Location: Miishakaal, parked at Shishaldin Down
The meeting adjourns.
The captain announces that they'll be hauling a load of mixed metals (molybdenum, cadmium, zinc, palladium) to Theton. Standard freight contract.
The freight starts to arrive. The electronic parts are moved towards the back, near the bladder, while the new cargo goes up front. Some of the crew is a bit paranoid, keeping a wary eye out for any more strange visits, however, the loading operation goes smoothly.
The cargo is loaded and the ship prepares for departure.
The ship enters jumpspace without incident.
Characters: Lakir, Vlad, Vincent and Gvarokh
System: Jumpspace between Shishaldin and Theton
Lakir has been put in charge of assembling some kind of rescue strategy, just
in case the captain should want to attempt rescue Oda's brother's family. He
has asked Vlad, Gvarokh, and Vincent to attend this meeting to lay the ground
It's no secret that Vlad and Vincent are diametrically opposed to one another regarding a rescue. Vlad considers it suicide while Vincent believes that its the right thing to do. Vlad's negativity stems from the crew's lack of expertise, combat readiness, and knowledge of the prison's layout. Lakir shares these concerns but feels compelled to work through them and report the results to the captain.
"As I see it," Lakir says, "we have three different options for getting the family out:
"That coverrrrrs it," Vlad agrees. "Option one is out of the question
considering our ship is easy prey and the crew doesn't have the teeth to deliver
much of a bite."
Gvarokh asks, "Would it be possible to create some kind of spectacular diversion that would give us at least temporary cover to do the snatch-n-grab? I'm thinking something explosive. The diversion team would be completely independent of the rescue team. Maybe even use a relay trigger of some kind?"
Lakir mulls it over a bit then says, "Proposed team make up, assuming the ship needs to fly," he sketches out as he says,"
Gav, doin' the pilot routine
Slade, nursin the motors
Vinny, runnin EW/CEW/Comms and a turret
Grunts on the ground:
Vlad, leadin' the charge...
Chuck, med and gunnin'
Capn'...lookin good and keepin the powers that be shmoused so we don't get greased on the way out." He pauses to look at what he's written. "Split the team? We're mighty thin on the ground and space."
"Too thin," Vlad barks. "A diversion won't work unless they send enough of the guards out to investigate. They'll be on alert from that point on. We'd have to have a remote detonation to avoid splitting us up. And I get tired of saying this but it doesn't seem to sink in, we have no explosives!" He snarls, "This smells too much like a frontal assault. It won't work."
"Right, done, a non-starter." Lakir continues, "All of those method options are subject to the following criteria:
Vlad interrupts, "I'm sure that Oda can provide us with this information."
Lakir nods in agreement and continues, "4. How do we keep word of the snatch from hitting system control, until we can jump?
5. Best route to the border, cause we sure ain't goiníta be welcome here, 'less we keep it low profile, and can skate without them id'n' who pulled the job. This requires a VERY low profile snatch.
6. How do we recover Oda after we have the family? Do we want to redock with Limii City after we assault the surface camp? How do we get her to either get out closer to the jump point? This opens her to a 'snatch op' not requiring her to be smuggled across the XT line. I doubt the Vilani are offering her 'visitation rights' to put her with her family at the same time we try a recovery."
"Easy," Vlad barks. "We get her first. While Makhidkarun agents are looking for her, we'd race down to the planet," he starts laughing at this point, "and use it's atmosphere to conceal us."
"Soon as we get her on board, bro, we'll make your ass end look pretty sad in the breeze. This ship ain't hangin' round, if we can coax her onboard." This gets Lakir to thinking. "We get her first, we just bug out. Cold cock and stuff her into the meat locker. The trick is gettin' her onboard, without her brood. Thinkin on that, is it possible for Vinny to introduce some electronic scam, to get her hot side of the XT line, then put the snatch on her?"
"Like what?" Vincent asks.
"How the hell would I know? This broad's gotta do somthin' for a livin'. Either work it into her 'daily routine' or forge an order from the Makkies, statin' she's goin' 'live' for them, and they need her to run a drop or somthin'. Whatda' I look like, a damn spook or somthin'?"
"Yes," Vincent replies flatly.
"Nevermind," Gvarokh says to calm things down. "We'll come back to it."
Lakir moves on to the next section, "Ok, as far the prison is concerned, entry/exit to/from the camp is subject to a number of criteria:
1. Get to the camp. Surface approach, or from orbit, with the ship, or a different boat.
2. If surface, better suits required?"
Vlad interrupts, "The suits we have will last for a few hours. I checked them out a long time ago."
Lakir continues, "Ok then. 3. What will be the impact of atmo on our chem powered ammo?"
"Bad," Vlad barks. "We should try and protect them until the last moment."
"Just frakkin great. How we goin' ta do that?"
"Heavy duty shrink wrap," Vlad replies with confidence.
"Great. We got any on board? Last I checked, the hold was empty, and I wouldn't wanna be cappin' any rounds with shit that close to my muzzle, no offence."
"It's in the equipment locker."
"Ok, back to the list.
4. Is it a sneak in or a blast our way in? What sort of guard contingent on duty?
5. Comms black out needs to cover us from camp exit, to ship, to Oda recovery, to jump point. How do we achieve this for the required duration? This is just a cargo ship, after all."
Vincent raises a hand. "I might be able to pull that one off. I can try hacking first, and if that fails, blast the communications array with the turret."
Vlad laughs. "Now you're barking." Lakir continues without missing a beat. "6. Enter complex, locate family, suit up family, get family to transport, get off surface, or to ship.
7. What's the supply routine like? Is there an opportunity to 'jack a supply boat and use that, possibly in conjunction with/ the fake 'tronic orders?
8. Comms to and from the camp has to be neutralized until we hit the jump point, and surface scans can't show any 'strange or unusual' activity around this area."
Vincent nods, "Yeah, just like you said in point number five. If I can pull it off, we'll be good. And I don't think that a laser blast is going to be detected through that atmosphere."
"9. Minimize detectable ordinance expenditure.
10. How do we handle the other detained civvies if we go for the full frontal?" Lakir pauses to take a breath. "If we elect to do a 'hot' recovery:
1. Use the ship, and her firepower in the direct fire roll. If Oda's not on board, how do we recover her after? I doubt Theton traffic control will welcome us back with open arms.
2. Do we have the firepower to neutralize the guard contingent, or can we obtain/employ wide area non-lethal munitions to incapacitate the guard contingent?"
"Don't even waste your time thinking about a hot op, Lakir." Vlad says. "We can't do it. It's stealth and deception or nothing. If we pick up the pinkie woman before the op, we don't have to worry about rescuing the rest of her pack. If we get them, great. If we don't, we put her in a low berth like the captain said and we're done."
"Look, if we can get her hot side of the XT, all bets are off. How we do it without the big bad M boys trippin' to the fact their double just wandered into the starport and onto an outbound ship is the challenge. Screw the relatives, damn straight we'll be gone."
Vlad shrugs, "Your recon report said that she wasn't being watched. If they've got her pack, then they know that she'd never leave willingly. They'd be dead meat. They'll be in denial until she actually leaves the city. As soon as the Makkies give the order for pursuit, we jump." He turns to face Gvarokh, "And you'll make sure the captain doesn't hesitate like she did with the corrrrsairrrrs."
"Right. So how do we make a pick up, if we gotta grab the family, or how do we finesse her to the 'hot side'?"
Gvarokh answers, "We can always tell Oda that if she doesn't want to come to the ship prior to the raid to free her brother, she can always get herself arrested so she can be there when we do the break."
Vlad says, "Who's to say that she'd be sent there. Wouldn't the Makkies intercept her first? And it's a secret prison. It's not like it's the drunk tank. Someone gets sent there, they're gone for good."
"Ok, what about exiting the system? How do we cover our exit: active EM required if we leave 'hot', good cover story if we leave 'cold'?"
Lakir moves on. "I made a list of equipment we'll need:
1. Cargo to system. Well, the captain already took care of that.
2. Beefed up Exposure Suits? Vlad says we're ok.
3. Suits for the family?"
"Perhaps. If we don't think we can get the ship to dock with an airlock, we'll need them."
"4. New weapons?"
"Not from Theton. If we do this now, we're gonna have to make due with what we've got."
"5. EW system or some hardware for Vinny to 'deposit' at appropriate locations?"
Gvarokh offers, "I don't think we've got the money for that."
Vincent shrugs, "Maybe. It depends on what we go for. Depends on the legality."
"6. Additions to Miishakaal's electronic suite to accommodate the..."
"We definitely don't have the money for that."
"7. Increase our medical supplies?"
"Done. Chuck and I bought some back on Theton."
"8. Cargo for outsystem and fuel?"
"We still have the electronic parts and we'll refuel before heading down to the planet."
"Ok, I want to switch gears for a bit. How do we deal with the possibility of pirate intercept, both on the way to, and egressing from, the target area? We've been boarded once. Measures we put in place for this op should be able to service us in the 'counter boarding' roll as well."
"Not an issue for Theton," Vlad says with confidence. "The Vilani navy will keep them away. After Theton, well that's another set of teeth."
Lakir rolls his eyes, "Yeah, just like the last time we got boarded. I can hardly wait."
Vlad laughs, "Ahhh but that was before I taught you how to fight!"
"Ain't me that needed the lesson, bro."
Vlad holds his sides as his laughter continues.
Lakir looks at the others for an explanation.
Gvarokh smiles and says, "It's a vargr thing. Don't shed over it." He pauses while Vlad composes himself. "Ok, I think we're done debating, let's summarize so we can report to the captain."
Lakir offers, "If we're gonna get the family, it's clear that we have to either sneak in to the camp or try to pull off some kind of deception. The former requires stealth that I'm not sure this ship is capable of while the latter forces us to create something official looking that'll fool the guards.
"We have also have to figure out some means then to get Oda on board. We're probably gonna be runnin' hot if we hit the prison first, unless the op is perfect, so there will be little time to get her."
"We could always call her while we're on our way from Theton to Limii," Vincent offers.
"Yeah. Problem we'll be too easy to snag once the Makkies get wind of what we've done."
"Meet her at an emergency air lock? Then we won't have to enter the city."
"You saw how fast system control was onto us. I don't feel like racing those 6G fighters to the jump point."
"They'll be looking out at the jump point, not Theton."
Vlad nods. "Good idea, but I still think we get her first."
"Like I said before, we get her first, we're outta here."
"So let's just do it then."
"Fine. How do we get her over the XT line?"
"Invite her over. We lie to her. Say we're going to rescue her pack. She comes overrrr alone. If Makhidkarun is watching her, they'll think she's out for a walk. At the starport, they'll think she's just homesick. Once she's on board, we stick her in a freezerrrrr and go!"
Vincent protests, "That's not right! We can't just leave them!"
"Too bad, pinkie! It's her pack or ours and I vote for ours!" He relaxes a bit. "I'm already on the run for being a deserterrrr. I don't need Imperial Intelligence hunting me down too. We snatch her and go or we hope that we can outrun Mersshon."
"Protecting your own ass, huh."
Vlad snarls, "Unless you can hack the prison's network and get us some intel, yes. If you want to die pinkie, I'll gladly help you with that." He smiles, showing too many teeth, even for Gvarokh.
"Settle down," Gvarokh says.
"Vlad's right, trust me. I vote for them goin' down the shitter as opposed to us takin' a round in the back of the neck. We either get some intel that lets us plan a cold op, with no chance of word of the recovery gettin' out, or we get her across the line an' bag her. End of story. You know the Capn' ain't goin' ta risk a hot op, or even the potential for it to turn into a hot op. And she's right. There ain't no way we can get to the jump point without gettin' run down and flamed."
"How am I supposed to hack their network from two parsecs away!"
"You had your chance," Vlad shoots back.
"Enough!" Gvarokh barks.
Vlad and Vincent back down.
"What the hell are you two doing?! You can go join the pirates, if you want to attack your packmates. I won't tolerate personal attacks in my pack. Regardless of Oda and her family, we are a pack and we must continue to work together if we're going to survive this."
When it's clear that Gvarokh is done chewing out Vlad and Vincent, Lakir resumes his point, "Look, Vincent will have time to run his hack, once we get back in system. We can buy all the time we need for a more detailed 'tronic hack, through floggin' the cargo and regular ship ops. I just want to make sure Vincent can do it, without gettin' nailed. It'd suck hind titty to get snagged in the launch bay, if it hits the fan.
"Vincent, what about getting something into the system, ordering her to the hot side? You gotta find out what she does for a livin' or let us know on fakin' some Makkie orders. This place is wound too tight for me to run a long term tail on her. That's the problem with these Orbitals."
Vincent throws his arms up, "I have no idea how their command structure works. Who's to say they don't just pick up a comm and call her? I mean, why do they have to worry about cloak and dagger shit. It's their turf. Who would they have to hide from?
"And the first thing I have to do when we get to Limii is send that email for that guy back on Shishaldin so that it doesn't trace back to us."
Vincent turns to Gvarokh, "Are we through here?"
"Almost," Gvarokh answers. "Here's what we'll do when we get to Theton: we dock at Limii and go through the motions. We look as normal as possible. We've got six hours while the fuel purifies. Meanwhile, Vincent sends our friend's email. When he's done, he can try hacking Makhidkarun for that prison info. Hopefully, the captain will be able to persuade Oda to come on board. If she's successful, and Vincent is too, the captain makes the call on raiding the prison for Oda's brother. If the captain's successful but Vincent isn't, we stick Oda in a freezer and go see Mersshon. If neither is successful, we get as far from here and Mersshon as we can. Can we all agree on this?"
Vlad nods, "Agreed."
"Agreed," Vincent chimes in.
"Works for me," Lakir says almost cheerily, "Gav, you gonna brief the Capn'?"
"Yes." He lets out a sigh. "I have mmmmatterrrrrrs to discuss with her. Thank you for your time and input, gentlemen."
Characters: Gvarokh and Shiraamer
Location: Miishakaal, captain's quarters
System: Jumpspace between Shishaldin and Theton
Gvarokh lied to Lakir. He didn't have other matters to discuss with the
captain, but he felt that he should be the one to fill her in on the meeting's
conclusion. He didn't want Lakir's feelings to color his reporting. Fortunately,
neither Vlad nor Vincent volunteered!
After taking some time to compose himself, he went to the captain's quarters.
"Enter," came a weary sort of sounding voice from the doorcomm.
Gvarokh enters the room to see the captain hard at work on a spreadsheet, make that a spreadsheet web.
"Going over our finances?" he asks.
"Yeah," she breaks her attention away from the floating financials.
"No, but not great either. We're getting by ok. I was really hoping that electronics parts sale was going to go through. That's going to hold up paychecks. We barely cleared break even on that one. But you didn't come here to talk about our finances."
"No, I didn't. I just came from the Rescue Strategy Meeting."
"Oh? How did it go?"
"Well, we came to an agreement at the end, but it was rough getting there."
"It got pretty heated between Vlad and Vincent. I thought it was going to come to blows."
"Really? Wow. Let me guess, Vincent wants the full rescue and Vlad doesn't want anything to do with it."
"You got it."
"Yeah, they've pretty much let their feelings known at my last few crew meetings. Well, what did you guys come up with?"
"We dock at Limii and go through the motions. We try to look as normal as possible. We've got six hours while the fuel purifies. Meanwhile, Vincent sends our friend's email. When he's done, he can try hacking Makhidkarun again for that prison info. While he's doing this, you'll get in touch with Oda and try to persuade her to come on board."
"But I haven't changed my mind about rescuing her brother's family. Unless Vincent..."
"I know. We decided to grab Oda either way. You'll either be lying to her about rescuing her brother or you won't be."
"And everyone is ok with this?"
"No. Vincent isn't and I suspect Chuck might not either, but I don't think either one will go against you once you give the order."
"Ok." The captain seems a bit taken aback.
"So, assuming you're successful in convincing Oda to come on board, then we're gone no matter what."
"But what about Makhidkarun?"
"Well, Lakir's recon report made no mention of her being watched. He suggested that Vincent 'create' orders for her to go to the starport. Vincent hated the idea, insisting that Makhidkarun wouldn't operate that way."
"Because this is their turf, so to speak. They've got no reason to hide their actions. Who's going to get them in trouble?"
"Hmmmm, I see his point."
"And Vlad actually agrees with him on that point too."
"I suppose it's worth a shot."
"So, if Vincent is successful in finding more info about the prison, then you get to make the call on whether or not we go down to the surface for Oda's brother. If Vincent fails, but we have Oda, we throw her in an icebox and head back to Mersshon. If we can't get Oda, we get as far from Theton and Mersshon as we can."
"But we don't know how far his reach is."
"No, Shishaldin proved that. But there has to be a limit at some point, right? Or else, Lucan would've defeated the Vilani already."
"Right. Assuming we go for a rescue, what sort of equipment do we need?"
"The only thing we can get are four vacc suits. Everything else is either too expensive or unavailable."
"Ok. We should be able to get those from a starport supply house fast enough."
"I'll have the order go in as soon as you've made your decision."
Location: Miishakaal crew lounge
System: Jumpspace between Shishaldin and Theton
The weekly poker game convenes in the crew lounge. The atmosphere is a little
brighter than last week's game. Lakir asks about paychecks again, but Shiraamer
lets him down. She explains that the failure to sell the electronic parts at
Shishaldin meant that the ship barely broke even on the trip.
Chuck passes around some Imperial Ale. When the groans arise, he replies, "Different world, same story, guys."
As the game gets going, Shiraamer starts talking about the plans for Theton, "Just in case any of you have heard rumors, I'd like to set the record straight about what we're going to do at Theton.
"There was a strategy meeting where Lakir, Gvarokh, Vincent and Vlad debated about what could be done and their conclusions were presented to me. I liked what I heard and decided to follow those plans.
"Once we get to Limii City, we'll deliver our cargo and refuel just as we normally would. Vincent will send that email message for our uninvited guest, anonymously and hopefully untraceable back to us. Once he's done with that, he'll attempt to hack into Makhidkarun's system to learn the whereabouts and details of the prison where Oda's brother's family is being held. While he's doing that, I will contact Oda and inform her that we've decided to rescue her family. I'll invite her on board as it will be too risky to pick her up if we leave the prison hot.
"If Vincent can get us the info, Gvarokh will pick up some extra vacc suits or environmental suits for her family. We'll try to sneak in or fake a prisoner transfer or whatever," she holds up a finger for emphasis, "but no frontal assault, no matter what. We're not equipped for that."
Vlad nods approvingly.
"If Vincent can't get us the info, Chuck will be on standby with something to knock Oda out and we'll put her in a freezer for the trip home. We won't defrost her until we meet with Mersshon.
"If we notice that Oda's being followed, we'll do the same thing, assuming she makes it on board. No sense in having the prison on alert before we get there.
"If Oda doesn't make it on board, we just leave without her and hope that there's a limit to Mersshon's grasp.
There are none.
The rest of the poker game does not go well for Shiraamer. She stays in longer than she should, probably out of guilt for not being able to pay the crew, and loses big. Lakir and Slade start out well, but soon fade, quitting after they hit their usual stop loss point of $20. Chuck and Vincent start out poorly but regain their losses, ending the night at break even. Vlad and Simrii do relatively well but Gvarokh regains his unofficial title of best poker player after ceding it to Vlad last week.
Gvarokh won $60
Vlad won $30
Simrii won $30
Chuck broke even
Vincent broke even
Slade lost $20
Lakir lost $20
Shiraamer lost $80
Next: Theton Revisited