Planning Over Breakfast

Characters: Arthur, Joe, Mazun, Darrurz
NPC: Thaedznou, Aerrak, Uedzaks, Ungunu
Location: Akofotsidano Downport
System: Akofitsidano

1202.24.1 - 22:26 IST, 11:00 Local Time (21 hour, 16 minute day)

Thaedznou goes around making sure everyone is awake. Aerrak and Darrurz sniff the air shortly after their respective waking.

"Food? You made food?" Aerrak asks.

"Actually, Uedzaks made it. The lower level has a pantry and fridge full of food. Turns out, on the north side of the main terminal, just on the other side of the doors is a galley or dining hall or whatever. The facilities are limited for humans, but they're fine for vargr. Anyway, I figured that we could all use some food while we discuss our next steps."

The pack follow Thaedznou out into the main terminal, which has been cleared of bodies and the air cleared of the odors of battle. The barricade debris has been dragged out of the way. Several tables have been pushed together to make one long dining table.

Uedzaks points out the food, his tail wagging. "Scrambled ikhekhargghuloe eggs, smoked uerroksafuekhskhuez bacon, roasted rroethaetsoes," translates to a starchy tuber akin to potatoes, "and toast." While there are no coffee analogues, there is a strong black tea made from a local plant. And it all smells good.

Everyone helps themselves to the food and sits down at the table.

After everyone has had a few bites, Thaedznou sums up the situation. "We've got six starships on the tarmac. An Angrorghag class seeker, a Garu class far trader, an Animal class safari ship, a Kaegkofaeg class trader, a Yetsable class Zhodani courier, and an Aeksakughu class scout. One of these ships will get us home, but since we have two pilots, maybe we get a little greedy and take two?"

Darrurz pipes up following a mouthful of food. "We have two pilots, but only one engineer. In which case the Aeksakughu class scout is the only real option for a second ship. You wouldn't want more than two sophonts as crew anyway as they're a bit cramped. The speeder would be useful to have if it's still there.

"I'd love to take the Yetsable because it's got the legs, and it's spacious, but it's probably not practical, although we should check out if it's still got it's air-raft.

"The Garu is probably the one that we're most suited for. I used to have one; I've piloted a few. And Mazan might have worked on them, but if not, then it's an Imperial design, so he should be happy in the engine room. But she's slow. Although again we should check out if the air-raft is there.

"The Animal is similar, although it's got the benefit of its launch as a second spacecraft. She's more agile than the Garu, and she's much more spacious, and the lounges on them are generally very nice.

"We know and love the Angrorghag, and the ship's boat is of course awesome, if it's still there, but she's slow. If the ship's boat is still there I suggest we hide it.

"Which leaves the Kaegkofaeg. Not normally my cup of tea, but she's jump-2 and 2G, and most owners in the Extents put armour on them, as well as load the turrets with something to answer corsairs back with. The accommodations aren't up to much, but there'll be a whole empty cargo hold we can run around in unless the launch of the Animal is still there and we can fit it in."

Arthur says, "If we get to choose, I'm arguing for either the Safari or Yetsable. The Safari's got good legs and a nice balance of small craft versus extremely flexible interior and cargo capacity. A great balance overall and will serve the team well in future ops.

"The Yetsable is my preferred option if we can only take one. Maximum flexibility in travel options, far exceeding that available to most groups; offers far more routing options, as well as legs for rapid movement through normal space. It has unique advantages not commonly available to other groups, giving us a lot of potential on future operations."

Joe says, "I'm not familiar with all those ships, but several are jump-2, which is certainly a plus as we're jump-2 from Sugutadh, and that's jump-2 to Saelfaek which is inside Tsouk space. That's just two jumps to manage a jury-rigged starship over. Trouble is we don't know conditions on Sugutadho, but even if we stick to systems that we know we still will need jump-2 to cross over to Tsouk space."

"We were supposed to also check out Ghudue on this trip," Thaedznou says. "Unless there are some strong objections, I'd like to finish it, provided that whichever ship we choose is up to the task. So Ghudue, Sugutadho, then Saelfaek."

Darrurz replies, "That might depend on whether we can salvage one or two ships. If we can do two ships, the Aeksakughu, with you as pilot and Ungunu as engineer, then I'd suggest that your mission should be to get back to Tsougak as soon as possible. That would mean Aetosak, Gvoksaedo, Tsougak. The rest of us in the Kaegkofaeg would then continue with the original mission with the original SOP, which would be Aetosak, Ghudue, Sugutadho, then probably Gvoksaedo, then Tsougak. That way we achieve the original objective but we get the info back to the TTF as soon as. We have our own reports, as well as the reports we got from those on Gharrghaerrg. I can give you a copy of all our scanned data from my hand comp.

"We can sink the jump to Aetosak, so we both arrive together at the same place. And I suggest that Ungunu shadows and helps Mazan as he looks over the ships so he can learn." Darrurz nods to Ungunu for his agreement.

Ungunu looks stunned at the suggestion that he can become a ship's engineer.

Darrurz continues, "If we only get one ship then Aetosak, Ghudue, Sugutadho, then Gvoksaedo, then Tsougak, or we could miss Ghudue and just go on the reports we have from Gharrghaerrg if you want. I still think for us SOP of jump 1—so we have a jump in the tanks—is the way to go if we only have one ship."

Thaedznou nods. "A very sound plan, Darrurz."

Arthur shakes his head. "I'm leery of splitting up our forces."

"Duly noted," Thaedznou replies. "We'll take force strength into consideration when we see which ship or ships we can safely fly out of here. If our choices are dangerously weak, we'll just head back den, let command send out a new scouting mission to get the worlds we missed."

Thaedznou continues, "We also have our ship's boat safely hidden. Should getting it onto one of these other ships be a factor? I don't feel that it needs to be, but it's definitely a plus if we can take it."

Darrurz says, "Leave it where it is, and someone can pick it up at a more convenient time."

Joe comments, "We may need some of the advanced systems aboard to patch one of these ships to near space-worthy, and it is the only clean computer we know of."

Thaedznou addresses Ungunu and Uedzaks, "Do you two know anything about the starships? How long they've been here, or if the Star People have done anything to them?"

Ungunu says, "They've been here since before Ithalloefegz established this place as the raider den."

Uekzaks says, "I haven't seen the Star People do anything to them, but I haven't been here that long."

"Me either," Ungunu adds.

"But there could be something in the records room."

"Where's that?" Thaedznou asks.

"It's down at the corner where this corridor," he points towards the north doors, "meets the east-west corridor."

"Oh, the customs building." To the others, he explains, "It's the building we broke in through. So after we eat, we can look for information there.

"Mazun, when we're done here, if you could do an external recon of the ships, look for obvious signs of damage, that would help us with the decision making process."

Mazun nods. "Will do."

Darrurz raises a paw. "We'll need to post a watch in the control tower."

"Good idea," Thaedznou agrees. "Aerrak and I are still trading off on naps, so we'll head up there."

Darrurz asks, "What equipment have we got from the raiders? Any of it any use to us? Otherwise I suggest we ship it to Dhoknan with anything else there is here are the starport he might be able to use. We'll want to pick up anything we can salvage from the Orruengoerr."

Thaedznou replies, "Well, we have that pile of rifles and ammunition and a few short range communicators. Not really useful for us, but it will be a great prize for Dhoknan. If Oegzuzerrghgurrgoksa can defend itself from raiders and other local threats, that gives the TTF an ally for the future.

"As for the Orruengoerr, I'm certain that we took anything that was worthwhile. Mazun reported that engineering had been reduced to slag and that nothing was salvageable except for maybe the odd part here and there. Am I correct in that assumption, Mazun?"

Mazun nods his head yes. After swallowing some food, he adds, "I'd only go back to it if we needed something for the ships on the tarmac that was on the list that I took."

Thaedznou continues, "And all the computer components, including nav and comm systems, were taken by the Vakh.

"We still have the warehouse here at the downport. Stripping the bodies of weapons and gear and then hauling them out into the surroundings took up most of our time. After that, I went with our new friends to check out their food supply and help prepare this meal. So, I would say that another item to be searched for in the records room is a list of the inventory in the warehouse."

Darrurz turns to address the ex-raiders. "Uedzaks, Ungunu, what are the other raider outposts going to do if they don't hear from...well us, here?"

Uedzaks answers, "It depends on how long the silence lasts for. They'll sit tight and keep their noses to the air for awhile. But after a week, some will assume the worst and that Ithalloefegz has fallen. If their pack leader thinks he can be the next alpha, he'll claim his outpost as his den and start to build it for himself and his pack."

Ungunu adds, "Some might send a scouting party to sniff around here for some clues as to why there's a silence, but no one will make a move on this place unless they think they can stand and face the Star People without whining in fear with they're tail between their legs."

"That will be key information for Dhoknan to have, so we need to make sure he gets it."

"I'll add it to the list," Thaedznou says.

Thaedznou addresses Uedzaks and Ungunu, "One of the worlds we visited claimed that it received visitors from here, looking for food. Do you know anything about that?"

Both of them exchange looks of puzzlement.

"It wasn't us," Uedzaks replies, "Unless it was from before Ithalloefegz took over this place."

"We'll keep an eye out for it in the records room," Ungunu adds.

"Any chance that there's another downport on your world?"

Uedzaks shrugs.

Ungunu offers, "Neither of us has journeyed far from the Gnarraelaeghoerrong Sea. I haven't even been to all of the cities on its shores."

Thaedznou says, "Darrurz, Joe, and Arthur: At least one of you should accompany Mazun should he need a hand, and someone else should accompany Uedzaks and Ungunu to relay what they find over to Mazun. I'll leave it up to you to figure that out."

Darrurz pipes up, "As I said earlier, I suggest Ungunu go with Mazan and, say, Arthur?" Darrurz looks at his as he makes the suggestion. "With me, Joe and Uedzaks go check out the records room."

Arthur shrugs. "Do we anticipate any issues with Vakh 'residue' in the ships left behind?"

Thaedznou replies, "Always a possibility."

Joe looks like he was about to say something, then shakes his head. "OK, I'm with you D! I can't get a Vakh reading if the ships are powered down, so I may as well look at old papers."

With discussion at its end, everyone finishes eating and brings their plates and utensils over to the kitchen counter. Aerrak and Thaedznou head up to the control tower while Darrurz, Joe, and Uedzaks head down the hall to the records room.

Mazun, with Ungunu and Arthur in tow, heads over to the truck to grab his toolkits, whistling an old Terran song called, "The Wellerman", as he goes. Ungunu offers to drive instead, so that no toolkits need to be offloaded. Mazun is fine with this. Arthur rides in back, keeping an eye out for trouble.

Examinations and Digging Through Files

Characters: Arthur, Joe, Mazun, Darrurz
NPC: Uedzaks, Ungunu, Thaedznou, & Aerrak
Location: Akofotsidano Downport
System: Akofitsidano

1202.24.1 - 23:26 IST, 12:00 Local Time (21 hour, 16 minute day)

Mazun, Ungunu, and Arthur pull up in front of the row of parked ships. Mazun leads Ungunu around to each ship, pointing out different elements of their construction, while Arthur keeps watch on them and the surroundings. He periodically checks in on Aerrak in the control tower and gets updates from Joe and Darrurz in the records room.

Mazun goes down the line, summarizing what he sees. He has Ungunu fetch him a ladder so that he can get views of the dorsal sides of the ships.

"Safari ship looks like it's in good shape. No damage except for a couple burn scars.

"The Kaegkofaeg trader has a few burn scars on the hull and a few small punctures. Two on the belly where the cargo hold is and two on the port side midway. I think those are cargo hold, too. Not exactly sure. Anyway, all look patchable.

"The Angrorghag seeker has several burn scars. There's a hole in its belly back about where the ship's boat parks. There's a stain on the ground underneath. It's long since dried, so I don't know which fluid it was. There's a hole topside in the sensor bubble and another in the fuel line just past the purification equipment. There's also a couple sizable holes on the starboard side: cargo bay and mining drone bay.

"The Yetsable looks good. No damage evident.

"The Garu looks weathered, but not seeing any damage.

"The Aeksakughu scout has several burn scars and two small breaches on the ventral side, one in engineering and one in the cargo hold, definitely repairable though. Fuel tanks seem secure."

Darrurz asks, "Mazun, how are the ships armed?"

"As far as I can tell, they're all armed with lasers. Not a missile launcher in the bunch."

Meanwhile in the records room, it doesn't take too long to find the traffic registry. Darrurz suggests starting with the last volume. He doesn't recognize the year at first as it's local. With Uedzaks' help and a calculator, they determine that it starts with Imperial Year 1127. There are tabs in the ledger with successive local years on them.

Darrurz says, "We learned that the Vakh was released in the Imperium in 1130. Start there."

All entries are handwritten in ink.

While the common ships appear as arrivals, they also depart within expected time frames. Traffic is unaffected for the first couple hundred days, but then it sharply diminishes over the next hundred. The Yetsable arrived first early in 1132. It went by the name Paql Reveresh Ridl. Annotated next to the entry is written: "Crew assaulted downport personnel, claiming emergency priority. Security forces subdued and arrested them. Ship impounded, pending judicial decision."

No ship came for thirty local days when the Kaegkofaeg trader arrived. Name: Efodoeksedae. "Ag products. Warns of pirate ship that fired on them. Offered to surrender cargo, but attacker didn't reply. Waiting for navy to clear intruder."

Only five local days would go by before the Safari ship arrived. Name: Jack's Prize. "Accused by captain of Efodoeksedae of piracy. Pinkie denies charges. Captain and crew detained for questioning."

Twenty local days later, the Aeksakughu scout shows up. Name: Aedhfarzidzso. "Captain claims pirates shot her up. PDF Command grounds her, pending further orders."

The Garu arrived forty-four days later. Name: Amurmirupmaa. "Ag products. Ship impounded on order of PDF Command per Emergency Protocol edict."

Sixty-seven days later the Angrorghag seeker arrived. Name: Soungoerdhorrukuersen. "Captain claims pirates shot him up. Multiple ships. Grounded pending repairs."

After that, there are no entries. On the next full clean page is a letter.

"It has been over one hundred fifty days since the last starship visit. Food supplies are running low. Starport is to be abandoned immediately. PDF Command says that all personnel are needed to maintain order, even lowly clerks like me. In case I don't return, please, future reader, know that I tried to keep a good ledger. If you're replacing me, see to it that you do, too. It is very important that Starport Command know who is arriving and leaving and what they're delivering. The people are hungry, and we owe it to them to see that they get their fair share. For the Pack!
—Duegguegho Errarrknaeghvas."

On the comm, Darrurz says, "Ok so we have Vakh release in 1130, and no change in traffic patterns until 1130-246 as far as I can tell, but there's likely some discrepancies in my calculations between local and Imperial dates, so take the 246 date as a new scent, and traffic diminishes sharply from then until 1131-357.

"The Joe's," Darrurz laughs at himself. "Jo, Joe's," he looks at Joe, "Don't worry, it's an Imperial thing. Anyway the Zhodani land Paql Reveresh Ridl on 1132-006, probably on a mission to tell someone something, the Yetsable is a courier after all, and they want to be getting somewhere. There isn't a jump-3 route across the Windhorn, so they must have come through Corridor or Provence but where were they going and why?

"1132-032 late in the day, our Kaegkofaeg arrives, seemingly being shot up by the safari ship which gets here early 1132-037.

"1132-055 the Aeksakughu turns up having been shot up by 'pirates'.

"1132-093 late in the day, the Garu is impounded 'per Emergency Protocol edict' which to me barks, 'They found out about the Vakh.'

"1132-153 the Angrorghag turns up, having been shot up by multiple pirates which barks to me, 'Attacked by a Vakh fleet'."

Darrurz turns to Joe. "What do we know about early Vakh infections? Looks like all the ships on the tarmac came in system in early after the release stages of the Vakh where it was having an impact.

"Akofotsidano obviously found out about the Vakh, or at least that something was wrong by the time that the Garu landed, which means something must have brought it into the system before then."

"It looks like all of them may be infected with Vakh, but our best bets going from least infected to most infected are: the Yetsable, the Kaegkofaeg, the Animal, the Aeksakughu, the Garu, and lastly, most likely infected, is the Angrorghag. However having said that they have been sitting on the tarmac for the last 70 odd years with known Vakh activity in this starport, so we have to assume they are all infected."

Darrurz goes back through the recent entries in the log, looking for ships that aren't those on the tarmac. He's wondering if other ships could have brought the Vakh. And he wants to find an entry for the Type S that they saw leave with the Vakh Garu.

He finds periodic entries for traders coming from the agricultural and other food exporting worlds in the local cluster: Sugutadho (Windhorn 3023), Gvoksaedo (Windhorn 3122), Ghudue (Windhorn 3123), Gungaerrg (Meshan 0124), and Ellkhenuetodzezoekh (Meshan 0125). The Kaegkofaeg and Garu on the tarmac were two of these frequently visiting ships. The frequent visitors gradually diminish in number and had stopped visiting altogether eighteen days before the Garu made its last visit.

There is no mention of the Type S that departed with the Vakh Garu.

[...to be continued...]