A Need to Leave

Characters: Vlad, Lakir, Gvarokh, Slade, Simrii, Vincent
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae, Kagfak, Major Arsashaammu, Major Elloekothe
Location: Pack of Daggers, parked at Merghia Downport
System: Odinaga

1126.34.7 - 2:15 Imperial Time, 10:15 Vilani Time

There's an unusual buzzing sound coming from the comm system.

Chuck says, "Uh oh," as he taps it.

"This is an emergency alert. This is not a drill. This is an emergency alert. All civilians should proceed to a shelter. All security and first responder personnel report to your duty officer." The message repeats.

The comm chimes. Chuck answers it, "We heard it, Muncie." Muncie is the name of your scout escort.

"I'm getting word from security that a squadron of ten unidentified ships came out of the shadow of the gas giant on an unauthorized vector. Scans put them as a mix of Ueknou class corsairs, Enkongsuerrgvo class packets, and a Thaksoeghuksaknag class frigate. At current course and speed, ETA to firing range is two hours. Since they're deep in the well, we should have plenty of time to get out of here."

"Ok, let's bolt," Chuck says.

"No, we can't," Gvarokh counters. "Dougok isn't back yet."

Chuck bites his lip.

Gvarokh tries to call Dougok, but the comm system says that it is unable to contact him. Gvarokh growls while he types out a message. He then instructs the comm system to keep trying and notify him when the message is sent.

While Gvarokh composes the message and configures the comm, Lakir arrives on the bridge, having heard the emergency alert. Chuck brings him up to speed while he waits for Gvarokh to finish.

"Cap'n, you better make sure we're good to go. This looks bad with us showin' up with Vargr in the crew mix, followed straight away by these raiders poppin' in. I'd hate to get gunned in the back as we leave.

"Also, maybe Vincent should check the station’s comms to make sure Dougok hasn't been grabbed. Might be a good idea, just sayin', given his charmin' personality."

Gvarokh replies, "Good idea. Go ahead and have Vincent do it."

Lakir comms Vincent and explains things. "I'm on it," Vincent says.

Vincent checks the incarceration log listed on starport security's netsite. No vargr have been arrested in over a month. "Do you want me to hack their systems?"

Lakir sucks in a breath. "I'd recommend against it. It'd be a shitty time for things to possibly go sideways."

"I agree," Gvarokh says. "No reason to do that. I doubt they would have reason to mess with that."

Lakir says, "Hey Chuck, how much time do we have to avoid an intercept and hit the jump point at a non-taxing burn?"

"Give me a minute." He turns his attention to the pilot's computer.

Lakir continues, "We don't want to get caught out in a high speed run if the targets change their approach profile. And we sure as hell want to avoid their missile engagement envelope. We know how much that blows."

Chuck answers, "Well I can put your mind at ease on their approach profile." He puts the gas giant and its moons up on the holoscreen. "The invaders came from the far side of the gas giant, so they're deep in the well. We're out here." He highlights Odinaga. "When we leave, they're gonna be eating our thruster plume. We're headed in the opposite direction.

"Jumping in is always tricky. The gas giant often forces ships to precipitate out of jump ahead of Odinaga. Same thing happened to us on the way in. Variations in jump space and all that crap. But here's the kicker: we're outside of the gas giant's gravity well. We only have to deal with Odinaga. Ah, here's the calculations: 135 minutes at 1G, 96 minutes at 2G, and 78 minutes at 3G. That's all constant thrust. Obviously, if we coast it'll be longer."

At that moment the comm panel announces, "Message sent."

Vlad's ears droop. "Do we have any access to the local security network? Meaning, can we get some sort of a heads up in the event somebody decides we're the bad guys here? Not that I want to bail on Dougok, but I'd hate to be locked up here, right before somebody turns the place into a debris field."

Chuck says, "I'd like to think that Muncie would let us know. Right, Muncie?"

"Right," Muncie replies over the comm.

Chuck adds, "If Colonel Garmin from Sharurshid knew we were here, maybe he'd let us know. Or maybe that starport warden Lakir met with last time."

Lakir snaps his fingers once he remembers her name. "Kushurlake."

The comm announces, "Message from Dougok: I'm delayed at immigration."

The group looks puzzled at the mention of "immigration".

"What's he trying to do?" Chuck wonders aloud.

Gvarokh asks, "Who do you guys think would be best to ask to get Dougok out of immigration and back on our ship?"

Chuck replies, "Garmin. Definitely Garmin. And if he can't do it, maybe Kushurlake."

Muncie concurs. "Garmin. This mission is above Kushurlake's pay grade."

Gvarokh takes their advice and calls Colonel Garmin.

A woman answers the comm. "Colonel Garmin's office."

"Is the colonel available?"

"I'm sorry, but he's a bit busy right now."

"This is a bit of an emergency."

"Well, he is dealing with the current emergency right now."

"Can I send him a message at least?"

"Sure."

"Tell him that Captain Gvarokh of the...Miishakaal has a vargr crewmember who's being held up at immigration. We're trying to depart before the attack force arrives."

"I'll give him the message."

"Thanks."

Gvarokh sighs. "I guess it's time to call immigration. Let's give that a shot. Chuck, I think it's best if a human talks to them."

"Sure thing." Once he makes sure Gvarokh is out of sight of the video feed, Chuck gets the immigration department on the comm. "Hi, one of my crewmates texted us to say that he's being delayed by one of your staff members."

"Oh?" says the late middle aged man. "I wasn't aware anyone had even applied." He turns his attention to the monitor at his desk. "What did you say your crewman's name was?"

"Dougok. He's a vargr male."

The man stops his computer search and returns his attention to Chuck. "Sir, we haven't had a vargr applicant in years. And if we had one today, I'd think that security would give him a thorough interview before he could even file the paperwork for immigrating here."

"Ummmm, ok thanks. He must've got his location wrong."

"No problem. Get somewhere safe, sir. The shelters fill up pretty quick."

"Thanks." He terminates the call.

Gvarokh tries to call Dougok again. The comm system's status message repeats "trying to establish connection" over and over.

He growls and instructs the comm system to keep trying and also send him the following text: "We have to leave now! Where EXACTLY are you? You are not at immigration."

Again, the comm system's status is "attempting to send message".

Lakir says, "So immigration doesn't have him, and his message to us was a text. This doesn't look good. He probably pissed off the wrong batch of local lowlifes, or staff with a grudge, and is now a plaything somewhere.

"Maybe I can try Kushurlake. She was a big help last go round. She might remember us and have some intel. With the current situation, I doubt I'll get through, but I can leave a message. If we go that route, how much of our mission or command structure do you want me to hang out there? Your call, Cap'n."

As Gvarokh mulls this over, the comm system announces, "Connection established. Message sent. Connection lost. Trying to re-establish connection..."

Vlad sighs and shakes his head.

Gvarokh says to Lakir, "Give it a try. Don't mention our mission or anything, but you can let it slip that we are still 'on the job' if needed."

Lakir looks up Deputy Warden Kushurlake in the local directory and gives her a call. He gets her voicemail. He leaves a message stating that one of their crewmen, a vargr, has gone missing. He states that the missing crewman thought he was in immigration, but a call there turned up nothing. Lakir further states that he hates to bother her during the current crisis, but they are currently "on assignment" and it is imperative that they leave ASAP.

Meanwhile, Gvarokh tracks down Elloe and explains the situation.

She growls upon hearing about Dougok's recklessness. "We haven't left Vilani space, and he's already jeopardizing the mission!"

Gvarokh agrees with her to keep her calm. "Do you have any contacts or favors you can call in to get us out of here?"

"Garmin is my only contact here. The situation here has deteriorated so much over the past six months, that it isn't even safe for loyal vargr to operate freely. I haven't set foot off any ship I've been on while here in a year. I always talk to Garmin on the comm."

While Gvarokh mulls over what Elloe said, Vincent has joined them in the crew lounge. He says, "If time becomes a factor, I would like to try and use the starport's security system to try and find him so we can get the hell outta here. Again, I know this is a last resort option, just letting you know I am good to go on your say so captain!"

There is a note of regret in Gvarokh's voice when he replies to Vincent. "Go find him. Keep your presence as light as possible, but find our missing wolf."

Vincent hurries to his room to grab his laptop.

Gvarokh turns to Elloe. "Please give Garmin a try, too. If you get him, do mention you are working with me, so he knows to connect my message with your request."

Elloe nods and leaves.

Dougok at Starport Security

Character: Dougok
Location: Merghia Downport - Starport Security Office
System: Odinaga

1126.34.7 - 2:45 Imperial Time, 10:45 Vilani Time

Dougok follows the man into a windowless room. There's a table with four chairs. The room is lit with recessed lights. "Have a seat," he says. "Someone will be with you shortly."

"Can I have a bowl of water? Please."

The man pauses for a few seconds, then says, "Sure."

He leaves, but returns two minutes later with the bowl of water, and then departs again.

Dougok sniffs the water. It smells like normal water. He tastes it. Normal again. He then leans back in the chair and waits.

And waits.

He grows restless and checks his chronometer. He's been in the room for 15 minutes. He decides to text Gvarokh to say that he's delayed at immigration.

Unfortunately, the comm states it is unable to send the message at it is unable to broadcast a signal.

Five minutes later the door opens and two men enter. Both are dressed like the first guy. Neither is armed. One has a shaved head, the other a crew cut. They close the door behind them.

The comm announces in his ear that the text message has been sent. Then Dougok feels his comm vibrate to indicate he has a message. He sub-vocalizes a double click to indicate he wants to hear the message.

"Text message from Gvarokh. Dougok, it's time to go. Now!"

Unfortunately, he can't reply to the message with the men in the room.

The bald one holds up a tablet. "It says here that your name is Dougok En-nay-garz. So Doug, what brings you to Odinaga?"

Dougok wags his tail. "I'm just going where my captain takes the ship."

The bald man seems unamused. "Who is your captain? And where is he taking the ship?"

"Our captain is Gavhrok. As to where we are heading, I don't know. I'm not privy to that information. I'm sure they've filed the required flight plans." He considers the two men. "I'm not sure what that has to do with getting a pass. If that's a problem, then I'll just request one the next time we are here."

"The next time you're here? And here I was under the impression that you were here to stay."

Before Dougok can reply to that, crew cut says, "Gav-hu-rock? That sounds like a vargr name to me."

Bald man answers him, "I'm sure it is." Turning his attention back to Dougok, he asks, "And what's the name of your ship?"

"My ship? It's the only one in the docks."

The bald one consults his tablet.

Dougok takes advantage of the pause in what has become an interrogation instead of an interview. He flicks his ears back, sniffs the air, and says slowly, "I've no desire to settle on your planet. It's unfortunate that raiders have created such an atmosphere of tension, but the facts are what they are. I'm just interested in stretching my legs and seeing what trading opportunities might present themselves." Crew cut guffaws in disbelief, but Dougok continues unimpeded. "There may be food or liquor to buy in places that might make our shipboard meals more palatable or even something that might sell well in a n eighboring system, even in small lots."

"Like Gamgilebo?" crew cut says with a sneer.

Before Dougok can reply to that, bald guy, who's been waiting for Dougok to finish, says, "According to the warden's office, there are five ships in port. So I'll ask you again, what's the name of your ship?"

Dougok is not impressed with the level of hostility and crosses his arms. He gives a short grunt in response to crew cut. "Are we going to trade insults or answer questions?"

Crew cut looks incredulous. "Dog, I haven't even begun to insult you—"

Bald guy interrupts him and says to Dougok, "You're the one who's supposed to be answering questions. So how about it?"

Dougok looks at crew cut and then back to bald guy. "I call the ship Kharnafkh or Swooping Eagle. I think he has a human name. I don't concern myself with that. It's the one that just arrived. I could point it out to you if you have a screen."

Bald guy replies, "There aren't any ships with those names here."

Dougok chuffs in laughter at having baited the obnoxious pinkie. He doesn't pursue the issue further.

Crew cut says, "Forget it, man. He ain't talking. We're just wasting our time here."

Bald guy nods.

The two move towards the door. Bald guy says, "We'll come back to talk to you after we've dealt with your friends' invasion force."

"Invasion force?" Dougok blurts out mockingly. "Even one ship hardly makes that."

They open the door and leave.

While the door is open, Dougok's comm vibrates to indicate he has another text message. Dougok sub-vocalizes a double click to hear the message.

"Text message from Gvarokh. We have to leave now! Where EXACTLY are you? You are not at immigration."

The men close the door behind them.

While he listens to the message, he frantically types out a message: "Dealing with questions. Heading back now." He hits send but unfortunately, the comm states it is unable to send the message at it is unable to broadcast a signal.

After watching the comm futilely try to broadcast his text, he gets up and tries the door. It's locked. Dougok bangs on the door, but there's no response. He keeps banging on the door and shouting for several minutes before growing tired. He sits back down. He gets the impression that he's going to be here awhile. He puts his head down and dozes off.

Searching For Dougok

Characters: Vlad, Lakir, Gvarokh, Slade, Simrii, Vincent
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae, Kagfak, Major Arsashaammu, Major Elloekothe
Location: Pack of Daggers, parked at Merghia Downport
System: Odinaga

1126.34.7 - 3:15 Imperial Time, 11:15 Vilani Time

Gvarokh returns to the bridge to find that Lakir was unsuccessful in contacting DW Kushurlake. "Coordinate with Simrii and Chuck in case we need to put a very quick strike team together. Hopefully, that will be unnecessary, but we might as well be ready if we need it."

Lakir nods.

Chuck, who is still on the bridge, asks, "Combat armor or flex?"

Lakir replies, "Let's keep it low key, and as non-lethal as we can. We don't want to screw our relationship with the locals too badly if we need to come back through here again. We'll take some lethal gear, but it's weapons tight on that shit, unless I say otherwise."

Chuck nods.

Vincent returns to the crew lounge with his laptop so that he is within earshot of the bridge.

Elloe calls in over the comm. "I didn't get Garmin either. Left a message with his secretary."

Vlad asks, "How much time do we have, before we absolutely have to leave?"

Looks to be a little less than two hours," Gvarokh replies. "We really probably want to get out in not much more than an hour to try and evade detection. If we wait for the last minute, we will likely be detected, even if we use the planet as a shield."

Meanwhile, Vincent has fired up his laptop and begun to hack starport security. It isn't long before he announces, "I'm in."

There's a menu screen with options for: Booking, Dispatch, HR, Identification, Inventory, Scheduling, Surveillance, Traffic. Vincent chooses "Surveillance" and is given a new screen with options for "Live Feeds" and "Archived Footage". But before he can select one, he's prompted for another username and password.

He tries the one he started with but gets rejected.

Gvarokh comes over to observe his progress.

Vincent pulls up the login database and tries to figure out from the columns who has permission to view surveillance videos. He thinks he's figured out which data columns correspond to screen permissions and tries another name. That one works. He selects "Archived Footage" and is given yet another sub-menu: Administrative Offices, Civilian Entrance, External, Hangar Bays & Terminals, Lower Levels, Mall, Security.

Vlad has joined them and grumbles about the user experience.

"The Vilani are very much function over form," Vincent replies as he finds the security cameras corresponding to their hangar bay. "Innovation is considered disruptive. Their motto basically is: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Hey, what time did you guys leave the ship?"

"8:30 local time."

"Ok, here you are."

The trio is observed walking through the terminal, and just before they reach the mall, they're stopped by a pair of security officers. Vlad and Lakir are then observed heading back to the ship while Dougok strides defiantly towards the mall. Vincent notes the time stamp before switching over to the mall cameras. He finds Dougok again, strolling the length of the mall. People in other cameras can be seen stopping in their tracks and watching him, sometimes pointing, as he walks the length of the concourse towards the civilian entrance/exit.

At this point, the comm chimes. Thirty minutes after Gvarokh left a message with Garmin's secretary, he's returning the call. Before Gvarokh makes his way to the bridge to take it, he says to Vincent, "If you find Dougok, let me know immediately."

Garmin's image appears on the screen. "Captain Gvarokh, I'm sorry that I haven't been able to call to say hello, but I didn't know you were here. And now with the current situation unfolding, I'm afraid that I don't have much time. What's this about a missing crewman? A vargr?"

Gvarokh replies, "I apologize for contacting you under such bad circumstances. I would not contact you in a situation like this if it were not urgent. We are trying to clear out and stay out of the way, but before this whole situation started, one of our crewmen decided to take a walk. Unfortunately, that crewman is a vargr. Also unfortunately, we believe he has been apprehended. We're hoping he was arrested; we're fearing it might be unofficial. We're not sure of the fastest way to get him back."

Garmin exhales a big sigh. "Your timing sucks. If I hadn't received word earlier that you're on a special assignment, you would've had to wait. I will check with starport security and get back to you."

"Thank you, Colonel."

"Don't thank me yet."

After the call is terminated, Gvarokh checks back with Vincent. It appears that Dougok walked towards the exit, but stopped when he reached the lobby. He then turned around and walked into the Administration section where he talked to a woman behind the desk at the entrance.

Now that Gvarokh is caught up, Vincent continues. Dougok is observed standing around waiting for a while, then someone from Starport Security comes and talks to him. The two then leave together, but it's apparent from the video that Dougok isn't under arrest.

Dougok follows the officer into Starport Security, and Vincent loses him. Vincent maneuvers through screens trying to find Dougok. Camera concentration isn't high, so it takes a while before he is spotted again sitting at a desk and filling out paperwork with the officer who escorted him.

The comm chimes again. It's Garmin. Gvarokh scoots back to the bridge to take the call.

"We found him. He was in Starport Security being interrogated. Apparently, he was filling out a registration form, and his answers led them to believe that he was some kind of advanced scout for the invasion force that's on its way. He's lucky that they didn't have the time to get past level one interrogation techniques. I've arranged for his release. If he hasn't been delivered to you in an hour, call me back."

Gvarokh thanks him, and the call ends.

"Should I keep looking for him?" Vincent asks.

"Might as well," Gvarokh replies. Over the ship comm, he says, "I want to lift off the moment the hatch closes behind Dougok. Lakir, go to the hatch and make sure he makes it on board ok."

"Roger that."

"Muncie, are you getting telemetry on that invasion force?"

"Yep."

"Could you patch it through? I want to plot the best departure vector to minimize the chances of our being spotted."

"You bet."

After another ten minutes of searching, Vincent says that he lost Dougok from the archived footage. "He and the officer got up and walked off camera. I can't find him on any of the other cameras."

"Maybe they left. Check the other cameras."

Vincent keeps searching but comes up empty.

Next: Leaving in a Hurry