Imperial Outfitters on Hteh Hut

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Hteh Hut Starport
System: Hteh Hut

1126.23.1 - 19:00 Imperial Time, 19:00 Vilani Time

The trio step into Imperial Outfitters. They sniff the air and have a look around. The first thing that catches their eyes is the display for comms gear.

Communicators vary in size and performance. Network-only comms offer the most variety. From the miniscule commdots up to handheld varieties with as much power as simple computers. There is virtually no limit beyond except for one's wallet. One can also supplement range and network dependence by adding a multiplexer. These can be worn on a belt or placed in one's pocket.

Network-independent varieties aren't as small as they require extra battery power and antennae to properly transmit. The best models have a range of 300 miles, measure 10 cm by 7.5 cm by 2.5 cm depth and weigh half a kilo. The battery can communicate continuously for 6 hours at the 300 mile range. Encryption comes standard. Smaller models have a range of 30 miles and similar battery endurance but are much smaller (10 cm by 5 cm by 1.25 cm) and weigh 100 grams.

Fi checks out the 300-mile network-independent (NI) multiplexer and wearable comms that go along with it. Wearable comms include hearing dots that attach to the ear and models disguised as earrings. There are some fake fur mics that clip on to fur found at the throat to pick up vibrations. There's also obvious headgear if one isn't attempting to be clandestine.

The NI multiplexer also works with network-dependent comm systems, so one can make use of smart phones, tablets, hand computers, etc.

The 300-mile NI multiplexer goes for 500 credits. The commdots for hearing and speaking go for 25 cr each.

Verroel glances over at the equipment that Fi has found and wags his tail. "I like the multiplexer and comms that go with it. Let's get the lot including the disguised equipment and the headset. Sometimes we want to show and sometimes we don't." He looks about and spots a young human female clerk. "Do the comm dots work with each other independently over a shorter range?"

The clerk replies, "You'd have to be really close, like two meters. They only have enough power to reach the multiplexer, which is never intended to be far from the user."

"Do you sell encryption software for these comms?"

"Yes, we do. It runs around 50 cr."

Once they're done with the communications department, the trio make their way over to outdoor clothing, and adverse atmosphere equipment is right next to it.

There appears to be a variety of outdoor clothing and boots, tailored for both human and vargr. There's water repellent, insulated, heat reflective and absorbent, air-conditioned and heated, sleeveless and sleeved, hats and glasses.

With the adverse atmosphere gear, they have models designed to fit either vargr or humans. There are compressors, filter masks, and filtered compressors. There's also a variety of filter cartridges for various taints: dust, sulfur, pollen, and general microbial. Head gear (to keep taints out of one's eyes and ears) attaches to the filter mask and is transparent. There are also environmental suits if one is worried about taints or chemicals.

There are tents and pressurized tents, survival bubbles, and some small prefab cabins kits.

Fi prices some insulated clothing and boots and aviator sunglasses. Longjohns are 15 cr. Insulated shirts and pants are 25 cr each. Coats and snow pants are 100 credits each. The boots are 100 cr. For extreme conditions, there's a heatsuit for 1000 cr. The sunglasses are 75 cr.

He finds a vargr filter mask and goggles set (together or separate) for 100 cr. And it comes with a set of four filter cartridges for the most common taints.

The doctor in him looks up something to treat exposure besides lots of blankets. There are some heatpacks which provide warmth to specific locations on the body. They go for 5 cr each or a box of 20 for 50 cr. Ideally, someday they'll invest in an automed for the ship. But in the meantime, he'll have to make do with what he can buy. Although vargr aren't nearly as susceptible to frostbite as humans, he figures that buying some BurnMelt, an ointment for cold burns, couldn't hurt. Each 8 oz tube goes for 10 cr.

Verroel says, "I think we definitely want the filter mask and goggles sets. Maybe a few spares. I would say a set of insulated clothing for each of us plus a heatsuit. You never know when we might need them."

Vued nods his head in agreement. "Sometimes fur isn't enough."

Verroel decides that everyone needs a set of LI/IR goggles. He adds a spare set to his tab. He also grabs two vargr and one human-fitted spare filter masks and goggles.

Tea and Then Some

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Hteh Hut Starport
System: Hteh Hut

1126.23.1 - 20:00 Imperial Time, 20:00 Vilani Time

With all of their purchases made, and arrangements made to have the goods delivered to their ship, the trio departs Imperial Outfitters. Fi spots a shop called "Morning Extract" and heads to it. He discovers a wide selection of tea, coffee, and other lesser known breakfast beverages.

Fi walks in and buys two boxes of Earl Grey and three boxes of mixed organic teas. Each box contains twenty tea bags and costs ten credits. He sniffs the boxes, drawing in the aromas and smiling to himself. "That'll do nicely."

Satisfied with his purchase, Fi joins his crewmates in the street. Verroel has had a chance to look around while waiting for Fi and thinks that the "Regal Wolf" would be a good choice to grab a beer or two and listen around.

Verroel leads his pack over to the bar. There's a sign depicting a well dressed vargr holding a pint of beer. The pint glass is more suited for a human's face than a vargr's, but judging from the sound of the crowd inside, no one seems to mind. The name and the sound of the crowd strikes him as auspicious.

Once inside, the trio note that the place is crowded, but not overtly so. It's easy enough to move around. Verroel takes a deep breath, scenting the mood and nature of the crowd, as well as the place itself. It feels welcoming.

Off to the left is the bar in a reverse L shape. On the right are probably a dozen tables. An aisle divides the two sides up the middle. The decor looks like it's from the sailing ship days of Terra. The crowd is a 50/50 mix of vargr and humans. While the tables are divided according to race, about 1/4 of them are mixed. There is one table available and a few seats at the bar.

Fi gives a nod towards the bar, and Verroel leads the way. He hoists himself up on a stool, tail wagging slightly behind him.

The bartender, a dark-skinned human male, asks, "What'll it be, gents?"

Verroel orders a beer as does Vued. Fi just orders a SunnyDay, a carbonated sucrose and water beverage with some citrus flavor and just enough caffeine to be a pick-me-up.

When the bartender returns with the drinks, Verroel says, "Nice place you have here, a good crowd of both races."

"Thanks." He smiles without showing any teeth. "Yeah, it's good. The boss doesn't like any rough stuff. She kicks out anyone acting disorderly."

Verroel wags his tail and laps at his drink. "Ahhhh, that's good." He looks around again. "Not a bad idea to encourage a place with a mixed crowds. There are those that don't like it, but more that do I'd expect."

The bartender nods. "Judging by the crowds we get in here, I'd say so."

Fi is feeling chipper and turns to chat to the stranger next to him, a vargr female who is facing away from him, talking to another vargr female. Both appear to be in their 20's.

Too young for his taste, Fi resumes his search for someone a little more mature.

Verroel's ears perk up as he notices that Fi is on the hunt. He pokes fun at Fi goodnaturedly and leans around him. "Ladies, I'm Verroel, and this is my ship's doctor, Fi Khong."

Fi growls and in a low voice says to Verroel, "They're almost young enough to be my pups." Turning back to the ladies, he puts on the best charm he can manage.

Verroel lets his wagging tail smack Fi.

The furthest one's ears rise up. She points to Fi. "You're a doctor?" She then points to Verroel. "And you own a starship?" She turns to her companion. "I told you, Luga, that there would be some prime alphas here."

The vargr identified as Luga smiles politely, but says, "Or it's a line just to get into our pants. Do you wolves have any proof you are what you say you are?"

Luga's friend mock slaps her arm. "Luga, don't be rude."

"I'm not being rude. I'm being...smart."

Verroel lets loose a barking laugh and snaps his jaws. "No, Luga is being smart. It's wise to scent out the path when dealing with the unknown."

Luga's disposition improves slightly.

Verroel motions Vued over. "This is my comrade in arms, Vuedueloghz. We've been together since we were almost pups."

Vued sniffs the air. "Well met."

Verroel's tail wags as he pulls out a tablet. He calls up the landing permits and receipt for starport charges. He hands it over to Luga. "There you go, ladies." With a devilish grin, he adds, "Of course a persistent wolf would have many paths to get into such fine pants."

Vued stifles a laugh.

Luga's friend looks over her shoulder.

Luga nods as she scrolls through the paperwork. "May I?" she asks.

"Be my guest."

She calls up the starport and looks through the list of ships in the port. Luga's friend points to the tablet. "That's the ship name on the receipt. Happy Trails. What a nice name."

Verroel says, "And if you call up the name of the ship, you'll see who's listed as captain." He pulls out his bankcard and sticks it into a reader slot on the tablet. Verroel's picture comes up on the screen.

"And there you are," Luga says.

Verroel smiles. "We've not had to bargain so tightly for any other valuables, but what is better than fine bitches?"

Luga's friend smiles back and wags her tail. She maneuvers to the other side of Luga to be closer to Verroel.

Luga hands the tablet and bankcard back to Verroel. She seems convinced. "Now that we know you are who you say you are, I won't have to worry about Rruell." She looks over at her friend.

Verroel pockets his bankcard and the tablet, then takes a drink of his beer. He is clearly amused by the situation, a wry grin on his face, his tail wagging.

"Either of you lasses have an older sister?" Fi asks in all sincerity.

They exchange looks and both reply, "Yes."

Luga adds, "But my sister isn't here."

"But mine is!" Rruell adds with enthusiasm.

Fi's ears shoot up and his tail wags. "By the way, I'm not only the ship's doctor, I'm also the ship's pilot." He gives a little wink.

Vued barks out a laugh.

Rruell pulls out her comm and starts texting. "Hold still." She holds up her comm. "Got it."

Verroel waves the bartender over and says, "A fresh round of drinks for the ladies." As he speaks, he lets his tail tangle with Rruell's. His muzzle crinkles in a smile.

Now that Fi seems about to be set up with Rruell's older sister, he wonders about Vued. He looks over at Vued and catches his eye. He gives him a slight nod of understanding and a very human wink.

Verroel turns his attention to Luga, "Rruell is well taken care of, but what about you, Luga?"

"Oh, I'll manage just fine." She glances over at Vued.

Rruell announces that her sister will be joining them shortly. In the meantime, the group continues to socialize. Rruell's sister Aen is a lawyer. Rruell is an administrative assistant at a brokerage firm. Luga is an accountant at the same firm.

After fifteen minutes go by, Aen arrives. She looks just like Rruell, only five years older. She's introduced to Fi and the two of them hit it off.

A couple of hours fly by, and it seems as if there are matches.

After Tea and Then Some

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Hteh Hut Starport
System: Hteh Hut

1126.23.2 - 9:00 Imperial Time, 1:00 Vilani Time

After the fun evening, the trio is back at the ship and the girls are back home.

Fi got to play doctor with Aen and was pleased to report that she was in very good health. On the business side of things, he learned that Hteh Hut rates highly on business friendliness spectrum. There are few impediments to trade and nothing out of the ordinary for traders who dabble in speculative buying and selling.

Rruell didn't provide much intel about the brokerage firm she works at, but she was fun.

Luga wouldn't confess much except to say that the firm was quite successful in its endeavors.

Response to Liishaap's brochure, which was circulated among the brokerage firms, has been limited. However, there was plenty of interest in seeing more of the agricultural products that the trio brought in from Angvae. Another plus was the receipt of brochures from Hteh Hut brokerages for the trio to bring back to Liishaap. The general consensus seems to be that the Hteh Hut brokerages would like to export product to Ninnigam and import agricultural products.

Thinking ahead to Miiko Belt, Verroel let it be known last night that that was their next stop. Aen warned them that Miiko Belt was no longer independent, its government deposed by the Confederation. They're more tolerant of outside vargr than humans, but they should still exercise caution when dealing with them. When Verroel pressed further about what they might be interested in trading for, she replied, "Probably everything." But that's as far as Verroel got with this line of questioning as Rruell growled for his attention.

Considering that the word about Miiko Belt makes it seem a bit run down, especially when compared Hteh Hut, Verroel decides to look for mining equipment or spare parts as speculative cargo.

Vued suggests that they consider freight instead. "The population is too small for much of a market. It seems risky to me."

Verroel growls, but finally wags his tail. "Mail and frieght are probably safer. We'll go that route."

Fi jumps, "Hey, this is the first high tech world we've been on since I got on board. I don't know about you guys, but I could sure use some better armor."

Vued barks, "Me too!"

Verroel snaps his jaws in vargr laughter. "Me three!"

A quick search turns up "Armor Hut" which has the highest rating (quality and prices), so they head over there to be fitted.

Armor Hut

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Armor Hut - Hteh Hut Starport
System: Hteh Hut

1126.23.2 - 10:00 Imperial Time, 2:00 Vilani Time

The trio have made their way over to Armor Hut to be fitted for armor. The sales associate explains that the best protection available is made from coherent synthetics. There are two variations: lite and heavy. For the same encumbrance as the TL-9 cloth (modified ballistic weave AV 1.25) that the crew has back at the ship, they can get double the AV with the heavy version (AV 2.5) or 60% better with the lite version (AV 2). Or you can opt to scale back the protection to what you have now, but run much lighter.

Unfortunately, nothing comes cheap.

TypeCostArmor ValueNotes
CS-Lite7,350 cr2Full-suit
CS-Lite3,000 cr2Torso-only
CS-Lite, Lo-Weight3,700cr1.25 Full-suit
CS-Hvy18,000 cr2.5Full-suit
CS-Hvy7,000 cr2.5Torso-only
CS-Hvy, Lo-Weight9,000cr1.25 Full-suit

Hood included on full-suit versions.

Vued opts for a full suit of CS-Lite armor. "It's better than what I have, but I think I should save the rest of my money for future expenses."

Verroel snaps his jaws in agreement. "I'll go with the CS-lite as well. There are a lot of rabid wolves roaming these wilds. We'd best be prepared."

Fi agrees and purchases one as well.

Freight to Miiko Belt

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Hteh Hut Starport
System: Hteh Hut

1126.23.2 - 11:00 Imperial Time, 3:00 Vilani Time

After buying their armor, the trio have returned to the ship. CargoNet is booted up and Miiko Belt is entered as the destination. Only one entity has anything, Miiko Belt Importers. However, there's easily more tonnage than your ship can hold. There are various lots for mechanical parts, electronic parts, mining equipment, machine tools, computers, and HVAC equipment. The good news is that they're offering to pay 5 times the going rate.

Verroel wags his tail quite a bit at first for the opportunity to make a good deal more money carrying cargo to Miiko belt. He wrinkles his muzzle however and drops his ears as he thinks through the implications. "If they're willing to pay 5X the going rate there must be something wrong. Let's see why other merchants wouldn't want to travel there while we negotiate."

Vued answers, "I think we know the answer to that question already. Traders here are worried about how the Confederation will treat them when they enter their borders. They don't know if the Confederation Navy protects them from corsairs, who are given sanctuary within their borders as we know firsthand. They may not know, as we do, that the Confederation prohibits corsairs from attacking Confederation shipping. While we're a vargr vessel with a vilani transponder, I think that carrying this cargo for Miiko Belt Importers should get us in safely. If we were headed in on our own..." he shrugs.

Verroel flips his ears back as he thinks. "Perhaps we should change flags to the Confederation for the time being. The Vilani transponder may be like throwing raw meat before a pack." He shakes his head in a shrug. "Still, the Vilani transponder is probably our best longer term asset. We can get across the border and buy high tech equipment and sniff for information without facing tariffs or outright attack."

Vued replies, "We can just turn off the transponder. We used to do that as corsairs, remember? We can't ditch the Vilani transponder; those things are fleas in the crotch to obtain and expensive. Sarruero wanted to charge us a hundred k, but Darrurz name dropped the price down to fifty k."

Verroel flips his ears and then snaps his jaws. "Yes, the old corsair days. When we get more teeth on the ship we may rejoin that life, but for now the hunting is good without having to travel that path. We'll not want to get shot on sight in the Vilani system if we run without a transponder."

Verroel searches the local news net for keywords on trade with Miiko and beyond. There are various articles over past years discussing the ups and downs of trade with Miiko Belt based on the whims of the local economies and the varying levels of corruption of the ruling family. There's a retrospective article showing how the ruling family alienated everyone with their peculiar taxes, levies, and fees. As a result, they ran out of cash and could no longer afford to pay the mercenaries that provided system defense. They applied for client state status, and it was granted. Once the war started, Imperial forces pulled out, thus leaving the door wide open for Confederation forces to swoop in and take the system. The new Confederation governor has stated that the system is open for business and that all are welcome, however, traders, belters, and ore processors are all reluctant to do business there due to bad memories of the former rulers and uncertainty about the new ones.

"Vued, can you find out where the traders hang out? I think we should scent out the hazards and advantages of this new pack. There might be information we can find from the traders that may save our pelts later on. Also, if everyone is hesitant to trade forward we may find even more bargains from those looking for wolves willing to take risks."

"Sure." He gets up to leave. "I'll have my comm. I'll call if I find out anything. You do the same." With that, he departs.

Verroel returns his attention to InfoNet. He checks the Miiko Belt Importers netsite and looks for information about a trade promotion. There's nothing there. It would stand to reason if the Miiko Belt governor is promoting trade he would have an organization to help traders. He does figure out that Miiko Belt Importers is the one sanctioned brokerage for Miiko Belt. The government handles all trade going in and out of the system.

Verroel relates his discovery to Fi and adds, "We might be able to make some friends in high places to carry information as well as trade goods, maybe even mail. We can offer our access to the rimward regions toward Vilani space and our contacts in that direction."

Fi wonders about the "government purchased freight". It makes his fur itch. Still, he decides to keep a positive tilt to his voice. "Friends in high places are good," replies Fi. "You never know when you might need friends in high places."

Verroel calls Miiko Belt Importers and starts the discussion about loading cargo.

The wolf on the other end of the line is pleased that Verroel is willing to go Miiko Belt. "None of the hairless were willing to go. And even some of our own kind whine like pups. I tell them that the old regime is gone. The Confederation honors its debts. Still, they treat us like mangy dogs."

Verroel asks about the generosity of the pay in a roundabout way.

"We had to offer some kind of incentive! As I said, both the hairless and the toothless wouldn't haul freight to our world. Apparently, you're the first one that isn't plagued by cataracts and can see what a great opportunity this is."

Verroel snaps his jaws and wags his tail in agreement as he speaks to the wolf at the Miiko Belt office. "The pack I lead has hunted in dangerous places before. The bold wolf takes opportunity and tears out its throat rather than whimpering in the rear." He continues to wag his tail. "Your generosity is appreciated. After we have successfully delivered the cargo, I would like to discuss the possibility of a longer term relationship. Can you provide a letter of introduction that will help not only with the customs patrols but with the leaders of your pack?"

"Absolutely. But you won't have problems with customs. This is government purchased freight. Once customs sees the paperwork, they'll wave you right on through."

Seeing as how both parties are getting along swimmingly, Verroel coordinates with the Miiko Belt Importers wolf, Oenagvaezoez, for the freight to be delivered to Happy Trails and loaded.

Leaving Hteh Hut

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Hteh Hut Starport
System: Hteh Hut

1126.23.2 - 14:00 Imperial Time, 6:00 Vilani Time

The cargo from Miiko Belt Importers arrives. Loading begins.

Oenagvaezoez hands over a datapad with the paperwork for Verroel to sign. Once complete, he howls with delight. "Thank you, Captain. May Llallaeknuez watch over you on your trip, and I hope to see you again soon."

Verroel returns a full-throated howl and wagging tail. "To a profitable and successful trip! You should see much of us in the future."

With that Oenagvaezoez and his cargo loaders depart.

As Fi and Verroel stare at their hold full of cargo, Verroel remembers Vuedueloghz. He says into his comm, "Vued, we're all set to go. Get back here."

Vued growls. "I wish you'd told me that you'd closed the deal already. I've only just now gotten someone to relax enough to talk about Miiko. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Verroel pauses for a moment. "Take your time then Vued. We can delay leaving a bit to sniff out more information about our prey. We'll need a while to file the flight plans."

16:00 Imperial Time, 8:00 Vilani Time

Vued returns to the ship. He plops himself down on a chair on the bridge with his packmates.

Verroel looks away from the preparation tasks required to get the ship underway. He wags his tail in greeting and pushes his own acceleration chair around to listen.

Vued explains what he learned. "Most of it we already know. Merchants are worried about being raided by pirates. Even when told that the Confederation doesn't tolerate piracy of Confederation shipping, some still wouldn't believe it. Many get hung up on the fact that the Confederation needs to stop pirates before they attack. I told them that I had it on good authority that they did.

Verroel comments, "That the others are too cautious or cowardly to trade with the Confederation provides all the more opportunity for us."

Vued continues, "Those that knew that or believed me came up with another excuse not to go there: the money. While Confederation merchants will negotiate over which coin payment is made, Confederation governments, like our friends at Miiko Belt Importers, who are owned by the government, only pay in Ngath Confederation credits. Not Vilani or Imperial credits. And since the Vilani won't accept Confederation credits, what we get paid won't be worth anything when we get back to Vilani territory."

Fi asks, "Can we turn the credits into something like gold before we come back across the border?"

Verroel snaps his jaws in agreement with Fi. "We'll want to spend whatever we make on goods before we go. We'll need to factor in having to buy something at an unfavorable price into whatever we sell."

Vued adds, "Yes. It's an asteroid belt, so they should have some ore that we can sell. Beyond that," he shrugs, "who knows."

17:00 Imperial Time, 9:00 Vilani Time

The crew wrap up their pre-flight checklist and let the starport know that they're ready to leave.

17:45 Imperial Time, 9:45 Vilani Time

Jump!

Once the ship is securely in jumpspace, Fi turns off the ship's transponder. As discussed earlier in the day, this is a measure taken to decrease the likelihood of a corsair attack once they enter Ngath Confederation space.

Next: Arrival at Miiko Belt