GURPS Star Frontiers
The next several days were not much more than a mind-numbing blur. It was the Disc Blitz off-season, and Eusser Rogonz was a busy man. Mirko kept shifting back and forth on whether he liked the kid or not. One moment, he was saying or doing something completely asinine, and the next minute, he was charming and insightful.
The first week was spent on Minotaur as Ess was in meetings most of the time with agents, executives and other media specialists. He was in the process of upping his ‘visibility’ and doing all sorts of interviews and public events, which were, of course, a nightmare for Mirko, especially seeing as the StarPlay security team was continually pulling rank and keeping Mirko out of the loop most of the time. They were still sore about his back corridor evasion from the Customs Office.
One evening after a slow day, Mirko and Ess are back at the suite. Ess tells Mirko that he plans to ‘turn in early’ and he will call Mirko if he needs him. The young Human retires to his apartment and Mirko heads back to his small room at the front of Rogonz’s larger suite. Mirko begins thinking about what happens next, where will he go, what will he do. His client seems to be happy with his services so far, and even seems to like the gruff Yazarian it would seem. The contract that Mirko had him sign was only for four weeks, and they were barely a fourth of the way through that, so of course, as usual, things regarding his employment could change.
The plan for the next week or so is that Eusser is scheduled to take a trip to Clarion, in the White Light system to make some appearances and help kick off some events related to the new Clarion Disc Blitz team, the Valentina Monarchs, scheduled to star the following season.
Mirko settles in for a quiet night of relaxation, he flips the holo on to see if there is anything worth watching, though usually there isn’t. He flips the channels a few times and stops on a news broadcast tagged as ‘local’.
The words scrolling across the bottom of the vid screen say: “Dr. Jack Legrange, of Kraatar, wins prestigious Fulbourn-McCoy prize for his work in bio-engineering” and the holo cuts to a scene from the awards ceremony. A middle aged Human approaches the podium to accept his award. He turns to face the crowd and begins a speech. “Thank you for the honor you have bestowed upon me, I am most grateful and pleased that my work has been recognised. I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to my homeworld, where the Humans are being ruthlessly exploited by the Vrusk. These creatures have been undermining Human rights on Kraatar. They must be stopped, this cannot be allowed to go on, for the galaxy...” the picture is suddenly blanked out and an official sounding Vrusk voice announces “Due to technical failure, we are unable to continue this broadcast.” The scrolling text at the bottom of the screen changes to “Dr. Legrange acceptance speech turns to political rights statement and ‘technical failure’ ends broadcast early” The vid then jumps to a panel of ‘experts’ who begin ‘debating’ the implications of the Legrange’s statement, the ‘technical failure’ and the situation on Kraatar. The whole newscast quickly turns to a group of arguing idiots and Mirko switches the channel and finds a marathon of ‘Ancient Guns,’ a now syndicated program showcasing the firearms and weaponry of ages past.
He gets a beer, grabs a snack and settles down to watch the show when his relaxation is interrupted by the sounds of screaming coming from Rogonz’s suite.
“Oh shit,” muttered Mirko as he swung his boots off the bed and launched himself at the door. He threw it open and ran down the hall into the vast living area. Hmmm, he hadn’t heard anyone come in since the kid went to his room. The screams continued. It didn’t sound like some sort of program. If Ess were jerking him around they were gonna have to have another talk.
He crossed to the bedroom suite and tried the door. Locked. And the VIP suites tended to have pretty sturdy doors - he’d checked during his initial sweep of the area. He turned and headed through the door to the balcony. The wind was up, ruffling his mane as he crossed to the sliding door to Ess’s room. He looked through the window.
It was dark in the room and he could clearly hear the signs of a struggle coming from inside the room. Another yelp and then the crash of something breaking pushes Mirko to action. Clutching his knife in his hand, he forces the door open, hearing the lock break. As he rushes into the room, he hears movement and then the light flicks on, causing the Yazarian to squint, having left his shades in the other room.
Ess yells out, “What the hell, man?!?” and Mirko immediately sees his error. The young Human is with a woman, no, make that two Human females. They are all
undressed and apparently engaged in behavior they would prefer that Mirko NOT be watching. “What are you doing!” Ess yells again.
Mirko rose from his combat crouch. “I’m doing my job, Mister Rogonz. You wanna tell me how you got these young ladies in here without bringing them through the front door? If you had, of course, I would have known they were here and we would not be having to have this conversation.”
Ess smiles sheepishly, “Um, they were here from earlier today? They did come in the front door. They are friends of mine. I didn’t think you would like them,” he continues. As he speaks, one of the young ladies quickly covers herself with a nearby sheet while the other one smiles and purses her lips in Mirko’s general direction, making no attempt to cover her very exposed and un-hairy body.
Mirko looks at the extra guests and nods politely. “My apologies, ladies. I apparently lost count.
“Sorry I didn't tell you, I know, I know, I have to tell you these things so you can do your job. Let’s talk about it tomorrow. Can you please close that door on the way out, you're letting in a draft,” Eusser says, his focus drifting back to the ladies.
Mirko chuckled as he headed back to his room. That went better than it could have. He sheathed his knife as he left the kid’s bedroom. Better do a sweep, since he was up anyways. Things looked fine, and he went back to his cigar.
The next day, plans were made for the trip to Clarion. The trip will be a long one, 10 days, but it should be an uneventful trip. Mriko makes the arrangements to have his gear transported to the ship they will be traveling on to get to White Light, the Stellar Flame, a private, luxury transport, which is set to arrive later that evening. Departure time is the following day, 0900.
Mirko is up at 5:30 am as usual. His kit is packed and ready to go. He does a sweep around the place, makes sure that things are as he left them, and then heads to the kitchen for breakfast. He likes the quiet at the beginning of the day. Ess is an early riser by most people’s standards, which means he’ll be up in about an hour. The StarPlay detail will be showing up around 7. Mirko spends the time while he eats trying to learn more about White Light and the Stellar Flame.
White Light and Clarion are both well documented in the databanks and Mirko spends some time looking over images from the Clarion Royal Marines, the highly decorated and skilled militia based out of Clarion Station, the large civilian station orbiting Clarion. He is aware that the UPF also have a very strong presence in White Light, focused on Fortress Redoubt. White Light and Clarion have played an important role in the Frontier’s past struggles with the Sathar, and Mirko holds great respect for the military beings there and looks forward to visiting.
He takes some time going over the itinerary for once they get to Clarion. Once they pass through the Void and and arrive in the White Light system, they should arrive at Clarion Station in about 5 GST days. It’s strange, he thought, that the ships could cross light years in a matter of seconds, but it still 5 days to leave Theseus and 5 days to arrive in White Light. Something about accelerating and decelerating, and then there is the matter of asteroid fields and whatnot. It’s just one of those things and an astrophysicist he is not.
So once they make it to White Light, and the 5 days on the approach are over, they should be scheduled to land at 17:00 GST, or 49:00 local time. They are scheduled to catch a shuttle down to the surface at 19:30 GST and should be planetside just as the sun is coming up. They will have about 3 hours to check into their lodgings, rest and get ready before Ess has an interview with a reporter, Zade Arabi from Frontier Sports magazine, at 2:30GST. Arrangements have been made at the Hotel to use one of their conference rooms for the interview.
The big publicity event is scheduled to start at 4:00GST in the main square of Valentina City, near the expansive palace of King Leotus. Supposedly the Princess Leotia is going to be making an appearance to give her royal blessings or whatnot on the new team. They are scheduled to be at the event for 3 hours, until 7:00GST, though Ess only has 2 actual commitments. He is to speak to the crowd at 5:00GST and then is required to be on the stage at 6:00GST when the Princess makes her appearance, though Ess has mentioned something about autograph and photo opportunities. The whole thought of this event gives Mirko a headache, though at least he will be allowed to carry a sidearm this time. Vera will have to stay locked away, though hopefully he will be able to transport her planetside and keep her at the hotel.
As for the Stellar Flame, he is only able to come up with minimal information. It is a privately chartered transport. It makes the run between Madderly’s Star and Theseus, White Light being in between them. The ship is occasionally known to make jaunts to other adjacent systems, though not commonly. The captain is the owner, a Vrusk named No’zan S’kix. He has owned and operated the ship for quite a few years and seems to be on the up and up. Generally on time, has a good Buzzit rating and many good reviews. The ship generally charters passengers though the captain is known to transport cargo from time to time. The ship is unarmed though it is armored to specifications befitting a civilian transport. The ShipSlip report shows that the captain has had 3 run-ins with pirates and none of the incidents have resulted in casualties. All in all, a fairly decent work record. Seems that it should be a safe and quiet trip.
Mirko passes the time on shipboard as he usually does. When Ess is in public, he is there, watching and in general just keeping tabs on things. If the kid stays in and wants to hang out, he will nurse a beer and let him tell him about the subtle nuances of Disc Blitz. In whatever free time he gets, he spends it in the gym working out, or reading, or basic prep for the next system.
There are about 10 other passengers on the Stellar Flame, and everyone pretty much keeps to themselves. While it is clear that many of the passengers know who Ess is, for the most part, they leave him alone. All except for little Ondo. Ondo is a young Human boy from Inner Reach in the Dramune System. The boy and his family are taking a vacation to Clarion to be part of the Disc Blitz extravaganza. Ess Rogonz just so happens to be the boys favorite player, and he lets everyone know it. The young boy’s parents were aware that their son’s idol was on the transport, and they did their best to keep Ondo away from Ess. At first, Ess was very gracious and signed several items, talked with Ondo many times, allowed pictures and even played a little Disc catch with him in the rec area. But after a few days, before they even made the ‘jump’, he was fed up with it. “Keep that snot nosed brat away from me,” were his specific instructions. This was fine for Mirko, because it effectively kept Ess to his quarters for most of the time.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful, until the asteroid belt. As with most systems, there was a wide ring of floating space rocks orbiting the central star. It was a nuisance at best, but could still pose danger to an uninitiated pilot or rookie hotshot who thought to cut too close to the ring. Asteroid belts were also industrial and mining hot-spots, with many of larger asteroids being mined by this Megacorp or that. Lastly, asteroid belts were havens for the undesirables of the system. The scattered fields of floating space ice and rock were invariably the home to bandits, pirates and worse. The numerous rocks spinning in their sometimes chaotic patterns made it near impossible for a ship's sensors to pick up approaching ships until it was too late sometimes.
That was the case this time. Everyone on board relaxing and enjoying the final day on the ship as they made their final approach to Clarion. The Stellar Flame had finally slowed its approach speed enough to begin maneuvering around the trailing edge of the asteroid field when several smaller, faster ships appeared on the radar nearby. The ships were approaching at attack speeds and though the Stellar Flame performed some evasive maneuvers, it was no match for the smaller, more agile fighting ships.
The captain alerts the passengers that they are under attack. Mirko quickly finds his armor and weapons, knowing that the aim of the raiders will more than likely be to board the ship and rob its passengers. Most pirates shy away from hijacking transports or kidnapping because it brought too much heat from the local law enforcement. A boarding was imminent.
Mirko nodded to Ess. “Okay, Mister Rogonz, looks like things might get interesting. Got anything of value you absolutely can’t part with? Grab it and head to the ‘fresher.” The young man goes to his suitcase and takes a few items, then heads to the back of the suite. Mirko then grabs a bunch of lesser valuables, the shinier the better, and places them on a table that he moves to right in front of the entry door. He creates a barricade of furniture across the room and takes up a position in the door between the main room and Ess’s bedroom. Then he thinks for a moment, grabs one of Ess’s ubiquitous disks, and tosses it to the kid. “Here, sign this.” Mirko’s demeanor at this time does not seem to invite questions, so the client does as he is asked and tosses the disk back. Then Mirko sits down and waits.
The Stellar Flame shudders a few times as explosions rock the ship, presumably from the attacking pirates. The lights go out, then after just a moment, the emergency lights kick on, filling the entire vessel with an eerie red glow, sending shadows up against the walls in ominous and unsettling angles.
Realizing that he is only armed with his pistol and vibroblade, Mirko heads off toward the cargo hold at a quick trot hoping to get in and put his hands on Vera before any action goes down.
He rounds a corner nearing the hold and runs right into one of the ship’s crew rushing the other way. He is carrying a SMG. The two hit each other and nearly fall.
“Hey, where are you going? You should be back in your cabin! We’re under pirate attack!” the Human shouts. He then notices that Mirko has strapped his weapons on and his eyes bulge. He quickly lowers the weapon and points it at Mirko. “Don’t move! Why are you armed? Just because we are under attack doesn’t mean that you can run around with a weapon onboard!” The man looks nervous and another blast rocks the ship, sending Mirko forward and knocking the crewman off balance.
Mirko rolls his eyes. “Son, are you fucking kidding me? Pirates boarding a ship is EXACTLY what that means.” He grabs the crewman’s arm to steady him and helps him to his feet. “Now, I’m going to the cargo hold to get something more than this pea-shooter,” and he gestures to his sidearm. “You want to ‘escort’ me, or do you have better places to be?” He pauses while the crewman gulps. “Oh, by the way, you probably want to take the safety off before you run into bad guys.”
Without waiting for a reply, Mirko hoofs it off in the direction of the cargo hold.
The crewman looks down to his weapon, makes an exasperated huffing sound then looks at Mirko with wide eyes. He shakes his head and hurries off down the hallway. Mirko continues on to the access port to the cargo area of the ship. He grabs the lever. Locked.
Mirko swears. I can’t just stand around until someone comes along to open this. He looks and listens - no gunfire yet. He hears footsteps coming around a corner and waits, hand on the hilt of his pistol. Just crew. “Excuse me, miss? Could you open this door?” The young Human starts as she turns the corner to find Mirko towering over her, and takes a step back. “Sir, you should return to your stateroom at once! No passengers in the corridors - we’re on lockdown!” Ah, hell. “It’s just that I thought I heard something in there. Maybe it’s the pirates...”
The young Human female reaches for her sidearm and puts her ear to the door. “Hmmm,” she says as she calls to the bridge. “Captain, I’ve got one of the passengers, Mirko Canji, yea, the Yazarian bodyguard. Yea. Uh huh. Yea. Ok. Well, he says he heard someone in the cargo hold. Thought it might be pirates. Oh, ok. Yea. Out.”
She turns back to Mirko and gives him a wry smile. “The captain says you can go get your gun, make it fast.” She keys the code on the cargo area, keeping herself between Mirko and the access pad. The door slides open and she directs Mirko to where his baggage is. “Now get yourself back to your stateroom, and make sure you don’t go shooting any of the crew on accident!”
Mirko grins as he pulls Vera out of her carrier. “That was my plan, ma’am, and please, my best regards to your captain.” He also grabs some power clips. Better to have ‘em and not need ‘em than the other way around.
A metallic grating sound echoes through the corridors of the Stellar Flame. The sounds of maglock arms snapping in place vibrate through the hull. The pirates are beginning to board.
Mirko exchanges glances with the crewbeing, then they both hustle off to their destinations.
He gets back to the stateroom in short order, slides over the table inside the door, and announces himself. “Mister Rogonz, it’s me!” Then he slides the table forward a bit more. It fits tightly in the hall, which is one of the reasons he chose it. The door can open about half-way, which will give whoever enters a chance to see the loot piled on it, but not a full view down the hall. Then he heads back down the hall and gets Vera all warmed up.
The silence is almost unbearable for what seems like an eternity, Mirko keeps Vera steady and aimed down the hallway toward the door to the suite. He can hear Rogonz behind him, in one of the other rooms, breathing heavily, even through the closed door.
Suddenly an explosion is heard in some other part of the ship. The lights flicker then go out just in time for the red tinted emergency lighting to fill the ships corridors. The pirates may have blown an airlock. That could be bad.
Momentarily he hears weapons fire and some yelling. Sparkling, multi-colored smoke comes billowing past the doorway to the suite. Prizm smoke grenades. Some more yelling, this time closer. More weapons fire. Then silence.
Mirko held position. Times like this, with the waiting, it was tempting to do “one more thing.” Chances were, though, that’d leave you out of position when things finally started to go down.
After about 10 minutes of waiting, Mirko hears a voice call down the hallway. “Mr. Rogonz, Mr. Cajni? Are you all right? This is First Mate Albars. The pirates are gone.” Mirko recognizes the name of the First Mate and sees him slinking carefully down the hall, looking about. After a tense moment, it is determined that the ship is finally safe and Mirko removes the barricade from the doorway.
Albars explains that the pirates boarded the ship, shot up a few of the crew and then kidnapped one of the passengers, a Human named Bremen Toff. He was apparently some high level executive of the Cassadine Development Corp and also Ondo’s father.
Not long after the incident, a patrol from White Light joins the Stellar Flame and takes up a escort position. One of the ships couples with the Flame and some officials board. They question everyone aboard, going over each persons events several times.
Eventually, the Stellar Flame docks at Clarion Station. The passengers are met by a
pair of Star Law officers, taken to a nearby suite of rooms and once again questioned about the pirate attack and kidnapping. Everyone is then dismissed and allowed to go about their way. Mirko checks his chrono and it looks like they missed their scheduled shuttle down to the planet. The next one is not for an hour or so, then they will be able to check into their hotel and get a few hours sleep before the days events begin. Clarions slow rotation makes for a 50 hour day. Each day/ night cycle on Clarion is longer than 2 GS days.
Ess smacks Mirko on the shoulder, “Come on man, lets get a drink. I hear the Spacer Club is a great place. I’ve always wanted to go there.” The tall Yazarian glanced around the crowded station corridor. He could see the blinking lights above the nearby Spacer Bar. Of course, even more crowded in there than it was out in the corridor. Mirko grumbles and begins to express his thoughts on going to the Spacer Club when he sees Ess putting on a dirty old work cap and fitting an old pair of Mirko’s dark goggles over his face. “It’s cool, man. I’ve got a disguise!” The young Human smiles widely from ear to ear and starts pushing his way through the crowd toward the Club.
The lanky Yazirian sighed as he followed the young man into the bar. He just couldn’t make things simple, could he? Probably never met a challenge he couldn’t bullrush right over. Ah well, a beer couldn’t hurt.
He shouldered his way to the bar next to the client and flagged the bartender for a beer. “Okay, we’re here. Can we at least grab a table in the corner, so I don’t have to keep track of 360 degrees of threat?”
Ess nods in agreement at this suggestion and the two manage to find a small booth in the corner. They enter their drink orders into the interface and within just a few moments, a small, hovering droid shows up carrying their drinks.
Most of the talk around the Spacer Bar is that of the upcoming events surrounding the new Disc-Blitz team down on the surface. There are folks sporting jerseys of numerous different teams as well many wearing the jerseys of the soon to be newest team, the Valentina Monarchs.
“So, whadda ya think? The Monarchs have any talent?” Mirko nods his head in the direction of the boisterous fans. He takes a pull from his beer, still scanning the crowd for convenient exits and reasons he might want to use them.
Ess drinks his beer, wipes his mouth and sighs, “Well, you know, they are a new team. Got a few decent draft picks and a couple of washed up has-beens, but it always takes a few seasons for a new team to get going. Really, it’s hard for a new team, what with the restrictions and salary caps that the league puts on them. Hell, if I were.....” Ess rambles on about Disc-Blitz league rules, politics and other mundane topics that really seem to get him fired up. Mirko is only barely listening to him, though nodding his head and grunting occasionally when necessary to continue the conversation. Scanning the crowd, he sees any number of potentially dangerous individuals, spots numerous weapons, visible and concealed. One thing he does NOT notice is anyone looking in their direction.
He does manage to pick out some nearby conversation about the events that had just happened on the Stellar Flame. Two nearby Humans are drinking at the end of the bar and arguing about the pirate attack. One of the men is saying that the pirates are being backed by Streel but the other adamantly denies this, citing the fact that Streel has almost completed a 20 year ban from Clarion due to some previous illicit activities. Eventually this conversation breaks down into cursing, name calling and then a round of shots, after which, the topic changes to that of the sexual exploits of some new supermodel on the holo.
After several drinks, it is finally time to catch that shuttle down to the surface. The quick trip down through the cloud covered atmosphere is incident free. Almost immediately, Mirko can sense the large planet’s heavier gravity. He had been spending a lot of time in space recently and had gotten comfortable with the lower, 0.9 gravity, commonly present there, though Clarion was nothing like the oppressive 1.2 gravity of Minotaur! The shuttle lands in the heart of Valentina, the capital of Clarion. From his notes, Mirko knows that Valentina holds over 70 million inhabitants and spans hundreds of square km. Weapons were not permitted on the surface for most citizens, though his status as security detail for a celebrity allowed him to carry his sidearms and blades, though his beloved Vera would have to be securely transported and remain under lock and key.
They were met by a representative of the upcoming event and given an itinerary for the next day. She also provided directions to the hotel where they would be staying as well as the required credentials and access codes they would need during their stay. They were escorted to their nearby lodgings and told they would be alerted when the events were about to begin. Due to the delay on Clarion Station, they would not have as much time to relax and recoup as originally planned. Ess notified Mirko of his plans to spend most of the time in the shower. Mirko spent his time going over technical displays of the hotel and the event grounds, looking for potential areas of threat.
After going over the data for well over an hour, Mirko felt that he was well versed in the layouts and schedules he needed to know. Ess emerged from his long shower and began preparing himself for the upcoming interview. “Man, I sure hope she is cute,” he calls out to Mirko. The Yazarian, feeling that he missed part of the conversation curls his lip up and replies simply, “Who?”
“You know, the reporter. We have an interview in less than an hour. You should be on top of this, man. Is the reporter hot? I hate being interviewed by, um, you know, not-hot reporters.” Mirko shrugs. He had seen the dossier of the reporter, one Schaserade Arabi, working for one of the numerous subsidiaries of Price Publishing, the so called ‘news’ arm of StarPlay Enterprises. Mirko considered StarPlay for a moment, they owned most of the Frontiers entertainment avenues, whether it be music, holo-vid, sports, news, etc. It was mind-boggling how large some of these mega-corps were. He had worked, time and time again for one or another. Even many times in his career, in a contract with one corp, he found himself engaged with soldiers of another corp, but if you followed the money trail far enough down the line, their pay was coming from the same place. He just didn’t get it. Oh well, that wasn’t his job. His job was to keep Eusser Rogonz safe. And he would do that.
NotesMy text in bold (+Jason Woollard)
+Arne Jamtgaard is normal text.