Characters: Vlad, Lakir and Vincent (others listening in)
NPC: Uengghae and Kagfak
Location: Vlad & Lakir on the pirate vessel with Uengghae & Kagfak. Everyone else on board the Miishakaal. Both ships in the outer asteroid belt
Vlad attaches one end of a cable to the ship and then the other to himself. He
fires up the hand thruster to jump to the pirate ship. He makes it across
without any problem. He attaches his end of the cable to the pirate ship and
then lets the others know they can safely make their way across. Meanwhile,
Vincent instructs the pirate ship to open the air lock.
Lakir and the pirates make their way across, the cable ensuring that they arrive where they're supposed to.
Once safely in the air lock, Vincent closes the outer and begins repressurization. The four keep their vacc suits sealed up for now, just in case.
Vlad hands the dead pirate captain's armband to Uengghae and says in Gvegh, "Open the door, but don't go through it. Hold the arm band near the opening."
Uengghae swallows hard and nods his head. He gingerly takes the armband and attaches it to his arm. After he opens the inner door of the airlock, he sticks out his arm towards the doorway and looks away, shielding his face with his unoccupied arm.
"We're in position, Vincent," Vlad says in Galanglic.
Vincent executes the password hack program.
"Charge deactivated" a tinny mechanical wolf growls in Gvegh from the armband.
Uengghae and Kagfak jump and down, laughing in relief.
"Good job," Vlad tells them in Gvegh. He dismantles the bomb and puts it into a sack. The process is repeated throughout the ship, the pirate captain having used the same password for each bomb. Vlad amasses half a dozen charges.
Meanwhile on Miishakaal, Gvarokh gives Darrurz permission to move the ship closer to make moving the loot easier.
Uengghae and Kagfak stand back while Lakir clears out the weapon's and ship's lockers. Vlad keeps an eye on them. Lakir comes up with four each of the following: shotguns, rifles, bayonets, and suits of vargr-styled cloth armor. There's also two semi-automatic pistols. Each of the weapons is loaded with a clip of ammo. There are spares: four for the auto pistols, four for the shotguns and eight for the rifles.
In the captain's quarters, which smell surprisingly fresh, Lakir finds a fully charged laser pistol, various personal effects including a few vargr liquor bottles, and some charred bits of paper on a plate. "That explains the fresh scent," Lakir says. "The ship's air fresher must've cleaned up the smoke after the captain was done burnin' this." He trashes the room in frustration, hoping to find something else. Eventually Lakir is rewarded with the discovery of a small safe. It's heavy so he instructs Uengghae and Kagfak to carry it back to the ship.
Back on Miishakaal, Gvarokh has relieved Darrurz from the pilot's chair and ordered him and Vincent to go lend their fellow crewmen a hand with the loot.
After unloading the safe, Uengghae and Kagfak are allowed to grab their personal effects from their rooms.
Once all the loot and the crew are safely aboard Miishakaal, Gvarokh pilots the ship to a safe distance. He has Vincent use the pirate ship's computer shut down the power plant. Once complete, he orders Simrii to target the ship's bridge with the intent of reducing the computer to slag. Simrii complies and successfully executes the captain's order.
"Why not blow it up?"
Gvarokh answers, "Now that we're almost clear of the asteroid belt, an explosion would be more visible by the pirate base. The power plant is shut down and will eventually cool off. The computer was the only thing that had any trace of our encounter with their ship. A quick shot from our turret has melted it to slag. It's no longer a concern. That ship can drift to oblivion now."
Darrurz notes in his personal computer the ship's type, trajectory, speed, the current date and system alignment in order to be able to pinpoint the ship at any time in the future.
Lakir gets to work on the safe. He examines the locking mechanism and then sets about trying to open it. He grabs a stethoscope from his bag and listens to the safe.
"Hey!" Chuck exclaims. "Where did you get those?"
He struggles with it a bit but a big toothy grin appears on his face once he hears the last of the tumblers fall. He immediately opens it up and finds stacks of cash. Apparently Ngath Confederation Credits. Looks to be about 20,000. They're worthless in the Imperium though.
There are several photos of a scantily clad Vargr female in provocative poses. One of them is signed, Raekeasha. Vlad peers over Lakir's shoulder and howls his approval.
There also appears to be a real estate brochure for the world of Newcastle (Vland 1801).
The last item is a small flask. Lakir opens it for a whiff of its contents. He can tell it's alcohol but can't identify it further.
"Uekhfarsal" Vlad says. "Good stuff. Not sure you pinkies would appreciate it," he adds a smile.
"It will go well with all our new supplies though!" Darrurz says with enthusiasm, his tail wagging.
Indeed he is correct as the galley was ransacked. What the food lacks in quality it makes up in authenticity. Even the vargr rations are a welcome addition.
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae and Kagfak
System: Gamgilebo, in the outer belt
Gvarokh calls everyone in on the pirate base planning meeting. Darrurz stays on
the Bridge to monitor the sensors. Simrii listens in from a turret. Everyone
else is assembled in the crew lounge, even the prisoners.
The pirate base moon is already known. Uengghae and Kagfak are looking at one of the ship's tablets as it calls up a picture of the moon's surface from the library. Eventually they find the region where it lies: a valley running in the northern hemisphere. The resolution of the file is limited so the exact location is hard to pinpoint. However, they've provided enough information that finding it shouldn't be too difficult. The haystack has been reduced to a handful of hay.
Next, Gvarokh asks them to sketch out the base. Unfortunately, it's underground. Only the hatch is visible, sequestered in a side branch of the valley. There's only two ways in: the main hangar bay doors and a man-sized door. Both lead to airlocks. Uengghae and Kagfak explain that they captain always landed on the landing pad outside the ship-sized airlock and radioed for permission to enter. They don't know if the same is true for the man-sized airlock as they never used it.
Lakir cracks his knuckles and begins a battery of questions. He notes that the landing pad lies outside of the hangar bay door. "How big is this?"
"F-f-fifty meters by seventy f-f-five," Kagfak responds.
Lakir's finger points to the airlock. "How big?"
"Over one hundred meters wide. About seventy f-f-five deep."
"The hangar bay?"
Kagfak tilts his head to the left. "Less than one hundred meters in. Over one hundred meters wide."
"When you were last there, how many ships were in the hangar and what type were they?"
Kagfak looks to Uengghae. The latter replies, "One Ueknou c-c-class-s-s-s c-c-corrrssair-r-r."
"How long has it been since you left?"
"Eight days," Kagfak answers.
"Wait," Chuck interrupts. "Imperial or Vilani?"
Kagfak ponders this a moment, then answers, "Vilani."
Chuck does the conversion in his head. "So that's ten and a half Imperial days."
Lakir continues, "How many crew members allotted to that ship?"
Kagfak shrugs. He looks to Uengghae who doesn't know either.
"Ok then. How about the number of raiders supported from the base and typical voyage duration?"
"Many come and go-o-o. Some just get repairs. Most do not stay long. A wolf must hunt. Can not hunt while sleeping in cave. I see fif-f-f-fteen different ships come and go. We hunt around ten days at a time. Less if lucky, more if unlucky."
"Station crew size and composition. Number of troops, and armour and weapon loadout, for the protection force, if any."
Kagfak's head tilts to the side. He looks to Vlad for an explanation. Vlad explains the question in Gvegh. Kagfak replies to him in kind.
Vlad translates, "Maybe five or six permanent personnel. No troops. Off duty ship crews act as protection force."
"Any info on key base players, like the commander of the base, his chief engineer, head of security."
Vlad translates again.
Kagfak answers in Galanglic, "Aerrdathin is base commander. Very tough. Chief engineer is Llorga. Him smart. Security chief is Khaeghz. Him strong," he gestures towards Vlad, "like him."
"Any ground to space emplacements, or emplacements to repel a surface assault?"
"Defenses," Vlad says in Galanglic.
"Type of approach warning systems?"
"Radio we here."
"Any prisoners or captured ships held at the base?"
Kagfak shakes his head. "Not when we there. Ships kept in orbit mostly. Prisoners?" He looks to Vlad for the word.
Vlad says, "Interrogation."
"A f-f-f-few are... what Vlad say."
Lakir slaps his thigh."OK. So we got some intel on the rock. What's the objective? Do we want hard intel, from the systems, or interrogation of soft systems? Do we worry about possible hostages they may be holding?
"We're outnumbered, so it has a bearing on how we go in. We can bluff; that's pretty risky, though we have the paint job. I doubt they just let anybody claiming to be a corsair through the air lock, though. Ground approach would blow, as we're short on numbers, and most of us ain't that great in Vacc Suits.
"We could do a hot LZ, either from orbit or nap of the moon, hit the landing pad and blow the inner and outer lock doors with the plasma turrets. Won't leave much of the crews left to interrogate, nor live hostages, if they have any, but it cut's down on our ground transit time to sweep the station in a conventional clearing op."
Slade shakes his head and clenches his teeth, "They'll have assets in multiple orbits tracking us. When we go in, no matter how lucky we are, we'll be on the pad for a long time. They'll shred us. It think it's either Big Rock or sneak in. Maybe we can try for another ship, and ride it in."
Darrurz tries to allay his concerns. "We should be able to see if there is anything in orbit on approach to the moon, and if we can work out where the base is in relation to us we may be able to approach in the moon's shadow thus blocking their base sensors.
"They are a pirate base so they aren't going to have anything that advertises their presence.
"Once at the moon we can NOE round to the base. I can stand off in the Miishakaal, or land it somewhere inconspicuous, while the assault team can be dropped off by the Air Raft. Or the raft could do multiple trips if we all go.
"This reduces our need for Vacc Suit manoeuvres while still giving us an element of surprise if we can get through the air lock unnoticed.
"Once we're in we can appraise the situation and go from there."
Slade seems better now. "Okay, so we sneak onto the moon and park, raft the assault team in close, and finally bring in the ship to blow the locks with the turrets? Perhaps we can locate the base's transmission antenna and break it. Maybe make sure we have a pilot on the assault team so we can take advantage of a hijack opportunity."
Vincent doesn't think force is the first course of action. "I could always try and hack the ship airlock, we'd get more of a jump on them that way instead of blasting our way through. If that fails I could always try and hack the personnel air lock, which might even give us more of an advantage. Just throwing a couple of ideas out there, stealth might be our best course of action, at least till we get inside and get everything under control."
Darrurz suggests "Personnel air lock first, as sophonts are likely to notice the hanger air-lock opening for no apparent reason. So are we all going or just some of us? And will we be breaking out the VRF?"
Lakir ignores him, looking to Gvarokh for an answer. "So, to be clear, the OBJECTIVE, then, is to take live prisoners, who are corsairs, and release any hostages we find. Info is to be obtained from soft targets as the primary source, as opposed to Vincent hacking an undefended hard system.
"An unprepped ground assault means we'll be going up against an unknown number of experienced troops, on unfamiliar territory, but on there home ground, in vacc suited close combat we haven't practiced for. The troops and crews we're going in against practice on live targets, on a regular basis, in vacc suits, in close quarters.
"I seem to have misplaced my battle dress somewhere, but hey, what the hell, right?"
Gvarokh answers him, "The objective is to find the missing crew. Bonus points for the ship, but I figure it is long gone. Whatever we have to do to get the missing crew is what is needed."
Lakir replies, "We know the crews and ships ain't at the base so what type of info are we looking for: soft intel from prisoners or data from the computer systems?"
Gvarokh stares hard at Lakir to emphasize his point, "Whatever we have to do to get the missing crew is what is needed."
Lakir claps his hands together. "Alright dicksmacks, we're goin' in hot on the ground, or playin' it smart, and hittin' with our strengths, from the ship. Either way, I'm in, but let's get this shit fest on the road."
Gvarokh holds up a paw to let him know he's not done. "Darrurz," Gvarokh barks, "Start scanning the pirate base. Passive sensors only."
"Aye, aye," Darrurz responds.
Gvarokh turns to the two new recruits. "Uengghae and Kagfak, have ships ever shown up at the base uninvited?"
"No, never-r-r," they say in unison. Kagfak adds, "Navy s-s-stayed away too. Only sh-sh-ships that sh-sh-showed up were our pack."
"What about others who wanted to join your pirate pack?"
"No. Base hidden. They want to join, they meet us at bar-r-r."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Is that what happened with you two?"
"Yes. But we were not part of Captain's pack. Them put us there. We meet at bar. Them take us to ship at starport and then meet Captain out in belt. After first mission, we go to base."
"But what about other ship captains?"
Uengghae answers, "To prove loyalty, new packmates blindfolded and turn over controls of ship to us: proven loyal wolves like Captain and Ghaellkaefaerrgh. After loyalty proven, they give control of ship back."
Darrurz calls from the Bridge, "Passive sensors indicate all c-c-clearrr."
Gvarokh responds, "Acknowledged, Darrurz. OK, looks like bluff is out. Makes sense; only trusted people come to the hidden base. We are not trusted. Lakir, do we have any good recordings of the scout captain?
"I don't know. Why?"
"If we can duplicate enough of his voice, we could present ourselves as him bringing back his prize." Gvarokh reacts as though a switch was flicked in his brain. "Oh! Uengghae and Kagfak, can either of you pilot a starship?" Before they can answer, he explains to the crew, "If so, then they can pretend to be the prize crew bringing us home while the scout cleans up. Oh! Or even better, maybe they brought us in while he protected his damaged ship while the prize crew went for help. If we can do that, we might get the to clear at least some of them out. Maybe the bluff is back on!"
Uengghae meekly answers, "I can pilot ship."
"Ok, then. Let me know what you guys think of this. We'll pretend to be a captured ship with Uengghae and Kagfak in charge. We'll have a few 'traitors' who are helping them. Vlad is an obvious choice. At least one of the humans, too, like Lakir and Simrii. We'll need Vincent or Slade to be working under duress, so they can have some obvious engineering help for the repaired damage. Or they could be 'traitors' too. About half the original crew, including myself, is 'dead' or captured. The reason for the 'dead' is so that they don't know our true numbers, and so we can hopefully come out fully armed and equipped for action.
"The story is that Uengghae and Kagfak were sent back as the 'prize crew' on a captured pinky freighter. The scout captain and his engineer stayed back with the scout because they suffered damage too, and they needed to repair it. One of the two will express concern that the scout has not yet made it back, as they were expected too. We will point them to a spot that makes sense, but is far enough away from where the scout really is, as we don't want them actually finding it.
"Hopefully, this will let us get in with a minimum of fuss. Once on the base we can either keep the 'dead' laying low, or 'storm the castle,' depending on what we find there. I am not unwilling to simply open up with the plasma guns once we land. The idea is to get as much intel as we can, both computer and soft, and get out. Destroying the base would be an added bonus.
"What do you guys think?"
Vlad scratches his chin. "This might get us in. Sounds plausible, at least. But I'm much more concerned with what happens after we land. It's not going to take them more than a few minutes to figure out something is up."
Lakir adds, "Exactly. If we can't keep the bluff up, and walk the base at will, we don't gain anything. 'Sides, if we need to rely on these two, in a face-to-face with the head of the base, or some other lackey, what's to say they don't turn on us? Stormin' the castle, with no hard intel on the numbers we'll be up against, sounds like a quick trip to the meat locker."
Uengghae and Kagfak frown but as they don't say anything you're not sure if they fully understood what Lakir said.
Lakir continues, "The bluff should get us to the pad, but from there, it's a crap shoot. Do we opt to take casualties in a firefight against unknown forces, or play it smart, and go for hard intel only?"
Darrurz puts in his two credits worth. "Stealth is the approach I would take. Bluffing worked for the Vilani because they are culturally accustomed to accepting what they are presented as long as it fits their procedures. We either accept or question and challenge everything all the time. I would expect that a bluff is going to get challenged. Which means stealth is the approach to take."
Vlad nods. "Agreed."
Lakir says, "Ok, but stealth to what point, and from where? We infiltrate to one of the locks, then what? Ain't goin' ta be able to sneak around inside. I still say plasma gun the site from the pad. It's the only way to be sure."
Slade cuts in. "I still don't get how we're going to live through what happens after the alarm goes out, which will happen. There's no way we're not going to get found out at some point. Then we're at the wrong end of a gravity well while we still have twenty minutes or more of research to do. It will only take one ship to slow down our getaway, and there will be more after that." He sighs. "Maybe we can saw off the base antenna, if there's only one, then blow the doors - and hope there's no ship within visual range."
Chuck counters, "For what it's worth, the moon is at the edge of gas giant's gravity well and has a really small one of its own. If we have to get away in a hurry, we won't have far to go. Plus, the EM interference is really bad. We just got out of an EM storm and that gas giant is off the charts."
Meanwhile, Gvarokh has looked mildly annoyed since he last spoke. He says, in Galanglic, "First off, these guys," gesturing to the two ex-pirates, "have shown they are with us. There is no need to impugn their motives!
"Secondly, I'm a bit surprised at the extreme caution being voiced. But that's fine. Letís approach as stealthily as possible. If we get seen, we will already be prepared with the cover story I mentioned before. If we are going to go blazing with plasma guns, our best chance is still going to be inside the airlock, not outside. Softer targets and all.
"Assuming we donít get made, we can attempt to make the data connection with their systems and breach it that way. If we can get the data that way, then we can count it all good and leave. If we canít, then we will need to either bluff or force our way in to get the data."
Lakir grumbles, "Great. So if we're goin' in, let's get it on. I'm guess'n me, Vlad, Chuck and these two are goin' in on the ground, once the ship's through the lock, if required, so what else?"
A snarl grows on Gvarokh's face. "That's it. We get in, get Vincent connected to their network, download the info we need and get the hell out That's all there is to it. What else is there? We have the layout of the place. We know what we have to do. If by some chance the crew of the Qa Livk are still there, we bust them out." He bolts upright and practically barks the rest. "Enough talk. Everyone get ready to jump. Move it!"
Next: Sneaking up on the Pirate Base