Togodzka Picks Up His Stuff

Character: Verroel
NPC: Togodzka
Location: Happy Trails, parked at Miiko Belt Starport
System: Miiko Belt

1126.25.3 - 03:00 Imperial Time, 03:00 Vilani Time

Feeling a tinge of paranoia, Verroel grabs his 9mm and stuffs it into the back of his pants.

Togodzka arrives to pick up his stuff. He pulls up in an air/raft with two of his crewwolves. All three sniff the air as they get out. Togodzka and his crewwolves follow Verroel into his ship.

Togodzka looks over the merchandise and selects what he wants. As his wolves load up the air/raft, he asks Verroel, "How would you like to be paid: Imperial or Confederation credits?"

Verroel thinks for just a moment before asking for Imperial money.

"There you go."

Verroel wags his tail upon seeing the money added to his account.

After the transaction is complete, Togodzka says in a hushed voice. "Now that Miiko Belt Importers are no longer here...be careful when doing business with them. They are an arm of the government. While they are eager to appear merchant-friendly, if you do anything to screw them, they will bite you. And if you have something they want, they will not hesitate to take it off your paws."

Verroel chuffs and wags his tail in agreement. He bares his teeth slightly at the mention of coercion by the authorities. "I'm not surprised that they're dangerous even if they look like sheep. They don't bother you?"

Togodzka shrugs. "The arrangement suits me. You're a vargr; you know how tough it is working with the pinkies. And those rabid dogs over in the Disjuncture..." He rolls his eyes. "They're not helping much. I just wanted you to keep your nose wet and ears up. That's all."

One of his crew gives a bark to indicate that they're all set.

"Well, that's my cue. Thanks, Verroel. I'll see you later." With that Togodzka and his crew depart.

Miiko Belt Importers Return

Character: Verroel
NPC: Aedzazogazedz
Location: Happy Trails parked at Miiko Belt Starport
System: Miiko Belt

1126.25.3 - 3:30 Imperial Time, 03:30 Vilani Time

Aedzazogazedz returns with another truck to pick up the remainer of the cargo. His tail is wagging as soon as he gets out of the truck. Two wolves get out as well and get ready to load it up.

"Hello again, Captain Verroel." He holds up a bank card reader. "Here's the agreed upon payment."

Verroel swipes his card and sees 250,000 Confederation credits for hauling the freight and 29,925 Confederation Credits for the remaining speculative cargo, except for 1/8 ton of liquor.

"Thank you, captain," Aedzazogazedz says. "It was a pleasure doing business with you." He signals to the other wolves that they can start loading the truck.

Verroel then hands the young wolf a bottle of uekhfarsal to celebrate the deal.

"Oh no. I couldn't."

"Please, take it."

"Very well. Thank you. You are very generous."

After the truck is loaded, Aedzazogazedz wishes Verroel a safe journey and good hunting, then climbs in the truck and motors off.

Fi and Vued Walk Into a Bar

Character: Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Miiko Belt Starport
System: Miiko Belt

1126.25.3 - 1:15 Imperial Time, 01:15 Vilani Time

Fi and Vued leave the ship and head towards the starport's promenade. They pass several empty berths as they exit the concourse and enter the main terminal. Save for the occasional starport personnel, it's empty. The terminal empties out on a large rectangular cavern with a dozen storefronts, only half of which are occupied. There's a former Imperial Outfitters store, but it's been taken over by Miiko Belt Importers. There's also a day spa (Kyoto Escape), two bars (Suki's and The Thirsty Buddha), a restaurant (Bonsai Gardens), a fast food joint (Mickey 6), and a clothing retailer.

There's a smattering of activity on the plaza. The clothing shop, fast food joint, and Miiko Belt Importers seem to have the most traffic. Although the bars and restaurant have some outdoor seating, no one is making use of it.

The pair walk past the two bars. As The Thirsty Buddha is more crowded, he opts for that one. Inside the place has a definite Terran Asian continent/Oriental cultural feel to it. Fi and Vued aren't too familiar with what that means. There are fake plants here and there, drawings on the wall that could be letters from an unfamiliar alphabet or abstract art, 1.8 meter high screens made of paper and plastic wood dividing parts of the room—decorated with more of that strange art, and a faux tile roof around the bar.

It isn't crowded. There are maybe eight customers here (though that's twice as many as the other bar)—four human and four vargr. Two humans are working here: one at the bar and one tending to the tables. The humans are scattered at the bar while the vargr are all together at a table. There are plenty of tables to sit at as well as plenty of room at the bar.

When Fi makes no move towards either the bar or a table, Vued pushes him to the bar.

The bartender, a man of Terran East Asian descent, approaches them after they take their seats. He asks them in Galanglic, "What do you guys need?"

Vued orders, "Two shots of uekhfarsal." He gestures to the two of them. "And what do you have for beer?"

"Hope you like Llaktsekh Brewing, because that's all we've got. On tap we've got their IPA, Brown Ale, Lager, and Stout. In bottles—"

"I'll have the stout. Fi?"

Fi looks to the bar. He notes that they have a full selection of human and vargr preferred alcohols. He's in the mood for something hairy, with plenty of kick. He's about to settle for something tame when he finds it: Khaelgon. "Khaelgon!" he barks. "On the r-r-r-rocks."

Vued howls. "Look out, bitches. Fi is going to get fukhed up!"

After the bartender returns with the drinks and shots, he says, "You guys are new."

"We are," Vued replies. He lifts his shot and brings it to the side of his muzzle. He looks to Fi to make a toast.

Fi raises his shot glass. "To fertile hunting grounds, may our hold never be empty!" and with that Fi knocks back the shot.

Vued barks and downs his shot.

The uekhfarsal is a mix of flavors: mint leaf, traega root, dhoell berries. It starts cool on the tongue and finishes warm on the belly. Its smoothness is unrivaled.

Vued releases a satisfied, "Ahhhh."

To the bartender, Fi says, "So, what's news lately?" He takes a sip of his khaelgon and his ears pop straight up. His eyes bulge, but he doesn't gag. It's been some time since he's had khaelgon. It roars in like a freight train, a smoky whiskey with cinnamon, akra bark, and aghvaez cactus juice.

The bartender notices Fi's reaction and smiles. "Not a whole lot. Miiko's reputation has inertia. People aren't going to overlook centuries of misrule overnight." He shrugs. "So far, so good. What about you guys? Where are you from?"

"Further up the main." comes Fi's reply. "The Gods of Trading have been good to us of late, so we're looking to expand our markets."

Fi indicates another drink. "Yes, I can feel for those that have been under the boot. Been there, not going back." He takes a sip of his second shot. "So how has business been for you?"

"It was dying a slow but steady death under the old regime. It nearly died during the transition, but the new government made it clear that it was only deposing the government, not the people. Since then, things have picked up, but it's mostly locals. Offworld traffic is just starting to come alive." He gestures to Fi and Vued. "And you guys are proof of that. If things continue at this rate, I'll have to hire more staff in another month or two."

Fi asks, "So, what's the government been doing to promote offworld traffic?"

"They've announced that they aren't demanding kickbacks from traders or charging belters outrageous fees on their hauls. Taxes were cut in half, and private property rights were strengthened. The Confederation has spent some money on a PR campaign to highlight the changes, but it only aired in the Confederation and the independent border worlds. Considering relations with the Vilani, it didn't get any airplay there.

"But Miiko is a small market. They need to attract more belters to pump up exports. Once there's a sizable population, retail and other businesses will move in. Unless the Confederation opts for the military base route. But I haven't heard anything concrete about that. Just rumors."

"There's often a grain of truth to most rumors." Fi indicates one more for the road. "No matter, as long as the trade stays good and the Khaelgon stays fresh we'll be back." Fi flips the bar tender a 10% tip and throws down the last shot. Turning to Vued he says, "You watered enough or want to hang a bit more?"

"What?" Vued's ears shoot up, his eyes go wide as his head moves backward. "We've only been here half an hour! I've only finished my beer. Did you want to get back to the ship before the khaelgon kicks in?"

"Sure," replies Fi. "Let's get a table and a few more rounds and watch the locals for a bit."

They find a table and sit down. The humans talk amongst themselves. The vargr do too, but they're a little louder.

Vued gives Fi a nudge. "I think that wolf over there is the associate starport warden that checked us in. He must've come here straight from his shift. That dog is already knackered."

Fi, who's starting to feel a bit knackered himself, looks at the table with vargr. Sure enough it's him, and he's still wearing his uniform. The human waitress is over there, and the vargr seem to be messing with her in a playful way. One of them drops something on the floor. When she bends down to pick it up, he puts his paw on her head and makes a rude gesture with it. It's over in a few seconds, but the vargr are laughing heartily. The waitress's face is red, clearly upset. She storms off to the bar.

The men at the bar all glare at the vargr.

"Awwww come on," the joker says in Galanglic. "I was just having fun. Do not be mad, pinky girl. I tip well."

The vargr next to him shouts to the bartender, "Hey Matsuo, when are you going to hire some vargr women? At least they have a sense of humor."

Matsuo, which is apparently the bartender's name, says back, "I can't. They're all working over at Kyoto Escape."

This elicits another rounds of laughter from the group of vargr.

One of the men from the bar raises his voice so he can be heard over the laughter. "Is that so? Maybe I'll go over there and make her my bitch."

The vargr stop laughing.

"Uh oh," Vued says out of the corner of his mouth.

"Or would that be considered bestiality?" the loud human continues. He turns to face the vargr. "Give me some advice. What's the best position for banging one of your bitches? Doggy style?"

The vargr start to growl.

"Looks like you're going to need that medical bag after all, Fi."

The vargr stand up.

"I don't need you to fight my battles, Mick," the waitress says.

"It's more than you, sweetheart," loud Mick says.

Matsuo intervenes, "How about we all settle down. A round on the house."

"Sure," joker vargr replies as he walks to the bar, his pack behind him. "After I go a round with hairless."

"You think you've got the balls, dog?" Mick slides off his barstool.

"Do you, monkey boy? Or are you all mouth?"

They're now face to face.

Fi nods to Vued and gets up. He walks over to the standoff with Vued at his back. He puts a paw on each of the would be brawlers—but is careful not to get between them—and says, "Gentlebeings, is this really necessary? If it is, I'm a doctor and can offer some great prices on surgery and cosmetic surgery." He slightly wags his tail. "Either way, I'm going after that free round."

The vargr busts up laughing, and his pack quickly joins in. "That is a good idea," the about-to-brawl vargr says.

Meanwhile, the human stands there with a blank expression on his face. He appears befuddled by the sudden turn of events.

Vued says to him, "Come on, bulldog. You wouldn't want to miss out on a free round, would you?"

The human shakes his head and joins the others at the bar.

The bartender mouths the word "thank you" to Fi amidst the raucous laughter.

Over the next hour, Fi and Vued learn that the human who almost got in a fight is a crewman on one of the belter ships in the starport. The three vargr who were with the assistant starport warden are all starport employees.

Fi makes his way over to the belter. When the belter turns to acknowledge Fi's presence, he clinks his glass. The two then down their shots.

The belter says, "I don't understand you vargr."

"You're probably trying too hard," Fi replies.

"You're probably right."

"So tell me, what goods are in high demand?"

The belter chuckles. "So right to business then." He shakes his head, then gestures to the vargr he nearly got into a fight with. "You're not with them, right?"

"Nope. Just arrived in system..." he checks his chronometer "...a few hours ago. My first trip here."

"Goods that are in high demand here or on my ship?"

Fi shrugs. "Either."

"Well this place could use some life. There aren't nearly enough people here, human or vargr. But my captain insists that working the belts here is a profitable enterprise. The problem is that if we sell our ore here, we only get paid in Confederation credits. If we try to leave the system to sell our ore somewhere that pays in Imperial credits, we risk pissing off the corsairs." He shakes his head and finishes off his pre-almost-fight drink. "Can't win either way."

"Yeah, we're finding the same thing. We're getting paid in ConCreds for our cargo, and most likely won't be able to use it at our next port of call." Fi pulls out his pocket comp and shows Mick where their ship is docked. "That's our ship, come see the Captain, he might be interested in some of your ore."

"I'll let my captain know."

After a pause, Mick continues, "But as for my ship, any of the creature comforts: real coffee, a good bottle of whiskey, food that doesn't need to be re-constituted before eating, fresh fruit. You get the idea. Pretty much the same as your people, just a little different."

Fi softly nudges Mick's arm, something he'd see other pinkys do when confirming each other's statements. "Can't argue with that. Every spacer dreams of such things when faced with a reconstituted meal." He thinks about what's in the hold of the ship: alcohol, coffee, vacuum packed meat and fruit, spices, tobacco, and tea. He knows Verroel was saving it for a windfall, but he wonders if Verroel would be up to selling some of it to Mick's captain.

Fi gives Verroel a call. "Helloooo Verroel. I got a guy here. At the bar. His captain might be interested in buying some of that cargo we bought on Angvae. The stuff that makes life a little more bearable instead of those darn packaged meals. Do you think we can make a deal?"

"Hi Fi. He's a bit late. I just sold the lot to the belters and the local trading organization. Let me come down there and talk to him though. We can work out a deal for a trading route."

"Ok." Fi terminates the call and turns his attention back to Mick. "We're all sold out," Fi says to Mick, who throws his hands up in the air in exasperation. "But the Captain might work out a deal for next time."

"And when will that be?" Mick asks sarcastically.

Fi goes back to getting plastered with his new friends and will purchase a round whenever it's his turn. He rummages through his bag for something that will slow down the alcohol's effect on him, though he realizes that it's a little late to do much besides avoid the worst effects.

Verroel Joins Fi and Vued at the Bar

Characters: Fi Khong & Verroel
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: The Thirsty Buddha
System: Miiko Belt

1126.25.3 - 4:20 Imperial Time, 04:20 Vilani Time

Verroel leaves the ship and heads towards the starport's promenade. He passes several empty berths as he exits the concourse and enters the main terminal. Save for the occasional starport personnel, it's empty. The terminal empties out on a large rectangular cavern with a dozen storefronts, only half of which are occupied. There's a former Imperial Outfitters store, but it's been taken over by Miiko Belt Importers. There's also a day spa (Kyoto Escape), two bars (Suki's and The Thirsty Buddha), a restaurant (Bonsai Gardens), a fast food joint (Mickey 6), and a clothing retailer.

There's a smattering of activity on the plaza. The clothing shop, fast food joint, and Miiko Belt Importers seem to have the most traffic. Although the bars and restaurant have some outdoor seating, no one is making use of it.

Verroel walks to The Thirsty Buddha. Verroel sniffs the air as he enters the bar. Inside the place has a definite Terran Asian continent/Oriental cultural feel to it. Verroel isn't too familiar with what that means. There are fake plants here and there, drawings on the wall that could be letters from an unfamiliar alphabet or abstract art, 1.8 meter high screens made of paper and plastic wood dividing parts of the room—decorated with more of that strange art, and a faux tile roof around the bar.

It isn't crowded. There are maybe eight customers here (though that's twice as many as the other bar)—four human and four vargr, not including Fi and Vued. Two humans are working here: one at the bar and one tending to the tables. The humans are scattered at the bar while the vargr are all together at a table. There are plenty of tables to sit at as well as plenty of room at the bar.

Verroel looks over at the vargr with curiosity. He notes that one of them is the slovenly dressed assistant starport warden that greeted them upon their arrival. His ears flip forward, then he notices Fi and Vued.

Fi is at the bar with Vued, talking with a surly looking human. Fi waves him over.

"Mick, this is Captain Verroel. Verroel, Mick."

Mick nods and says, "Hey."

Verroel holds out his hand in the human fashion. Hesitant at first, Mick returns the handshake.

"Good to meet you, Mick. I understand we might be able to do some business with you in the future."

Mick sighs. "Yeah, maybe. I guess it depends on how soon you return, and if we're here when you do."

"It's unfortunate that we didn't meet even an hour sooner or I could have sold the cargo to you."

"Shit happens."

Undeterred, Verroel continues, "What route do you work? Perhaps we can collaborate together. There are places humans can go more easily that a vargr and vice versa. There might be business to be had in that fashion."

While Mick mulls over his reply, Verroel flags down the bartender. "Next round is on me."

"What do you need?" the bartender asks.

Verroel looks down the bar. "A stout. If you have it on tap, all the better."

"Coming right up."

While the bartender gets the drinks, Mick replies, "I'm a belter, not a trader. Until I hear otherwise from my captain, we'll be back and forth to the belt. So I have no idea when our paths will cross again."

Verroel realizes that Mick must be on the other belter ship that he left a message with last night when they arrived. His tail sags. "Let your captain know that we'll keep an eye out for him if we're back through here. Meanwhile, I'll send over a bottle of scotch that we have left over from our cargo."

Mick stares down the bar. "Yeah, sure. I'll let him know."

Verroel nods to Mick as he makes note of the possible market for supplies to the belter community. "One last thing, Mick. Ask your captain if there are any other items or equipment that would be helpful to you or the other belters here and the other systems. We intend to be back through and can always pick up stuff that might be hard to get locally."

Mick regards Verroel for a moment, then replies, "Sure. I'll tell him."

Fi, who is starting to feel a really nice glow, elbows Vued. "You want to go looking for some tail?"

"Sure. You thinking about that place they mentioned? The Kee-yo-toe Escape?"

"Yeah, let's check it out."

Verroel overhears them and says, "Plotting a hunt? I've had enough of this place. Don't get in too much trouble. I'm going to head back to the ship."

After Verroel leaves, Vued and Fi settle their tab and give nods to Mick and the bartender. They leave the bar and head towards Kyoto Escape. Midway across the plaza, Fi stops. His head has started dancing, and walking a straight line is no longer possible. "Ya know, Vued. I've changed my mind. I think it would be a better idea if I went back to the ship to sleep this off."

"No problemo, brother. I'll help you. Besides, it wasn't that long ago that I got some tail. I'm good."

And with that, Vued helps Fi back to the ship. Once there, Verroel expresses a small measure of relief that his packmates took the more prudent course of action. He then informs them that he's put in an order for fuel and life support refurbishment. He'll take care of it while they get some sack time.

A Call From Miiko Belt Importers

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz, Aedzazogazedz
Location: Happy Trails
System: Miiko Belt

1126.25.3 - 9:00 Imperial Time, 9:00 Vilani Time

With Fi and Vued napping, Verroel is monitoring the refueling process when a call comes in. The communications computer identifies it as coming from Miiko Belt Importers.

Verroel answers the call, "Hello?"

"Hello Captain Verroel. This is Aedzazogazedz."

"Hello Aedzazogazedz. To what do I owe the pleasure of this call? You've already bought everything in my hold."

Aedzazogazedz chuckles. "Yes, yes. My superiors asked me to find out if you'd be interested in picking up some freight for us."

Verroel's tail wags at the prospect of new business. "We're always looking for work if it pays well and makes business sense. What are you looking to ship?"

"We're looking for you to journey to Suthgzu to pick up as much food as you can carry. Suthgzu is just over the border in Windhorn sector. It's only a parsec away."

Verroel quickly consults the library data on Suthgzu. He frowns and then looks at Rroeghae.

"Captain Verroel?"

"Yes, yes. Sorry." Verroel thinks through the options. "We have the flexibility in our plans to divert to Suthgzu, but wouldn't Rroeghae be a better choice? The population is larger as are the markets. With a better starport and better climate, there will be more available food as well."

"All things being equal, you would be correct. But we're not looking for you to buy food on the open market for us. We're looking for you to pick up our freight.

"Rroeghae's exports are primarily spoken for, and Miiko Belt is not one of those worlds it trades with. There was some bad blood between the two worlds back before the Confederation annexed Miiko Belt. Suthgzu hasn't been able to properly compete with Rroeghae and has been typically forced to trade with anyone willing to give them a chance. So Miiko Belt and Suthgzu were trade partners, though the latter heard about the former's reputation and thus forced them to trade on their terms. Once the old Miiko Belt government was replaced, relations improved. Suthgzu has become one of our most reliable trade partners."

Verroel considers the situation. "How much freight do you have for me to carry each way, and what will you pay for the carriage?"

"We have enough freight at Suthgzu to fill your hold, but we don't have anything for you to bring there. They're not a market for our exports. However, we'll pay you 2,000 credits per ton on the return freight to compensate you for your empty hold on the way there. How's that?"

Verroel mulls it over. While it's not as generous as the 5,000 cr/ton rate they received to carry freight from Hteh Hut here, it's still twice the going rate. His tail wags. "I'll do it for you if you throw in my docking fees, life support, and refueling costs for this visit and the return visit when I deliver the cargo."

There's a pause over the line before Aedzazogazedz replies, "We'll cover your docking fees, life support, and refueling costs when you return with the cargo, but we won't pay for your current costs. We feel that paying you 5,000 credits per ton for the delivery of goods here was more than generous."

Verroel considers their second offer for a moment and then snaps his jaws. "Agreed, it is a deal."

"Excellent!" Aedzazogazedz barks over the line. "I'll be down in a little while with the paperwork."

Leaving the Miiko Belt

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz, Aedzazogazedz
Location: Happy Trails
System: Miiko Belt

1126.25.3 - 11:00 Imperial Time, 11:00 Vilani Time

As promised, Aedzazogazedz stops by the ship to drop off the paperwork for their run to Suthgzu. He thanks Verroel for undertaking this trip.

After Aedzazogazedz leaves, Verroel goes back to observing the refueling process, which is nearly done.

He growls at the bill. Due to the exorbitant prices for fuel (250 cr/ton unrefined) and life support (1,500 cr/person-week), he only got enough to cover the journey to Suthgzu, hoping that prices will be reasonable there. Final bill: 9,500 cr.

17:00 Imperial Time, 17:00 Vilani Time

With fuel purification complete, Verroel sends a wakeup call to Fi and Vued before he starts going over his preflight checklist. To reinforce the point, he pounds on each of their stateroom doors. He continues on his way to engineering, not waiting for a response.

Knocking on the doors does the trick. Fi wakes up in his bunk. At least it looked like his bunk. He can't quite focus to be sure.

"Why didn't my meds work?" he growls to himself, then stops when the vibrations from his throat hit his head like a jackhammer bouncing off pavement.

He gropes around his bedside table for his med bag and pulls out the custom designed anti-alcohol pills. Trying to focus on the use-by date results in the worst kind of double vision he could get, and it climaxes in a wave of nausea that only stops when the vomiting finally peters out.

"Whatever that was last night, I ain't ever drinking it again."

Fi clings to his head as he gets up. He grabs a couple of painkillers and scoffs them down with some water. Looking at the pool of vomit on the floor he winces at the smell.

"Wish we had a cleaner bot. I'll fix that later."

Staggering out the door Fi grabs each of the bulkheads in turn, hoping they will prevent the world from tipping beneath him.

Reaching the common room without falling over, Fi makes a beeline for the fridge. Opening it he spies his quarry. "Ah you beautiful thing, come here." Reaching in he pulls out the amber bottle of a Hairy Eyeball. "Time for a heart starter."

Draining the bottle, Fi wonders how Vued has fared.

As if on cue, Vued appears in the common area. He looks groggy, but not nearly as bad as Fi feels. "You look like shit, Fi."

"I feel like it."

"Khaelgon: It takes you away...and fukhs you up. That's why I stuck with uekhfarsal and beer." He belches. "Sounds like Verroel is ready to hit the road. I hope you're up to it.

"I will be." He holds up the bottle of Hairy Eyeball.

Vued laughs. "Yeah, that'll do the trick."

20:00 Imperial Time, 20:00 Vilani Time

While Fi's head slowly coalesced back into its original form, Verroel explained that they're headed to Suthgzu to pick up an order of food for Miiko Belt Importers. He also explained that they had no cargo to bring, but MBI will pay them for a full hold anyway.

"Not bad," Vued says.

Once he hears what the fuel and life support prices were, Fi exclaims, "You paid WHAT for fuel?! I'm surprised you can still sit!" Fi chuckles.

"Not like I had a choice," Verroel grumbles.

Fi gets clearance from the starport to depart. He's ok now as it's been over 11 hours since his last drink. It only takes an additional 10% of concentration to properly maneuver through the navigation beacons.

21:00 Imperial Time, 21:00 Vilani Time

With the ship at safe jump distance, Fi engages the jump drive and they're off. Once systems all report green, he returns to his stateroom to clean up his mess and take a nap.

Next: Arrival at Suthgzu