Arrival at Suthgzu

Characters: Verroel & Fi
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Happy Trails
System: Suthgzu

1126.26.3 - 21:15 Imperial Time, 29:15 Vilani Time

It's been an uneventful week in jump. And Fi has fully recovered from his bender on Miiko Belt.

Happy Trails exits jumpspace. Once passive sensors come online, Fi notes that there is barely any traffic in the system. It isn't until the ship is halfway down from the jump point that they are hailed by the local defense force.

"This is the Aellaerigaekhakhsgoekhs calling the unidentified Angrorghag class Seeker. Respond."

Passive sensors are 95% certain that the hailing vessel is a Ueknou class corsair.

Fi says, "Well this can't be good: a corsair with next to no traffic. What's your call, Cap?" He starts looking at possible courses of action. "Are we sure they're the local defense force?"

Verroel looks down at the sensors as well. "Call the local traffic control and validate this guy while I talk to him. They'll be using corsairs as local defense; it's cheaper to pay them to protect you." He pauses. "Let's hope."

Getting on the communications channel, Verroel hails the local vessel, "Aellaerigaekhakhsgoekhs, this is the Happy Trails hailing from Miiko Belt. We're chartered by Miiko Importers to pick up a cargo."

"Ahhhh. Haven't seen a ship from them in a while. Stand by while we scan your ship."

The ship's sensors report that the Aellaerigaekhakhsgoekhs has active scanned the ship.

Meanwhile, traffic control responds to Fi that the Aellaerigaekhakhsgoekhs is indeed part of the local defense force and authorized to inspect incoming ships on their behalf.

After the scan has concluded, the Aellaerigaekhakhsgoekhs gets back on the comm. "Awww, you didn't bring us anything. Oh well. Maybe next time." The wolf chuckles.

Verroel chuffs in laughter as well. "We may be back this way. We'll bring full holds next time or at least a case or two of whiskey."

"Now you're barking. On your way then. We'll let the starport know you check out. Aellaerigaekhakhsgoekhs out."

Relieved, the crew of Happy Trails continue on their way to the downport.

Suthgzu Downport

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Happy Trails, then Suthgzu Downport
System: Suthgzu

1126.26.3 - 23:30 Imperial Time, 31:30 Vilani Time, 08:30 Local Time (36 hour day)

Happy Trails lands at the starport sometime in the local morning. Sensors indicate the temperature is a pleasant 24°C (75°F) and sunny. The starport is located near the equator, which is fairly warm year round and avoids the deep chill of winter, which is clearly affecting the northern hemisphere right now.

The starport is small, capable of accommodating ten starships. There are three other ships, all small traders, besides Happy Trails. The landing field is open to the thin air.

Verroel speaks to the control tower, explaining why they're here and what they need (fuel & life support). The tower gives him directions on how to find the Suthgzu Exports Office (SEO) at the starport and will get someone out to the ship for refueling and life support refurbishment.

Vued offers to stay behind to oversee the refueling while Verroel and Fi head out to find the SEO.

The starport isn't run down, but it is mundane. There are no amenities, and the decor is simple. There also aren't many people here. Almost all of them are vargr, though there are a couple humans spotted here and there.

Vued and Fi make their way down the concourse wing to the central block where administrative offices can be found. A directory list on the wall explains which door number leads to the SEO. Upon arriving there, they explain to the receptionist who they are and where they're from. She then summons a wolf named Aengnouk Oudaengllakoudz to see you. He takes you into his 1.5-meter by 3-meter office. It's decorated with pictures of vargr farmers, herders, and mountain climbers.

Aengnouk is glad that you're here on behalf of Miiko Belt Importers. To him it's a sign of stability, something that system has sorely lacked. He apologizes that the freight is not at the starport, but rather back at the distribution warehouse for storage. It isn't far from the starport. He excuses himself, picks up a telephone, and calls the warehouse while you wait.

After the call, he explains that the freight will be delivered to your ship in about two hours.

Verroel asks what goods are available and in demand here. He explains that they might be back soon and would want to trade on their own at a later date.

Aengnouk replies, "All we export are agricultural products, but we're fairly low volume, not like Rroeghae. We have contracts with several smaller worlds, like Miiko Belt, but none with any of the high pop worlds. You'll probably want to pick up some ngukok meat. Ours has proven popular among those who appreciate free range, organic meat."

Verroel's ears flip forward at the mention of meat.

"As for what we need, spare parts for our existing farm equipment are always good. We're only tech level 6, so advanced equipment is fine, provided it comes with parts and instructions as to how to keep it going when it breaks down.

"Other than that, whatever the fickle tastes of consumers want would fit. And anything that keeps our Duellang-Saerzknoe friends happy."

When Fi and Verroel tilt their heads in puzzlement, Aengnouk explains, "Oh that's the name of the corsair group that defends our world from predators."

Verroel says, "The ngukok meat sounds like a winner. Have you had much success exporting it?"

"Yes. Everyone who tries it, loves it. Since we don't work on the volume that other worlds do, it can be expensive, certainly more so than what's available from Rroeghae. Plenty of places that are looking for cheap protein look elsewhere."

Verroel wags his tail. "How much of what we are carrying back to Miiko Belt is that meat? Even if this shipment floods the market there, it would be very useful to take it on as a luxury good elsewhere." While Aengnouk looks over the cargo manifest, Verroel barks in laughter. "I'll just bring more liquor next time for your protectors."

This gets a chuckle from Aengnouk. "It looks like it's 10 tons. The rest is less valuable meat and various other food stocks."

"What's the tonnage on this shipment anyway?"

"As much as you can carry. It's up to you. Your hold is listed at 67 tons. Are you saying that you're not going to take that much? Let me know now so that I can tell the wolves down in the warehouse."

While Verroel mulls it over, Fi asks, "Can we get a sample?"

Aengnouk smiles. "Of course." He hits a button on a small box on his desk and says, "Sosazue, would you bring in a sample of ngukok for our guests to try."

A few minutes later, the receptionist enters the room with a plate with two warm samples of meat. The aroma sets Fi and Verroel's stomachs to growling. Each grab one and take a bite. The meat is succulent and juicy, yet firm without being chewy.

"That's delicious!" Fi exclaims.

Verroel murmurs something in agreement, too busy having another bite to comment.

Aengnouk laughs. "Glad you like it."

Verroel is certain that he can sell this meat. He's agreed to carry a cargo for the MBI but still has to make a living finding new speculative cargoes. "Let's say two tons of the ngukok meat for my own purposes. The rest I've contracted to carry as freight for Miiko Belt Imports."

"Ok then. 65 tons of freight for MBI and two tons of ngukok for you. I'll set it up."

The ngukok goes for 1,500 Confederation credits/ton, which Verroel pays for out of their Confederation credit stash. Afterwards, the pair bid Aengnouk good hunting and depart.

Wandering Arround

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Suthgzu Downport
System: Suthgzu

1126.26.4 - 2:30 Imperial Time, 2:30 Vilani Time, 11:30 Local Time (36 hour day)

After leaving the Suthgzu Exports Office (SEO), Verroel and Fi have commenced to wandering around the downport. There aren't many people, and the ones that they do find are busy working with no time to socialize. Even the bars are closed. All in all, the place is pretty quiet. Looking outside, the three small traders are still on the tarmac, getting loaded with freight.

The pair walk back to their ship, but instead of heading down the gantry arm, they opt for the stairs to the tarmac. The air outside is warm and refreshing, and the sun is shining. With a skip in their steps, they proceed on to the closest ship to their own.

The ship is a Zodhaenae class free trader (200 tons, 2G, Jump-2). The name, Nadhellin, is painted on the side. There's one vargr running a forklift while a beefier one smokes a cigar while directing the forklift driver which crates to load and where to put them.

Verroel barks a friendly hello so that the supervising vargr isn't startled by their approach.

The supervising vargr turns around and smiles through the cigar. He says, "If you're looking for passage, you should head back inside and see Ghae. She's the chief steward and can explain terms, destinations, and accommodations."

Verroel is caught off guard that the cigar smoking vargr didn't automatically recognize him as a starship captain, but Fi isn't flummoxed. "We're from Happy Trails, just sniffing around for some trade. Awfully quiet around here. Is it normally like this?"

"Yes!" He looks relieved as he says this. "Quiet is good. It means the economy is humming along smoothly. We get in, load up, and ship out." He gestures to the vargr on the forklift. "I don't have to worry about young wolves sniffing about for trouble." He laughs heartily.

"Border worlds are loud. All the commotion means trouble: Corsairs raiding shipping, fleets fighting one another, wannabe alpha dogs barking at everything that gets in their way. They can keep it."

Verroel wags his tail in assent. "I'll deal with quiet, although a bit of confusion always allows opportunity to advance a bit."

The cigar smoking vargr nods his head. He sniffs the air. "Dzo." Then he extends his paw for a pawshake.

Verroel does likewise. "Verroel."

Fi follows suit. "Fi."

Verroel then nods at the cargo Dzo's forklift driver is loading. "What type of trade do you do here and with whom? We're coming from rimward."

Dzo replies, "Well if you're here on Suthgzu you already know that they only export food. And that's what we're loading. I won't tell you who we're bringing it to—you'll have to find your own clients. But I will say that we're taking this to Ghurrllekh. What about you?"

Verroel wags his tail. "Keep your clients. We work more rimward. Right now we're hauling a load for Miiko Belt."

"Miiko Belt?" He takes his cigar out of his mouth, turns his head away from Verroel, and spits on the tarmac. "How's that working out for you?"

Odd response, thinks Fi.

Verroel growls slightly. "Profitable, but they are a bit heavy-handed."

Dzo nods. "Well, at least you got paid. Wasn't long ago that that wasn't a certainty." He pauses for a few seconds then says, "Welp, I need to get back to work. Good chatting with you wolves."

Verroel and Fi thank him for his time and walk on to the next ship.

The next ship is a Type A free trader. The corporate logo for the Oneksgourr Corporation, a shipping company, is painted on the ship. There isn't a ship name per se, but there appears to be a designation: TA200-137.

Like the Nadhellin, the crew are busy loading the ship. There are a couple humans inside the trader moving cargo around while a vargr drives a forklift, bringing the cargo inside. All three wear matching grey jumpsuits with a small version of the corporate logo on the front and the company name on the back.

Verroel tries to see from where he's standing if the cargo being loaded is more of the meat, but he can't. All of the containers are generic looking.

The forklift driver notices Verroel and Fi while he heads back into the terminal. He nods to them. He grabs another load, brings it inside the ship, and comes back for more.

Noticing that Fi and Verroel are still there, he interrupts his next trip back to the terminal. After shutting off the engine, he sniffs the air and shouts over to them, "What?"

Verroel barks and wags his tail. "We're new to the run here. How is the trading life with the corp?"

The forklift driver is clearly irritated. "Do I look like a puppysitter to you?" He fires up the engine. "I've got a schedule to keep. Get out of here before I call security." With that, he speeds off towards the terminal for more cargo.

Fi and Verroel shrug and move on to the next ship.

Just before they get there, Vued comms to say that the refueling and life support refurbishment is done.

The last ship at the port is a Kaekzaekh class trader. Its name is Ksuksgaethdhuegae. There are two vargr and one human hanging out. The human is on the forklift, but it's turned off. The two vargr are sitting on the ramp to the cargo hold. The vargr catch Fi and Verroel's scents and then look their way. The human gives a curt nod in their direction.

Verroel barks a friendly hello so that the vargr don't expect the worst. The vargr answer him, then look to Verroel (or Fi) to state their business.

Verroel says, "Hi, I'm Verroel and this is Fi. We're from the Happy Trails. While we wait for our freight to arrive, we figured that we walk around and talk to our fellow traders."

The middle-aged vargr, and elder of the two, says, "I'm Onguk. We're just hanging out while we wait for our freight to arrive." He points to where Verroel and Fi came from. "Judging by how busy things are over there, I'd say that our freight will be here soon."

"Has business been good?"

"It pays the bills. Keeps the bank off my tail."

"What type of trade do you do here and with whom? We're coming from rimward."

"Same as you, I'd guess. Old Ksuksgae here is limited to jump-1 so we can't really get any further coreward from here. How far rimward did you come from?"

"Hteh Hut."

"I hear that's a nice place."

"Yeah, it is. Any places you can recommend avoiding? Besides the 17th Disjuncture."

"Gemid isn't a great place for vargr or pinkie. Population control for the pinkies, and the vargr there are suspicious of others getting their paws on their loot. Kashiin is bad, too, but for different reasons. The pinkies are subjugated and sometimes take their anger out on unsuspecting vargr. That's about it really.

"Any places where trade is really good that you don't mind sharing?"

Onguk chuckles. "There's opportunity everywhere. You just have to be able to sniff it out. Especially now that the Touzagh are out of the way. They played a bit too rough. Even Miiko Belt is supposedly better now that the old regime is gone."

"Yeah, we know that firstpaw. We're actually picking up some freight for them."

Onguk points at Verroel. "Good for you, wolf. I guess the rumors are true."

"Well, if you ever get up to jump-2, I'd definitely recommend Hteh Hut. Great place. Friendly to vargr. Open minded."

Onguk nods. "We're hoping that the Confederation can make peace with the Vilani. Plenty of trade to be had once you get past Gamgilebo." He sighs. "Don't see that happening though."

The human on the forklift says, "Captain, looks like our freight is here."

"So it is." Onguk stands. "Well, we have to get back to work. Good talking with you wolves. Good hunting."

"To you as well."

With that Verroel and Fi head back to the Happy Trails.

Leaving Suthgzu

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz
Location: Happy Trails, parked at Suthgzu Downport
System: Suthgzu

1126.26.4 - 5:00 Imperial Time, 5:00 Vilani Time, 14:00 Local Time (36 hour day)

Verrorel and Fi return to the ship.

5:30 Imperial Time, 5:30 Vilani Time, 14:30 Local Time

Freight and spec cargo arrives.

6:30 Imperial Time, 6:30 Vilani Time, 15:30 Local Time

Freight loaded. The crew start running through the pre-flight checklist.

7:00 Imperial Time, 7:00 Vilani Time, 16:00 Local Time

Permission to depart received from Traffic Control. Happy Trails takes off.

9:30 Imperial Time, 9:30 Vilani Time, 18:30 Local Time

Arrival at midway point to safe jump radius. Deceleration begins as Miiko Belt's gravity well is too shallow for high speed entry.

12:00 Imperial Time, 12:00 Vilani Time, 21:00 Local Time

Jump!

Back to Miiko Belt

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

1126.27.4 - 12:00 Imperial Time, 20:00 Vilani Time

The ship exits jumpspace. As soon as passive sensors and radio come back online, the crew note that everything seems normal, including the two Ueknou class corsairs that are moving to intercept.

One of the ships hails you, which you answer. The communication is radio only. In Gvegh, a male vargr says politely with only a hint of menace to his voice, "Welcome to Miiko Belt. This is the Foreign Vessel Assessment Force. Please share your name and the reason for your visit."

At the hail on the radio, Verroel unconsciously assumes a dominant posture and answers, "This is Happy Trails with cargo for Miiko Belt. We are traveling on orders and invitation from Aedzazogazedz of Miiko Belt Importers."

The hailer replies back rather succinctly. "Welcome back, Happy Trails. Please follow the navigation beacons to the starport."

Vued says, "They were expecting us. That's a good thing, right?"

Fi deftly navigates the nav corridor and approaches the planetoid. A large hatch opens on their approach. Fi follows the landing lights to the internal landing pad and sets the ship down.

An audio-only radio call comes in from the starport warden's office. The vargr on the other end welcomes you to Miiko Belt and asks if you'll be needing anything. An associate starport warden (ASW) will be down shortly to collect the 100 credit docking fee.

"Acknowledged," Verroel barks. He then contacts Miiko Belt Importers and tells the receptionist to let Aedzazogazedz know that they've arrived.

After Verroel hangs up, a call comes in from the docking arm phone. The ASW has arrived to collect the fee. Verroel uses the external camera by the hatch to verify that the wolf is alone. He is, so Verroel heads down to greet the wolf.

This ASW is younger and a bit neater in his appearance than the wolf that worked the night shift. Verroel lets the ASW know that Miiko Belt Importers has agreed to pay their docking fees, fuel, and life support costs. When the wolf tilts his head in confusion, Verroel instructs him. "Feel free to call them and verify." The ASW then hurries on his way.

Twenty minutes after landing, Aedzazogazedz calls to let the group know that he's on his way.

Negotiations

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

1126.27.4 - 13:15 Imperial Time, 21:15 Vilani Time

Aedzazogazedz arrives with a crew to unload the freight and pay up for delivering it.

Once the bankcards have been swiped, he says, "Ok. For your next assignment—"

"Next assignment?" Vued interrupts. "Who said that we were your dogs? We're free traders. And that means—"

Verroel puts a paw on Vued's shoulder. "It's ok, Vued. Let's hear the wolf out."

Vued crosses his arms, but doesn't say anything further.

Fi is not really into negotiations, so he goes to get a sandwich.

Verroel asks Fi to make him a sandwich as well from the ngukok meat.

Fi replies, "Do you want it how I make it or spicier?"

"How you make it is fine." Verroel then asks Aedzaz if he wants one as well and offers him a couple of kilos of the meat so he can 'sample' it for MBI.

Aedzazogazedz politely declines both the sandwich and the sample. "I've had it."

Verroel asks if any of Aedzaz's supervisors might appreciate a chance to sample the meat as a 'business sample' to facilitate later work.

Aedzazogazedz growls. "No, thank you. We've all had it." Before Verroel can say anything more, Aedzazogazedz continues, "As I was saying, your next assignment is to travel to Roetingaz to pick up a shipment of electronic equipment and a network engineer. This time, we'll have some ore for you to deliver to them. What do you say?"

Verroel is aware of a challenge to his charisma implicit in Vued's outburst. However, he doesn't particularly like the idea of being tied to Miiko Belt Importers any more than Vued. There was little prestige in being an "errand boy." It would take careful handling to continue with a profitable situation and satisfy both his old comrade and their new employers.

He says, "The trading is going to be thin at Roetingaz for us. We'll need a premium to carry the ore that far as well as the electronics back. Standard rates for the passenger coming back here of course."

Aedzazogazedz agrees. "Of course, but he will be in a low berth so that fare will be low."

Verroel continues, "We have trading of our own to do at Suthgzu and Roetingaz so we'll be reserving some of our cargo space for speculative trading."

"From what my wolves tell me, you did that already with this load." Apparently, Aedzazogazedz noticed the two tons of ngukok meat that wasn't designated for MBI.

Verroel takes this as a challenge and responds accordingly. "We are partners, not your contract employees. If you want trade to come your way, you want free traders such as ourselves to see opportunity, not service like pack animals."

Aedzazogazedz bristles at the comment, but doesn't say anything. Vued, however, nods in approval.

Verroel continues, "So far this venture has been very profitable for both of us, and it needs to continue that way. We are both stronger when we're free of entanglements."

"If that's how you feel, standard rates apply for the freight to Roetingaz and back. You'll have a full hold for the trip there. For the return trip, half. Since you have business you wish to conduct on Suthgzu, that will leave half your hold on the way back to do as you see fit."

Verroel flicks his ears about as he considers the offer. That Vued was satisfied with his hard line was a positive as he needs his wolf, but not the MBI dogs.

"Standard freight rates to Roetingaz and back as well as low berth rates for your engineer. I'll want a quarter of my hold free leaving here so I can trade along the way."

Aedzazogazedz is about to protest, but thinks better of it.

Verroel wags his tail. "And of course free fuel and berthing here when we return. It keeps me loyal and I'm acting in your interests."

Aedzazogazedz scowls as he ponders a counteroffer. "Free berthing. 50% off on fuel and life support."

Verroel barks and cuffs Aedzazogazedz on the shoulder in a friendly gesture. His tail wags as he says, "Agreed then."

Aedzazogazedz's tail sets to wagging, too. The tension in his haunches has been released. "Good. I'll have the load come over as soon as we finish unloading this one." He leaves to supervise his workers.

Vued says, "Good work. You showed him who's alpha."

Verroel wags his tails before giving Vued a friendly punch in the arm. "It's a balancing act here in the borders, but a wolf has to be his own master or you might as well be a pinkie slave working on one of those hive worlds." He and Verroel then head to the galley to see what Fi has conjured up.

Upon arriving in the galley, they find Fi munching on a sandwich.

Vued sniffs the air. "What have you got there?"

Fi replies as he chews, "Roast ngukok meat sandwich with spicy mustard on rye bread." He pauses to swallow. "Got what we want?"

Verroel sniffs the air. His tail wags at the scent of the sandwich. "I think we got out as well as expected from these dogs—"

"Good, can we go now? This place is starting to get my hackles up."

Verroel nods. "I think they're untrustworthy and will snap us up like a pack of rats if they could. We'll have to count our fingers, toes, and tails after every time we trade with them. The plan is to keep them wanting our trade before we head back coreward on a loop."

Fi responds, "I'll go warm up the jump drive then."

Verroel's tail goes slack. "But, I thought we'd head into town to see if we could sell our meat to the locals or other ships."

There's a silence of two seconds followed by uproarious vargr laughter.

"Ok, serious now. I thought we were going to try and sell our cargo in town."

Fi shakes his head. "I don't like this place all that much. I don't think it's worth the effort to sell our cargo at that podunk town." He pauses, while Verroel mulls over what he says. "Look, if you want to go into town, I'll stay here and supervise the cargo load and have the ship prepped for launch. We'll be ready to go as soon as you get back."

"I'm not so sure it would be worth it," Vued counters. "The market's too small. It's less than a thousand people. And I don't like this new attitude from MBI. I'm worried that if they catch wind of you trying to sniff out a sale, they'll bite us. I get the impression that they don't want to share their hunting grounds. We might wind up like the pinkies who used to own this place."

Verroel sniffs the air, taking in the scent of the room and the mood of his pack. He remembers how small the settlement was, his conversation with Togodzka, and the story he'd heard about how Fi prevented a bar fight from breaking out. "You know, let's just load the cargo and go. I agree: the market's too small and the chance of making a profit isn't worth the risk of stepping on MBI's tail. We'll find another hunting ground where trade is free."

Fi and Vued wag their tails.

Fi says, "I'll go prep the ship for launch."

Vued says, "I'll supervise the loading and make sure no one goes near our stuff."

Leaving Miiko Belt

Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz & Aedzazogazedz
Location: Happy Trails, parked at Miiko Belt Starport, then it departs
System: Miiko Belt

1126.27.4 - 15:00 Imperial Time, 23:00 Vilani Time

Refuelling and life support refurbishment crew arrives.

16:00 Imperial Time, 24:00 Vilani Time

Refuelling and life support refurbishment completed. No charge as previously arranged. Launch prep begins.

17:00 Imperial Time, 25:00 Vilani Time

Freight loading begins.

19:00 Imperial Time, 27:00 Vilani Time

Freight loaded. Traffic control contacted and departure sequence initiated.

19:15 Imperial Time, 27:15 Vilani Time

Permission granted for departure. Happy Trails leaves the starport.

19:45 Imperial Time, 27:45 Vilani Time

Jump!

Next: The Trip to Roetingaz