Waiting for the Announcement

Characters: Vincent, Dougok, Lakir, Simrii, Gvarokh, and Slade
NPC: Vlad, Kagfak, Uengghae, Elloekothe, Irma, Chuck
Location: Pack of Daggers, parked at GSC-37 Space Station
System: Gemid

1126.41.4 - 12:45 Imperial Time, 04:45 Vilani Time

Pack of Daggers has returned to GSC-37. Soks comms Gvarokh, informing him that he has booked the lounge for all participating captains and their crews while they wait for the announcement.

Gvarokh enthusiastically accepts the invitation. Once the call is terminated, he states shipwide that anyone who wants to can go. Any who want to stay back can.

Vincent says, "I'll stay back at the ship."

Irma thinks it would be best if she stayed behind as well. So does Chuck and Dougok. But Slade, Vlad, Lakir, Simrii, Kagfak, Uengghae, and Elloekothe all decide to disembark.

Before heading out, Gvarokh reminds every one of their somewhat modified cover stories. He particularly notes to Kagfak and Uengghae that there is always the chance they will meet someone that knew them in their previous lives from the other crews. "Shouldn't be a big deal. Just something to be aware of. Also, back away from fights if you can; call for help if you can't. Try to stay in pairs."

The group follows Gvarokh's lead through the empty station passenger lounge out into the central corridor, then up the stairs, and into the lounge. As anticipated, their comm signals cut out as soon as they enter the lounge.

Vincent and Dougok Watch the News

Characters: Vincent, Dougok
Location: Pack of Daggers, parked at GSC-37 Space Station

Dougok joins Vincent down in Engineering. He kicks his feet up on the console and stares blankly at the data displays. He's bored within minutes and starts scrolling through local public comms channels. "Oh, here's the news."

The news comes on the main viewscreen. The logo for GWN: Gemid World News. They're leading off with cross-border news.

"An investigation into the shooting at last year's Tripolis Tragedy, where 25 people were gunned down by Dulinor's daughter's bodyguards has determined that the bodyguards fired on the crowd by accident and without malice."

The holovideo shows Lady Isis on a stage, delivering a speech at the Sirte Downport, while an unruly crowd throws rocks, bottles, and garbage at her. Several fireworks are heard popping as Lady Isis fell to the stage. The bodyguards, thinking that she'd been shot, opened fire on the crowd.

"No charges will be filed. Archduke Dulinor, who still maintains that he is the true Emperor, regrets the incident."

The video segues over to a plainly dressed anchorwoman. "The charges that Marquess Tanzer, a noble loyal to Archduchess Margaret, committed genocide against the Geonee will not go away. Tanzer is claiming that the war refugees were in fact pirates and were despoiling the already frail economy of the Massilia sector. After uttering a racist remark with regards to the short stature of the Geonee, he stated that whenever possible the Geonee pirates were pressed into a forced labor program where the marauders would help repair the damage that they've done.

"When asked to comment on charges of genocide, racist language, and what amounts to a confession of slavery on the part of her vassal, Margaret's press secretary declined to comment."

The male newsanchor takes over. "Today, we received an update in the investigation into the terrorist attack and hijacking at Roetingaz Station." The holo cuts to a video of a Ueknou class corsair fleeing the orbital starport, four Confederation naval ships closing in on it, and then the Ueknou going to jump while still deep in the gravity well. "The stolen ship, the Arraerouksagkor, has been found in the Voenggaks system and there are survivors." The video now shows a shockwave from the premature jump rippling through local space, slamming into the starport and the warships. "An anonymous source close to the investigation has indicated that the 17th Disjuncture is behind the attack. A statement released from the 17th Disjuncture embassy on Voenggaks has denied any involvement in the attacks, further stating the Disjuncture has no quarrel with their Ngath Confederation brethren, their sole enemy is the Imperium, which stifles the development of all nations and sentients."

Dougok says, "I know the Arraerouksagkor. Used to be part of a corsair band, forget the name. I lost track of them when I joined the Touzagh." He grunts. "I wonder if I should've joined them instead."

Vincent replies, "Why do you say that, Dougok? Are you not happy with the captain? Looking to possibly get off this ship?"

Dougok chuckles. "I said it with my time in the Touzagh in mind. They were an ugly bunch, the way they kicked me out was a nasty bite on my tail." He pauses a moment and sniffs the air. "Captain Gvarokh is fine. He helped me get revenge on the Touzagh bastards. I don't think he cares for my desire to roam. One can tell that he's an Imperial vargr: He's too cautious; plays by the rules too much. He wouldn't last long with a real vargr crew. I'd take the ship from him if I felt that I had the pack's support." He laughs, then shakes his head. "But Chuck would cut me down the instant I gave it any serious consideration. Never saw so much loyalty in a pinkie towards a wolf." He pauses again, considering his thoughts. "Yeah, I think when this job is done, I'm going to set out on my own, see if I can hunt down my own fortune."

Waiting in the Lounge

Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, Slade
NPC: Simrii, Vlad, Kagfak, Uengghae, Elloekothe
Location: GSC-37 Space Station

The group follows Gvarokh's lead through the empty station passenger lounge out into the central corridor, then up the stairs, and into the lounge. For those who are visiting the place for the first time, it looks well maintained, and there's an undercurrent scent of a meadow in the air, and the place is noisy, certainly noisier than when Gvarokh was here last. On the far side of the space is a sunken dining area which looks out on the dorsal half of Pack of Daggers. The tables there are half-filled. To the left are bathrooms. To the right is a rectangular bar surrounded by a perimeter wall of faux wood and plants. Small tables line this perimeter wall, and the bar has sixteen stools. There are probably thirty people here: twenty vargr and ten human.

Lakir points out a pair of women sitting in the bar area to Gvarokh, one human and one vargr. "Those two were the ones partying with Dougok and Vincent." He lowers his voice. "I'm bettin' this won't end well if D and V spun a different story to those two. Pretty strange they're in here, right now."

Gvarokh responds in a hushed voice, "When you get a chance, radio back to warn them. Also ask what info they might have on the women."

"Roger that."

Gvarokh then notices Soks talking to Dhoknan and Khigiikuli. He also checks for Egz, but he's nowhere in sight. Gvarokh then proceeds over to the bar to say hello, Elloekothe in tow.

Lakir goes with them, keeping watch the whole time.

The rest of the crew grab a table with a view of the ship.

Gvarokh stops at the bar, notes that Lem is working again, and waves him over. He asks for a uekfarsal. Elloekothe leans in and says, "Make it two." After Lem turns his back to get the drinks, she says to Gvarokh, "For nerves."

The drinks arrive. Gvarokh goes to pay, but Lem shakes his head.

Lakir leans in. "I can't get a signal from in here. I'm headin' out into the hall to call our boys."

Gvarokh keeps his back to Soks, Dhoknan, and Khigiikuli. Elloekothe faces him and watches them, relating what's happening.

"Dhoknan is laughing at something that Khigiikuli is saying, but Khigiikuli looks serious as looks from Soks to Dhoknan. Khigiikuli does not look amused. He just said something to Dhoknan that got the wolf to stop laughing. Dhoknan is now walking away and is headed towards his pack. Soks is saying something back to Khigiikuli." She pauses. "I've seen that smile before. Khigiikuli just crossed a line. Soks only smiles that way when he's angry. Khigiikuli is pretending he isn't bothered, or maybe he isn't, but then he'd be a fool. He said something, now he's walking away to go be with his crew."

Lakir returns. "They're useless. All they remember is their names and that they're part of Soks' crew."

The news comes on down below in the lounge area, the holoprojection displayed over everyone's heads. The logo for GWN: Gemid World News. They're leading off with cross-border news.

"An investigation into the shooting at last year's Tripolis Tragedy, where 25 people were gunned down by Dulinor's daughter's bodyguards has determined that the bodyguards fired on the crowd by accident and without malice."

The holovideo shows Lady Isis on a stage, delivering a speech at the Sirte Downport, while an unruly crowd throws rocks, bottles, and garbage at her. Several fireworks are heard popping as Lady Isis fell to the stage. The bodyguards, thinking that she'd been shot, opened fire on the crowd.

"No charges will be filed. Archduke Dulinor, who still maintains that he is the true Emperor, regrets the incident."

The video segues over to a plainly dressed anchorwoman. "The charges that Marquess Tanzer, a noble loyal to Archduchess Margaret, committed genocide against the Geonee will not go away. Tanzer is claiming that the war refugees were in fact pirates and were despoiling the already frail economy of the Massilia sector. After uttering a racist remark with regards to the short stature of the Geonee, he stated that whenever possible the Geonee pirates were pressed into a forced labor program where the marauders would help repair the damage that they've done.

"When asked to comment on charges of genocide, racist language, and what amounts to a confession of slavery on the part of her vassal, Margaret's press secretary declined to comment."

Lakir clears his throat, causing Gvarokh and Elloekothe to look his way. Soks has joined them.

Looking at the holovideo, he says, "Their people have turned on them. A rock has more charisma than they do. Mark my words, they will not survive this war."

He's about to say something else when the newscaster says something that catches his ear. "Today, we received an update in the investigation into the terrorist attack and hijacking at Roetingaz Station." The holo cuts to a video of a Ueknou class corsair fleeing the orbital starport, four Confederation naval ships closing in on it, and then the Ueknou going to jump while still deep in the gravity well. "The stolen ship, the Arraerouksagkor, has been found in the Voenggaks system and there are survivors." The video now shows a shockwave from the premature jump rippling through local space, slamming into the starport and the warships. "An anonymous source close to the investigation has indicated that the 17th Disjuncture is behind the attack. A statement released from the 17th Disjuncture embassy on Voenggaks has denied any involvement in the attacks, further stating the the Disjuncture has no quarrel with their Ngath Confederation brethren, their sole enemy is the Imperium, which stifles the development of all nations and sentients."

Soks mutters, "Well, that's going to be a problem."

Gvarokh lets out a small, non-descript grunt.

Soks turns to Lem the bartender and says, "Lem, would you please put on something a bit more festive."

Lem nods, grabs a remote, and selects concert footage from a music festival on Voenggaks earlier this year.

The Announcement

Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, Slade
NPC: Elloekothe, Vlad, Simrii, Kagfak, Uengghae
Location: GSC-37
System: Gemid

1126.41.4 - 14:00 Imperial Time, 06:00 Vilani Time

Soks gets word that the committee has made a decision. Once he lets Lem know, he shuts off the concert and puts the announcement through to the holoplayer. The bar goes silent.

The video reveals the trio sitting in the meeting room from earlier. The male in the loud orange suit makes the announcement.

"After careful deliberation, this committee has made a decision regarding the three applications that came before us today.

"With regards to applicant number one, Captain Khigiikuli, formerly of the now defunct Touzagh, we are rejecting his request."

Someone in Khigiikuli's retinue shouts out an expletive. Khigiikuli himself is silent, but there's a scowl on his face.

"While his credentials were valid, there were questions regarding his ability to properly safeguard the weapon. Testimony provided revealed certain failures of strategic response in stressful engagements."

Khigiikuli and his retinue storm off from their section of the bar and head towards the exit, making sure to pass by Soks and Gvarokh. There's a meter between the two groups. Lakir puts his hand on his weapon but doesn't draw, but will if anyone so much as twitches.

To Gvarokh, Khigiikuli says, "That's twice you've screwed me over. There won't be a third time."

Gvarokh responds coldly, "You screwed yourself over both times, not me."

To Soks, he says, "I thought you believed." He jerks his head towards Gvarokh. "I hope he's worth it."

Soks replies, "I held up my end. Don't blame your shortcomings on me or anyone else. No one likes a whiner. Come back when you've proven yourself."

Through gritted teeth, he replies, "Count on it." He then leaves the premises.

Soks turns to the holovideo and in a raised voice says, "Please continue."

"With regards to applicant number two, Captain Dhoknan, representing the 17th Disjuncture, we are rejecting his request."

Dhoknan sullenly stares at the holovideo. His retinue is quiet.

"While his credentials are valid, there are concerns as to his or the Disjuncture's usage of the weapon. We were hoping that the animosities between our two nations had been settled, but with the recent attack on Roetingaz Station, it would appear that the Disjuncture does not respect our right to exist as a sovereign nation. We can not rule out the possibility that the weapon would be used against us."

Dhoknan and his retinue make their way to the exit. He pauses in front of Soks. "You should've joined us and embraced the Disjuncture. One day, it will come for you." It sounds like it could be a threat or a warning, but his tone denotes disappointment most of all.

Soks replies, "Good hunting, Captain."

Dhoknan nods and departs with his retinue.

Soks turns to face the holovideo. Upon seeing that, the speaker continues.

"With regards to applicant number three, Captain Gvarokh, expelled from the Kfoez Killrroerr, a corsair group in the employ of the Assemblage of 1116, we are accepting his request. The interview revealed elements of his character that demonstrated cunning and resourcefulness when the odds are stacked against him and his crew."

Gvarokh looks at the screen and politely nods in the committee's direction.

"We will be in contact with his representative, Soks Dhunkul, to make arrangements to conclude the transaction."

Soks turns to Gvarokh and says with a smile, "Congratulations, Captain."

Gvarokh lets out his breath a little, then starts celebrating with Soks and the crew. In response to Soks, he says, "Thank you!"

"I just got you access. You're the one that proved himself."

Out of the corner of his eye, Gvarokh notices Lakir say something to Elloekothe and then make his way to the door.

As shots are being passed around for a celebratory toast, Elloekothe says in Gvarokh's ear, "Lakir is wary about the losers. He's keeping an eye out and instructing Vincent to do likewise."

Gvarokh nods and says, "Good plan."

The celebration goes on for about an hour. At that point, Soks states that he wants to get back to his ship to be ready for the comm call from the committee.

Gvarokh tells Soks that he's looking forward to the follow-up after Soks' meeting. A few minutes after Soks departs, Gvarokh leads the crew back to the ship.

Awaiting the Merch

Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, Slade, Vincent, Dougok
NPC: Elloekothe, Vlad, Simrii, Kagfak, Uengghae, Chuck, Irma
Location: Pack of Daggers, parked at GSC-37
System: Gemid

1126.41.4 - 15:30 Imperial Time, 07:30 Vilani Time

As soon as they're back on the ship, Gvarokh asks for a status report on Dhoknan's and Khigiikuli's ships.

Vincent says, "They returned to their ships shortly after Lakir contacted me. Fifteen minutes later, one of Khigiikuli's ships, a Buccaneer, jumped. Five minutes after that, all of Dhoknan's ships jumped. The rest of Khigiikuli's ships are holding steady one kilometer from the station."

Vlad asks, "So what's the plan? Are we torching the facility once they give us the location? Are we holding the planet hostage with their own bioweapon? Or are we just taking the sample we've got back to the admiral, hoping that they can find an antidote?"

Chuck replies, "The admiral said that we're supposed to 'neutralize' the source. I'm taking that to mean we should be nuking the facility."

Lakir says, "Problem with nukin' the facility is they may have the fab process distributed, or not include all of the product. These ain't exactly upstanding citizens of the galaxy here.

"If we do try a strike, we'll be worrying about Khigiikuli's ships, plus the reinforcements I'll bet he's looking to bring in to hunt us to ground.

"We'd need a combined strike at the facility, the computer cores, and any hostile lookin' ships. Not sure we've got the firepower."

Vincent says, "I think it's safe to assume once we have the bioweapon and try to leave that Khigikul's ships will attack us. I understand we need to destroy the facility, but I think it's more prudent to bring the weapon back to the admiral and see if we can convince him to give us some support and go back and annihilate the facility and anyone who might try to stop us. We might be good at what we do, but I'd like to not turn this into a suicide mission."

Dougok says, "I think our first problem may be fighting our way out to the jump point. Past that, we are also likely to run into trouble when we try to make the pickup. I say we double down with help, snatch what we can, and nuke what is left. If they have alternative facilities at least we have the information to build some kind of antidote and if not..." Dougok flips his ears. "We have information, and we sent them a message."

Sensing a lull in discussion, Gvarokh jumps in. "Nuking the facility is kinda hard as we don't actually have any nukes. The only 'nuke' we currently have is the ship, and I am not planning on a suicide mission.

"Furthermore, I doubt Khigiikuli will risk attacking us here in-system. Doing so would make his group a complete pariah in the Confederation, and I seriously doubt he is willing to do that. He will definitely hunt us down once we leave, though. This, of course, complicates any delivery to the admiral, as we can't risk letting Khigiikuli's forces follow us."

Elloekothe clears her throat. "I know where we can get a nuke."

All eyes turn to her. "Rhodes. It's a client state of the Imperium, currently working with the Vilani, six parsecs to trailing. I have contacts there. I should be able to get a nuke from them. It'll cost though, and I only have funds to cover purchasing the bioweapon."

"How much?" Chuck asks.

"A million credits. Maybe more."

Chuck looks to Gvarokh. "We have it."

Gvarokh says, "To be completely honest, I don't know whether or not we will be given the bioweapon immediately."

Elloekothe tilts her head; an ear droops.

Gvarokh continues, "Something just tells me that we're going to have to prove ourselves worthy first. I don't have any idea what that will entail," Gvarokh lets himself have a toothy smirk, "They haven't told us yet. But this isn't even close to over yet."

Gvarokh lets that sink in and then continues, "And what we are going to have to do will likely be horrific. This bioweapon is horrific, and they will likely want proof we are ready and willing to use it. If the target is Vilani, we might never be able to truly go back. The admiral can try to protect us all he wants, but if what we have to do is like Envar, we can't go back. At least for very long. If we are extremely lucky, it will be against the Disjuncture."

Elloekothe replies, "But the whole application process was to prove that we are worthy of purchasing the weapon. Dhoknan would've had it, but his own people botched it with their attack at Roetingaz Station. Khigiikuli might've had it. He wanted to resurrect the Touzagh banner—and the weapon would've fit the Touzagh attitude perfectly—but he proved himself to be incompetent. We passed the test.

"Look, the Confederation is trying to undermine the Vilani and the Imperium, and they tend to turn a blind eye to what the Touzagh did, but I know enough about the leadership throughout the Confederation that wholesale slaughter isn't something they approve of. Now, these Gemid leaders—Gegatsueg Ngaekh, Ghaenaedzue, and Admiral Vughtsothaghzurri—they're different. We know that they want to use Gemid's arsenal to break away from the Confederation and form their own state..."

She trails off, frozen in thought. Her ears shoot up in alarm as she appears to have connected the dots in her head. "Ziz! They're going to have us use the weapon on Gvadhoe, the Confederation capital! With Ngath out of the way, there will be a power vacuum. They can blame the Disjuncture or the Vilani and rally the Confederation Vargr to them."

Dougok growls for a moment and then snaps his jaws in agreement. "Absolutely! A strike on the Confederation capital makes sense. Even if word gets out, they can pin it on a rogue band of corsairs in all the confusion. I definitely wouldn't expect them to want to stir up the Vilani or the Imperium. Going for power makes more sense. All the more reason to nuke it if we have the credits."

Gvarokh responds, "That seems a little strong. I can fully imagine that they'd try to do that, but I don't know if we'd make a very good conduit since we'd stick out pretty badly. Besides, having us attack the Ngath capital would be a suicide mission. So, unless they see us as dupes, I'd be surprised by that.

"That said, I could definitely see us used as an overall effort to accomplish that goal. Or to be an intermediate step in the overall process."

He also mentions, "We will need to find an excuse to return after we acquire the nukes. We won't need a big excuse, but enough that keeps their guard down while we deliver the goods and try to run away."

Vincent says, "So what if we play devils advocate here. We bought the bio-weapon, and we're mercs, so play the part. I would like to assume they are going to hand the weapon over since we are purchasing it, but in case they aren't and we do have some proving to do, then no matter what, we will have to come back this way. Why don't we push the issue and see how we can be of service and say we are willing to take the blame for our actions if it helps Gemid? Become their private group of mercs, willing to do whatever it takes in their name, just make it such that from all appearances we are acting on our own. We can run and grab the nukes and see if they'll have us run some smaller errands for them gaining their trust. Blowing up this facility is important. As we've been having this discussion, I've realized maybe this operation is spread out, so we're gonna need to make sure we hit everything. We need access to those cores and we need to find all the facilities involved so this isn't an exercise in futility."

Dougok snaps his jaw in agreement with Vincent. "There are too many unknowns to make a decision right now. The only thing we can do is be prepared to act swiftly, to bite at the jugular when the time is right. If we have to run with their pack for bit then so be it."

Gvarokh nods in response and says, "Fair point. Letís see what they do."

Next: Pick Up Your Merch