? Was he even plugged into a ship's power supply or was it a portable generator? Too many variables.
OOC Carlos: Still gives you the maximum distance for any given Jump rating. But you are right, not very useful.
"Mr. Contreras," Kfarollakh interrupts Mazun's puzzle solving, "it's getting late and I must be leaving soon. Shall we head back up?" He gestures towards the door as he starts walking.
Mazun replies, "Yes, sure, thank you for letting look at this."
As they head for the door, Arthur says, “This was pretty creepy... and didn’t do a lot for us, ‘side show we are really alone here. That’s a long time to spend, bein’ drooled over by machines and treated as currency. Kinda makes me wanna’ find a piece of Vakh, and stomp on it. No offense, Joe.”
Joe removes his beret, revealing a long scar across his bald scalp. "Mr McClendon, if the opportunity arises to stomp on the Vakh, don't worry about upsetting my feelings - it will slow you down as I race to get there first. The Vakh owes me a 'pound of flesh'." Joe pauses and grins. "Literally!"
He replaces his beret and heads towards the door to leave, continuing to smile all the way.
NPC: Captain Nokh Khoen, Pack Leader Kfarollakh
Location: Arthur's room at the hospital
Everyone except for Dr. Aegzgorr returns to Arthur's room. She had to excuse
herself to attend other hospital matters. Feeling a little fatigued, Arthur
climbs back into bed while Mazun stands near him. Joe stands next to Nokh.
Kfarollakh addresses the group (Mazun handles the translation for Arthur so that they don't have to rely on the computer), "Now that you've had a chance to talk among your packmates and seen your cryotubes, have you come to a decision about joining Pack Security?"
Mazun answers, "Yes."
"What is your decision?"
Mazun looks briefly at everybody before speaking. He calls upon his "officer voice" and makes his statement matter-of-factly.
"We agree that yours is a worthy endeavour and we are willing to join for Trading-Exploration missions. We take the offer very seriously and we want to make sure that everything will run smoothly and we will be able to devote ourselves to the Pack without second thoughts."
"Excellent," Kfarollakh says.
Nokh's tail wags.
Mazun continues as if there were no interruption, "For that, there are some details to be fixed, as the issue of wages, residence, starting position, and so on. We have agreed that Darrurz will discuss those for all of us with whoever handles all that on your side. Once those are settled, we are in."
After hearing the translation from Fae, a worn out Arthur agrees with Mazun.
"I can make that rather simple. If you accept now, I can have you out on tomorrow's run to Igodosakfell. While Arthur looks tired now, he'll have a week to recoup in jump. I'm sure that I can convince the good doctor to release him.
"You won't have to worry about residency until you return. You'll be put on the waiting list for an apartment and I'd imagine that by the time you return from your first mission your respective dens will be available.
"Your citizenship applications will also be filled out and submitted.
"Standard pay is five hundred Pack credits per week of service. And the clock will start ticking the moment you step foot on the shuttle. Housing and healthcare are included. A food stipend of fifty credits per week is granted for shore leave.
"Your initial ranks are Oudoerrg which I'm told is the equivalent of Ensign in the Imperial Navy. Those ranks will change once we've properly assessed your skills and where you fit in. Once you're promoted you will receive a pay increase.
"Your pack will be kept together for the duration of your initial enlistment. As Darrurz can tell you, prematurely breaking up a pack is not a good idea. Your initial enlistment is for one year, at which time your service to the Pack will be evaluated and a decision will be made by Pack Security to either extend your service or set you free. You will have the liberty to reject said extension of service.
"And a written contract will be provided to back up what I've said.
Darrurz says, “I think we are all up for taking the next ship out to Igodosakfell."
"Good," Kfarollakh says. "Eager to join the hunt."
Mazun raises an eyebrow at Darrurz, seems about to say something, but then shuts up.
Darrurz continues, "Can we draw uniform and equipment on the way?”
After hearing the translation Arthur adds, "Sounds good, but what the hell am I supposed to do about learnin’ the lingo? I’m at a huge disadvantage outside the group, and this needs to change. Preferably by learning the lingo, or, suboptimal, with mechanical assistance from a translator. Somehow I don’t think a translator is part of my current loadout." He waves his hand to indicate his basic clothing.
While Kfarollakh listens to the translation, Darrurz offers some advice with a smile showing off some teeth, “You emulate an old Terran parachute regiment and 'Improvise, Adapt and Overcome'."
Arthur chuckles. "The way I ‘adapt and overcome’ is by superior application of firepower, and aggressive mindset, but that approach may not work here."
Nokh laughs heartily. Kfarollakh laughs too once he gets the translation. "We have a language program that you can use during your down time in jump. And someone will instruct you on the basic words you'll need for combat. It'll be up to you to avoid confusing 'fire' with 'flee'. But we will make sure you have a language translator. And if you're on the ship, we can have the ship's computer translate our speech into your comm."
Darrurz asks, “What about any equipment we might find on mission? Is there a finders fee? A percentage of sale? Or do we get to keep it? And cargoes and resources? Would you be happy for me to broker the cargo for a fee? And the most important of all: prize money and ship shares?”
Kfarollakh growls a bit with his mouth closed. He tilts his head to the side for a few moments and then answers. "Since you are part of Pack Security, we have first pick on anything you find. Let me make this clear: The ship belongs to the Pack, not Captain Nokh. The equipment we give you belongs to the Pack. You belong to the Pack. There are no finders fees or commissions. We use what our scroungers find in the field. We are not selling it for profit!" He takes a deep breath before continuing. "There are already corsairs and independent scroungers that sell us what they find, provided that we're willing to meet their price. When your service with us has concluded you'll be free to pursue that lifestyle.
"We can't pay you broker's fees—the government didn't put it in our budget. While we were hoping to employ you in that capacity, negotiating in good faith for the Pack, we're not a merchant guild. Arthur and Joe do not collect bonuses for every enemy ship they disable. Mazun will not collect a bonus for every machine he repairs. This will be your duty to the Pack. And you may console yourselves in that it is only a year.
"Having said that, ship captains are afforded some leeway. Captain Nokh will have a list of what the Pack is looking for. If something isn't on the list," he nods his head towards Nokh, "Captain Nokh will decide how to pay 'field bonuses'."
Nokh adds, "We can talk about that later." He adds a conspiratorial wink that Kfarollakh either doesn't notice or chooses to ignore.
Kfarollakh continues, "Darrurz, as a vargr, I understand the profit motive and the need to advance one's status, but in Pack Security service to the Pack is how one advances. We reward that service with promotions, which carry a higher salary, and added responsibility. A command of your own perhaps.
"There is a heroes' fund. Deposits are made to it on behalf of those whose deeds warrant special compensation. The money is held there until that warrior leaves the service at which point it is presented to him or her. I believe the human term is 'nest egg'." He walks over to Joe and places a paw on his shoulder. "There is already a nest egg set aside for Joe."
Kfarollakh removes his paw from Joe's shoulder. He checks the chronometer on his sleeve, then clasps his paws behind his back. "Anything else?
Darrurz replies, "Not from me." He turns slightly to look at Mazun and Arthur.
Mazun shrugs. "All clear. Where's the ship? Leave me a couple of hours alone with your engines."
Nokh laughs. "My ship is on Igodosakfell. It isn't capable of making a four parsec jump. Travel between Tagan and Igodosakfell is restricted to a pack of Kfouzrraekho class freighters. One leaves every day for Igodosakfell."
"And it leaves promptly," Kfarollakh adds. "Stragglers are left behind. Your ride to the downport will be here at seven-thirty. Don't be late." Sensing a question, he offers, "You'll be provided with species appropriate clothing and a grooming kit on the ship."
Kfarollakh says good bye to the three new recruits: a handshake with the humans and the "smell ya later" vargr version. Nokh does the same.
Nokh and Joe leave as well.
A pleasant tone is emitted from Fae. They're now taking orders for dinner.
NPC: Nurse Aegazae
Location: Arthur's room at the hospital
Just after Joe leaves the room, Mazun snaps his fingers as if he's just
remembered something and heads out after him.
"Hey, Joe! Since this is our last night on Tagan, I was wondering if you wanted to join us and go out for a few beers."
Joe replies, "Sorry. My plans are simply to accompany Nokh, have a meal, and rest for the night. After all I don't want to be late reporting in to the ship. In my past life that was usually fatal."
"Ok, then. See you tomorrow." Mazun returns to the room.
"What was that about?" Arthur asks.
"Oh, I figured that since is our last night on Tagan that I'd see if Joe wanted to go out for a few beers with us. You know. See the city for ourselves." He pauses. "So how about it guys? Do you want go out?"
Darrurz’s ears go up as he looks at Mazun. “Interesting,” he says as he considers Mazun’s question. “We have no clothes other than hospital training ones, we have no idea how to or means of getting to the city, or how long Arthur is likely to last on his feet out an about, and we have no money.” Looking him up and down he asks, “Are you sure you’re not a Vargr? I ask because it sounds like we have the basis of a cracking plan and I’m always up for a challenge! Lets go!”
Arthur says, "I’m gonna pass for all the above reasons. And I’m beat. And I don’t speak the lingo. And I have this incredible urge to hit something, which probably wouldn't end well."
Mazun replies to Arthur, "OK." He smiles at Darrurz and says, "Let's figure it out on the way."
The pair leave Arthur's room and head back to their own to put in their dinner orders.
While they wait, Mazun explains his thoughts on the evening. "I'm planning to simply ask the staff at the hospital for help here on getting out. After all we're not prisoners, right? The only problem is money, but maybe the hospital has an expense card or something. On the other hand, it shouldn't be too troublesome now that we are Tagan Pack Security employees to get a couple of money cards authorized online with rather low limits, right? Sort of an advance on wages. Just for beers and a cab. And picking up some cooler clothes along the way. I'll trust your merchant instincts on that. The money, not the clothes!"
Mazun goes online via Fae and checks to see how one obtains a debit card. He is assuming they are already listed somewhere as Tagan Security. Each bank that offers debit cards requires an account with them. It also states that customers may not withdraw funds exceeding their account balance. In the event that an overdraft occurs, the bank will charge 50 Pack credits to the account for each infraction and charge 25% interest on the overdrawn balance until it is paid back.
On the account application forms a physical address is required, along with comm number. Not having either one, Mazun is unsure what to do. Attempts to submit the form with those fields blank sends him back to the form with angry red letters stating that those are required fields.
Twenty minutes after placing their order, Nurse Aegazae enters the room carrying a tray with both of their meals.
Darrurz asks her, "Aegazae? We were thinking about going out for a beer, but as you can imagine we are a little short of money. Does the hospital have funds that they might be able to give or lend us?"
She laughs good-naturedly, "Oh no. Definitely not. But if you don't mind waiting until the end of my shift, I can take you guys out to a bar that's just down the street. A beer for each of you. My treat." She punctuates her offer with a smile.
Darrurz smiles back at her. "Aegazae, thank you. That is most kind. We'd love to. What time do you finish your shift?"
"At 19:00." A look over at the chronometer on Fae indicates that's a little less than an hour from now. "The place gets a lot of off shift hospital employees so you'll fit in dressed like that."
Next: A Night Out