Back at the Hangar

Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, Dougok
NPC: Elloekothe, Soks Dhunkul
Location: Pack of Daggers, parked at Gimarkikerkha Downport
System: Gemid

1126.41.4 - 21:45 Imperial Time, 13:45 Vilani Time, 1:49 Local Time (38 hour, 11 minute day)

The van pulls into the hangar bay and everyone gets out. As if reading Gvarokh's mind, Soks gets out of his car and sends his crew on back to his ship's boat. He walks into the hangar bay, hits a button to close it behind him, and walks over to Gvarokh and the others. He doesn't look happy.

"I had no idea he was going to double-cross you like that," he says. "You would've been well within your rights to walk away from rotten deal."

Dougok asks if they want to go ahead and get the weapon unloaded and secured in the cargo bay.

Gvarokh replies, "That sounds like a great idea!"

Dougok heads over to the ship to get help with the weapon.

Slade is standing at the open airlock. "How did it go?" he asks.

"Not so good," Dougok replies. "They altered the deal. We have to go assassinate Ngath."

Vlad, Kagfak, Uengghae, Simrii, and Chuck show up in the airlock.

"What's going on?" Simrii asks.

Slade ignores him. "Ngath? As in the guy who named the whole damn confederation after himself?"

"The very same."

"What the fuck!"

"The weapon dealer gave us the weapon, but we have to use it on Ngath. Going to send us an escort to make sure we don't deviate from the plan. He'll give us one of our own once we do this job for him. By the way, can you open the cargo lift. I'm going to need help loading the weapon."

Slade is pinching the bridge of his nose. "Yeah, sure. Just a sec."

Meanwhile back in the hangar bay, Gvarokh responds to Soks, "I may have been within my rights, but I doubt I would have survived walking away. I now know too much. I either get with the program or I am eliminated. Best case, I am still out the money." After short pause, he adds, "Honestly, I am not sure they will want me to survive even after taking the mission."

Soks looks as if he's chewing over his next words. He finally sighs and says, "I'm sorry. I really didn't expect it to go down like this. I've dealt with him in the past. We've always had a good business relationship. I think all this new found power has gone to his head. He's got some sack on him if he thinks he's got the teeth to take out Ngath. No offense to you or your crew, but unless Ngath's inner circle has been corrupted, there's no way you get close enough to complete this mission."

Gvarokh replies with a shrug. "If there is an opening, we'll find it. If there isn't, we'll improvise."

Soks sighs and sniffs the air. "Good hunting, Captain." He turns and leaves, returning to his ship's boat.

Dougok returns with Vlad, Uengghae, and Kagfak. They maneuver the weapon onto a cart and haul it up to the ship.

Elloekothe says, "I've never seen Soks react that way. If I didn't know better, I'd think that he's actually hurt that you were double-crossed."

Gvarokh says, "If you want to be less charitable, he probably realized that he was completely set up. They planned on betraying and eliminating whoever 'won' the competition. Hell, if I did try to walk away, he might have been at risk too." He smiles and adds, "He's probably more upset that he didn't see this coming. For a 'player' that's gotta hurt. A lot."

"I'm sure it does."

Gvarokh asks her, "How 'evil' is Ngath anyway? I know he's hostile to the Vilani, but he seems to be less 'burn it all down' than the 17th or these assholes."

She replies, "He isn't any more evil than the next corsair, Touzagh excepted. He's more interested in commerce, but like any corsair, if he smells weakness, he strikes. After the breakup of the Imperium, he thought that the Ziru Sirkaa would be a weak target, particularly after diverting their fleets to fight off Lucan and Strephon's clone."

"Good. That's what I was expecting. I just wanted to make sure I was not missing anything."

A voice shouts out from airlock boarding stairs. "Captain!" It's Chuck. He comes racing down the stairs and across the hangar.

"Captain, it's Vincent. He hacked in to their database. Not sure how successful he is, but he's been detected. Something about using an active firewall defense to buy enough time to finish the download."

"Why didn't you just use the comms?"

"Wasn't sure how secure they were since we're in hostile territory."

Gvarokh blinks a couple of times, an unasked question floating around his head. Ultimately, he says, "Well, I hope they couldn't trace it. If they did, we're all dead. We can't leave yet; we're waiting for an additional delivery. Even if we could, the likelihood we could get to jump range is pretty minimal. So let's go see what he found."

The group heads into the ship.

After the weapon is secured in the cargo hold, Lakir shows up.

"Captain's helping Vincent with firewall defense. Said to get the ship ready for takeoff after we get our delivery."

Chuck asks, "I thought that you guys already picked up the weapon."

Lakir sighs. "Yeah, we did. But the captain negotiated for another small sample. Supposedly just room-sized."

"Whyyyyyyyy?"

"Not sure what he's got in mind, but we got shanghaied into doing a job for them. I'll let him explain."

"That doesn't sound good."

"It ain't."

Dougok explains, "As I told the others, we've been roped into an assassination."

"Oh that's definitely not good."

A Losing Battle

Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, Vincent
NPC: Elloekothe, Chuck
Location: Pack of Daggers, parked at Gimarkikerkha downport
System: Gemid

1126.41.4 - 18:30 Imperial Time, 10:30 Vilani Time, 36:45 Local Time (38 hour, 11 minute day)

As soon as the firewall at the sixth node falls, the attack begins on the fifth node. Vincent knows that it's a longshot, but he tries to put up an active defense to get the firewalls to last longer and buy the downloads more time.

It's a slog. His first attempt to slow it down fails, but he counters and succeeds in thwarting the approach vector. But the attacker regains the advantage and bursts through again. The firewall at the fifth node is down to 33%. Research server six is downloaded. Nine more to go.

Progress and failure continue at a measured pace. The fifth node firewall is defeated, but research server seven download is at 20%. The fourth node firewall is defeated, but research server eight download is at 20%.

Gvarokh, Lakir, Elloekothe, and Chuck enter the computer room and observe Vincent. Vincent is furiously engaged with some sort of virtual interface. His fingers are furiously pecking away at the air while his arms flail about.

"Vincent?"

Vincent turns to see that Chuck has returned with Gvarokh, Lakir, and Elloekothe.

Vincent turns to face the group. "Hi!" And then promptly returns to whatever it is he's doing. At one point he dodges some unforeseen assault.

"How are things going?"

"Research server eight is almost fully downloaded. I'm struggling to hold the firewall at the third access node. The siege engine they're using must have a formidable AI component. I don't think I'm going to be able to get all of the servers downloaded in time."

"Captain, if you feel like helping me stall their siege engine, it might buy me more time, but the way it looks we'll only get about half of the servers, and there's no guarantee that the information we're looking for is on those servers. In the long run, I can always try and come up with a worm that'll copy the information and send it to a secure location somewhere on planet (that we'd need to set up), but I'd need to time to design it and even once it's complete, assuming we aren't staying around, we'd need to return so I could deploy it, and I'm doubting that would even be a possibility at this point. They'll probably try and beef up their security by the time we'd come back so it looks like this may be our only opportunity to get what we need. I'm definitely open to suggestions!"

"I'll see what I can do. It'll be good to exercise old skills. You have a terminal handy?"

Vincent gives a nod to the seat next to him.

While Gvarokh gets ready, Lakir asks, "In the meantime, any orders for the rest of us?"

"Have everyone get ready to go when the secondary delivery is made."

"Roger that." Lakir leaves. Elloekothe stays to watch.

Gvarokh takes a seat and gets familiar with Vincent's strategy. It's a bit daunting at first, but he gets the idea after a while.

There's some immediate success. Research server eight download has been completed. Seven more to go.

The successful parrying of the antagonist's attack continues. The addition of Gvarokh to the firewall defense team has been a big help to Vincent. The siege engine can't find purchase against the two of them. But then, the siege engine adapts to the new setup.

Research server nine download has been completed. Six more to go. The attack changes, and the firewall at node three has been defeated. There's only two left.

Gvarokh and Vincent are overwhelmed by the siege engine's new attack strategy. Maybe their antagonist got some extra help as well. Whatever it is, the firewall at node two has been defeated. There's only one left. If that one falls, there will be no time for Vincent to cover his tracks. The antagonist will find out that someone at the Gimarkikerkha Downport is responsible for the hack. And it won't take much effort to put two and two together to realize that Pack of Daggers is the culprit. Server ten's download is 80% complete.

Vincent calls it. "We can't afford to be caught here, I'm going to give up on the download, delete the connection logs and break the connection."

"Agreed," Gvarokh replies.

Vincent does just that. Killing the download closes the hole in the firewall. Gvarokh tries to counter the siege engine while Vincent continues clearing their tracks, but for every attack he thwarts, three more appear to take their place.

"Disconnecting you... now!"

With Gvarokh removed from firewall defense, Vincent purges any trace of their tracks, leaving a self-deleting cleaner bot to finish up.

"Phew!" Vincent leans back in his chair, sweat on his brow. "That was something."

In between panting, Gvarokh says, "That's an understatement."

"With your permission," Vincent says, "I want to get to work on a program I can load onto the local planetary network that will try to go back to their system, slowly and discretely copy and move files to a secure location for retrieval at a later time. I'd like the program to send out a 'mission complete' message that I can have sent to a laptop on the ship that's solely connected to communications and nothing else on the ship. I'll need to hit a computer store to acquire the new laptop and any other essential parts and tools I need to set up the data dump storage device—maybe hide it in the local starport bar—here in-system. Now, I am assuming we want to get the hell out of here, so I can work on the program later if we don't have time, but I would like to set up the physical hardware that we would need prior to that. This all assumes that you, the group, and Elloekothe are in agreement that this is a good idea. Otherwise we'll just have the info I was able to download and we get to steppin'."

"Yes, I like this idea very much."

Elloekothe tilts her head to the side, then returns it upright and says, "You're going to leave your data storage box in a bar? Aren't you worried that someone's going to find it?"

Vincent lets out a slight chuckle. "I apologize. I was saying that in jest. I mean to hide it somewhere on the station that its presence won't be discovered or questioned. That reminds me."

He returns his attention to his computer, searching for blueprints of the spaceport. He finds a fairly detailed public map.

"I was thinking of installing it in one of the bathrooms or maybe a bathroom network of all the bathrooms on the station. Set up as many as I can. Once they've been put in place and established a working network among them, each could siphon off pieces of the remaining database before the worm that I uploaded deletes their databases." He pauses a moment, tilts his head, and says, "I had a thought: Will we be back this way anytime soon?"

"We'll talk about it more when we get into jump space. Unfortunately, we'll probably be on a fairly proscribed path and then be on the run to get back here. Not much chance to do shopping before we get back, unfortunately."

"How soon are we leaving?"

"Not entirely certain. Could be a few hours. We're waiting for a sample delivery."

"Damn. That means by the time we get back the worm will have already wiped out their research servers." Vincent sighs. "I hope we got the data."

"I would think that they would have that data backed up."

"They should, if their IT department has any sense." Something clicks in Vincent's head. "Wait. What's this about a sample delivery? Didn't we get the weapon?"

"We did." Elloekothe replies. "Unfortunately, we have to do a job for them with the weapon they gave us. We don't get our own until we get back."

"What?"

"They altered the deal," Gvarokh says flatly. "I'll explain after we've gone to jump."

Sample Received

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

1126.41.5 - 4:26 Imperial Time, 20:26 Vilani Time, 8:30 Local Time (38 hour, 11 minute day)

Several hours have elapsed since the captain and the others returned from acquiring the weapon. No security forces have come knocking on the door, so Vincent's hack appears to not have been traced back to the ship.

An unmarked van has arrived at the hangar. The person on the comm claims to be from Skuethukhsgvasaalladh Corporation. The van is allowed into the hangar bay whereupon a human in a hazmat suit hands over a toaster oversized metallic suitcase to Vlad. He gets back into the van, which then drives away.

Vlad secures the suitcase in the cargo hold and then notifies the bridge that they're good to go. Gvarokh comms the downport's control tower which gives him clearance to depart.

Once the hangar bay doors open, Uengghae takes the ship up and leaves the ground behind. Once it's clear of the atmosphere, four Thaksoeghuksaknag class frigates (3G, J4, 800 tons disp) move to intercept the Pack of Daggers.

A hail soon follows. "Attention, Pack of Daggers. This is Captain Tsuengsaekh of the Confederation Navy Starship Zoegzuenguegh. We are your escort. We're transmitting the coordinates to the jump point and subsequent jump destination. Acknowledge receipt."

The coordinates indicate that Newcastle's outermost gas giant, Hurn, is the jump target.

"Acknowledged Zoegzuenguegh."

"Good. I know that I don't have to explain to you what will happen if you drift from the flight plan along the course of our journey."

"No, you do not, Captain."

"Good. Zoegzuenguegh out."

7:10 Imperial Time, 23:10 Vilani Time

Jump!

Next: Meeting During Jump - Gemid to Newcastle