NPC: Kagfak, Uennghae, Chuck
The three weeks spent in jump were totally uneventful. Like the trip from Ikhog
to Gengfok, the crew and passengers spent their time exercising and playing the
occasional game of poker.
Unfortunately, Deraan isn't much better than being cooped up on a ship. Its atmosphere is very thin and tainted. The "taint" is in fact a lower than expected partial pressure for oxygen, thus rendering compressors ineffective. The average temperature is -59°C (-74°F) and the oceans are frozen over. A mix of geothermal energy and the parent star's gravitational pull have kept the seas in a liquid state about two kilometers below the ice. Thus the planet's inhabitants live in domes.
The ship exits jump and Gvarokh gives the order to begin deceleration.
About fifteen minutes later the ship is active scanned and summarily hailed in Gvegh. "Attention unidentified vessel, this is the Confederation Warship Sougtsaeng. Continue your deceleration and prepare to be boarded for inspection." Coordinates are transmitted. "Deviation from this path will be considered an act of hostile intent. Sougtsaeng out."
Passive scans indicate the ship is a Thaksoeghuksaknag class frigate (800 tons disp, 3G). Gvarokh knows better than to piss them off so he sends a message of compliance.
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.
Seven Raiders decked out in combat armor and armed with assault rifles come aboard.
"Boarding party coming aboard!" the group leader barks.
The captain and crew recognize that this one didn't ask for permission, like the guy at Gengfok.
"Cargo manifest," the group leader demands. And, as an afterthought, adds, "please."
Gvarokh hands it over. After a thorough 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 Deraan, 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 out cargo."
The patrol leader sniffs the air. "Are you new to Deraan?"
"Yes, I am new to Deraan but wonder why you ask."
"There have been incursions in Confederation space. Attacks have been made on Confederation citizens. We're hunting down those who are responsible."
Gvarokh asks, "What 'incursions' and 'attacks' are you referring to?"
"There have been attacks at Gamgilebo and Ikhog." He pauses, then says, "Your cargo manifest indicates that your cargo comes from Ikhog. Is this correct?"
The patrol leader sniffs the air. "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 several weeks old, which was when Ikhog was attacked. Since your cargo is from Ikhog, I would say that you were at Ikhog when that world was attacked."
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 were there. At the end of our time at Ikhog, there was indeed an attack on a Touzagh base, but nothing happened to any Confederation citizens that we know of. The only damage was to that nasty infestation of vakh. Honestly, it probably improved the conditions of Ikhog considerably."
The Raider leader growls. "Impudence!"
The rest of the boarding party have their weapons up and pointed at the crew.
Gvarokh continues, "And we did in fact have a dust-up at Ikhog. Some corsairs decided we were prey. They found we were not."
The leader sends the three Raiders to search the upper deck. As they board the lift, the leader returns his attention to Gvarokh. "Are you saying that you're a simple trader who was the victim of an unprovoked attack?"
Gvarokh responds, “Nothing is ever truly unprovoked. Point of fact was that we did not treat some corsairs with what they believed to be the proper amount of respect. They tried to show us the errors of our ways, but learned the errors of theirs."
"Were they members of the Touzagh corsair band?"
Gvarokh testily replies, "What does it matter? Are corsairs suddenly citizens of the Confederation? Because the last I checked, they weren't. We haven't attacked any Confederation ships. We merely settled a score with corsairs."
"Answer the question!" the Raider leader barks. "Were they members of the Touzagh corsair band?"
Gvarokh answers, "I am not entirely sure, really. They come shooting, and we shoot back. There usually isn’t a whole lot of time for pleasantries and general welcomes. It could have been Touzagh, but really, do you honestly think that a lowly free trader really stands a chance against the Touzagh if it was them?"
The Raider leader doesn't answer.
Once the lift reaches the upper deck, the Raiders start barking commands at the passengers. Shortly thereafter, the Raiders and the passengers arrive at the lower deck.
"And who are these humans, Captain?"
Gvarokh responds, “They are simply the surviving crew of a ship attacked by corsairs. We chose to help them in their hour of need.”
"Which corsairs, Captain?"
Gvarokh calmly says, “Again, I am not entirely sure. They looked like they were in danger, so we took them in.”
The answer doesn't appear to placate the Raider leader. He looks like he's wants to say something but then gets distracted by someone speaking over his comm.
"My captain is satisfied with your answers, Captain. For now. I, on the other paw, am not." He turns and departs. The rest of the boarding party follow suit. Without another word, the frigate pulls away, leaving Miishakaal alone in orbit.
NPC: Kagfak, Uennghae, Chuck
As soon as the hatch closes, Simrii says, "Unpleasant chap. Had his tail in a
bit of a twist. How about we hit the pumps and get the hell out of here before
anyone we know shows up."
Gvarokh agrees and, since everyone is assembled, he calls for a meeting. "Oh, and just being totally paranoid, Slade and Lakir, can you make sure they didn’t leave a bug?"
Vincent has his laptop interact with the ship's internal sensors to determine where the boarding party went. Fortunately, they just stuck with the cargo hold, crew lounge and passenger lounge. The sweep doesn't take long and comes up empty.
Lakir breathes a sigh of relief and says, “That was WAY to close for comfort. Dicklicker on the boarding party may’a been shut down by his boss, who didn’t want to start something in orbit for every piece of freelance trade to hit this shithole to see, but that sure as fuck don’t mean they aren’t lookin’ to grease our ass once we hit dirt. Let’s do what we need to, and get the fuck out."
Gvarokh says, "I agree. Let's refuel as quickly as possible and get the hell out of here.
"I wanted to look for a vacc suit for Dougok, but I figure that endeavor has died on the vine."
Dougok says, "The suit can wait." After a pause, he adds, "Actually I find rescue balls slimming and suitable to my fur."
That gets a laugh out of Chuck, Kagfak and Uengghae.
"What’s the law level on this piece O’ shit, and WHY can’t we do what we need to in orbit? I’m just askin’.”
Chuck answers, "Nine. Which is not good. There's no orbital component to the starport so we have to use their downport."
"Shit. Forced to go down the well."
Gvarokh reigns the meeting back to order by speaking a bit louder. "Ok, I want us all to get our stories straight. Here's what we did:
"We shot our mouths in the starport about the Touzagh getting their asses kicked at Gamgilebo, and the wrong persons heard. Combat ensued. The base got blasted just as we were going to leave.
"The passengers were running and hiding while we were out on the town, and we had pity and picked them up. Their story that we don’t know is that they escaped the Touzagh due to the attack on their base. Which obviously was done by a rival raider or something. The attacking ship had to have been at least 400-600 dton in size."
The passengers nod in understanding.
"There is no way we could have done all that damage, as we are just a 200 dton trader. They out-mass and out-gun us. There is no way we could possibly have done any of that. We were simply lucky to fend off our attack.
"I am very much depending on the fact that the Touzagh involved were not willing to admit they got their asses handed to them by a 200 dton trader. If we actually meet one of the ones who were actually there, we are in trouble. But I hope they are not willing to forward the real story, as it is too embarrassing to them.
"I am seriously considering waking up the low berth people just so they can have the common story. I am not quite willing to do it yet, especially if there is any real danger to them."
"I don't know if we have enough refrigerant for that," Chuck says. "I think we're better off just leaving them on ice at least until we know that they'll need to know the cover story."
Gvarokh continues, "Finally, if I am wrong, and we are somehow directly identified as the attacking ship and we can’t get out of it, we will admit to the attack and say that the reason is because we were taking revenge for their stealing our mark. We had hunted and were about to take the Qa Livk, but some other assholes took our mark from us. Enraged, we tracked the bastards down and took what was rightfully ours. The rest of the damage was simple vengeance for their insolence. Part of the crew went with the Donosev, and the rest stayed to give it cover on the way out. We will meet up later, but only the person in charge of the Donosov and Gvarokh know where. This absolves the crew for not knowing. We took the slaves because they were there and could be valuable." He turns to Captain Urshakekar. "Sorry."
"It's ok. Understandable for maintaining your cover."
"The reason for the backup story is because we do NOT in ANY WAY want to admit our connection to the Vilani. That is fatal. At least this backup cover story gives us a chance to live. The cool part of this backup cover story, is that it will cover both the Gamgilebo and Ikhog attacks."
Gvarokh tells Uengghae to handle the descent to the downport and tells everyone to prepare for landing.
NPC: Kagfak, Uennghae, Chuck
Miishakaal has landed at the starport. Gvarokh is relieved that
transactions can be handled online. Unfortunately prices are high: 500
credits/ton for fuel and 1500 credits/person-week of life support. And there's
a 25% surcharge for anyone paying in Imperial credits. Since the group doesn't
have 62,100 Confederation credits (fuel + two weeks life support) so that means
it's going to cost 77,625 Imperial credits. Gvarokh growls at the cost but he
doesn't have much choice.
The one good thing to all this is that no one has to leave the ship or interact with anyone. While there's no chance to stretch one's legs, at least there's less of a chance of stepping into a bear trap.
With the ship re-fueled and enough life support refurbishment chemicals to make it to their next destination (Diiron), Gvarokh gets clearance from the control tower to depart.
Sensors detect a Angrorghag class Seeker moving to intercept. It scans you and then peels off a few minutes later and heads in the opposite direction.
No other ships made any attempt to intercept or contact you. Now that you're at safe jump distance, the order is given to jump.
NPC: Kagfak, Uennghae, Chuck
It's been a long two weeks but morale is good. Everyone realizes that their days
in Confederation space is coming to an end and they've cleared the last hurdle
before reaching the safety of Vlani space. No more cover stories. No more
temperamental Raider boarding parties, just temperamental Vilani ones.
The ship emerges from jumpspace and there's a collective cheer heard throughout the ship. But it's cut short. Passive sensors are detecting laser fire in the space between Diiron and its parent planet, Hujuun. Visual enhancement is picking up several ships buzzing about each other in what is obviously combat.
Hujuun is a small gas giant, only 32,000 miles in diameter (53,333 km). They're far enough out (640,000 miles or 1,066,666 km) that, all things considered, they may not have been noticed. If they were to make a triangle with Hujuun at the apex, Diiron and your ship at the two opposite points, the resulting angle would be 140°. The battle would then be occurring along the Hujuun - Diiron axis.
Dougok groans and goes to fetch a rescue ball.
Gvarokh says to Kagfak, "See if you can use the passive sensors to figure out who the combatants are."
Kagfak plays with the sensors for about ten minutes. His ears are down and his head is slumped between his shoulders. He says in Gvegh, "I can't tell at this range and the EM interference from the gas giant. They're not warships. They're under 1000 tons. That's all I can say. Sorry, Captain."
In Galanglic, Gvarokh says, “Not warships, eh? Well, that means it is likely just a corsair incursion, rather than a Confederation invasion. Good for us. On the other hand, if they get their asses kicked, they are likely to need the gas giant to get away.”
In Gvegh, he adds, “Good job.”
Kagfak's tail wags.
Back in Galanglic, Gvarokh says, “Well, let’s start dumping this vector and see if we are noticed. If they notice us, we can play it out. If not, let’s get our fuel and get out of here.”
NPC: Kagfak, Uennghae, Chuck
Location: Miishakaal, at the gas giant, Hujuun
Miishakaal starts skimming.
Miishakaal emerges from the gas giant with her transponder on and with
full tanks (and bladder). She swings around Hujuun to get a good look at the
former battle site. No more laser fire is detected. But there are still ships
out there. Now that you're closer to them, it should be easier for the passive
scanners to work, but EM interference from the gas giant is still a problem.
Kagfak is able to make out five ships, at least two appear to be adrift. It still isn't possible to make out a positive ID on them though.
Dougok hopes to stow the rescue ball.
Gvarokh directs the comm to listen in for possible radio chatter. Not finding any, it is assumed that the ships are using laser comms.
Gvarokh moves the ship away from Huruun but maintains a respectful distance from the other ships. Kagfak is going over the latest scan data when Miishakaal is noticed thrusting away from the gas giant. The ship is active scanned. A few minutes later she is hailed.
"This is the Diiron Defense Force ship, Dashagirkisgi, calling the Miishakaal. Over."
Kagfak says, "Looks like it was a bunch of Shield class system defense boats fighting off Ueknou corsairs. One of each is adrift. The other ships must have jumped away.
Gvarokh responds, “This is the free trader Miishakaal. We are inbound to Diiron after performing refueling at Hujuun.”
"I'm afraid we can't do permit that, Miishakaal. Not until we verify your identity."
Gvarokh responds, “Fair enough. Especially seeing as you have been having a bit of difficulty. Will you be boarding us yourself, or will you be sending another? Is there any particular path we should take? Or can we just send over our electronic credentials?”
"Well, let's start with a visual." The conversation has been audio only up to this point.
A couple of humans appear on screen. A human female seated at a console and a male, assumed to be the source of the voice, stands behind her. The two appear to be looking at something else.
"Greetings, Captain Gvarokh. I'm Captain Udergaagumaasa of the Dashagirkisgi. You look like who you say you are. Is it safe to say that you're in command of your vessel?"
It's a peculiar question, but Gvarokh answers it anyway, "Yes, I'm in command of my vessel."
Again, the pair appear to be looking elsewhere.
"Ok, Captain. We think we can skip the boarding formalities, but we'd appreciate it if you were to proceed to these coordinates for a thorough check."
The coordinates are on the planet, for a small island far from the downport. Diiron is a water world.
Meanwhile, Dougok heads to the galley to make a meat broth.
Gvarokh responds, “I notice those coordinates are quite a ways from the starport. Are we being quarantined?” He sounds puzzled, not annoyed or hostile.
"Yes. It's a precautionary measure until things calm down and we can verify your identity."
"On second thought, I think we're going to pass."
"We're going to move on to Timat. They know us there and we'd rather debrief with them."
"We know Security Chief Rothchild and it would be much easier working with him."
He doesn't look happy. "Ok, Captain. I am within my rights to detain you here, but you haven't done anything wrong. I'll admit your behavior is a bit suspicious, but my plate is full right now so I'm going to trust you right now. Do me a favor though."
"What's that, Captain?"
"Have Rothchild drop me a line as soon as you get in, ok? I'll sleep better."
"Will do. One question for you."
"Did the Qa Livk pass through here?"
"I'm sorry but until I can verify your ID, I can't divulge that information."
"Fair enough. Miishakaal out."
Miishakaal drives to safe jump distance without interference from the other ships and jumps to Timat.
Next: Arrival at Timat