Execution of the Plan

Characters: Gvarokh, Slade, Simrii, Dougok
NPC: Chuck, Uengghae, Vlad, Irma Arsashaammu
Location: Thurston Downport (TD)
System: Newcastle

1126.39.1 - 00:00 Imperial Time, 16:00 Vilani Time, 27:00 Yorkshire Island, 21:00 Starport Time (36 hour day)

Uengghae gets into the G-Carrier and runs through his pre-flight checklist. Gvarokh comes down to the G-Carrier hangar to check on how he's doing. While he's there, he sees Dougok cross the cargo hold with mission gear.

Dougok asks, "Do we want a third crewmember in here with me and Uengghae?"

"Third?" Gvarokh replies. "I'm sorry, but you have to stay here."

"What do you mean?"

"You're part of the bet, remember? In order for Uengghae's ruse to work, you have to stay on the ship. If you went, you'd see that Uengghae was cheating."

"But if I went I'd be able to verify he wasn't cheating."

Uengghae says, "I'd argue that you'd try to distract me from maximizing the G-Carrier's output, and the added weight would only slow me down."

"Besides," Gvarokh adds, "I need you on a turret. I only have Simrii right now. Slaving all four turrets to one another would be inefficient. At least with two gunners, we'd be able to target two vessels at once."

Dougok pouts. "But I wanted to get in on the action. I haven't had anything to do in weeks." When he realizes that Gvarokh isn't budging, he turns and slowly walks away.

1126.39.1 - 06:00 Imperial Time, 22:00 Vilani Time, 33:00 Yorkshire Island, 27:00 Starport Time

Uengghae maneuvers the G-Carrier out of the ship and, once he has clearance from the control tower, takes off into the night sky. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew start prepping for a hot departure. Dougok will take the opportunity to run a thorough set of checks on the weaponry and damage control equipment on the ship.

Characters: Vincent, Lakir
NPC: Kagfak, Major Elloekothe
Location: Yorkshire Island

18:00 Imperial Time, 2:00 Vilani Time, 9:00 Yorkshire Island, 3:00 Starport Time

The bribery team wake up, eat breakfast, and check out. They load up the SUV and get on the highway north, towards the farm. The sky is overcast.

19:00 Imperial Time, 3:00 Vilani Time, 10:00 Yorkshire Island, 4:00 Starport Time

The bribery team arrives at the farm and parks in a spot near the entrance to await the arrival of the prison bus. Weather conditions have worsened: It's now sprinkling. Visibility has diminished to about a kilometer.

20:00 Imperial Time, 4:00 Vilani Time, 11:00 Yorkshire Island, 5:00 Starport Time

The prison bus arrives as a full drizzle commences. The prisoners disembark, wearing bright orange rain gear.

"I've got the network signal," Vincent announces.

"Don't do anything just yet," Elloekothe says. "Give them time to get into the fields. We need the group to spread out, put some distance between them and the guards."

"At least let me hack in, so I can monitor their progress. I won't be seen."

"Ok. Go for it."

Half a minute goes by, then Vincent says, "Hmmmm."

Ellokothe can't pronounce that sound, so she growls lowly instead. At the end of the growl, she raises the pitch to mark it as an inquisitive sound.

"Oh, nothing."

"Spit it out. Are you in or not?"

"I'm in. It was just better counterdefenses than I thought I'd encounter. No worries." He smiles—no teeth showing—to reinforce the notion that everything is fine."

She resumes staring out the window of the vehicle, watching the prisoners shuffle over to an "employees only" building to get the day's work detail.

20:30 Imperial Time, 4:30 Vilani Time, 11:00 Yorkshire Island, 5:00 Starport Time

"Ok, meeting's over," Vincent announces. "They're filing out...the back. Hey, how are we supposed to know which guy is ours?"

"What's your screen showing?"

"A bunch of serial numbers attached to icons moving about on the screen."

"Let me see." Vincent turns the screen so that Elloekothe can see it. "Shit. See if you've got a prisoner ID key in that system."

Vincent taps several keys and traces something on the screen. "Here it is. Our boy is ID number 115-PPV."

"Lock onto him. Let me know when he's found his work area."

21:15 Imperial Time, 5:15 Vilani Time, 11:45 Yorkshire Island, 5:45 Starport Time

"Alright, he's stopped moving. Out in the orchard due west of our position."

Elloekothe asks, "Prisoner density? Closest guard?"

"They all seem to be spacing three to five meters from each other. Guards...seems to be one every ten to twenty meters or so."

"A little too close."

"But there's only six of them."

"Ok, let's move out. Kagfak, wait for my signal before starting the vehicle." He nods in acknowledgement. "Let's go."

Lakir, Elloekothe, and Vincent exit the vehicle. Elloekothe is carrying a medium-sized bag with a change of clothes for their target. Vincent has his laptop. On their way past the outermost building, Lakir spots two shovels and grabs them. He hands one to Elloekothe.

Vincent guides them through the fields, avoiding guards. No one seems to be paying them any mind. Workers go about their work.

"He'll be at the next tree," Vincent says quietly.

They spot him. Standing on a ladder with his back to them, is a short vargr clad in a bright orange jumpsuit with the words "Property of Yorkshire Island Prison" on the back in large letters.

Elloekothe announces their presence by saying his name: "Egz Aerugurzae."

He pauses his work, slowly climbs down the ladder, and turns around. His head tilts to one side, and an ear flops. There's a great deal of grey in his fur. He has bags under his eyes. "I didn't expect my death to come this way."

"We're not here to kill you," Elloekothe replies, her voice cold. "We're here to deliver you to a friend."

"I didn't realize I had any friends left that were still alive or not in prison."

"Soks Dhunkul."

His head and ears shoot upright; his tail wags. "I wasn't aware he was still free. Tell me, how is he?"

"He's done quite well for himself, but more about that later. We have to get you out of here."

He chuckles. "I don't think we'll get far with shovels and this." He gestures to his ankle bracelet.

"Leave that to us."

Vincent steps forward, crouches near Egz, and types on his laptop.

Egz stares at Vincent, curious about what he's trying to do.

Elloekothe throws the duffle bag at Egz's feet. "While he's working, get changed."

Egz shrugs, then strips out of his prison jumper. "Excuse me," he says to Vincent as he strips the jumper over his ankle monitor.

Once Egz is dressed, Elloekothe asks, "How's it going, Vincent?"

"A little slow. Too much movement. Tough to get a lock on the closest signal with all the movement. If one of these guys could hold still for 30 seconds, I could sync up the ghost signal."

"I'll be right back," Elloekothe says, and she runs down the field a ways.

A minute later, Vincent says, "There. That did it." He gets back to his feet. He asks Lakir, "Do you see Elloekothe?"

With a nod of his head, Lakir says, "She went deeper into the orchard."

"I'm going to start heading back with Egz."

"Roger that. We'll catch up."

While they're walking back to the SUV, Egz says to Vincent, "I truly appreciate this, what you're doing."

"You're welcome, Egz. I don't want to imagine what it must have been like for you under the heel of these racist sons of bitches, so I'm glad we get to take you away from them. Their attitude was completely unacceptable, in my mind at least."

Egz's tail wags. "Oh, I wouldn't call them racists, more like heathens. I'm more disappointed in the Confederation for terminating our work before it could reach its fruition." He rotates an ear in Vincent's direction. "Are you, by chance, a Believer?"

Vincent is about to reply when Lakir and Elloekothe catch up to them.

"Everything ok?" Vincent asks.

"Fine," Elloekothe replies.

They make it back to the buildings near the parking lot and ditch the shovels. No one pays them any mind as they climb into the SUV. Egz sits between Lakir and Vincent. It's snug, but manageable.

Once everyone's aboard, Kagfak puts the vehicle in drive and nonchalantly drives out of the parking lot.

Meanwhile, Uengghae reports in to the ship that he will be on time to win his bet.

Escaping the Island

Characters: Vincent and Lakir
NPC: Kagfak, Major Elloekothe, Egz Aerugurzae
Location: Yorkshire Island
System: Newcastle

1126.38.7 - 22:00 Imperial Time, 6:00 Vilani Time, 12:30 Yorkshire Island, 6:30 Starport Time (36-hour day)

A couple of minutes after leaving the farm, Vincent announces that he's lost the connection to the prisoner monitoring system. "Out of range," he says. Looking at the drizzle on the windows, he adds, "The weather doesn't help."

Kagfak keeps to the posted speed limit until they're out of sight of the farm.

"Speed up a bit," Elloekothe says to him. "But no more that 15 kilometers and hour over the posted limit." She turns to face the back seat occupants. "Keep an eye out for dirt roads on our left. I want to get as close to the shore as we can for the extraction." She then faces front.

After a few minutes of silence, Egz speaks up, "I appreciate all that you're doing for me."

Elloekothe replies without turning around. "You should save your thanks until you're reunited with Dhunkul."

"Are you taking me to him? Is he here?"

"No, he's in another system. We have to make another connection which will take us to our ship."

A few more minutes and the drizzle becomes a steady rain. Visibility decreases, forcing Kagfak to slow down.

22:20 Imperial Time, 6:20 Vilani Time, 12:50 Yorkshire Island, 6:50 Starport Time

A dirt road is spotted during a lull in the rain, and Kagfak slows down to the make the turn. The road isn't great. Kagfak looks to Elloekothe.

"Take it slow. No one's on our tail."

23:15 Imperial Time, 7:15 Vilani Time, 13:45 Yorkshire Island, 7:45 Starport Time

They finally reach the coast. There's a slight clearing near the crest of the dunes. Two weathered SUVs are parked next to each other.

"Keep going," Elloekothe says. "They're probably fishermen. If we can avoid witnesses, it'll be for the best."

Egz leans forward. "I suppose I'm no longer popular."

She replies, "You never were."

Egz sits back upright. Looking as if he was slapped.

23:35 Imperial Time, 7:35 Vilani Time, 14:05 Yorkshire Island, 8:05 Starport Time

"Stop here," Elloekothe says. She takes out her comm. "Island Paradise calling Seagull. Do you read? Over."

No response.

She tries again after a minute has elapsed and keeps doing until, after the fourth try, she gets a response.

"This is Seagull. I'm fifteen minutes out. Rain is slowing me down. Over."

"Roger that, seagull. We'll be standing by. Over."

The rain lets up, but the clouds remain.

Ten minutes later: "Island Paradise, this is Seagull. Over."

"Go ahead, Seagull."

"I'm seeing uhhh...other birds. I think they noticed the egg you stole. Over."

"Roger that, Seagull. We'll try to shorten the gap. Island Paradise out." She turns to face the others. "Ok, everyone out. The dunes are too steep for the SUV."

Kagfak turns off the motor and everyone grabs their important gear and meets Elloekothe at the edge of the dune. She wasn't kidding. It's a ten-meter drop at a 75 degree angle.

Elloekothe leads the way. She takes it fast and nearly stumbles when she reaches the bottom, but she's ok.

Lakir goes next.

He doesn't take it as fast and makes it down without stumbling.

Vincent indicates to Egz that he should go next. He makes it most of the way, but takes a tumble near the end. Lakir helps him up. Other than some sand in his fur, he's fine.

Vincent goes next.

By watching the others, he apparently has figured out the best strategy for making his way down the dunes.

Kagfak brings up the rear. Like Elloekothe, he takes it fast and nearly stumbles when he reaches the bottom, but he's ok too.

The group then proceed south along the beach. The surf is rough. Sea foam and seaweed litter the beach.

Eventually, something fast comes in from over the horizon. It's the G-carrier. It comes in ten meters from the ground, circles, and then comes to a rest about 25 cm from the sand. The door opens and Uengghae is there. "Need a lift?"

Kagfak chuckles.

Elloekothe replies, "Good timing. Any sign of pursuit?"

"Not yet," Uengghae replies. "The weather is helping out a lot. The low cloud deck is interfering with the aerial search."

Elloekothe climbs aboard and sits in the navigator's seat. Vincent helps Egz aboard, then follows him in. Uengghae returns to the pilot's chair while Lakir climbs in. Kagfak is the last aboard and shuts the hatch behind him. Everyone gets strapped in.

Uengghae comms the ship. "Mother Wolf, I have the pups. Returning to the den."

The G-carrier lifts up a few meters from the beach and starts heading north.

Leaving Newcastle

Characters: All
NPC: Kagfak, Major Elloekothe, Egz Aerugurzae, Uengghae, Major Arsashaammu
Location: Yorkshire Island
System: Newcastle

1126.39.1 - 4:50 Imperial Time, 12:50 Vilani Time, 13:20 Starport Time (36-hour day)

It takes several hours, but the G-Carrier has returned to the ship safe and sound. As soon as its aboard, even though everyone is still getting settled, Gvarokh notifies the tower that they are departing as scheduled.

"Pack of Daggers, that's a negative. The Department of Defense has issued a ground stop to all departures."

Gvarokh responds, "Acknowledged. If you don't mind me asking, what's the issue? Why are the flights out stopped?"

"They say that they're searching for a fugitive that may have illegally boarded a starship with the intent of leaving the planet. They're going ship-to-ship right now to board and search. To lessen the inconvenience, they're prioritizing by departure requests. You're third in line."

While the guy from the control tower is talking, Gvarokh searches the tarmac via the ship's external cameras. There are two traders to the right of Pack of Daggers on the tarmac: a Kaekzaekh class and a standard Imperial Type A. There are several ground vehicles approaching one of the two ships, including armored personnel carriers (APCs) and armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), the latter mounting 30 mm guns. Human and vargr troops are making their way from the vehicles to the ships. No one appears to be in combat armor, but they're in kevlar and armed.

Gvarokh looks up to see a couple helicopters approaching the downport. He checks passive sensors for other traffic, but doesn't see anything besides the helicopters. There don't appear to be any starships attempting to land.

At this point, Elloekothe joins him on the bridge. He asks, "How corruptible do you think these forces are? Can we pay make the problem go away?"

"We don't have enough money for that," she says flatly.

He frowns. "Ok, how hard will the Confederation pursue us after we jump if we just run for it right now? I assume they will outright try to shoot us down before we jump, but will they pursue us after we jump?"

"They'll definitely try to stop us from leaving the system. After that, they'll probably let us go. They need to show that they did everything possible to apprehend him. Egz is not important enough to hunt down, so long as he keeps his nose clean. But as soon as we deliver him to Sokhs, he's not our problem any more. We can roll over on him in exchange for leniency."

"So we'll have to hide him."

"Yes. I would say hide him in the special cargo section on the lower deck, but that sort of thing only works on the pinkies and ponies. Anyone who's dealt with or been a corsair would know about that.

"There's also the turret access shafts that run from the lower deck to the upper deck. But a simple order to open all iris valves and hatches would reveal his whereabouts to anyone that did more than casually look down the shafts, though the configuration makes it possible."

"Then it'll have to be Engineering."

Her eyes light up. "Yes. That's a part of the ship no one would ever suspect because it's too risky. The question becomes, can your engineers get it done quick enough."

"My engineers are the best. Slade, Vincent, I need you to find some place in engineering where we can stuff Egz so they won't find him. We can't make the space, but we can use whatever space we have."

While Slade and Vincent deliberate, Gvarokh continues, "Everyone else, we're going to be boarded for an inspection."

At this point, Kagfak and Uengghae arrive at the bridge with Egz. He's very short and keeps his fur closely trimmed. Gvarokh says to him, "I am sorry, but our departure just got a lot harder. I am going to need you to unreasonably cooperative to get out of here."

Egz nods. "I understand."

Slade and Vincent approach Gvarokh. "We've figured out a spot, Captain," Slade says.

"The exhaust nozzles," Vincent finishes. "Should be big enough for him," he turns to face Egz, "assuming he isn't claustrophobic."

Egz swallows hard. "Just a little."

"Get on it," Gvarokh says.

The engineers escort Egz down to Engineering.

Turning to Kagfak and Uengghae, Gvarokh says, "Get down to G-carrier and remove any hint that Egz was on board or that you were anywhere near the island. Go over every square millimeter. Sniff everything."

Kagfak and Uengghae race down the stairs to the hold.

Meanwhile, Dougok has suited up in his flex armor and made his way to a turret. He spies the AFVs on the tarmac. He's itching to blow them apart but restrains himself from doing it. Instead he boots up a few sims with the safeties carefully set to restrain himself.

On the bridge, Gvarokh and Elloekothe watch as the inspection team proceed on to the next ship.

Down in Engineering, Slade and Vincent work feverishly to open up the plasma exhaust manifold. It's Slade's first challenge in a long line of monotonous maintenance work, and he rises to the challenge. Vincent struggles to keep up, and ultimately Slade assists Vincent with his work having quickly finished his tasks.

When the time comes for Egz to climb inside, he demonstrates some reluctance. Vincent reassures him that everything will be fine. Egz swallows back his fear and climbs inside. Slade and Vincent close everything up and notify Gvarokh that they've finished.

Gvarokh says, "Good work! Now Vincent, I need you to get down to the G-carrier and see if you can adjust the telemetry data so that the island stop doesn't happen."

Kagfak and Uengghae report that they've finished vacuuming the G-carrier.

At this point, the control tower contacts the ship and lets them know that an inspection team will be aboard in fifteen minutes.

Vincent reports in that he adjusted the telemetry data.

Minutes later, the control tower contacts the ship to let them know that an inspection team has arrived.

Gvarokh announces shipwide to the crew to keep their cool. They'll get through this just fine. He makes his way to the airlock with Elloekothe. Waiting for them outside the airlock is a squad of mostly human soldiers and technicians, led by a vargr officer.

Upon opening the hatch, the officer sniffs the air then introduces himself. "Lieutenant Ngoudzzuerr."

"I'm Captain Gvarokh, and this is my first officer, Elloekothe."

"Well met. I'll get right to it, Captain. We're searching for a fugitive. No ship may leave until it has been verified not to be carrying the fugitive."

"Search away, Lieutenant."

"Thank you."

The inspection team is thorough. The upper and middle decks are searched room-by-room. When searching engineering, they appear none the wiser to Egz's presence in the plasma exhaust manifold. On the lower deck, Lt. Ngoudzzuerr reveals that he's aware of the secret cargo section. When it comes up empty, he appears relieved.

The G-carrier is examined and a technician examines the flight log. The technician walks over to the lieutenant and shows him his tablet.

The lieutenant says, "Captain, this G-carrier flew very close to Yorkshire Island."

"Really?"

"Yes. In fact, it took this strange trajectory around the planet." He shows it to Gvarokh. "Can you explain this?"

Gvarokh sighs. "One of my crew made a bet with another that he circumnavigate the planet faster than what another crew-wolf said it could be done. Apparently, he cheated. Shall I summon him?"

"Yes, please."

Gvarokh calls Uengghae down to the G-carrier hangar. When Gvarokh shows him the flight data, Uengghae sheepishly admits that he cheated.

"When Dougok finds out, he's going to be mad," Gvarokh says sternly. "You better pay him back right away."

Uengghae's tail goes flat, hiding between his legs. "Yes, sir."

Lt. Ngoudzzuerr sniffs the air. "I have a question," he says. "Did you file a flight plan?"

"Yes, sir, I did. Well actually, I filed two. I scrapped my first flight plan for this one. If you go down to Air Traffic Control Department and talk to Khikhin, he'll back up my story."

"Yes, I believe I'll do that right now." He takes out a comm and motions to a couple of armed soldiers to keep them under watch while he steps away.

Lt. Ngoudzzuerr keeps his back to the others while he talks on the comm. His voice is low enough that even vargr ears can't pick up what he's saying. After a couple of minutes, he can be heard to say, "thank you," and then he turns around to face the others. To Uengghae he says, "Your story checks out, reckless as it was. But I'll leave it to your captain to discipline you." To Gvarokh he says, "Your ship is cleared to leave, Captain. Thank you for your patience."

"No trouble at all, Lieutenant."

With that, the inspection team leaves the ship. Once Egz has been safely extracted from the plasma exhaust manifold, Gvarokh gives the order to depart.

The ship leaves the downport without any further impediment and jumps when safe distance has been reached.

Next: Zannokh