Arrival at Newcastle

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

1126.38.4 - 7:00 Imperial Time, 7:00 Vilani Time

Pack of Daggers has exited jumpspace around Newcastle and begun decelerating towards the planet. Sensors picks up several small traders coming and going to the planet. All are smaller than the Pack of Daggers and non-threatening. The starport is hailed, and permission is given to land.

9:00 Imperial Time, 9:00 Vilani Time, 06:05 Local Time (36 hour day)

Pack of Daggers lands at Thurston Downport. It's still dark as sunrise is still four hours away. It's chilly (40°F, 4.4°C) and the sky clear. Shortly after their arrival, a starport warden comes to collect the landing fee and asks if anything else will be needed.

Gvarokh puts in an order for fuel, including enough to fill the bladder, and life support refurbishment.

After he leaves, Gvarokh calls a meeting to order. "We need to start gathering information to accomplish the mission. Elloekothe, will you give us the lay of the land?"

Elloekothe pulls up a map of Newcastle on the holoviewer. The location of the prison is indicated. Dougok sniffs curiously as the map is brought up.

"The island that's home to the prison is remote, but not inaccessible. Besides the prison, it's also home to a fishing village, a large farm, and a nature preserve. While the fishing village is off limits to the prisoners, many get work detail on the farm. As such, all prisoners are fitted with a transponder chip.

"It's an agricultural world. Not only does that include crops, but livestock as well. Tourism used to play a vital role in the economy. We're not sure if it still does, but since vargr enjoy being outdoors as much as humans, there's no reason to think it still isn't. The original human population is still present. Unemployment is zero as anyone in need of a job is sent to a farm to work. The Confederation colonial government offers few social services and does not tolerate beggars or homelessness. Routine sweeps gather these people up and sends them to a work camp until such time as they've saved up enough money to afford better accommodations.

"All law breakers are sent to the island prison. The world's law level is now 9. It was 7 before. No one wants to have anyone disrupting either agricultural exports or the tourist trade."

Elloekothe frowns. "I don't have any more specifics about the prison. I'll have to meet with my contact to get the details.

"Any questions?"

Dougok asks, "What are our chances of getting onto the island either as tourists or doing some kind of business tour of the farm? Perhaps if we went to hunt we might be able to more easily bring along equipment. Or perhaps a work detail might be arranged for our target."

She replies, "From what I know, getting onto the island shouldn't be difficult, but I'll have to confer with my contact."

Gvarokh asks, "How fast is their sentencing? If we get someone arrested and sent to prison, that will give us someone on the inside."

Dougok utters a quick growl.

"I don't know, but my contact will."

Dougok adds, "I would say getting one of our pack sentenced as an infiltrator would be the last choice. With the high law levels here things could go far worse than we might expect."

Elloekothe replies, "It's entirely possible that vargr aren't even thrown in prison. Depending on the offense, they might get let off with a warning."

Chucks asks, "But this Egz guy, he got thrown in jail. What did he do?"

Elloekothe chews her lip a moment before replying, "He's a political prisoner. That's different."

Gvarokh continues, "What is the networking like here? Maybe Vincent can get some good hacking done. If everyone has a transponder, if we can find what the transponder signal or code for our target is, that would make it much easier to track him down."

Before Elloekothe can reply, Vincent jumps in. "I was just about to suggest that, Captain. If the prisoners are implanted with a transponder chip, I should hopefully be able to hack their system and locate him. If he is already assigned to a work detail, it might be as easy as a quick grab and run, or maybe I could even put in for our target to get a work detail on the farm and we grab him then, but for some reason I don't think it'll be that easy. With approval, I'd be more than happy to hack whatever systems they have in an effort to assist us in our mission, but keep in mind that may require the location of a localized network for me to hack as well as getting in and out unnoticed. Either way, I stand ready for whatever you decide."

Vincent notices Elloekothe shaking her head. "What I miss?"

She replies, "Newcastle isn't wired that way. They're only tech level 8. In the past, they've taken the money they've made from their exports and used it to buy imports. A properly managed world like this would've invested their profits in infrastructure or sought starport upgrades, but they just bought stuff. So they're spotty in what sorts of tech they've got and where it's implemented.

"There's no global net. Any networks we find will be local. They can be wired or wireless. I don't know what the range is on the prison's prisoner transponder network. It's probably safe to say that the whole island is covered, but beyond that, we don't know.

"Maybe there's something on the satellite feeds, but I don't think it's advisable to hack random satellites until you find what you're looking for. Actually, you might not find anything there at all."

Dougok says, "It seems like understanding more of the details of the prison operations both with the transponders and prisoner routine is key." He looks about. "I take it we don't want to go in with guns blazing?"

Elloekothe replies, "We might have to, but I think we'd all prefer that to be our last option."

Dougok wrinkles his muzzle. "We'd certainly get credit as hardcore corsairs if we pull off a bloody prison break. I'm sure our patrons will be proud." He chuffs. "It's not the notoriety that we want at all."

The meeting goes quiet.

Elloekothe says, "I'll go find my contact and see what I can learn."

Gvarokh nods. "We need more intel, even if we decide to go in guns a-blazing."

Elloekothe replies, "I'll take Kagfak and Uengghae with me. We'll be back in a couple of hours."

Getting to Know Newcastle

Characters: All
NPC: Chuck, Kagfak, Uengghae, Major Arsashaammu, Major Elloekothe
Location: Pack of Daggers, parked at Thurston Downport
System: Newcastle

1126.38.4 - 12:15 Imperial Time, 12:15 Vilani Time, 09:20 Local Time (36 hour day)

Elloekothe, Kagfak, and Uengghae have returned to the ship and a meeting is convened.

Elloekothe says, "Tourists are allowed on the island, but no weapons are permitted. No hunting is permitted at the nature preserve.

"A business tour of the farm needs to be arranged beforehand. And there's no way to get a work detail at the farm arranged for our target. That would require someone to work for the prison or bribing the labor manager to do it. The labor manager lives on the island. It's possible we could bribe him, but my contact says he won't just let anyone go.

"As for getting someone arrested and sent to the prison, that all depends on the offense. They save the prison for sentences of three years or more. Prisoners on the island have already been convicted. You don't wait for trial there; you're held locally. Due process means that it would take at least a couple of weeks before a trial date is set. It all depends on how long it takes the state to gather evidence and prepare its case.

"So from what I gather, it seems like bribery and jailbreak are our only options, unless you guys thought of something else while I was gone."

Lakir says, "If we're gonna go the jailbreak method, we'll need a helluva lot more intel on the setup and daily routine. Probably means bribing prison staff and maybe some cyberwork by Vincent, if we can figure a way to get close to the internal network, assuming they've got one."

Gvarokh sighs. "I'm really racking my brain on how to crack this nut. One thing I want to make sure of is how much observable naval forces we saw in space around the planet. When we attacked the corsair base, we just had to worry about the pirates and their small craft attacking us. Here, if we overtly attack the government prison, then we have to worry about actual naval vessels attacking us. Much, much scarier, even with a more capable ship.

"Kagfak, can you pull up the sensor logs? I'd like to see what they picked up."

Kagfak barks his compliance. He uses the meeting room's terminal to access the sensor data.

While he compiles the data, Elloekothe says, "I considered that attacking the prison was a possibility, so I asked my contact what the patrol situation was like. He said that a minimum there were always at least five ships in the system at a time. The most he's seen since the turnover has been ten. Most ships used are old Type T patrol cruisers that were bought before the war and Thaksoeghuksaknag class frigates. There have been destroyer escorts and destroyers but only when tensions are running high."

Kagfak puts up the data. The sensors only picked up Angrorghag class seekers and Zodhaenae and Kaekzaekh class traders.

Elloekothe answers the unasked question, "Planetary defense ships could easily be on the far side of the planet or its moon. Or even lurking in a crater."

Gvarokh asks, "What is the planet's sensor grid like? Should we be able to get the air/raft, G-Carrier, or some other vehicle 'off the grid' at some point?"

"There's nothing extensive. It's all local stuff. Getting off the grid won't be a problem."

"If we get to the island, would Vincent have a chance to connect to the prison computer system and hack at that point?"

"The prison computer network is isolated. There's no global InfoNet network. Communications with the island are typically handled through the telecom satellite network. But the computers aren't connected to it."

Gvarokh sighs. "I would just so much prefer a stealthy way to solve this. I am just not seeing anything yet." He looks up at the crew. "I keep hoping one of you sees something to take advantage of."

Elloekothe responds, "We could see if the blueprints are available somewhere. My contact might know where to look."

Chuck asks, "Do the prison's employees live on the island?"

"Yes, in the nearby fishing village."

A low res map of the island is called up on the holoviewer.

"If your contact can get us a name of the employees, maybe we can find the guy responsible for the farm detail and, as Dougok suggested, bribe the guy to get our target out to the farm."

Dougok's tail wags at the mention of his name. He says, "We might even try to bribe our way into a terminal from which we can hack in. Also, could we hack into incoming messages or the phones and send a release order? It may take a hard copy forgery even."

Elloekothe responds, "I don't believe that hacking into the phone lines will help arrange a transfer. The bureaucrats are going to want a paper trail. My contact says that prison officials are open to bribes. If that doesn't seem acceptable, I'm sure that we can forge the necessary documents, provided that we can obtain a copy of the signature of the corresponding official."

Dougok's tail continues to wag. "Forgery and bribery should be our primary focus in this case. We'll need to 'borrow' a copy of a previous transfer to use as a basis for a forgery or a blank copy of a form."

"Yes, I agree," Elloekothe replies, a puzzled expression crossing her face. "I believe that we'll be able to secure one of those on the island. The next step would be to decide who's going and who's staying here to prepare for the extraction. Obviously, I'll be going to the island. I'll see if my contact has contacts on the island."

Vlad says, "I volunteer to stay on the ship. Somebody's gotta do it."

Uengghae's ears droop. Kagfak tilts his head to the side.

Gvarokh says, "We'll have two teams: the 'bribery' team and the hot extraction team. Their approach will be to use bribery, forgery, and other non-firefight means to extract our target. The bribery team will be led by Elloekothe and will attempt to take as low key approach as possible. While she can choose whomever she wants for her team, I'm recommending Vincent and Lakir. The closer we can get Vincent to computers, the quicker we can get stuff done. Lakir's resume speaks for itself. Take Kagfak if you want added muscle.

"The hot extraction team will be reserved for use in case the bribery team is in danger of losing our target or ultimately unsuccessful. Vlad, you just volunteered to be on the hot extraction team. Uengghae is our G-Carrier driver, so he's on it, too. Does anyone else want to volunteer for the hot extraction team?"

Chuck raises his hand. "I'll go in case there are any wounded."

"Fine. Anyone else?"

Dougok raises a paw. "I'm in."

Gvarokh nods in approval. "Ok, that settles it then."

The meeting breaks up and each team goes about its business. Later, Elloekothe explains that if the bribery team is going to stay low key, they're going to need a day just to get to the island. "There aren't any direct flights from the starport to Port Stephens, the town where we pick up the ferry. It's a couple thousand miles, so we'll have to get connecting flights. We might even have to rent a ground car if we can't get a flight from the last city to Port Stephens.

"The alternative is to take the G-Carrier to Port Stephens and have it wait there while we get to work. That might be a bit conspicuous though.

"Also, if the bribery team relies on local transportation, our luggage will be scanned. That means no weapons."

Lakir says, "I've got a hard plastic knife. That'll evade the sensors."

Elloekothe nods. "Me too. But if security is suspicious and they open our luggage, they'll find them. Local law level prohibits weapon possession outside of one's home or visiting starship."

Gvarokh says, "Since the bribery team needs to focus on bribery and not fighting, no weapons isn't necessarily a bad thing." After a few moments of thought, he adds, "We have the air-raft, too. Don't know if that is inconspicuous enough, but it is an option."

Elloekothe replies, "An air-raft won't get us across the planet in a reasonable time. I'll see if we can get permission to move the ship to Port Stephens and take the air-raft from there."

Elloekothe leaves the room to make the necessary calls. Several minutes later she returns. The frown on her face telegraphs the bad news.

"We can't. The department of transportation says that the airport at Port Stephens can't handle starship traffic. It looks like we're stuck with plan A. Fortunately, there's a flight leaving here early this afternoon that will leave us enough time to make a connecting flight to Port Stephens before nightfall."

With travel plans all set, the meeting adjourns, the bribery team heading off to pack their luggage.

Travel to the Island: First Day

Characters: Vincent and Lakir
NPC: Kagfak and Major Elloekothe
Location: Thurston Downport (to start)
System: Newcastle

1126.38.4 - 15:25 Imperial Time, 15:25 Vilani Time, 12:30 Local Time (36 hour day)

The bribery team checks their bags, passes through security without a hitch, and boards their flight to Dobsonville where they hope to catch a connecting flight to Port Stephens.

The jet is a narrow body passenger craft, resembling the old Terran MD-88. Fortunately for the group, there isn't a pressing need to cram as many people as possible into the cabin. Seats are four across (like 1st class) with two on either side of the aisle. Vincent sits with Kagfak while Lakir sits with Elloekothe.

21:25 Imperial Time, 21:25 Vilani Time, 18:30 Local Time

The team arrives safely at the Dobsonville airport. They've lost three hours due to time zone changes, but that was to be expected. Fortunately, it doesn't impact their making the connecting flight to Port Stephens. The group takes a similar aircraft on this leg of the trip as well.

1126.38.5 - 3:25 Imperial Time, 27:25 Vilani Time, 24:30 Local Time

The team arrives safely at the Port Stephens airport. They've lost another three hours due to time zone changes, but that was to be expected. Unfortunately, they'll have to wait until morning to catch a ferry to the island. It's three hours until dark, and the ferries don't operate at night.

They take a cab ride from the airport to a hotel near the ferry. Once in their rooms (Elloekothe and Kagfak, Lakir and Vincent), Elloekothe contacts the ship to let them know they arrived ok.

After that, Vincent says, "I'm definitely having dinner and a few drinks, maybe wander around the hotel grounds and just relax. The more the merrier!"

Lakir nods. "It's gonna be dark," he checks his watch,"in about three hours. I'm going to take a quick spin around the local area. Just a quick recon on the immediate vicinity, nothing intrusive. Then I'll grab dinner. Maybe a beer if things check out."

"Do you need to go alone," Elloekothe asks, "or do you want to take Kagfak with you? Alone, you'll blend in with the local human population, but might be scrutinized by the authorities. Go with Kagfak and you'll be safe from the authorities, but a potential target if there's a hostile resistance. Officially, there's no word of a resistance or an authoritative boot on the humans' necks on a global level. We don't know if either is true at the local level. Your call. I'm fine either way."

"Sure. I'll take Kagfak with me."

Kagfak's tail sets to wagging.

"I'll go with Vincent around the hotel grounds and scope the place out for exits, neighboring buildings, and possible wi-fi spots."

A couple hours later the two groups meet back in the room. Vincent and Elloekothe have been there for an hour. They roamed the hotel grounds (basically a pool and a nice courtyard), found the stairwell exits and checked their egresses, and found the hotel's wi-fi network. Vincent hacked it instead of paying the 25 credit access fee and used a sufficiently strong anonymizer to hide his tracks. There wasn't much to find as there is no global InfoNet, but he was able to jump around to the city's local network. There wasn't much out there to make use of however. As for the island, there wasn't anything but ferry times.

Lakir reports that he and Kagfak were able to move around without any issues. No one gave them any grief or batted an eye at a human and vargr being together. It's a seaport, so most of the local commerce was geared towards that. There were a few financial buildings (banks, investment firms), but not much else. On the far side of the harbor, there were a couple of naval ships of the Coast Guard variety: one of about 4,500 tons displacement (400+ feet long) and a pair of much smaller 170 ton displacement (110 feet long).

Once the hotel restaurant is open for dinner, the group heads on down.

This being a coastal city with fishing fleets, the menu is heavy on the seafood. The food is good, appealing to both human and vargr. The beer, brewed in other cities, is also very good.

During dinner, Lakir notices four guys eating dinner together at a table across the semi-crowded room. They all have crew cuts, are broad shouldered, and square jaws. They wear long sleeve, button down shirts, jeans, and shit kicker boots. While they're drinking, none of them appears to be headed on a bender. Lakir is certain that they're guards from the prison.

Vincent says to Elloekothe, "Think it's wise to try and butter up the guards with a round of drinks, or three. Maybe get a feel for them and see if they'd be open to some bribery?"

"I don't know," Elloekothe replies. "That might be something for you and Lakir to explore. If Kagfak and I get involved, they might feel like they're being set up. And if they recognize you two from this dinner, they might think you're working with us to root out potential traitors. Don't be too quick to bribe someone. If you guess wrong, the blowback could cripple an operation. You have to put your nose to the wind to gauge the scent before setting out on a hunt."

The alleged prison guards pay no attention to the group and are still seated when the group finishes. Elloekothe pays and departs the restaurant, accompanied by Kagfak. Lakir and Vincent stay behind, nursing their beers.

When it seems like they can't linger any longer, Vincent asks, "What do you say, Lakir? Shall we introduce ourselves?"

The alleged prison guards have finished their dinner and are waiting for the check.

Lakir shrugs. "Worth a shot. They may know where the good hookers hang out, as a minimum..."

Moments later, the alleged prison guards get their check. As a group, they throw down cash to cover the bill, stand, and leave. Lakir and Vincent follow at a discrete distance. But instead of heading to the hotel bar, they proceed past it to the elevator. One of them presses the call button, and they wait for its arrival.

Vincent nudges Lakir. "Follow my lead."

When they get within two meters of the group, Vincent says, as if they'd been talking all along, "Yeah, it's nice to get off the ship and relax." He nods to the group of alleged prison guards and says, "Excuse me, gentlemen, I'm sorry to bother you, but my friend and I are new to the area and have hit some downtime. I'm hoping you are all from the area and point us in the direction of someplace that has drinks and entertainment."

They seem non-plussed by Vincent. One of them points behind Vincent and says, "The hotel bar is a good place."

The elevator arrives with a ding, and the four men enter it. They don't hold the doors open.

Vincent and Lakir are now alone in the lobby. Dejected, the duo head back upstairs, report in with Elloekothe, and then head off to bed.

[...to be continued...]