Saturday, 15 June 2013

Secrets in Sulfur Part 2: On the Trail of the Worm #1

Our cast of characters:
John – Boris Clapshaw, ex Army Infantry Sergeant
Jonathan – Riishaa Daanel, ex Marine
Dylan – Count Asenault “Chivers” Washington-Pipps, retired Marine Colonel
Chris – “Bunty” Staffburger, ex Marine Force Commander

Bunty Staffburger meets up with his old friend Count Asenault "Chivers" Washington-Pipps, Chivers' batman Riishaa Daanel and Boris Clapshaw, a friend of Daanel's, on Por’via. The three of them are heading off to do some mercenary work in the Geithurian Republic and have stopped over on Por’via before leaving Imperial Space.

Bunty’s girlfriend, Selia Vuir – a sulfur miner – is overdue from her shift. She has mentioned finding a cache of sunstones – opal-like gemstones – which she had intended to sell, under the counter, to Jorgan Kiorpanos, the local VenGems Holdings agent. Bunty and his companions venture out into the badlands above the sulfur flats to try and locate her. Instead they discover mysterious vargr, vicious alien lifeforms called irrijari, and a buried shuttle craft belonging to a mysterious methane-breathing species called the Mi’yargin. The ship has been on Por’via for around 200 years. The Mi’yargin have managed to save Selia, who was injured by the irrijari, by melding her mind into their Collective Consciousness, while they alter her body to better survive in a methane atmosphere.

Once the companions deal with the Vargr, and with the irrijari, the Mi’yargin shuttle takes off to rejoin its mothership, hidden in the rings of the Por’via system’s gas giant. While heading out-system, the companions realize that they are being followed by the Vargr freighter Akhska that was in port, and which was noted for its crew not speaking Gvegh – the standard Vargr language.

The Mi’yargin Nullship is a planetesimal-sized, icy structure, deep in the gas giant’s ring system. A crater near the equator turns out to be a large, external shuttle bay. Gaining access to the Mi'yargin's internal transportation system, Chivers and his companions are able to ambush Captain Vegh and the Akhska’s crew and seize their ship by emerging directly beneath the freighter through the nullship’s surface. The Mi’yargin Collective, having successfully reintegrated the Collective of the shuttle crew, are able to assist Chivers and his companions in translating some of the information discovered aboard the Akhska, and interrogating the one surviving Vargr crewbeing. The Akhska has come a long way – from Waystar in Cabria Subsector where someone called Aia issues orders to Captain Vegh and the crew of the Akhska. The Vargr aboard the Akhska speak an ancient Vargr language called Arrghoun - older than, and distinct from, Gvegh, the language of most Imperial Vargr. The Arrghoun Vargr refer to their employer as Aeroukh Doaengosra - “Lord (or Prince) Whipworm”. The Mi’yargin Collective wonders if Lord Whipworm may in fact be a Danshihabi, an ancient enemy of the Mi’yargin and referred to, by them, as “thieves and carrion worms”.

The Mi’yargin ask Chivers and his companions to journey along the Akhska’s back trail to Waystar to learn more about Lord Whipworm, and to report back to the Collective at a rendezvous point in the Yuar Outsystem in Cabria Subsector. The Collective turns the Akhska over to Civers and throws in a little something to continue their association – a large, sarcophagus-like object.

The sarcophagus-like object delivered to the ship turns out to be a very old Lowberth capsule, and when this is activated, Chivers and his companions meet Amin Soshousis, a Scout. Exploring the Por’via system in 922, just before the 1st Outrim War, Amin’s Scout ship collided with the Mi’yargin Nullship. She managed to get into her Lowberth before the catastrophic failure of her ship’s life support system. The Mi’yargin managed to retrieve her Lowberth, did a preliminary scan of its systems, and then put it into storage as events unfolded on Por'via, keeping it safe for 200 years.

Music tastes change in 200 years
It takes Amin several days to recover from her extended Lowberth time, and Boris and Bunty are surprised at how well she seems to adjust to the massive time displacement she has experienced. Apart from her slightly antiquated figures of speech, and her very old style Scout uniform, there is little to distinguish her from someone of a more contemporary origin. When asked about this, Amin admits that every day she is having to make little adjustments as she discovers items that work slightly differently, or products that taste or function slightly differently. But, having served as a Field Scout for a number of years, she is used to being transient - never making attachments as duty usually moves one on - and she is used to discovering and experiencing new things. Working a Vargr ship is actually less of a culture shock than discovering all the people she knew are gone and all the bands she used to listen to are now considered Classical Music.

Once Amin, and Knaes – the captured Vargr whom Daanel has convinced to join the new pack – have worked out the basic bridge control layout, the Akhska leaves the Nullship. Slipping back to Por’via in an attempt to recover Selia’s Sunstone stash, the companions find that it has been picked clean. An attempt to hunt down the scavengers, thought to possibly be associates of Jorgan Kiorpanos, the VenGems agent who was killed by the irrijari, proves fruitless, so Chivers and his associates decide to leave Por’via and set out on their mission for the Mi'yargin.

The Akhska is a Gaeouz Class Far Trader, with a three parsec Jump range and 3Gs of acceleration. Having extracted more data from the Akhska’s log, Chivers and his associates have learnt that the ship transited through Evvikkim while heading for Por’via, and that there seems to have been some message traffic between Captain Vegh and an agent of Aia's operating on-planet. Amin is very reluctant to enter Geithurian space, even when assured that some time has passed since the last Outrim War (the 4th which, Amin argues, proves her point as she entered her Lowberth just prior to the 1st Outrim War). Having assured her that they will not remain longer than necessary in-system, they eventually plot a course from Por’via, via Jul'ni and Hiona in Geithurian space, before jumping on to Evvikkim.

On approach to Evvikkim, Amin informs Chivers and his companions that she is picking up an automated message being tight beamed to their ship. The message is in code and in Arrghoun, which the Bunty and Daanel are able to crack. The message appears to be from a local agent of Aia’s, saying that a strange ship has been spotted in the Evvikkim system and asking the Akhska to get word to Aia.

Evvikkim Downport shows signs of decay, as if it was once a lot busier than it now is. Very few Evvikkimians are evident, and all look pale and drawn. Also, no children are evident within the starport concourse, while the bulk of the service work at the starport is performed by gangs of Vargr of different origins. Large areas of the starport have been mothballed, or partially shut down, and many areas are dusty and unserviced, as if no-one has ventured into them in many years. Even snack food dispensers are lightly coated in a film of dust, and are stocked with older style packets of snacks.

Chivers and Boris Clapshaw meet Sholoam Kharii, Head of Security for Evvikkim Downport, a tall and cadaverous Vilani and who, like all Evvikkimians, wears slightly archaic styled clothing. Amin is convinced that she recognises him, and that he was head of security when she last passed through Evvikkim – over 200 years ago. Sholoam seems a little suspicious when Chivers talks of picking up a cargo, and advises Chivers and his associates to be wary of the Vargr groups that frequent the starport, and in particular a group lead by Angtuez.

While Chivers and his companions are out looking for cargos and news, Amin is abducted from the Akhska by a Vargr gang. Giving chase, Chivers and company track down her assailants in an abandoned maze of tunnels between the starport and Evvikkim City and, after a shootout, rescue her from the band of Vargr led by Angtuez.

Getting back aboard the ship, Chivers and his associates are thoroughly convinced that Evvikkim is getting all a bit too creepy, and so they perform an emergency takeoff, damaging the access tunnel to their docking bay in the process. With threats of legal retribution reverberating from the ship’s comm., the Akhska heads for the system gas giant, Lamo VIII, to refuel while a debate rages over their next move.

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