Back at the Ship

Characters: All
NPC: Kagfak, Elloekothe, Uengghae, Irma Arsashaammu
Location: Pack of Daggers
System: Daama

1126.40.6 - 08:05 Imperial Time, 08:05 Vilani Time, 31:15 Local Time (34 hour, 33 minute day)

Everyone has safely returned to the ship. The path back to the ship was Imt well enough, and no one made any further attempts to keep them at the party any longer.

Before anyone can head off to bed, Elloekothe asks that everyone meet in the crew lounge for a quick debrief. There are some grumbles of dissent, but everyone compImes.

"I just want everyone to know who it was we met tonight. Captain Dhoknan is one of the more zealous members of the 17th Disjuncture. Soks referred to him as just a privateer, but he's in charge of a ruthless squadron of ships that have sewn as much chaos along the border as possible. There isn't anything he won't do to achieve it. He once captured a humanitarian reImef ship and forced it to dump its cargo above the very planet it was sent to help. The crew watched helplessly as the medical suppImes burned up in the atmosphere. Then he let them go and warned them that he'd do it again if anyone else tried to help out.

"And Captain KhigiikuIm assassinated Kagiisha, the leader of the Touzagh. He returned to the base after he was unable to capture you and argued with Kagiisha in front of everyone. After the Touzagh fell apart, he called Kagiisha 'toothless' and then shot him in the face. Now he's trying to rally the packs together to re-form the Touzagh.

"I don't know if he recognized you, but if he did, capturing you all would go a long way to re-estabImshing the credibiImty needed to re-build the Touzagh."

Just for added emphasis, Gvarokh says, "KhigiikuIm is the captain of the ship we had the stand-off above Ikhog. If he recognized my voice or what he saw of my face, we're in deep shit. He is an extreme danger to us, irrespective of the mission. Any excuse we can use to take him out will help us immensely.

"Contingency plan: If everything comes out and our story is blown, this is our backup story: Everything we said was true—for this ship's prior crew. They just picked the wrong prey and lost, so it's now our ship and we're the hunters. Lakir and Vlad: we'll need a good outImne for how we pulled that off."

"Still doesn't help us if KhigiikuIm identifies you," Elloekothe says.

"Yes, with Egz and now this guy gunning for us, it’s going to take a lot just to stay aImve." He pauses, ears shooting up.

"On the other hand, if we get exposed by KhigiikuIm and are allowed to talk, I have an idea of how to use it against him, especially if Soks is there. That said, we're in a world of hurt now."

Vlad stands. "I'll make sure we've got someone on guard all night, monitoring ship sensors. In case someone decides to try something overnight."

Morning After The Party

Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir, Vincent, Dougok
NPC: Kagfak, Major Elloekothe, Uengghae
Location: Pack of Daggers, then Soks' estate
System: Daama

1126.40.6 - 19:23 Imperial Time, 19:23 Vilani Time, 8:00 Local Time (34 hour, 33 minute day)

It's just before dawn. No one made any attempts to assault the ship overnight. Most of the ships on the tarmac are gone, but there are two ship's boats besides the three ships that were here when you arrived. A message comes in announcing that breakfast will be ready shortly and that any guests wishing to attend are invited.

Vincent shouts, "I'm all about having breakfast. Who's in?"

Dougok shouts back, "Me! Gotta get some bacon!"

Kagfak and Uengghae bark their assent.

Joining them are Gvarokh, Elloekothe, and Lakir.

Upon entering the house, they note that there are no signs that there was a party the night before. Clearly the staff were up all night cleaning the place. The food is set up buffet style. Eggs, bacon, and sausage dominate, though there's also a waffle station.

Dhoknan and Khigiikuli are here, too. Dhoknan has three vargr with him while Khigiikuli has one human and two vargr with him. None appear to be the worse for wear.

Soks shows up after everyone is seated and eating. He seems a bit too cheery considering last night's merriment. "Good morning, everyone. I take it you all slept well."

Grumbles of assent are heard.

"Good. Let me grab something to eat, and we'll start discussing our next steps."

In between bites of food and gulps of caf, Soks says, "Now that all three groups are here, we'll proceed to Gemid as one fleet. Once there, I'll meet with the leadership and make the case for each of you, in turn, to meet with them to acquire that which you need to advance your respective agendas. Any questions?"

"Yeah," barks Dhoknan. "How soon before we leave?"

"We should rendezvous in orbit in six hours. Is that soon enough for you, dog?"

Dhoknan nods.

Khigiikuli asks, "What's the formation of this 'fleet' supposed to look like?"

"Ever the tactician. Since you're flying there as my guest, you're under my banner. My ship will be in front. Your ships will be aft and port of mine. Dhoknan's ships aft and starboard. Since Gvarokh only has one ship, he'll be aft of me."

"One ship?" Dhoknan says with a sneer. "Left your teeth at home, worried your gonna scare the brass?" His crewmates chuckle.

Dougok bristles at the insult while filling his plate with bacon.

Gvarokh glances over at Dhoknan, gives him an evil smile, then returns to eating.

"Dhoknan," Soks says, "Gvarokh accomplished with one ship what no one else would attempt with anything less than six. Clearly he's a wolf of cunning with a pack of skill. You might want to watch your tail."

The jab yields chuckles from Khigiikuli's companions, though not from the man himself.

"As I was saying—"

A guard rushes into the room. "Pardon the interruption, Master Dhunkul, but there's an urgent communication from the Prime Minister. You're going to want to hear it, sir."

Soks sighs. "Very well. If you'll excuse me..." He leaves the room.

No one says anything while he's gone, and he returns in ten minutes.

"Change of plans. A listening post has detected a Vilani incursion in the outer belt. It's something we need to deal with now, before our trip to Gemid. Get to your ships. I'll provide details on our way to the jump point."

With that, he leaves and everyone follows. Dougok and Vincent grab an extra helping of bacon for the road.

Heading to Daama's Outer Belt

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

1126.40.6 - 20:53 Imperial Time, 20:53 Vilani Time, 9:30 Local Time (34 hour, 33 minute day)

On the way back to the ship, Gvarokh has commed the crew still on the ship about the news of a Vlani presence found in the system's outer belt and that Dhunkul is planning to attack and destroy it.

Once safely on board, Gvarokh tersely asks Elloekothe, "Did you know anything about any invasion plans?"

"No," she replies, her ears up and alert, "this is the first I'm hearing about it. I can't imagine that Admiral Khagamsusuu would withhold that from us."

"Any chance they thought of this after we left?"

"It's only been eight weeks. An operation like this would've had to have been planned for that long, if not longer, and then to assemble the assets necessary would've also taken several weeks. Someone else must be in charge of this operation and didn't communicate it through central command."

Once Gvarokh reaches the bridge, Chuck asks, "Are we going to have to fire on our own people?"

Gvarokh sighs. "That's a distinct possibility."

As everyone takes their stations and prepares for liftoff, Gvarokh broadcasts shipwide, "This will serve as a test for us. That means we have to fight as corsairs because we are corsairs. We will succeed at this mission regardless of the costs, and Vilani combatants may have to be unfortunate parts of that cost. No one is to hold back. Any fighting must be without reservation, no matter what we otherwise think. Prepare yourselves for that."

From the confines of his turret, Dougok growls with anticipation of combat and the chance for personal and pack distinction. He doesn't appear to be bothered by the idea of attacking Vilani, especially humans.

He asks, "What do we know about the size of the opposing Vilani forces? Did they just find out about them?"

Elloekothe responds over the comm, "You were there. We don't anything about the Vilani force. Soks acted as if he just found out about them. I presume he'll share his intel as soon as he feels we need to know."

Dougok snaps his jaws. "This sounds like a setup to test us. They might be attacking a non-military station and telling us it is military. We'll need to be wary."

"Doesn't matter if its military or not. The Confederation owns this system. Any encroachment by the Vilani will be perceived as a prelude to invasion."

About the time the Pack of Daggers reaches low planetary orbit, Khiiikuli's and Dhoknan's ships are already there.

Half an hour into the ascent out of the gravity well, Soks radios the group the coordinates for the target. It will require a microjump. The target is a small rock 40 km (24 mi) in diameter, so he wants the fleet to have a near zero velocity when they go into jump. That means two hours and twenty more minutes to the jump point.

Khigiikuli and Dhoknan each make suggestions as to how to approach the target and then argue their respective plans. Gvarokh makes no effort to participate in the competition, merely smiling to himself as the two other leaders desperately fight for status before Soks. Soks settles the matter by telling Khigiikuli to handle any ships while Dhoknan is to neutralize the defenses of the base on the KBO (Kuiper Belt Object). Soks is assuming that there will be both present.

"Gvarokh, I want you to infiltrate the base and download all of their intel. I'll also want you to place some proximity mines around the base."

"I don't have any."

"That's ok. I do. Once we get to the target, I'll have them ferried over to you."

"Works for me."

Gvarokh mutes the external line and summons Elloe and Lakir to the bridge. Once they arrive, Gvarokh turns to Elloe and asks, "A base? There's a base in this system? This is starting to smell like a fek ras."

Elloekothe growls. "This is all news to me! I've never received any briefing that there's a base here. I'm guessing that this was all on a need-to-know basis and we didn't qualify. And I don't believe the admiral would've left us in the dark either. This has to be an op that even he doesn't know about."

Gvarokh lets out a brief growl of frustration, then says, "I want the two of you in charge of the strike team. Who do you want on it? I assume you'll want Vincent to handle all of the intel download."

"Roger that," Lakir replies.

Gvarokh continues, "I'll need Simrii to man the slaved plasma turrets and someone else to man the slaved laser turrets."

"Which of the two new guys is the G-carrier pilot?"

"Uengghae."

"We'll take him since that's what we're flying over in."

"Ok, who else do you want?"

Elloekothe pipes in, "I'm thinking Vlad and Dougok."

Gvarokh's ears pop up. "Dougok? Really? Thought you hated the guy."

"I do, but I think he's chomping at the bit to go for a run. Can't leave a wolf like that in a cage for too long."

Gvarokh chuckles at the imagery. "Ok, so Vincent, Vlad, Dougok, Uengghae, and you two? Sound good, Lakir?"

During the rest of the ascent, Khigiikuli and Dhoknan sketch out their flight plans so that everyone's firing solutions don't overlap or hit friendlies.

When queried about his approach, Gvarokh admits that since they're going in blind, without any knowledge of the layout of said base, that he'll have to wait until they arrive to assess the target.

Daama's Outer Belt

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

1126.40.7 - 00:20 Imperial Time, 24:20 Vilani Time

Soks's fleet exits jumpspace. Just as they were told, scanners are picking up four ships hovering about a small rock, roughly a kilometer in diameter. There are two Type S scout ships, one Gazelle class close escort, and one Type XCF Fleet Courier. Catching them unaware, Khiiikuli's and Dhoknan's ships inflict damage right away.

Soks' ship and Pack of Daggers hang back from the fray. Soks' comm officer informs Pack of Daggers that the boat carrying the proximity mines is on its way. Vlad, Lakir, and Dougok are suited up and board the cargo elevator platform to meet them. The boat pulls up alongside the elevator platform, and its crew hand off the mines to them. Each mine is a sphere a meter in diameter with an integral handle for lifting and retractable feet to prevent it from rolling around.

Vlad says, "Ahhh, Imperial XD7 proximity mines. I know how these work."

As soon as the six mines are on the cargo elevator, the boat speeds back to Soks' ship. The platform rises back into the ship, and the trio join Vincent, Uengghae, and Elloekothe to do a weapons and equipment check before the base raid.

Active scans of the rock locate the base inside a small crater with sensor arrays positioned on nearby peaks. The crater is large enough to fit a vessel up to a thousand tons displacement. Off to one side is a camouflaged structure, made to look like rock but with a density of polyurethane foam. The structure goes up to the edge of the crater, and the densitometer indicates that it extends into the crater wall and down.

Gvarokh asks Elloekothe, "Does this look like a standard pre-fab base to you?"

"The camo is standard along with the airlock, but that's about I can tell for now. There's probably a kill-zone on the other side of that airlock, but we'll worry about that when we get down there."

Gvarokh says to the assault team, "Keep your masks dark. No reason to risk a one-in-a-million chance at recognition. We seem to be dodging that with Khigiikuli; no need to keep pushing our luck."

"Roger that," Lakir replies.

Gvarokh lets their allies know that they're ready to move into position. With that announcement, Khigiikuli's and Dhoknan's ships press forward and push the defending ships away. There's a defensive laser near the base, but Simrii takes it out with ease.

"All clear," Simrii comms.

With that, the G-Carrier hangar bay opens and the assault team races down to the crater. The Pack of Daggers takes up a defensive position over the base.

Outer Belt Base Assault

Characters: Vincent, Dougok, Lakir
NPC: Major Elloekothe, Uengghae, Vlad
Location: A base on an asteroid in Daama's outer belt
System: Daama

1126.40.7 - 00:40 Imperial Time, 24:40 Vilani Time

The G-carrier lands with the door facing away from the airlock. Vlad and Dougok are out of the vehicle first. There's a slight pull of gravity in the crater floor, maybe 1/6 G. Just enough to operate in the crater without things flying away.

"Watch for a defensive laser near the airlock," Elloekothe warns them. "That's gonna be standard." She and Vincent are waiting behind them at the hatch. Lakir is behind them. Uengghae is setting up the anti-hijack program on the G-Carrier.

Vlad peeks around the nose of the G-Carrier. "I see it. Just above the door. Do you see it, Uengghae?"

"Rrrroger that. Firing."

A quick, low yield blast from the GC's turret fries the laser and burns away some of the camouflage around the airlock.

Vlad and Dougok charge towards the door. Vlad puts a paw over a camera in front of the keypad. Dougok looks around and covers him and the second assault team pair: Vincent and Elloekothe.

Elloekothe notes the status of the airlock. "They've got the inner door to the airlock locked open. Safety protocols will prevent the outer door from opening. Vincent, you'll need to hack it."

Vincent opens the access panel and connects his laptop. The lock is a simple one without anything other than basic encryption, probably because whoever works here didn't expect any visitors, let alone hostile ones.

"I'm in. You ok with me venting the unit?"

Dougok, tail wagging in excitement at the thought of combat, barks, "There is nothing here that we need. The loss of air will provide further shock to the foe."

"We need their data," Elloekothe growls at the interruption. "So while vacuum won't be a problem, don't go shooting up their computer core."

Vincent says, "Alrighty then. Here goes."

Vlad and Elloekothe are on the left, aiming right. Dougok and Lakir are on the right, aiming left.

The outer airlock door slides open, and a rush of air charges out and freezes, momentum carrying the crystals away from the door. Small pieces of debris follow. Inside the airlock, a red warning light spins around. It's a standard 1.5 x 3 meter (5x10 foot) space. It is unoccupied.

Uengghae leaves the cover of the g-carrier and joins the group, taking a position next to Vincent. It'll be his job to directly cover Vincent when he's working while the rest of the group works on the resistance.

Looking past the airlock, the group sees a corridor 1.5 meters wide and 9 meters long (5 x 30 feet) lit by red emergency lighting. There are five doors visible: two on either side and one dead ahead.

Lakir says, "I'd wager this is a standard long term listening post setup."

"I agree," Elloekothe says. "Four levels. EVA rooms here up top, ops, barracks, engineering."

"Do you think the Vilani went cheap on the elevator?"

"Sure do. Open pit with a ladder. No grav plates. Saves on energy and maintenance." She nods towards the far door. "Elevator shaft will be the far door. EVA rooms will be the first pair of doors. Armory and medical the next two."

"Where do you think they'll make their stand?"

"Elevator room. It'll be 4.5 square."

"How many?" Vlad asks.

Elloekothe replies, "Eight. Small arms. Flex armor."

Dougok wags his tail. "No shooting the computers, check." He looks around and sniffs despite the combat armor. "We should move on them immediately while they may be organizing or dealing with the vacuum. They won't fight here. And if they are holed up down below we can get to the computers in the Ops center without fighting."

Lakir says, "Given the choice, I'd opt for the standard room entry. Not the time for surprises, I'm thinkin'."

Elloekothe gestures towards the doors down the corridor. "All the door status lights are showing red, so emergency locks have been engaged. Because this is a modular habitat, Vincent will have to override each one on a sweep unless we close the airlock behind us and re-pressurize this corridor. All that door hacking will slow us down, giving them more time to either prepare for an onslaught or destroy their intel."

Vlad says, "But if they're in those rooms, all they need to do is depressurize their rooms to disengage the safety locks. We'll have to have someone watching our six the entire time."

Uengghae sums it up. "Press ahead and risk getting outflanked or a cautious sweep and lose what we came for."

Vincent shrugs. "I'll just close the door and place an encryption algorithm to make sure it can't be hacked till we get back. Time is of the essence, and we need to get that data as quickly as possible. Head straight to where the data is and try and eliminate our foes as quickly as we can!"

Dougok growls. "Rush the bastards!" He moves forward to the elevator door and takes a flanking position on it.

"That decides it," Elloekothe says. "Let's go. Uengghae, watch our six and Vincent."

Uengghae barks an acknowledgement.

Vlad, Lakir, and Elloekothe move into the airlock and then the corridor leading to the elevator module. Vincent and Uengghae move inside. Vincent shuts the airlock door and encrypts the lock. He then hurries down the corridor to join the others.

He connects his laptop to the door panel, which is still showing red as the corridor is still vacuum. Vincent has the override in place in seconds. He crouches to make himself a smaller target. "Good to go."

Vlad and Dougok stand by him, shielding him, while Lakir and Elloekothe take the other side. Uengghae is on ground, watching the middle. Everyone braces themselves for the expected blast of air.

"Go!" Vlad barks.

The door slides open, and a blast of air rushes out to make a new pressure equilibrium with the corridor. The four men inside are momentarily unbalanced by the pressure change. It gives the assault team the initiative.

Vlad fires a five-round burst with his ACR. All of the bullets strike their target. The vacc suit offers little protection, and the target falls back dead.

Elloekothe has identical success with her target.

Dougok fires a five-round burst with his ACR. Four out of five strike the target, which is sufficient to kill.

Lakir fires his Gauss PDW. All three darts strike their target, taking it out.

A quick glance through the hole in the floor to the next level by Dougok gets a nervous shot from someone guarding the control room.

Vlad asks, "Grenade?"

Dougok nods. "Yeah, it would be the easiest way." He arms the grenade and jumps into position, but in doing so, he puts himself into the line of fire. He's hit by several rounds. While none of them are strong enough to penetrate his combat armor, they do cause him to fumble the grenade. He bobbles it, sending it upward towards the ceiling. But as there are no grav plates over the open access hole, it takes its time to fall back down after ricocheting off the ceiling. It then proceeds to explode in front of Dougok.

The fragments just bounce off his armor and everyone else's in the room, but the concussive force knocks everyone in the room (Dougok, Lakir, Vlad, and Elloekothe) on their ass. Even Vincent and Uengghae are knocked over out in the corridor. Fortunately, the concussive damage is minimal.

Vlad growls as he scrambles to his feet. He jumps up, flips over, and kicks off the ceiling, propelling him downward through the central shaft head first. Gunfire is heard, then he comms, "All clear. Go ahead without me."

Dougok shakes himself, throws in a growl, and gets to his feet.

Looking down the shaft, the group can see Vlad re-orienting himself in preparation of stopping his descent. Elloekothe then swings down to level two, quickly followed by Lakir, Vincent, and Dougok. Uengghae stays up top as lookout.

The door to operations is locked, of course, necessitating that Vincent hack it. He hooks up his laptop, and the hack is near instantaneous, and Vincent opens the doors just as soon as he gets the nod from Lakir.

A quick peek reveals that there are two men in the room. One has his back to the door, staring at a computer screen. The other is facing the door, using an overturned desk as cover. As soon as the door slides open, the guy at the computer ducks down while the guy facing the door fires a burst of rounds to let the group know that they're not getting in easy.

Elloekothe says, "We can sit here all day waiting for these schlubs to run out of ammo, or we can lay down cover fire while one of us rushes them."

Dougok growls. Humiliated by the grenade fiasco, he needs to prove his prowess even though the two humans with him would not recognize the gesture. "Cover me then. Spray them, and I'll go in and take them down. I'll go right and get behind the cover."

On three, the group lays down a round of suppressing fire. Dougok rushes around the defenders' makeshift blockade and spots one of them cowering behind the barricade. When he notices Dougok, his eyes go wide in alarm.

Dougok fires off a burst and takes the hiding defender out. A second later a shot hits him in the right arm. It doesn't get through the armor, but it still smarts. Dougok turns on the source, the guy who was working on the computer, and is now holding a pistol. Dougok snarls beneath his helmet and fires a burst into him.

"All clear," Dougok barks over the comm.

Vincent races over to the computer and mutters an obscenity. As he plugs in his laptop, he explains, "Bastards are deleting their data."

"Can you stop it?" Elloekothe asks.

"I should, but not sure how much data we're going to lose."

It takes half a minute, but Vincent is able to halt the datawipe. "They managed to erase 47%." He then starts the download of what data is left.

Dougok reloads and then starts scrounging around for weapons or anything else of interest in the room.

Vlad rejoins the group. "What I miss?"

"Lost about half," Elloekothe replies. "All clear below?"

"Yeah. We're good to go as soon as that download's complete."

Vlad radios Gvarokh to give him a status update. Gvarokh acknowledges it.

Afterwards, he notices that Dougok is carrying the dead men's weapons (an auto pistol and an assault rifle) and looking around the room.

"What are you doing, Dougok?" he asks.

"Finding useful stuff."

"This isn't a scavenger hunt. You and Uengghae should make sure the way is clear back to the airlock."

Dougok wags his tail, gathers up his useful stuff, and heads back up with Uengghae to make sure the path back to the airlock is clear.

A couple of minutes later, Vincent is done. He then starts tapping at the keyboard.

"What are you doing?" Elloekothe asks Vincent.

"I'm searching the data quick for base inventory records and see what pops up and where it's located. I don't know about vehicles or armor or guns but there has got to be a manifest somewhere in the records, assuming it was in the 53% recovered."

"There's no time for that now. We have to get back to the ship."

Vincent mutes his mic before muttering something under his breath.

The assault team returns to the g-carrier and then back to the ship without incident.

Next: Outer Belt Base Victory