NPC: Chuck & Simrii
Location: Maran Shipyard
Working round the clock, the shipyard has Miishakaal repaired and
ready to go after only a drandir (Vilani day). Slade took up the Project
Engineer on his invitation to observe the repairs and they met with his
The loaner plasma turrets are installed, making Vincent and Simrii much more confident in their ability to inflict pain on their foes.
Lakir is pleased to see that the Rear Admiral came through on the ECM package. It's only a short range missile jammer but it's better than nothing. "At least, it'll help with the missiles."
Admittedly, the entire crew is happy to hear that.
Gvarokh took part in a press conference where it was announced that he and his crew were cleared of any wrongdoing. The Naval representative did most of the talking and explained that the cause of the attack was still under investigation. When asked what he'd be doing now, Gvarokh explained that he was getting his ship fixed and heading out. Another reporter asked if he was considering pursuing legal action once the source was figured out. His reply was that a lawyer had been retained pending the outcome and that he'd seek restitution from the guilty party.
Both of these questions had been anticipated by the Navy's legal team during the pre-press conference briefing. Both answers were truthful and exactly what needed to be said.
Chuck spent too much time watching the news, particularly about the war.
Most of the crew used the recreational facilities at least once.
Darrurz had wanted to pick up some freight to defer expenses, but the Navy vetoed that idea. They want Miishakaal to leave quietly. The less people that know about her departure, where or when, the better. In fact, the Navy has escorted Miishakaal to safe jump distance by placing her in the launch bay of a carrier whose task force is heading out on patrol.
Now that you're clear of the carrier, Miishakaal accelerates out far enough away from the carrier to jump to Timat. While there's some apprehension on the part of the crew for the job ahead, the ship is whole again and that's always reassuring.
NPC: Chuck & Simrii
Miishakaal emerges from jumpspace. Passive sensors are detecting high
energy bursts high above the north pole of Timat's parent gas giant, Deah.
Visual magnification confirms what many suspected: a battle. Fortunately, it's
so far away that Miishakaal's vector won't drag it anywhere near it,
assuming it stays contained in that area.
A fix on Timat is acquired and the ship changes course to match it.
A few minutes later, sensors register someone scanning the ship. Gvarokh gives the order to scan back.
The scanner turns out to be a Chrysanthemum class destroyer escort.
It hails you, "Welcome to Timat, Miishakaal. We've been expecting you."
"Awfully friendly," Chuck says off the comm.
Gvarokh nods appreciatively.
"Don't mind all the fireworks. It's under control. Just maintain your heading. We'll watch your back."
"Thank you for the escort. Is it corsair activity?" Gvarokh figures he is pushing it by asking, but by keeping it low key, it allows them to brush off the question if they so desire.
"Yeah, they're trying a different approach this time. In the past, they've tried coming in direct along the equator, but by the time they'd make it past the fortifications on the other moons they'd be so beat up that they couldn't put up much of a fight."
So Miisha heads towards Timat and its starport with a bodyguard watching her back.
Deceleration begins. The battle appears to have ended.
The escort ship says goodbye and continues on its way while Miishakaal
begins the docking procedure with the starport.
The starport is shaped like a cylinder. Smaller craft, like yours, head in through an opening at one end and exit through the other. Larger craft dock through one of a few short spokes extending from the sides.
An order is put in for fuel and life support refurbishment.
There's also a standing message from Sharurshid Security Chief, Saul Rothchild, your local contact, to see him when you arrive.
Darrurz asks, "Shall I lookkk forrr cargooo and freight?"
Gvarokh replies, "Look over the possibilities, but don't contact anyone until after I get back from talking with Chief Rothchild. I want to see what's available as this may be our last chance for a paying cargo for a while. We might as well take advantage of it."
Over the comm he announces to the crew that he has a meeting with the Sharurshid Security Chief. He asks Lakir to join him, but to leave his weapons behind.
Characters: Gvarokh & Lakir
NPC: Sharurshid Security Chief Saul Rothchild
Location: Timat Starport
Gvarokh informs the crew that he'll leave his comm on so that they can listen
in (if they want to) on the conversation. Lakir meets him in the crew lounge
and then they depart.
The corridor is fairly non-descript. The place is lit with fluorescent tubes embedded in the ceiling. Painted signs point to the lifts. Monitors display incoming and outgoing traffic information. Pedestrian traffic is light and primarily spacers and mechanics. The pair find a lift and head to the upper deck (the lower one handles cargo, refueling and repairs) where the commercial, entertainment and administrative sectors lie.
The mood is brighter and livelier on the upper deck. People are either casually dressed or in business attire. According to the wall map, the lift has brought you to the commercial sector. To the left lies the entertainment sector, where all the fun lies. To the right, lies the administrative sector which seems to be more like the sedate conditions below.
Once at the administrative sector, the lively spirits have been completely muffled. There appears to be a hastily constructed security gate that screens all incoming pedestrians. Two immobile Marines in combat armor wait outside.
At the gate, another Marine inside a gatehouse requests through a speaker in monotone, "Please state your name and business."
"Captain Gvarokh and crewman Lakir Zalikhuluskaki of the Miishakaal. We have an appointment with Security Chief Rothchild."
The Marine checks his clipboard. He brightens a little and says, "Ok, Captain. Come on in."
The Marine nods and the pair enter the Administrative sector. They navigate a maze of offices before arriving at Rothchild's. He catches sight of them and waves them in. He's a tall, thin man of late middle aged appearance.
He reaches out his hand to shake theirs. "Gentlemen, pleased to meet you. Have a seat." After they sit, he continues, "Any problems on the way in?"
"No. Fortunately, the corsair attack was way, way away from our entry." With a friendly, toothless smile he adds, "Plus we had a very nice escort on the way in."
Rothchild smiles, "Good to hear."
He cues up a display on the wall. It shows a map of the subsector. "I've been instructed to give you the latest intel on what's been going on here along the border. You probably guessed from your trip in that corsair attacks along the border have increased. It's been informally announced that all worlds within two parsecs of the border are now amber zones. Fortunately for us, Timat is heavily fortified and we've defeated all attempts to raid us." He pauses, nods his head. "Other worlds aren't so lucky. Diiron and Odinaga have both seen an elevated level of attacks over the last month. I don't know which of those worlds you're planning on stopping at next before Gamgilebo, but I'd suggest coming in hot: maximum entry velocity with your guns primed to fire. If a ship doesn't identify itself, don't hesitate to defend yourself.
"Dannar hasn't seen much action, but that isn't all that surprising. It's two parsecs away from all of its neighbors, both in this subsector and over in Anarsi. There aren't any gas giants in the system so the only place corsairs can refuel is out in the Oort Cloud, and looking for an icy comet on an empty tank doesn't make for a good attack plan. Dannar has to import most of its fuel anyway so it's not a good base of operations for corsairs. If they ever did wipe out the starport's fuel tanks, that place would be screwed until the next tanker showed up."
"I'm planning on using Odinaga, as it would only be a single parsec jump from there to Gamgilebo, leaving us sufficient fuel for a jump-assisted getaway if we got desperate. However, if Odinaga is that bad, we would likely only be leaving the hot pot for the fire beneath. If we can refuel, maybe Dannar would be a reasonable safety value."
"I hope it's not that bad. We've received a couple messages from our contact on Gamgilebo. He said that the vargr in charge aren't turning away any foreign ships, but he's also heard rumors about others being attacked. I'm not sure what that means."
"Any particular traits your contact has ID'd; something which would denote a 'safe' ship, as opposed to puppy chow?"
"Not as of his last report. Maybe when you get to Gamgilebo he'll have more info on that." He pauses then asks, "Do you guys have an iris valve opener?"
"No, we don't."
"Ok, we'll spot you one of ours. You'll need it if you come across the Qa Livk or the Fitzpatrick and they're powered down."
"Thank you. Hopefully, we will be able to return it in short order."
"I think that's all I've got for you. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"There is one thing. Please put in your report that just because we disappear for a couple weeks does not mean we are running. Just that it got too hot at the moment, but we are coming back. We'll check in with the bureau's contacts at any flee-points, and return as quickly as possible. Another dead ship isn't going to help much."
Rothchild nods. "I understand. If you can swing it, come back here if you've got any damage. We should be able to patch you up right away. The guys at Dannar are light on parts for repairs. Odinaga can help, assuming that they're not bogged down with repairing their own ships. Same goes for Diiron.
"No offense against your skills, but I've been waiting for an official push back up the line. I would've thought there'd be a sense of urgency to liberate Gemid." He shakes his head. "But I guess not."
Gvarokh indicates to Lakir to feel free to ask questions, as that is why he is here.
Lakir is all but chomping at the bit. "If we need to go toe-to-toe with some of their smaller units, we'll need to be able to get in close, or sucker them in if they want to board us. We need all the help we can get, 'cause it's soundn' mighty lonely out past this point."
"I understand your predicament." Rothchild seems sincere. "I'll do what I can."
"Any chance you've managed to capture some of these tangos alive, in the last bit? If so, I'd like to review the interrogation logs."
"I'm sorry, but they haven't been declassified yet. I haven't even been allowed to see them. I have my sources though. If there's something specific, you're looking for, I might know the answer. It's worth a guess."
"I'm lookin' for a common thread that might tie your collection O' bodies to a pattern of ports or systems.
Any mention of resupply or log points, or common ports 'o call they mention to fence their take? Any common port names mentioned across the interrogations? Any specifics on preferred systems for hostage transfer or ship disposal? Any preferred ports mentioned for R and R? Any preferred gas giant systems mentioned?"
Rothchild nods his head. He leans forward in his chair and rests his forearms on his desk. His tone is serious. "Bear in mind that we haven't had that many prisoners to interrogate. Most jump out when confronted with a real threat or after taking a moderate amount of damage. Those that can't jump away, fight to the death. They even resort to ramming. So there's been scant few that we've been able to interrogate. Finding a 'common thread' has been tough.
"Everything the corsairs take with them is hauled coreward. The Ngath Confederation is our 'neighbor' that we have to contend with. It started out as a band of corsairs and grew to state size in the span of just a few years. Selling contraband is completely legal there. Every world is a market." He pauses to let that sink in and leans back in his chair.
"As of late, there's been a new wolf on the prowl. A corsair band by the name of 'Touzagh' has been quite aggressive in their raiding. The Ngath Confederation allows them to operate freely within their borders. They're the one who've been flying that Flaming Eye on their ships. What's even scarier is the Vargr - Vilani mix of crews. I can't believe things are that bad that our own people have resorted to... barbarism."
Lakir nods. "Yeah, we know about that." He tries to keep Rothchild focused on proving info. "Bein' heavy into the Vargr controlled area, especially with the mixed crews, there has to have been mention of the pack's Top Dog. Any info on him? He's runnin' a pretty far flung batch O' bandits, so he's gotta have charisma comin' outta the yang. How do the Vilani fit into this mix? Any indications of friction or infighting?"
"No word on any sort of infighting. So long as they're successful, everyone's happy. True for any corsair band. The leader of the Touzagh is a Vilani named Kagiisha. We don't know anything else about him other than his name." He shakes his head and smiles at the irony. "Can you believe that? A Vilani leader."
"Well, if you've got any visual recordings of the ships, as well as sensor logs, that would be helpful. As I'm sure you know, we may be tasked with imitatin' this scum, so any coded trannies you may have intercepted might be useful to our resident commo specialist, even if it's just raw data. Any info on their comm freqs would be useful."
"Ah yes. We've got plenty of visuals!" He can't help but chuckle. "I'll make sure to get them emailed to your ship before you leave. Painting your ship with one of their Flaming Eyes might help. The guys over at Odinaga should be able to help you with that.
"As for comm frequencies, they vary, but I'll give you the ones we know about."
"Any chance you could spare some paint? We may have to self perform in the boonies somewhere."
"The paint we have has to be heat cured in order to properly adhere to the metal. There's no way you're going to be able to do that on your own. If you need the paint job, you'll either have to get it done at Odinaga or convince some vargr starport that you're a new recruit to the Touzagh."
"Also, any ship types matching Misha' been observed/destroyed/captured during any of these incursions?"
"Far traders? No offense, but it's not exactly a raiding vessel. My experience has been that the corsairs plunder them for their cargoes, sometimes taking the whole ship if transferring the cargo isn't feasible. Then they turn around and sell the ship to a vargr merchant who wants to appear legitimate to Imperials. Or they cannibalize it for parts and sell the rest for scrap."
Lakir rubs his chin. "So dressin' up might not be practical, if you haven't seen them in the strike packages. Any intel on smaller 'independents', with a loose affiliation to this Flamin' Eye group, or Far Traders with the 'Eye, hittin' smaller targets? Just want to be sure we can fit in, if we go the infiltration route."
"Well they only strike Vilani worlds so once you're in Ngath territory, it's entirely possible that the Touzagh could use traders to haul their loot around to sell it while the raider faction returns to the line. And, no, the Touzagh haven't splintered into smaller groups, at least as far as we know."
Lakir thinks out loud, "If they use FT's for log ships or transfer points for cargo and hostages, then we might be able to swing it." He turns to Gvarokh and says, "We'll need somthin' in the hold though, or a better idea of their contact protocol or sigs patterns."
"Any of your salvage boys manage to recover transponders or the like during salvage ops; somthin' we may be able to pull info from?"
"Most of the dreck we recover don't even bother with transponders. Vargr states will have transponders, but not the corsairs. I don't think anyone over there would bat an eye if you turned yours off. Just remember to turn it back on when you come home."
Lakir leans back in his chair and rubs his chin. "Typical weapon types you've encountered in the last few engagements would be good to know about as well."
"Ship weaponry runs the full gamut. Fusion turrets are almost non-existent but we get some plasma on the bigger ships. Smaller ones typically run beam and pulse laser with some missiles.
"As for hand-to-hand combat, we're seeing a range of shotguns and assault rifles. A few lasers. Nothing on the heavy infantry side. Raiders like to use weapons they won't have a problem finding ammo for."
"How 'bout body armour you've recovered? We're not exactly overloaded with AP rounds for extended engagements, if we get boarded. With the swap out to plasma guns, we've lost our range advantage, so deception and a close in knife fight, both with their ships, and boarding party, are more likely now."
"No heavy armor on the raiding parties. That's been an advantage for our Marines. They stick with flex armor."
"Sorry, I'm not up on the hot spots out this way. You mentioned Gemid before. What's that about?"
Rothchild can't help but roll his eyes. "Imagine you're sitting on a stack of about 100 sticks of dynamite. Then a drunk guy comes along with a flame thrower." He gives the guys time to visualize that image. "It's a tech level 16 world six parsec coreward and trailing of here. It was a client state of the Imperium before the war. It's known for its manufacture of weaponry. Neurotoxins being a specialty.
"No one has any idea how the Ngath Confederation pulled it off. The law level is pretty high so there's no way the locals would be able to mount much of a resistance.
"The Ziru Sirkaa hasn't seen much of the Black War. With Gemid in the paws of a corsair nation, it could open up in our backyard."
Lakir and Gvarokh nod, understanding the gravity of the situation.
"Anything else?" Rothchild asks.
Gvarokh looks at Lakir, who signals he's done. "No, we're good," he answers.
"Ok then," Rothchild stands and shakes their hands, "I'll compile that information and email it to your ship. Good luck."
Lakir and Gvarokh head back to the ship.
NPC: Chuck & Simrii
Location: Miishakaal, docked at the Timat Starport
Gvarokh and Lakir are back at the ship. Gvarokh meets with Darrurz to discuss
what freight and speculative cargo are available. Gvarokh explains to him that
he's interested in something valuable, that would give the appearance of being
"loot" from a pirate raid. It would make posing as a corsair more convincing.
Darrurz scrutinizes his list. "Well, they've got weapons, several different kinds of ore, radioactives, and these star-tears, which are organic crystals secreted by a local ffflyer. Any of those fffit what you had in mind?"
"Yes. Let's price them out."
Darrurz does a few calculations then says, "Radioactives are tough. I believe I cccan get them for 800,000 cccredits a ton."
"That won't leave us with much money. What do you think of those star-tears?"
"Besides their obvious beauty, they're extremely rrrrarrrre gems of a biologicccal origin. We could make a killing with them on the right world. The sellers know that. Best I can haggle is 300,000 credits a ton."
"How about the ore?"
Darrurz frowns. "You really have to be a bulkkkk freighterrrr to make money off of most ores. If it's assayed to be high in rrrarrre materials, then you can make a buckkkk. It'll be cheap though. Depending on what I find, it can be as low as 500 credits per ton. I doubt we'd have to pay more than a few thousand per ton."
"And the weapons?"
"Mostly lots of small arrrms, locally manufactured at tech level 8. Probably 10,000 to 80,000 credits per ton. More likely on the cheaperrr side."
"Any of this stuffffff, sellable to Odinaga?"
"Maybe guns and ammo. If cccorsairs are hitting them, then medical supplies and sparrrre parrrts would be high on their list. But Odinaga is tech level 11, three higher than here. I think all they'd want from Timat is a few spare naval ships to help defend them."
"Is there any speculative cargo you think we could sell to Odinaga? I don't want to haul freight there. Liability is too high."
"Fish. Odinaga is an airless chunk of rrrock and ice."
"Let's get some of those 'star tears.' No more than a ton. It is an expensive risk, but gives us a hedge on a couple of fronts. And go with the fish. Something inexpensive but decent tasting can probably go a long way on Odinaga. Plus, it isn't too great of a risk."
Darrurz nods in agreement.
Cargo has been purchased and loaded.
Darrurz was able to purchase a ton of the crystal tears for 325,000 credits. The bulk of the hold is filled with 50 tons of fish, had for a mere 1,000 credits/ton. Cargo registration added 1,020 credits to the bill.
Gvarokh was pleased to learn that there was no charge for fuel or life support refurbishment.
With everything locked down and ready to go, the Gvarokh radios Traffic Control to let them know they're leaving.
The 'all clear' is given and the ship leaves the starport.
Acceleration ends. Coasting to safe jump distance.
Next: The Road To Gamgilebo - Part 2