NPC: Chuck, Simrii & Lt. Mizepsharguliig
Location: Witness Protection Level - Maran Naval Facility
Slade's frustration boils over. "I have a plan and I think it's a good one.
We grab a news team, announce that we're going to make an accusation at the
headquarters of the accused, that we have special information about the
military's investigation, and then - here's the key - really, really take our
time getting there. Give the military enough time to come find us and explain to
us how they intend to be more helpful, like guaranteeing to fix our ship and
doing it fast."
Vlad just laughs.
"Good luck with that," Simrii adds.
Gvarokh says, "Actually, I had planned on just naming the accused and flatly stating that he has fully infiltrated the Naval command. However, I don't think that is a good idea. No, I think we need to just stick with our plan of cooperation, at least for the time being. We can always drop the bomb later, if we decide we need to. Let's see what their offer is first, anyway. They have to know that we could basically start a world war with a single press conference."
Slade shakes his head in disagreement. "Right now we're news. It's harder to ignore us, imprison us unfairly, or shoot us. In a week we won't be news anymore, and it'll be extremely easy to do any of the above. We either drop the bomb now, or never - in which case we go get temporary shit jobs for a year while we wait to figure out if our ship is spaceworthy or salvage. At the end of the year these assholes can just say, 'Oh sorry, it was sabotage, we're off the hook,' and those shit jobs become semi-permanent."
"I don't get why they'd do any of that stuff?" Simrii says. "Ignore us? Sure, they can do that. But imprison or shoot us? I hardly think we're worth the trouble or the bullets."
Slade isn't having any of it, "Look here: you geniuses thought I was overreacting when I simply asked that we double check the cargo we took on after our little fish-trading altercation. You were so fucking wrong. Let me tell you how wrong: somebody hacked the defense network, and destroyed our ship -- which we have no insurance for.
"Our attackers might want to finish the job, or certainly we'll be afraid they want to. So we'll want weapons that are illegal here. Then, even if we don't die, at the end of the year the defense force is going to tell us to fuck off, and we waited for a year to have no ship. Welcome to SpaceMart, can I take your order? Or we all hire on with some new merc crew and start at the bottom of the payscale with no shares.
"I'm telling you, I've hung out with you fuckers, and you aren't well-suited to a year of civilian dirtside life. I can crawl into a fusion plant with the manual and entertain myself. But not you. Best case: this situation is going be very tense and go on for longer than you think, and it's not going to end well. So imprison or shoot? Sure. I rate it likely."
Simrii retorts, "We didn't think you were overreacting about the cargo. We checked it! There was nothing on it. Nothing! You want to argue that someone hacked the defense network, fine. It sure as hell looks that way. But calling a news conference down on the turf of the guy who we think did it and hoping that the navy doesn't call out bluff is fucking stupid!"
Darrurz tries to remain positive. "We could work on the angle that they might want to keep us quiet and out of the media spotlight. They could patch up the ship, maybe add a couple of missile launchers to the turrrrrets, and give us a job to do. Working for the Navy would effectively gag us, and we're a qualified Merc outfit with an armed starship. We could look for worrrkkk as a Merc unit on planet, someone must be hiring in the current climate. Or we could find spacer jobs here, and I can play the local markets."
Simrii gestures toward Darrurz. "Now this I can do."
Vincent chimes in, "Or how about we do some investigative work on our own? We aren't going anywhere for a while. It'll keep us busy. Who knows? If we find out anything we can turn it over for evidence in hopes of speeding up the process. Have we considered having the ship fixed either way? We should at least see if we can afford fixing the ship. Worse case scenario, we're stuck here for a year. If we can't dig up anything, no harm no foul. I've been dying to go and do some computer hacking. Might pay off, but I'd have to be careful. Wouldn't want to get caught, you know."
Slade blows a gasket. "Okay. Your fucking ship is destroyed!"
"The ship is not destroyed," Simrii counters, "I've been on ships there were more fucked up than ours and they were repaired."
Slade continues over Simrii's protests. "That lawyer as much as said they're not going to compensate us, and there's no way in hell we have the money to fix it. That thing you've been calling home is gone. You want your ship? You better fight for it now, or get another job. Nobody is handing out mortgages on jump-capable ships to people like us during times like these. That much is perfectly clear. So if the plan is to do something proactive, I'm all for it. If the plan is to fuck off for a year hoping the ship fairy comes, then this business of ours is over. I like you guys and all, so I'll give you a month to show me how the ship is getting rebuilt, then I start looking for a way off this rock."
Gvarokh gets right in Slade's face and yells, "ENOUGH!" He turns to glare at Simrii to make sure the ex-merc knows that it applies to him as well.
"What am I supposed to do?" Although he isn't yelling, Gvarokh's voice is still raised. "March out of here right now, hold a press conference, and start a world war? It may be gratifying, but it isn't going to do us any good! The only leverage we have is our silence. The moment we say something, we're done and we really are as good as dead. Like it or not, and I really don't like it, the Navy is the only help we have right now, and pissing them off isn't going to get us any closer to a working ship!"
Gvarokh eases it down another notch. "I'm fighting for my ship. I'm going to get it back. I'm going to keep the pressure on them, but dropping a load of shit in the pot isn't going to get it for us."
Finally, when he is calm again, he finishes by saying, "As for employment, for the moment, I am indeed a captain without a ship. If I have not earned your trust enough to wait this out for a while, well, I won't take it personally if you decide to seek a new pack. I don't want to see anyone go, but I will in no way stop anyone that wants to."
NPC: Chuck, Simrii & Lt. Mizepsharguliig
Location: Witness Protection Level - Maran Naval Facility
Slade has calmed down from his earlier outburst. He's spent the time since
then going over the damage inspection video. Judging by the frown on his face,
he isn't pleased with what he sees (of course), but it could've been worse. He's
wrapping up another viewing when Gvarokh approaches him.
"What's the diagnosis, Slade?"
"Not good. That drone really did a number on us. There's a lot of the reactor that's going to have to be scrapped. Depending on the market rate for parts, we're looking at anywhere from two to five million credits to fix the ship."
"How much if you did the work?"
"That is how much it would cost if I did the work. But some of those pieces are big. We'd have to rent a crane or work in zero g. Obviously, renting a crane would add to the cost but doing these repairs on a reactor in zero g would make mistakes more likely."
Gvarokh knows that this is more money than he and the ship's account has. Although he doesn't know what the crew has for cash, he can make a good guess by how much he has. Even at the low range of Slade's guess, he figures they'd be about 500,000 short.
Much to everyone's surprise, Lt. Mizepsharguliig returns.
"Lieutenant," Gvarokh greets her, "I didn't expect to see youuu until tomorrooow morning."
"Well, I said that I would see what I could do and that's what I've been doing." She walks further into the room. "I talked with my CO and he made some calls. I've come to learn that you guys have a mercenary's license but you're not affiliated with any of the Bureaux, which is surprising considering that you don't have a track record. It's tough getting work in the Ziru Sirkaa as an independent mercenary outfit unless you've got a good résumé. So, they're willing to make you an offer if you come work for them."
"What kind of merc work are we talking about?" Simrii asks.
"I don't know. They wouldn't tell me. They said it's on a need-to-know basis and a legal counselor doesn't need to know. When I told them I needed to tell you something, they replied the job would get you out of Maran with your ship repaired." She pauses to let that sink in. "If you're interested, I'm to bring you to them to discuss the offer. I can wait outside while you discuss the idea."
Lakir is the first to reply. "Let's do it. Can't hurt to see what the Man has to offer. Beats the shit outta bein' stuck here for a year."
"Yeah, why not." Simrii adds.
"I really don't think it will be necessary to wait outside. Unless anyone has objections," at which Gvarokh scans the crew, "I think we're ready to go."
"I'm in," Chuck adds.
Darrurz stands up. "It certainly weren't hurt to hear their offer."
Vincent agrees, "Yeah."
"Ok, then," Mizepsharguliig says, "Follow me."
As the group heads out the door, Vlad mumbles, "A little too convenient."
NPC: Chuck, Simrii, Lt. Mizepsharguliig, Rear Admiral Khagamsusuu and Lun Miisha
Location: Witness Protection Level - Maran Naval Facility
The group is led to the elevator, which ascends five levels. You get off the
elevator and turn left. There aren't any guards to be seen. In fact, there
doesn't seem to be anyone around. When you reach the third door on the right,
Mizepsharguliig stops. She knocks on the door and a voice replies through some
unseen speaker, "Enter."
Two men are standing in a room with a long wooden table. Mizepsharguliig introduces everyone. The two men are Rear Admiral Khagamsusuu and Lun Miisha, Chief Administrator of the Sharurshid Bureau's Vhodan Subsector Exploration Division. Khagamsusuu is wearing a naval uniform befitting a man of his rank. Miisha is a distinguished looking gentleman dressed in a pale blue tunic with wide bell-like sleeves. Mittens dangle from the sleeves of a white coat worn underneath. The collar is gold. The Sharurshid logo can be seen on his coat above his heart with a row of colored bars beneath it.
After the introductions, Rear Admiral Khagamsusuu dismisses Mizepsharguliig with a "Thank you, Lieutenant." She promptly leaves the room while Khagamsusuu gestures to everyone to have a seat.
Once everyone is seated, Lun Miisha gets right to business. "I have been instructed to find a team of freelance adventurers, such as yourselves, to undertake a search and rescue mission for the Bureau. I learned of your present circumstances from the Rear Admiral here and thought that a deal could be made. We will cover the cost of the repairs made to your ship, in return, you will locate and rescue a lost scientific expedition and the rescue team we sent to find them.
"Do we have a deal?"
Gvarokh drums his fingers on the table. "You state matterrr of factly that you already sent a rescue team and they utterrrrly failed. Can you tell us what happened to them? I mean, how do we even know there's anything left to recover and how do we prove that we did our best to rescue them?"
Miisha nods his head. "Perhaps it would be best if I started from the beginning."
"Yes," Gvarokh says politely, "That would help a lot."
Miisha dims the lights and turns on the holoprojector. A starfield comes into view. "Here we are at Maran." He then points four parsecs coreward and two to trailing: Gamgilebo. "We've been studying Gamgilebo off and on for the past 300 years or so." He taps the name and it expands to offer you a view of the entire system. "Officially, it's listed as a trinary system with an asteroid belt and two gas giants. Our studies indicate that Getes, the innermost and larger of the two gas giants, is generating massive amounts of fusion. We believe that it is on its way to becoming a new star.
"I don't know if this is something of interest to the layman, but a quaternary system is an extremely rare find, one that astrophysicists would jump at the chance to study.
"Last year a routine scouting mission detected some unusual readings. They reported their data and we sent a survey ship to investigate further. They'd only been in the system a few weeks when the Vargr overran the system. We've had no contact with them since.
"When they were officially declared long overdue, we sent out a rescue party, a small team in a modified scout ship to determine their status." Miisha then expands the Gamgilebo asteroid belt. Instead of it being a narrow ring, the asteroid belt turns out to be much broader than expected. "The rescue team made contact with our representative at Site 1 and began their search. That was the last anyone heard from them.
"Our contact insists that the new vargr authorities sent out search parties to locate both ships but came up empty. He even sent us copies of news videos and search reports. Both ships have simply vanished.
"He also informs us that mining operations continue, but instead of the ore being sent rimward to one of our refineries, it's being sent into the Extents, quite likely the Ngath Confederation."
Miisha pauses to take a breath. "After losing two ships in the same system in so short a time, the company believes that we shouldn't risk any more ships on the Gamgilebo Project. I've prevailed upon them to allow one last expedition to that system, using non-bureau personnel. You. The money spent repairing your ship is far less than the cost of replacing a third ship.
"To verify that you don't just take your repaired ship and make a run for it, you'll be required to check in and file reports regularly. Everything that you find out you should forward to us. We have contacts all along the route between here and Gamgilebo. While your ship is being repaired, we'll send out a courier notifying them that you'll have to check in with them. If you fail to report in, we'll have to assume the worst and put the word out that you're criminals with a fat bounty on your heads."
Miisha remains polite as he says all this, though it appears as if the thought of having to label you as criminals is detestable to him.
Rear Admiral Khagamsusuu adds, "You may be wondering why we selected you for this mission, besides your obvious predicament. We feel that your mercenary status is a plus; not that you're mercenaries but the fact that your job sheet is blank. No one knows you. You have no reputation and are far less likely to have someone recognize you and potentially sink the mission.
"The other factor is that you're a racially mixed crew with a vargr in charge. We think that will play well at Gamgilebo, especially if the vargr are involved." He pauses and takes a deep breath. "The corsairs that have been running along our border have been adorned with 'Flaming Eyes', which is the Vilani symbol for pirates. We thought this odd, maybe a psychological ploy designed to evoke fear, but then we learned that this particular brand of corsairs has mixed Vilani and Vargr crews. If, for some reason, you have to pose as pirates, it will be easier for you to blend in than say an all human crew."
Lakir perks up. "Pose as pirates? Sounds like you've had a chance to think this through, complete with this 'fortunate' mixed crew scenario. In fact, it sounds like you're pretty much countin' on us havin' ta 'fit in' with the local corsairs."
The Rear Admiral responds, "We brainstormed the scenarios in the short time we had."
"If that's the case, I think the team would appreciate ya' comin' up with all the info you have, on these Flamin' Eyes, especially the mods to their ships. We'll need visual scans of their markin's, as well as the gear to dress the ship, and any logs of interrogations you may have conducted on survivors hit by this group. We'll also want a safe call, that you can pass on with that courier your sending out. I'd hate for us to get smoked by one of your other 'teams', or regular anti-P patrols I'm sure you have runnin' around the periphery of that chunk O' space."
"Whatever information we have will be included on holocrystals which we'll give you once you've accepted the mission."
Lun Miisha asks, "Are there any other questions?"
Darrurz asks "What type was the survey ship, and how was it armed? What type was the scout ship and how was it armed?"
"The survey ship was a standard Donosev class survey scout ship. It was unarmed. The scout ship was a Type S with a plasma turret."
Darrurz's ears prick up and shakes his head a little as he repeats, "A plasssma turreeet? In a typpe S?" He's a little taken aback so he reverts to Gvegh. "Whose idea was that?" and realizing what he's just said he continues in Galanglic, "Um, apologies. Rhetorical question."
Slade says, "It sounds like our ship will need to be very, very fast to be of much use. We need to be able to outrun everything we encounter, especially with gas giant gravity wells to content with. Do you have plans to upgrade our propulsion package?"
"No," Lun Miisha replies.
Darrurz's head is slightly tilted to the left with his ears pricked up and he asks inquisitively, "You haven't mentioned surplus weaponry that you can upgrade our ship with, or expenses, wages, bonus, prize money and salvage. So please do."
Now it's time for the Lun Miisha to be taken aback. "Greedy fellow aren't you? I would think that spending three million credits to repair your ship would be sufficient. Now you want a bonus?"
Rear Admiral Khagamsusuu leans over and whispers in Miisha's ear and uses his hand to shield his words from any lip readers.
Miisha continues, albeit testily, "To be perfectly clear, in return for the repairs to your ship, you are to locate our missing personnel and bring them back to us. If they are dead, then you must provide proof of that. If you don't, then you haven't fulfilled your end of the deal.
"If you manage to retrieve the ships as well, we'll talk bonus, but not until they've been returned to us and we can assess their condition.
"If you capture the people responsible, or provide us with information that leads to their arrest, then there will be a reward. How much depends on what you give us.
"The Rear Admiral says that you may borrow two plasma turrets for this mission. They are to be returned upon completion of the mission."
Lun Miisha faces Gvarokh as he says, "Those are my terms, Captain. Do we have an agreement?"
Vlad nods, indicating agreement, though he doesn't voice anything out loud, just in case.
Lakir says to Slade, "What's that plasma install goin' ta do to our power consumption, when it drops in the pot?"
Rear Admiral Khagamsusuu answers, "We'll make sure your power plant can handle the load. Your engineer will be allowed to observe the work so that he'll be fully aware of any modifications we have to make."
Lakir asks him, "Any chance of swingn' a redundant ECM rig, or some bits an' pieces for our resident comms specialist here?" He gestures towards Vincent.
"I can't promise anything but I'll have the project engineer check our inventory."
Simrii gives Lakir a subtle nod meaning: "Good call."
Darrurz indicates to Gvarokh that he would like to speak with him before he replies.
Gvarokh does a subtle move to show Darrurz that he saw his request, but is denying it. Gvarokh believes they have just received the best offer we are going to get and anything else will just make the situation deteriorate. He also believes that a delay would be just as bad. They don't have time to talk.
Gvarokh answers Miisha, with a toothless wry smile and says, "Please forgive our overreaching. It is just our nature to ask because, as even humans will say, 'if you do not ask, you will not know the answer'."
After a beat, he is completely serious and answers, "Yes. We accept your terms."
The tension in Lun Miisha's shoulders subsides. "Good."
"You will hold our current turrets for us until we return?"
"Yes, your current turrets will be held until your return." He stands and shakes Gvarokh's hand and anyone else willing to do so.
The group is told that all the information (contacts, background data, safe words, transponder and log buoy ID codes, video messages from Miisha and the Admiral, etc.) needed for the trip will be recorded for them while they wait for the repairs on their ship to be completed. They'll have use of the recreational facilities but will have to stay in their current quarters for all other times.
The door is opened and Lt. Mizepsharguliig is seen at the end of the hall. Rear Admiral Khagamsusuu asks her to see you back to your quarters.
Once on the elevator with Chuck, Simrii and Vincent, she says to Gvarokh, "Judging by the expressions on their faces, it sounds like it went well."
Gvarokh tells her that it went well. He also says, "Thank you for facilitating this. And thank you for looking past our anger and helping us out anyway. We weren't very nice and you looked passed that and helped us. I am indebted to you."
She looks down as he says this. When she raises her face to reply to him, her cheeks are flushed in embarrassment, "Oh, I was just doing my job." It's clear that she's being modest but she doesn't want to make a big deal out of it, out of respect to Gvarokh. All present can tell that she appreciates the gratitude.
At this point, the elevator doors open and you're back on the Witness Protection Level.
Next: The Trip To Gamgilebo - Part 1