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
Everyone is at their assigned stations when Pack of Daggers detaches from
GSC-37. Soks comms to say that the meeting location has been relocated by the
bioweapons committee to the starport and indicates that they should follow his
The starport is massive, being of the same design as the one at Maran. But rather than following traffic into the cavernous primary docking hangar, Soks leads them to an auxiliary hangar. Two groups of ships are parked about a hundred meters from the station. Their complement and markings match those of Khigiikuli and Dhoknan.
The hangar bay doors are open, revealing two ship's boats. There is plenty of room for both Pack of Daggers and Dheukherdorr. Once both ships are inside, the hangar bay doors close and the bay re-pressurizes.
Soks informs Gvarokh that the committee is permitting each applicant to be escorted by two crewmen.
Gvarokh selects Elloekothe and Lakir to join him and puts Chuck in charge while they're gone.
Gvarokh tells Chuck, "Keep a lid on things. No one else leaves the ship unless one of us three calls in saying otherwise. We'll use a code phrase of 'litmus investigation'. It specifically isn’t 'litmus test', so it's a deliberate action on the speaker's part. This means shit went sour, and things will get weird. You and the crew will have to think on your feet at that point, but at least you'll know the away team has been compromised."
He asks Elloekothe what he should wear. She recommends something regal.
Gvarokh goes with his flamboyant, tailored cloth armor and his autopistol.
"Not going with the laser pistol?" Elloekothe asks.
He frowns. "The laser pistol would be cool, but I don't’t want to bother with the extra pack and such. Is the armor flamboyant enough?"
She mulls it over. "It could use something more."
"How about a cape?"
Elloekothe is wearing flex armor under stretchy black clothes and is armed with a pistol.
Lakir has shown up in his standard utility vest, gauss pistol, his knife, pocket combo tool, and his trusty SuperPDA.
Outside in the hangar bay, Soks is waiting. He's dressed in a purple jacket with a yellow sash and white pants. On the sash are various medals. He has a laser pistol in his holster. With him are two large vargr in black uniforms. Each has a pistol holstered.
"Very snazzy, Captain," Soks says. "For once, you look the part." He frowns at Elloekothe's ensemble. "My dear, I was hoping for something that sizzled."
She replies, "This is Captain Gvarokh's moment. I don't want to distract from it."
Soks nods, seeing her point. He then looks over at Lakir, smirks, but doesn't say anything.
"Shall we proceed?" Soks asks. "Khigiikuli and Dhoknan are waiting for us. We shouldn't keep them waiting too long as they might get a bit snippy."
"I would never consider making them wait!"
"Then let us go."
The two trios proceed along a corridor that parallels the bay they docked in until they encounter a radial spoke corridor. Turning into it, they continue until coming to an elevator tube. A warning sign says, "Authorized Use Only." Soks places a paw on a panel, and the doors open with a whoosh.
The groups proceed inside, a trio on each side. While they ride along in silence, Gvarokh makes note of how many levels they climb (11).
Once the doors open, Soks leads the group along a radial spoke corridor towards the outer wall. The corridor ends in a "T", and Soks turns left. About fifty meters later, they reach a ten-meter waiting area. The corridor continues on the far side. To the left is an alcove, benches along the perimeter of the wall, Vilani artwork on the three walls depicting the early days of the homeworld. To the right, a pair of large double doors with two vargr guards in combat armor and armed with ACRs blocking access.
Sitting on the benches are Dhoknan and Khigiikuli and their representative delegations. Dhoknan sniffs the air and acknowledges the new arrivals with a nod. Khigiikuli is too absorbed in something on his PDA to acknowledge them.
Soks gestures to the open bench. "Please have a seat. I'll go check in." He then heads over to talk to the door guards while his personal guards stand watch over the applicants.
He returns after just a minute and says to the group, "They want Khigiikuli in first, then Dhoknan, and Gvarokh last. Each of you will address the committee and state your case for being awarded the chance to purchase the weapon. Afterwards, the committee will ask you questions and will make note of your answers. After the conclusion of this meeting, they'll debate amongst themselves and notify us of their ruling.
"I'll be inside. The room is EM screened to block all wireless transmissions, so if you need anything, let one of my associates know, and if they can't address it, they'll get word to me."
Soks turns his attention to Khigiikuli. "Captain Khigiikuli, if you and your associates will follow me, please?"
Khigiikuli and his escorts stand and follow Soks into the room.
After thirty minutes have gone by, Khigiikuli and his escorts exit the room. Soks waves Dhoknan in. Instead of sitting with you, Khigiikuli walks down the corridor, out of sight from where you're sitting.
Another thirty minutes have gone by and Dhoknan and his escorts exit the room. His fur appears ruffled, his ears constantly flick about. He seems agitated. Soks waves Gvarokh, Elloekothe, and Lakir in.
Gvarokh gets up, looks to Elloe and Lakir, lets out a quiet breath, and moves to follow Soks. He looks over at Dhoknan, then back to Soks and very quietly says, "Not going well thus far?"
Soks replies, "The committee sets a high bar. They're taking the sale of the bioweapon quite seriously."
Gvarokh wants to say, "Any last words of advice?", but stifles it as he figures it is probably not a good idea.
The four enter the room, and the guards close the door behind them.
As warned by Soks earlier, communications between those inside the room and out are cut off. The trio realize that they're on their own.
It's a large room, maybe thirty by thirty meters. Soks leads the trio along a two-meter wide magenta carpet towards a long table where the committee sits. The table is carved from a dark polished stone interlaced with bright impurities that gives it the appearance of stars in the void. Sitting at the table are three vargr. Two, one male and one female, are dressed in military officers garb arrayed with lots of ribbons and medals. The third is male and dressed in a loud orange suit and sits between the two. Each has a laptop in front of them, wires running out the back and down to the floor.
Six guards are in the room standing five meters from the carpet, the closest five meters from the table. Three to the left, three to the right. They're armed with submachine guns.
On the far wall is a five-meter by three-meter digital rendering of a battlefield. The sky is dark, blackened by smoke rising from distant flames. The terrain is marked by boulders strewn on barren ground. A heroic vargr is leading a charge against a distant enemy.
Lakir notices that there are two doors on the same wall as the artwork, one near either corner.
Once the trio comes within four meters of the table, Soks stops and introduces them in Gvegh. Lakir relies on his SuperPDA to translate. "Your last applicant of the day is one Captain Gvarokh. He comes to you from 'The Devoured Sector' where he and his crew—a mixed crew, it is worth noting—raided the Imperial worlds there. Now I shall leave it to Captain Gvarokh to present his application." With a bow and a flourish, Soks yields the floor and steps to the side.
This is the backstory that they've given to Soks. So far, so good.
Gvarokh has the committee's attention. He takes a step forward and holds his head up high. He relates the story of how the pack of corsairs they ran with were extremely successful, name dropping a few worlds that he'd heard about through intelligence briefings he'd received before they departed for this mission. He paused for dramatic effect before recounting how his pack had been betrayed and targeted for execution in a power play. His ship was the only one to survive and thus fled trailward, looking to start anew. But upon learning of the bioweapon, he realized that they could go back and retake what was stolen from him. He would regain his lost stature, advance his position, and become influential. In turn, he would share the benefits with his new benefactors.
The vargr in the suit is about to ask a question when the proceedings are interrupted.
"Alright, you can stop now. I've heard enough."
Stepping out of the back room on the left is Captain Khigiikuli and his escorts.
"What is the meaning of this?" Elloekothe barks as they approach the committee. "Why is this pinkie intruding upon Captain Gvarokh's application—"
"Can it, bitch," Khigiikuli shouts back. "I have all the evidence I need to prove that these dogs are fakes."
Gvarokh looks over to Soks, but his expression is inscrutable.
Khigiikuli points a finger at Gvarokh and continues, "This is the dog that destroyed the Touzagh base at Ikhog."
Gvarokh scoffs. "All vargr look the same to pinkies."
Khigiikuli scowls. "Play the pursuit video from Ikhog."
Displayed on the wall, high above the doors Gvarokh, Lakir, and Elloekothe came in, is a video showing a vacc suited figure with the glare shield down.
In the video, Khigiikuli is heard to say in Galanglic, "Coward. You don't even have the decency to show your face."
To which the figure replies, "I had no idea faces were so important when people are trying to kill each other."
This gets a chuckle from the committee's guards.
Khigiikuli: "I prefer a visual when dictating the terms of surrender. It lets people know I mean business."
At this point the figure lifts the glare shield, revealing it to be Gvarokh.
"Freeze playback," Khigiikuli says. "Now put up Captain Gvarokh's face up next to the one on screen."
There are some mumbles as the likeness is unmistakable.
Elloekothe dismisses the video. "That's easy enough to fake."
Unfazed, Khigiikuli continues, "Voice match probability?"
A voice comes in over a speaker, presumably from the back room, "92.3%."
Khigiikuli crosses his arms in front of his chest, a smug look on his face.
The committee talk amongst themselves.
Soks speaks up, "Would you please play the rest of the recording?"
"Of course," Khigiikuli replies and gives the signal.
The rest of the video is played (From the game log archive). It's pretty damning. Gvarokh doesn't mind though. He's proud of what they all accomplished that day, with a Garu class far trader to boot.
When it's done, Khigiikuli asks, "What's the voice match probability now?"
The Vargr in the suit asks, "Captain Gvarokh, do you have anything to say to these allegations?"
Gvarokh steps forward and proudly says, "Khigiikuli is correct."
There are a couple gasps and plenty of looks of surprise in the room. Khigiikuli's expression is one of smug satisfaction.
Gvarokh continues, "Khigiikuli is correct in that we are the one who conducted the raid. We did it because the bastards took our prizes, and we wanted them back!"
"Wait, what?" Khigiikuli's jaw has gone slack.
"When we realized the Fitzpatrick was destroyed and the Qa Livk taken, we sniffed about for clues. We found the trail which led us to Ikhog. We found the Qa Livk in orbit and took it after getting our revenge on the dogs who took it from us."
"Bullshit! You had plasma turrets on a fucking far trader! That could've only come from the Vilani."
"Not so. When we fled from the Devoured Sector, we had to ditch our old ship. It was easy enough to trade it in for that far trader. The plasma turrets were salvaged from the old ship. After taking the Qa Livk, we were able to claim a sizable reward from the Vilani and used that money plus the far trader to buy our current one."
"Nice story, but you also rescued our captives. Why would you do that unless you were working for the Vilani?"
"We weren't there to rescue any prisoners, but rather that splitting my crew between two ships, I made the Qa Livk's crew an offer they couldn't resist. They got out of their prison, and my crew covered their escape. Once they returned to Vilani space, they sang our praises. Now the Vilani think they can trust us."
"You're lying!" To the back room, he shouts, "Tell them that he's lying."
"Computer says that there's a 91.7% chance he's being truthful."
Khigiikuli is speechless.
Gvarokh continues, "But more important than our revenge was demonstrating that the mighty Touzagh were nothing more than a paper wolf. They were taken down by a lowly far trader. What right did they have to continue to exist. If they can't fend off a trader, they got the reward they deserved. And this hairless thinks he's got the teeth to rebuild the Touzagh? You saw the video. He's the one who had us in his sights and let us go."
The room is silent for several seconds. The Vargr in the suit says, "Captain Khigiikuli, you may go."
"Go." He's scowling and seems to be resisting the urge to growl.
Sensing that he's lost, Khigiikuli turns and leaves through the front door with his guards.
Once the doors are closed again, Soks approaches the committee's table. "My sincerest apologies. I had no idea that these two applicants had a history of personal conflict. Neither of them approached me with their grievances. Why just before coming here, we convened at my estate on Daama and there was no conflict."
The Vargr in the suit holds up a paw. "That's quite alright. Captain Khigiikuli approached me beforehand with his suspicions. I gave him permission to make use of this room's equipment."
Soks bows his head and takes a step back.
"As that concludes the applicants' interviews, this hearing is adjourned. You'll have our answer after we've had time to deliberate your applications."
With that, Soks turns to escort the trio out of the room. He makes eye contact with Gvarokh and winks. Lakir and Elloekothe see it, too. The trio focus on keeping a straight face as they exit the room.
Characters: Gvarokh, Lakir
NPC: Elloekothe, Soks Dhunkul
Location: Gemid Starport
As the meeting ends and the doors to the conference room open, communications
with the ship have been restored.
Khigiikuli stands out in the hallway with his two escorts. Dhoknan and his entourage aren't present. As soon as Khigiikuli spots Gvarokh, he points a finger at him and shouts, "You may have fooled them, but not me! This isn't over!"
Soks steps forward and calmly says, "You stated your case, and you failed. Again. If you know what's good for you, you'll leave now before the guards behind me get twitchy."
As if on cue, the two guards at the door take a step forward, holding their weapons just shy of ready to bear. A few guards inside the room have overheard the shouting and are now making their way towards the door.
"Fine," Khigiikuli says through gritted teeth. He and his companions depart.
Soks turns to the guards. "Everything is under control, gentlewolves. He's cranky. He hasn't slept well and forgets that even pinkies need to nap."
The guards stand down.
"We'll be on our way shortly, just want to give Captain Khigiikuli some time and space."
Gvarokh says to Soks, "I don't know that he's going to be quick to let things go."
"He's not. And it'll only get worse if the committee decides not to sell him the weapon."
Soks gestures to the alcove with the benches. The group sits and waits for a bit. Chuck asks how things went, and Gvarokh replies that it seemed to have gone well, Khigiikuli's outburst notwithstanding. When Chuck asks for details, he explains.
Meanwhile, Soks is busy on his handcomp.
After Gvarokh has told the story of what happened in the meeting, Chuck informs him that first Dhoknan and, just recently, Khigiikuli have returned to their respective ship's boats and departed.
Shortly after Gvarokh gets this news, Soks stands up and indicates that it's time to go back to the ship.
Once back at the hangar, Soks says, "I'm returning to GSC-37 to wait for the committee's decision. You and your crew are welcome to wait there, but you should know that both Dhoknan and Khigiikuli have been invited. Dhoknan has already indicated that he and his crew will be on the station. No word yet from Khigiikuli."
Gvarokh turns to Elloekothe. "There's nothing on our itinerary that I've forgotten that would prevent us from going, right?" He hopes that she picks up on the subtle insinuation.
"No, we're good."
Gvarokh turns back to Soks. "Yes, we'll be there. We'll follow you over."
"Very good. I'll let the station know that you're with me upon our arrival."
With that, Soks embarks onto his ship's boat while Gvarokh, Lakir, and Elloekothe climb aboard Pack of Daggers. As soon as both ships are ready, they depart from the starport.
Location: Pack of Daggers, en route to GSC-37
Once the ship is under way, Gvarokh says to Lakir and Elloekothe, "Incredibly
enough, the local junta doesn't seem to care that we 'killed' the Touzagh. I'm
very sure though that there are plenty of others who do care. While
Khigiikuli is enough of a problem, I'm sure there are others who are bitter
enough that they won't be happy, irrespective of whether he riles anyone up or
not. So... this is going to be interesting.
"On the other hand, if Khigiikuli gives us a reason to murder him, you know, in self-defense and all that, then that would help out in slowing anyone else's attempt to take us down for revenge."
Elloekothe shakes her head. "Corsairs come and go, and to a lesser extent, so do states in the Extents. Unless you loved the Touzagh, you're not going to miss them. Other corsairs see opportunity with their rival out of the way.
"If the Vilani navy had sent a fleet in to take out the Touzagh, it would've been perceived as an attack on all Vargr. But when one ship, a far trader no less, swoops in and performs a surgical strike on their home base, it's perceived as an embarrassment. Vargr aren't Aslan, but the loss of charisma from the attack was devastating. I don't know how they would've continued as a cohesive force. They were a laughing stock. If Khigiikuli hadn't killed Kagiisha, someone else would have."
Gvarokh continues, "I realize that heading over to GSC-37 may stir the hornet's nest, I figure hiding from everyone is an even worse idea. At this point, we have to show strength, and hiding will only show weakness."
Elloekothe nods. "Correct." Teasingly, she adds, "You may finally be getting the hang of this."
Gvarokh chuckles. He continues, "I'm a bit shocked at how well Soks is taking all of this. I'm very concerned with what he really thinks about this sudden revelation."
Elloekothe replies, "I don't know what he thinks about it, but from what I could see in his body language, he's up to something."
"Yeah, that has me very concerned. He can't be happy that I let it hit him for a surprise like that. I feel like I need a good (to us) reason why I didn't tell him that was us. I would think that most Vargr would trumpet that achievement. I need a reason why we didn't. I guess the best excuse is simply the truth: We were just trying to impress, and we didn’t know if that would be a point in or favor or not. And once we saw Khigiikuli, we stuck with 'not in our favor'."
"That would probably be best," Elloekothe replies.
After a moment, Gvarokh follows up with, "Oh, and we probably ought to brief the crew on the updated backstory so no one screws up on it. This does mean that Dougok, Kagfak, and Uenggahae don't have to remember anything as their known stories are literally unchanged. We just have to worry about the longer term crew. I figure you and Irma are recent adds, too, so your stories don't really change either. We can even say that the reason you two joined in was because of that raid. Which is even actually true."
"That definitely works with my backstory. We can say Irma was recruited specifically for the bioweapon."
Next: Waiting for the Announcement