Arrival in Daama System

Characters: All
NPC: Kagfak, Major Elloekothe, Egz Aerugurzae, Uengghae, Major Arsashaammu
Location: Pack of Daggers
System: Daama

1126.40.5 - 14:00 Imperial Time, 30:00 Vilani Time

The jump week is nearly complete.

Slade reports that the fuel purification plant has been fully stripped, scrubbed, and put back together. He doesn't anticipate any problems the next time it's needed.

Gvarokh tells Slade, "Sorry for the extra work, but..." Gvarokh then gives a smile and continues, " you know the systems even better."

16:00 Imperial Time, 00:00 Vilani Time

Arrival in the Daama system.

As the Pack of Daggers decelerates, a cluster of five corsairs are observed climbing out of the gravity well. They make no effort to intercept your ship, nor do they hail you.

The starport is contacted and a docking berth is available.

Chuck starts the defrost cycle on Egz and puts it on the slowest setting. All of Egz's vital signs indicate that everything with his health is fine.

18:00 Imperial Time, 2:00 Vilani Time

Dock with the starport. Several other ships are parked there, most of them corsairs.

After paying the docking fee, a request is put in for fuel and air.

The comm chimes to indicate the arrival of a message. Accepting it, the video plays. It's a pre-recorded message from Soks. "Welcome to Daama! If you're seeing this message, it means that you have beat the deadline, and therefore, congratulations are in order. We'll have a feast to celebrate your success. At your earliest convenience come on down to these coordinates."

The coordinates line up for an island, 180 km long, off the coast of a large land mass, roughly 1,900 km east of the downport.

"You can land at the downport and take a small craft over, but you're welcome to park here. I have a small landing pad you can put down, but you'll have to call ahead to the downport to let them know. They get a bit fussy over air traffic. I'll give them a nose up to let them know I've invited you."

Then in an almost creepy voice, he says, "See you soon."

And that's the end of the message.

Gvarokh turns to Elloekothe and says, "You know this wolf better than I do. Which looks better: landing the ship on his private island or parking at the downport and taking the G-Carrier over?"

"Landing the ship on the island shows confidence in your abilities or trust in Soks. Parking the ship at the downport says that you're suspicious of him and/or cautious in general. I would opt for landing on his island. He doesn't need to know that we don't trust him. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, having the Pack of Daggers at a remote site means we've got back-up that can punish him from afar. But if we leave crew on the ship while docked at the island, they can put the ship on anti-hijack and monitor us for trouble.

"Keep in mind that his island is fortified. There are at least four laser batteries to shoot down anyone he deems a threat."

While Gvarokh mulls over what she said, Vincent offers, "I'd say go to the island, but that's just me wanting to get this done with and Egz off the ship."

Gvarokh says, "Yes, we'll go after we get resupplied."

Dougok snaps his jaws in agreement. "Bold. Showing charisma and leadership, landing on the island. If he has laser batteries then the threat of having the ship at a remote location that can swoop in to the island to the rescue is largely negated. It is better to be close."

Gvarokh continues, "When we get there, it is likely that everyone, and I mean all of us, will need to attend at least one party or something like that. When we do, we will be tested. You will likely intentionally be shown disturbing things. Yes, I know that most of us are combat or special forces veterans; it is still possible to be shocked or disturbed. You will have to do your best to stifle those feelings and kill any empathy you have towards anything that is going on. The point of this is to test us; we must pass this test in order to continue."

Dougok flicks his ears back.

"Elloe, Vincent, Chuck, and Irma: please stay. The rest of you can go back to your assignments."

Once the room has cleared, Gvarokh continues, "Given what the shithead did and tried to do, I am very concerned for both of your," pointing to Chuck and Irma, "safety. I know this sounds horrible, but is there something you," looking at Irma, "could give yourself that would make you very sick for about a day? Don't take it unless needed, but that would give us an excuse to leave both of you behind: The doctor is sick, and Chuck can stay behind as the only other person with medical skill."

Irma swallows, seemingly looking to summon the courage to ask, "Won't your word be good enough? If I have to make myself sick, it won't be difficult, but I'd rather not."

Chuck looks at her with sympathy in his eyes, but he doesn't say anything.

Gvarokh replies, "I certainly have no desire for you to do so either. But this guy seems to be a 'prove it to me' type guy, so I just want to make sure we have the option available. It would only be done if absolutely necessary." He pauses for a moment, then says, "And if I say something that you think is a bad idea, call me on it. We may still have to do it for whatever reason, but I want to know if an idea is bad, or there is a better way to do it."

"I can do it," she says.

To Vincent, Gvarokh says, "If they are going to activate some kind of anti-hijack in our systems, do we have some overrides that could spoof the system? That way they think it is running, but Chuck remains in control?"

"They can try, but I've been honing the defenses for years. This ship is primed. They're not getting in."

Elloekothe asks Gvarokh, "Why would you want Soks to think he has control of your ship? Do you have something planned? Because if he thinks he can take over your ship so easily, he's going to take it from you."

Gvarokh replies, "I am just trying to contingency plan. I have no intention of letting him do anything like that, but you never know what the ksakh is going to do, so I want to make sure we are ready for it." He pauses, then continues, "Do you think we can just leave them on the ship with no explanation and just call it a day? That'd be best. I can always say that Irma is still doing critical research and Chuck lost the draw on who got to mind the ship."

Elloekothe replies, "What critical research would that be? If he thinks she's working on a cure, our 'ruthless corsairs' cover is blown. No medic on a corsair ship is going to be researching anything. They're just on board to patch up the pack. I think we can just leave them on the ship without an explanation. If he argues that an anti-hijack program should be sufficient, you counter that the minimal crew provides an additional layer of security."

He replies, "I suppose that providing no explanation is a strength play. I don't have to justify myself; I am my own justification. Shit. I have so much to unlearn…"

Elloekothe's tail wags.

He pauses for a moment while that thought lingers in his head. Then, he slowly looks back to Elloe with an evil smirk and says, "Who said anything about a cure for anything? 'Research' simply means we are looking for our own edge, whatever that might be. If other packs aren't smart enough to leverage whatever resources they have, that's their mistake, not ours."

Elloekothe nods her head, smiling. "There you go."

"Regardless, point taken." Turning back to Irma and Chuck, he says, "You two can just stay on board with no explanation. If it comes up, I'll figure it out."

"Will do, Captain," Chuck answers.

Descent to Daama

Characters: All
NPC: Kagfak, Major Elloekothe, Egz Aerugurzae, Uengghae, Major Arsashaammu
Location: Pack of Daggers
System: Daama

1126.40.5 - 21:00 Imperial Time, 5:00 Vilani Time

With refuelling completed and the downport notified of their intended route, the Pack of Daggers uncouples from the starport and descends to Soks' Island.

22:00 Imperial Time, 6:00 Vilani Time, 21:10 Local Time (34 hour, 33 minute day)

Soks' estate is located at the southern end of a U-shaped harbor. The landing field is adjacent to it. There are four stubby silos scattered around that Elloekothe indicates are laser batteries. There aren't any other visible structures on the island. There's a ridge along the southern shore that runs the eastern two-thirds of the the island. It tops out at 460 ft (139 m). The terrain is characterized by tropical shrublands.

Although the landing pad is occupied by three craft (two Ueknou class corsairs and one Muumshiizi class ship's boat), there is ample room for Pack of Daggers and more.

The grounds of Soks' estate consist of several buildings, the main house has a large walled courtyard, complete with swimming pool and decorative gardens. The buildings have a Mediterranean stucco appearance with round tile roofs.

A retinue is proceeding up a walkway to the landing pad as Pack of Daggers touches down.

Gvarokh announces over the ship-wide comm, "Elloekothe and Lakir, grab a sidearm and meet me at the cargo elevator. I'll pick up Egz. I want to keep the initial introductions to a minimum."

Dougok says, "I was hoping to go."

Gvarokh replies, "I want to keep the initial contact small to help control first impressions. You'll get to step out after this initial meeting. And there will probably be a banquet to celebrate the return of Egz. But for now, very small group."

"Ok, I'll stand-by in armor and near my turret just in case a quick response is required."


Gvarokh grabs his NE-352 pistol and proceeds to the low berth room. Chuck is standing by the door watching Egz, who is sitting on the low berth module he was interred in, staring at the far wall, a somber look on his face.

"Everything ok?" Gvarokh asks Chuck.

"Fine. His vitals are all good," Chuck replies, still watching Egz.

"And everything is ok?"

Chuck tears his eyes away from Egz and meets his captain's gaze. "Yeah. Haven't said a word to him. Just making sure he doesn't wander off after all it took to get him here."

Gvarokh looks hard into Chuck's eyes, but he doesn't waver. A quick sniff of his scent confirms that Chuck is telling the truth, but he's stressed.

"Thank you, Chuck. I'll handle it from here."

"You bet, Cap." Chuck offers a quick nod and departs.

Gvarokh clears his throat. "Soks is on his way to meet us as we disembark."

Egz stands and straightens his clothes. He turns to face Gvarokh. "He's quite loyal to you, you know. If he wasn't, I'm sure I would've been spaced or my revival would've gone awry. I may have misread your intentions when you liberated me from prison, but I know steadfast loyalty when I see it."

Gvarokh is momentarily surprised by Egz's comment and fails to fully suppress it. He quickly recovers and curtly responds, "Then I guess it worked out in your favor."

"As much as I could hope given what happened."

With that, Gvarokh motions towards the door and says, "Your benefactor awaits."

Egz's tail wags a couple times, and then he proceeds through the door. Without any further conversation, the pair then make their way through the ship, without encountering anyone else, to the cargo elevator where Lakir and Elloekothe are standing by.

"Shall we?" Gvarokh asks rhetorically.

The group steps aboard the cargo elevator. Lakir works the controls and the platform descends. There's a quick gust of warm air as the ship's pressurized seal releases its grip. Egz and Gvarokh reflexively sniff the air. Besides the warmth of it, it's dry with the scent of wildflowers cutting into it.

Soks can be seen leading the retinue, half of which are armed guards, towards the ship. Egz's tail wags in anticipation. Once the platform touches the ground, Egz is off it, striding towards Soks. The two yip to each other like a couple of pups as they cross the tarmac. They hug and laugh.

Soks calls over to Gvarokh, "Congratulations on the success of your mission, Captain." The sentiment is genuine. There's no predator behind his eyes. "And thank you."

Gvarokh acknowledges the thanks with an appropriate nod and smile.

"Come. You must tell me all about it."

Gvarokh, Elloekothe, and Lakir move to join Soks.

"Where's the rest of your crew?"

Keeping his smile intact, Gvarokh responds, "I thought it best to keep this meeting small while the crew finishes their activities. They'll come along soon enough."

Soks mock howls in disapproval. "You are a slavedriver, Captain Gvarokh. They best be made available for tonight's banquet. This is a celebration for all. I won't stand to have anyone miss out."

The procession makes its way down from the tarmac to Soks' estate. Meanwhile on the ship, Dougok sharpens his bayonet.

Debriefing Soks

Characters: Gvarokh and Lakir
NPC: Major Elloekothe, Soks Dhunkul
Location: Dhunkul's estate
System: Daama

1126.40.5 - 22:35 Imperial Time, 6:35 Vilani Time, 21:45 Local Time (34 hour, 33 minute day)

Soks leads the group into the walled courtyard. The walls are two meters high and appear to be made out of sandstone-colored concrete. Every three meters a mini-tower rises half a meter from the wall. The towers rise to a point, but before they taper, they open up, revealing some kind of lamp inside. The grounds inside contain meticulously manicured flowering plants, a hibiscus looking plant being the most prevalent. An in-ground pool forms the focal point of the courtyard, lounge chairs—some shaped for humans, others for vargr—are on the exterior side of the patio while conversational and dining chairs with tables are to the interior. This is where Soks sits down.

A human female servant, probably in her twenties, is waiting with a bucket of ice, a bottle protruding, and a tray full of small glasses.

Soks gives her a nod, and she sets to pouring a clear, light green liquid into the glasses, and then distributes them to Soks, Egz, and the three members of Pack of Daggers. The retinue of guards has moved off to various security points. Four remain in the courtyard. Some have gone inside the house. Others remain outside the courtyard.

Gvarokh catches the scent of uekhfarsal.

Egz confirms it. "Uekhfarsal. I haven't had any in years."

Soks says, "This is from the century stash."

"The 1100?"

"Yes, this seemed a fitting occasion to break it out." He raises his glass. "A toast: To the safe return of my friend and mentor."

Soks, Egz, and Elloekothe down their shots. Lakir looks to Gvarokh. He gives a micro-nod of assent just before he downs his own. Lakir cautiously sips his.

"And..." Soks gestures to his servant to refill their glasses. Lakir discretely refuses, having only consumed a quarter of his. Once she's done, Soks continues, "A toast to the brave Captain Gvarokh and his intrepid pack for bringing him home."

Gvarokh acknowledges Soks with a slight bow. The other vargr down this second shot. Gvarokh drinks about half of his second. Lakir is now halfway through his first.

Soks gestures for everyone to have a seat. "Now Captain, you must tell me everything."

Gvarokh tells an edited version of events and relies on Elloekothe to tell what happened during the ground campaign. Over the course of the tale, Soks occasionally asks Egz about the escape from his perspective. No one talks about what Egz did onboard the Pack of Daggers.

Soks gets visibly excited during the more tense and dramatic portions of the story. "That is splendid. How resourceful! All without firing a shot. Captain, you and your crew seem more adept at espionage than mere piracy."

Gvarokh smiles and says, "Piracy doesn't require violence every time, it just requires the willingness to use violence at any time."

Soks raises his glass and points it at Gvarokh. "Ahhhh, judicious use of violence. Smart."

A vargr male dressed in servant's clothes emerges from the house and approaches Soks, who waves him over. The vargr cups a paw to his mouth and says something in Soks' ear. Soks smiles and says, "Thank you." The vargr then returns inside.

Soks stands. "I've just been informed that we're an hour away from the start of the banquet. If you want, you can return to your ship and change your attire to something more fitting for the occasion. And I want to see the rest of your crew here. They deserve it. I'll send someone out to your ship when we're ready. Come, Egz. Let's get you out of that jumpsuit and into something more fitting for a wolf of your stature."

With that the two of them head inside. Turning around, a guard is standing by a gate, holding it open.

Dinner Party

Characters: All
NPC: Kagfak, Major Elloekothe, Uengghae, Major Arsashaammu, Egz Aerugurzae, Soks Dhunkul
Location: Dhunkul's estate
System: Daama

1126.40.6 - 00:35 Imperial Time, 00:35 Vilani Time, 23:45 Local Time (34 hour, 33 minute day)

The crew put on the nicest clothes they can find or can get 3D printed in time. About an hour after Gvarokh and the welcoming group left Soks courtyard, a human male servant of can be seen waiting outside. That means the banquet is about to begin.

Dougok dresses up in an ensemble that makes the teeth of the human crew ache. Gvarokh opts for his finest clothes, albeit a bit conservative by vargr standards. Elloekothe wears a sleeveless sequin dress that scatters light. It's form fitting and reveals her athletic figure.

Kagfak and Uengghae didn't own anything and opted to have 3D-printed brightly colored jackets. Lakir, Simrii, Slade, and Vincent opted for nice jackets from their wardrobes.

Chuck and Irma have agreed to go. Both are conservatively dressed. She appears to be leaning on him for support.

Gvarokh says, "You don't have to go."

Irma replies, "Thank you, Captain, but I have to do this. I have to prove that he has no power over me."

Chuck just offers a quick nod.

Once outside, it becomes clear that this is a bigger event than hinted at before. Besides the two Ueknou corsairs and Muumshiizi ship's boat that were here when the ship arrived, five other grav vehicles (speeders and sedans) have arrived and several more can be seen making their approach. The servant waves the group towards a walkway that is shielded from any gusts of air from vehicles landing on the tarmac.

The walkway meets up with the main pathway the initial group took earlier and then proceed into the courtyard. The servant wishes you a pleasant time and returns to the tarmac, presumably to escort other guests to the party.

The group sticks together to assess the other guests.

The guests are a mix of human and vargr, male and female, and all are dressed up for the occasion. Some of the clothes worn by the humans are as loud as those worn by the vargr. Servants are walking around with trays of red and white wines, apparently locally produced. Several types of hors d'oeuvres are offered: smoked fish with spreadable condiment on crackers, fine cuts of meat on toothpicks, grapes, etc.

Egz and Soks are often seen together, sometimes apart, mingling among the guests. Some appear to know Egz, for others it's the first meeting. Everyone seems happy.

Gvarokh quietly reminds everyone that no one should wander alone, stick with at least one buddy the entire time. "And under no circumstances is anyone to bring a guest back to the ship, no matter how hot or urgent it may seem at the time. If it comes to that, split off and do your thing elsewhere. No one but crew on the ship."

Kagfak and Uengghae chuckle.

The group eavesdrops in on conversations here and there when music doesn't drown them out. Most of it appears to just be common gossip. They can generally be summed up as "rich people's problems."

Soks can be seen from time-to-time talking to guests and pointing to the group. Afterwards, a few of those people come over, introduce themselves and hand over business cards, surprisingly the paper variety and not digital, stating that if you're ever in need of work to contact them.

Gvarokh politely nods and accepts the cards.

The guests are called into the house and descend two flights of stairs to a grand room that's been set up as a banquet hall. Three long rows of tables have been set up, and the staff guide everyone to their seats. The group sits at the center table near the front where Soks, who sits at the head, and Egz are seated. There are a few other people that appear to be Soks' top dogs between him and the group, but that's it. Beyond the group sits others that appear to work directly for Soks. The other two tables are occupied by guests.

After everyone is seated, Soks stands and raises his glass in a toast to "Captain Gvarokh and the crew of the Pack of Daggers and the courage and savvy they demonstrated in liberating my dear friend Egz from prison." There are several types of cheers and howls to acknowledge the toast.

Guests are given three choices for dinner: steak, chicken, or vegetarian entree. Everyone seems pleased with the offerings. After dinner, guests are invited to return upstairs to socialize in the courtyard or in the game room. The sun has set, bringing a welcome chill to the air. After a short while, desserts are brought around for guests to nibble on.

Soks comes by eventually. "Captain Gvarokh, are you enjoying the party?"

"Yes, of course," Gvarokh says and nods politely. "The food was delicious."

"Good. Good. Oh, I can tell that you're far too sober. All of you, it seems. A pity. You can make it up to me by introducing me to your crew."

Gvarokh laugh and replies, "To you, this is just a party. To us, this is one of the best parties we have ever seen. Being 'too sober' lets us actually remember it."

One of Soks' ears flop. "If you say so." There's no hiding the disappointment in his voice.

Gvarokh would love to go through everyone one-by-one naming them and giving something interesting and special about them, but that would be outright stupid in the venue with this host. Instead, he goes through them one-by-one naming them and giving their position in the crew.

"I would be delighted to introduce you to the crew: Elloekothe needs no introduction—"

"Indeed she doesn't." Soks smiles, showing his teeth.

"She is our lead intelligence officer."

"The only smart choice."

"Lakir Zalikhuluskaki is my first officer."

"The quiet security man that I met on Kashiin Siir. Still quiet I see."

"Slade Trask is our first engineer. Irma Arsashaammu is our medical specialist. Chuck Strider is our ship's purser. Vincent Velandro and Simrii Kugiilii are our heavy gunners."

Soks keeps quiet through these introductions, merely nodding.

"Uengghae and Dougok are our light gunners."

Dougok snaps his jaws and wags his tail in acknowledgement when he is introduced.

"You're a big one," Soks says to Dougok. "And a snazzy dresser."

"Kagfak is our firing coordinator. And last, but certainly not least, Vladgorkfeg is our squad leader."

"Another big one," Soks says. "Must come in handy for boarding actions." He steps back and apprises the group. "A well-disciplined pack you have here, Captain. Well, try to indulge in the desserts at least. The duties of the host call me away." He bows. "Captain."

With that, he heads off, but only for about ten minutes or so. He returns with two males, one vargr and one human. The vargr is dressed with a uniform decked to the nines. The human wears an all black uniform. He looks to be middle-aged with grey peppering his beard stubble and short hair. Something about him seems familiar to Gvarokh.

Elloekothe closes the gap between her and Gvarokh. She squeezes his arm in what would normally be perceived as an intimate gesture, but Gvarokh suspects there's something more.

"Captain Gvarokh, allow me to introduce Captain Dhoknan."

The vargr sniffs the air. "Well met, Captain."

"And Captain Khigiikuli."

The human nods curtly. "Captain."

Soks continues, "Captain Dhoknan is a privateer for the 17th Disjuncture. Captain Khigiikuli is picking up the pieces of the defunct Touzagh." Gesturing to Gvarokh, he says, "Before liberating our dear friend Egz, Captain Gvarokh and his crew journeyed here from points spinward."

Dhoknan asks, "How far spinward?"

Gvarokh starts to recite the background that Elloekothe has drilled into his head during jumpspace interludes. "Tuglikki."

Dhoknan's ears shoot up in surprise. "Do tell. Whom did you run with?"

"The Assemblage of 1116."


"Indeed," Soks adds.

Dhoknan says, "With all of those fertile hunting grounds, you come here?"

"Corridor is crowded with packs fighting over scraps. The Domain of Deneb is too well-equipped to just keep throwing ships at it. It will not break without the right hammer. I'm here to find that hammer. With Soks' help, of course."

Soks bows his head in acknowledgement.

Khigiikuli says to Gvarokh, "It would seem that we all want that hammer." There's an unspoken challenge in his eyes.

Soks places a paw on Khigiikuli's arm. "There are plenty of hammers to go around, Captain. No need to go all alpha."

The tension in Khigiikuli's stance deflates. He takes a drink from his glass. "That's good to know, Soks. I'd hate to break up this triad that you've assembled."

"I assure you, Khigiikuli, once we get to Gemid, you'll get what you came for."

He grabs a tray of shot glasses from a passing server and hands one to each captain, Elloekothe, and himself. Raising his glass, he says, "To the future!"

Gvarokh notes the drink smells like uekhfarsal and thus downs it as the other captains are doing so.

Afterwards, Gvarokh thanks Soks for being such a gracious host and then states that he is retiring for the evening.

Elloekothe starts playing with Gvarokh's fur in order to give Soks the impression that Gvarokh is merely moving his party to a more private setting.

Soks offers a conspiratorial smile and wishes them a good night.

Next: Back at the Ship