Location: Miishakaal crew lounge
The captain has picked the rest period as the time for the weekly poker game.
Gvarokh is excused from bridge detail as the ship is in jump and there's really
not a whole lot one has to worry. His handcomp is close by, just in case.
Chuck hands out more Imperial Ale. "Sorry guys. Theton didn't have any beer worth checking out and we didn't really stay long enough to stock up. Sorry, Cap'n. That wasn't meant to be a slight."
She shrugs, "That's ok, Chuck. I didn't take it that way."
Game play is subdued. No one really runs away with it. The captain still seems subdued over bailing on Oda, and whether or not Mersshon is going to exact retribution. It looks like they won't be seeing Imperial space anytime soon. Her outfit consists of sweats, comfy clothes primarily. She's just not feeling sexy. And it impacts her game. It could be an off night, or being distracted, but she winds up on the bottom, losing $50.
Lakir and Chuck continue their run of bad luck. Lakir's limited budget knocks him out relatively early.
When asked out his meager risk, he replies, "I spent all my money on outfittin' myself for a firefight. Sooner or later, we're gonna get into one. Cap'n, any chance you can cut us another paycheck? It's been seven weeks since the last one and my funds are gettin' low."
She stiffens a little before replying, "Yes. I wanted to make sure we had enough money to make it back to Larkarda, assuming that we had rescued Oda and her family and didn't have the time to worry about hauling freight to cover our expenses. But now that that's not going to happen, I think that we'll make enough money from selling what's in the hold that I can pay you guys."
Vlad won $40
Gvarokh won $30
Vincent won $30
Slade won $20
Simrii lost $20
Lakir lost $20
Chuck lost $30
Shiraamer lost $50
NPC: Shiraamer & Chuck
Location: Miishakaal crew lounge
The ship is expected to exit jumpspace sometime tomorrow, late morning, so
the captain has called a meeting to prepare for Shishaldin.
Shiraamer seems to be in a better mood than she was during the poker game a few nights ago. She's dressed in her official Miishakaal jumpsuit and the coffee is doing its job.
"Good Dran, gentlemen. We'll be at Shishaldin tomorrow and I'd like to brief you on what you should know for when we get there.
"As soon as we've exited jump and laid in a course for Shishaldin, I'm going to hop on BrokerNet and see if I can find a buyer for our cargo. Gvarokh will take the helm and stay on the bridge while I negotiate a deal. Vincent and Slade will handle refueling and life support. The rest of you will be on standby for cargo detail.
"As for the world itself, it's a miserably cold rock around a miserably cold star. The place is still volcanically active so that's why it has an atmosphere, but there isn't much of it and it's tainted with metallic dust. So if we have to go outside, we'll use our vacc suits. We shouldn't have to though. I don't intend to leave the starport.
"It's a mining planet with little processing power. I expect that they'll be interested in the processed aluminum.
"They've got a feudal system and the law level is low so I'd expect people to be armed to the teeth and ready to fight their rivals, but the starport is neutral territory. The library says that the last outbreak of global violence was in 853, but there have only been minor skirmishes since 913 when a scout base was built. So now the scout base commander acts as arbitrator during disputes. Why are the scouts there? They state that they conduct cold, desert training exercises there.
"Chuck, Slade, you're our resident scouts, can you verify that?"
"No idea. I didn't get out much." Slade replies.
"Yeah, it's legit," Chuck confirms. "And, as far as I know, fighting isn't bad. The neutrality of the starport is respected."
"That's good. If it's not too bad there, maybe we'll pick up some ore for Spinport, an industrial world I want to head to next. Ok, that's all I've got, any questions?"
Lakir raises his hand. "Hey Cap'n, seen' s how it looks like we're goin' ta be hangin' round bandit territory for a while, we goin' ta get some 'repel boarders' drill in, or we just goin' ta trust to the good nature of the pirates, here abouts?"
"I wouldn't know the first thing on how to prepare for that." She smiles. "Why don't you write up a training exercise and we'll review it to see if we can try it out. Or maybe we can rent a holosuite on one of our layovers. Maybe they've got a pre-packaged holie we can try."
'No prob. I'll get together with Vlad, Gvarokh and Vinnie. I want to see if there's somthin' we can do, both if we're boarded, and then escape or delay their ship response time if we can take out their boarding party. All depends on how we get hit next time. Cause sure as shit, with all the rumors we've heard on the way in, plus the shitty area we're goin' ta be travellin' in, we'll get hit again. It ain't like the RVE navy is exactly on top of their pirate problem. Guess they're to busy busting caps on their civvies."
"That and fighting off Dulinor, Lucan, and Strephon's clone," Chuck adds.
"Ok then. Meeting adjourned."
Re-entry to normal space goes without a hitch. Shiraamer immediately hits
the thrusters to decelerate the ship.
"Take over, Chuck. I'm going to contact the starport and see if I can find a buyer for this cargo."
"Roger that, Cap'n."
Starport hails are promptly and politely answered. A course is uploaded to the ship's navigational computer which Chuck immediately puts to use.
Shiraamer establishes a datalink with the starport and accesses CargoNet. She posts her cargoes for sale and, seeing that Chuck has everything under control, heads to her quarters.
The ship has safely landed at the starport. The local sun, a bloated red orb,
hangs low in the sky. It's light is feeble despite the very thin atmosphere and
its proximity to Shishaldin. The ship's chronometer indicates that there's
another hour and fifteen minutes of daylight left.
A gantry arm connects to the ship. Shiraamer meets the local starport warden and pays the docking fee and arranges for a fuel and life support refurbishment delivery. After that, she wakes Gvarokh to brief him of the ship's status. She has to negotiate in person with a potential buyer for the electronic parts. She was successful in securing a buyer for the processed aluminum and a truck will be here within the hour to pick it up.
Lakir is put in charge of cargo offloading. Simrii and Vlad will assist while Vincent and Slade will oversee refueling and life support refurbishment. The cargo handlers each don a vacc suit to deal with the frigid conditions and, of course, breathe.
Chuck is Shiraamer's escort. Not sure what to expect, he wears his cloth armor, slings his shotgun, and carries his SMG.
The captain opts for a more relaxed approach: jumpsuit with the zipper open down to her cleavage (a brokering tactic) and a snub pistol concealed in her pink utility vest.
Both have their comms, of course.
Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, Vlad, Simrii
NPC: Unidentified Man
Location: Miishakaal, parked at Shishaldin Down
The sun has set. The starport's exterior floodlights illuminate the ship and
its immediate surroundings. An unmarked flatbed truck from Clan Klavidis is
being loaded by the Simrii and Vlad. Lakir has tried to engage the driver in
small talk but he's made it clear by remaining in the vehicle's cabin that he
doesn't wish to chit chat today. Lakir doesn't think it's xenophobia, more like
The place is mostly deserted. There are maybe three ships at the whole port and the nearest one, also lit up, is several gates away. The scene makes Lakir feel uneasy. The paranoid corner of his brain suggests that this would be a great setup for an ambush. Instinct slides his hand over to his gauss pistol. On a whim, he turns around and notices a solitary figure in a vacc suit emerging from the darkness, a laser pistol holstered. The figure waves, as if Lakir should know him. He keeps his hand on his pistol but lets the person approach.
Lakir can see it's a man of average height wearing a scout issue vacc suit.
Vlad and Simrii stop what they're doing as they notice the visitor approach Lakir. Up on the bridge, Gvarokh takes notice.
The vacc suit radios negotiate a secure comms frequency and Lakir can hear the man when he says, "I only got the info that you might be around this way the other day and when traffic control showed you inbound, on a quite unusual vector I might add, I thought I'd pop along to ask you to deliver a message for me. Could I speak to the Captain or the First Officer please?"
Lakir can't see the man's face as he has his sun visor down. He keeps his hand on his gauss pistol as he asks, "And who shall I say is calling?"
The helmet of the man turns as if the occupant is looking Lakir straight in the eye. "O ... anyone you like."
To the stranger Lakir says, "Wait one." He then changes the suit frequency to the 'discrete bridge' to check in with Gvarokh. "Hey top dog, got some smart ass out here, says he needs to talk to you or the Capn'. Seems to think we should know him, though he ain't too forthcomin' with info, like a name."
Gvarokh quickly alerts the captain via another comm channel while responding to Lakir, "Won't give a name but thinks he is important, eh? I assume, given his obvious 'importance'," Gvarokh sarcastically stretches the word, "this needs to be a face-to-face?
"If he is willing to talk over radio, I can at least hear what he wants now. Otherwise he will need to wait until I can get coverage on the bridge."
"Roger, wait out."
Gvarokh gets a text message from the captain, "in mtg. vry bzy. unls emergency, pls handle. i trust yr judgmnt."
In the meantime, Lakir gets short with the stranger. "Hey dipshit, you good to go on rad, or you need a face to face? Either way, cut the crap and talk straight, otherwise, don't let the airlock smack you in the ass on the way back in."
Simrii and Vlad have now put down the cargo they were handling and are considering running inside to get some weapons.
The stranger responds in an ever so normal voice, "Rad? Do you mean the radio? O, I think inside would be far more comfortable, don't you?"
"Well, you might as well get comfy. The First Officer is busy right now." Changing back to the bridge frequency, he says, "Hey Gvarokh, he wants to meet face-to-face, in the ship. We get Vlad and Simrii back in the ship, and he leaves his zap gun at the outside of the airlock, what do ya think?"
"I completely agree. Have him leave his zap gun outside the ship, and I will meet with him in the common area by the airlock. I definitely want Vlad and Simrii standing guard. I will make him sit and stew for a few minutes, too, just for a good first impression."
Before the guy comes in, Gvarokh gives Slade a page, and says, "Slade, can you come up to the bridge. We are having a rude visitor arrive in a few minutes. I would like you to be on the bridge before I go to meet him. Bring your sidearm."
"Be right up." Slade lets Vincent know that he's headed to the bridge.
Lakir addresses the stranger, "Ok. First Officer will see you now but ya gotta leave your piece here."
The stranger shrugs and follows Lakir inside through the forward cargo lock. He leaves his weapon there without a comment.
Vlad checks the surroundings but doesn't notice anything. To Lakir he says, "Go without me. I'll keep watch out here."
The truck driver comms, "You guys done already?"
Vlad barks at him, "Taking a break, pinkie. You have to be somewhere?"
The truck driver mumbles something and goes back to whatever he was doing.
Lakir, Simrii, and the stranger enter the cargo hold and walk towards the starboard lateral cargo lock. Lakir decompresses the lock and they walk inside. Once it's repressurized, they walk along the starboard corridor until they get to the crew lounge.
Gvarokh is in the crew lounge waiting for them.
The stranger doesn't take off his vacc suit helmet nor does he lift his visor. He turns on his external speaker. "Good Dir." He holds up his hand before Gvarokh can speak and he carefully, as to not make everyone in the room jumpy, takes out a small device from his utility vest. Its a long range comm. He puts it on the table and activates it, and nothing perceivable happens. "Apologies but you never know who is recording. Now I wouldn't normally use these channels but I'm under a bit of time pressure and you're the first ship I know that's going to Theton. A mutual friend of ours let me know you were doing some work for him there and well as I said I'm under time pressure. I have an email that needs sending from within system at Theton. It's nothing outwardly sensitive, but make sure it can't be tracked back to you when you send it. Details are on the holo."
The visitor holds out a holo crystal to Gvarokh.
While the visitor stands there with the holochip held in his outstretched hand, Gvarokh just looks at him, appearing somewhat confused, without saying anything for several seconds. And at no point does he make any move to accept the holochip. After the pause, Gvarokh shakes his head, do the Vargr equivalent of pinching the bridge of his nose, look back up, and say, "What the hell are you talking about?" He glances down at the comm and says, "As for who is listening to whom, it would appear you are the only one with the communications device."
The stranger replies, "Where is any of what I said difficult?
"You are going to Theton to do a job for a mutual friend of ours. You were all in the bar when you accepted the assignment so you all know what I'm talking about. I need a job doing there quickly.
"And as for the comm it's a short range full spectrum jammer.
"Now do you have anything sensible to say or am I barking on the wrong ship?"
Lakir walks over to Gvarokh, and pulls him aside, out of view of the stranger.
Keeping his voice down, he says, "Man, we are in some serious shit. Looks like Mersshon's network is more extensive than we thought. Running might not be an option. The only reason this guy thinks we're goin' to Theton, is Oda ain't on board and his 'sources' on Theton haven't indicated Oda's recovery. Obviously, he's part of a wide flung network. He couldn't know what planet we'd jump to prior to gettin to Theton. Probably has guys spread all round this part of space. Lets just take his crystal, and see how it shakes out. I gotta bad feelin' bout this double-cross the Capn' pulled."
Gvarokh whispers, "Yes, that is what I assume, too. But we don't know. For all we do know, he could be a Vilani agent trying to trap us, particularly if anyone saw the meeting."
Lakir grunts an affirmative.
Gvarokh steps back into view of the stranger and says, "Assuming I do have any idea of what you are talking about, and assuming you do recognize me, I certainly don't recognize that particular vacc suit. You think you know who you are dealing with. I know I don't know who I am dealing with."
"And that is better for you and me," replies the stranger.
Gvarokh realizes that he's not going to get anything more from the stranger, so he instructs him to leave the chip on the table on his way out.
The unidentified man solidly places the holocrystal on the table and withdraws his jammer. He says, "Good dir, gentlemen," a bit gruffly and departs the crew lounge and towards the lateral air lock. Simrii escorts him out. The stranger retrieves his laser pistol, exits the ship, and disappears into the shadows.
"Is he gone?" Gvarokh asks.
"Yes," Vlad replies.
"Good. Finish loading up that truck and get back inside. As soon as the captain gets back we'll have a meeting to talk about what just happened."
Although Lakir, Simrii, and Vlad are ever watchful for signs of other uninvited guests, they are able to load up the truck without incident.
Location: Miishakaal crew lounge, parked at Shishaldin Down
The crew is assembled in the crew lounge, when the captain and Chuck return
to the ship. Her jumpsuit is zipped all the way up. She all but stomps into the
room, clearly pissed off. Chuck follows her, trying to suppress a smirk.
The captain sees the crew assembled before her and whirls on Chuck, "Did you tell them?"
His hands go up in self defense. "No, it wasn't me. I haven't said or texted anything. Honest."
"Was there a problem, captain?" Gvarokh asks.
She turns her attention back to the crew, "The deal for the electronic parts did NOT go well. The buyer wasn't all that interested in negotiating."
"He wasn't interested in anything the captain had to offer," Chuck adds with a wink.
"I bet if you made him an offer we could've closed the deal," Shiraamer replies testily.
Chuck backs off. "Uhhhhh, no."
Directing her attention back to Gvarokh, Shiraamer asks, "You commed me. I assume you handled it. What was it about?"
Gvarokh then tells her everything that happened pertaining to their visitor.
Shiraamer is dismayed by the news. She walks over to the galley and grabs a cup of coffee. "Ok," she says, "What does everyone think about this?"
"Quite frankly, looking back on it, I agree with Lakir's assessment." Motioning to the chip, which is still on the table, Gvarokh says, "We should probably go ahead and see what is on the chip. It might help us determine the legitimacy of the messenger. I suggest using a self-contained 'flushable' computer, though."
Shiraamer jerks a thumb towards Vincent, "Well, I'll leave that up to our computer expert to figure out."
He enthusiastically replies, "Ok, then let me use the laptop and see if I can figure out what's on there." He jogs to his stateroom to retrieve it.
Shiraamer massages her forehead as if trying to whittle away a migraine, "Does this mean that you guys think we should go back to Theton and rescue Oda?"
Lakir replies, "Not until we have a plan put together, and probably some more kit for the ship, to make that op survivable. We know what we face, and if you decide that's the best course of action, at least we've got some good intel to plan an op with. It also gives us plausible deniability. When Mersshon gets the word we were there, then frakked right off, soon as it looked like a tough op... hopefully he won't jump the gun on the 'terminate with extreme prejudice' order.
"If this guys line is right about his 'in' with system control, there is no telling what Mersshon's network is capable of ordering, next time we jump into a system.
"I say we plan an op, procure the kit, pull the rescue of the family, grab the broad and get the hell outta dodge; we know we'll be jumping into a 'hot' system, and we've got a good read on their response times and interrogation freqs. Should make jammin' the right bits possible when we have to pull a rescue of her family, cause we ain't goin' ta get a 'snatch op' across the XT line. She'll know better than to board the ship without her family on board, so this is going to be a bit of a challenge."
Shiraamer nods. "You'll have to compile a list for me of what you think we should have before attempting a rescue."
Vincent returns with his laptop. He picks up the holocrystal and plugs it in. "This might take a while. I don't know. So, go ahead and keep talking."
"Cap'n, that's just my opinion. I might be wrong. You positive we want to do this? The rest of the crew's gotta buy into it, and it probably ain't gonna be cheap on the ship's account."
Slade counters, "Captain, just tell me how hot you want the engines, where to point my Ma-90, and how long to hold down the trigger. That's all I'm personally gonna say about that."
"Thank you, Slade." Shiraamer takes a deep breath before replying to Lakir. "Lakir, I'm not sure yet if we are going back to Theton. Irregardless, I really would like that list. It doesn't matter how expensive the stuff is. I can take that into account when making my decision. And it is my decision. I'm the captain. While I take the crew's opinions and suggestions into consideration when making my decisions, when I make them I expect everyone to follow my orders. If someone has a problem with them, they're welcome to find employment elsewhere.
"You said it yourself that we don't know just how far Mersshon's reach is. We may be stuck between a rock and a hard place. In this case, it's between a jailbreak and spending the rest of our lives looking over our shoulders. It's not a decision I intend to make lightly."
"It'll be a bit more than 'lookin over our shoulders' Capn'. Trust me I know."
Shiraamer nods. "I know you do, Lakir."
"But roger that. 'Course it's your call. I've got some rough ideas, but need some feedback from Gvarokh and Vincent on the aero op, and Vlad on the ground side portion. After that, we should be able to present a rough outline of the plan, with a list 'O kit.
"I ain't no snake eater, and sure as hell ain't no zoomie. All I got is milestones we meet, or end up as more debris orbiting Theton."
Vlad breaks the tension. "Soooo, how much is combat armor going for these days?"
Both vargr crewmen start laughing and their laughter proves infectious, even if people don't get the joke.
"If I might add my two cents, I am always up for a daring rescue mission."
"Yes, I know," Shiraamer replies, "Especially if there's a damsel in distress."
"Oooo, I'm in." Vincent announces. He has the crew's attention. "Ok, seems to be some sort of letter. I'll read it to you.
Sorry that I haven't written. Been up to my eyeballs in reports for both of my bosses and overseeing the Mimere Project. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up. I think I'm developing a stim tolerance. I guess I should be thankful that I didn't pull duty in Dagudashaag. I get the shivers every time I think about Manshuruk. Anyway, I hear from Flint that Gracilis is close.
Any word yet from Zirunkariish? Flint expects it to be bad. I told him that he thinks that because Dag is such a hell hole. He came back with, "Dag today, the Imperium tomorrow." I'm starting to think that he's right. The Imperium is a frelling mess. I'm not sure Emperor Lucan is going to have much left to rule when that dog Dulinor is finally put down.
Anyway, here's the latest order from M: The crow flies south at midnight.
Lakir is the first to speak his mind. "Pretty cryptic. The last bit sounds like a 'one off' code we ain't goin ta break, less we have the source code. The chatter in the front refers to a posting in the Sector 'south' of us, and what's the connection between the insurance underwriting firm Zirunkariish, and the Manshuruk, which I'm guessing to be a ship, probably lost?"
Chuck offers, "Could be a planet. We should check NewsNet and TAS later."
"Ok, here's what we're going to do," the captain says, "We'll go to Theton and send that message. Hopefully, that'll buy us some time before Mersshon comes looking for us. But we're NOT going to rescue Oda, at least not unless we get more info on that prison camp her brother's being held in. I'll check CargoNet for something we can haul there so that it looks like we're just on a normal cargo run. While we're in jump, Lakir, you can meet with whomever to plan the rescue. That's all for now. If anyone needs me, I'll be in my quarters looking for cargo."
Next: Leaving Shishaldin