Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz, Uknae, Grnouf
Location: Full Belly Happy Wolf in Angvae City
Verroel, Fi and Vued have returned to the Full Belly Happy Wolf with
Uknae and his two associates, Rugdhoe and Rogzuek. Uknae leads you straight to
the bar and tells the wolf running it to pour up a round of Uekhfarsal.
He raises his glass and says, "A toast... to good business."
Never one to let a moment pass when he could press for information or advantage, Verroel wags his tail as he toasts the stiff drink. "To good business now and in the future." He slams the empty glass down and shifts his ears forward.
Rather than savor it, Uknae downs it all at once. After slamming the empty shot glass down on the bar, he fishes inside his coat pocket for something. He pulls out a phone (obviously not made here) and then returns it to the hidden pocket inside his coat. "Grnouf will be down soon. He's wrapping up some business."
Verroel says, "Grnouf seems to be a very charismatic leader, able to reach across the border. Does he do just export and import business as well as run an establishment or does he work more physical jobs?"
Uknae laughs heartily. "That's what henchmen are for! When you're an important wolf like Grnouf, you don't get your paws dirty. You leave that to someone else."
Verroel wags his tail and joins the others in a barking, growling laughter. "I can see that Grnouf's pack is a grand one. Since this work has been so profitable for us, I was wondering what other businesses he was in that might be profitable for us as well."
Uknae stops laughing. With the jovial tone gone, he asks, "What you see is all there is. No need to go sniffing around."
Verroel wants to ignore the change in attitude from Uknae, thinking it best to continue smoothly and be more subtle in questioning later, but it seems that Uknae requires an answer. Before Verroel is forced to reply, a voice calls out, "What is this? You started drinking without me?" A quick glance in the direction reveals a stocky wolf of middle age decked out in a loud purple jacket with yellow epaulets and buttons.
The smile returns to Uknae's face. "We knew you'd catch up to us in no time, sir." He then gestures to Verroel and company. "This is Captain Verroel and his crew Fi and Vuedueloghz. They're the ones who made the delivery from Ninnigam."
Verroel rises to greet him, his tail wagging and his posture respectful but not submissive. He eyes the excellent color and style coordination of their benefactor and makes notes for later use of his own. He nods at the introductions.
"About time that hairless made good on his promise." He sniffs the air. "Well met, hunters. Have you had a chance to eat?"
"Yes, we have."
"Good! Then it's time for another round of Uekhfarsal and make sure I get two to level the hunting grounds."
While the barkeep starts pouring shots, Grnouf continues, "It figures. He needed to find wolves to get the job done. None of those monkeys has got the belly, or the teeth, for it."
The shots are ready and everyone takes their turn. Grnouf downs one after the other without hesitation. "Tell me something about yourselves. Have you been working for Liishaap very long?"
Once Grnouf has a seat, Verroel and crew do likewise. Verroel says, "This is our first mission for Liishaap. We've been working our way from spinward into Vilani space looking for trade and opportunity. With a border in flux there are always chances for wolves who keep their eyes and ears open and snouts up to smell out chances to gain."
"A wise philosophy. Tell me, how far spinward did you come from and who did you work for from whence you roamed?"
Verroel laps at his beer and looks up. "We've come from as far as Gamgilebo via Ugarun and Envar." He looks Grnouf in the eye, his posture firm. "We've made a change of packs. We were with the Touzagh but they've been hammered pretty badly lately and decided to seek out our own opportunities where things were run more effectively."
Grnouf chuckles. "Don't knock your former pack. The Touzagh were very effective. The pinkies trembled when they howled. Many of us were surprised upon hearing of their demise, at the paws of one ship I hear. Pack wisdom stated that it would take an entire Vilani squadron to wipe them out." He pauses and appears thoughtful. "I imagine that we'll be seeing many of your former packmates in the weeks to come as they seek new packs to join."
Verroel wags his tail in agreement. "Truly the fall of the Touzagh was unexpected. We escaped ahead of the pack. Yet, if one ship found their weakness perhaps it was time for other leadership."
Grnouf stands and places a paw on Verroel's shoulder. "If the hunt for profit in Liishap's pack comes to an end, come see me. I can always find work for wolves who know how to track game."
Verroel and the others stand too. Verroel says, "We intend to freelance on both sides of the border here. Perhaps we can find work for your pack that would not conflict Liishap. We have made discrete inquiries on Vilani shipping movements that might be of interest to those that operate on both sides of the border."
Grnouf ears shoot up, revealing his interest in what Verroel has to say. He says, "That information could prove valuable." He barks over to Uknae, "Uknae! Let's get Captain Verroel's cargo unloaded. Afterwards, I want to meet with him and his pack as soon as my business for the day has concluded."
Uknae nods respectfully. "And what should I log this meeting as?"
"As you wish, sir." He places a paw on Rugdhoe's shoulder and says to Verroel, Fi, and Vued, "Masterwolves, Rugdhoe will accompany you back to your ship to arrange the unloading of your cargo."
Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz, Rugdhoe, Uknae, Grnouf
Location: Full Belly Happy Wolf in Angvae City
With the ship unloaded, Verroel, Fi, and Vuedueloghz have returned with Rugdhoe
to Full Belly, Happy Wolf. Grnouf is still busy but has left instructions
for the four of them to be treated to a meal of ribs and beer. The beer is
decent but the ribs are delicious.
Fi notes that the waitress this time isn't as natural as the one from this morning. Checking her out with a medical eye, he counts off the possible plastic surgery procedures in his head. He emits a slight chuckle but Rugdhoe doesn't notice as he's greedily licking the BBQ sauce from his paws.
Rugdhoe engages them in small talk; asking them where they've been and what they've done. Despite the hearty meal and decent beer, Verroel still feels cautious. He sticks with what he related to Grnouf rather than divulge more. Vued and Fi follow his lead.
After the ribs have been finished and a post-meal beer has been consumed, Uknae shows up.
"How were the ribs?"
"Fantastic!" Vued barks.
"Good. Grnouf is ready to see you now."
With the trio in tow (Rugdhoe's presence isn't required), Uknae heads into the back, down a long, quiet, dimly lit corridor to an elevator. Stepping inside, the group notices that the buttons, eight of them, aren't marked. Uknae selects a button in the lower half. The elevator descends.
Verroel's ears and nose are alert as they head down to see Grnouf. He thinks that this headquarters would be hard to dig out unless you had nukes or meson guns.
Once at the proper floor, the doors open and Uknae leads the way down a better lit corridor. Upon coming to a T, he turns left. A pair of vargr stand guard outside a double door.
"It's fine. Grnouf trusts them."
The guards relax.
Uknae says to the trio, "Normally guests aren't allowed down here with weapons."
He opens the doors to a large room. Three meter high ceiling on an 8m x 6m room. The walls have been covered with a fine wood paneling. There's a shag carpet and a gas-lit fireplace on the left wall. There are holos of regal looking vargr mixed with glorified starship battle scenes.
Verroel is intrigued that they're allowed to keep their weapons. He glances briefly at Fi and Vued as they pass the guards to enter the room. His ears and nose swivel involuntarily and his tail goes into a high, excited pose at the sight of the luxurious room. Surely a trio of no-name free traders wouldn't merit such a greeting.
Grnouf sits behind a large, ornate desk. He's finishing up a plate of ribs. A hot bitch is licking his paws clean. Fi notes that she's definitely been augmented. Verroel and Vued suspect as much but don't care.
Verroel's nose wrinkles in appreciation of the sight of her. While Verroel prefers his bitches all natural, he certainly doesn't mind an augmented tail and ears to draw the eye. When he takes in the luxury of the room, along with the female assitant, his impression of the pack leader rises further. Certainly the display is part of the prestige ritual. But despite his conscious understanding of things, Verroel can't help but feel the charisma of the boss.
Grnouf growls curtly and quietly at his assistant and she stops. She picks up his plate and leaves the room through a side door.
After Grnouf wipes his paws clean, he comes over, grabs the sides of Verroel's shoulders, and sniffs either side of him. It's a traditional vargr greeting, equivalent to a human handshake. It's been a while since the three of them have seen someone do this.
Verroel wags his tail at the greeting, pleased by the traditional and personal attention, as well as the status in being so met. He returns the embrace with restrained enthusiasm. "You honor us, sir."
Grnouf repeats the gesture with Fi and Vued.
"Noblewolves, please have a seat."
There are many comfortable chairs to sit in.
"A drink?" he asks as they sit. Uknae heads to a bar on the wall to the right of the doors and begins to pour up five glasses of an dark amber fluid. He then passes one to everyone. "Uezfadon Whisky." He raises his glass in a toast. "To a successful business meeting."
Verroel takes the bowl of whiskey gratefully and thanks Uknae. The aroma of fires burning over a damp, heath tickle the nose. The smell of the fine alcohol is very appealing and the taste is better than the smell as he returns the toast and laps his small bowl clean. "To success!" The liquor is strong and burns the throat as it goes down. The belly warms soon after.
Grnouf leans against his desk while the guests are seated. Uknae returns to the bar. "Verroel, you spoke of Vilani shipping movements earlier." He leans in closer. His grin has a hungry look to it. "Please, tell me more."
Verroel leans forward, his body language eager but not subservient. "We have records of traffic in each of the systems of course, as well as the latest navigation information. That is easy enough to gather for a wolf such as yourself. What we also have are itineraries and ship types for the near border lines."
Grnouf ears pop up in alertness.
Verroel continues, "And if we were armed we could probably apply to carry cargo for the Vilani Bureaux as well. That would provide a real inside scoop for wolves who had a hankering for the Flaming Eye."
Grnouf's head snaps back. "Your ship is unarmed?"
"Oh no, it is. But the armament is rather light."
"No offense to your teeth, friend, but I don't see the Bureaux allowing anything under 400 tons carrying official business. Unless you managed to scrape up some plasma or fusion turrets of course."
"We'd have to explain how fusion turrets appeared on our ship suddenly." Verroel is cautiously feeling Grnouf out for a potential upgrade to his ship. It wasn't a certain thing at all but worth sowing a seed for later after they'd proven their worth. "But as the Vilani grow used to us, a story might be woven that would allow us to upgrade our weaponry and take on our duties as a contractor. We'd be small enough to not be a threat, yet with keen ears and noses we could smell out the hideouts and habits of the prey." He flipped his ears in a shrug. "That is for another drink and conversation."
"Indeed. But I'm intrigued by your claim of traffic routes and schedules along the border. How extensive is it?"
"My informant says that it's good for at least 20 weeks, perhaps longer. I will have to go back from time-to-time to get updates."
"Your informant will keep providing you this information?"
Verroel doesn't let on that his "informant" was the unwitting customer service agent for Anarsi Travel and that the updates will come from an app that runs on his PDA.
"Which shipping company?"
Grnouf strokes his chin with his free paw. "Anarsi Travel primarily handles people and light cargo. However, some of those people bring valuable items with them. How much do you want for this information?"
Verroel considers Grnouf and how they've been treated. The wolf is charismatic and clever; that much is clear. He doesn't have the edge to his confidence and charisma that a newly raised leader might bear. That makes Verroel more willing to engage in a longer term game rather than getting something out of the boss before his own unstable leadership colapsed. Also, they'd been treated with respect and that was important and showed that they already had gained a good deal of prestige. That prestige could be built upon and played up to create an even larger opportunity for advancement. He would be honest with Grnouf as he was sure the canny wolf would guess his game anyway.
"We're not playing this for immediate reward, Grnouf. We seek to be of value to the bigger players in the game, such as yourself, that we may advance ourselves as you prosper. The information is yours and will be updated frequently if we can act as your agent."
Vued whines in protest. Verroel glance at him but makes no comment. He's playing a longer game here and he'll have time to explain his plan later. Things developed quicker here than he anticpated so he took the initiative, as any good pack leader would, and made a decision.
"We would like to carry cargo and passengers, and sniff about for juicy morsels for you. Steady, exciting work. That is more valuable to us than an immediate reward."
Vued sighs in defeat.
"Well, let's have a look at this data of yours." Grnouf sets down his drink and picks up a tablet from his desk.
Verroel pulls out his PDA and transmits the data to Grnouf's tablet. Grnouf mulls it over. "Hmmmm, it has potential. I accept!"
Verroel's ears shoot up and his tail wags. He puffs up his chest a bit and says, "Agreed then, Grnouf. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship."
Grnouf picks up his drink and downs the rest in one gulp. "I'll give you a list of things I want from Liishaap along with payment for it. You can leave tomorrow. But tonight, you're my guests. Uknae, anything they want. It's on the house."
Grnouf gives a more casual paw grip to each one as they stand to leave.
Vued speaks up. His posture is stiff with tension but his tone is respectful. "Before we go, we need proof that we made the delivery to claim the other half of the money that Liishaap owes us."
Verroel wags his tail and gives his packmate an approving flip of his ears.
"I'll see that you get it." Grnouf says graciously.
Fi speaks up. "Is there any chance that I can acquire Imperial or Vilani medical credentials? Back in the Confederation, licensing was a local issue rather than a national one. Apparently I can't buy medical supplies without one. I can prove my skills if that is an issue."
Grnouf smiles. "Not an issue at all. I'll arrange to get you one. Consider it a gift for the one you just gave me."
Uknae escorts the trio back upstairs.
Characters: Verroel & Fi Khong
NPC: Vuedueloghz, Ksorza, Soughthuva
Location: Full Belly Happy Wolf in Angvae City
Uknae has brought the trio back to the bar. In a voice loud enough for them to
hear, he instructs the bartender that Grnouf is covering their drinks for the
"Noblewolves, I have business to attend to. Please, enjoy yourselves."
They thank him then order a round of Uekhfarsal to toast their success. Vued seems reluctant to call it success, but Verroel explains why he did what he did and what he expects Grnouf to do for them in the future.
Vued nods his head in understanding. "I hope you're right, Verroel."
And then the shots are downed.
Looking around, they spot Rugdhoe sitting at a table near the bar with three other wolves who appear to be part of his entourage. His voice is loud, amplified by drink.
The place is crowded and much bawdier than before. Verroel spots a trio of fine looking bitches and is about to point them out to the others when a large wolf comes over and headbutts him.
As Verroel reels from the hit, Fi comes to his aid and steadies him. Vuedueloghz growls and lunges at the attacker. There's some fierce growling and grappling but it's soon replaced by laughter. Both Fi and Verroel are confused.
The large vargr that Vued was grappling with now has an arm across his shoulders. It takes a few seconds for Verroel to recognize his assailant, but then it comes to him. It's Ksorza Aetsadhlarrg, an old Touzagh comrade from before their penultimate crew. As he recognizes their old packmate, Verroel lets out a howl of joy.
"Ksorza, you bastard!" Vued says between whoops. "I'm surprised you still have a tail. What the fukh are doing here? And why would you headbutt Verroel? Are you trying to knock his brain down to your level by giving him a concussion?"
"Nonsense, I'm just giving him a friendly love tap. I missed our nuzzling time together."
That sets the two wolves into a new round of hearty laughter.
Verroel explains to Fi that he and Vued knew Ksorza from their Touzagh days. They lost track of him after they were transferred to the Swift Little Biter.
Ksorza asked, "How's your head, Verroel? I didn't scramble it too much, did I?"
"Stupid behavior," Fi mutters.
"Allow me to introduce you two," Verroel says. "Fi, this is Ksorza Aetsadhlarrg, ruffian-at-large. Emphasis on the 'large'." Ksorza chuckles. "Ksorza, this is Fi Khong, ship's medic and pilot."
Ksorza sniffs the air around Fi, who does likewise, in turn.
"Well met, Fi. Anyone willing to run in the same pack as these two, can't be bad."
Fi merely nods.
Ksorza nods at his two ex-packmates. "So, where's your captain and the rest of the crew?"
"This is it," Vued answers. "Verroel's captain now."
Ksorza's ears shoot up. "Really? I didn't think you had the teeth for it, Verroel."
While Verroel chews his lip over the slight, Vued says, "Actually, Captain Uksknaghakhughz died in the raid at Gamgilebo along with the rest of the crew."
"How did you manage to get out with your fur intact?"
Vued shrugs. "We hid in the Swift Little Biter."
"Cowards," Ksorza says matter-of-factly.
Vued isn't goaded into a violent response. Instead he calmly says, "You wouldn't say that if you saw what went down. In fact, do you know anything or is your fur covering your eyes."
"I know that the base was destroyed and that there were no survivors. At least, I thought there weren't any survivors until I ran into you."
"Right! The base was destroyed! There were no survivors! What part of that do you not get?"
"We were lucky the raiders were sloppy."
"And now you're here."
"Well after an attack like that we didn't see a reason to stay with the Touzagh. We could see the tracks in the sand."
"You were smart. You've heard that the Touzagh are no more, right? The base on Ikhog was destroyed. Kagiisha has very few followers in his pack now. Most captains split off to form their own bands."
"Yes, we'd heard that," Verroel says. "Since then, we've been operating along the border, sniffing out intelligence and smuggling."
Verroel waves the bar bitch over. "Drinks for my packmate!" He wags his tail and turns back to Ksorza. "They're on our host." Not wanting Vued to say anything more, he deflects the conversation to Ksorza. "So what about you, Ksorza? What have you been up to?"
"We've been out in Theton subsector, hitting up the crazies in the 17th Disjuncture and the Vilani worlds too. We were on our way back to Ghurrllekh when we found out the Touzagh were no more. The Captain has been itching for an excuse to go off and form his own corsair pack. Now he's got one."
Verroel asks, "Did you bring any more ships with you than yours, Ksorza?"
"My captain is talking to two other former Touzagh captains right now. Why? You thinking of joining up?"
The beer arrives and Verroel passes it over to Ksorza. Verroel sniffs the air and says, "Where does he plan on raiding and what other ships does he have with him?"
"He's still flying that Ueknou. One captain has a Vuluergeng class courier; the other has a Gaghzugkni class far trader.
"As for where, wherever prey roams. He's sniffing about this subsector, but Theton is probably a safe bet as we know that one pretty well."
Verroel nods. He knows Ksorza's captain is good to have on one's side, but he's ruthless if you cross him or you have something he wants. He says, "We've got a good reputation on the Vilani side of the border, as much as they trust us wolves."
Ksorza scoffs, "Yeah, like we can trust them!"
Verroel is unimpressed with Ksorza's bluster and brash words. He snarls a bit. "The Vilani are too tied up in their own red tape to act swiftly. Work within their own laws and they react predictably. Raid as they would expect and they will bite your tail off. We've already sniffed out some of their ship schedules."
Ksorza's ears shoot up and his eyes widen. He's clearly surprised. "Really. You willing to share that information?"
Verroel cocks his head to the side at Ksorza's interest. "Perhaps, we could speak to the captain directly."
Realizing that he's been outscored in the oneupmanship department, Ksorza's ears and tail droop. His posture slumps a bit too. He takes a large quaff of his beer and says, "I'll go talk to him."
Vued gives a nod of approval to Verroel.
Verroel puffs a bit as he wins this little bout of verbal jousting with Ksorza. He laps heartily at his bowl of beer as he watches both Ksorza and some of the nice looking bitches hanging about the bar.
The trio watches as Ksorza waits for an appropriate moment to interrupt his captain. They talk for a bit, then Ksorza wags his tail and returns.
"My captain is interested in what you have to say." Just as they're about to head over, he warns, "But your information better be good. He won't be happy if he discovers that his time's been wasted."
Verroel growls a bit at Ksorza. "You can be sure that our information is worthwhile."
The group makes its way over to the captain's table. Ksorza makes the introductions, "Captain Sougthuva, meet Captain Verroel."
Soughthuva stands and sniffs the air around Verroel. "Well met, Captain Verroel."
"Good to meet you, Captain, your reputation as a daring wolf proceeds you." He sniffs the air and his ears swivel forward, tail held high as he assesses the other.
A chair appears. Sougthuva gestures for Verroel to have a seat.
Verroel takes the proffered seat, pleased to be addressed as 'captain'. The others are forced to stand, but that is expected.
Sougthuva says, "Ksorza says that you have some information regarding Vilani shipping schedules."
"I do have some information on schedules." He describes the information that he has without giving exact details.
"That information smells good. How much?
Verroel wags his tail slightly, his ears flipping forward. "10,000 credits."
"Imperial or Confederation?"
"A fair price. But I will not pay until after we've hit them. It is the only way to verify your information is good." He focuses on Verroel. His ears are pointed forward and he takes quick, staccato like sniffs of the air.
Verroel's confidence has been bolstered by the good deals and encouragement he's received planet-side so far. He assumes that his charisma has risen too and decides to put it to the test.
He keeps his ears and tail perked up as he stares down the normally higher prestige captain. Verroel's nostrils flare and his hackles rise ever so slightly before settling back down. He straightens up and raises his head in a dominant posture that makes him appear taller.
"Half now and half later, Captain. We both must take risks. As we know each other from the Touzagh, we are not unknown quantities. It would not do for either of us to betray the other in this deal; as we start our own packs, our reputations are too important. You can be sure that I will have further information of use to you so it is in my interest that this will help you."
Sougthuva snarls and bares his teeth. "Deal. But if you trick me, then I will be seen as a fool and I will hunt you down for that offense."
Verroel bares his own teeth and snarls in return. His hackles rise as he stands down the corsair captain. "You have nothing to worry then, Sougthuva. But if your own failure sends you back here with your tail between your legs, don't come hunting us down to take the blame." He moves in closer. "And don't bark your source of information out where anyone can hear it. The pinkies have spies, even amongst our own people."
"Fine then. Let's see your intel." He brandishes his bank card and a reader.
Verroel shows him an arrival for Anarsi.
"Anarsi! You want me to charge into the subsector capital and raid a ship there? Are you daft? There would be half a dozen mercenary outfits on me before I'd even find this ship. It's suicide!"
Verroel gives a barking laugh. "I thought you were up for a challenge." He passes over another slot of information. "Try Niitomok then. It has no base but it does have a gas giant to spread any defenders."
Sougthuva agrees to it and swipes his bankcard.
The pair lock paws and sniff the air around each other to seal the deal. Afterwards, Verroel says, "Enjoy your evening hunt, noblewolves." He, Fi, and Vuedueloghz then return to the bar.
Once at the bar, Verroel wags his tail and says, "That was nicely profitable as well as a good opportunity to gain some prestige. We'll have to make ourselves more useful to the Vilani so we can continue to gather information. Eventually that source will dry up, but for now we can bleed that prey dry." He waves the bartender down and buys a round of drinks for his comrades.
Vuedueloghz says in a hushed voice, "I'd be careful with how many wolves you sell that data to. If Grnouf should plan a raid at the same world and time you sold to Sougthuva, there could be trouble."
Verroel ducks his head in agreement. "I'm done selling data for now. I needed to make the play with Sougthuva more to establish position with him than the money. He's unlikely to be back here at the same time we are again so this should be a one time deal. At the same time, we are seen and heard as dealing with him as an equal. It will help us here in the long run."
Vuedueloghz nods his head in understanding, satisfied with Verroel's answer.
Over the next couple of hours, the trio overhear that there are other former Touzagh in port. Most of them were like Sougthuva—operating on the trailing portion of the corsair outfit's former hunting grounds—so they're not familiar with them. Most everyone else appears to be smugglers, indie pirates, and freelancers working for the 17th Disjuncture. Most seem to fly corsairs of various classes, though there's the occasional Packet and Type T Patrol Cruiser.
At some point as the evening wears on, the group has attracted the attention a trio of nice looking bitches. Fi smirks that they've made no point in hiding their augmentations. Drinks are bought for the ladies and there is plenty of revelry. Verroel and Vued impress two of them with tales from their old Touzagh days while the third appreciates Fi's medical background. Ultimately, the question becomes: your place or theirs?
After the group seems sufficiently buzzed, Verroel catches the eyes of Fi and Vued to see if they're ready to move this party to the next level. As there's universal agreement, Verroel suggests to the ladies that they move the party on to a more private setting. They agree and invite them back to their place.
It's cold outside but the girls don't live far. It's only two blocks before they reach their apartment building, a 15-story high rise. The bitches share an apartment on the 12th floor. Once inside, the party continues with another couple rounds of drinks before the vargr pair off and head to their respective bedrooms.
And you can imagine the rest.
Next: The Next Morning