NPC: Chuck, Uengghae and Kagfak
System: Gamgilebo - near the gas giant, Getes
Everyone is in respective battle positions and ready to go. Darrurz maintains
that the sensors are showing clear space around the pirate base moon.
Gvarokh mini-jumps the ship in.
The seconds in jump drag by and the tension on board is palpable. Once the ship exits jumpspace, Slade is all over the engines, running diagnostics. External sensors are a wall of noise. The EM interference renders them all but useless beyond a couple hundred meters.
When Darrurz reports this to the Captain, he replies, "Good! Then they won't be able to see us."
The moon lies just inside Getes gravity well, 92% of the way to safe jump distance. Gvarokh relies on the ship's residual velocity from before the jump to carry them in. He wants to maintain the stealthy approach for as long as possible.
Miishakaal has decelerated and descended to the surface of the pirate
base moon. Darrurz has been unable to improve sensor range beyond 200 meters.
Gvarokh has moved the ship to within 10 kilometers of the valley that contains the pirate base. Vincent is unable to detect any network broadcasting on the frequencies that were in the comms systems of the pirate ship they destroyed earlier. He blames the EM interference from Getes.
Having no other choice, Gvarokh pilots the ship to the valley.
Gvarokh slowly flies the ship in and out of valley arms. It isn't certain
whether visual sighting will spot the base before the sensors do.
"There it is!" Darrurz barks.
But anyone with a forward looking window can tell it's there. The hangar doors stick from the surrounding rock like a sore thumb. It would've been spotted sooner if radar had been used, but then that signal might've alerted the pirates. From the look of things, it doesn't look anyone has noticed you yet.
"Anything, Vincent?" Gvarokh asks.
"No. It must be voice communications only," Vincent replies.
Gvarokh curses in Gvegh. "I guess it was too much to hope for this to be easy."
"They wouldn't have lasted this long if it were," Vincent adds.
"So how are we doing this?" Lakir asks. "Stealth or bluff? I'm hopin' for bluff."
"Yes, we'll bluff our way in. Once we're in a good position then we'll blast the shit of out of them. We can't have the plasma turrets energized before we go in. Their sensors should work at this range despite the EM interference. But once we're inside, we should be ok. It will take ten minutes to power up, right Slade?"
"So as soon as we're in, we should power them up. I doubt they have internal sensors.
"I'll admit that we may be making assumptions about how gullible the pirates are, but we have to get in and check things out. I don't think that sneaking around is going to get it done.
"Ok, this only has to work for ten minutes, then we can frag them. Darrurz and I will pretend to be dead. I want Vlad to play the role of traitor, working closely with Uengghae and Kagfak. I'll need Simrii in a turret as Vincent will be hacking the network for any information he can find. Slade, knowing you, you'll probably want to remain in Engineering. If you don't mind playing the role of traitor with Vlad, that should lend credibility to the betrayal. Same goes for you too, Lakir. You can be on the Bridge following Vlad's lead or hooking yourself up to the VRF gauss gun to take out any borders."
"I'll be on the Bridge with Vlad," Lakir replies.
Vlad nods approvingly.
"What about me?" Chuck asks.
"You're dead with me. Anyone else?"
With no other questions, Gvarokh continues, "Vlad will be on the Bridge with Uengghae and Kagfak. One of them will pilot. Vlad will oversee their communication with the pirates, making sure they don't double cross us. Make sure they don't deviate from the story. Once we're inside, we need to stall for as long as possible to give Vincent enough time to hack the network and the plasma turrets enough time to charge up."
Chuck interrupts, "Won't that be risky, firing plasma turrets indoors?"
Vincent answers for Gvarokh, "We can cycle the energy output down to minimize plasma splatter. After the initial power boost, we can draw from the weapons capacitors in smaller bursts, which means we'll be able to fire more often."
"How small are we talking here?" Gvarokh asks.
"5%. Enough to kill a couple of pirates at a time, more if they're close together. At that setting, we'd each have 20 shots before we had to wait for the capacitors to recharge. Depending on what they've got inside for vehicles or ships, we might have to jack that up a bit to take them out.
"More of a problem will be line of sight interference. The ship has to be parked just right to give each turret the space for maximum effectiveness. We should probably figure that out before we go in. And figure out which turret Simrii and I are going to be in."
"We can't slave one to the other?" Chuck asks.
"Not inside, no. We're standing still. Normally, the pilot could just rotate the ship at the gunner's request to get both shots off. But we're not going to be in space so we're back to line of sight issues."
"But you're supposed to be hacking the network."
"Yeah, I know. We should put me on the side with the least number of targets. I'll get the hacking started ASAP. Hopefully, I'll either be done by the time combat starts or I'll have to set it aside. That's why Simrii should get the busy side."
"Anything else?" Gvarokh asks.
"Yeah," Slade replies. "What's the cover story we're going with here?"
Gvarokh replies, "Uengghae and Kagfak will pretend to be in command, with Vlad and Lakir appearing as mutineers. They will explain that the captain of their ship is working with the engineer to repair battle damage and that they sent them here with the captured ship. They'll explain that Vlad and Lakir mutinied during the course of the battle and killed me, the first officer and anyone else who got in their way.
"They should also state that repairs could be sped up if a repair crew went out and assisted them. We can them send them our last belt coordinates along with the pirate ship's vector. This means less pirates at the base for us to deal with. By the time they catch up to the derelict pirate ship, check it out and get back, we should be long gone.
"Once we're inside, we just need to stall them long enough for the turrets to charge. Just cycling through the air lock should buy us more time.
"If at all possible, we should remain inside the ship to minimize risk. If we're successful and clear the hangar bay, we can re-evaluate whether or not we want to go to ground and risk looting the place.
When he gets no further questions, Gvarokh says,"Are we all set now?"
Heads nod, accompanied by the mumbling of "yeah's" and "guess so."
"Good!" Gvarokh barks. "Let's get to it."
Lakir changes into his cloth armor and throws on the vest with the plates in it. He slings his auto-shotgun and holsters his gauss pistol. Various clips and drums for each weapon are stowed accordingly.
Chuck switches into his armor. He's got his shotgun slung and his SMG at the ready. Extra ammo, a couple sleep gas grenades, and his blade round out the rest of his weaponry. He's bringing his LI/IR goggles just in case the power goes out.
Gvarokh switches into his flex armor and arms himself with his laser pistol and his submachinegun, loaded with HEAP rounds.
Darrurz grabs his laser rifle and auto pistol and joins Gvarokh and Chuck in Engineering near the starboard fuel purification plant. If they need to re-take the ship, Gvarokh figures that that's the best place to start.
Although Vincent doesn't anticipate getting involved in a firefight, he keeps his auto shotgun and pistol handy. His primary weapon though is his laptop computer.
Vlad has slipped into his flex armor. His ACR with the RAM grenade launcher is slung over his shoulder. His body pistol is holstered. He doesn't envision using his sword but he figures that it'll look menacing on camera.
Slade is secure in Engineering, ready to pretend to be a traitor. He's wearing his flex armor and has all his weapons on his person.
Simrii is holed up in the starboard turret. He's still wearing his vacc suit. He figures that he isn't going anywhere. "Fish in a barrel." Still, he's fully armed. Though he's not packing spare ammo. If his presence is needed, it'll be quicker to grab a new weapon than re-load.
Once everyone is in position, Gvarokh comms the Bridge and tells them to hail the pirate base.
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae and Kagfak
Location: Miishakaal, outside the pirate base
System: Gamgilebo - near the gas giant, Getes
Uengghae is at the helm with Kagfak to his right. Vlad is standing behind
him; Lakir to his left. Vlad orders Kagfak, "Hail them."
Kagfak hails the pirate base and talks exclusively in Gvegh. The rest of the crew is listening to the computer's translation.
"This is Kagfak of Captain Gvuelague's ship, the Bitter Tasting Poison From My Teeth, hailing base. Respond." Kagfak doesn't get an answer so he repeats the message. After the third time, he adds with a growl, "Lazy wolves don't eat!"
This does the trick. The viewscreen flickers to life. "Kagfak, what are you doing? You're too small a pup to be barking orders. Did you finally grow some teeth and overthrow Captain Gvuelague?"
"Nothing of the sort, Ghang. Captain Gvuelague's hunting skills are unmatched." Kagfak adds a snarl at the end to indicate he takes offense to the challenge of Captain Gvuelague's good name.
"Of course they are. He is Touzagh. Who are those two behind you? I don't recognize the wolf or the pinkie."
"These two are new recruits: Vladgorkfeg and Lakir. We were in a battle with them but their captain lacked the charisma to properly lead them. They realized that Captain Gvuelague was the better hunter and tossed their old captain out the airlock."
"I see. So where is Captain Gvuelague and why aren't you on his ship?"
"Bitter Tasting Poison From My Teeth was damaged in battle. Captain Gvuelague and Engineer Ghaellkaefaerrgh are working on the jump drive. Captain Gvuelague sent me and Uengghae here with their prize to show lazy wolves what a real hunter can kill. I suggest you send a repair team out to assist him as to leave a great hunter like Captain Gvuelague adrift is disrespectful."
"Why didn't he radio us for help."
"He doesn't feel that he needs the help! I'm the one making the request." Kagfak settles down. "Besides that last EM storm fried our communications array."
Ghang and some other vargr in the background erupt in laughter. "Well done, Kagfak. Unfortunately, we don't have any repair ships we can send out to the mighty Captain Gvuelague right now. The Swift Little Biter is here but it's undergoing repairs after running into a Vilani patrol ship and her captain is busy planning his next raid."
"What about one of the smaller ships?"
"Nothing jump capable is here. All we've got is that old pinkie launch. The others are away on supply runs. Was Captain Gvuelague out in the Belt again?"
"Then by the time the launch got there the esteemed Ghaellkaefaerrgh will have gotten the ship repaired and have jumped back here to lord over us with his prize."
"You are making a mistake," Kagfak says somberly.
"Oh, do you?" Ghang barks. "Your teeth aren't sharp enough to make that bite. I tell you what. If he isn't back in six hours and Aerrdathin approves, we'll send a repair team on the ship you're on to rescue Captain Gvuelague. Besides, I'm sure Aerrdathin is going to want to meet our new friends and inspect Captain Gvuelague's prize." Ghang is practically growling the rest.
Kagfak's ears are down in submission. "Yes, mighty wolf."
"I'm opening the airlock now. Don't keep us waiting." The connection terminates.
As promised the outer airlock doors open.
"Take us in," Vlad snarls. "We must not keep Mister Ghang waiting."
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae and Kagfak
Location: Miishakaal, inside the pirate base
System: Gamgilebo - near the gas giant, Getes
Uengghae waits for the outer airlock door to open completely before entering.
Gvarokh comms the Bridge in Gvegh, "Kagfak, you can have the first shot at Ghang."
Kagfak replies, "Thank you, Captain Gvarokh."
Vlad notices that he's nervous, the constant panting and licking of his jaws in hopes of finding enough saliva to coat his tongue, and places a paw on his shoulder. "Easy now. Nice and slow."
Once safely in the airlock, Vlad says, "Hold steady. Drink some water while we wait for the airlock to pressurize."
Gvarokh has been monitoring the situation. He comms to Vincent, "Anything yet?"
"No, not yet. Still waiting on a signal. I'm sure these doors are set up to prevent any EM leakage."
"Keep me apprised."
It feels like forever as the outer airlock moves with the speed of a glacier. Finally the journey to closure is completed and air rushes in to fill the void. The ship's sensors monitor its progress.
As soon as the pressure equalizes, the inner airlock door opens. It doesn't move any quicker than its outer brother, but that's ok.
"I've got a signal!" Vincent says exuberantly.
"Grrreat," Gvarokh adds. "Let's start powering up those plasma turrets."
The inner airlock door opens and Vlad instructs Uengghae to take the ship in slowly.
"Where do you want me to set her down?" Uengghae asks.
Vlad spots an Angrorghag class Seeker in the far repair bay. "Turn the ship so that it faces the repair bays. Park close enough to the wall that Vincent and Simrii will both have a chance to open fire on that ship, but we want to be far enough away that no plasma splatter will hit us."
"Aye," Uengghae timidly replies.
The nervous vargr successfully sets the ship down.
Darrurz's ears prick up and his tail stats wagging. "A ship! These bastards owe me a ship."
Gvarokh comms Vincent, "How's it going over there?"
Vincent doesn't answer right away.
"I'm in. Downloading their database now."
"How long will it take?"
"If you want the whole thing, it'll take four minutes."
"Simrii, how are we doing with the plasma turret charging?"
"We'll be ready to open up in three minutes."
As the engines power down (it has to look convincing), the group on the Bridge spots a welcoming committee gathering inside the hangar bay. Half a dozen vargr have gathered along with two humans.
"That's Ghang in the middle," Kagfak says.
"Who are the others?" Lakir asks him.
"Just crewmen. No officers."
Ghang's voice creeps in over the comm. "That had to have been the slowest landing I've ever seen. What's the matter, Uengghae?"
Uengghae replies, "I did not want to scratch the Captain's prize."
"It does not look like a prize. It looks like [untranslateable]." The vargr and the humans start laughing at whatever it was that was said. "That hold had better be full. And I do not mean full of [slang word for excrement]." More laughter.
"I can translate into Galanglic for you," Kagfak offers.
"No, that's ok," Lakir says. "We figured it out."
Ghang and his gang walk towards the ship. "Come on! Open that pig up already. Let us see what spoils the good Captain Gvuelague brought us."
Vlad offers a calming voice. "Pretend you're having problems with it."
"Uengghae! Are you stupid? Open her up!"
"Having problems with controls," Uengghae replies.
"You moron! Open up the doors or I'll skin your hide and space that pathetic excuse of a brain."
"One moment, please" Uengghae says with an audible wince.
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae and Kagfak
Location: Miishakaal, inside the pirate base
System: Gamgilebo - near the gas giant, Getes
"Soup's on!" Simrii says over the internal comm.
"Serve it up," Gvarokh orders as he exits the starboard fuel purification plant room with Darrurz and Chuck.
"What do you want the rest of us to do?" Chuck asks.
"Stand ready," Gvarokh answers. "I don't expect them to breach our defenses. If necessary, we'll go out after Simrii has mopped up." He switches his attention to the comm. "Vincent."
"While you wait for the download, I want you to take out the turrets on that Seeker."
"But these bastards owe me a ship," Darrurz protests.
Gvarokh counters, "We can't risk them getting off any shots at us."
They arrive at the Bridge to monitor the situation outside.
Vincent is able to cycle the power down on his turret. He'll still be able to take out the turrets but his recharge time will be less. His first shot takes out the port turret with extreme precision.
Meanwhile, Simrii has already opened up on the welcoming committee. His first blast of plasma takes out five of them. The other three have all taken some damage and are rolling on the floor in agony. Ghang appears to be among them.
Reinforcements have arrived in the hangar. They get too close to the mess that's been made of their comrades and freeze in their tracks. Not wishing to deprive them of the gift that Captain Gvuelague delivered onto them, Simrii shares it.
This second blast achieves similar results. The surviving reinforcements retreat from whence they came.
Vincent announces that he has completed the download.
"Great!" Gvarokh answers. "I need you to check three things ASAP: One, where is the missing crew? Two, is there anyone else here we need to rescue? And three, how do we open those damn doors again?"
"I'm on it," Vincent replies.
There is no longer anyone vertical in the hangar, Simrii wants to know if he should leave the wounded or finish them off.
Gvarokh replies, "Hold off for now. We'll finish them later. Save your shots for active targets. Where are the rest of them?"
Simrii replies, "Two went into the other bay. Another two made it back into the offices and shut the door."
Vincent decides to utilize his hack of the network rather than sift through the database for the answers. It takes him a minute to determine that there aren't any prisoners being held here and that any that were here are either dead of have been hauled off to Auction. That includes the Qa Livk crew. It takes him another 30 seconds after relaying this info to find out that the Auction takes place on Ikhog, a world that lies on the Vland - Windhorn sector border. Another thirty seconds after relaying that and he has access to facility controls, including the airlock doors.
Upon hearing the name of the world, Uengghae says, "Oh, I know that world."
A quick check of navigation maps reveals that Ikhog is 5 parsecs due coreward of Gamgilebo. While there are no worlds directly between the two systems, there is a jump-1 route that runs through Anarsi subsector. At best, it's a two and a half week trip.
Gvarokh says, "Ok, Vincent, open the airlock doors. I want this whole place vented to space."
"But captain," Vincent replies, "shouldn't we see if there is anything worth taking? Come on, we'd be stealing from pirates, uh I mean taking that which doesn't belong to them."
Darrurz agrees, "We should search the place and then strip it of supplies, before either locking it down so they can't use it again, or destroy it. Oh and I'm not leaving that ship there for them to use either." His tail is thumping against a panel. He is clearly agitated.
Gvarokh assures him he won't.
Without pause, Slade adds, "I'd love to see if there's any stolen fancy sensor equipment or small craft that's easy to lay hands on."
Gvarokh reins in the conversation. "Need I point out that there are still several fully mobile and well armed opponents that they know this place better than we do. Venting the base will give us the best chance to loot unopposed. If it is valuable, it can withstand the vacuum. If it can't withstand the vacuum, we didn't need it. Once we vent the place, whomever wants to can go out and search for loot in their vacc suits. However, if the sensors detect anything, they're expected to get back to the ship immediately."
Lakir agrees with the captain. "If we're goin' ta run a clear and search, we better do the 'clear' first, like runnin' the numbers of guys on the ground in pieces, versus Vincent's hack O' the data base, which should give us actual number of troops left. If we're goin ta hit them on the ground, now's the time, while there still shakin'. So we go, and go fast, with Vlad leadin'.
"The other option is Gvarokh makes a leadership play, and we push the bluff, with Ghang already down, maybe it works."
Before anyone else can voice their opinion, Gvarokh asks Vincent for the status of the Seeker.
"According to the system, it's in for repairs to its maneuver drive and holes in its hull."
"So, it's flyable?"
"It got here somehow. That's all I know. But if they're in the middle of a repair job, then they could have the thing completely opened up with parts scattered on the deck. Their system doesn't track that. We're going to need to send someone over there if you want to know for sure."
"Ok, in the meantime, I want you to disable their external comm system and tie in with their sensors. I'd like to know if someone's coming."
"Then open those doors."
In no time at all, Vincent shuts down external communications and locks out those controls. "External sensors tied in with ours now."
"Let's have a look."
Darrurz takes a seat at a console and cues up the sensors. "Nothing showing, but the range is limited to 200 klicks."
Flashing red lights alert everyone that Vincent has cued the inner air lock door to open.
"Now the real test," Gvarokh says.
"Sorry, captain," Vincent says, "I can't get the outer airlock door open. The safety protocols refuse to be overridden from here."
"What do you mean, 'from here'?"
"We can do a mechanical override, but that means leaving the safety of the ship and playing around with the access panel to the outer door."
Chuck butts in, "But wouldn't that person get sucked out too?"
"Yes," Vincent answers, "Unless they found a way to secure themselves."
Gvarokh growls in dissatisfaction.
"Or," Vincent adds, "I can hack the security protocols and make it think that the inner door is closed."
"How long will that take?"
"Probably about an hour."
Lakir rolls his eyes. "Don't be such a limp dick. Hit the fuckin' thing with the full charge plasma turrets and let's get this shit show on the road. Though lets try and keep it to a single hole, instead of the whole thing, so we don't tumble the ship."
Sensing an opportunity, Darrurz springs to life. He growls at Gvarokh and barks, "Toothless!" his ears sweep back on his head and his tail goes straight as he takes the safety off his laser rifle. "You've given them too much time already!"
In a commanding voice, he says "Simrii, if anyone comes out of the door to the offices waste them; they'll be packing heavy weapons. Chuck you have the bridge. Uengghae, Kagfak, noses sharp, follow me." He heads towards Lakir and Vlad and says, "Vincent broadcast on anything that will make a sound for them to surrender and to make sure we know that they are surrendering. Lock down any door there is in the place and see if there are any video feeds. Vlad, Lakir, weapons free and go out firing. Chuck, open the doors we're going out."
Uengghae and Kagfak look from Darrurz to Gvarokh and back again. Their ears are down. They've hunched down in their seats and look to one another, whimpering a bit.
Silence over the comm from Simrii and Vincent.
Vlad growls and scowls at Darrurz.
Chuck has drawn his shotgun and it's leveled at Darrurz's midsection.
From over the comm, Slade says, "Wait a minute. I think that's a good plan but this is a mutiny. And if you pull that shit I'm shutting down the engines and we can all die here. So either plan for that too or settle the fuck down and do this right."
Gvarokh roars, "NO!" He charges up to Darrurz, without his weapon drawn, and says, "No, rather you will go out under the cover of the ship's weapons and manually override the doors. Get going!"
Darrurz looks at Gvarokh and just bursts out laughing in his face. He is genuinely amused. However his ears come back down on the sides of his head as he responds.
"You wait, when you should have a plan." Darrurz indicates the situation.
"You hold fast when you should bend. Vincent believes your plan is bad but you do not listen.
"You endanger when you should protect. Vincent tells you of the danger at the airlock.
"You hesitate when you should act. Lakir insults you and urges you to act.
"You cower when you should be bold. Slade shows loyalty but agrees with me.
"You react from anger when you should choose. Chuck is the mechanic and best for the task.
"You ignore when you should seize opportunity. I show you the way but you do not see.
"If you wish to lead, Then Give Me Something To FOLLOW."
Gvarokh takes another step forward and says with a growl, "I said, go and override the controls. It is your choice as to whether you leave the ship with a vacc suit or not. I will not repeat myself."
Darrurz suddenly appears calm. His ears relax and spring up, and his tail wags a little. He smiles without showing any teeth and says, "I'll get my helmet." He applies the safety on his laser rifle and heads up the lift to his cabin.
Lakir shakes his head, "While we've been fuckin' around here, the dick smacks have been doin' precisely what the D dog's doin: suitin' up. So we pop the airlock, and now we gotta clear 'em out in a vacuum. Don't nobody get hit, 'cause it'll get messy. We still need to clear, before we search."
Lakir walks over to the ship's locker to get his vacc suit. He takes off his vest and armor and puts on his vacc suit.
While he does this, Gvarokh turns on the rest of the crew, "The reason I did not immediately send out a loot party is because they have several survivors and we don't know the base! They are under cover and in defensive positions. I like loot as much as any of you, but I would much prefer to keep my extremely valuable crew alive while I get it!"
He pauses for a moment, then continues, "Unless I am misremembering something, no one in this ship wanted to even come to the base in the first place because it was too dangerous! Now that we are here, you don't want to leave!?" He practically spits out the last sentence in disgust.
"Slade! We need two anchor cables to keep our volunteers from blowing away."
"They should be able to just use the clips on their belts to attach to something in the air lock. I don't have any anchors."
"Uengghae, move the ship closer to the doors. I want to keep the run as short as possible."
"Shit!" Vincent exclaims over the comm. "I've lost the network."
"Can you get back in?"
"No, you don't understand. There's no network to link into. They've shut it off."
Uengghae moves the ship closer to the air lock. It still faces the bays.
"I've got a target," Simrii says. "Can you rotate the ship so that I can take them out."
Uengghae looks to Gvarokh for approval, which Gvarokh gives with a nod.
The two survivors from the initial blasts are vaporized.
Uengghae rotates the ship back to face the repair bay again and sets the ship down close to the inner air lock but still leaves room for Simrii to shoot at anyone should they emerge from the office complex.
Darrurz returns to the crew lounge in his vacc suit. He's wearing a backpack which is stuffed with gear. "I'll need tools," he says.
"There's a set salvaged from the pirate ship," Gvarokh replies flatly, "you can use those."
Lakir joins him. He's somehow managed to squeeze his utility vest over his vacc suit so that he has access to his ammo and plates. It doesn't fit well but it won't fall off. "Ok, let's get this shit over with."
Looking at Lakir, Darrurz asks, "What are you doing? I thought Gvarokh was only offering me to the slaughter. What have you done to mean that more wrong decisions are being made and you are being sent out to die as well? I know Gvarokh is rubbish in command and is losing charisma by the minute but has he completely lost his mind? I mean it will be harder to clear them out in vacuum anyway, and he'll have two less people to do it with.
"Hopefully Vincent's had the good sense to lock them out of their own computer systems and to have locked down the facility, because Gvarokh won't have thought about it, and that would have at least given me a fighting chance, but there is no reason for you to die as well."
Lakir replies, "Somebody's gotta cover your hairy ass while you're dickin' with the controls. Quit flappin' your jaw, and lets fuckin' go, before those survivin' doggies get the shit together, and can lay down some effective fire."
The two exit the crew lounge and enter the cargo hold.
Next: Laying Waste to the Base