Zaeng

Characters: Joe, Arthur, Darrurz
NPC: Mazun, Commander Thaedznou, Captain Azafaghur, Vuksaerz, Aerrak
Location: Orruengoerr
System: Zaeng

1202.20.7 - 8:05 IST

The Orruengoerr emerges from jump space around the outermost gas giant. Passive scans fail to turn up anything, so the ship descends the gravity well to skim.

14:15 IST: Skimming.
14:45 IST: Skimming completed. Climb out of gravity well. Purify fuel.
18:00 IST: With the new fuel fully purified and nothing registering on the scanners, the captain gives the order to mini-jump to the mainworld.
18:10 IST: Exit jumpspace around Zaeng.

Sensors aren't picking up anything in orbit, so the captain gives the order to alter course to get captured by Zaeng's gravitational pull and fall into orbit around it.

Further passive scans of the world below show no hot spots whatsoever.

The captain tells Darrurz to hold position over the downport and get the best sensor data he can get.

After an hour of scanning, everything indicates that the place is dead. The main entrance to the downport is wide open, and its interior is as cold as the surrounding landscape. There are no energy signatures of any kind. The place looks dead.

"I've seen enough," the captain says.

Mazun says, "Begging your pardon, Captain, but shouldn't we send a landing party down there to assess the tech?"

"That vakh Joe spoke with on Dueks told him that it had infected Zaeng. The sensors are telling me the world is dead. I believe that we can log this world as something for 'cautious salvage' for future missions."

Mazun is chomping at the bit to speak up. When he senses an opening, he goes for it. "Yes, but your library records indicate that the inhabitants live underground around the starport. There's a chance that they survived and that the natural rock is shielding them from our sensors. The open hangar door could be a deception, to make invaders think that the world is dead."

"Or a trap," counters Thaedznou, "to lure would be looters in to their doom."

"But shouldn't we be sure?" pleads Mazun.

"I am sure," Thaedznou says with confidence. "It was a corsair lair. Like the lot of them, they were greedy and took in infected equipment. The vakh got into their life support system and vented their atmosphere. End of story. We should move on to Gungaerrg as the good people of Gvoksaedo told us we'd find survivors there."

Captain Azafagur says, "I'm inclined to agree with Commander Thaedznou. I'd rather spend the time investigating a more promising world." He turns to face Joe, Darrurz, and Arthur. "What say you, gentlemen? Can any of you make the case for staying?"

Mazun looks to the rest of his group for signs that someone agrees with him.

Joe says, "I'm with the capt'n on this. We only came here cos our SOP was jump-1 and keep our tanks half-filled whenever possible. We're on a short timeline to find out what we can, and the most promising planets are the next one and the last one on our itinerary. Let's not forget that."

Mazun is decidedly crestfallen by Joe's response, but he doesn't vocalize it.

Joe continues, "We've established that Zaeng is 'safe' enough for an immediate retreat should Gungaerrg prove to be a viper's nest and we can't get anywhere near the gas giant. It's possible from a resources point of view that we missed something, but sometimes you got to leave some glory for the follow up team."

Arthur says, "I ain't goin' into a vakh trap if I can help it."

Darrurz says, "It's a dead world. No one to trade with, and the salvage will almost certainly be infected with vakh. Gungaerrg is much better use of our time."

"That settles it then," the Captain says. "On to Gungaerrg."

Arrival in Gungaerrg System

Characters: Joe, Arthur, Darrurz
NPC: Mazun, Commander Thaedznou, Captain Azafaghur, Vuksaerz, Aerrak
Location: Orruengoerr
System: Gungaerrg

1202.21.4 - 14:15 IST

The Orruengoerr emerges from jump space around the outermost gas giant. Passive scans fail to turn up anything, so the ship descends the gravity well to skim.

17:20 IST: Skimming.
18:55 IST: Skimming completed. Climb out of gravity well. Purify fuel.
22:00 IST: With the new fuel fully purified and nothing registering on the scanners, the captain gives the order to mini-jump to the mainworld.
22:10 IST: Exit jumpspace around Gungaerrg.

The ship is coasting at 165,000 kph (99,000 mph) with the intent of doing a close flyby before committing to a decel burn.

As the ship draws closer to the world, passive sensors are pick up a smattering of debris in orbit: the remnants of a space station and a few destroyed ships.

The world itself shows signs of life: the organized patterns of agriculture, the occasional stray radio broadcast, the grid pattern of large towns/small cities with thermal emissions indicative of activity.

Radiation detectors note that there's a low level hot spot on the world's moon.

Joe replays the sensor scans on his display, taking a closer look at the radio transmissions. He looks for any sign of a satellite network or other orbital infrastructure, but is unable to make that determination. The amount of debris makes it difficult to determine what's a functional satellite and what's junk.

21.5 - 3:15 IST

When the ship is 330,000 km (198,000 mi) from the surface, it is hailed. A middle-aged vargr woman's voice says, "Attention unidentified vessel, we see you and have plotted your course. We are prepared to defend ourselves should you prove to be hostile. You can either identify yourself, or be on your way."

Captain Azafaghur smiles and replies, "This is Captain Azafaghur of the Tsougak Trade Federation vessel Orruengoerr. We are on a reconnaissance mission, looking for survivors and future trade partners."

There's a pause of several seconds. "The Tsougak Trade Federation surrendered to the 17th Disjuncture almost a century ago."

"Yes, that is true. But in the aftermath of their demise, we were able to re-establish ourselves. Will you permit us to land so that we may talk face to face?"

Several more seconds pass by. "Yes, if your library data is intact, you may land at the downport. Its coordinates have not changed."

Azafaghur consults a terminal. "Yes, we have them. So—"

"Any unreasonable deviation from a proper flight plan will be considered a hostile act, and we will open fire. Understood?"

Understood."

"Good. Gungaerrg out."

The captain scratches his muzzle. "Hmmmm. Not exactly the warmest welcome. I hope Mayor Dhozaedh of Gvoksaedo didn't lie to us about them being willing to trade with anyone."

"Probably just a precaution, Captain," Thaedznou replies.

Azafaghur nods. "Let's land then."

"Shouldn't we send the boat down instead?" Thaedznou asks.

Azafaghur shakes his head. "No. Could be perceived as a hostile act. We'll take our chances that Mayor Dhozaedh wasn't lying and these people are just playing it safe."

Arthur interrupts, "Cap'n, that's a bad call, riskin our ride home 'stead of the boat. However, have we been painted with any targeting signals? They may be bluffin', if that's all they have left. Might also speak to how we'll be received on the surface."

"No, we haven't received any indication that they've targeted us."

Joe says, "Without any orbital hardware, we're going to be limited to short range tactical communications. It doesn't look like there is an organized planetary comms grid."

"Either way, we have to start our decel burn." Captain Azafaghur nods to Darrurz, who initiates the decel burn. "Judging by the looks on your faces, you want me to play it safe. Very well. Who wants to join Mazun on the boat?"

Joe blinks a few times. "Cap'n, we were approved for a 'proper flight plan' and to land at the downport. Entering a stationary orbit above the downport and sending down a ship's boat is a standard approach according..." Joe blinks again "...to Imperial naval flight regulation NA-27#B." Joe blinks again. "Nothing we are doing breaks what we were told to do. Although I doubt it is what they expect."

Captain Azafaghur tilts his head to the side for a moment. Once back upright, he replies, "Well Joe, we are long way from the Imperium in both space and time. Those rules don't necessarily apply here. But we can hope for the best."

Joe continues, "With that said, I'll join Mazun on the boat. After all, it's been about a week since I've pushed my luck." He smiles and waves his hand in a simulation of a wagging tail.

"Very good."

"I'll fly the boat," Darrurz barks enthusiastically as he aligns the trajectory of the decel burn. "Where do you want me to park the Orruengoerr?"

"Above the downport will be sufficient. Thaedznou can make any adjustments from there."

"Captain?" Thaedznou asks. "I thought that you'd want me to join the landing party."

"Can't have both of my pilots on the surface." Azafaghur replies, chomping at the air. "After Arthur has given the 'all clear', maybe he'll give us permission to land. Besides, I'd like Darrurz to assess their trading potential."

"Understood, Captain."

Addressing the landing party, Azafaghur says, "You're to make contact with whomever they send to greet you, assess their technological status, economic potential, and friend/foe status. Any intel they're willing to share with you about the region would obviously a succulent prize. If they share, then you share in kind. If they could be allies, then I want them to look upon the next TTF ship as packmates. I imagine that your Captain Nokh would want the same regarding the Tagan Pack.

"Any questions?"

There not being any, the landing party prepares for departure.

[...to be continued...]