Change In Command

Characters: Verroel, Fi Khong, Darrurz (unconscious)
NPC: Vuedueloghz, Uthgoer
Location: Common Area of the Swift Little Biter - parked at Ugarun-82
System: Ugarun

1126.8.6 - 19:55 Imperial Time, 03:55 Vilani Time

Once Darrurz is finally unconscious, Verroel removes his boot from his neck and takes a step back. The adrenaline from the fight has melted away and now he feels a bit light-headed from the loss of blood. He's about to faint but Vuedhueloghz catches him.

"Easy there, tough wolf," Vuedhueloghz says.

Uthgoer finds a chair and the two of them ease Verroel into it.

Once the effects of medical slow drug have taken hold of Darrurz and he isn't going to bleed out, Fi rushes over to Verroel to bandage his wounds.

While Fi gets to work on Verroel, Vuedhueloghz asks, "You said that he's worth more to us alive than dead. What did you have in mind?"

All wolves dream of being the leader at some point in their lives. Many dream of being a corsair captain but few get the chance. Verroel suddenly realizes he's achieved his dream and his tail wags despite his wounds. He had wondered how the challenge would go. He'd expected that Darrurz would want to fight to the finish but he wasn't prepared for the savagery of the slashing attack on his jugular. It was like some bad Tri-D show about ancestral wolves dueling it out on the plains of Lair after being left to evolve by the Ancients. It was good that he'd come armed given that Darruz was a wild wolf and couldn't be counted on to fight normally. Of course when he'd invited the first shot, Verroel had to let him have it.

No matter, the duel was over and he managed to win without killing Darruz. Many might have looked askance at an outright kill in what were always non-lethal charisma challenges. Now he could show the mercy that flowed from a high charisma leader as well as use that rabid wolf to gain further advantage.

He looks up at Vued and clasps him on the forearm. "Thank you, comrade. Darruz carries a large bounty on his head from the Touzagh. We can trade him directly to their representatives on the planet or barter him off to one of the local power brokers who might want to curry favor with those wolves."

Vuedhueloghz shakes his head. "But they're going to want an explanation. Our former employers don't know who Darrurz is. They're looking for this ship. That's what Foeghsaerrre told us. We're going to have to explain to them how a runt managed to capture this ship and why we couldn't prevent that from happening. They are going to interrogate us. If we're successful, we'll then have to slip away quietly and hope they don't follow." He folds his arms. "Unless it is your intention that we should re-join them."

Verroel replies, "I think that there is more fame to be won by staying independent than rejoining the Touzagh."

"Good!"

Both wolves are distracted by Uthgoer. He appears to be talking to someone on his phone.

"Hey!" Vuedueloghz barks. "What's going on over there."

Uthgoer terminates his call and replies, "Since you have incapacitated my boss's client, it is imperative that he be made aware of the situation. He is on his way here to talk to you. He should be here in 15 minutes."

"Good!" Vued says.

Verroel looks to Uthgoer. "That is good. I have things to discuss with your boss."

Vued turns to Verroel and says in a hushed voice so that only he and Fi can hear him, "If you'll hear me out, I have a plan."

Verroel turns and leans in close to Vued, his tail wagging, but then Fi does something to make him wince in pain. "I'm all ears, comrade."

"You may not want to hear this but Darrurz's plan was not all bad. He already paid 25,000 for the ship's makeover. That was a 50% down payment. Maybe you and I can come up with the other half, but it would be better to sell Sarruero the Launch we took with us from Gamgilebo to cover the balance and get some other stuff. We can try to get the turret repaired - a long shot, I know-, get a fuel bladder so we can get off these louzy jump-1 trails, have his crew go down to the starport to pick up fuel and air for us so we don't have to deal with the Touzagh, and unlock the command codes for the ship for us." He holds up a paw. "Before you suggest that I hack my way in, I tried about four months ago. I couldn't beat the old set up. I don't know if Darrurz beat it himself or had someone from his old pack do it, but it's likely that hacking into the new codes will be harder than what we had before. I don't know if I'll be able to hack these new codes or even if we'll have time as sticking around is not a good idea.

"Once we get the bladder, we can cross over into pinky space and run along the border until we get outside of Confederation territory. It'll be harder for the Touzagh to reach us. Then we cross back over to other wolf pack worlds like Angvae or Kfoerudzo. Maybe even Hteh Hut. What do you think?"

"I agree," responds Fi, his head dipping slightly, "Sarruero has made a deal to purchase the launch and he will expect completion of the deal. I don't know what trouble this pack has stirred up but you really don't want to add Sarruero to the mix."

Fi casts an eye to the cleaning crew. "I do think it is an excellent idea to put as much space between you and this world as possible."

He finishes patching up Verroel and moves to tend to Darrurz's injuries.

Verroel sits still as Fi tends to his wounds. His tail wags as he listens to Vued speak his peice. "I like that idea also Veud. We'll sell the launch as Sarruero expects and use the money to finish the overhauls, try to fix the turret and most importantly get the fuel bladders. We need legs and we need them badly to get to where we can hunt without looking over our shoulders. We may even look for some small package trade that we can stuff aboard to help our cash position or even offer as a favor to Sarruero or others." His tail wags even harder. "The command codes, yes, we'll need those and I'm sure that Sarruero will be glad to help with both of those for a fee."

He looks over at Darruz. "Once we leave we can let this one go on the station. He'll be safe enough from the Touzagh as they don't know him from any other wolf at the moment."

Fi says to Verroel, "Just sit there until Sarruero arrives. You've lost a lot of blood." To Vued he says, "Make sure he doesn't get up or else he's going to be joining Darrurz on the floor."

"Understood, Doc," Vued replies.

Fi resumes his work on Darrurz's injuries. "What a mess. One thing is certain, he's going to have more scars."

Sarruero Pays a Visit

Characters: Verroel, Fi Khong, Darrurz (unconscious)
NPC: Vuedueloghz, Uthgoer, Sarruero
Location: Common Area of the Swift Little Biter - parked at Ugarun-82
System: Ugarun

1126.8.6 - 20:15 Imperial Time, 04:15 Vilani Time

A sharply dressed vargr enters the ship. Uthgoer immediately moves to talk to him. He faces away from Verroel, Fi and Vued so they can't make out what he's saying.

"That's Sarruero," Fi says quietly. "He's a fair wolf. He took me into his pack when I arrived here and has always shown me respect, despite being the alpha. Watch your tongue though. Darrurz nipped his tail in their meeting over lunch. Sarruero didn't say anything to me about it but I could tell he was angry. He doesn't like to be disrespected or being forced into accepting bad deals."

Verroel nods and wags his tail at the advice from Fi.

"Here he comes."

Sarruero sniffs the air and coolly walks into the room while Uthgoer remains at the door. Sarruero gives a nod to both Verroel and Vued as he makes his way to Fi and Darrurz. "I didn't expect to see you again so soon, Fi."

"Nor I," Fi replies as he continues to tend to Darrurz's wounds.

"Will he live?" Sarruero asks with detached concern.

"Yes, he will."

"A pity." He turns to face Vued. "Hello, Vuedhueloghz."

"Hello, Sarruero." He gestures to Verroel and helps him to his feet. "This is Verroel. He's the new pack leader."

When Sarruero turns to face Verroel, he stands carefully and meet the gazes of the other Vargr. His posture is not aggressive nor is it submissive, but it is respectful.

Sarruero sniffs the air. "Well met, Verroel."

"It is good to meet a powerful and respected wolf such as yourself at last."

"I see that you've dismissed Darrurz."

"Yes. I have challenged and replaced Darrurz as pack leader in combat."

"No doubt you are aware that we had a business arrangement."

"Yes, I am aware of that."

"Do you wish to honor that agreement?"

"We'd like to alter it as our circumstances have changed."

"Oh? Hopefully, this new agreement will be better than the one dictated by him." He gestures with a nod of his head towards Darrurz. "I didn't much care for it."

"I understand that Darrurz was not the easiest of negotiators. That, amongst other things, led him to being replaced. I wish to continue with the refit but not the scrubbing. I would also like to procure a fuel bladder to extend the legs of the ship, repair our turret and have the control codes for the ship reset to my authority. Lastly, because of complexities with the Touzagh down on the planet, I would like to arrange to have fuel and life support supplies delivered to the ship in orbit." He wags his tail. "I understand that half of the agreed upon payment was made already by Darrurz. That is yours for work started of course. What I would like to do is barter for the remaining and additional services in return for our launch plus consideration of cash."

Sarruero listens intently to Verroel. He paces a bit, obviously mulling over Verroel's counteroffer. Finally his tail begins to wag. "I like your offer much more than Darrurz's. However, I can't comply with your wishes exactly as you would like them." Before Verroel can say anything, Sarruero holds up a paw. "Allow me to explain.

"Fuel and life support supplies can not be delivered to this ship in orbit. The Confederation maintains a tight leash on any sort of product or service that the starport provides. They would immediately become suspicious that this ship was hiding something if it couldn't land to refuel. The Touzagh already want this ship in order to discern who destroyed their base on Gamgilebo. They would pounce the moment they spotted this ship. Transponder on or off.

"I have not examined the condition of your turret but it would be easier to affect repairs there than moving the parts here.

"Here is my counter proposal: Your ship gets a new paint job, transponder, and navigation logs and the interior is scrubbed of your scent. I send my wolves down to the surface with the ship for fuel, life support, turret repairs and the fuel bladder. We'll also release the command codes from Darrurz. Besides the down payment from Darrurz, I will accept the launch as payment. And a small favor."

"What is the nature of this favor?" Verroel asks.

"Courier," Sarruero says succinctly. I need a message delivered to Ninnigam, which is four parsecs from here in Vilani space. I presume you want the bladder so that you escape the reach of the Touzagh. Jumping into Vilani space won't put you out of reach, but it will be far harder for them to catch you, especially with a new identity."

Verroel considers Sarruero's proposal for a moment, his tail going stiff and his ears swiveling. "Your proposal has the scent of a good hunt, Sarruero. I accept with one set of small request of my own. Put us up in luxury accommodations during the time that we await the repairs and modifications and assist us in finding cargo to fill our hold such as it is."

Sarruero replies, "Providing you with a luxury suite is no trouble at all. Cargo is problematic, but freight may be possible."

Vuedhueloghz's head tilts to his side. One ear flops.

Verroel wags his tail in agreement but shares some of Vued's confusion.

Noticing their confusion, Sarruero explains, "You corsairs don't know the difference but a merchant does. Cargo is something a merchant buys at one world with the intent to sell on another.

"Freight is someone else's property that a merchant carries from one world to another.

"Darrurz, despite his faults, understood this quite well. He requested a Vilani transponder, complete with falsified navigation logs, as it would enable him to move back and forth across the border without a problem. No vargr states care what transponder you run, though the corsairs do. The Vilani however, I think the Terran expression is: have sticks up their asses. They won't allow anyone to operate in their space without one of their transponders. Getting one is a rather lengthy process that has been known to take several weeks to complete, and isn't free. Failure to comply typically results in the seizure of one's ship and time in one of their prisons, not a safe place for us vargr.

"There is also a cargo and freight registration process when one crosses the border. It runs twenty credits per ton, sometimes more. But the worst part is that neither the Confederation nor the Vilani like to see any cross border trade anymore. The Vilani megacorporations tried several years ago to appease us vargr through trade. They hoped that if Vargr saw the Vilani as trade partners then they'd pressure the corsairs and states to cease raiding Vilani worlds. However, Vargr corporations took this as a bite on their tails. They started paying corsairs to attack Vilani megacorp ships and bribing officials to impound their cargoes.

"Trade still happens, but the risk is higher.

"That is why I steer clear of goods. I prefer to offer my services instead. So I can not provide you with cargo or freight.

"This is, assuming of course, you intend to go to Vilani space. I recommend it lest your former packmates pick up your scent, at least until either the Gamgilebo base destroyers have been caught or the Touzagh lose interest. While your ship's scent will be new, yours," he gestures to Vued and Verroel, "will remain the same."

"Is there anyone you can recommend we talk to about cargo and freight?" Vuedhueloghz asks.

"Not really. As you need to keep a low profile for the duration of your stay, which needs to be as brief as possible, I suggest you wait until you're in Vilani space for cargo and freight. However, I will ask around. Sometimes the gods smile upon a pack and drop prey at your feet. What world did you say you were going to?"

Vuedhueloghz looks to Verroel, "We were discussing crossing over to Envar and then heading trailward to Angvae and Hteh Hut." Vued struggles on the latter world's name. It sounds like he's coughing up a hairball.

Verroel's ears flip forward in assent. "We'll cross over to Envar for certain but as to whether we head to Angvae and Hteh Hut or further into the Vilani territory will be determined by what kind of opportunities present themselves."

"Very well," Sarruero says. "I'll ask around. Do we still have a deal?"

"Yes."

Sarruero gives a bark of satisfaction. He strides forward and locks forearms with Verroel to seal the deal. Afterwards, he does the same with Vuedhueloghz and Fi Khong.

Sarruero gives a sniff and a nod towards Darrurz. "What do you intend to do with him?"

Verroel looks down at Darrurz. "While giving him over for the reward to the Touzagh would be appealing, it would not be right to throw him to those carnivores without a chance to defend himself. Perhaps you can keep him on ice until we depart. As crazy as he is I have no desire to see him call out the Touzagh on us."

Sarruero nods. "I can do that." He pulls Uthgoer aside and says something only he can hear. He turns back to Verroel. Once Fi is satisfied that he's stable enough for transport, a medical team will pick him up."

"Uthgoer knows what needs to be done. If you're ready to go, please grab your things and exit the airlock. I'll have a concierge meet you in the docking corridor."

Verroel wags his tail in assent. He looks to the other two Vargr and wrinkles his muzzle in a smile. "Let's go enjoy a nice stay before we run back on the hunt. We can plan our approaches while we rest."

Vued barks out, "Yes! First round is on me!"

With Darrurz stable, Fi joins the other two. "It's a good thing I didn't unpack my bags."

The trio gather their things and head out to the docking corridor. They don't have to wait too long before a concierge from the hotel, Kirkular, comes to collect their things.

Fi gives a secret nod of approval to the others to indicate that the hotel is a good choice.

A "New" Ship

Characters: Verroel, Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz, Uthgoer
Location: Ugarun-82
System: Ugarun

1126.9.3 - 00:15 Imperial Time, 16:15 Vilani Time

The last couple of days have been a blur. As this was Verroel and Vuedhueloghz's first vacation in several months, they cut loose. Fi was amazed at how much they could party and, always the doctor, was a bit worried that they might overdo it. It was actually some measure of relief when the bitches showed up. They gave the recently freed corsairs something to focus their attention on besides drinking and chewing dzulluethkhuezoun, or "dzull drops" as it's called on the street. As it had been nearly twice as long since they were able to grab some tail, Fi didn't see them for several hours. Not that he minded; one of the ladies kept him company too.

Fi was still in bed, but awake, when the call came through.

It was Uthgoer. "Fi, your ship is here. It's docked where it was before. Wake up your pack and meet me here. There's stuff to go over before you leave."

He didn't wait for acknowledgement. He hung up. That was Uthgoer though.

02:00 Imperial Time, 18:00 Vilani Time

It took some time to roust up Verroel and Vuedhueloghz but once they heard the ship was ready, they got a new found burst of energy.

Once at the docking corridor, they ran into Uthgoer, who apologized for the delay. "It took longer than expected to make some of the changes you requested." He gestured toward the docking arm. "After you."

The first thing the trio noticed was the ship's smell. It didn't smell like home anymore. It smelled like someone else's ship. Uthgoer noticed their expressions and explained, "Remember, we had to make sure the ship didn't smell like you anymore, in order to fool the Touzagh."

"Did you run into them?" Verroel asked.

"Yes," Uthgoer replied. "They thought that this was their ship at first, but the work my pack did convinced the authorities, as well as the Touzagh, that it wasn't. So long as you avoid your old pack, you should be free and clear."

Verroel and Vuedhueloghz celebrated with a high five and chest bump.

Uthgoer continued, "Fuel tanks are full. Life support has been refurbished. Your turret is fixed too. That took the longest. No cargo though. No one wanted to risk it."

"That's ok," Vued replied. "One less thing to worry about when we cross the border."

"Let's go to the Bridge to enter those command codes," Uthgoer said.

Once everyone was on the Bridge, Uthgoer performed the command code transfer procedure to Verroel. "That was a pain in the tail," Uthgoer said, shaking his head. "The lock was so bad we had to ditch the whole security system board. I don't know who changed those codes but he was good. Damn good.

"Anyway, it's good to go. Oh yeah, one last thing. We need to convert your Confederation Credits into Imperial Credits. The Vilani won't accept Confederation money but Imperial Credits are good everywhere, at least by border states." He presented a card reader and held it out for everyone to swipe.

Vuedhueloghz asked, "What's the new name for the ship?"

Uthgoer chuckled. "Happy Trails."

Vued cocked his head to the side. One ear drooped.

Uthgoer continued, "It's an old Terran expression meant to wish travelers a safe and successful journey."

The vargr nodded their head.

"Well, unless there's anything else, I'll get going and you three can get out of here." After the three shrugged, he said, "Then happy trails to you!" With that, Uthgoer departed.

As soon as Uthgoer was clear of the ship, Verroel said, "Wolves, prepare for take off."

Next: Arrival at Envar