It's been a long two weeks in jump but everyone got through it none the worse
for wear. Exercise regimens kept people from going stir crazy and the rescued
prisoners have begun to recover from the harsh conditions of their captivity.
Weekly poker games were good for everyone's morale. With chips used instead of
actual money, the passengers were able to participate too.
The emergence from jumpspace midway between Ikhog and Gengfok went without a hitch. Gvarokh was hoping to find a wandering planet, comet, asteroid, or whatever, to scrape up some fuel. Unfortunately none were to be found. Jumpspace was re-entered without a hitch.
Emerging from jumpspace in the Gengfok system, everyone waits patiently for passive sensor data to come in. When it does, the bridge crew note a thin line of light traffic on the sunward side of Gengfok. No doubt coming from, or going to, the system's three asteroid belts which are spread over inner orbits from Gengfok, itself at orbit seven - far from its blazing A3 V primary.
However, there are a few ships which don't conform to the traffic line. You've attracted the attention of at least one of them as it has scanned you. You're able to determine from passive scans that it is larger than you, somewhere in the 500 to 1500 range. Computer analysis gives it a 55% chance of being a Thaksoeghuksaknag class frigate (800 tons disp). After a few pensive minutes, it starts to move. But as your inbound vector carries a 210 minute decel burn, it's likely that it will attempt to intercept you near its completion.
It hails you in Gvegh, "Attention, unidentified vessel. This is the Ngath Confederation Warship Gnedzkousgvung. Begin deceleration immediately and prepare to be boarded for inspection at these coordinates." A quick examination of the coordinates puts them in orbit over the planet.
Gvarokh starts the deceleration as ordered, and then responds, "Warship Gnedzkousgvung, this is the Trader Miishakaal. We are complying with your orders and will be waiting to receive your inspection at the specified coordinates."
"Acknowledged Miishakaal. Gnedzkousgvung out."
As time has gone by, further passive scans of the Gnedzkousgvung have
confirmed that it is indeed a frigate. And it has periodically active scanned
Once Miishakaal draws closer to the planet, Gvarokh asks Vincent to check the planet's network for any indication of Qa Livk passing through this system.
It doesn't take long before Vincent gets back to Gvarokh.
"Captain, there's no network."
"There's no network, no InfoNet, no DataWeb, nothing."
Gvarokh checks the library database entry on Gengfok. It's rated as tech level 5. Gvarokh curses under his breath. They'll have to ask around if they want to find out about the Qa Livk. That's not something he's sure they want to do.
Regardless of that decision, it will have to wait. Miishakaal is now in orbit over Gengfok and is about to be boarded for inspection.
The boarding party has docked.
The crew, except for Slade who is in Engineering, are assembled in the crew lounge, unarmed. The passengers are up in the passenger lounge, anxious, despite assurances from Chuck and Gvarokh that the Confederation Navy, although tolerant of corsairs, are not in league with them.
Seven Raiders (the vargr equivalent of Marines) decked out in combat armor and armed with assault rifles come aboard.
"Permission to come aboard?" the group leader asks.
"Granted," Gvarokh answers, a bit surprised that they asked for permission.
"May I see your cargo manifest?"
Gvarokh hands it over. After a cursory examination, the group leader hands it over to one of his pack who, in turn, takes two Raiders with him and they enter the cargo hold.
After they leave, the group leader asks, "What brings you to Gengfok, Captain?"
Gvarokh says, "We are traders on an itinerant path. We are looking to see what we can buy speculatively for our next destinations. If the prices here are good, we will definitely sell our cargo."
The patrol leader sniffs the air. "Are you new to Gengfok?"
"Yes, I am new to Gengfok but wonder why you ask."
He runs his tongue along his teeth. "Your cargo manifest stated that you have food. Anyone who's been here before knows that the food factories are... lacking. They need all the help they can get.
"So where did you come from?"
Knowing that he could've got that information from the cargo manifest or by demanding to see their nav logs, Gvarokh answers truthfully, "Ikhog."
The patrol leader wags his tail and sniffs the air. "Nice world, Ikhog. Did you have any problems there?"
Gvarokh does his best at putting on a puzzled expression. "Why do you ask?"
"Your hull shows signs of scorch marks indicative of laser blasts and the hull sections surrounded by them are new. Spectrographic analysis indicates that they can't be more than a few weeks old."
The three Raiders return from the cargo hold. One of them hands the cargo manifest over to the leader who, in turn, hands it back to Gvarokh.
Gvarokh responds, "Yes, we did in fact have a dust-up at Ikhog. Some corsairs decided we were prey. They found we were not."
The patrol leader laughs. The other Raiders take this as a sign to relax. "I have to wonder if you were the kfek that the Touzagh found too big to swallow."
Gvarokh gives him a puzzled look.
"We're received reports that some mercenaries stormed the Touzagh base, stole their property, trashed the place, and fought off their ships as they fled the system. We get conflicting accounts as to whether it was an Broadsword class mercenary cruiser or a simple Garu class free trader." He smiles. "The Touzagh are outraged, but some of us find their humiliation hilarious." He offers a conspiratorial wink. "Regardless of who it was, some of us are glad to see them gone."
"Yes, gone. Well, they're falling apart anyway. The loss of charisma was too great for their leader. There's a human saying, something about having egg on his face." He laughs some more as he appears to be picturing it. "While there are a few that are still loyal to that hairless—err, no offense to your crew—from what we've heard, the vast majority who witnessed the battle and survived have abandoned him. Once word spreads through the Confederation, he'll lose more and more support. While I'm sure a few will continue with the slave trade, and the loyalists will be out for revenge, I believe most will return to traditional corsair ways."
Gvarokh says, "Well, if you donít mind me asking, did you see a Donosev class ship travel through the system in the last week or so?"
"No, we haven't." After a pause, he continues, "Well, I've taken up enough of your time, Captain. The downport isn't much but it has a landing beacon and a radio for communication. You won't get any telemetry for landing but Gengfok doesn't have much weather to worry about. Good hunting!"
Gvarokh thanks the patrol leader to finish the conversation, then they head for downport.
With that the Raiders return to their ship's boat, detach, and return to their ship.
Location: Miishakaal, parked at Gengfok Downport
Miishakaal has landed at Gengfok Downport. It's shaped like the letter E
with the vertical line serving as the main concourse and the three horizontal
lines functioning as terminals. Miisha is given the middle line on the "bottom"
side, right in the middle. Although it is night, the downport is lit by flood
lights and there are no prohibitions against using active scanners to ensure a
safe landing. Two starships are parked to either side: two of them are
Engzagir class (Type VA) traders, one is a Garu-Shar class (Type
AL) and the other is a Angrorghag class Seeker. None of them have
Flaming Eye markings.
The ship sits on the tarmac in front of the gate for twenty minutes before the gantry arm is extended and connected to the ship. Once it's in place, the crew sit and wait for someone to acknowledge them. Ten minutes later, the comm system detects a weak, long wavelength signal.
While the language is Gvegh, the speaker is definitely human, and maybe a bit grizzled.
"Hello? Can you hear me? Are you sleeping or are your ears filled with mites?"
Kagfak chuckles. When Gvarokh tilts his head, looking for an explanation, Kagfak replies, "It is an insult, but the speaker's voice lacks the vargr sub-vocal growls so it comes across as a joke instead."
Gvarokh answers, "This is the captain. What do you want?"
"Oh good, you're there. This is Assistant Deputy Warden Jones of the Gengfok Starport. I've been trying to get your attention but ten minutes now. Is this a bad time?"
"No, we'll open the hatch now."
Gvarokh growls under his breath as he makes his way to the airlock. Exterior cameras show that Jones is alone and unarmed so he opens the hatch. The human is older, probably his early seventies, and is wearing too much cologne, probably to mask something else. Body odor?
"Good after the midday sun, Captain, and good visit for you to Gengfok Downport."
He says it in such a way that Gvarokh isn't sure he means it. Regardless, his inflection and word choice is so bad that Gvarokh blurts out, "I speak Galanglic."
"Hey now! That's great. Boy oh boy that's a relief. I have such a tough time with yer language. Can't quite master the growls and whines and all that stuff. I'm a human for Pete's sake, not a verrger. Don't have the right tongue or mouth for it. Ya know what I mean?"
"Now before you start asking me questions, let me get the standard stuff out of the way. It costs 100 Confederation Credits to land and park here for three days. After that you have to pay 100 credits a day or skedaddle. There's lots of traffic here. Can't have you guys just lolly-gagging around."
Gvarokh resists the urge to snap the geezer's neck.
"We don't have an InfoNet but we can give you supplemental power if you need it."
"No, we're fine."
"Are ya sure?"
"Ok, let us know if you change your mind. Moving on. Fuel costs 250 credits a ton and we only have unrefined. We can't seem to make the stuff fast enough for all the mining ships coming and going.
"Life support is running 1500 credits per person per week. Ummm, let's see, what else. Oh yeah, we don't have one Bank Card Reader because we only have one computer that can handle the transactions so you'll have to come with me down to the central office to place your order and pay for it. You can still pay in cash but for security reasons, we still have to head down to the central office. My security guys are on break and while I'm still feisty, I'm only one guy and I can't take on a gang like I used to." He chuckles. Gvarokh sighs.
"But before we go do you have any questions?"
Gvarokh asks, "What weapons are we allowed to carry?"
"Well, that depends. If yer planning on just staying at the starport, pistols are fine. No longarms though. But if you leave the starport, the gubbermint don't want any guns. Too worried about guys goin' off half-cocked and breachin' something. It ain't vacuum out there but it's damn close."
"Ok, does the starport have a store where we can vacc suits?"
"Yeah, but it'll cost ya. That stuff's imported so they charge up the ying yang."
"Great, thanks. Wait right here. We'll be right out." Gvarokh closes the hatch, leans against it and exhales deeply.
He checks to see which of the crew are going. Dougok and Lakir state that they'll go. Neither is bringing any weapons. Gvarokh grabs the remaining stash of Confederation credits (16,080) along with his bankcard. All three vargr bring comms. They don't expect to go too far so they'll be in range of the ship.
Once they're ready, the trio open the hatch and walk to Assistant Deputy Warden Jones, who is standing at the end of the gantry arm.
Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, & Dougok
NPC: Assistant Deputy Warden Jones
Location: Gengfok Downport
Gvarokh, Lakir and Dougok walk to the end of the gantry arm where they are met
by Assistant Deputy Warden Jones. They are unarmed but have their comms on and
open so the rest of the crew can listen in.
Jones looks Dougok up and down, noting his garish choice in colors for his outfit. Jones chuckles, "You'll get the ladies' attention."
Dougok wags his tail at the compliment to his attire. "You have a good eye for clothing and colors Deputy Jones. This is a particularly soothing choice of colors and textures that the ladies do find attractive."
Jones nods with a smirk on his face that only Lakir notices.
He leads them down the terminal wing to the main concourse. The place is looks outdated even by Vilani standards. In some areas, vargr are at work refurbishing the place. Sections of yellow and black construction tape cordon off areas where new walls are going up over old ones, wiring is being replaced, and carpeting is being torn up. Jones navigates his way through this maze, ignoring passengers and traders, and nodding to fellow starport personnel.
Dougok glances about at the construction work going on, his ears and nose alert. "A lot of work going replacing the outdated. Is the port to be expanded? I would imagine that there might be cargo to be hauled here as well, no?"
"Well, we gotta update what we got first. Hasn't been much money for maintenance for a long time. The Confederation is finally investin' in the place. After this stuff is done, they'll start scrapin' some money together to add another terminal wing. That's provided the exports continue. If that dries up, this place won't see another credit."
Dougok wags his tail as his ears swivel about. "Exports? Is there a new product being produced here? If the port is being expanded then there may be work bringing materials and then carrying away whatever products are suddenly in vogue."
Jones chuckles, "Nope, same as always, just a lot more of it than before. Rocks, and tons of them. Belters mine the ore, bring it in, and Confederation ships send it out for processing."
There's a long line up ahead but it's for customs. The line for operations isn't so bad. "I'll be waitin' with you. We find it speeds up the process."
Ten minutes later and it's your turn. The person processing the transactions is human.
"Afternoon, Jones," the man says in Galanglic.
"Afternoon, Sharliidiradapar. These fellers are from the Miishakaal which docked at B3. And they speak Galanglic."
"That's refreshing," Sharliidiradapar says with a thin, but honest, smile. "What do you need?"
Gvarokh orders enough fuel to cover the two jumps that they've already expended and enough life support materials to ensure they can reach Diiron (in case things at Deraan—your next stop—go awry and they can only get fuel).
"Ok, your total is 94,100 credits."
Gvarokh tries not to roll his eyes or growl at the cost. He realizes that he doesn't have nearly enough Confederation Credits to cover the bill.
"What's the exchange rate for Imperial Credits?"
"It will cost you 25% more."
Gvarokh grumbles a bit, then pulls out his BankCard to pay the bill, which comes to 117,625 credits.
Sharliidiradapar thanks Gvarokh and says, "A fuel truck will be by in two hours. A life support supply truck should be there an hour after that. Thank you for your business."
Gvarokh thanks Sharliidiradapar and asks for directions to a store that sells protective gear.
Before Sharliidiradapar can answer, Jones interjects, "I can show you where it is."
Gvarokh looks to Sharliidiradapar who shrugs.
Dougok gives a sub-vocal grunt of assent but only Gvarokh picks up on it.
Gvarokh replies, "Sure, why not."
"Alrighty then," Jones says with a smile. "If ya'll follow me, we'll get to it."
The group follows Jones out of the Starport Central Office to the primary corridor.
Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, & Dougok
NPC: Assistant Deputy Warden Jones
Location: Gengfok Downport
Once out in the primary corridor, Jones leads the group down a broad flight of
stairs (escalators are out) to a level that runs directly underneath the primary
corridor. Taking a right, the group walks down the corridor which is lined by
various shops. The corridor ends at the equipment store, entitled
Rradongungoenaerrghon, which roughly translates to "Various equipment for
"Here it is," Jones says. "It ain't much. I'm sure you've seen better."
Indeed he's right. The place primarily caters to belters and those who would work the mining trade. Most of the stuff is low tech. Really low tech. There seems to be a fair amount of TL-8 and better imports but not a whole lot. The group spots vacc suits and they're not impressive. They're all TL-8 imports from Ikhog (oh the irony!) and cost 25,000 credits, which is double what you'd expect to pay. They're big and bulky due to the inferior materials available to provide the protection needed for their occupants.
After a few minutes of examining the suits, Gvarokh says to Dougok, "It's up to you."
Dougok sighs. "I guess we can get it here, in case we run into problems. I can always get a better one later on."
Lakir offers, "I recommend we run a pressure test on it before shellin' out the credits. Maybe have a close look at the inside too."
Gvarokh says, "I like that idea." He tracks down someone who obviously works at the store. In Gvegh, he says, "Hi, can my wolf here try on one of the suits and run a pressure test on it to make sure it's ok?"
The sales clerk growls. "Try it on? What if he's got fleas? Or dandruff? And a pressure test? Do you think we peddle in shoddy merchandise? These are high quality vacc suits from Ikhog! You better not let the store manager hear you. He'll have security toss you out on your tail."
Gvarokh responds without any threatening body language, but his tone is dismissive, "You are far more likely to have fleas and dandruff than my wolf. And these suits are bulky low-tech models. I need to know that they will work when someone's life depends on it. If business is so good you don't need our money; just say so and stop the insults."
"We agree on one thing: Business is so good we don't need your money. Someone less picky will be along soon to buy it." With that he moves on.
The trio leave the store.
Jones is waiting for them out in the corridor. "Didn't have what you were lookin' for?"
Gvarokh replies, "No. They did not."
Dougok adds, "Not at a price we were willing to pay."
Gvarokh continues, "I assume this is the only store that sells vacc suits on base."
Jones, "Yeah, it's the only one at the starport. But there are several other places if you're willing to travel."
Dougok wags his tail as his ears pop up. "How far of a trip?"
"Probably an hour. It's a twenty minute train ride from the port to the city. Then you'll have to cut through the traffic to the commercial district."
Gvarokh shakes his head. "I want you to have a vacc suit that I can trust your life with. We have no idea if the vacc suits in the city are any better than the ones here."
Lakir says, "Seein' how business is so good here, we could look for a few opportunities to fill the vacant space in our hold, even if on the side. I do really want to just get the fuck outta here, but," he shrugs, "I figured that I'd put that out there. Not only does this place blow dead goats, it smells like dead goats, in more ways than one."
Gvarokh shoots down the idea. "He already told us that they just ship out rocks as their primary export. Considering that they're tech level 5 in a near vacuum, I really don't see them having much else to offer.
"Now our next world is tech level B, so that might let us dump some of the rocks, but I really don't see it. The only reason to buy some rocks is to," he takes on a more conspiratorial tone here since he doesn't want to let Jones in on their secret, "maintain our trader status.
"We should just go back to the ship, wait for our supplies, and push off."
NPC: Kagfak, Uennghae, Chuck
Location: Gengfok Downport
Gvarokh, Lakir, and Dougok return to the ship without a vacc suit for Dougok. Gvarokh thanks Assistant Deputy Warden Jones for his help. They now wait for fuel and life support refurbishment.
The fuel truck arrives, a bit later than expected.
Life support supply truck arrives, also later than expected.
All gassed up and ready to go, Miishakaal departs.
As Deraan is the same size as Gengfok, Gvarokh is able to use the thrusters
all the way out to safe jump distance.
Next: Arrival at Deraan