Planning to Bust a Wolf Out of Prison (Part 2)

Characters: Vincent and Lakir (YI), Gvarokh, Slade, Simrii, Dougok (TD)
NPC: Kagfak, Major Elloekothe (YI), Chuck, Uengghae, Vlad (TD)
Location: Yorkshire Island (YI) and Thurston Downport (TD)
System: Newcastle

1126.38.6 - 19:00 Imperial Time, 11:00 Vilani Time, 27:00 Yorkshire Island, 21:00 Starport Time (36 hour day)

After Vincent ensures a secure line, Elloekothe contacts the ship. Everyone at the hotel wears commdots so that they can keep their voices down and the audio from the ship remains mute.

Elloekothe says, "We made contact with the Prisoner Personnel Director. Thanks to Vincent, we were able to convince him to accommodate us. He's under the impression that we're taking our target offworld for proper punishment.

"When he goes back to work tomorrow, he'll start filing the paperwork to get him on farm work detail. The following day, he'll be available for extraction."

Gvarokh asks, "What's the plan for getting him from the farm detail to the ship? Is that part of the orders? Or is that when we make the break for it?"

Elloekothe replies, "The work orders just get him to the farm. We'll have to extract him from there. First thing we'll have to do is isolate him from the others, then we will have to remove his tracker. After that, we change his clothes and walk him out to the SUV we bought. We'll drive away from the farm and rendezvous with the G-carrier along the highway south of the farm.

"If we can't remove the tracker, that complicates things. The guards will know that he's on the move, and a change of clothes won't buy us much time or distract the guards for very long. And if they activate the zap collar, he'll be dead weight and slow us down.

"We'll be unarmed, except for improvised melee weapons, so we don't want to engage the guards.

"Does that work for everyone?"

Vincent raises his hand. "I can still try and hack the wireless system they use the trackers with and see if I can disconnect his tracker from it and have a ghost signal roaming around the farm when we leave. Use the other prisoners as data points the ghost signal stays away from, trying to hide his position. At that point, we'll be trying to get away so if I can buy us a few minutes trying then I think it’s worth a shot. No?"

"Works for me," Elloekothe replies.

Gvarokh interjects, "Any recommendations for getting the G-carrier to the island?

"As for the ship, it depends on the success of the G-carrier. If it can get there and make it back, great. If it can't, but it has the team, we'll just break for it and leave. If it hasn’t made the island, we'll have to pick it up as best as possible, then grab the team and run."

Dougok sighs. "I suggested earlier that the ship take off about the time the break out is taking place. We get into low orbit and declare an emergency of some sort and request to divert to the island. That buys us some time and prevents an immediate response from the military. We can start doing obvious engineering 'repairs' now to add some veracity to a later claim of engine failure.

"We don't have to actually divert but could get low enough to pick up the G-carrier and then head off into space. We could even claim that we've mastered the emergency and don't need assistance. That might further confuse any military response if they think our diversion was natural. If we do jam or obfuscate the tracker on our target, and the alarm isn't immediately sounded, then our diversion can easily be claimed as an accident. It would also depend if we could rendezvous with the G-carrier off their sensors. I'd think we could come in low out at sea over the horizon of any air search radars and pick up our band.

world map of Newcastle"As for the G-carrier they could depart one night and travel underwater to the rendezvous point."

Uengghae, the grav vehicle driver, replies through his heavily accented Galanglic, "The geee-car-r-r-rier-r-r would neeeeed that long to travel under-r-r-water-r-r for-r-r aneee lar-r-r-r-juh distance. It's a br-r-rick. Weeee would neeeed to leeeeave the day befor-r-r-r."

Elloekothe adds, "I doubt that you'd be given permission to land on the island. More likely, you'd be diverted to Surrey Island. It's an S-shaped island to the northeast. They have an airfield, and there aren't any airspace restrictions. It isn't too far."

Chuck calls up the world map on the holoviewer.

He taps the two islands. Surrey Island is roughly ten times the size of Yorkshire Island. The screen says that they're 614 km (368 mi) apart. He relays that information over the comm to the Yorkshire Island group.

Elloekothe replies, "I think Dougok's idea might work."

Dougok wags his tail. "If we have to take a slow run to the island in the G-carrier that should be ok as long as we time it with the break out team." He considers the map. "We could start a diversion and then claim cascading damage that causes us to lose control. We keep up enough panicked chatter to keep the attention focused on an emergency not a law enforcement activity. Then we ride the ship down, pick up the carrier and boost to at least the 10D limit."

Gvarokh asks, "What are the rules for small starships?"

Elloekothe tilts her head to the side. "There are no exceptions for size."

Gvarokh continues, "How about modifying Dougok's approach with this information to do this: We have the G-carrier go to Surrey Island. Once there it can have an 'accident' into the water and use the water approach from only Surrey Island to the prison island. And, because of the accident, we use that opportunity to get the ship over there to figure out what is going on. Then we only have to do the 'prison break' from Surrey Island, instead of all the way from the downport.

"That should give the authorities much less warning and let us get a much bigger head start. With luck, we can get to at least 10D with minimal interference. And with a lot of luck, the G-carrier can do the retrieval without really being detected."

Dougok flips his ears back and then forward as he listens to the options. He wags his tail. "The only problem with that plan is that the locals may not want us to respond to an emergency in our ship. They may let us travel to the island to investigate the problem but may make us use local transportation." He pauses to think. "We should find out if they would allow us to fly the ship to the island. If not, then we may have to take the more dramatic route."

Elloekothe responds, "The airport on Surrey Island isn't designated for starships, but the differences between the two types are more political than technological.

"Dougok may be correct that the locals might insist that the Pack of Daggers keep its distance while they conduct a proper search. I still think that it's a ruse worth attempting.

"What if the G-carrier heads out tonight or tomorrow to Surrey Island. File whatever bogus flight plan it needs, then cry 'mayday', and go aquatic. Pack of Daggers lets the locals conduct their search, then on extraction day, an irate Gvarokh raises a stink with the locals for not finding their G-carrier, and insists that he be allowed to the site to conduct their own search. Meanwhile the G-carrier picks us up and Pack of Daggers meets us all close by and rockets away. Should give us a good head start before the military gets dragged into it.

"You just need a good reason for the G-carrier to be going to Surrey Island."

Dougok barks. "Why do we need to even inform the locals of the departure of the G-carrier? Surely we can slip it out at night unseen and have it proceed to the rendezvous. Or how closely are the locals watching our movements? The G-carrier goes to a local town and then just disappears into the water one night. Are the locals tracking our movements that closely?"

Elloekothe replies, "It's not that they're tracking us, but they closely monitor all air traffic. Newcastle's law level rating is 9. I know that we tend to think of that only in terms of what weapons we're allowed to carry around, but it goes deeper than that.

"Newcastle's economy is based on two things: agriculture and tourism. Once the Confederation took over, tourism took a big hit, and the new vargr tourists haven't yet made up for the 99% reduction in human tourists. So now their economy relies on agriculture more than ever before. There were laws in place before to protect it; you can bet that they're even more stringently enforced now.

"There's also a nascent resistance movement to the Confederation occupation. One easy way to mess things up for the occupation would be to dump toxins into the environment. Newcastle doesn't have any large scale manufacturing. They import their tech through the sale of their impeccably clean foodstuffs. Mess with the food supply and you cut into their bottom line, their comfort levels.

"As vargr, it's very easy for us to move about as we're above routine suspicion. But we're also quite mercenary. It's not a stretch to think that maybe someone got paid to spoil things for the locals by dumping tons of crap into their oceans.

"That's why we need a cover story. We're not here to pollute, but we're certainly here to break a couple laws."

Dougok flips his ears forward in understanding. "The risk as I see it is that the locals may not let us get the ship close to where the G-carrier declared an emergency. If they tell us to hold tight here, we're forced to take off against local orders to go get the G-carrier. Now if the locals are monitoring air traffic we just have the G-carrier do a local job, but on or near enough the ground that they don't have to file a flight plan. Then they just vanish. If the locals aren't counting closely, they may not notice if the G-carrier comes back."

Vincent says, "What about getting to the target, deactivating his monitoring device, make it do its dance and just take our target back through the way we came. Take the ferries and get back to the ship. We do it early enough and we'd be ok, no?"

Dougok flips his ears back. "Once the device goes silent wouldn't it alert the authorities?"

"That's the thing, I just want to deactivate the device on our target long enough to install a ghost program that'll make it look not only like he's still there but take triangulation data from the other prisoners and guards and keep it away from them. I don’t know if it'll work or for how long but it's a thought I came up with as an alternative to our current plans."

Elloekothe says, "I'm not confident that we'll be able to make it all the way back to the starport with our target. We don't know how long we have until the guards realize that he's gone missing. At most, your ghost signal maneuver gets us until the end of the work shift, so a few hours. Once word gets out that he's gone missing, the authorities will be closely monitoring every airport. I'm not even sure we'd make it off the ferry."

Back in the hotel, Vincent visibly sags as his idea is shot down.

Dougok wags his tail. "Is there a way to test out the hack into the monitoring device before you try it out, Vincent? That would reduce the risk if it could be done without tipping the prey to our hunt." He wrinkles his snout. "Even if you can't test it we still want to try it. If it succeeds we gain time and if it fails then we don't tip our hands sooner than we normally would."

Still chafing from the rejection, Vincent says, "I can't test the hack without something to test it on. I need one of the monitoring devices in my possession to actually test it. I don't see the prison just giving me one of theirs."

Gvarokh says, "Elloekothe, could we just say that the G-carrier was recently repaired and we're taking it out for a shakedown spin? That would give pretext for an issue actually happening and doesn't force any particular flight plan on us. We can plan it so that we only get checkpoints at certain times, so we can more easily control when we declare them missing. The G-carrier won't have to call Mayday, instead we declare them unresponsive and state that we're going to search for them. We don't even need to actually take the ship to Surrey; we're just out looking for them. Maybe that would let us work more freely."

"It's worth a shot. They're still going to ask for a rough flight plan for the G-carrier or dictate one to us if they don't like what you give them. And I think that they'll still try to get involved with the search once you declare them missing."

Dougok says, "I still think we should just have the G-carrier disappear."

Vincent says, "Why don't we just buy a boat? After we break out our target, we ferry him away to the middle of the ocean where the ship comes down, picks us up, and we sink the boat."

Gvarokh replies, "Wouldn't even have to buy the boat; just rent it. Then the G-carrier, going on its 'test run', can come by and pull you out, leaving the boat behind. That could work and would keep the G-carrier away from Yorkshire Island.

"You could rent the boat with just one guy doing it, then swoop around and pick up the rest and head out to sea. The G-carrier would then divert somewhat from its flight plan to get everyone. We declare it missing and head out 'to look for it.'

"I really like the boat idea."

"I'm just saying we buy it and scuttle the boat once we're done, if we just rent it then it's linked to us and maybe we have an issue down the line. Here we can buy it and blow it out of the water when we are finished, wiping out our trail."

"It's all a trade-off. While only renting it, then leaving it abandoned could cause issues down the line, outright buying it could be so unusual that it sets off warnings immediately." Gvarokh pauses. "Then again, renting the boat on 'prison island' has to set off a few flags, too.

"I'm fine with whichever raises the fewest flags."

Chuck asks, "Uhhhh, which of us knows how to drive a boat?"

His question is met with silence.

Gvarokh sighs. "Hadn't thought of that."

Dougok pounces. "Not only are we driving a boat without skill, but we will be out in the open ocean. Now you're dealing with navigation unless they have a local GPS system we can use to go point-to-point.

"I say we skip the whole boat thing. The extraction team makes the grab and goes to the nearest spot along the coast. At the same time, we take off in the ship on our previously filed departure flight plan to the 100D point. Partway through, we declare an emergency and dive like a dead bird to the island, pick up the team, and beat feet for orbit. If we stay on the deck for a while until out of ground radar range, we could even get some altitude before they see us blazing back for glory and the 100 point."

Vincent is sticking to his guns. "I'm sure the boat will have some sort of guidance system on it. If not, we can always get one when we pick up the boat. Maybe we can even get an automated pilot to drive the boat. I would also like to think our communication devices can act as a homing signal the ship can pick up on, so they should be able to find us. I just don't like the idea of getting near the island, emergency or not, and getting a clean getaway. They will come to check it out, and I'm assuming there are some defense ships in system. Why wouldn't there be with a confederation prison on the island? I think we'd be taking a big gamble on getting to the island, land to pick up the team, and out to a safe jump distance before the system military descends upon us. Plus, we'd never be able to come back to this system or any other system controlled by the same people. Why make someone's most wanted list when we can avoid that all together?"

Gvarokh intervenes. "No, the boat idea probably won't work. If anyone had the skill, it would be great. If it was a lake, I wouldn't worry as much, but open water ocean efforts is just a bad thing. It's a bummer. Using a boat would have helped immensely.

"So, we're back to either a ship pick-up or a G-carrier pick-up. Each one has its drawbacks, but I'm leaning towards the G-carrier."

Dougok growls a bit with his tail bristling. "I am not going to have anything to do with piloting a boat on the open water."

In the hotel room, Vincent throws up his hands in exasperation.

On the ship, Dougok relaxes a bit. "A variant of the G-carrier idea is the way to go. I think we can make it disappear and hide it underwater near the target until we make the break. If we time the break with our departure, we declare the emergency which lets us descend toward the island. We run the pick up of the G-carrier under their radar, declare the emergency over and boost to the 100D point. If we spoof the collar we have a couple of hours before they know the break was made and we are at the jump point by then. They might get suspicious about the emergency, but I doubt if they move aggressively to stop us if the prison break is still unknown."

Elloekothe asks, "So which is it going to be, Captain? G-carrier, with or without subterfuge, or direct ship pickup?"

"OK," Gvarokh sums up, saying, "I still think the 'declare an emergency' plan will only lead to a fight. We might as well just smash-n-grab at that point. Declaring an emergency makes you an immediate target and suddenly showing that it was a ruse will only make it worse. I just don't think we can have the ship declare an emergency without just making things way worse. I really think we need to try and do the pickup with the G-Carrier and only make an overt break for it if that attempt fails for some reason.

"On the G-Carrier plan, I have been too 'Vilani' in my thinking. We need to be more Vargr. Our cover story is this: Two crew members have made a bet on how fast the G-Carrier can make a round-the-world trip. Let's say its Dougok and Uengghae. Uengghae says he can do it in an hour less than is possible, and Dougok is calling bullshit on it. So, with my permission, Uengghae is allowed to prove Dougok wrong by actually doing it. They will go together with Simrii, playing the valiant arbiter, to file the flight plan. After they do that, Uengghae will 'sneak' back and file an amended flight plan that cuts southwest to the coast of the main continent, follows the southern coast around to the southeast tip of the continent, then follows the large bay back to the starport. In other words, he's gonna cheat, but still loop around far enough away that we can't see him do it. Please be sure to bribe the official to keep this from Dougok and Simrii. Uengghae isn't asking him to falsify anything, just lie to his buddies. However, his cheater's path comes relatively close to the prison island, and the fact that he doesn't have to run at full speed means he can make a diversion as long as he doesn't get detected.

"I want one other person to ride with him, and to bring some weapons along, assuming no one is checking, so we can have backup if things go bad on prison island.

"If the ruse holds, we grab them and go. If the ruse fails, we go get them and run for it.

"The prison bay looks pretty dangerous, so I figure you will have to just go low instead of submerged. Go as low as you can get away with, but we still need everyone to survive the trip.

"Any questions?"

This plan seems to satisfy everyone—no one complains—so the meeting adjourns with a plan.

On the ship, the crew finalize the flight plans to submit to air traffic control, calculating a proper departure time to give Uengghae a reasonable arrival window for the extraction team. Uengghae, Dougok, and Simrii rehearse their lines to make the ruse seem convincing.

On the island, the extraction team heads to dinner.

The Ruse

Characters: Simrii and Dougok
NPC: Uengghae
Location: Thurston Downport
System: Newcastle

1126.38.7 - 21:00 Imperial Time, 5:00 Vilani Time, 11:00 Starport Time (36-hour day)

After spending many hours writing their story and rehearsing their lines, Uengghae, Dougok, and Simrii stroll through the starport to the Air Traffic Control Department. Just before entering, the vargr start bickering, throwing accusations of "You can't do it" and rebuttals of "I can too" at one another. Simrii remains silent, shaking his head in weariness.

The trio enters the department, where a pasty white young man sits behind a desk. He looks it up at the trio as soon as they enter. He has a look of a deer caught in the headlights of an onrushing vehicle. "M-m-m-may I help you?" he asks.

Dougok and Uengghae take this as their cue to stop sniping at one another. Simrii leans forward, "My colleagues here have a bet, and we need your help to settle it."

"Uh, I'm not—"

Uengghae speaks up, "I know that I can circumnavigate this planet in our G-Carrier in 22 hours—"

"And I know he can't," Dougok interrupts.

The clerk looks nervously from one vargr to the other. "I don't know—"

Simrii separates the two vargr and says, "Our business here has almost concluded, and our captain has given permission for this argument to be settled. In fact, he's made it an order. In accordance with local law, we know that we need to file a flight plan, so we're here now to do just that."

"Ummmm, ok. You'll have to fill out—"

Simrii hands him a stack of paper. "Everything is here: start time and location, route, purpose of flight, final destination, and arrival window."

The clerk quickly leafs through the stack of paper. "It looks like everything's here."

"So we have your permission?" Simrii asks.

"Uh yeah, well, I still need some time to read through it and enter the numbers into the computer so that it can check for conflicts."

"But you're not anticipating any problems," Simrii leans in close, "are you?"

Uengghae and Dougok lean forward, placing their handpaws on the clerk's desk. All eyes are focused on the clerk.

"No, not at—I'm sure that you followed proper procedure." The clerk looks down at the paper work, skims through it again. "Everything is in order. I'm sure it is. Nothing jumps out at me, you know, with regular traffic. Our airlines follow the same routes everyday. Yeah, just a formality at this point." He gestures behind himself, but there's nobody there. "I just, you know, have to file it, make sure my boss and the computer all check out." He smiles nervously.

"Good!" Simrii says a bit too loudly for the clerk, who jumps in his seat. The trio back away from the clerk's desk.

"I'll contact you with final authorization in a couple of hours."

Simrii bows his head. "Good drandir, sir." He and the vargr turn to go. The vargr start bickering again. Simrii puts a hand on each of their backs and gently pushes them forward out of the office.

An hour later, Uengghae returns, alone. He looks over his shoulder repeatedly, as if checking to see if he's been followed.

The clerk looks alarmed to see him. "I'm almost done! I swear!"

"I believe you," Uengghae says, "but I need you to approve this one instead." He withdraws a stack of paper from his jacket.

"What's this?"

"Revised flight plan. But I don't want the others to find out." He slaps an envelope down on top of the stack of paper.

"Sir, I can't accept—" "It's not what you think. I just need you to swap flight plans. Delete the old one from your system and put this one in its place. I'm just asking you not to tell my packmates that I filed a new plan."

The clerk visibly relaxes. "Oh. Ok."

"The envelope is for your troubles, going through the work of entering the new flight plan. I'm just showing my appreciation..." He leans in close and scowls. "...and not to tell my packmates about it."

The clerk momentarily freezes, but soon recovers. "Yes, yes, of course."

Uengghae backs away and smiles, though he's careful not to show too many teeth. "Thanks." He turns to go, stopping at the door to peer out the window to make sure the coast is clear. "Good drrrandeeer," he says and departs.

Two hours after Uengghae's visit, the ship receives a call from Air Traffic Control stating that their G-Carrier's flight plan has been approved.

Next: Execution of the Plan