Tag Archives: Vechkov Prague

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Y’luci Checks In #OtherSpace #storytelling

It’s been a while since the Ekaterina’s Pride started undergoing her refit and Vechkov Prague – private investigator turned profiteering industrialist – set about seeking bids for contractors to build the new moss farming operation on Mintaka.

Now he watches on a landing pad at the San Angeles spaceport as cargo workers load hoversleds full of supplies aboard the Pride for the trip back out to the newly discovered world.

Sionnach steps up beside Prague, handing him a tablet with some sort of reports on it. “Ship’s ready to go, boss,” he says, his ears tilted forward, “You figure out what we’re doing for a mechanic, yet?”

“No, not yet,” the captain replies with an extended sigh. “Let’s make another refueling stop at the Rucker and hunt for somebody who knows their way around an engine room.” He holds up a PDA. “I’ve been reading up, but I think I know just enough to get us killed.”

“I’d be willing to bet I’d get us killed faster, ” the pilot replies, snorting in self-derision, “We’ll be ready for takeoff as soon as she’s loaded.” He winks before heading up towards the vessel.

A petite brunette trots through the spaceport with a massive backpack threatening to topple her over, and a pda in hand. She’s humming a poppy tune to herself and stepping to the beat, each footfall punctuated with the clatter of metal, plastic, and other materials. When the woman spots the Pride, she double checks the pda and then squeals in delight, “It’s still here!” She practically skips towards the vessel, dodging others with quick apologies.

Standing at the base of the ramp of the pride is a squat, middle-aged man in a beige trenchcoat with a battered fedora, dark trousers, and a charcoal-hued tunic. He squints at the approaching female.

“Hiii!” chirps the woman as she stops in front of the squat man, pushing up her hipster glasses and adjusting her very, very pink sweater, “Are you the Captain? I’m looking for Captain…” she double checks her pda, “Prague? Of the… Eh…ka…ter…ina… Ekaterina’s Pride! I heard there’s places to go and things to fix and whenever there’s places to go and things to fix there’s always need of a grease monkey-” she points to herself and continues without taking a breath, “like me! I’m Lucy. Well, Y’luci, but humans call me Lucy. I’m a grease monkey and I’m really, really good with human ships. Like, REALLY good. They’re my favorite ships, then there’s Yoridini ships and Hekayti ships and…”

She just… keeps talking. So much.

“Hoop, you’re perky,” Prague grunts. “You always this gabby?”

Y’luci stops mid-sentence with a little, “Oop!” She giggles then and explains, “Not always! I’m just excited. I’ve been between ships a while and I LOVE LOVE LOVE meeting new people, and going new places, and fixing new things, and-oh… I’ll, uh… I’ll shut up now?” She gives a wide, sheepish grin, but now she’s staring expectantly at Prague.

“So you say you’re a grease monkey,” the captain says, considering the female. “Good with ships? Well, the Pride’s special to me. You think you can take good care of her? Worth thinking about. But you talk about human ships like you’re not human and you, well, look human. What’s that all about?”

“When on Earth, do as the Earthers do,” Lucy shrugs, then… melts? Slowly her form transforms from the dainty human female to a blob of Yoridini the same pink shade as the sweater she’d been wearing, the backpack laid nearly on the floor beside her.  A face forms in the being’s surface and explains, “I’ve spent lots and lots of time around humans and they usually prefer if I look like them. Plus, Earth spaceports are just so much easier to navigate in a human shape, you know? BUT, as a Yoridini, I’ve got a major advantage over most solid races when it comes to engine rooms. I fit in all the tight spaces! And I can reach things, and I can be a wrench if I don’t have one.” The weird blob face smiles brightly (creepily) and adds, “I’ll take great care of her!”

The Ungstiri tilts his head as he ponders the grinning pink puddle. “OK, well, you make quite the first impression.” He gestures with his head toward the ramp. “Welcome aboard, Lucy. I’m Vechkov Prague. I hope you’re not allergic to Pyracani.”

“Sweet!” squeals the blob, as she surrounds her backpack and lifts it up, “You won’t regret it, Captain!” Lucy makes for the ramp without bothering to retake her human form, “I’m gonna get settled in – and I’m not allergic, no. But I’m not gonna be in charge of the litter if we have any Demarians!” She snickers, oozing her way up the ramp to the ship.

Prague takes off his hat, scratches the back of his head, then makes his way up the ramp after Lucy. “She’s definitely a nice change from the last one,” he mutters.

Y’luci doesn’t seem to hear the captain, squishing around the ship with the vague familiarity of one who has an idea of where everything should be. The superpink Yoridini makes her way to the crew quarters and seeks out an unclaimed space in which to make herself at home.

Hearing a sound from below, the red-furred Pyracani pilot begins to descend the ladder. “Almost ready to shake the dust off, Skipper,” he calls down. Spotting the Yoridini, his eyes widen a bit and he races over to a storage compartment. He pulls out a sealed jar with some kind of moss in it and sighs with relief. “Um, can I help you?” he asks the new engineer somewhat sheepishly.

The blob pauses as she’s lifting her backpack up to her claimed bunk. The weird blob face indents itself into the side facing Sionnach. “Oh, hi!” Lucy chirps chipperly, “I think I’m okay for now, just settling in. Cap just signed me on to be your new engineer! I’m Y’luci; it’s SO NICE to meet you!” A tendril stretches out from her body and forms into a human arm, which waves then offers a handshake. (edited)

The Pyracani blinks, then nods in realization. “You are a Yoridini,” he says, more to himself than the newcomer, “Nice to meet you as well. Meuc Sionnach, pilot.” He reaches out a paw to shake the offered “hand”.

“Yep, I am,” the face nods. Her hand feels authentic as it grips that paw; bony in all the right places, right amount of give, the skin even moves and feels accurate. Y’luci continues to speak, “Sorry if I startled you, Mr. Sionnach, usually I look like a Human when I’m meeting new solid people but I’m so excited I just-” she giggles brightly, “can’t hold myself together!” The giggling continues.

“You’re fine,” Sionnach replies with a toothy laugh, “If anyone should be sorry, it’s me. Haven’t met many Yoridini. And I’m pretty excited myself. Second time going out to a new planet and all. Boss show you what we did to hold this heap together on the way back?”

Y’luci shakes her… something… “Nope, not yet. Just got here! I’m just stashing my bag and I was going to do a full diagnostic next. Speaking of which, I should probably grab my tools, huh?” The backpack is gently lowered to the floor, before the blob opens it and sticks about half of her matter in with the assortment of tools and random parts. The contents of the bag shift and several tools work their way to the surface, in pockets inside the Yoridini’s body. She extracts herself from the bag, places it on her bunk, then shifts towards the ladder. “I think Captain Prague might be busy. You want to show me your rig-job?”

“I take no responsibility for that,” the Pyracani says with a smirk, “And just a heads up, he doesn’t like being called captain.” He gestures aft and starts making his way towards the engine room. “So, there was a Faraday malfunction after our last jump,” he says, “Cascaded down into the main drive unit. We cobbled it all together as best we could, but neither of us are what you would call a decent mechanic.”

Lucy follows along, listening to the explanation as Sionnach leads her aft. “So I should call him Boss, like you do?” she inquires lightly, her tools juggling around inside her pink form. Once the Pyracani is finished, she nods the roughly head-like section with her blob face on it, “Well, decent or no, you guys clearly made it work long enough to get here. I’m curious how close you got to electrocuting yourselves or blowing up the ship, though… or catastrophically crippling the ship to the point where you were hopelessly drifting through space without life support, or…” She continues, each scenario a little more creative than the last, but none entirely farfetched.

“I like the one where we got turned into hobo frogs and the ship was a metal space lily pad,” concludes Prague as he pokes his head down through the ladder well. “So what do you think, Lucy? How long to get the Pride ready for a trip back to Mintaka?”

“I’ll know after my diagnostic, Boss,” Lucy replies as the tools work their ways to her surface. Each is extended from her main form with a tendril, held aloft as two empty ones rub together, “Let’s get started!” With that, the Yoridini dives right into the engine room, touching only surfaces that are safe to touch and maneuvering all the tools at once for each of their assigned tasks. She squishes, squeezes, slides, stretches, and even squelches at times, and is able to do a full, in-depth analysis of the state of the ship in maybe a quarter of the time it would take a single human mechanic. She mutters to herself all the while, little comments like, “Oh, that’s not good at all,” and, “This is in pretty great shape, all things considered.”

Sionnach watches this for a few moments, then glances incredulously over at Prague with his ears leaning back before turning back towards the corridor. “Well, let me know when you want her airborne,” he says.

“Oh… oh that’s BAAAD,” Y’luci quickly extracts herself from the engine compartments, almost seeming to recoil, “That’s so bad! The safety rig is open! No wonder you had a Faraday malfunction, that stays closed for a REASON, who did that??” She closes it quickly before compiling the data from her diagnostic. “As for the damage, your patch job… It shouldn’t have even worked, honestly. You guys got really lucky you didn’t overload the propulsion systems, some of these circuits are screaming for mercy. I’ve got some boards in my collection that’ll fit this class of ship, and I can get the rest easy enough. Worst case, 3 days. Best case, it’s not as bad as it looks and with no distractions I can cut the time in half. I could cut it down more if you want the quick and dirty, but you asked me to take care of her and I wouldn’t go exploring new planets that way.”

The Ungstiri frowns at Lucy’s analysis. “Our last engineer’s parting gift?” He looks at Sionnach and says, “Run your own diagnostics on nav systems. Make sure she didn’t tamper with anything else.”

“Will do, Skipper!” Sionnach calls back from the corridor and makes his way quickly up the ladder to the cockpit.

“Parting gift…?” the blob-face frowns, “Hold up, what the hell am I getting myself into here? What’re you doing that your engineer would sabotage your ship?” Two tendrils form and hold themselves akimbo, “I didn’t sign up for any spy holovids…”

Prague clambers down the ladder into engineering after Sionnach makes his way toward the cockpit. “It’s a fair question. The answer is: I got no idea. We went out to explore one star system and hit paydirt. Then she up and disappeared on us after a refueling stop at the Rucker.” He scratches the stubble on his cheek. “I’ll give you an educated guess, though. She’s got her own angle on Mintaka. Maybe she figured taking out the Pride would leave the planet open for someone else to take advantage.” A dark chuckle. “Maybe we haven’t seen the last of her.”

“Oh dear… Oh my…,” the Yoridini shifts back and forth, fussing, “That’s terrible. You think you can trust somebody and they try to destroy your ship? Oh that’s just awful… I…” She takes up her tools again, “I’m going to fix her up good! The ship, not your last mechanic. Well, maybe her too, I’d like to give her a piece of my mind… but I told you I’d take great care of this ship and I meant that. She’ll be good as new when I’m done with her!”

“I appreciate it,” Prague replies. Then he grunts and starts back up the ladder. “Let me know if you need any parts ordered.” The badly worn soles of his patent leather shoes are the last things Lucy would see before he’s gone into the corridor above.

Sionnach, meanwhile, is still trying to find any errors in the nav system. “What’d she say?” he calls down the ladder as he hears Prague heading forward.

“The short version?” Prague chuckles as he looks up the ladder toward the Pyracani. “She’s going to do a better job than Eloise Sharpers and won’t try to kill us. So, that’s positive, I think.”

“Will do!” Lucy fetches her bag and brings the whole thing to engineering, where she sorts out several spare parts and a tasty mineral snack, and starts working. Anything she doesn’t have is listed (along with images and acceptable price ranges) and sent to Prague. None should be hard to find, though one is expensive. There’s a note that she can rebuild the one they have, but it will take an extra day to do so. If left undisturbed, she’ll work almost non-stop (punctuated by remarkably brief periods of rest) until the job is done or she has to wait for the requested parts.

“Cheerful news,” the Pyracani mutters wryly, “Everything looks ok up here, but these are the same checks I ran when we left the Rucker. If we’re here a bit I can check the wiring over for what that’s worth.”

“I think we have a little time,” Prague replies to Sionnach as he reviews Lucy’s list. An eyebrow goes up at some of the items and their anticipated price tags. “OK. Let’s get to work.”

Lucy keeps her optical micro-organs open for more signs of sabotage while she works. She’s quick, but very careful. Squeeze here, disassemble this, squish there, repair that. Broken parts from her bag are taken apart to rebuild ship parts, and any leftover scrap is set aside.

After a while she starts to hum while she works, causing a shimmering sort of look as the vibrations form fine ripples across her surface membrane.

The Pyracani nods, pulling a somewhat less comprehensive tool kit than Lucy’s from under the helm console. He shuts down the console and begins opening access hatches, following the wire to make certain it goes to the appropriate places.

Everything else seems to be in proper operating order, suggesting that Eloise Sharpers limited her mischief to the Faraday cage.

A short while later, a spaceport technician arrives to deliver the parts Prague ordered on behalf of the ship’s new engineer.

The pink blob forms back into her tiny brunette form to accept the shipment herself, inspecting everything to make sure it’s all accurate and undamaged. Once that’s settled, she hauls the whole bunch back to engineering and resumes her work without thinking to drop back to goo shape. Her arms and such stretch and squeeze as needed, but for the most part she just stays human… ish. The squishing noises die down a great deal because of this.

Eventually she comms that she’s just about done and will be running another diagnostic to make sure everything’s in good working order.

“Engine room reports that as long as we pass the last diagnostic, we should be good to go shortly,” Sionnach says, closing up the access panels up in the cockpit.

Prague finishes transmitting a message via PDA, then settles into his seat behind the Pyracani. “Start calculating the course to the Rucker. That’ll be our new home for a while until I get some professional eggheads to help manage the moss farm on Mintaka.”

The diagnostic goes well, and Lucy gives the green light to go. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to clean up and pass out for a couple hours,” she chirps, packing up her bag of parts and tools, dumping the useless bits into a scrap bin, and making her way to her bunk. Once there she plops as a human, then slowly melts back into a very pink puddle of ooze.

“Course laid in,” Sionnach says to Prague, “And… ready for liftoff.” He glances back at the Ungstiri, ready to fire off the thrusters.

“Good,” Prague says. He nods to the Pyracani. “Take us up and away.”

The pilot nods back, and with a whine from the engines, the Ekaterina’s Pride lifts off the tarmac and surges skyward. The small transport weaves through other traffic and within moments breaks free of the Earth’s atmosphere.

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING] Mintaka 001 #storytelling #roleplaying

Vechkov Prague, private investigator-turned-freighter-captain, grows much more comfortable with his surroundings once he’s under the dome of Drescher Interstellar Spaceport.

He stops near one of the holokiosks displaying departure and arrival times for commercial flights. Pulls a crumpled pack of cigarettes from his trenchcoat pocket. He turns toward his Pyracani companion and offers the pack. “Smoke?”

“No, but thanks,” the red-furred Pyracani fighter jock replies, “Where we headed?”

A Castori stands in the passenger arrivals area, holding a sign that reads: “MINTAKA PARTY.” Vechkov nods toward the ursinoid. “Our ride.”

“You have Opodians out here?” the caninoid asks in a hushed tone as he follows the Ungstiri.

*The* Ungstiri glances over at Sionnach. “Opodians? Rings a bell. But that’s a Castori.” He stops a few feet from the short bear-like creature with the sign. “We’re here about the Mintaka claim.”

The driver gives a perfunctory bow and says: “Follow me, then.” He waddles toward the exit.

“Huh,” the Pyracani grunts, “Could’ve sworn … hmmm.” But nonetheless he follows both the ursinoid and the Ungstiri, still looking about in curiosity.

As they step outside again, Vechkov keeps his gaze veiled by the brim of his fedora. The Castori holds open the door of a dark blue four-door hovercar. “OK if I smoke?” Prague asks the driver.

“No,” the driver says.

“Ah,” Prague replies. He slides into the back seat, grumbling.

Sionnach grins a bit at the interaction, nodding gratefully to the Castori. “So who’s this meeting set up with?” he asks as he gets into the vehicle. Now it’s his turn to feel a bit uncomfortable as he becomes a passenger.

“Lamar Quinlan,” the driver answers as he enters the autopilot commands and sets the car in motion. “Consortium Agricultural Minister. We will arrive at government headquarters in sixteen minutes.”

“Fancy,” the Pyracani replies, frowning a bit. “I’m not really good with politics,” he says to Vech.

“Not here for politics,” the Ungstiri grunts. “Here for business.” The car eases into traffic flowing toward the center of the sprawling city of San Angeles.

“Not great with business either,” Sionnach mutters back, his muzzle crinkling in disgust.

Vechkov nods. “I get it. Just let me do the talking. You can growl and snarl every once in a while. I bet Quinlan’s never met a Pyracani before.”

“Should have brought my brothers along for that,” the relatively small Pyracani replies with an unamused chuckle.

The detective laughs. “I’d pay to see it.” The car maneuvers toward an offramp, past a sign that reads: “GOVERNMENT CENTER.” The sprawling Consortium government complex is visible a few blocks ahead.

The pilot snorts derisively, but still seems curious about what they are approaching. “Place is huge,” he mutters, “Reminds me of the temple district back home. Only shinier.”

“I just hope the corridors are narrow and the ceilings are low,” Prague ventures. The car whirs to a stop outside the main entrance. The driver steps out and opens the door on Sionnach’s side so that the passengers can depart.

“You’re a strange guy, boss,” Sionnach says with a faint chuckle as he slides out of the car and waits for Vech to take the lead.

The corridors aren’t narrow. The cathedral ceilings are daunting. “Hoopin’ hell,” the Ungstiri complains as a human woman with dark red hair meets them in the lobby.

“Minister Quinlan has you scheduled for fifteen minutes,” she says. “Please don’t exceed that time. We’re on a tight daily agenda.”

“Fifteen minutes?” Sionnach says, trying to grin, “We can probably survive fifteen minutes.”

“Let’s keep it to five minutes,” the gaunt, bald-headed man behind the desk says as the woman shows Prague and Sionnach into his office. “I’m due for a colonial affairs committee meeting. You’re here about the Mintaka claim. Which one of you is…Vechkov Prague?”

The Ungstiri raises a hand – the one with a tube of moss in it.

“That’s the material, is it?” Quinlan asks.

“It is,” Prague answers.

“We’re calling it Mintaka 001,” the minister states.

“Catchy,” the detective quips.

Sionnach shifts uncomfortably, looking around the room, not quite as if searching for an escape hatch. He seems more than happy to let the detective do the talking. He’s just happy he hasn’t broken anything. Yet.

“So that’s it,” Quinlan says, tapping out a sequence on his PDA. “The claim is registered. Leave your sample on the desk, please. Our experts will confirm the nutritional value. If we decide to move forward with a contract, my staff will be in touch. Good day.”

Prague tilts his head. Grunts. He sets the tube on the desk. Nods to Sionnach. “Guess we’re done.”

The pilot seems completely mystified as to what has just transpired. “That’s it?” he asks, blinking.

The red-haired woman ushers them out of the office, back into the corridor, and down the hall toward the lobby. She says, “As the minister indicated, we’ll be in touch once we’ve verified just how useful this food substance is for our potential colonization efforts.”

Sionnach nods absently to the woman as he finds himself in the corridor. “That’s it?” he asks of Vechkov.

“That’s it,” Prague confirms as the woman hustles away. She joins Quinlan as he walks down the corridor toward one of the hive of conference rooms. “If they want what we’re selling, then I guess we’ll get a contract to sign.” He shrugs. “Back to the spaceport, then. Drink? I’m buying.”

“Guess so,” replies the Pyracani, still flummoxed, “Seems like that was a conversation you could’ve had over comms, but … whatever works for you people. Aside from a drink, what’s the plan, now?”

Vechkov slides into the back of the waiting car while the Castori watches, blinking dark eyes. The detective squints. “It’s not just the brevity of the meeting that was weird, come to think of it. No one screened the tube. The gang on the Rucker took a lot more precautions, and that’s a fuel tanker – not the cradle of Consortium civilization.”

Sionnach climbs in, frowning, “Glad I’m not the only one who thought so,” he says, “But hopefully we didn’t just kill of the entire planet.”

The Castori chortles as he gets into the driver’s seat. “The building’s internal and external sensor systems completed full scans of you and your cargo before you entered the minister’s office. Had you any ill intent, or had the organic material proven hazardous, the local defenses would have been activated.”

Vechkov peers out the window as the car pulls away from the government center. “Huh. Good to know.”

“Seriously,” Sionnach replies, blinking a few times. He shifts uncomfortably in the rear seat, though continues to look out the windows.

The car returns to the Drescher Interstellar Spaceport, where the Castori opens the rear door for the offworlders. Moments later, Prague and Sionnach walk through the lobby. The detective leads Sionnach in Palazzo’s Pub and finds a corner table. “Might as well be comfortable while we wait,” he says.

“Sure enough,” the Pyracani replies, grinning. He looks around as he settles into a chair. “Never seen so many of you guys before. It’s a bit weird…”

“What’s weird about it?” Prague asks. A server bot whirs up to the table. He orders a vodka. The bot waits patiently for Sionnach.

“Not really sure,” the Pyracani says. He orders some sort of beer from the bot before turning back to Prague. “Even Ungstir doesn’t have so many,” he adds.

“Oxygen’s in much more limited supply on Ungstir,” Prague says. The bot returns with the drinks. “Makes people talk less too. Nice, right?”

“Guess so,” the Pyracani replies with a grimace. He sips at the beer quietly for a moment before speaking again. “Well,” he says, “I have to say that I didn’t imagine my trip to your part of space would be this interesting…”

“Oh, come on,” Vechkov says, chuckling. “Your homeworld’s got to be at least this fascinating.” He gestures with his vodka glass at one of the potted plants. “Some of your flowers are probably even real.”

“Well, yeah,” Sionnach replies with a nod, “We have plenty of flowers. And my own world is great. You should try it some time. Still, didn’t think I’d be flying around nowhere carting moss.”

It’s about this time that Prague’s PDA chimes. He taps a button, checking the incoming message. Bushy eyebrows inch upward. He almost smiles. “We’re in business. The claim’s approved and the Consortium’s fronting 750,000 credits in seed money to get the operation started on Mintaka. Once we’re online…” He continues reading the offer memo. “Three million in finishing funds to complete any planetside and orbital facilities. After that, we’re expected to strike deals with new colonies as they’re founded.” Prague lifts his glass in salute to Sionnach. “The Pride’s getting some upgrades.”

“Starting with a new hyperdrive?” the caninoid replies, raising his bottle with a toothy grin, “Congratulations, boss.” Clink.

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Off to Earth #amwriting #storytelling #roleplaying

Vechkov wanders into the cockpit and slumps into his usual chair at the sensor station, rolling the moss tube sample between his palms. “OK, so,” he says to Sionnach, “we’re supposed to go to Sol for a second opinion. Once Sharpers is back on board, we’re good to go.”

Meanwhile, the woman who calls herself Sharpers these days sits at a corner table in the mess hall of the Rucker, grumbling into her commlink: “What do you mean he wants me back on the trail? I thought he was worried I’d draw too much heat?”

The voice on the other end replies: “Rodrigo Levante’s in the wind. Caught a shuttle off Citadel and high-tailed it to Quaquan. Who knows where he might go after that? He’s a huge liability. Plus, his brother still owes Lord Fagin a great deal of money. Lord Fagin doesn’t want to have to worry about these things. You’re normally quite good at cleaning up such messes. And, well, *you* owe him too. So, you’re going to find Rodrigo Levante and kill him. Then you’re going to eliminate Armand Levante. You’re cleared to deal as you wish with anyone who attempts to get in your way.”

“Fine,” she growls. “I’ll find my way to Quaquan first.”

She doesn’t bother breaking the news to Prague or Sionnach. By the time she’s disconnected the commlink signal, Sharpers is dead. Shark’s back, with cold, black eyes and a set jaw. She finds the next outbound flight and books passage. Never so much as glances at the Pride.

Unaware of the human female’s abandonment, Sionnach nods to Prague, doing the jump computations while he waits. “Course laid in and ready,” he says, “She say how long she’d be?”

“Should’ve been back by now,” the captain replies, brow furrowed. He tilts his head, pondering. “And here I was gonna share a piece of the profits from this endeavor with the crew.” He shrugs. “More for you, I guess. We’ll find a new engineer. Let’s go.”

“Done and done,” Sionnach replies, his voice sounding a lot more sure about this than his face, “Retracting umbilical, disengaging docking clamps….” The Pride shifts gently away from the Rucker until she is clear. “All set, course laid in and ready,” the pilot says, glancing back at Prague.

“All right,” Vechkov says. “Sol System, then. Let’s see what the Sorties want to offer us for tasty, tasty moss.”

“Deeelicious…” Sionnach replies, pulling the lever that brings the jumpdrive whirring to life as the ship slips free of reality.

A few hours later, the Ekaterina’s Pride reaches the outskirts of Sol System and the Tilsworth-Cooke drive trades off with the sublight engines. An alarm sounds and a red light flashes on the nav display reading: “FARADAY MALFUNCTION – TC DRIVE INOPERATIVE”. Apparently, Sharpers wasn’t lying about the circuit problem in the Faraday cage.

Sionnach winces as the alarms start going off. “Hmm…” he mutters a bit before he calls back over his shoulder, “I don’t suppose you’re hiding a new jumpdrive onboard, are you boss? If not, we might be stuck here for a bit.”

Vechkov frowns. “Let’s just hope the Consortium’s willing to buy us a new one, eh?”

“That’d be nice of ’em,” the Pyracani replies, chuffing in amusement, “Third planet, right?” He lays in a course that comes arcing down into the system to meet Earth in its travels.

“Yeah, third planet,” Prague replies. “Last I checked.” He scratches the back of his neck, grimacing at the thought of something. He peers toward Sionnach. “You think Sharpers sabotaged the Pride?”

“Seems a bit weird she’d do that and tell us what she did,” Sionnach replies with a shrug, “And why do it at all? Not like she can beat you to your claim.” As he guides the ship in, he looks the sensor feed over. “Station out in orbit,” he says, “Big one. We docking there or landing planetside?”

The captain eyes the starbase. “Citadel? Nah. This is more of a scientific/diplomatic thing. Take us down to the San Angeles spaceport, planetside. Should be a car waiting for us.”

“Notifying solar traffic control of flight path,” the caninoid replies with a nod, “Should be on the ground in 5.”

“What if she’s in trouble?” the Ungstiri muses as the Pride approaches Earth. He studies his knuckles. “I just left the Rucker without so much as registering her as late, let alone missing.” He frowns. “I think that kinda makes me a dick.”

“Maybe,” the fighter pilot says with another shrug, “Sharpers smells like a woman who can take care of herself, though. And, as you say, she did at the very least leave us in a lurch.”

“Maybe,” Prague agrees. “Well, I’ll at least send a message to Captain Lee on the Rucker. See if she saw Sharpers at some point.”

“Sounds good,” Sionnach replies as the ship hits atmo. The pilot maneuvers the vessel gently through other traffic, as well as various air currents until it comes smoothly to rest on the tarmac.

A few minutes after the Pride sets down, Prague leads Sionnach down the ramp and walks toward the spaceport entrance. It’s daylight, under a cloudless blue sky. Intent, the Ungstiri keeps his eyes fixed either on the doorway or the tarmac. He never, ever looks up.

The Pyracani steps off and does quite the opposite. “Never been here before,” he says, peering around curiously, “Heard about it when humans started popping up back home a few years back.”

“Nice enough, I guess,” Prague says with a shrug, still studiously avoiding eye contact with the heavens. “Maybe a little too roomy.” He relaxes some as they step into the main dome of the spaceport.

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Moss #amwriting #storytelling

The Ekaterina’s Pride returns to the rendezvous point with the tanker Rucker, dropping out of FTL to find the fuel ship waiting as expected.

Sharpes calls up from engineering via intercom: “Hey, dogface. It occurs to me the Vannies might have some eggheads around to examine that moss. Maybe Captain Lee can get you in touch with the Zheng He.”

“That’s an interesting thought,” Vechkov replies, but he shrugs. “Our priority is making the claim on Mintaka. Then we can ask around about scientists to check out your pet moss.”

“Setting course for the Rucker then, for now,” the Pyracani says, entering the coordinates before sending ship into FTL and sits back, leaning back into the pilot’s seat after that’s done. “ETA is two hours. Any ideas on how you want to get a mining outfit out here?”

The Ungstiri ponders, scratching his right cheek. “I know some people.” A chuckle, then, “Maybe they’re tired of drilling on dead rock back home.”

“Guess so,” Sionnach replies with a thoughtful nod, “You think they’ll let you fuel up a mining bark at the Rucker?”

“Don’t know,” Prague says. “But I don’t see why not. Gotta talk it over with Captain Lee, I expect.”

“Would think so,” the Pyracani says with a quick nod. “Mind if I grab a quick power nap while I’m locked out of the helm?”

“Not at all,” Prague replies. “I’ll keep an eye on things.”

A couple hours later, the Pride is docked aboard the Rucker. Prague makes his way down to the airlock, where he finds Sharpers waiting. She says, “We’ve got a burnt out circuit in the generator matrix below the Faraday construct.”

Vechkov grunts, eyeing her from under the brim of his fedora. “Expensive to fix?”

Sharpers shrugs. “Depends on supply, demand, and human greed. I’ll see what Captain Lee’s got in stock.”

The Ungstiri nods, then says, “Thanks. Send me the bill.”

The engineer opens the airlock and descends the ramp toward the hangar bay.

Sionnach climbs down after the engineer has left. “Anything to do while we wait, boss?” he asks Veckov, pausing to lean on the ladder.

“You want to ask around about that moss sample?” Prague inquires.

“Couldn’t hurt,” the Pyracani replies with a quick nod, pulling open the storage compartment in which the sample was stored. “How much time we got?” he asks, rummaging in the bin.

The captain shrugs, plucking a cigarette from the crumpled pack in his trenchcoat pocket. “A while. I’m transmitting the Mintaka claim report to Earth now that we’re here. Once we’ve got clearance to proceed with resource development, we may head back to Ungstir to hire the right folks for the job of ramping up operations. So I’d say we’re here for at least a couple of days.”

“Fair enough,” the pilot says, pulling the sample jar out of the bin, “I’ll see what I can find. Don’t leave without me.” He grins as wide as a caninoid can before stepping through the airlock and onto the Rucker.

Captain Miranda Lee nods to Sionnach as he arrives. She says: “Welcome back. Productive trip, I hope.”

“Seems like it,” the Pyracani replies with a toothy smile, “I was wondering, though, if you have anyone who might like to look at a biological sample we picked up.”

The captain arches an eyebrow. “Sample. From your alien world? It’ll need to go through quarantine first. And your ship and crew are under lockdown until that sample is cleared.” She sighs. “Come on, I’ll take you to Fremont’s lab. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to figure out if you’ve killed us all.”

“Well, nothing has happened yet,” the Pyracani says with a sheepish grin, his flattened ears convincing no one. He does, however, follow the captain to wherever she leads.

A short while later, the duo arrives at an office adjacent to the docking bay, where the Rucker’s quartermaster – Alloy Fremont – reviews the latest incoming freight manifests. The captain informs him: “We’ve got an alien sample that needs a quarantine review. Priority, since, y’know, protocols.” She glances toward Sionnach and says, “So you know, you’re the first explorer to come back with something to show for it. Watch it be some kind of death spore from hell.”

Fremont, a white-haired skinny man, blanches at the captain’s lackadaisical attitude. “Don’t even joke,” he mutters. He slides a pair of white plastic gloves onto his hands and reaches out toward the Pyracani. “Let’s see it.”

The pilot almost considers tossing the container to Fremont, mostly to give the quartermaster a heart attack, but he thinks better of it, not entirely confident the man will make the catch. He instead hands the sample carefully over. “Let us hope it is nothing bad,” he says.

Fremont accepts the container, then carries it toward a hatch in the back of his chamber. The hatch bears a scary-looking red and yellow biohazard symbol. He sets the tube on a shelf beside the hatch. He climbs into a blue hazardous materials suit. Then he opens the hatch, takes the tube, steps inside, and closes the hatch with a THUNK.

Sionnach watches this operation with a certain level of fascination. “So anyone run into any trouble, yet?” he asks of the captain while waiting.

“Trouble?” The captain shakes her head. “A few refuel issues and mechanical failures that required rescue. Although there’s one ship, the Martinette, that’s late reporting back from Beta Ophiuchi. Vanguard should be checking that out.”

The hatch opens. Fremont emerges, yanking the mask off his suit, and offers the tube of moss back to Sionnach. “Non-hazardous. Mostly protein. In fact, it’s an excellent food source.” He looks toward Captain Lee. “If you want to supplement our rations, you could do a lot worse than this plant.”

Sionnach wrinkles his snout in disgust, shaking his head. “You folks want to hold onto it?” he asks, “I’ll have to ask the boss, but I don’t think he’ll mind overmuch.”

Fremont looks flabbergasted. Captain Lee chuckles at his dismay, then she says to Sionnach: “If there’s a lot of this material on the world you found, and if it’s a renewable resource, it may earn your boss a hell of a lot more than a mineral claim in the long run. You may have discovered a nutritional supplement useful to thousands, if not millions, of potential colonists.”

The Pyracani seems incredulous of this but he nods politely. “Alright, well… thanks. I better get back and tell him, then.” He takes the container, looking in at it as if it contained a deadly spider. He nods to the two officers once again and bids them farewell, heading back to the Ekaterina’s Pride.

“Next time, use a hazmat container,” the quartermaster complains at Sionnach’s back.

Captain Lee gives Fremont a cutting look. “Well, now they definitely won’t cut us in on their big payday.”

The pilot returns to the exploration ship, ducking into the airlock. “Still aboard, boss?” he calls out as he cycles the hatch closed.

“Yeah, sure,” Prague answers through the intercom. “Just heard back from my friends on Ungstir. They think it might be cost prohibitive to ramp up a mining facility for something as mundane as iron.”

“About that,” Sionnach replies, tossing the sample container in the air and catching it, “Apparently this stuff’s worth more than we thought.

“Really?” The captain grunts. “Come on in. Let’s talk next steps.”

The Pyracani steps into Prague’s cramped bunkroom and holds up the container, “Apparently, this is edible. Captain Lee thinks it might be worth a fortune if it can be farmed.”

The Ungstiri blinks in surprise. “I came all this way to make my fortune…and it’s gonna be farming moss?”

Sionnach tosses the container to Vechkov with a toothy grin. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” he says with a chuckle.