Arrival in Akofitsidano System

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

1202.23.2 - 2:15 IST

The Orruengoerr arrives at Akofitsadano's sole gas giant. Once it is apparent that they're alone, the ship descends to refuel.

7:20 IST In to skim.
8:20 IST Skimming complete.
13:25 IST Safe jump distance from gas giant.
13:30 IST Arrival at Akofitsidano. Passive scans begun.
15:30 IST Initial passive scans completed.

Akfotsidano Topography and Cities map:
Akfotsidano Topography and Cities map

Scans indicate a tremendously reduced level of habitation. Whole cities appear to have been burned to the ground. IR indicates that activity seems strongest in cities around bodies of water. The starport appears ok. Most of its structures are intact, and there are no craters in the tarmac.

The atmosphere still holds high enough levels of particulates and sulfur to require filter masks.

The captain would like a closer inspection of the starport, but would also like to make contact with one of the surviving cities. Of course, he doesn't want a repeat of Dueks.

Darrurz looks for any evidence of communications, radio or otherwise, but doesn't find any. He has better luck when he looks for major starship crashes, finding seven of them, all in ruined cities. He puts up the scan on the screen. "Vakh" is all he says as he cycles through the crash sites. While the rest of the group ponders the images, he looks for satellite networks or evidence of space systems, but comes up empty.

He then says, "Probably worth a full mapping scan of the planet. Now where do we think those mystery ships taking people away would have landed?

" Captain Azafaghur says, "Obviously near where there are people, but not the larger concentrations. At least that's what we should infer from our friends on Gungaerrg. They couldn't confirm the rumors they'd heard. We may have to send down a landing party to establish contact and see if we can pick up anything that the Gungaerrgans missed."

Mazun says, "Shouldn't we visit the crash sites? There might be valuable tech or weaponry there for salvage."

Thaedznou counters, "But wouldn't the locals have plundered them already?"

Mazun replies, "I don't think so. They might be able to use some of the scrap materials, but the tech would be too advanced for them to make use of. A tech level five society isn't going to have the means or knowledgebase to utilize tech level eleven plus gear. Small arms, sure. But the really important stuff is going to be passed over."

Captain Azafaghur asks, "Does anyone disagree? If not, let's send a landing team down to the crash sites to investigate."

No one disagrees.

Captain Azafaghur adds, "Thaedznou and Aerrak, I'd like you to accompany the landing party. It seems like there's a lot going on down there, and I want there to be adequate security down there while the world is assessed."

"But, Captain, you'll be short-staffed up here," Thaedznou protests.

"Oh, it'll be alright, Commander. Vuksaerz's teeth are sharp enough for two turrets, and I know enough about piloting a starship to get us someplace safe should trouble appear."

Thaedznou is silent for a moment, he bites his lip, then says, "As you wish, Captain."

"Don't look so troubled, Thaedznou. I truly believe that you'll face greater dangers on the surface than we will up here in orbit." He pauses, waiting for Thaedznou to say something in reply. When the older wolf says nothing, Azafaghur says, "Very well, get suited up, grab your gear, and get to it gentlewolves."

Dirtside

Characters: Joe, Arthur, Darrurz
NPC: Mazun, Thaedznou, Aerrak
Location: Orruengoerr's ship's boat
System: Akofitsidano

1202.23.2 - 16:30 IST, 12:15 Local Time (21 hour, 16 minute day)

After disembarking from the ship, the ship's boat makes its way over to Oegzuzerrghgurrgoksa, the city closest to the starport with obvious starship wreckage in it. The skies over the city are clear with mild temperatures (20°C).

The boat flies low enough for good scans of the city but high enough to avoid getting shot down by small arms fire. Finding a place to land is difficult with the wreckage and the urban landscape, but a block-sized park has been found about 500 meters south of the crash site. There's also a large, intact parking garage 300 meters west of the crash site. Darrurz asks the team where he should set the boat down.

Arthur replies, "I suggest the park. It's easier to fight back to the boat, if necessary. Getting wrapped up in a structure fight would blow dead goats with our limited numbers."

Thaedznou concurs. "We also don't know if the structural integrity of the parking garage is sound. Landing in the park puts us out in the open, but it would be easier for the Orruengoerr to provide cover without fear of bringing something down around our heads."

"The park it is," Darrurz says.

The park's flora appears to have undergone a transformation. Thirsty trees have died off, their wizened remnants are just trunks. Only hints of branches remain. Wild grasses have taken over. There appears to have been an attempt at farming in a couple corners—straight lines of crop rows still visible from the air—but they're mostly weeds now.

Darrurz sets the boat down on the opposite side of the park from the failed farms. It's closer to the wreckage anyway.

The landing party disembark and lock up the boat. Arthur, Joe, Thaedznou, and Aerrak visually scan the buildings surrounding the park. Although the boat's sensors didn't register any signs of habitation, they rely on their eyes to be sure. Once the boat is locked up, the group heads towards a street that directly lines up with the crash site.

Arthur, Joe, and Darrurz keep to the right side of the street while Thaedznou, Aerrak, and Mazun stay on the left. Eyes are kept on alert for snipers and scouts.

The streets are littered with rusty ground cars, random debris, even the shattered skeletons of decades long dead vargr. All shop windows on the ground level are shattered, store fronts looted. Many second floor windows are broken, too. At one intersection, it appears that a bonfire was constructed for electronic gadgets. The nearby buildings are blackened with soot from burnt plastic and silicon.

Twice along the way, the group encountered bombed out blocks where nothing remained except the rubble from collapsed buildings.

Upon reaching the crash site, the group stands in awe of wreckage. The ship looks like it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 tons. Looking right, the group spots the path from whence the ship came. The ship's hull too tough for the local construction materials, buildings in the crash zone were clipped and toppled. The ship itself hardly looks affected by the impact, a dragon asleep in a pile of bricks and mortar.

Mazun breaks the silence. "Arthur, recognize the class?"

Arthur responds without hesitation, "Foghoks class cruiser. Tech level 11. Slow as molasses in an Oort cloud. Average jump range. Usually loaded up with missiles."

Aerrak whines for a moment, then sets to panting.

Darrurz says, "They look big up close and personal, don't they? There will be some turrets and sandcasters as well as missile bays. About 150 crew, but minimal cargo mostly used to carry supplies for the crew." Darrurz pauses for a moment. "I hope to Llallaeknuez they died quickly."

Joe nods at Arthur's ID and assertion. "Lucky us. The crash was too gentle to trigger the missiles' detonators, otherwise we'd be looking at a crater the size of a small city." He doesn't mention the more likely possibility that the ship had no missiles left aboard.

Joe looks at the others. "Before you get any ideas on salvaging the missiles, their guidance systems are most probably Vakh infected, they've laid unmaintained for goodness knows how long, and we don't have any grav lifters—and those buggers are heavy."

Thaedznou replies without tearing his eyes away from the wreck, "We assume all derelict ships are Vakh infected."

Joe continues, "Still we can head inside and see if their equipment lockers haven't been raided, or if the holds have anything valuable. Let's see if we can find a way in."

Darrurz snaps his jaws. "Agreed. Let's look for the door, and see if there is anything left. Probably like with the server in Gvoksaedo Down, if it doesn't have enough power for the Vakh, there will be eggs."

"As Joe heads closer to the ship's hull, he adds, "Speaking of Vakh, be careful in there. It may be wrecked, but it is possible that Ship still has some power and control systems active. Let's try and not wake up the Dragon as we root through its entrails."

Mazun mutters something under his breath and sighs.

As the group climbs the rubble, Joe says, "It looks like the cargo bay doors and lower personnel airlocks are buried." He looks towards higher up. "We can try some of those," he gestures to iris valve airlocks several stories up on the hull, "or head back to the stern. It's not blocked by debris, and there are hatches near the primary thruster nozzles. They'll bring us into engineering, but it seems the safest way in."

Darrurz checks the readouts of the ship's boat from his hand computer and sets it up to alert him if there are any sensor readings indicating activity around the landing site as well as any electromagnetic communications or indications of civilization. While doing so, he says, "Engineering. The non-electronic parts that could be reclaimed from the maneuver and jump drive alone would be worth any expedition, if we were going back that is."

Thaedznou tilts his head to the side. "What do you mean? Of course we're going back. We're just not going back with salvage; intel gathering is our purpose. Has been all along."

Darrurz looks back at Thaedznou. "I know. It's just that there is so much that's been lost, and so much that could be done if we could go back with salvage. You never know there might be the air-rafts still aboard. The shuttle would be good as well, not that we could get it out of the system."

Thaedznou yips in agreement. "I'll let you in on a secret: If you four hadn't come along, this mission never happens. The captain petitioned for years to get this mission approved. Everyone was either too afraid, didn't see the value in salvage, or thought we lacked the expertise to figure out the difference between meat and gristle. When Azafaghur heard about you, he knew getting you on board would convince enough of the naysayers to change their minds.

"We've already proven that there's value and allies out here. A functional air-raft would be the cherry on top."

The group successfully climbs on top of the rubble and reaches the stern of the fallen ship. The massive primary thruster nozzles are within reach if one person stood on the other's shoulders. Higher up and between the nozzles is the location of one of the stern hatches. And it is open.

Darrurz frowns. "Already open...noses keen."

Exploring the Wreck

Characters: Joe, Arthur, Darrurz
NPC: Mazun, Thaedznou, Aerrak
Location: Orruengoerr's ship's boat
System: Akofitsidano

1202.23.2 - 18:45 IST, 14:30 Local Time (21 hour, 16 minute day)

While Thaedznou contacts the captain with the sitrep, Aerrak fires a grapnel gun up to the hatch. It catches on the first try, and he climbs up. When he comes within a meter of the opening, he stops, sniffing the air. "Yuck. Smells like shit."

"What kind of shit?" Thaedznou asks.

Aerrak sniffs several times. "Like ammonia."

"Judging by the size of the opening and the distance from the ground, probably something avian."

Aerrak finishes his climb and proceeds inside. Half a minute later, he returns to the opening. "Bats of some kind. They're roosting all over the upper decks of engineering. It's an open design that runs several decks. Lots of ramps instead of ladders, but they're perforated."

Joe nods as if expecting that.

One by one, the group climbs up and joins Aerrak. The smell is as bad as he said.

Shining lights around from where they're standing, the compartment looks intact. While there could still be minor damage—the lights only go so far—there isn't any indication that this wreck is just scrap metal.

"Where to?" asks Thaedznou.

"I wouldn't mind a closer inspection of the drives," Mazun replies.

"That's fine, but it's not like we're hauling these suckers home," Thaedznou says. "It would be better if you could find something like what Darrurz and I were just talking about."

"Surely, you don't need me for that." Mazun makes no effort to hide the irritation in his voice.

Thaedznou chews his lip. "No, I suppose not. Aerrak, go with Mazun. Make sure nothing shits on him."

Aerrak's ears droop.

"The rest of us will go look for something to bring to the captain."

Darrurz turns his head to Mazun. "We might need you for that. Stay on comm and if we come across anything we need you for we'll call ok?"

Mazun politely replies, "Yes, Darrurz."

Darrurz continues, "Also, as you're going to look at the drives, give us a report we can take back, and also look at uninfected parts that would be useful for other stuff, and bits we can take away now that if the drives are in a good condition would render them inoperative, so someone else can't use them. If the drives and main power are good then that might be an indication of the state of the rest of the ship."

Mazun chews his lip and stares at the drives. "Yeah, sure."

Turning to the others, Darrurz says, "Good places to start are the obvious ones for portable salvage: ship's locker, the shuttle bay and its ship's locker, the air-raft bays, main cargo hold, ship's magazine, and then crew recreation areas, and then door to door through the crew staterooms. We might want to check out a turret or two to see if they are worth salvaging."

Thaedznou says, "I doubt we'll have enough time for all that."

Joe says, “The armory and ship’s locker are probably the best source of mobile tech. The armory may be the harder to access, but we should check out both it and the locker."

Thaedznou nods in agreement. "Yes, we should start there."

Darrurz says, "Noses, ears and eyes open." To the Humans he asks, "Have you seen anything apart from the bats that might make you think there is trouble ahead?" All three say no.

Darrurz tries to smell any scent that isn't bat shit, but right now it's all he can pick up. He checks his laser rifle and activates his inertial locator and the camera on his headset. He gives a nod when he's ready.

Joe indicates that the best way to the armory and ship's locker is to cross engineering, make use of the stair well to climb the five decks, and then see if they can find an open hatch or pry one open.

This strikes everyone as a good plan, and so they set out.

Exploration Interrupted

Characters: Joe, Arthur, Darrurz
NPC: Mazun, Thaedznou, Aerrak
Location: The wreckage of a Foghoks class cruiser
System: Akofitsidano

1202.23.2 - 19:15 IST, 15:00 Local Time (21 hour, 16 minute day)

Joe, Arthur, Darrurz, and Thaedznou have just reached the deck where the armory is located. The iris valve in front of them is open. The corridor beyond is dark and empty. The vargr sniff the air. It is dank and stale, but free of that guano smell.

Joe is in front as he seems to have some knowledge of where to go. He peers inside, trying to see something. Just as he's about to step through, he pauses, then whirls around to face the others. His face is a visage of shock and horror. He mutters, "Oh shit."

Over the comline to the ship he says in a raised voice, "Priority alpha one! No designation; no reply! Mission abort! No return! Recommend max burn, immediate jump! Immediate radio silence! Will check rendezvous coordinates every week. Repeat: Abort!"

There's static in the line drowning out Captain Azafaghur's response. "Shit! Interference. Gotta get outside."

Arthur says, "Joe, what's going on?" a look of concern on his face.

Thaedznou looks from Joe to Arthur and Darrurz.

Joe opens his helmet and replies, "Guys, we got a problem. A vakh fleet just arrived. We need to get to the ship's boat, secure for silent running, and then hide it before they enter orbit. Which, if they cut their safety margins, could be as soon as 80 minutes but probably closer to 140."

He then flies past them and hustles down the stairwell, back the way they came.

"How do you know that?" barks Thaedznou, who is still on the armory level.

Joe ignores Thaedznou, being focused on getting down the stairwell and outside.

Darrurz replies on Joe's behalf. He barks, "Act now; question later. Now move!" He leaps down the stairs. After opening his helmet, he lets out an ear piercing howl, "MMMMMMAAAAAAZZZZZZUUUUUUNNNNNN!"

Down below, Mazun and Aerrak look up. "What?" Mazun shouts in return.

"Pack up! We have to leave now!"

Mazun throws his hands up in exasperation and then starts to packing up his tools.

Meanwhile up on the armory level, Arthur and Thaedznou exchange looks. Thaedznou's is all frustration. Arthur just shrugs and silently follows after the others. Thaedznou growls once then follows. The pair opt for a more tactical "break contact" return.

After reaching the floor, Joe slows his pace just enough to get through the guano without slipping up. As soon as he clears, he picks up the pace until he reaches the hatch. Once there he suddenly stops.

Darrurz nearly collides with him. "Why did you stop?" he asks.

Joe pulls a grenade from his belt, setting it for a five-second timer.

Joe pauses to reply, "Vakh drone."

"You're going to have to explain to the rest of them that you have a friend with you."

Joe curtly nods, selects his grenade launcher on his ACR, and says, "Cover me." He throws a grenade out the hatch.

Darrurz steps back and covers the door with his laser rifle.

The grenade explodes, and Joe scans the scene outside to locate drone. Inside the ship, the sound of the explosion has stirred the bats. A few squeaks are heard.

Moments later a whirring sound comes in from overhead. Knowing the clock is ticking, Joe abruptly swings his rifle to the sound and hits the side of the ship with his weapon. His finger slips on the trigger, prematurely launching the grenade. It misses the drone and explodes. The close proximity of the explosion agitates the bats, who start flying around their roost.

Arthur and Thaedznou arrive, both clearly agitated as well. Thaedznou growls. Before he can say anything, Darrurz says, "Vakh drone."

Mazun has finished packing up his tools, and he and Aerrak are scrambling over to join the group. Aerrak nervously looks upward at the bats, and Mazun is complaining about the situation.

Meanwhile, the drone has stopped its pursuit of the first explosion and has swung around to face the ship. It's about 30 meters out.

Joe switches his ACR to burst mode and attempts to get a bead on the drone.

Darrurz drops to the floor and readies himself for a shot.

The drone hovers, apparently trying to discern where the grenades came from.

Joe fires a single controlled burst. Three of the five rounds hit it, each one producing an audible crack and knocking the drone off balance. It attempts to right itself, but the damage is too great. Smoke pours out of the little machine as it dives for the ground.

Joe says to Darrurz, "Keep it covered," and slings his rifle.

Darrurz fires a shot at the wreckage of the drone. He hits it, adding more damage to the smoking ruin.

Upon hearing the hum of a laser weapon charging up and firing, Joe pauses and looks down at Darrurz. After the shot is taken, he crouches to grab a hold of the rope. "That one's cooked, but there's another one out there. Keep me covered." Joe then climbs down the rope to the ground.

Once Joe is clear, Arthur and Thaedznou take a step closer to the hatch, but are careful to stay out of Darrurz's sight lines.

Mazun and Aerrak reach the rest of the group. "What's the holdup? These bat things are upset we woke them up."

Arthur replies, "Vakh drone. Joe's reconning the wreckage."

"Is that why we're leaving? I was only getting started with my work and didn't have time to sabotage the drives."

"No. Joe wouldn't bug out over a drone. He didn't say what spooked him, but it has to be big."

Meanwhile, Joe has reached the ground and is making his way over to the downed drone. Climbing over the concrete and steel rubble is a pain in the ass, but he gets there. The drone isn't very big, the fuselage is 46 cm x 23 cm x 15 cm (18" x 9" x 6"). [ OOC: About the size of a desktop printer...] It's definitely slagged.

While covering Joe and looking out for any other activity, Darrurz responds to Mazun, "Joe tried to report the ingress of a Vakh fleet in-system to Azafaghur. He wasn't sure of the response from the ship, hence the rush to the door. There was a drone that was waiting for us, and there's another one somewhere so keep your ears and eyes open."

Joe re-activates his comlink and broadcasts, "Keep radio silence. We've one more drone to deal with before that Vakh fleet arrives."

He looks around for a moment, then turns to face south, looking up along the intact buildings. A few seconds later, he starts jogging back to the cruiser.

Once he's within earshot, he says, "We need to bee-line it back to the boat. I believe the other drone is there."

Darrurz stands up, sniffs the air, and looks to Arthur.

Arthur says, "Alright, once we're on the ground, wedge formation. Joe on point. Darrurz take the left wing; I've got the right. Joe, key us to the target as soon as you get twitchy. Let's go."

One by one, the group slides down the rope and assembles to head back to the boat.

[...to be continued...]