Gvarokh and Shiraamer Do Some Research

Characters: Shiraamer, Gvarokh, & Vincent
Location: Miishakaal, parked at the Larkarda Starport.

1125.6.4 - 17:00 / 15:30 local time (18 1/2 hr day)
The Captain, Gvarokh and Vincent are back on board the Miishakaal, in the crew lounge. Gvarokh states that he has to search for available cargoes and reference them with star charts for the ship's destination.

Vincent: "I'd like to do some research on our new employer. Do some background checks on our contact, the man we are looking for, the company he said he worked for and any news related articles I can find...you never know..."

Gvarokh: "Captain, when would be a good time to do a quick map hit? I would like to go over a couple of travel options. We are going to be crossing a hostile border, so I figure we are probably going to want to make sure we can be as innocuous as possible."
Shiraamer nods as she resets security, she ponders a bit before speaking. "We're going to need to be careful on this run. Let me grab some fresh coffee and when you're ready just let me know. I'll be checking out some of the rules and regulations on traveling into that part of space also. Last thing we need is being stopped and finding out that we didn't have proper paperwork." She sighs. "Paperwork. With the computers and technology that is available today, they still call it paperwork and somebody is always looking for it. Enough of this draining talk though, I'll see you in a bit." Shiraamer smiles and turns to head to get fortified with coffee and start her research.

Gvarokh and Vincent head to the bridge. Vincent sits down in front of the main computer while Gvarokh sits in the pilot's chair and uses the terminal available at that station.

Meanwhile, the captain pours herself another cup of coffee and heads to her cabin to use the terminal in her quarters.

Characters: Captain Shiraamer, Gvarokh & Vincent
Locations: The Captain is in her stateroom while Gvarokh & Vincent are on the bridge of the Miishakaal

17:10 / 15:40 local
Sitting in the pilot's chair, Gvarokh calls up a map of the local area on the workstation he's at. He also logs into CargoNet, the starport's listing of cargoes in need of transport as well as those for sale and those desired to buy.

Shiraamer sits down at her desk in her stateroom. The terminal is on and connected to the InfoNet. She takes a sip of her coffee and prepares herself mentally to get down to business.

She plugs the holocrystal into the crystaldata port on her terminal. Her antiviral software gives the all clear sign and the crystal's contents are displayed. She start withs the dossier on the agent.

The agent's name is Oda Linnachre. There are various photos of her at company functions as well as her company ID card. She's quite an attractive woman. She's 35, 158 cm tall (5 ft 2 in), and weighs 50 kgs (110 lbs). She has long, dark blonde hair, and cloudy gray eyes. She has an 8 cm long scar on the left side of her neck which extends to her shoulder. In most of the photos, she wears high-collared shirts, sweaters, or jumpsuits to conceal it. There is no mention how she got the scar.

It says that she has a bachelor's degree in business administration. After college she went to work for Wellesmoor Diversified Products Inc. and has been there ever since. It mentions how she rose through the employment ranks via meritorious promotions. Ten years ago she transferred into Product Development. Five years ago she volunteered for the role of New Product Acquisition Agent.

In her employee files are several reports regarding her discovery of, tracking down of, negotiations over, and subsequent stealing of the bioscanner. The last message details that she got as far as Theton but can't go any further without risking being caught.

All in all, the reports detail a bright, ambitious woman who seems to have taken one risk too many.

After several minutes of studying the star charts, Gvarokh leans back in his chair and sighs. Initially, he just needed to know the "better" path to take. The obvious path is to hit Gishinridu first, then immediately move into Vilani space. Barring hangups, it will take 6 jumps to get to Theton. The other path is to hit Phago, then loop around to Gegirur, Vakkuum, and so on to the destination. This will take an extra jump, but keeps them in Imperial space for most of the journey. (see map)

He's not sure which path will give the group the least political hangups. Crossing Imperial borders wasn't a problem until the war started. One just had to know if the other nation was hostile to the Imperium or not. Once the war started, going anywhere vargr-owned meant that you risked corsair attack in a big way. It wasn't long before trading with vargr states ceased altogether.

After 1120, intra-imperial political borders became a new headache. As the war got ugly it was hard to get reliable data on who was impounding whose ships and who was still permitting trade. With an Imperial registry, how much crap will the Vilani put the ship through? Although he hasn't heard anything negative about the vilani restricting trade, they did suspend dividend payments on the emperor's assets in all vilani corps. But they did agree to an exchange of assets with the non-vilani megacorps. Maybe the captain is having some luck figuring that out.

And then there's where should the group cross into vilani space. Gvarokh thinks that regardless of the path, a Vilani client world should be used as a stepping stone. They should be able to clue the group in on any rules and regulations they'll have to abide by to get reasonable access to vilani space.

Gvarokh decides to check the library data on Gishinndu and Shuka. Both worlds were loyal Imperial worlds even after Vland seceded from the Imperium and both have naval bases. There are excerpts from news articles where the world's leaders have decried Lucan's withdrawal of Imperial forces from Lishun and appealed for aid from the vilani. There's also reports from Shuka where Vilani naval vessels assisted the local squadron thwart a vargr attack. Ahhhh here it is. In 1122, both worlds' base commanders declared mutual defense pacts with the vilani against corsairs and an outright refusal to withdraw their ships from defense of their worlds. There doesn't seem to be a reply from Capital about what could be considered a treasonous act.

Vincent contacts the captain through the comm, "I've finished checking the public record on Mersshon and Wellesmoor and would like to go over the results with you."

She replies, "I'll be meeting with Gvarokh in a bit to go over some more things. Find out as much as you can and keep us informed."

Vincent replies, "Ok. Is it ok if I use 'special means' of getting more information." Apparently he wants to start hacking.

She replies, "Can you also check and see what you can dig up on Oda Linnachre. I can tell you that she's 35, 158 cm tall (5 ft 2 in), and weighs 50 kgs (110 lbs). She has an 8 cm long scar on the left side of her neck which extends to her shoulder. I don't see anything though that mentions how she got it. Here is her company ID number. It might be nothing, but you are better at digging then I am. One thing stands out. In all of the reports it shows her as a bright, ambitious woman who seems to have taken one risk too many... don't become her male counterpart. Miisha and I need you Vincent, just be very careful."

"Gotcha."

Vincent drums his fingers on the console by the main computer. He stands and starts to leave the bridge. "Gvarokh, I'm going to go buy myself a laptop so that my enhanced investigation of Mersshon and Wellesmoor aren't immediately traceable back to the ship and you guys. Ok?"

Gvarokh replies, "Sounds like a good idea. See you when you get back."

Vincent closes his computer session and leaves the ship.

Gvarokh gets back to checking the newsfeeds for any local vilani - imperial ugliness along the border. Open conflict has been dwindling since the vilani seceded from the Imperium. Plenty of rhetoric has been exchanged by both sides and it's been backed up by alot of posturing. One side moves their squadron here and the other side moves to counter. There are accusations of privateering by both sides and there is concrete evidence that both sides are guilty. If there's a long term trend, it's that conflict between the two has shrunk from fleet-sized engagements down to squadron conflicts and then down to patrols exchanging fire. Either both sides don't have the resources or they're busy elsewhere.

What hasn't let up are vargr attacks. Vargr corsairs, privateers, and state sponsored raiders continue to raid shipping along the Imperial and Vilani borders. Statistical analysis of raid frequency is definitely higher the closer one gets to vargr occupied territory.

Strategy speculators feel that Lucan should forego attacks against the Vilani and ally with them to drive out the vargr invaders. More Imperial worlds will fall to vargr invasion that vilani expansionism, though some would say that coreward border worlds in Lishun might join the vilani for their protection as Lucan seems preoccupied with defeating other factions rimward.

Supporters of Lucan counter that cooperating with the vilani legitimizes their grievances. Sacrifices need to be made and just as soon as Lucan has dealt with that traitor Dulinor, the vargr will be swept away in an instant. Some even say that Dulinor is encouraging the vargr invasion and their cowardly attacks will cease once Dulinor's support vanishes. Of course Dulinor denies these accusations.

It would seem that the route through Gishinridu is the safer way to go. While Vladgorkfeg and Gvarokh might bluff their way past vargr corsairs, could they guarantee the safety of the crew? The Gishinridu route is no safe bet but the odds of being attacked by pirates is lower than going the Phago route. And the vilani might not be as bad as the Imperium is making them out to be. The captain is a fair amount of vilani in her after all.

Gvarokh turns his attention to CargoNet. There's several available cargoes for delivery to worlds along the Gishinridu route. No need to grab one just yet. Activity on the boards seems light. Maybe not too many traders want to risk the unknown of heading into vilani space. The cargoes that seem to be getting the most attention are ones rimward back towards what TAS has labeled the Imperial Safe.

Meanwhile, Shiraamer gets back to the data on the crystal. There's a file on where to meet Oda on Theton. Apparently there's a bar at the starport where she'll give her contact a call sign. The crew must give the countersign. No need to study that now.

She does a search on InfoNet for Theton and downloads the info to the ship's library. She begins reading up on it. Theton is a nasty place. Large quantities of nitric acid in the atmosphere have given it a "corrosive atmosphere" label. Technically it's a "water world" since it has no land, but "acid bath" is more accurate. No native life. Duh. The reason why anyone's paying it any attention is the lanthanum deposits. That makes sense.

The place has a population of almost 6 million. Most live on the surface but there are orbital cities as well.

Government: It's a colony of Arga (Vland 3106). Law Level 3. Nice. Tech Level 11. Average Imperial.

The star system has an asteroid belt but no gas giants. That sucks. B starport. Well, at least the starport is good. "Note: fuel shuttles skim ammonia from the atmosphere and refined into hydrogen to sell as fuel at the starport. Fuel prices are 5 times that of the norm." You'll be getting my bill Mersshon.

Checking history now. Unclaimed until about -100 though individuals and small groups tried their hand at mining the place. Arga colonists settled the place and have owned it ever since. They used the place as a penal mining colony at first before opening it up to everyone. However, the penal mining colonies still exist. Swell. In 625 a naval base is built. In 645 the planet becomes subsector capital. Really? When Vland secedes from the Imperium in 1120, Theton takes sides with Vland.

Well that's enough of that. Time to check out the red tape. The Restored Vilani Empire (RVE)requires all ships that travel within its borders to be registered. Unfortunately, this can only be accomplished in RVE territory. Word from transborder merchants is that there are forms to fill out and the ship's transponder gets replaced. The process typically takes 30 days(!) or so during which time the ship must remain grounded. The registration fee is $5,000 plus $10 for every ton of ship displacement. Good grief!

Docking fees, fuel prices and starports are similar to what's available in the main Imperium. That makes sense. As for cargo, all cargo must be registered. Cargo registration fee is a one time cost of $20 per ton of cargo and is done at the cargo sourceworld, or, for transborder shipments, at the point that a ship enters RVE space. That certainly cuts into profit margins.

There doesn't appear to be any cargo restrictions other than the standard WMD ban, but that only applies to the RVE as a whole. Individual worlds may have their own restrictions.

Shiraamer stops at this point. It's alot of information to digest. Gvarokh has sent a message stating that he's ready to meet if she is. Just give the word.

She replies, "Shiraamer here. I'm reading about Theton now and not liking what I'm reading either. We can meet in my stateroom. I'll see you in a bit then. Tell Vincent to just meet with us when he is ready."

Gvarokh replies "OK. See you then. Vincent just stepped out to run an errand. Said he wanted to get a new computer so that he could keep the ship's computer free from any of his investigations. Seemed a prudent precaution to me."

Gvarokh sets up his hand comp to directly interface with the terminal that he's been working on over the ship's wireless network. No downloading necessary. He tidies up his notes and heads to her cabin.

NEXT: Shiraamer and Gvarokh's Meeting