NPC: Chuck, Uengghae and Kagfak
Dougok, Vladgorkfeg, and Uengghae have returned to the starport terminals. They
proceed through the starship crews entrance and make their way to the terminal
where Vladgorkfeg and Uengghae's ship is parked.
Once they arrive at their gate, Dougok looks out the window at the ship. It's a Garu class Far Trader. Dougok is disappointed. He'd hoped that these guys were in something a bit more formidable. Far Traders were often preyed upon by the Touzagh and other corsairs.
Dougok recalls an old saying, "A wise dog keeps his mouth shut if he has nothing constructive to say and has no desire to start a fight with his new companions."
Vladgorkfeg leads the way onto the ship, followed by Dougok, and Uengghae bringing up the rear. The starboard personnel air lock empties into the crew lounge. The room is clean and well maintained. There are two couches, a table with eight chairs and a very small galley. Dougok sniffs the air. He picks up the scents of humans and vargr.
Deciding to stay and see what this group had to offer he takes the proffered seat. "Cold water, please."
Uengghae returns shortly with a simple drinking bowl of water. Dougok smells the water before taking a cautionary lap. It smells and tastes delightfully fresh. He thinks, "Either a new or well maintained water purification plant. Probably the latter. Certainly a competent engineering crew."
Vladgorkfeg returns to the crew lounge. "The captain has just returned."
As he says this, the hatch opens and in step two vargr.
Like Vladgorkfeg and Uengghae, it is easy to discern which is which. The elder of the two (mid-40's) has a distinguished look to him, likely the result of the grooming that is common among Imperial Vargr. While he's nowhere near the size of Vladgorkfeg, he's at least of average size, perhaps a tad larger. Or maybe he just carries himself that way. His attire is conservative, tailored cloth armor underneath his simple jacket. He sniffs the air without taking his eyes off of Dougok. His eyes are sharp. There's a certain steeliness to them. Something in them says, "Don't cross me." Dougok can see why Vladgorkfeg, Uengghae and this new one follow him. Like many Imperial Vargr, he's not quick to use his teeth, but they're still sharp.
Vlad does the introductions in Gvegh (translation provided by ship's computer), "Captain, this is Dougok, the former corsair I was telling to you about. Dougok, this is Captain Gvarokh."
Both Vargr sniff the air in an effort to assess one another.
Dougok rises as he sniffs the air and assesses the pack order amongst the Vargr. Dougok flips his ears to the side in a neutral, unchallenging posture, his tail wagging slightly to indicate his appreciation for the charisma of the captain. "Pleased to meet you, Captain. I understand that we might be able to do business together to bring down the corsair band."
Gvarokh, after taking measure of the other vargr, says, "Before expanding on what we are after, tell me what you want. What do you wish to gain from helping?"
Dougok looks the other Vargr over and answers, "I seek another Pack where I can be a valuable member and get revenge on my false comrades who threw me out after loyal service."
Gvarokh sternly responds, "We can help you on this, however, we will need you to stay your hand initially so that we can ensure we accomplish our goal. As we secure that, we will help you bring down your former pack. Can I count on you to do that?"
Dougok holds his ground without being overly aggressive about it. "You can count on me to do all that is needed to ensure that the revenge on my ex-pack is as devastating as possible. As long as your plan is effective I will hold back my teeth."
"Very well. I need to know all that you can tell me about the Auction. I want to know how it works, where it's held, when the next one is, how the merchandise is brought in, what the costs are to get in and how much merchandise goes for." Gvarokh crosses his arms and waits to hear what Dougok has to say.
Dougok listens attentively to what Gvarokh asks, nods, and then answers without hesitation. "Auction is just like any other auction. Buyers bid on items or lots. Highest bidder wins. Merchandise is paid for upon collection. It is held six to eight times a year, depending on how successful the Touzagh have been with their raids. The next one is in three days so your timing is good. The less time you spend here asking questions the better as the Touzagh will pick up your scent the longer you linger on their turf.
"Attendance to the Auction is by invite only. Dealing in stolen merchandise is generally acceptable on most vargr worlds, though there are plenty of victims who would wish to take it back. It's no secret that the Imperial pinkies don't like it. However, the Zhodani don't care as we don't steal from them. "But even so, the Touzagh deal in merchandise that few have the stomach for." At this point his voice drops. His shame apparent. "They traffic in slaves: mostly human, though a few vargr have caught their eye. Those with skills: mechanics, electricians, engineers; are worth a lot more than those without." He growls. "Our ancestors would be ashamed. But it wasn't a vargr that came up with this idea. No, it was our hairless leader, Kagiisha." He shakes his head at the thought. "A hairless monkey leading a pack of wolves. But since he led the Touzagh to many a victory no one in the pack thought twice about it. I did, and the mangy curs kicked me out!"
Dougok takes a moment to settle down before continuing. "That is why it is invite only. If anyone could get in, there is no doubt that word would quickly spread and the popular Touzagh band would suddenly be reviled. Ikhog is a proud world and a pretty one. Far better than some airless rock floating in the frozen void."
Gvarokh nods. "So, how does one get added to the guest list?"
"I don't know. I raided. The Touzagh have contacts here and on many worlds. Rumors become reputation. The Touzagh were rumored to be a very successful corsair band. Talk to the right wolves on the street or starship captains in port and word would get back to somebody here in 'sales'."
"But you know where it is, right?"
"Of course! It's right here at the base. That's where they always have it."
"And the cost?"
"I wasn't in sales. I don't know for certain. The harder it is to get, the higher the price."
"And something illegal like slaves..."
"Tens of thousands of credits."
Gvarokh frowns and uncrosses his arms. "We have people that have been captured by the Touzagh. From what you've told us, I have no doubt that they're going to be sold off as slaves. We can't let that happen." He paces with his hands clasped behind his back. "Striking the base would be a blow to Kagiisha's charisma, right?"
"Liberating the prisoners and wreaking havoc on the place would be an embarrassment to him, right?"
"Yes!" Dougok tilts his head and flops his ears. "But is this ship and the crew up to the task?"
"We already took out the base at Gamgilebo."
Dougok laughs. "I hadn't heard that!"
"That's good. It means we have the element of surprise."
"This is a Garu class trader. It's a jump two ship."
"That is correct."
"So this happened," he ponders for a second, "two and a half to three weeks ago."
Dougok nods. "The last ship to come from there arrived just a few days ago."
"We wasted no time. I have a crew of well-trained, rather efficient killers here. They have no reservations about gunning down a bunch of slavers." He crosses the room and puts a paw on Dougok's shoulder. "Between losing the base at Gamgilebo and having the Auction here at Ikhog ruined, Kagiisha's charisma will take such a huge hit that he will no longer be worthy to lead the Touzagh. Are you in?"
"Good! Now we just have to figure out how we're going in."
"I might be able to help with that."
Everyone in the room turns to see that Lakir and Chuck have returned with a vargr that looks like he's in his early teens.
Lakir puts his hand on the back on the young wolf. "Cap'n, this is Ngarssou. He arranged the meeting for us tonight with a vargr that has a Touzagh contact."
Ngarssou instantly takes a deferential posture upon seeing and smelling the other vargr in the room. "Pleased to meet you, sir."
"Well met, Ngarssou."
Lakir continues, "We scouted the meetin' area. I took some visuals." He gestures to his PDA. "It's wide open. There's not much cover, except for the perimeter, which is lined with trees. Technically, they could put a sniper up there but we could have a couple guys scout them out beforehand. But this is just a friendly meet-n-greet so I don't think they'll have one. And this guy is just a contact, not part of the pack, so I don't think he'll have squat. Maybe a couple of wolves for muscle. Nothin' sophisticated."
Dougok cocks his head. One ear is up, the other down. His Galanglic isn't great so he continues to speak in Gvegh. "Meeting?"
Gvarokh explains, "There's a wolf that claims to be a contact for the Touzagh. We want to see how much intel we can get before the Auction. I don't want a frontal assault. If an opportunity presents itself ahead of time I want to be ready to take advantage of it. The more intel we can get the better."
Dougok straightens his head and crosses his arms. "Risky. Considering my status with the pack, I'll have to keep out of sight."
Gvarokh nods. "A wise course of action. As we have several hours before the meeting, we should put it to work." He gestures to Ngarssou but addresses Lakir, "I'd like him to come with us to the meeting. He could be valuable." He hopes that Lakir gets his meaning.
Lakir asks Ngarssou, "You interested in doublin' yer money?"
Gvarokh says, "Good. Dougok, I'd like you to give us the coordinates of the base and draw up a map of it. Lakir, I'm sure you'll want to have a look at that when he's done. And I think you'll finally get a chance to set up those special weapons you picked up on Silverring last year."
"Now yer talkin'!"
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae, Kagfak, Ngarssou
Location: Miishakaal, parked at Gate 23 of Ghoekang Starport
Dougok looks around but can't seem to find what he's looking for. Once Uengghae
catches his eye, he says to him, "Map."
Uengghae realizes that he's looking for a paper map and explains that they don't have one.
Vincent calls one up on the ship's viewscreen but it's obvious to all that it won't work as it's source data is Imperial and only has the roughest of details.
Dougok lets out a "Feh" of disgust.
Ngarssou interjects, "I know a place that sells good maps in the starport."
"That will work if it's detailed enough," Dougok says, "But sometimes things get left out of maps. Grease the right paws and suddenly roads disappear."
Vincent offers to hack the world's satellite network.
Dougok's ears go up.
Vincent adds, "I'll just need the captain's permission to do it."
"What are the odds you'll be detected?" Gvarokh asks.
Vincent leans back in his chair. "At this tech level, the security measures are weak. Even if they detected that someone was in the system, by the time they traced the signal, we'd already be back in Vilani space. With my gear and skills, I could shut down every system on this planet that has a datanet connection."
Gvarokh responds, "We're not going to succeed by playing it safe. Go for it!"
"Alrighty then," Vincent replies and gets right to work. He struggles at first. The technological difference makes for some awkward relays at first but Vincent eventually gets the hang of it.
"Ok, I've got it." The main viewer fills with a simple white outline of a globe representing Ikhog. The satellite network is marked in green. Vincent navigates to the satellite closest to the starport. "This one should work, right?" He looks to Dougok for confirmation. The latter's tongue is hanging out. He's slack jawed.
"Uh, yes. That will do."
Vincent brings up the visual. The crew is now seeing what the satellite sees. The camera moves to the northeast of the city, where the roads get smaller and the landscape gets rural.
"There's the road," Dougok points. "Now follow it to the northeast, up through the forest and into the hills.
Vincent has no problem doing that.
"That's it," Dougok says.
The base is on a plateau up in the hills. It is surrounded by forest up to within 500 meters of the base. From there everything has been cleared out and it's all grassy field.
Vincent snaps a picture and logs the coordinates. He then logs out of the satellite network.
Dougok points out the features of the base (see key on map).
Gvarokh starts the Q&A session. "What type of sensors do they have?"
Dougok answers, "Radar and Infrared."
"What type of equipment do they have?"
Dougok cocks his head to the side. "Like what?"
"What types of personal arms and armor do they use?"
Dougok's head returns to its upright position. "Ahhhh. Basic cloth armor. Pistols, assault rifles, ACR's."
"How many people are typically at the base?"
Dougok scratches behind his ear. "It varies. There's always at least 20. During pack gatherings, I've seen as many as 500. When I left, there were about 50. Might be more coming in as the Auction is only a few days away."
"There are four guards on patrol at all times. That might not seem like much but no one bothered us up there. A large force would be detected before it got close. A small force wouldn't be considered a threat."
"Where are the prisoners kept?"
"Underground." Dougok points to #3 on the map. "The entrance is here."
"How many prisoners do they have?"
"When I was kicked out, there were twenty. Half of them came in from one ship, some kind of survey ship. You probably saw it in orbit when you arrived."
"What ships do they typically have handy?"
"There's a Seeker still on the pad. Hasn't been used in a couple of weeks. There are two G-Carriers and four air rafts with machine gun mounts in the Motor Pool. A couple of cutters, a shuttle and a trader were inside the hangars when I left. Then there's the stuff in orbit."
"It depends. A couple of corsairs. Maybe a packet. Ships come and go all the time."
Simrii says, "We need to deal with the starship on the ground, even if it's just something as simple as flipping the fuel lines from fill to drain."
"When transporting the prisoners to the Auction, what path do they take? How well guarded are they? What type of vehicles do they use?"
Dougok frowns. He tilts his head to the side. "They march them out of their holding cells," he indicates #3 on the map, "and over to the mess hall." He points to #2 on the map. "There's usually three to five guards with them."
Slade speaks up. "How is the base powered? Where's the plant?"
Dougok points to the two rounded off rectangles to the north of the motor pool. "Generators. Each one is capable of powering the base."
"Is all the communication wireless or is there hardwired backup? Do you know their frequencies and protocols?"
"Yes. The frequencies change monthly. I don't know what they are. We have techs who handle that.
"Most communication is handled through wireless but there are landlines which connect all the buildings. Knock out the control tower," he indicates #5 on the map, "and you disable all communications. The wireless comms are all short range and are relayed through the tower."
Slade asks, "Is there more than one effective leader, someone who could make trouble for us? Other people we should add to our target list? Maybe we can get photos through the net and memorize them."
"Every wolf is trouble! Haven't you pinkies learned that by now?" He laughs heartily at his joke. Uengghae and Kagfak can't resist a chuckle.
"Should we consider dropping a small rock or chunk of metal from orbit somewhere in the vicinity as a distraction?"
Dougok folds his arms. "You would never get the chance to drop anything of consequence. The local navy would vaporize you the instant it figured out what you were doing."
Chuck asks, "Do we have to worry about the planetary navy getting involved when we attack?"
"No. What happens on the base is not their concern. But when you start dropping rocks from the sky on civilians, then they take notice."
Gvarokh returns to the conversation, "Regarding the local navy, how much do they monitor local ship activity? In other words, if we took our ship over to the base, would anyone besides the corsairs care?"
Dougok is succinct in his reply. "No."
"What if there is ship-to-ship combat at ground level?"
"Unless it spills over to civilian air space, they'll leave it be." He smiles. "You've been living among the humans too long. Packs squabble over turf all the time." He laughs to make sure Gvarokh and everyone else knows he's joking and not insulting.
After studying the map, Lakir joins the conversation. "What's the procedure for those invited to the Auction?"
Dougok tilts his head to the side. "There is no procedure. You're invited, you show up."
Simrii raises his hand, "What's involved in faking some invites and getting us inside?"
Dougok laughs heartily. "The Touzagh don't hand out invitations like some pup's birthday party. You don't get in unless someone recognizes you."
"Could we get some of us inside the base before the auction? Create a distraction while the slaves are being moved?"
"The slaves aren't moved until the auction, except if some potential buyer wants to review the merchandise beforehand. The only way you get on the base beforehand is if you're invited."
Lakir continues, "You say the pop will swell to about 500. Is that on base staging and housing, or do they arrive from off site? If so, what's the screening protocol for entering the base, and do they arrive via ship, or all surface based arrivals?"
Dougok's head returns upright. "Guests stay off site, either in their own ships or some hotel in the starport or city. Whatever they want. As for the Touzagh, if there's room, they stay onsite. Otherwise they stay in their ships or sleep under the stars. Or wherever they pass out." He chuckles. "But I don't think that there will be 500. That only happens when that hairless leader of ours has to give a speech or when he's planning a major offensive. For Auction, it's typically only those crews who want to know how much profit they're going to earn for their raiding."
"Any quick reaction force, for responding to local threats? If so, where are they housed?"
Dougok squints. An ear flops down. "All of us are quick. There are no special units. We're corsairs, not military."
"Any ships in orbit?" Gvarokh asks.
"Sure there's ships all the time," Dougok answers. "But which ones change all the time."
Gvarokh does some calculations in his head. "That means we have anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes before they swoop down on us from orbit. Taking out that tower has to be our number one objective. Once the tower goes down, how soon before the orbiting ships realize something's up?"
"These are corsairs not soldiers. We're inherently lazy unless we're on alert. Unless you've tipped your paw, they have no reason to suspect there's gonna be trouble."
Lakir asks Dougok to provide details on the underground holding facility: location, type of doors, floor plan, etc.
Dougok agrees to do it after the meeting.
Once the intel session is done, Gvarokh asks, "We have two choices: strike before the auction or during the auction. Opinions?"
Vlad says, "Before. From what Dougok says, there will be more spectators on hand to watch the auction. The less enemy targets to deal with the better. They'll probably be showing more force when their guests are present to show how tough they are."
Dougok nods in agreement.
Lakir agrees. "Definitely before."
"Good!" Gvarokh says with enthusiasm. "Then we are all in agreement!"
Next: Planning the Attack