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Dekh aq T'kon H'hra - "Flight from T'kon H'hra"

The group must fly their purloined ship to the pirate haven at K'nag Rha, despite the fact that the BCA Headquarters is right next door in Kabla Meth.

Mission PrologueEdit

Scene OneEdit

Flight Deck
Tenth Level, SS Ni'rakh
T'kon System, Sa'Khan Quadrant, Epsilon Sector
2680.116
The persistent klaxon sounding in the flight deck's portside antechamber wasn't exceptionally loud, but was gradually becoming more and more annoying as time passed for the room's occupants. Bloodeye and two of his companions, Lord Kor laq Stra'a and Arrah Sutaghi, had opted to wait for the shuttle's approach in the antechamber just in case the force field designed to keep the atmosphere inside the bay had been damaged during their escape from the T'kon H'hra system. So far the system seemed to be holding up just fine, which was just as well; it was one less thing for the two engineers aboard the ship to have to worry about, and only Sivar knew just exactly how much work the two of them had cut out for them at the moment. Vid'aiylekarhgas'elk dudai hukutavhiuch'landont ha'kav lega aiyvargs, qu ha'kjaq alkin garamaksgara balanvekss takh esh'nisk tavudulanhra'dai hukutav. Gar, Kayi, maks de erg gar'hraki'i, Kal Kor laq Stra'a maks Arrah Sutaghi, dyakwihalk drish tadanisdu'dont dudai hukutavhi tabalanh'in'hal mas br'alin'aj'k dragadaknak dudadai hukutav dyakha'kr'ink du'eshgarga'amgaq aqmasbhumaksnaki, T'kon H'hra. Kotakhlan'sak hako ki du eshma, mas ha'k k'tothsa'ki; gar'ha'khu inra uni talannisi de dushint ergmas hadyapa, maks gar'iq anruni ja'lgakok'vargga rothraks de'garga'dyak a du eshinthrak, Thraqal Sivar.
The Naktarg finally came into view after a few long seconds as Bloodeye looked out the transparent partition overlooking the bay's interior. The little double-arrow shape flew about mid-way over the flight deck's split roof before halting its forward progress, then began descending towards the deck. A few seconds later, it put down at roughly the bay's center-point, setting down hard with a loud clang. Autopilot landing, Bloodeye realized. Makes me glad I wasn't on board; autopilot landings are always more than a little rough. Naktarg'jaq thraks du aiy jhesh'ininima'gamangin takh gar'diyaik du k'tothmolaiydiyaigaraduda'dai hukutav, Kayi. Diyairanir'inindedin'dok idardi garabr'hudunishukatavi'landont eshchur drishdanisjhanisjha, jha nisknistalan dubr'hutalan. Gar'nistalank ma'inthraklanma'haraga'br'hutalan eshininimangin dujha, nistalan oth ra elchaklega. Nistalan'dorntal k'hra, gar'jaqdyapak, Kayi. Gar'danai ahki mas ni'hakav du; nistalani'dorntal k'hra'ha gara othin eshga.
Powerful motors kicked in and the overhead pressure doors began to close, the glowing blue edges of the force field holding in the atmosphere shrinking perceptibly as more and more of the physical barrier became available to handle the job. After several seconds, the force field disappeared and the doors slammed shut. The klaxon shut itself off, the lighting of the antechamber changing from red to amber to signal that all was well. Arrah Sutaghi opened the hatch and the three Kilrathi walked out onto the flight deck towards the shuttle. Nisirg'nisqo maks br'shi'ijaqvanorgnisgara'nisk vano, d'knavyini ergbr'alin'dyagadaknak duda dinra h'indal chodyapa'is takh garamaksgara erg k'tothmolkoniss'jaq h'indal ako. Br'alin'jaqhafk maks br'shi'i'chaq vano jhesh'ininigin. Vid'aiylekarhga'drishqo gar'hra maks karav'dai hukutavhi'datakav aqb'a duv'j'a d'aiy mas ga'ha'qi. Gar'nokbr'shi, Arrah Sutaghi, maks Kilrathi tre amk dulandont dudont.
Bloodeye glanced over at Lord Kor laq Stra'a about halfway between the hatch and their destination. The nobleman's claws were extending and retracting anxiously and he carried his tail relatively low to the ground. "Eight-eights of pardons for my asking, Lord Kor," said Bloodeye, "but are you alright? You seem somewhat anxious." Gar'diyaik eks dugar, Kal Kor laq Stra'a, erg br'shimaksgarga'masdinis idardi ma'ins, Kayi. Naji'thrak'hra'ha'k dagaramaksdinra favins maks gar'dyakgar'pakga ma'in matakhs dubr'hutalan. "Gathhari okko tani'rath, Kal Kor," gar'lek, Kayi, "qu ri'ha gahe? Ri'sa favin ins."
The nobleman stopped his movement and looked at Bloodeye momentarily as if he were going to say something. But after an uncomfortable second, he continued walking. "I should warn you, Krahtagh N'Ryllis, that my lair-mate can be a bit.....fierce," Lord Kor finally said hesitantly. "Especially when she is agitated." Thrak'hra'drishkgar'danis maks diyaik eshinthraks dugar, takh desh gar'ha'kaj lehumang. Qu gar'askam jha esh'ininh'inruv. "Nai halerodyaparai mas ni'nonvrash'h'inha.....so'in, Krahtagh N'Ryllis," gar'lek va'as thraks, Kal Kor. "Ja'lesh gar'hagathkalkpak krokis."
"Do you anticipate her being agitated, Lord Kor?", asked Bloodeye. "Kal Kor, ri'adrishta gar'hagathkalkpak?", gar'rathk, Kayi.
Bloodeye's two companions paused long enough to share a knowing look between one another. Arrah Sutaghi then looked at Bloodeye. "You do have all your affairs in order, don't you, Krahtagh N'Ryllis?", he dead-panned. Gar'hraki'i de ulink ta esh dyahu dyatakhdiyai'ik ergunigaga, Kayi. Gar'diyaik jha duKayi, Arrah Sutaghi. "Ri'adya ga ergri'hukutav'di'ajjiaj'k hes, ri'av, Krahtagh N'Ryllis?", gar'dichodyapavk.
He pondered this statement as the trio reached the shuttle, stopping roughly a demak from the craft's hatch. Any uncertainty as to whether or not Arrah Sutaghi had been joking with him evaporated as the shuttle's hatchway ramp finished descending and a female stormed out onto the deck, followed close behind by an adolescent Kilrathi male who appeared close to his coming of age, obviously the female's offspring. Both were wearing simple grey one-piece jump suits; the female also wore the black mantlet of a healer. Gar'dalpakmale takh an'tre'jaqdont, drish aqbr'shi'ant erg(two units of measure). G'k'gri erg desh gar'dyakha'kleki, Arrah Sutaghi, ragar, Kayi, jaqdakaqaq takh thak'takhbr'shidi'dont'guk nistalan maks kilav'tugagak dubr'hutalan, ahravk ma'inthraks ras kilKilrathikir'hra ja'lhra sak ma'inthrak gar'jaqergja'lchur, gahr'kilav aiyvargs. De'garga'hafchokutk p'hargvarg rahukutav uni; kilav'hafchokutkn'chin'da'a k'shu'i maks.
Bloodeye studied the youngster's face briefly. The red-gold color of his fur was the same as Lord Kor's, and there was enough of a resemblance there for Bloodeye to realize that the male must be Kor's son...making the female the lair-mate about which he had just been warned. Gar'strakyin'kir'hra eks. B'j'jhale'ya'h'ak takh takhya'ga, Kal Kor, maks hu'ha'ktakhma'ins dyahu ta gar'jaqdyapa mas kil hhani'linga'Kor, Kayi... mas da'qilav nonvrash ergmas gar'dyakh'aklerodyapak anruni.
The noblewoman looked her lair-mate directly in the eye, a deep scowl on her face and her tail thrashing back-and-forth. "What in the name of Sivar have you done, Kor?!", she roared. "What is this?!" Kilav thrak'hra'diyaikgar'nonvrash duyi rothraks, yinbrajinra dugar'yin maks gar'pakga'dymgakalk nisjhamaksnischur. "Ja'lhu duhus'Sivar ri'dya'k, Kor ?!," gar'lekarhgak. "Ja'lhu ma'ha?!"
Lord Kor answered his lair-mate with his tail curled downward, flicking between his legs. "It is as I told you two days ago - that if all went according to plan you would be rendezvousing with an outbound ship in the T'kon system." Gar'gathlekgar'nonvrash ragar'pakga'kork nisinra, danisekin erggar'alpaki, Kal Kor. "Gar'ha takh ni'lebakrai esh'gai duchur de - mas desh ga'balank takhaj'k, ri'h'askhis rashintnistalan dubhumaksnaki T'kon."
"I had assumed you meant a transport, Kor!! Do you know what will become of us - of me, and our only son - if the authorities find us here?!?! The station would be preferable to prison!!!!" "Ni'dyakbaktahek mas ri'd'aiykshintdo, Kor!! Ri'aik ja'lhu h'asbalan dukai - dunaimaksekni'linganruni - desh braja'iskai lanma?!?! Dargbhu'h'askha h'insa'ki dudaiduxal'hra!!!"
"Less honorable, perhaps, but I highly doubt it would be preferable," Lord Kor responded meekly, his tail beginning to drag on the deck. "I would think you'd be satisfied that..." "H'inrakh inra, k'gris, qu ni'k'gris ma'gas mas gar'h'askha h'insa'ki," gar'gathlek k'yukals, Kal Kor, gar'pakga'nis amal'kor dubr'hutalan. "Ni'h'askdalpa mas ri'h'askharuk mas..."
"You've made yourself a thief - Of course I'm not satisfied!!" "Ri'dyadakri'hra xha'hra - Lehe ni'havruk!!"
"The method of our departure was not of my choosing, beloved," Lord Kor replied with mounting exasperation in his voice. "But for the past year, my beloved Sa'ki, you have pleaded, demanded, hounded me every single Sivar-damned day to find a way off of the T'Kon H'hra station. Now you are off the station, and for that I think you could be a little grateful..." "Di'ajj ergek'nistalan dyakavni'winhal, hakra," gar'le'atalank ra alkingajaqgaga dugar'yel, Kal Kor. "Qu takesthachur, ni'hakra Sa'ki, ri'dya rathk'rakhkrathrgkmaksalkinknai esh'gaga unidu k'bakik ras Sivar isdi aqlanma, dargbhu T'Kon H'hra. Ri'ha eshma talan aqdargbhu, maks tamas ni'dalpa mas ri'h'inha hadakutshrin..."
"Grateful? I should tear your throat out with my claws, you fool!!" "Hadakutshra? Nai hakuri'yai talan rani'naji, su'hra!!"
Lord Kor's bearing was as defeated as Bloodeye had ever seen it; it was quite a contrast from the behavior the thrak'hra Lord had exhibited up to that point, and there was something about witnessing his situation that Bloodeye found amusing. He half-wondered if, should the situation continue to play out the way it seemed to be going, Lord Kor would ultimately be forced to prostrate his belly in submission to his lair-mate; certainly that was the only thing he hadn't done up to that point. Gar'diyin'ha takhtothk takh Kayi'dyakaiykgar g'esh, Kal Kor; gar'ha'q'takhthrak aqai mas Kalthrak'dyakd'aiyk dumasesh, maks hu'hakhumang ergaiygar'balan, Kal Kor, mas gar'iskleki, Kayi. Gar'dalpak idar desh, ha balan'is danisjha dudi mas gar'sak hanis, gar'h'askharathrgk thraks koraraxgar'dalhar duk'yukal dugar'nonvrash; mas'ha'khu anruni gris mas gar'dyava'k dumasesh.
The youngster spoke up, his voice calm but firm. "I for one am grateful..." Kir'hra'nisk lejaqwinhal, gar'yel k'lemaksoth. "Ni'hhadakutshra ta uni..."
The female rounded on her son. "No one asked for your input, Garmasdrish - you would do well to remain silent," she hissed. The young nobleman immediately silenced himself, his expression abashed and his tail flaring in fear momentarily at his birth-mother's angry tone. Kilav'kork dugar'ni'linga. "Va'hra'rathk tani'hugath, Garmasdrish - ri'h'aska ki lanesh k'le," gar'da'lekik. Kirthrak'hra'k'lekgar'hra eshmathraks, gar'diyin'gathkalkpak maks gar'pakga'dahudyaga duk'fa eshinthraks du dikiquxilk'gar'vujaqnah.
She turned around, obviously to berate her lair-mate some more, but then spotted Arrah Sutaghi. "Arrah Sutaghi, you are the last kil I'd expect to see here," she snarled. "Was this brilliant idea yours?" Gar'kork hukor, lexigar'nonvrash aiyvargs ga, qu aiykgar jha, Arrah Sutaghi. "Ri'hakilthrak mas ni'h'askdrishta aiy lanma, Arrah Sutaghi," gar'lelq. "Masigadyapa'ha'krai?"
Sutaghi quickly gestured towards Bloodeye. "No, Lady Sa'ki - this was entirely the idea of my associate here," he said hurriedly. Gar'de'iq eks duKayi, Sutaghi. "Va, Kalav Sa'ki - mas'ha'ksi'ni'takhkil lanma gatas," gar'lek nisekgas.
Lady Sa'ki's face followed Sutaghi's gesture; her gaze bore directly into Bloodeye, her face curling up into the fighting smile. "You," she said dangerously. "Who are you that you dare to make my honorable lair-mate a common thief?" Gar'yin'ahravkde'ik'Sutaghi, Kalav Sa'ki; gar'diyairg'bathak rothraks duKayi, gar'yin'kor duyinahki'tu. "Rai," gar'lek hags". "Ja'lhra ri'ha mas ri'dyafa dani'nonvrashh'inrakh duxha'hraro?"
Bloodeye glared briefly at Arrah Sutaghi, who returned a wan smile. "My name is Krahtagh N'Ryllis, Lady Sa'ki, lair-mate of Lord Kor laq Stra'a," he said cordially, bowing in respect to the noblewoman. Gar'yinbrajk eks du Arrah Sutaghi, Kayi, ja'lhra'jaqdukyinahkigi. "Ni'husiv'ha Krahtagh N'Ryllis, Kalav Sa'ki, gar'nonvrash, Kal Kor laq Stra'a," gar'lek ravdirakhas, korarakh durakh dukilav thrak'hra.
Bloodeye could've sworn the female's claws made the sound of a blade being drawn as they came out and stayed out, her venom coming full-bore on her lair-mate. "A commoner?!?! Kor, you are following some low-born scum?!?!?!? I have long suspected that you were suffering from brain trauma - this confirms it!" Gar'h'indyakir'khak mas naji'kilav'da'k ergqith'rak hak'haf takh garga jaqmakslaneshk k'hafk, gar'lerx'jaq gatagas dugar'nonvrash. "Kilrah'hra??? Ri'hahravhusu'inramang?!?!?!? Ni'dyabaktahek eshma'ga mas ni'ha'kchodyapakalk aqshupa - ma'grihegar!"
"Lady Sa'ki," Bloodeye spoke calmly but with a growing firmness in his tone, growing weary of the female's bile, "with all the respect it is within my ability to muster, it sounds to me that your lair-mate decided to act in what he felt was the best interest of your family. You cannot fault him for that, and even if you can, it dishonors both of you for you to berate him so unjustly - especially in front of 'commoners'." "Kilav Sa'ki," gar'lek k'les qu rabalanothjaqgaga dugar'dikiquxi, jaqgaga dulsk erggathkiva'kilav, "ragarakh mas gar'ha duni'h'in dyatahklan , gar'sa dunai mas ri'nonvrash'jaqwinhalk a du ja'lra gar'baktahek ha'khulekikithrak'riga'hrai. Ri'h'inavdakonisgar tamas, maks takhdeshas ri'h'inama, gar'k'rakhraiga de tarai lexiga mak'kuthes - krokis du aiy'kilrah'hra."
"WHAT DO YOU KNOW OF HONOR, SCUM?!," she roared. "JA'LHU RI'A'IK ERGRAKH, HUSU?!," gar'lekarhgak.
Bloodeye's tone remained firm and without fear, his blade hand moving slowly to the hilt of his blade. "I know that it is for the honor of all Kilrathi everywhere that all who are aboard this ship - including your lair-mate - are here. We are fortunate to have you, your lair-mate and your son with us. I would call you 'fortune', if you would allow it." Gar'yeldikiquxi'laneshk othmaksfa, gar'deqith'rak'danis veks dulandya'gar'qith'rak. "Ni'ik mas gar'ha tarakh'gaKilrathi galani mas ga'hra ja'lhra'ha dumasshint - maks ri'nonvrash - halanma. Ek'ha damo dya rairi'nonvrashmaksri'ni'linga rakai. Ni'h'askrai "mo", desh ri'h'askgathgar."
"I will allow no such thing, kilra'hra, nor do I wish to be associated with you in any way. My son, my brain-dead lair-mate and I will depart this place at once, while you can crawl back under the slimy rock where you were conceived." "Ni'h'asgathhutakh va, kilra'hra, quv ni'arash hadyatahklan rarai dug'di. Ek'h'asnistalanmalan eshmathraks, ni'ni'lingani'nonvrashpa'k'vumaksnai, deshas ri'h'injaqdu rasamal'kor dinrotharakhs ja'lan ri'hada'k."
"Sa'ki, be reasonable," Lord Kor said with marked exasperation. "We are off the station thanks to this kil, and for that alone we owe him our gratitude." He held up his hand, preempting the impending nascent tirade he knew he would be generating from his lair-mate, looking directly into her eyes. "That he has secured for us the means to convey us where we need to go should also be considered." "Harodyapas, Sa'ki," gar'lek ralkingork, Kal Kor. "Ek'dyanistalankdargbhu ta ergmakil, maks tamas anruni ek'dyakorakhgar ek'dakutshra." Gar'nisdukgar'de, balaneshmakirgathkalxeshmathrak mas gar'iq gar'h'askhada aqgarnonvrash, Kal Kor, diyai rothrals dugar'yi'i, Kalav Sa'ki. "Mas gar'dyabrajk takai di'ajj bhakai ja'lan kai hanis hhasak maks."
To Bloodeye's amazement, Lord Kor's last statement gave his lair-mate pause. Her fighting smile diminished into a marked scowl, which she aimed first at Lord Kor and then back at Bloodeye. "If you wish for my hrai to have any part of your endeavor, N'Ryllis, it will be on one condition," she said with evident annoyance. Dugar'balank'rathrg, Kayi, gar'thrakle'gathk ulin dugarnonvrash, Kal Kor. Gar'yinahki'tu'chodyapavk duyinbrajorq, mas gar'masdiranik ar duKal Kor, jha jaqduk duKayi, Kalav Sa'ki. "Desh ri'rash tani'hrai dyag'hukutav duri'h'in, N'Ryllis, gar'h'asha dubalan uni," gar'lek ralkinaiyvarg.
"I will hear your condition," Bloodeye replied. "Ni'h'aselri'balan," gar'le'atalank, Kayi.
"My lair-mate informed me that a kil skillful enough to best Uzik Qarg in a blade fight had offered to take us off the station - I must assume he meant you. Tell me, have you experience in instructing others with this level of skill?" "Ni'nonvrash'lebaknai mas kil rikbhakildyahu tothgar dutuqith'rak, Uzik Qarg, dyakrashgathk bhakai talan aqdargbhu - nai habaktahe mas gar'd'aiykrai. Lebanai, ri'dyikga rarathrgtakavi mamang ergikbhakil?"
"At one time, I was a senior instructor at the clan Sutaghi blade school," Bloodeye confirmed. "I have trained many young kili." "Du esh uni, ni'h'ak lanma Kal Gathik'a, daigqith'rak'nar Sutaghi," gar'grihek, Kayi. "Ni'dyaigqirkiliga."
"I had hoped as much," Lady Sa'ki replied in more cordial tones, her interest obviously piqued. "I would have you train my son to be a master of blades." "Ni'dyakrashthraq takhga", gar'le'atalank dudikiquxi'i ravdirakhaga, Kalav Sa'ki, gar'dyapa'dawalgak aiyvargs. "Ni'h'asdyarai igni'ni'linga ha laq qith'rak."
This surprised young Garmasdrish, who had obeyed his mother's admonishment to remain silent up to that point, almost as much as it surprised Bloodeye. "Mother?," he asked. Ma'k'rathrgkgar, kir Garmasdrish, ja'lhra'dyagathkiklerodyapa'gar'vujaqnah lanesh k'le dumasesh, takhgatakh ma'ins gar'k'rathrgk Kayi. "Nah?," gar'rathk.
"The Sutaghi blade school was one of the most respected in the Empire, my son," she explained to her offspring. "You are almost of age, and though you have learned much these past few years, you still have yet to regain your birthright. I fear you will need to reclaim it by force, and if we remain with these...common thieves for any length of time, you may very well have to learn how to fight anyway. You would do well to develop this skill." "Daigqith'rak'nar Sutaghi ha'k uni ergdaigirakhkthrak duRag'nith, ni'ni'linga," gar'd'aiyk dugar'gahr. "Ri'ha ma'ins jaqergja'lchur, maks ja'lg'esh ri'dyaigk ga maikesthaimanginchur, ri'dyavbhadukri'balanbha eshma. Ni'k'fa mas ri'h'as hak'hargar rasrathrg, maks desh ek'lanesh ramai...xha'hraro tag'mang ergesh, ri'h'inharathrgk gaga ig j'altu g'di. Ri'h'asa ki damikbhakil."
She turned to Bloodeye, speaking in a tone that made it clear she would brook no argument on the subject. "You will train my son. That is my condition - agree to it, or my hrai will depart at once." Gar'kork dugar, Kayi, le dudikiquxi mas da'kgar aiyvarg mas gar'h'askavbhakig'lerg dusi, Kalav Sa'ki. "Ri'h'asigni'ni'linga. Mas'hasni'balan - bhaki dugar, qu ni'hrai'h'asnistalan eshmathraks.
Bloodeye looked at Arrah Sutaghi; it had been the latter's idea to include Lord Kor in the group, and he had since confessed to Bloodeye that his true interest was in having Lady Sa'ki - a highly skilled healer - with the group. Given the temperament she had just displayed, though, Bloodeye doubted having her with the group was truly worth the risk of invoking her wrath. Gar'diyaik duArrah Sutaghi, Kayi' gar'dyakha'ksi'jha maksgar du ahn, Kal Kor, maks gar'dyaklehek aqesh duKayi mas gar'dyapahe'ha'k dyagar ra ahn, Kalav Sa'ki - k'shu'i'hra'ikbhakilk ma'gas. Qu gathkdilk mas gar'dyakd'aiyk anruni, Kalav Sa'ki, gar'k'gri, Kayi, mas dyagar ra ahn h'ak dyarashrohes morawi ergdalgar'alkthrak, Kalav Sa'ki.
Arrah Sutaghi returned Bloodeye's look, nodding almost imperceptibly. You still think it worth having them here, Arrah Sutaghi?, thought Bloodeye. Fine, I will trust your judgment, but I hope I don't wind up regretting this... Gar'jaqdukdiyai'Kayi, Arrah Sutaghi, yudanisin k'chodyapas ma'ins.Ri'dalpa eshma mas gar'hadyarashro dyagarga lanma, Arrah Sutaghi?. gar'dalpak, Kayi. H'inbhaki, ni'h'asdyalari'jaqwinhal, qu ni'rashthrak mas ni'avharashavma du eshmang dujha...
"You understand that it has been many years since I've taught any students," Bloodeye said to Lady Sa'ki. "Ri'abhakil mas gar'dyaha'qesthaiga aqesh ni'dyagathiqg'ig'ai," gar'lek duKalav Sa'ki, Kayi.
"No matter, as long as you remember your curriculum." "Gar'havdyapa, desh ri'dalpaduri'ko'igko anruni."
"And you do understand that your son would be required to pledge his loyalty to me and me alone as his instructor, that I would in effect become his master for as long as my instruction continues," he continued carefully. "Forgive me for insisting on this - in the days of the school, such oaths would've been given to my Master, with me acting as his representative." "Maks ri'abhakil mas ri'ni'linga'h'askharathrgk kir'khagar'la dunai anruni takhgar'gathika, mas ni'h'asjaqgar'laq dujaqgu ta takhma'gatakh ni'rathrg'as," gar'ask radyapas. "Gathharnai tabaridi duma - du esh'gai'daig, maikir'khai'h'askdyaha'kgathk duni'laq, ra ni'a takhgar'hyilghdork."
"He has been required to give such oaths before to other instructors," the noblewoman replied. "I can accept these terms." "Gar'dyaha'krathrgk gathkir'khaitakhma'ins duchur dugathikaitakav," kilav thrak'hra'le'atalank. "Ni'h'inbhakimaibalani."
Bloodeye grasped his fist tightly. "Then I accept your condition. Welcome aboard, Lady Sa'ki and young Lord Garmasdrish." "Gar'badyakgar'devanok vanorgs. "Jha ni'bhakiri'balan. Ni'hiraiga dushint, Kilav Sa'ki maks Kir Garmasdrish."
The female gave a short, disdainful growl, then turned to Lord Kor. "Come, my lair-mate," she said harshly. "I am still angry with you, and I should see the filthy flea-pit you have selected in which for me and my son to sleep this time..." Kilav'gathklelk eshinmaksrasu, jha kork dugar, Kal Kor. "Jaq, ni'nonvrash," gar'lek sos. "Ni'ha alks eshma ranai, maks nai haiylanshishkabarayu'ilka'uts mas ri'dyawinhalk dumas ek'ha ul ma'esh, ni'ni'lingamaksnai..."
She stormed past Bloodeye and Arrah Sutaghi in the direction of the antechamber; Lord Kor and his son followed her closely, their ear-tips bright red with embarrassment, their tails almost dragging along on the deck. As they neared the antechamber, young Garmasdrish glanced back at the shuttle, anticipation on his face, turning to passing disappointment as he and his parents left the confines of the flight deck. Bloodeye turned his attention back to the shuttle just in time to see another female descending gracefully to the deck. She was adorned in the vestments of a high-ranking Sivaran acolyte - the simple white cloth four-piece foundation garment with matching breech-cloth, calf-high brown traggil hide boots and a white mantlet over a full-length blue cloak that covered her body from the back and sides, but without the jeweled, spiked-metal false-mane headdress of a full Sivaran priestess and with the accompanying prayer beads under the right shoulder instead of the left. Her calico fur was mottled but well-groomed, and her eyes were a bright green-yellow. Her expression was stern but neutral as she approached Bloodeye and Arrah Sutaghi, stopping a few paces away in order to regard the two nascent pirates. Judging from her appearance, Bloodeye guessed that she was close to the same age as young Garmasdrish, no doubt explaining the young nobleman's attraction to the female, who, if Bloodeye was to be honest with himself, was indeed very attractive. It's a pity for young Garmasdrish that this female is both a commoner and a servant of Sivar, he thought. Only in his fantasies could she ever be allowed to become his lair-mate. Gar'tugagak nischurgarga, Kayi maks Arrah Sutaghi, dumasdi'dai hukutavhi, Kalav Sa'ki' garga'ahravkgar ma'inthraks, Kal Kor maks gar'ni'linga, knavb'guthraki'garga'elali ragathkalkpa, garga'pakgai'amal'kor ma'ins dubr'hutalan. Takh garga'danisdukdai hukutavhi, gar'diyaik eks nischur dudont radrishta dugar'yon, kir Garmasdrish, mas jaq ruvnis takh garmaksgar'nhari'nistalank lan'landont. Gar'jaqdukgar'dyapa dudont du'eshh'in'halthrak aiy kilavuniga'nistalank radanis'aiykis dubr'hutalan, Kayi. Gar'h'akdadiyaikik duchiga'ahravamangma'ga'Sivar - knav'hargarsiwirtadavarg rahukutavi kes maks harghuvukutavi'vrashtakhma'ins, v'hargpakgai'alpakinrama'gacho'traggil maks knav'chin garad'chima'gadakut mas hafkgar'chokut aq hudyachurmakschutragai, qu r'avyuhargyagivqithvirinkothingak'ko'a Sivar mangdakut maks rothingairathk'rakhari inraldegud datakaverguch. Gar'ya'orks'aiyxi'ha'k orks'aiyxikqukutqi maks gar'dyaqnav'z'ji'yi'i. Gar'diyin'ha'k dyapagaqukva takh gar'danisdukgarga, Kayi maks Arrah Sutaghi, drishaminimangin talan sakirke'hra de. Jaqwinhal rasgar'diyai, gar'baktahek mas gar'hak ja'lchurtakh ma'ins takhgar, kir Garmasdrish, d'aiys'aiyki'kirthrak'hra r'avk'gri dukilav, ja'lhra, desh gar'ha'k he ragar'hra, ha'k s'aiykiga, Kayi. Gar'harashav tagar mas makilav'ha kilrah'hramksko'a Sivar de, kir Garmasdrish, gar'dalpak, Kayi. Dugar'aiydudapai anruni gar'h'inhagathk g'esh jaqgar'nonvrash.
As a retainer of Lord Talmak, Bloodeye had often met and dealt with priestesses of the Sivaran cult, whose members were largely of clan Sutaghi. He dropped to one knee in respect, bowing his head; he could hear Arrah Sutaghi doing the same. "Welcome aboard, honored daughter of Sivar," said Bloodeye. Takhgar'kilkal, Kal Talmak, gar'dyak iskmakskoratakavik rako'ai ergla'ga'Sivar, ja'lra'i ankili'ha'k gas aqgar'nar, Kayi. Gar'badyavk dulpaqor uni durakh, korakh gar'yu; gar'h'inel, Kayi, gar'atakh, Arrah Sutaghi. "Hi du, ni'lavingarakhk'Sivar," gar'lek, Kayi.
The priestess was supposed to give a ceremonial reply to Bloodeye's greeting and he became concerned when it was not forthcoming. He looked up at the priestess. She in turn looked him in the eye, which made Bloodeye very uncomfortable - normally such an action would be considered threatening, but the priestess's bearing did not show any other ill-intent. She merely continued her stare for several seconds, then finally turned and began walking towards the antechamber, having not said a word to either of the two male Kilrathi. Ko'a Sivar'h'akbaktahek gathle'atalaneshrads dugar'hi maks gar'jaqdyapak ja'lesh gar'hakaveshmathrak, Kayi. Gar'diyaik duko'a Sivar. Gar'diyak jha dugar'yi rothraks, mas da'kgar h'inruvga, Kayi - masa'h'askhasakagk ros, qu diyin'ko'a Sivar'avd'aiyg'ajxitakav. Gar'askgar'diyairg anruni ta esh'ininigin, jha kork thraks maks niskam dudai hukutavhi, dyalekle va duqu ergKilrathi de.
Bloodeye stood, somewhat puzzled at the encounter but giving the apparent disdain of the priestess little thought. He had encountered enough members of the Cult over the years to know that all priestesses were more than a little eccentric, and expected this female to be little different. He walked over to Arrah Sutaghi, who was still kneeling with head bowed and unaware that the priestess had left, and nudged him on the shoulder. Sutaghi looked up and rose, also surprised at the priestess's indifference. Gar'orq, gathkorpak ins dubalan qu gathsin ergsusa'ko'a Sivar, Kayi. Gar'dyakbalankankili'La'ga dyahu dukesthai ik mas ko'aiga Sivar'ha'khu'kro gara in, maks drishtakmakilav havk'takh. Gar'amk duArrah Sutaghi, ja'lhra'ha'qorakh eshma ragar'yu'korakhk maks hakavdyapa mas ko'a Sivar'dyaknistalank, maks alibadugar duldega. Gai diyaikmaksjaqulk, Sutaghi, k'rathrgk maks duk'dyapa'ko'a Sivar.
Bloodeye turned to look at the shuttle, waiting to see if any other Kilrathi aboard had decided to wait out Lady Sa'ki's tirade before boarding the ship. He waited for a good minute before determining that the shuttle before them now stood empty. Of the close to seventy thousand people living in squalor aboard the T'kon H'hra space station, only three more had joined their group. Gar'kork diyai dudont, Kayi, drishmaksaiy desh g'Kilrathitakav dudont dyakjaqwinhalk drish tagu'gathkalx'gar, Kalav Sa'ki, eschur jaqdushint. Gar'drisk ta esh'inoth eschur gar'strak mas dont'ha'kshi eshma. Desh hra h'ksok'p'ntokko'okga'deokoga ma'ins vulanma durast, dargbhu T'kon H'hra, hragara tre dyakdyatahklankgarga'ahn anruni.
"Is that all there is?," Bloodeye asked disappointedly. "Mas'haga mas hu'ha?"," gar'rathk duruv, Kayi.
"It would seem so," Sutaghi responded. "Gar'h'asksama," gar'gathlek, Sutaghi.
"I had greatly hoped that there would be more. Except for Lord Kor, did the members of our group not have any family or more friends aboard the station?" "Ni'dyakrashthraq thraks mas hu'h'askhagara. Qu tagar, Kal Kor, ankili'ek'ahn'a'kdya g'hraimakshraki'iga dudargbhu?"
Sutaghi shrugged. "Family, probably not. There are few aboard the station who came willingly. As for friends, I do not know. We were largely friends with one another." Gar'danisink, Sutaghi. "Hrai, kimohes va. Hu'hahramangin dudargbhu ja'lhra'jaq rashas. Takh tahraki'i, ni'ik va. Ek'ha'khraki'i gas runigaga."
He turned to look in the direction of the antechamber. "I would be interested in knowing who invited the priestess." Gar'kork diyai dumasdi'dai hukutavhi, Sutaghi. "Ni'h'askhadyapak ik ja'lhra'snataqo'a Sivar."
"A better question will be what kind of skills she has. I doubt the duties of running a Sivaran shrine have much in common with the usual activities of pirates, or of capital ship operations for that matter." "Rathkiga'h'asha ja'lhu gar'dya ergikbhakili. Ni'k'gri mas korakhi ergkodaikutga'in takhma'insai gaga ergke'hra, qu argi'shintdyapaga tamashu."
"Perhaps we should not discount her usefulness until we know more about her - if she ever deigns to even speak to us," said Sutaghi. "As for the low numbers, I say that you should not concern yourself overly much, Krahtagh N'Ryllis. Others will join us in time." "Kai hav k'gris dinthrakgar'balanh'indal eshdugu ek'ik ga erggar, desh gar'jaqgatha g'esh le dukai," gar'lek, Sutaghi. "Takh tamangima'in, ni'le mas rai havdyapari'hra gaga, Krahtagh N'Ryllis. Hratakav'h'asdyatahklankai du esh."
"Let us hope so, Arrah Sutaghi. It's a little late for any of us to write this whole thing off as a bad idea at this point..." "Gathkai rashthrakma, Arrah Sutaghi. Gar'ha jheshin tag'kai k'bakimah'in takh sixi dumasesh..."

Scene TwoEdit

Main Conference Arena
Tenth Level, SS Ni'rakh
T'kon System, Sa'Khan Quadrant, Epsilon Sector
2680.117, 0330 Hours EST
When the holo-projection tank finally came on line with images of the bridge crew at their stations, Bloodeye rose from the Shintahr's reserved seat on the third of the four tiers along the aft end of the hexagonal room. Like everyone else, the bridge crew wore clear signs of exhaustion, a combination of the effort involved in keeping the ship operational for as long as they had done with so few kili and insufficient sleep apportioned to each member. Bloodeye himself was quite exhausted from the efforts of surveying and inspecting the ship, performing what few repairs he was qualified to perform on his own, and trying to ensure that the ship would be prepared to fight should the need arise. Ja'lesh hukoralvi'd'aiyknav'aiychurs'nis thraks ko rahu'aiychuri'ko'a'ilanarg dugarga'kovirgnisi, gar'jaqulk aqlanvorkdrak'Shintahr du tar ergmangi kes ma'inthrak lanischur ergdai hukutavhuh'ks, Kayi. Takhgaharatakav, ko'a'ilanarg'd'aiyklerodyapai'aiyvarg ergdulsthrak, dyatahklan ergkoha'k erg drashint ko ta takhma'gatakh garga'dyaka'k ramakilimangin maks uldyahuv'gathk dunkiliga. Gar'ha'kdulsthraqga gar'hra aqko'i erg aiydumaksstrashint, a ja'lhu dakodu'imangin mas gar'h'ash'in a rasgar'hra, maks h'in dagri maks shint'h'askhaj'l tatra ja'lesh hajaq, Kayi.
He glanced around the chamber. Six other Kilrathi had joined him in the ship's conference arena, sitting at various points around the room. Uzik Qarg sat uncomfortably in a seat to Bloodeye's left on the upper tier near the door to the Shintahr's Office that looked to be entirely too small for his bulk, fatigue evident on the big warrior's face. Nagkilin had chosen a place on the lowest tier along the portside forward wall, just to the left of the short corridor that led out to the starboard service corridor on the tenth level. The pirate's expression was as stern as Bloodeye had ever seen it and he couldn't ascertain whether or not Nagkilin was as tired as the rest of them or if the pirate had something on his mind. Gartha'in Sihkag, their ersatz passenger, had chosen a seat on the upper tier along the starboard forward wall. He looked relatively well-rested, which was no surprise to Bloodeye, since the group knew little about him and had chosen to trust him around the ship's crucial equipment even less. He had apparently amassed a sizable quantity of rux'fra, which he had given to pay for passage to the next port and which Bloodeye had mixed feelings about; while he was glad that serendipity had delivered them a food source, he had problems with Sihkag hoarding the amount he'd collected instead of sharing it with the denizens of the T'kon H'hra base. Their priestess had chosen to sit on the second tier near Bloodeye's right, sitting gracefully and powerfully. She had remained largely to herself during the time she had been aboard, and to Bloodeye's knowledge she hadn't spoken a single word to anyone the entire time she'd been aboard; Bloodeye didn't even know her name, something he found most disconcerting. Finally, Lady Sa'ki had chosen to seat herself in the box seat directly across the holographic projector pool from Bloodeye's position, the place usually reserved for the ship's intelligence or political officer. Her perennial scowl remained fixed on her face, no doubt due to the frustrations she had voiced (loudly) over the accommodations available for her and her son aboard the ship but also due to the difficulties that had arisen in her attempts to access the ship's Medical Bay. Her son sat in the seat to her left, head drooping and eyes more shut than open. It was clear that the last thing the young nobleman had wanted was to be dragged off his resting mat in the middle of the night to attend a meeting; Bloodeye made a mental note to have at least one of his lessons with the boy in the near future sometime during the middle of the night. The First Codex teaches that 'Vigilance is the Warrior’s salvation, while inattention is the Warrior’s most dangerous foe', Bloodeye thought. Evidently you never learned that during your studies, young Garmasdrish, or if you did then you never took the lesson to heart. For the sake of your own survival, I must remedy that. Gar'diyaik eks hukordai hukutav. Kilrathitakav h'ks dyakdyatahklankgar dulanbalanbhaktakhlan'shint, vork dulanik'takh hukordai hukutav. Gar'vorq h'inruvs dulanvork duch ergKayi dumanggara ma'inthrakbr'shi dukolan'Shintahr mas sak gatas ingara tagar'ja'lga, Uzik Qarg, radulsaiyvarg duyin'sivaga. Gar'dyakwinhalklan dumangma'inthrak ma'inthrakbr'hunisjhuch, duch anruni ergdidya'inma'in mas nisk du didya'inuzud dubr'hutalan du'ar, Nagkilin. Diyin'ke'hra'dyak dyapaga gara gar'dyakaiykgar dug'esh, Kayi, maks gar'h'inavstra deshquva gar'dyak dulsk, Nagkilin, takh dulanesh'garga qu desh ke'hra'dyakhumang dugar'pa. Gar'dyakwinhalklanvork dumanggara ma'inthrakbr'hunisjhud, garga'hrabakiv, Gartha'in Sihkag. Gar'sakulqi matakhs, mas hakavk'rathrg duKayi, ta ahn'iqk'g'hu erggar maks dyakwinhalk dyalagar va ravi'idyapagaga'shint. Gar'dyakdyatakhkmangga sas erg(jerky), mas gar'dyakgathk gath tanislan dubrajlanjhak, Gartha'in Sihkag, maks ergmas gar'dyakdichodyapaitakhlan, Kayi; deshas gar'ha'k ahki mas mosga'dyakgathkgarga koflan erguk, gar'dyakk'vargi, Kayi, ragar'dyataxmang mas gar'dyakdyatakhk, Sihkag, datakav erg dyatakhgar ravudulanhrai ergdargbhu lanma, T'kon H'hra. Garga'ko'a Sivar'dyakwinhalk vork dumang dar ma'inthrakud'Kayi, vork radanis'aiykismaksrargs. Gar'dyaklaneshk gathraks rasgar'hra du'eshesh mas gar'dyakha'k du, maks duik'Kayi gar'dyakavlekle unidu dug'hra ta eshgata mas gar'dyakha'k du; gar'iqgar'hus va eshma, Kayi, humang mas gar'sakgathkorpaga. Thraks, gar'dyakwinhalk vorkgar'hra dulanvorkhudya danislanshikvi'd'aiyknav'aiychurs rothraks aqlan'Kayi, Kalav Sa'ki, landrak ros takorakhai'shint hafikwurqunarthraks. Gar'yinbrajas'laneshk landuk dugar'yin, ta r'avk'gri dualkingai mas gar'dyaklek (legas) ergdavu'i ta garmaksgar'ni'linga dushint maks ergk'vargi masdyakbalank dugar'h'in h'innisdai hukutavraslerk'shint. Gar'ni'linga'vorq dulanvork dugar'uch, yu'dinra maks yi'i'vanok gara no. Gar'h'ak aiyvarg mas huthrak mas kirthrak'hra'dyakrashk ha'k habatalnk aqgar'wul dukn'ma'haraga nis dubhaktakhlan; Gar'da'kwurpas dyaigkoi gara uni ralin eshma'in du'eshkn'ma'haraga eshmang. Thraklerag'nith Ar gathik mas 'Dyapaiy'ha vuz'Siva, deshas k'dyapa shagthrak'Siva', gar'dalpak, Kayi. Ri'igkmaigko vesh aiyvargs du'eshri'ig, kir Garmasdrish, qu desh ri'a'k jha ri'bhakigko vesh dukahr. Takonis ergri'vu, nai hadahemas.
Bloodeye looked ahead at the holograms of the two Kilrathi working in the Main Engineering Chamber and the five Kilrathi manning the Bridge, holding his paws in front of him in a gesture of welcome. "My brothers and friends, welcome," he began in friendly tones. "I apologize for calling all of you at this early hour, but I think it's wise that we each get an update on what everyone else has been doing, what our overall status is and make some decisions on where we need to go from here." Gar'diyaik nisjha dugarga'knav'aiychur'i, Kilrathi de ko dudai hukutavLannisAr maks Kilrathi p'nt aj'qoLanarg, dyagar'de'i nisjha erggar dude'ik'hi. "Nai takharimakshraki'i, he," gar'nisk duyeldikiquxihrakis. "Ni'harashav ta dalyai'elraiga duma'eshjheshav, qu ni'dalpa mas gar'hatosh mas ga'ek'bhabhaktakhlan erg ja'lhu gahratakav'dyaha'k a, ja'lhu ek'balangata'ha maks da'kjaqwinhalimang erg ja'lan kai hanis aqlanma.
"I call for the election of ship's officers and put myself up for nomination as Shintahr of this vessel," said Shintahr Nagkilin. "Ni'rathrgwinhal ergkorakha'shint maks gathwinhalni'hra takhShintahr'mashint," gar'lek, Shintahr Nagkilin.
"I call for your testicles on a silver platter, fool!," Lady Sa'ki rose and roared angrily in response, loud enough to startle her dozing offspring. "You would have us pick leaders like a pack of Terran slaves? What utter nonsense!!!" "Ni'rathrgri'othude'i duvidyuqnak'qith, su'hra!," gar jaqulkmakslekarhga alks dugathle legas dyahu gathk'rathrggar'gahrulin, Kalav Sa'ki. "Ri'h'askdyakai winhalahri takhahn ergwexi'Terran'hra? Jal'hu husugataga!!"
"Indeed, Shintahr Nagkilin," Arrah Sutaghi's holographic image agreed with clear annoyance. "I hardly think that...." "He, Shintahr Nagkilin," gar'hu'aiychurknav'aiychurs'bhakik ralkinaiyvarg, Arrah Sutaghi. "Ni'dalpa oths mas..."
"Listen, mate," Nagkilin interrupted, "I have been without arakh for the better part of three hours and I'm closer to sobriety than I'm generally comfortable. You wanted me to be a part of this expedition as a resident expert, so I'm 'residentially experting' right now. You're about to tell me that we should be focusing on more important matters right now? I say that establishing a firm chain of command and a set code of conduct for our group are matters of overriding importance." "El, hrakihki," gar'drishk, Nagkilin, "ni'dyaha'k r'avarakh ta eshi tre ma'ins maks ni'ha du akrahv ma'inthrakgara ni'ha h'inru ros. Ri'rashknai hankili ergmakonis takhikga'hravudulan, takhjaqgu ni'ha eshma 'ha ikga'hra vudulans'. Ri'halebanai eshmathraks mas kai hhadyapakakroki duwidyapagara eshma? Ni'le mas nis rasmangarothmakslehafnis'ai ta ek'ahn hawi ergdyapabatalan.
"I have to agree," the hologram belonging to Yuharga ko Da'a Vimaksrani, their 'captured' engineer, spoke. "I mean, I don't even know if I have a voice here, but if I do, it'd be nice to know where exactly I fit in the grand scheme of things. Am I the engineer because I've been working on the ship longer than the rest of you, or is that supposed to be Oth nar Qith'rakar? I don't know." "Nai habhaki," knav'aiychur'lek ergdugar, Yuharga ko Da'a Vikmaksrani, garga'lannisdymga'qithk. "Ni'd'aiy, ni'ik takh va desh ni'dyayel lanma, qu desh ni'a gar'h'askha ki ik rothraks ja'lhu ni'lan'ha ramahn. Ni'halannisahr ta ni'dyaha'qo dushint ma'gagara lanesh ergraiga, qu mas'habaktahek hagar, Oth nar Qith'rakar? Ni'ik va."
"At least you know that you have a place with this group", replied Gartha'in Sihkag from his seat in the chamber, a touch of concern in his voice. "The only reason why I'm even here at all - as I've already told most of you - is because I fell asleep. When I rose, the ship had been re-named, you people were here and I was along for the ride whether I wanted to come along or not." "Ri'ik du inthrak mas ri'dyalan ramahn," gar'le'atalank aqgar'lanvork dudai hukutav, Gartha'in Sihkag, radyapamang dugar'yel. "Konis anruni ja'lra ni'ha lanma g'di - takh ni'dyalebakgathrak'raiga duchur - ha ta ni'ha'kul. Ja'lesh ni'k'ul, hus'shint'dyakha'kdatakavk, riga'ha'k lanma maks ni'ha'kdyatahklan desh ni'rashk jaq qu va."
The hologram of Lord Kor scoffed. "You were fortunate to wake when you did, fool. Otherwise you'd be heading off to your death right now..." Gar'knav'aiychur'da'lekik, Kal Kor. "Ri'ha damo k'ul ja'lesh ri'a'k, su'hra. Ri'h'asha takav nis duri'gu eshma..."
"My point," Nagkilin interrupted loudly, eliciting a dangerous snarl from the nobleman, "is that somebody is unilaterally making decisions for the group; I think our captured engineer and passenger have helped me illustrate it quite well. Ordinarily that's the job of a ship's Shintahr, and I think the chain of command is a lovely concept, but if someone's going to be making the big decisions around here for all of us, I think we must all agree on who that's going to be." "Ni'sihe'ha," gar'drishk legas, Nagkilin, balelkag aqthrak'hra, "mas mang'hra'ha dawinhali anra'unis ta ahn; ni'dalpa mas kai lannisdymga'qithkmakshrabak dyauzknai d'aiymas kiga. Mas'hakorakh'shintahr'shint ros, maks ni'dalpa mas rasmangar'hasis'aiyki, qu desh mang'hra'ha hadawinhaliga taga'kai, ni'dalpa mas ga'kai habhaki erg ja'lhra mahra'h'asha."
"Do not be stupid, you drunken moron," roared Lord Kor. "We are following Krahtagh N'Ryllis, and we have been from the beginning of this endeavor". "Avha su'hras, ri'su'hrakrah," gar'lekarhgak, Kal Kor. "Ek'ha ahravgar, Krahtagh N'Ryllis, maks ek'dyaha'k aqnis'mah'in."
"Yes, but who put him in charge, your Lordship? Did you? Should he continue to lead us going forward? Can you honestly tell me that you're happy with the idea of following a commoner? That's my point." "Hagai, qu ja'lhra'dyalakgar takh ahr, r'ikh Kal'hra? Ri'a'k? Gai ha'as arkai dujha? Ri'h'inlebanai hes mas ri'ha ahki rasi ergahravkil'hra? Mas'hani'sihe."
Lord Kor continued to scowl, but it was evident from his body language that he was giving a great deal of consideration to the pirate's last statement, something that concerned Bloodeye greatly, as did the fact that the nobleman didn't appear as though he was going to say anything in rebuttal. Gar'ask yinbraj, qu gar'ha'k aiyvarg aqtrathkh'gar'chokut mas gar'ha'ksathrakle'ke'hra thraks, Kal Kor, humang maks dyapakgar thraks, Kayi, takh a'khe mas gar'avsa mas thrak'hra'ha'knis leg'hu dule'atalan.
Bloodeye frowned, addressing Nagkilin directly. "If any of you wish to challenge me for leadership, you may try to do so, but it should be done in the traditional way. Why even suggest an election?" Gar'yinbrajk, Kayi, le dugar rothraks, Nagkilin. "Desh g'riga'rash k'tothmonai tabalanahr, riga'h'inh'in ama, qu gai hha a'k dudirads. Ja'lra gathwinhalwinhal duga?"
"Practicality, mate. I'm well aware of the fact that the whole matter of who is dominant and who is submissive in the chain of command aboard any ship is usually settled through personal combat and ordinarily I'm all for that. But there's - what, about a dozen of us? Something like that? Seems to me like we really can't afford to take the risk that somebody would get their nuts ripped off and bleed to death over the matter of who has priority use of the privy, especially if that somebody might happen to be yours truly. There's simply no one available to take over if one of us should fall right now. Yes, I know an election is a concept learned from those monkey-raping Terrans, but to me it seems like the best option in this case." "Balanrodyapas, hrakiki. Ni'ha dyapaga erghe mas hukut erg ja'lhra'ha rathmaksk'yukal ergg'shint hadajaqguk ros dutuhras, maks ni'haga ros tamas. Qu, hu'ha - ja'lhu, ergkai du'de? Humang takhmas? Gar'sa dunai mas ek'h'inavgath hes bhamorawi mas mang'hra'h'askdyagarga'othude'i kuk talan maks ka dugu erghu ergja'lhra'dyadaldyapar ergdaihar, krokis desh masmang'hra'h'inbalan hanai. Hu'havdatakavai h'indal vargs desh uni'kai'hhaguk eshma. Hagai, ni'ik mas winhal'hasi igk aqmasiTerran'hravrax'ukarhini, qu dunai gar'sa takhwinhalkithrak dumabalan.
Lord Kor's tail twitched. "That actually makes sense to me," he said slowly. "I think I like you better when you've been overindulging on arakh..." Gar'pakga'daniseq, Kal Kor. "Ni'baktahe mas'ha rodyapas hes," gar'lek v'eks. "Ni'dalpa mas ni'gathkirai kiga ja'lesh ru'dyaha'kgararurash duarakh..."
The group wore somber and thoughtful expressions on their faces, and even Bloodeye had to admit the wisdom in what the pirate had suggested. It put him in a quandary - if he refused to give the idea any consideration whatsoever, there was the possibility that some members of the group would try to kill him for his impertinence and even if they didn't, it would sow distrust of his motives. On the other hand, if he held an election, the distinct possibility that he would not be allowed to continue to lead the group arose, and it wasn't a given that the kil who took his place would continue his purpose. Ankili'ahn'd'aiykdiyini dyapagamaksrasi dugarga'yini, maks gar'ha'krathrgk lehetosh dugathwinhal'ke'hra maks, Kayi. Gar'lankgar dubalanwinhalk'varg - desh gar'gathavk gathg'sa dusi duga, hu'ha'kh'inhal mas ankilimang'ahn'h'ash'in gugar tagar'dik'aleki maks takhdeshas garga'avk, gar'h'asirdyalav erggar'konisi. Avs, desh gar'a'kwihnal, h'in'halaiyvarg'balank mas gar'h'askavhagathk as arahn, maks gar'hakavgathk mas kil ja'lhra'datakavkgar h'askasgar'aj.
He sighed. In truth, he wanted the other members of the group to trust him and his leadership. That, combined with his wish to get onto more important matters, prompted him to take action. "Fine," he said slowly, "we'll hold an election and pray Sivar's forgiveness later. So, are there other nominations for the office of Shintahr?" Gar'daktalank. Hes, gar'rashkankilitakav'ahn dyala gar'maksgar'di'ar. Mas, dyatahklank rarash nis lergwidyapaga, rashargkgar dawinhal. "H'inbhaki," gar'lek v'eks, "ek'h'asawinhal maks rathk'rah tagathhar'Sivar dujha. Takhjaqgu, hu'hagathwinhalitaka tako'Shintahr?"
"I would nominate my lair-mate," Lady Sa'ki said promptly and firmly. "He is the highest-ranked nobleman aboard - by all rights, he should be the leader of this group". "Ni'h'askgathwinhalni'nonvrash," gar'lek eshmathraksmaksoths, Kalav Sa'ki. "Gar'hathrak'hrathrakmangk dumashint - rasgagathi, gai hha'ahr'ma'ahn."
Lord Kor's response was equally as prompt, though it turned out to be not what Bloodeye expected at all. "I must decline the nomination." He raised his hand to interrupt his lair-mate before she could launch into the tirade that she immediately and obviously was preparing, raising his voice and giving his reasoning as quickly as he could while still being articulate. "I have only the experience of the past half-day as a bridge officer and none as a ship's commander; put most simply, I am not qualified for the position. I would instead nominate Arrah Sutaghi to continue performing the job he has been doing so far in a more permanent capacity. I further suggest that Krahtagh N'Ryllis be formally recognized as leader of this group." Gar'gathle'ha'k takheshmathrak takhs, Kal Kor, ja'lg'esh gathlek'hakav ja'lhu gar'drishtak duga, Kayi. "Nai hagathavgathwinhal." Gar'nisdukgar'de drishgar'nonvrash eshchur gar'h'inhaganaska dugathkalx mas gar'ha'kaj eshmathraksmaksaiyvargs, garalega'gar'yel maks gathgar'konis takheks takhgar'h'in deshas hadikiquxile eshma. "Ni'dyaikga'churesh'ga idar anruni takhkorakhalanarg maks takhshintahr va; lan vargsgathrak, ni'havaiydik tako. Ni'h'askgathwinhalgar datakav asako mas gar'dyaha'ka dumesh dukoguvaga, Arrah Sutaghi. Maks, ni'gathwinhal mas gar'hasak rahagais takhahr'mahn, Krahtagh N'Ryllis."
"Surely you cannot be serious, Kor?!," roared Lady Sa'ki in obvious disbelief. "Ri'h'inavha dyapa gris, Kor?!", gar'lekarhgak duk'dyalaiyvarg, Kalav Sa'ki.
"Without Krahtagh N'Ryllis the group would not exist in the first place, and we would not be here needing to make these decisions. Of that there can be no doubt." "R'avgar, ahn'h'askavh'indal aqnis, maks ek'h'askavha lanma hadamaiwinhali, Krahtagh N'Ryllis. Ergmas hu'h'inavhak'gri."
"I agree with Lord Kor, and second his nominations," Uzik Qarg said quickly before Lady Sa'ki could continue arguing. The noblewoman glared at the big warrior, who returned an expression of apathy. In a hand-to-hand match, Bloodeye wasn't sure on which of the two he would wager... "Ni'bhaki ragar, Kal Kor, maks ahagaigar'gathwinhali," gar'lek eks, Uzik Qarg, eshchur gar'h'inas lerg, Kalav Sa'ki, Kilav thrak'hra'yinbrajk dusivaga, ja'lhra jaqdukdiyin ergk'dyapa. Dutuma'inthrak, gar'hakav gri ergmas ergde gar'h'askmorawi, Kayi...
Bloodeye grasped his fist, confirming Uzik Qarg's statement. "Is there anyone who will second the nomination of Shintahr Nagkilin for Shintahr of Ni'Rakh?", he asked. Gar'badyakgar'devanok, Kayi, grihegar'le, Uzik Qarg. "Hu'hag'hra ja'lhra h'asahagaigathwinhal erggar taShintahr'(My Honor), Shintahr Nagkilin?", gar'rathk.
The question was met with an awkward silence, and after several seconds Bloodeye was satisfied that there would be none who wanted to see a drunken kil in charge. Bloodeye suppressed the feeling of relief he felt when he next spoke, maintaining the formal tone he had been carrying up to that point. "Are there any other nominations to be made?," he inquired, maintaining the hope that they could get on with other business. Rath'ha'kisk rak'legathkalkpa, maks gar'ha'kruk jha esh'ininigin mas hu'h'askhava'hra ja'lhra rashk aiykilarakh takhar. Gar'panothkdichodyapa ergez mas gar'dichodyapak ja'lesh gar'lek jhak, as gar'dikiquxirahagai mas gar'dyakha'kdya dumasesh. "Hu'hag'gathwinhalitakav hada'k?" gar'rathk, Kayi, asrashtrak mas garga'h'innis ragathvitakav.
"We still need a Drakof'a," Nagkilin said to Bloodeye's annoyance. "Someone to lead boarding parties, handle discipline and veto the Shintahr if he tries to do something stupid. Also someone who occasionally deigns to dole out supplies. Since no one wants to support me as Shintahr, I change the nomination for myself for that position instead." "Kai ha(Quartermaster) eshma," gar'lek du alkin'Kayi, Nagkilin. "Mang'hra arantu'i, alexi maks batalanShuntahr desh gar'h'inahumangsu'hras. Maks mang'hra ja'lhra'jaqgatha balans gathtalanvi'i. Ta va'hra'rash ahagainai takhShintahr, ni'datakavgathwinhal tani'hra tamasko datakav."
"Someone to lead boarding parties, handle discipline and veto the Shintahr," repeated Arrah Sutaghi with a quick tail thrash and an annoyed tone. "I think that job should go to a strong fighter like Lord Kor or Uzik Qarg. I would nominate both of these kili to the position." Mang'hra arantu'i, alexi maks batalanShintahr," gar'aduk ra dymgakalkpakga ek maks yeldikiquxilkink, Arrah Sutaghi. "Ni'dalpa mas tu'arg takhgarga ha'ako, Kal Kor qu Uzik Qarg. Ni'h'askgathwinhak maikili de duko."
"I'll second my lair-mate for Drakof'a," snarled Lady Sa'ki. "Ni'h'asahagaini'nonvrash ta(Quartermaster)," gar'lelq, Kalav Sa'ki.
"And if it'll speed this up," continued B'de's hologram, "I'll second Uzik Qarg". "Maks desh gar'h'asgarek'ma," askgar'knav'aiychur, B'de, "Ni'h'asahagaigar, Uzik Qarg."
Bloodeye clenched his fist in understanding, confirming the two nominations. "Are there any seconds for Shintahr Nagkilin as Drakof'a?," he asked half-heartedly, assuming that there would be none but deciding that he still needed to waste the time going through the motions. Gar'badyakgar'devanok dubhakil, grihegathwinhali de. "Hu'hag'ahagai'i tagar takh(Quartermaster), Shintahr Nagkilin," gar'rathk k'chodyapargs, baktahe mas hu'h'asavhag'ahagai'i qu jaqwinhal mas gai ha'kdaxesh eshma agar gis.
After several seconds of complete silence, Bloodeye continued, now fully ready to wrap up this part of the proceedings and move on to actual business. "Since there are no other candidates, let the record show that I lead the group, and Arrah Sutaghi is Shintahr of this ship until such time as another may try to take his place." He turned to address Nagkilin specifically and added a little bit of force to his voice. "Hopefully that will not happen any time soon." Jha esh'ininigin ergk'legata, gar'ask Kayi, aj'k dakuts eshma gumahukutav'balan maks nis lerggathvihe. "Ta hu'havh'inhawinhalaitakav, gathda'ik d'aiy mas ni'arahn maks gar'haShintahr'mashint, Arrah Sutaghi, eshdugug'esh mas kiluniga'h'inh'indatakhavgar." Gar'kork leNagkilin ergdyapas maks garakargmangin dugar'yel. "Mas'h'asavbalang'esh eshma'in rarashthraks."
He then called for a show of hands for the post of Drakof'a, counting the number of votes carefully; the final result surprised him as much as it did the victor. "The office of Drakof'a falls on Uzik Qarg," he announced. "Do you want to nominate yourself for any other posting, Shintahr Nagkilin, such as chief cleaner of the privies, or can we finally get on to other business?" Gar'rathk jha tad'aiy ergde'i tako'Drakof'a, mangmang radyapas ergdawinhali; thrakjaqgu'k'rathrgkgar takhga takhgar'k'rathrgq'toth. "Ko'Drakof'a'hagar, Uzik Qarg," gar'gathwurk. "Shintahr Nagkilin, ri'arash gathwinhalri'hra tag'kotakav, takh kal kuta'daihari, qu ek'h'innis thraks dugathvitakav?"
"No, I trust Arrah Sutaghi and Uzik Qarg to appoint the remaining ship's officers as they see fit," Nagkilin said. Bloodeye did not detect any hint of defeat or resignation in the pirate's tone, despite the fact that he'd just received two utterly devastating votes of no confidence on the part of the rest of the group. It left Bloodeye to wonder if, in fact, what had just occurred was exactly what Nagkilin wanted to have happen. "Va, ni'dyalagarga gathkokorakhailanesh'shint takhgarga'rash, Arrah Sutaghi maks Uzik Qarg," gar'lek, Nagkilin. Gar'avkchodyapag'lerodyapa erg tothqudrishtu duyeldikiquxi'ke'hra, Kayi, ja'lg'eshhe mas gar'dyakbhak anruni r'dawinhali gatagas de aqlanesh'ahn, Nagkilin. Gar'da'kgai dalpa, Kayi, desh duhe ja'lhu'dyakbalank anruni ha'k rothraks ja'lhu gar'rashk dyabalan, Nagkilin.
Enough time had been wasted on a moot point, and Bloodeye was quick to move on before anyone else could interject with any other piece of minutia they might happen to feel like complaining about. "Good. In that case, I suggest we discuss the ship's general status and what we've each been working on these past several hours." Eshdyahu'dyakha'kdaxk dusihesinruni, maks gar'h'ak ek asbhaktakhlan eshchur g'hratakav'h'inh'indrish rag'hukutavtakav ergwidyapav ergmas garga'rashkdakoduwink. "Ki. Takhjaqgu, ni'gathwinhal ek'lergbalanro'shint maks erg ja'lhu ga'ek'dyaha'ka tamai'chureshigin."
"Shintahr Nagkilin and I surveyed the ship as instructed after we jumped to T'kon"," reported Uzik Qarg. "You will all be pleased to know that all of the privvies we've come across are working properly. They all need new sand but should get the job done until we can turn more of our attention their way." "Ek'aiydukshint takhrathrgk jha ek'jaq dulanma, T'kon, Shintahr Nagkilin maks nai," gar'wurk, Uzik Qarg. "Riga'h'ashahki ik mas gadaihari'hako hes mas ek'isk. Ga'garga hakirothinthrak qu garga hako eshdugu ek'h'ingathgarga dyapaga."
"Fascinating, Thrakyaga," said Arrah Sutaghi sarcastically. "Anything important to share with the group?" "Dakatava, Thrakyaga," gar'lek letakaxs, Arrah Sutaghi. "Ri'adyag'hudyapa dyatakh ra ahn?"
"I'll continue with the good news first. Master Gartha'in Sihkag's rux'fra stash is not the only major commodity we have aboard this ship right now, though at the moment it is our only source of food. It's more rux'fra, but at least we have something to eat, and it's in quantities that will allow us to eat well for quite some time." "Ni'h'asas ar rawurki. Gar'dyatakh'havgathvihuga anruni ergrux'fra mas ek'dya eshma dumashint, laq Gartha'in Sihkag, ja'lg'esh ta eshma gar'hakoflan'kai anruni erguk. Gar'harux'fraga, qu ek'dyahumang uk du'inthrak, maks gar'ha dumangi mas h'asgathkai uqi ta'eshga."
"I meant to ask you about that," Arrah Sutaghi said to Gartha'in Sihkag quizically ."Just exactly how did you get that much rux'fra aboard this ship, anyway? And where did you find the meat?" "Ni'aj'k rathrai ergmas," gar'lek gathkorpas, Arrah Sutaghi, dugar, Gartha'in Sihkag. "Ja'l ri'a'klan rothraks masmangga ergrux'fra dumashint? Maks ja'lan ri'a'kuk dyahu?"
"I had to hide my curing sites and stores somewhere," replied their passenger, whose tone suggested he didn't consider the feat to be that big of a deal. "You'd be amazed how lax the station's dockworkers are about checking cargo manifest when it comes to derelicts. I'm just glad you were willing to accept it in lieu of hard currency. As to the meat, well...I'll just say that I was taking care of a rodent problem the station didn't really have. Until now, of course." "Ni'ha'krathrgk hafni'lanigathdramaksdadya lanmang, garga'hrabak'le'atalank, ja'lra'i yeldikiquxi'gathwinhalk mas gar'avksatarkhans hamasdyapa. "Ri'h'askhabalank'rathrgk ras j'al dyapav kodyatahklanai'dargbhu'ha ergk'tothmonlegathvihu ja'lesh sashintik'baki. Ni'ha ahki mas riga'ha'k rasha bhakigar takh datakav erghugathhe. Erguk...ni'h'asle anruni mas ni'ha'kak'vargshka mas darbhu'avkdya hes. Eshdugu eshma, lehe."
"I assume the possibility exists for us to trade it for some real food somewhere," growled Lord Kor. "Ni'baktahe mas h'in'hal'h'indal takai gathvigar ta ukhemang lanmang," gar'lelq, Kal Kor.
"Indeed, that possibility exists," said Uzik Qarg, news which made the nobleman's tail rise and his pupils to constrict even as the large warrior continued his report to the group. "Paulsen also filled the ship's cargo hold with surplus equipment from the yard, evidently satisfied with the notion of blasting it out of existence. Scrap metals, antiquated but functional construction equipment and miscellaneous commercial goods are all there in abundance. Even though it's all older materials, it should still fetch a reasonable price if we can find the right market for it. Now that I'm officially the Drakof'a, I'll make a more thorough inventory of what's there when I get a chance". "He, mash'inhal'h'indal," gar'lek, Uzik Qarg, mas da'k pakga'thrak'hra'ork maks gar'kn'hukori'jaqvanorg deshas sivaga'askgar'wur du ahn. "Garga'dakutkdai hukutavgathvihu'shint maks ravi'imaksga aqr'lan, Ahn Ni'lin'In, ruk aiyvargs rasi ergdakekrggar aqh'indal. Gagar'ha lanma dudyahu, qithk'baki, vi'ida churgaquko maks gathviwi'ikrashrok'takh. Ja'lg'esh gar'hachurgahutadaiga, kai habharashrorodyapas eshma desh ek'h'inislanbhahugathhe tagar. Ta ni'haDrakof'a eshma, ni'h'asbhanlebakalkga erg ja'lhu'ha lanma ja'lesh ni'dyamo.
Bloodeye clenched his fist at Qarg's report. "That's the good news, so what's the bad news?" Gar'badyakgar'devanok duwur'Qarg, Kayi. "Mas'hawurki, takhjaqgu ja'lhu hawurxi?"
Uzik Qarg frowned. "The worst news is this ship's level of available armament. His entire compliment of heavy missiles has been offloaded and the tubes welded shut, and it will take equipment that we don't have in order to get them open once again, or so B'de tells me. A lot of the heavy guns have also been pulled from their mounts, and in a few cases the mounts themselves have been removed from the ship. We've got two guns forward, six to starboard and six to port at the moment, less than half the normal amount. I haven't yet had opportunity to check to see if they'll fire or not; that's something that's definitely towards the top of my personal to-do list." Gar'yinbrajk, Uzik Qarg. "Wurxithrak'hamang ergrani'mashint. Gar'korgata'dyaha'kshik ergchathigraga maks vihukoralichathi'dyatahklank vano, maks gar'rathrgvi'i that ek'avdya nogarga unidu'du, qu madi gar'lebanai, B'de. Ga ergderani'igraga dyaha'kbatalank aqgarga'vilandu, maks dubalanimangin vilandu'i'dyaha'kbatalank aqshint garga'hra. Ek'dyarani'inisjha de, rani'i ud h'ks maks rani'i uch h'ks eshma, inramangro idar. Ni'dyavdyakmo eshma k'tothmomaksaiy desh garga'h'asja; mas'hahu mas ha gris duthrak ergni'anle'alhras.
"On a related note," continued Yuharga ko Da'a Vimaksrani, "a number of the ship's systems are non-operational according to the diagnostics. We don't have reliable intruder or environmental controls in any of the ship's dorsal, portside and starboard spars, so I'd definitely recommend nobody enter those areas without environmental suits. That includes most of the available crew quarters, so we're going to have to bunk in the bridge crew dormitories for the time being. The Hunter's Hall, Medical Bay and the ship's Brig are also in those areas; I haven't yet had time to work on stabilizing access to Medical so that Lady Sa'ki can get in there to assess the state of any equipment that may still be there, but it's high on my to-do list. The other two are lower priority, since we don't have any prey-animals loaded aboard for food at the moment and we're not likely to be taking prisoners anytime soon. The ventral spar's in good shape - the ventral cargo bays are where Gartha'in Sihkag set up his rux'fra curing and storage sites so they smell a bit meaty but that's the only problem there as far as I can tell. Most of the fighters in our inventory are non-operational, though we may have a few that are fit to fly. I haven't yet had opportunity to fully inspect each vehicle but I will do so at the earliest opportunity. External communications are limited to ship-to-ship range until we can fashion a new high-gain antenna. The jump engine is in need of an overhaul but it's functional, and the impulse and ion drives are operational despite the damage they sustained when the reactor overheated prior to our jump into this system." "Duwurdyatahklank," gar'ask, Yuharga ko Da'a Vimaksrani, "k'tothmo'i'd'aiy mas kotakhlanimang'shint'ha kov. Ek'avdyahudalih'inbaktahe rathsha'aqurahkoniss dug'chokutshintalani'shint duuchmaksud, takhjaqgu ni'h'askgathwinhal gris mas va'hra'jaqdumasilani r'avhargirahkoniss. Mas'maksga ergulan'ko'a'ih'indal, takhjaqgu kai hha ul dulaniko'a'ilanarg ta eshma. Garga'ha maks dumasilani, Dai'bakaDai HukutavraslerkmaksDaiduxal'hra'shint; ni'dyavdyakesh eshma ko dutakhgrah'innis duRaslerk konis gar'h'injaqdu lanma dajaqwinhalbalan ergg'vi'i mas h'inhalanma eshma, Kalav Sa'ki, qu gar'ha ma'ga duni'anle'al. Lanitakav de hadyaparinra ta ek'avdyag'orukdadyak ta uk eshma maks ek'hav gri habadrish'hra g'esh eshma'in. Chokutshintalantalan'ha dubalanki - dai hukutavgathvihutalab'ha ja'lan gar'niskgar'lani ta gathdramaksdadyarux'fra, Gartha'in Sihkag, takhjaqgu garga'ol uksin qu mas'ha'k'varganruni lanma dubalan mas ni'h'inleba. Gathrak'kranti du ek'anle hakov, ja'lg'esh ey'h'indyamangin mas hah'indo. Ni'dyavdyakmo eshma strantga dakuts, qu ni'hasama du eshh'in'haljheshavthrak. Trathkhidudav'ha gathavk duma'gama'inthrak eshdugu ek'h'indakirbalargsdagarama'ga. Nisjak'rathrgdadu qu gar'ko, maks lannisiv'ekraknav'ha ko ja'lg'eshr'in mas garga'chodyapakalq ja'lesh gathlel'gara'akhk eshchurek'jak dumabhumaksnaki.
"I wanted to discuss that," Arrah Sutaghi said with a notable degree of concern in his voice. "What exactly happened there?" "Ni'rashk lergmas" gar'lek ramaska ergdyapa dugar'yel, Arrah Sutaghi. "Jal'hu'balank rothraks?"
"One of the internal coolant valves in the main line broke loose and partially jammed the flow," B'de's hologram responded, "which caused the engine to overheat. We're lucky the flow wasn't blocked entirely or else the entire engine core might've melted down and we would've been lucky to live long enough to get caught and go to prison. As it is, there's some pretty extensive thermal damage to the engine system." "Vikokakdashinduda'r'ink dudinisar maks draqaknis gatavs," gar'knav'aiychur'gathlek, B'de," mas dabalanklannis gara'akh. Ek'ha mo mas aknis'hakavdraq gatas qutakav arsilannisgata'h'indyadyakbalandyapa jaqak maks ek'h'askdyaha'k mos vu ta eshdyahu braja'dymga'qithkai maks ek'nis dudaiduxal'hra. Takh wi'ha, hu'har'inmanggata'ga dukotakhlanlannis.
"Can the damage be repaired?" "R'in'h'inhadakoduk?"
"We should be able to repair it if we have enough time," Yuharga ko Da'a Vimaksrani replied. "I've already been able to machine a new valve, and it'd just take us some time to get into the engine system to replace it. Clearing the debris from the line, however, will take some time." "Kai hhah'in dakodugar desh ek'dyeshdyahu," gar'le'atalan, Yuharga ko Da'a Vimaksrani. "Ni'dyaha'kh'in duchur koduwalkirvikok, maks gar'h'askbakai anruni eshmang jaqdukotakhlanlannis maks datakavgar. Ja'lg'esh, r'husu aqdinis h'asbheshmang."
"How long?" Ja'leshma'ga?
"Best guess? I'd say maybe twelve hours or so, provided nothing else goes to shit in the meantime." "Ni'baktahekithrak? Desh k'g'hutakav'nis harakh du esherg, ni'h'askle k'gris eshi du'de qu ja'lga."
"The longer we wait, the more likely it is that a hostile fleet will be awaiting us at the jump to T'kon Meth," Lord Kor snarled, the level of concern evident in his voice. "We cannot stay here any longer than we already have." "Desh ek'drish ta eshma'gaga, gar'ha kimohes mas khantsha'h'ashadrish takai dulanjak dulanma, T'kon Meth," gar'lelq, Kal Kor, mang ergdyapa aiyvarg dugar'yel. "Ek'h'inavlanesh lanma g'ma'gara ek'dya duchur."
Several kili, Bloodeye included, issued the monotone chant of approbation at the nobleman's statement. Despite the disabled systems, Ni'Rakh was still a very potent warship and a threat to commercial shipping in the Sector. As he should be, Bloodeye thought. It is only a matter of time before Paulsen or the military comes after us; we cannot afford to give our enemies the time to muster their forces for the hunt, especially when it is we who are the prey. Kiligin, maksKayi, dagathleshki eltakh ergahagai dule'thrak'hra. Ja'lg'eshkotakhlanikovk, gar'ha'ksivshintarggaga eshma maks ag dudo'ikrashro duKn'ga Ja'lgaga. Takh gai hha, gar'dalpak, Kayi. Gar'hahu anruni ergesh eshchur Ni'lin'Inqurasiv gokai; ek'h'inavgath gathek'shai esh dyatahklangarga'anrasivi tabak, krokis ja'lesh gar'hakai ja'lhra'ha uk.
"Can the engine system still be repaired while we're underway?," asked Lord Knavqith's hologram. "Kotakhlanlannis'h'inhadakoduk eshma deshas ek'ha nistalan?," rathkgar'knav'aiychur, Kal Knavqith.
"Yes," replied B'de, "but we'll have to run the coolant system through fewer loops. We won't be able to travel at full military speed without risking another system overheat, and we won't have anything in reserve in case we have to make a break for it." "Hagai," gar'le'atalank, B'de, "qu ek'h'as hakokotakhlanakdashin dukori manginga. Ek'h'asavha h'in nislan du ekrasivdakut r'avmorawigara'akhuniga'kotakhlan, maks ek'h'asavdyag'hu dudra desk kai habatalan eks."
Bloodeye looked at the hologram of Arrah Sutaghi; as Shintahr, the decision as to whether to wait until the engines were repaired or not fell on him, and Bloodeye could tell from his contemplative expression that he was giving the matter serious thought. "I think we'll have to risk it," he finally said after several seconds. "Let's continue work on repairing the engines en route to our destination. Which now brings up the topic of where do we go from here." Gar'diyai, Kayi, dugar'knav'aiychur, Arrah Sutaghi; takh Shintahr, jaqwinhal'ha'kgar drish eshdugu lannisi'ha'kdakoduk quva, maks gar'h'inaiy aqgar'diyinsa mas gar'ha'kgathhu sadyapa. "Ni'dalpa mas kai hamorawigar," gar'lek thraks jha esh'ininigin, Arrah Sutaghi. "Gathkai asko du dakodulannisi deshas ek'his dumasdinis. Mas nislerg eshma erg ja'lan ek'nis aqlanma."
"Where can we go from here?," Uzik Qarg asked dubiously. "Unless I'm mistaken, we're out of antimatter." "Ja'lan ek'h'innis aqlanma?," gar'rathk k'gris, Uzik Qarg. "Qu ni'ha ival, ek'dyaduxhu va."
"Ah, there we've got some good news," responded Yuharga ko Da'a Vimaksrani optimistically. "I was able to repair the internal antimatter pump connecting the storage tank out to the flight deck, and Krahtagh N'Ryllis's shuttle was fully fueled for a trip to K'Nag Urel before it left T'kon H'hra. We've already pumped the antimatter from the shuttle into the holding tank. And Oth nar Qith'rakar has tested out the on-board antimatter generation system; it was in reasonable working order, so we also drained the mixed oxide fuel from the shuttle and fired it up." "Hagai, ek'adyawurkimang lanma," gar'gathlek dyalagas, Yuharga ko Da'a Vimaksrani. "Ni'ha'k h'in dakodudakdanisduxhududa dyatahklanhukoraldra dulandont, maks gar'dont'ha'khudark gatas tanislan du K'nag Urel eshchur gar'nistalank T'kon H'hra. Ek'dyadakdaniskduxhu duchur aqdont duhukoraldra. Maks gar'dyak'tothmoqotakhlandaduxhudu; gar'ha'k dubalankorodyapas, takhjaqgu ek'shikhudargakjildakvutakhlan maks aqdont maks koqotakhlan.
"We have antimatter then?" "Takhjaqgu ek'dyaduxhu?"
"Enough for six jumps. We're still very low on fuel for the matter-antimatter reactor, but we should have enough to get us somewhere where we can trade in the contents of our hold for proper food and a full fuel tank, get the repairs needed for the ship and find ourselves a full crew." "Ek'dyahudargdyahu tajaki h'ks. Ek'dyahudarginga eshma tagathlelhuduxhu, qu kai hadyahudargdyahu gathkai nislanmang ja'lan ek'h'ingathviankil'ekdai hukutavgathvihu ta ukhemakshukoralhudargdakut, bhadakodu'i rathrgk tashint maks isek'hra ko'a'idakut."
"Shintahr Nagkilin, do you have any suggestions as to such a place?," asked Arrah Sutaghi. "Ri'adyag'gathwinhali takh dug'lan, Shintahr Nagkilin," gar'rathk, Arrah Sutaghi.
The professional pirate thought for a moment before responding. "If you want a crew that will serve you with few questions asked as long as you promise to pay them occasionally, I can think of three places off the top of my head in this Sector: S'thran-Pak, K'nag Rha, or Peleus." Ke'hrako'dalpak ta eshinthrak eschur gathle. "Desh ri'rashko'a'i mas h'askorai rarathimangin'rathk takh desh ri'kir'kha gathgarga balans, ni'h'indalpa erglani tre r'avsiga dumaKn'ga Ja'lgaga: S'thran-Pak, K'nag Rha, qu Sa'reth."
"S'thran-Pak is out," said the hologram of Dakut'he Ki'ra. "Even the shortest route between here and there is seven jumps." "Ek'h'inavnis lanma, S'thra-Pak," gar'knav'aiychur'lek, Dakut'he Ki'ra. "Dinisma'inthrak'hajaki h'p erg lanmamakslanma."
"A true pity," replied Nagkilin, "but probably for the best. It's a sparsely inhabited system, used by pirate groups as a place to go and settle grievances by dueling. If you eject there, you're looking at a long flight back to civilization. Most of those poor saps don't make it - so they tend to be quite grateful for a pick-up. You don't have to pay those folks very much." "Rashavhe," garle'atalank, Nagkilin, "qu takithrak kimohes. Gar'habhumaksnakivudulankingas, mas ahnike'hra'dal takhlan dajaqgudakoduwini duturakhi. Desk ri'nisektalan lanma aqant, ri'has'dyanislanjaqduma'ga duhradij. Gathrak'avjaqdu ergmasisu'hramin, takhjaqgu garga'dyarad ha hadakutshraga desh ri'bhadugarga. Rai hagathmasihra gaga va."
"If we want to keep that option open, we could consider finding a port to sell off our trade goods and refuel along the way, "Lord Knavqith offered. "There are fueling facilities in Corsair, and we'd have to go through there to get to S'Thran-Pak anyway." "Desh ek'rash dramaswinhal h'indal, ek'h'insa isbrajhlan bhahugathek'gathvihu'igathvi maks bhahudarg ma'inthrakdi," gar'rashgathk, Kal Knavqith. "Hu'halanko'alihudarg lanma, S'thran H'hra, maks kai hanis dulanma nislanma g'di, S'Thran-Pak."
Arrah Sutaghi shook his head. "I doubt the lak Agga would pass up an opportunity to try to seize our ship..." Gar'daniseqgar'yu, Arrah Sutaghi. "Ni'k'gri mas garga'h'astoth bamo h'in bharaso ek'shint, lak Agga..."
"We will not go there," Lady Sa'ki interrupted abruptly. "Ek'h'asavnis lanma, "gar'drishk k'rathrgs, Kalav Sa'ki.
"Lady Sa'ki, the option is certainly plausible and certainly worth discussing," Bloodeye responded. Her tone had surprised him; she hadn't uttered her statement as an unimpeachable command given by a noble to their underlings. If anything, Bloodeye could've sworn that she had blurted her words out in surprise, as if she didn't know who Largi lak Agga, the warlord in control of the planet S'thran H'hra in Corsair System, was. It was true that he had suffered a major setback towards his dreams of empire when a joint strike force had wiped out his naval forces, but he was still very much in control of the planet itself. "Winhal'ha h'inbhaki maks rashs erglerg gris, Kalav Sa'ki," gar'gathlek, Kayi. Gar'yeldikiquxi'dyaq'rathrglgar; gar'dyavlekgar'le takh rathrgduxalav thrak'hra'gath dugarga'ahravai, Kalav Sa'ki. Desh g'hu, gar'h'indyakir'khak, Kayi, mas gar'dyaklek k'rathrgs gar'le'i duk'rathrg, Kalav Sa'ki, takh desh gar'avik ja'lhra gar'ha'k, Largi lak Agga, kalsiv mas dyaknak S'Thran H'hra dubhumaksnaki rahustakh. Gar'ha he mas gar'dyakchodyapakalqmovga dugar'aiydudapai ergrag'nith ja'lesh anrasivchakdyatahklan'dyakr'akgar'khanti, lak Agga, qu gar'dyaknak gar'hra gaga eshma.
"With respect, I must agree with my lair-mate and with Arrah Sutaghi as well," said Lord Kor. The nobleman's tone was very much that of a shaken kil and now Bloodeye's interest was piqued. He glanced at young Garmasdrish, who had remained silent throughout the proceedings. The young nobleman's look was pained and almost as somber as his mother's was at that moment. He could only surmise that the family of Lord Kor had had some connection to the lak Agga, something that made them all fearful at the very mention of the name. Arrah Sutaghi had mentioned that Lord Kor had better reasons than most for wanting to leave T'kon H'hra, and while he could only guess at those reasons, he had a hunch that the lak Agga was involved in them somehow. "Rarakh, nai habhaki ragarga, ni'nonvrash maks Arrah Sutaghi maks," gar le'k, Kal Kor. Yeldikiquxi'thrak'hra'ha'kmas gaga ergkilalkink maks gar'stra'ha'kdawalgak eshma, Kayi. Gar'diyaik eks dugar, kir Garmasdrish, ja'lhra dyaklaneshk k'le du'eshbalan. Diyai'kirthrak'hra'ha'qalq maks takhdyapaga ma'ins takh diyai'gar'vujaqnah dumaseshinthrak. Gar'h'inbaktahe anruni mas gar'hrai, Kal Kor, dyakdyakdyatahklanmang dugar, lak Agga, hu mas da'kga'garga rak'fa dul'ek ga erghus. Gar'dyakl'eq, Arrah Sutaghi, mas gar'dyaqonisi gara Kilrathigathrak, Kal Kor, tarash nistalan lanma, T'kon H'hra, maks deshas gar'h'inbaktahe anruni dumasikonisi, Kayi, gar'dyaksi mas garga'ha'kha'k erg dugarga duniga, lak Agga.
"In addition to the threat posed by the lak Agga," continued Lord Kor, who scowled deeply as he ground out the warlord's name, "Corsair is only one jump from Firekka. We risk an encounter with BlackFire Flock if we go there. For all these reasons, I feel we should avoid the Corsair system until we are better prepared." "Dumaksdu'ag mas gar'hyilghdork, lak Agga," gar'ask, Kal Kor, ja'lhra yinbrajk thraks takh gar'lekhus'kalsiv ikantis, "gar'hajak uni anruni aqbhumaksnaki S'thran Mang, bhumaksnaki S'thran H'hra. Ek'morawitu ragarga desh ek'nis lanma, Ahn Ke'hraFirekkan'hra Kn'ji. Taga'maikonisi, ni'chodyapa mas kai haamgaq lanma, bhumaksnaki S'thran H'hra, eshdugu ek'haaj'k kiga.
To their credit, no one in the group felt the need to beg Lord Kor for more information at that moment. "Peleus is certainly doable," said Lord Knavqith. "It's only four jumps from here." Bloodeye was pretty sure that the other nobleman was also trying to make the connection between Kor's family and the warlord, and was making sure his privacy in the matter was respected by bringing the group back on topic. Dugarga'rakh, ankili'ahn'chodyapakha va rathk'rakhgar ta'ikgara dumaseshinthrak, Kal Kor. "Ek'h'injaq gris lama, bhunaksmaki Sa'reth," gar'lek, Kal Knavqith. "Gar'hajaki kes anruni aqlanma." Gar'ha gri, Kayi, mas thrak'hratakav'ha'kh'in maks da'kdyatahklan erg garmakskalsiv, Kal Kor, maks mas gar'ha'kdagri mas gar'hras'ha'krakhk duhu rasjaqduhn dusi.
Nagkilin's face took on a strained expression momentarily, as if he were trying to remember something important. After a second or two, his face relaxed. "I seem to recall that the route to Peleus from Pasqual passes fairly close to the jump point to Orleans in Orestes, which means we'd run a reasonably good chance of an encounter with Landreichers if we go that way. Plus there are only about three or four hundred Kilrathi total living on the Thetis refinery in that system. I'm assuming we still want an all Kilrathi crew?" Gar'yin'nisk eshinthraks diyaijaqvanorgk, takh desh gar'ha'kh'in dalpaduhudyapa. Jha esh'inini uniqude, gar'yin'sov. "Ni'dalpadu mas dinis duSa'reth aqT'kon-Sa jaq ma'inthrakins dulanjak duBhumaksnaki Brajakh J'qith duSa'reth'n'Bren, takhjaqgu ek'h'asdya morgrodyapass ergtu raThagathvu'hra desh ek'nis dumasmasdi. Maks, hu'haKilrathigataga anruni p'nt'okkoquh'ks'okko vulanma, dadawi Aravnis. Ni'habaktahe mas ek'rashko'a'iKilrathiga eshma?"
"That would be preferable," confirmed Bloodeye. "Mas'h'askha h'insa'ki," gar'grihek, Kayi.
"So there is that. And then there's the fact that it's in the Border Worlds and their military does patrol the system. Now, that said, Thetis was originally established as a repair and refueling depot. Fuel would be in abundance there - that would be a definite plus - and we could easily receive any repairs the ship needs there. And the station is controlled by the Thieves Guild, so there is that. If we can make it there, we're safe." "Takhjaqgu hu'hamas. Maks jha hu'hahe mas gar'halank duNakiYin maks garga'rasiv'akambhumaksnaki. Ra mas'lek eshma, dadawi'ha'knisk nisss takhdaihu dakodumaksbhahudarg. Hudarg'h'askha dyahu lanma - mas'h'askhak'tothsa'kigri - maks ek'h'inbhag'dakodu'i vargs mas shint'rathrg lanma. Maks garga'dyadargbhu, Ahngathvi Xha'hra, takhjaqgu mas'hak'tothsa'ki. Desh ek'h'injaq lanma, ek'h'asha braj.
"It's just the getting there and getting back out without negating all the repair work that would be the trick," Arrah Sutaghi observed morosely. "Gar'ha jaqmaksnistalan lanma r'av panothga ergkodakodu mas h'askhak'varg," gar'da'kaiydu mers, Arrah Sutaghi.
"To put it succinctly, yes." "Dulegar le'eks, hagai."
"What about K'nag Rha?," asked Bloodeye. "Ja'lhu ergbhumaksnaki, K'nag Rha?," gar'rathk, Kayi.
"It's six jumps from here along the shortest routes - barely in range," reported Lord Knavqith with a frown on his face. "And no matter how you cut it, in order to get there, you'd have to go through Kabla Meth..." "Gar'hajaki h'ks aqlanma ma'inthrakdinisima'inthrak - duma'ga ma'ins," gar'wurk rayinbraj dugar'yin, Kal Knavqith." Maks hu va ja'l gar'haaj'k, du jaq lanma, raiga hanis du bhumaksnaki Kabla Meth..."
"...where BCA headqarters is located," Arrah Sutaghi completed the nobleman's sentence dourly. "I have to say, I don't like any of these options much, Shintahr Nagkilin." "...ja'lan garga'darg'halank, Yanshi," gar'gataklehn'thrak'hra mers. "Shintahr Nagkilin, nai hale mas ni'avgathkig'maiwinhali ga."
"Rah K'Rakh base at K'nag Rha does have its advantages," said Nagkilin. "Like Peleus, there is a free port there with a Thieves Guild presence. Unlike Peleus, though, it's a predominantly Kilrathi base and the population is much larger. Plus Ratharin Sa'guk, the base administrator, is an old friend of mine. I've gotten repair work done there for free on more than one occasion. I couldn't say if the base itself would have enough fuel on-hand for a ship of this size, but occasionally a pirate will bring in an AMQ tanker. Push comes to shove we could always negotiate a trade if need-be for at least enough fuel to get us to a system with a better supply, or maybe trade for more mixed oxide fuel and generate what we need ourselves." "Dargbhu'adyagar'k'tothsa'ki'i lanma, (Dishonor World) du bhumaksnaki K'nag Rha," gar'lek, Nagkilin. "Takh Sa'reth, hu'habrajlank'dymga'qith lanma ragarga'lanma, Ahngathvi Xha'hra. Ja'lg'esh, takh Sa'reth va, gar'hadargbhuKilrathi ars maks vudulani'ha garaga. Maks, ajahr'dargbhu, Ratharin Sa'guk, hani'churhraki. Ni'dyabhaqodakodu lanma tak'gath dubalani gara uni. Ni'h'inavle desh dargbhu'h'asdyahudargh'indaldyahu gar'hra tashint ergmaja'lga, qu ke'hra'h'asdanis balans garga'hukoralanti, TTG. Desh rathrg'k, ek'h'inlegathvigathvi eshga tahudargdyahu du inthrak ta ek'nis dubhumaksnaki rakofkiga, qu gathvi k'gris tahudargakjildakvutakhlanga maks da ja'lhu ek'rathrg ek'hra."
"So, it's either head to Peleus for fuel and continue to operate with a skeleton crew, or head to K'nag Rha for a crew and risk not being able to leave once we arrive," summarized Arrah Sutaghi. "There is nowhere else?" "Takhjaqgu, gar'ha qu nis lanma tahudarg maks asko rako'a'i inthrak, Sa'reth, qu nis lanma tako'a'i maks morawi hah'in nistalan va jha ek'jaq, K'nag Rha," gar'd'aiyeshink, Arrah Sutaghi. "Hu'halanavtakav?"
"Nowhere else that comes to mind. It's your call, Shintahr, sir..." "Lanavtakav mas ni'dalpadu. Gar'hari'winhal, kal Shintahr..."
Arrah Sutaghi mulled over the decision for a few seconds. "Sounds to me like there's a better chance that we can get everything we need at K'nag Rha," he finally said. "Dakut'he Kira, make your course for that system." Gar'sakwinhal ta esh'ininimangin, Arrah Sutaghi. "Gar'sa dunai mas hu'hamokiga mas ek'h'inbhagahu'i mas kai ha lanma, K'nag R'ha," gar'lek thraks. "Dani'danis tamasbhumaksnaki, Dakut'he Kira."
"Understood," replied the helmsman. "Bhakilik," dornta'shint'le'atalank.
"As I mentioned earlier, we should have a code of conduct drawn up before we get there," said Nagkilin. "The crew we're likely to find at Rah K'rakh is likely not to be the reputable sort, so the code should provide rules for discipline, division of loot, and compensation for injuries. That way, anyone who signs up with us knows what will be expected of them and what will happen to them if they do something of the 'naughty' variety. I could draw up a draft for review if you'd like, Krahtagh N'Ryllis, since it's your group." "Takh ni'l'eq jheshavga, kai hadyalehafnis'ai aj'k eshchur ek'jaq," gar'lek, Nagkilin. "Ko'a'i'hhathih'inska va kimohe mas ek'ha kimohe islanma, Rah K'rakh, takhjaqgu lehaf harilerag'nithi ta lexi'ahngaga'huthrakmakshugathtashu. Masdi, g'hra'ik ja'lhra dyatahklankai ja'lhu h'ashadrishtak erggarga maks ja'lhu h'asbalan dugarga desh garga'ahumang ergthi'xin'. Krahtagh N'Ryllis, ni'h'inajaj tadajaqwinhal desh ri'rash, ta gar'hari'ahn."
Bloodeye grasped his fist. "I suppose you have the most experience with those matters. See to it." Gar'badyakgar'devanok, Kayi. "Ni'baktahe mas ri'dya ikgagathrak ramasiwi. Dagar gri."
"I will do so. Now, once we're at K'nag Rha I suggest only a small shore party; the fewer of us there are, the less likely one of us will do something stupid. And on that same note, it'd probably be wise for the females to stay aboard. Some of the ruffians there probably couldn't care less about the sanctity of marriage." He gestured towards the priestess. "Or of the Cloak, for that matter. Maybe something about the treatment of females should be added to the code, since we do have a couple of lovelies in our group." The statement elicited a loud growl from Lady Sa'ki, whose fur bristled at the implication of weakness. For someone who recently mentioned a very good reason for every member of the group to avoid injury, you sure are courting it now, thought Bloodeye. "Ni'h'asama. Eshma, ja'lesh ek'jaq lanma, K'nag Rha, ni'gathwinhalandu'in anruni; manginga ergkai mas halanma, kimohe'inra mas uni'kai'h'asahumangsu'hras. Maks ergsitakh, gar'h'asha tosh kimohes takilavi lanesh dushint. Mang ergso'hra lanma h'inavdyapa inra kimohes erg dakutga'vrash uniga." Gar'de'iq duko'a Sivar. "Qu ergChi, dumaks. K'gris humang hhamaks ergaidu ergkilavi dulehaf, ta ek'adyas'aiyki'i de du ek'ahn." Le'bhaklelklega aqgar, Kalav Sa'ki, ja'lra'i ya'da'lekik dujaqgu erkbalangi. Ta mang'hra ja'lhra'l'eq duchurins koniskiga ta ankilga'maahn amgaqshu, ri'havraggar gris eshma, gar'dalpak, Kayi.
"Do you have any further suggestions?", asked Bloodeye. "Ri'adyag'gathwinhalimaks?," gar'rathk, Kayi.
Nagkilin paused for a second before responding somewhat hesitantly. "You should all probably think about setting your true names aside for a while, especially if you want to have a shred of hope of returning to an honorable, upstanding, boring life someday. Pirates have no honor and all that, you see. They also don't care about your birth caste as a rule - it doesn't matter if you were born a noble, commoner or utak, in their eyes all ke'hra are equal since they are all dishonored by definition. Nobility and status doesn't amount to a mound of rotten shit with them. As far as what you should choose for an alias, that's up to you. If you've been given an epithet at any point during your past, you might get away with using that. For example, you should start calling yourself 'Shintahr Gux'a P'nt', Arrah Sutaghi." "Gar'ulink ta esh'inin eschurgathle va'as ins. "Raiga hadalpa kimohes erg lanriga'husihe talan ta eshmang, krokis desh ri'rash dyarashthrakinin ergjaqdu du h'inrakhakimakskuvargav eshmang. Ke'hra'dyavrakh maks gamas, riga'bhakil. Garga'avdyapa maks ergriga'thirakhavujaq ros - gar'avhu desh ri'ha'kvujaq takh thrak'hrakilrah'hramaksutak, gake'hra'hatakh dugarga'yi'i ta ga'garga'hak'rakhk rassi. Balanthrakmaksbalan avtakhgarai ergharolchur ragarga. Ja'lhu raiga hawinhal ta ivhus ha riga'jaqwinhal. Desh riga'dyaha'kgathkivhus dug'esh du'eshriga'chur, riga'h'inhah'in dalgar. Du ork, Arrah Sutaghi, rai hanis dalyai'elri'hra 'Shintahr Gux'a P'nt'."
Sutaghi recoiled, growling and baring his fangs. "Do you know how hard I've tried to put that accursed title behind me?," he asked irritably. Gar'diyaikalq, Sutaghi, lelk maks k'hafgar'naggai. "Ri'a ik ja'lga ni'dyah'ink lanmashuskir'xhak nischurnai?," gar'rathk favins.
Nagkilin's tone was somewhat apologetic. "It's a good pirate name, if you ask me - suitably dishonorable and disreputable, and dangerous-sounding. I doubt any kil would want to cross one named so." Gar'yeldikiquxi'ha'k h'inharashav ins. "Gar'hahuske'hraki, desh ri'rathnai - h'ink'rakhmaksh'ink'ska hes, maks elag. Nik'gri mas g'kil'h'askrash gathkivhra huskmas."
"Why don't you use an epithet yourself, mister high-and-mighty master pirate?" "Ja'lra ri'avdalhusiv ri'hra, laq ke'hra thrakmaksarg?"
Nagkilin flicked an ear. "Who says I don't? Or did you think Nagkilin is my real name?" Gar'danisekinkelal, Nagkilin. "Ja'lhra'le mas ni'av? Qu ri'a'kdalpa mas Nagkilin'hani'hushe?"
Bloodeye chuckled inwardly; Nagkilin's observation about Arrah Sutaghi's name was probably accurate, but since he knew the story behind it and the shame that it caused Arrah Sutaghi, he would need to be sure not to share that opinion with his friend out of respect for his feelings. In any case, the suggestion made sense. "Alright then, we'll begin using epithets to refer to ourselves. I take it that it would be best if we start referring to each other by them now, instead of waiting until later?" Gar'leki'hink ma'haras, Kayi; gar'aiydu'ha'k rothrak kimohes, Nagkilin, erggar'hus, Arrah Sutaghi, qu ta gar'iklek'kor'hus maks harashav mas gar'dabalnkgar, gar'h'askharathrgk gri dyatakhmasjaqwinhal va ragar'hraki takonis ergrakhgar'dichodyapai. K'gathdyapa, gathwinhal'ha'k rodyapas. "Gahe jha, ek'h'asnis dalivhusi ikaiy du ek'hra. Ni'bhakil mas mas gar'h'askha kithrak desk ek'nisikaiy du ek'hra ras ivhusi eshma datakav ergdrish eshdugu dujha?"
"You tell me: do you want someone to slip and call you by your true name while we're at Rah K'Rakh?," was Nagkilin's pragmatic reply. "And if someone knows the name 'Krahtagh N'Ryllis' there, how do you think they'll react? Use an epithet and they won't even know that you're sa'guk." "Ri'lebanai: ri'arashmang'hra da ival maks dalyai'elrai rahushe deshas ek'ha lanma, (Dishonor World)?," ha'kgar'le'atalanrodyapas, Nagkiln. "Maks desh mang'hra'ikri'hus lanma, ja'l ri'adalpa garga'h'asgathle? Dalhusiv maks garga'h'asavik mas ri'ha(pariah)."
"Your point is well taken. In that case, from now on, you should all refer to me as "Bloodeye" alone. The rest of you should select an epithet for yourselves well before we arrive at K'nag Rha, and then share your false name with everyone once you have it. Does anyone have anything else that they wish to discuss?" "Ni'bhakilri'sihe. Takhjaqgu, aqeshma, raiga ha'ikaiy dunai takh"Kayi" anruni. Lanesh'raiga hawinhalhus tariga'hra eshchurga ek'jaq lanma, K'nag R'ha, maks jha dyatakhriga'husiv ragahra ja'lesh riga'dyawinhalkgar. G'hra'adyatakavg'hu mas garga'rash lerg?"
Bloodeye waited for several seconds before deciding to bring the meeting to a close. They had a long and potentially very hazardous journey ahead of them, one on which they needed to embark immediately if they were to have any chance of seeing it through to its end. He would have to put his faith in the group that Arrah Sutaghi had put together to see them through that journey, because there were few other options at this point. But, they had pulled through so far, which gave Bloodeye cause to be optimistic. They would arrive safely at K'nag Rha. For the sake of the Kilrathi people, they had to. Gar'drishk ta esh'ininigin eshchur jaqwinhal gubhaktakhlan. Garga'dyaknislan ma'gamaksagga h'in'hals nisjha erggarga, uni mas garga'ha'krathrgk nislan eshmathraks desh garga'rashk dyag'mo aiygar dugar'gu. Gar'h'askharathrgk, Kayi, langar'la du'ahn mas gar'dyakda'k, Arrah Sutaghi, aiygarga gumasnislan, ta hu'ha'kwinhalitakavmangin duma'esh. Qu, garga'dyakask k'toths dumasesh, mas gathkgar konis ha dyalagas, Kayi. Garga'h'askjaq lanma brajs. Ta konis'Kilrathi'hra, garga hajaq.
"Very well. If there's no further business to discuss, we stand adjourned. May the blessing of Sivar continue to be with us." "Kiga. Desh hu'havgathvimaks lerg, ek'hanistalank. Gar'h'inas ha rakai, sa'ki'Sivar."

Mission DetailsEdit

T'konEdit

Hopefully nobody thought that Paulsen had given up looking for a stolen warship...

Setup: Bloodeye and his group have spent the last twelve hours checking over their ship and have just made the decision to travel to the pirate base at K'nag Rha in order to find others willing to join their crew. The first step of that journey is to get out of the T'kon system and jump to the neighboring T'kon Meth system, where they'll have a choice between two different routes that will lead them to their final destination.

Ni'Rakh begins the mission located at Hidden Nav 1 in the T'kon system (for purposes of this encounter, assume no encounters at Hidden Nav 1 T'kon system). As mentioned during the briefing, there is an issue with the engine coolant system that both Irgu/Machinist and B'de/Engineer have been working on but really haven't the equipment to repair, which is going to limit the speed at which he can travel. (Assume that Ni'Rakh has 25% Engine Damage and that it cannot travel faster than one-half of its maximum speed - 75 kps - without taking an 5% additional damage per minute as long as it stays above that speed. The ship will require three successful Internal Systems Checks in a row at a rate of one Check every four hours in order to repair the damage.) The jump point is 669,403 kilometers from Ni'Rakh's present position; at its maximum sustainable speed of 75 kps, the ship will arrive there in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 45 seconds; going any faster will blow out the engine system well before he would arrive at his destination. For purposes of the mission's onset, assume no encounter exists at Hidden Nav 1 T'kon system; things will become hairy enough soon. The Starship Piloting DC will be at -27 accounting for both the length of time involved and the damage to the engine system.

The GM should read the following text aloud when the ship is approaching the jump point: As the ship's computer signals proximity to the jump point, your sensors pick up multiple craft in the vicinity, one of which the computer has identified as a Terran transport. Several of the other craft break formation with the transport and begin heading in your direction.

Problems: As predicted, T'kon has arranged for a little welcoming committee for the group. Fortunately, the group is not as big as Ku'a K'le had feared, but the craft encountered do carry torpedoes and represent a pretty big threat to the players at this stage of the game. For purposes of this encounter, there is a Paulsen Artemis-class courier nearby being escorted by three Claymores, which have Elite pilots; use the Corporate Elite Pilot character template for their skill sets. If the players only have a single Dralthi available to them or if they can't field any fighters, there will only be two enemy Claymores. If you would like a more hard-core challenge for your players, use Result 9 for Nav 2 T'kon System instead; the players will encounter a small Confederation group - including a cruiser - as well as the Paulsen forces.

Ni'Rakh begins this encounter approximately 12,000 kilometers from the jump point; at 75 kps, it will take 27 rounds to cover the distance (alternatively, the jump point is twelve range units away and at a rate of one range unit every two rounds it will take 24 rounds to cover the distance). The enemy forces are roughly 3,000 kilometers from the jump point. They were expecting Ni'Rakh to approach from the T'kon H'hra jump point, so they will begin the encounter to Ni'Rakh's starboard side facing roughly thirty degrees away from Ni'Rakh. Use a single directional facing if using an orthogonal or hex grid.

As indicated in the briefing, the characters may have a number of fightercraft available to them at the onset of this mission. Roll 1d10 and check the results on the table below:

Number and Type of Working Craft Aboard Ni'Rakh via d10 Roll
d10 Result Number and Type of Craft d10 Result Number and Type of Craft
0-2 No Craft Available
3 One Dralthi-IV Medium Fighter 4 One Vaktoth Heavy Fighter
6 Two Darket Light Fighters 7 Two Dralthi-IV Medium Fighters
8 Two Vaktoth Heavy Fighters 9 Three Dralthi-IV Medium Fighters

In the event that usable Fightercraft are indicated, the GM should also determine if the craft have any acquired flaws (due to the length of time the craft have been sitting unused in an abandoned hangar deck). The number of acquired flaws a craft has should be determined with a roll of 1d5-1 for each craft indicated; for each result indicated, the GM should make a roll on the Acquired Flaws table in Chapter 6.2 of the Core Rules. Working fighters will have a full fuel load at the onset of the mission but no missile weaponry installed (and none available for this mission), and will not be re-fueled in-between launches. If Naj'bakdor/Pilot was able to successfully land his craft aboard Ni'Rakh after the last mission, his craft will also be available; it will have the same fuel, ordnance and damage levels that it had at the end of the previous mission. The player portraying the Naj'bakdor/Pilot should indicated their character's preference to fly something Kilrathi-manufactured even if it is a little antiquated.

The enemy fighters are there to stop Ni'Rakh from jumping, pure and simple - they will come about and begin attempting to gain a torpedo lock immediately upon the start of the encounter, attempting to target the ship's Engine system primarily. Should the players have fighters of their own to field, one of the enemy fighters will engage the players while the other stays on target; the two craft will switch roles if necessary to adjust for the players' attack. The courier is there to support the fighters; it will specifically try to knock out Ni'Rakh's weapons stations and will maneuver such that it stays out of the ship's gun range. At the same time, it will try to stay in between Ni'Rakh and the jump point if at all possible. If seriously damaged, it will attempt to withdraw from the area. Should the characters attack and successfully destroy the courier, use the standard procedure for determining what kind of cargo was dropped. Ni'Rakh will have sufficient room in its cargo hold for the loot and it may be added to the ship's manifest for trade if the group successfully arrives at K'nag R'ha.

The enemy craft will not pursue the players and they are not required to engage any of the enemy craft in order to successfully complete the encounter - but getting out of the system will be a more likely outcome if they do. The players may also decide to push Ni'Rakh's engine system in order to shorten the length of time needed to reach the jump point. They may do so, but the engine will take a further 5% damage for each minute the ship remains above 75 kps.

Results: Whether the Paulsen craft have been neutralized or successfully evaded, Ni'Rakh and his crew have successfully made it to the T'Kon Meth system and away from immediate danger. Now the characters will be faced with the decision of where to go next, and they may have to face a moral dillemma before everything is said and done...

T'Kon MethEdit

Choosing to become a pirate sometimes means having to make some decisions...

Setup: Now that they've made it to T'kon Meth, the players will need to make a decision here as to where they will go next, either through the Pasqual and Orestes star systems en route to Vigrid, or through Qua'lat and Valgard en route to Vigrid. The players are free to make this decision however they wish, and it should be a role-played scene with Bloodeye ultimately making the final decision. As this was part of the discussion in the mission prologue, the opinions of certain characters has already been made known to the players; players who choose to continue with their particular character's opinion of the matter during the discussion should earn Plot Points for themselves, if the GM is employing them during the campaign. To give the players opportunity to make this decision, no random encounter should ensue at this point. If the choice is made to go through Pasqual and Orestes, this encounter is skipped; proceed immediately to the Orestes encounter next.

Ni'Rakh enters the T'kon Meth system at Nav 1. Once the decision has been made to go through Qua'lat to Vigrid, the ship will take a route from Nav 1 T'kon Meth system through Nav 2 T'kon Meth System on to Nav 3 T'kon Meth system, where this encounter occurs. The total transit distance for the route is 1,310,574 kilometers; at its maximum sustainable speed of 75 kps, the ship will arrive at the start of this encounter in four hours, fifty-one minutes and fourteen seconds. Again, going any faster will blow out the engine system well before the characters would arrive (though sufficient time will have passed for them to have completed an Internal Systems Check by this point). The Starship Piloting DC will be at -47 for the transit accounting for the length of time involved, the damage to the engine system and the system-wide effect of the Neutron Star in the system's heart. It's assumed during this transit that the ship will be utilizing its Impulse Drive, which will effectively counteract the additional time/distance that would ordinarily be involved with making the transit as per the core rules. The ship will not be able to utilize its Ramscoop during the transit, so be sure to pay attention to its fuel consumption later on in the mission.

For the remainder of this mission, if the GM is using the pseudo-random encounter generator to generate encounters at Nav Points other than the planned encounters that follow, and the result of an indicated encounter involves the Crimson Claws or Demon's Eye Pack, the GM has the option to re-roll the encounter check, use a different result, or just ignore it at their discretion. It's recommended that the GM ignore the encounter in these cases as that saves them from the most headaches, but they are welcome to do as they wish. The DEP doesn't exist as such in this point of the campaign, and while the Crimson Claws certainly exist, the intent is for them to make their grand introduction as a rival to the player group in Chapter 2.4.

The GM should read the following text aloud once the ship arrives at Nav 3: As the computer reports your approach to the Qua'lat jump point, the ship's sensors pick up a lone large contact, which is quickly identified as a Kilrathi transport, Sha'kar-class. There doesn't appear to be any other craft in the immediate vicinity. The other craft has begun hailing Ni'Rakh.

Problems: While this encounter may smell of a setup, the transport (whose name is Hasu'hras Va) is genuinely on its own. It was originally part of a KAC trade convoy moving goods between Rahras Pukcal on Pasqual X and K'Jihn on K'nag Urel in Jotunheim. Due to an accident, the transport failed to make the jump to T'kon Meth as intended, instead winding up at Tas Mahran. Instead of returning to Pasqual to await the next run, the transport's captain has elected to proceed with his journey towards Jotunheim, despite the lack of escort. He is assuming that the characters are operating a craft belonging to the warlord Knav'agon lan Gorth in adjacent M'Shrak Sector, and his intention is to surrender his ship to the "invaders" in exchange for the lives of his crew. He has no way of knowing that he is dealing with a group of nascent Kilrathi pirates at the onset of the encounter.

The players may elect to ignore the transport's hail. It will stop attempting to hail the characters after a minute and will then raise its shields as a precaution, but will take no other immediate action unless the characters turn around and attack. Other than missing out on an opportunity to make the passage through the Valgard system a little easier, this is the only negative consequence of ignoring the hail.

If the characters choose to attack the transport, it will stop hailing the characters and raise its shields once their intentions become clear. It will begin issuing a distress call one round later, which Le'a'he/Warrior Bard may attempt to block with a Jam Check. On any degree of success, the transport's signal is jammed successfully; they will try again after 1d5 rounds, and must be blocked with a fresh Check. If the Check fails, the transport successfully contacts a nearby KAC Police Kamrani-class corvette with an escort of two Vaktoths, which will arrive on the scene after 2d10 rounds. The Kamrani will demand the surrender of the players; the captain of the corvette will call it "regrettable" if the characters inform him that they are fellow Kilrathi, but they will stick to their mandate to protect shipping - and point out that the target was also Kilrathi. If the characters refuse to surrender, the corvette will begin firing torpedoes at Ni'Rakh as soon as it can acquire a lock, maneuvering to stay out of the larger ship's gun range. The players can surrender before this happens, of course, in which case the campaign will come to a quick end as they are all incarcerated and shipped off to Valgard. If Ni'Rakh jumps, the Kamrani and its escorts will not follow; they are there merely to drive the players off of the transport ship. The Vaktoths will engage any fighters the players launch, maintaining a close escort of the transport in the event that no fighters are fielded by the players. The transport, meanwhile, will hang back from the action, retreating from any would-be attacker than gets too close to the best of its ability and firing on any craft that comes into range. In the event that the transport is destroyed and a cargo drop indicated, use the dropped commodities list for the KAC to determine what items are produced. In all cases, attacking the transport costs the players the opportunity to make the passage through Valgard a little easier.

Should the players respond to the hail, the transport commander will introduce himself as "Yas Orbakan ko Shintahr" and will make his offer to surrender his ship in exchange for the lives of his crew. For this encounter, use the Kilrathi Transport Captain character template for this character's skill set. At that point, the characters will have a choice to make: they can play along with the idea that they are a craft belonging to lan Gorth or they can tell the truth.

If the characters decide to "play along", the transport captain will ask the characters if they accept his terms for a surrender or not. If the characters accept the surrender, he'll begin making up excuses as to why he can't come over right away - no available shuttles, problem with the docking ports, etc. The truth of the matter is that he knows about the approaching KAC Police patrol and is stalling long enough for the patrol to arrive (It's about five minutes - fifty rounds - out at the beginning of the encounter). Once the police get there and start occupying the characters' attention, he hopes to slip out of the area un-noticed. Should the characters not accept the terms of the surrender, the captain will become suspicious about their true identities; a Cunning/Deception Check countered by the captain's Perception/Sense Deception Check will be required to see if the captain still believes the characters are who they say they are or not. If this Check falls in favor of the characters, the captain will continue to assume they are lan Gorth - and the characters have no intention of allowing him and his ship to leave alive. In that case, the captain will close the channel, begin evasive maneuvers and issue a distress call (i.e. the same thing that would have happened if the characters had chosen to attack the transport in that case). The characters will have missed out on an opportunity to get through Valgard un-noticed, and they may have to deal with the approaching patrol. Otherwise, the captain will accuse the characters of being liars, and will demand to know who they truly are. The characters will be at a -10 DC Cunning penalty for all further interactions with the transport captain for the remainder of the encounter.

If the players tell the transport captain the truth, he'll be somewhat less fearful; while his ship is not particularly well-armed (it's certainly outclassed by a Fralthi-II-class cruiser), he knows that there is a KAC patrol in close proximity and will threaten to contact them if the characters make any attempt to steal his cargo. If the characters tell the captain that they have no intention of taking his cargo, a Cunning/Persuasion Check will need to be made to see if he believes them or not. On a failure, he won't believe the characters, re-iterate his warning and close the channel; he will refuse to reply to any subsequent hails and will maintain a defensive posture until the characters leave the area. Otherwise, he'll ask the characters what their intentions are; the captain will be apt to believe the truth (i.e. no Check will be required), but will be suspicious of any other answer (requiring a Cunning/Deception Check countered by the captain's Perception/Sense Deception Check). At this point, the conversation will need to be role-played out. Feel free to improvise the conversation as much as you wish, so long as the conversation includes the transport captain asking where the characters are going. If the players respond truthfully to any questions asked, the transport captain will believe them and no Checks are required; if they lie about anything, however, the counter-check will be required. Any countered Check that falls in favor of the transport captain adds a -5 penalty to the characters for all further interactions with the transport captain for the remainder of the encounter. If the characters mention at any time that they came from T'kon H'hra, the transport captain will be apt to believe their story and will be sympathetic towards their situation; the characters will gain a +10 DC bonus to all further interactions with the transport captain in that event.

If the characters make it through the encounter without incurring more than a -5 penalty to their interactions with the transport captain, the characters will have successfully befriended the transport captain. In that case, he'll make mention of the fact that the type of ship the characters are utilizing is illegal and will likely be fired at on sight by military forces - and he'll remind the characters about the approaching KAC Patrol. He'll then make an offer to the players to run interference while they try to move through Valgard system. He'll propose to move jump ahead of Ni'Rakh to Qual'lat and on to Valgard. Once at Valgard, he'll drop off a decoy buoy to distract any Confederation patrols in the area, clearing the area of the in-system jump point. The characters may either accept this proposal or reject it. The captain will be true to his word should the characters decide to take him up on his offer. Should the characters reject it (or should they incur too great of a penalty during the conversation), the transport captain will say that it was about time he got on his way, wish the characters well and then close out the channel; the characters will have missed out on an opportunity to make their trek through the Valgard system easier.

Results: If the characters successfully befriend the transport captain, getting through Valgard undetected becomes a lot easier. If not, hopefully they've either picked up a little additional loot for themselves or at least have avoided getting into a firefight with their fellow Kilrathi. Either way, the characters are on their way towards Valgard, which is where their next planned encounter will take place.

OrestesEdit

Don't you know that the shortcut is always more dangerous than the long way?

Setup: If the characters find themselves here, it means that they made the decision in T'kon Meth to head through Pasqual and Orestes on their way to Vigrid. This, as will shortly be seen, will turn out to be a poorly-timed decision; a Landreich convoy is heading for home with a load full of contraband bought from the BlackFire Flock on Firekka for proper disposal, passing back through Orestes on their way to Orleans and home. To guard such a potentially dangerous shipment, the Landreich has dispatched Mjolnir herself. The convoy has already come under attack by Morgans in Vigrid - having given them a sound pasting - and will still be in the process of jumping into Orestes from Vigrid when Ni'Rakh arrives...

Ni'Rakh will proceed from the encounter in the T'kon Meth System to this encounter by taking a route from Nav 1 T'kon Meth system to Nav 4 T'kon Meth system. From there they will jump to Nav 5 Pasqual system and proceed to Nav 7 Pasqual system, jumping to Nav 1 Orestes system and then proceeding to the jump to Vigrid at Nav 4, where this encounter occurs. The total transit distance for the route is 1,705,436 kilometers; at its maximum sustainable speed of 75 kps, the ship will arrive at this encounter in just under 6 hours and 19 minutes. Again, going any faster will blow out the engine system well before the characters would arrive (though sufficient time will have passed for the characters to have completed two Internal Systems Checks by this point).

The GM should read the following text aloud once Ni'Rakh arrives at Nav 4: As the navigational computer chimes for the jump point to the T'rel Pakh system, the sensor board lights up with multiple contacts. One of them lights up as a friendly - the computer identifies it as a Bhantkara-class carrier - but the pair of Gilgamesh-class destroyers, the two Terran transports and the Landreich-registered fighters immediately surrounding it tells you that's probably a pretty big error on the part of the computer...

Problems: Despite the fact that their meeting is a complete coincidence, the commander of the Landreich convoy will assume that the characters are there to raid the convoy and will respond immediately to their presence with extreme prejudice, opting to shoot first and ask questions later. Not helping matters at all are the facts that A) it's generally illegal for anyone to operate a Fralthi-II, so sighting one generally means - correctly - that it's being operated by the pirates or the personal fleet of a local warlord, and B) Landreichers don't like Kilrathi very much. The players are vastly outnumbered and outgunned here; no matter what they decide to do, they're in for a pretty tough fight.

Ni'rakh will enter this encounter at a range of 20,000 kilometers (20 range increments) from the jump point; at her maximum sustainable speed of 75 kps, it will be four minutes and 26 seconds - 45 rounds - before he can jump out of the system. Mjolnir is approximately 6,000 kilometers (six range units) from the jump point and the two ships are about at a ninety degree angle from one another, with Mjolnir clockwise from Ni'rakh. She is escorted by a pair of Gilgamesh-class destroyers, which are situated approximately 1,000 kilometers (one range unit) both port and starboard of Mjolnir. A pair of Drayman-II-class transports are located aft of Mjolnir, at 2,000 kilometer (two range increments) intervals. Mjolnir is stationary; she will maneuver out of the way of the transports, turning towards Ni'rakh, and then will return to being stationary throughout the encounter. The destroyers will break off from their escort positions and immediately maneuver to engage Ni'Rakh. The transports are moving at top speed; they will continue on course in a straight line throughout the remainder of the encounter.

The strength of Mjolnir's fighter escort depends entirely on the fighter composition of the player group:

Fighter Escort Table for Encounter at Orestes
Player Fighters One Fighter
(One Fighter + Claymore)
Two Fighters
(Two Fighters + Claymore)
Three Fighters
(Three Fighters + Claymore)
Claymore Only 1 Paktahn, 4 Rapiers
Darkets 1 Paktahn
(2 Paktahns, 2 Rapiers)
1 Paktahn
(1 Paktahn, 7 Rapiers)
N/A
Dralthi 1 Paktahn
(2 Paktahns, 3 Rapiers)
1 Paktahn, 2 Rapiers
(3 Paktahns, 2 Rapiers)
1 Paktahn, 4 Rapiers
(2 Paktahns, 8 Rapiers)
Vaktoths 1 Paktahn, 1 Rapier
(2 Paktahns, 5 Rapiers)
2 Paktahns, 2 Rapiers
(3 Paktahns, 6 Rapiers)
N/A

Anyway you slice it, the players will be outnumbered and outgunned for this fight. Any Rapiers indicated will have already been launched and are acting as a close range Combat Air Patrol for the group. Any bombers indicated will launch five rounds after the encounter begins. The Landreich attack plan will be fairly straight forward - the bombers will attempt to lock onto Ni'Rakh and blow her from the stars, breaking off only if they've sustained major damage. Half of the Rapiers will stick with the bombers as an escort, engaging the players only when they begin shooting at the bombers. The other half will directly engage the players' fighters as far from Mjolnir and the convoy as they possibly can. In the event that there are an uneven number of Rapiers indicated, the extra fighter will engage the players.

The convoy is not done jumping in-system yet. Another 1d5 transports are waiting on the other side of the jump point, with one more transport jumping into the system every five rounds. Once the last of these transports is in-system, two more escorting Gilgamesh-class destroyers will jump into the system, again at five round intervals. Upon entering the system, the destroyers will join in with their sister ships in their attempt to destroy Ni'Rakh.

To successfully complete the encounter, Ni'Rakh only needs to make it to the jump point and jump out successfully; the players are not required to engage the Landreichers at all (though the odds of them making it through the encounter are probably pretty slim if they don't). In the same vein, the characters are not required to raid the transports at all. Should they engage and destroy a transport, and if a loot drop is indicated, either use the Commodities chart for a Firekkan Pleasure base in Chapter 7.3 to determine what cargo is dropped.

Results: With any luck, the characters are able to escape from the Landreichers without sustaining too much damage in the process. Given that Mjolnir and her escorts were headed back towards Orleans, the characters can be rest assured that they won't be pursued, but on the other hand, it's not likely that the Landreichers didn't tell somebody (say, the BCA headquarters in Kabla Meth) about the Kilrathi cruiser they ran into...

The group will proceed to the Kabla Meth encounter from here.

ValgardEdit

So, somebody tell me again...who thought that trying to sneak through a system with a Confederation prison in it was a good idea?

Setup: If the characters find themselves here, it means that they made the decision in T'kon Meth to head through Qua'lat and Valgard en route to the Vigrid system. This is a risky decision on their part, as the Valgard system has more commercial traffic on a daily basis than any other star system in the Sector - meaning there's a good chance someone will see them and report their presence to the authorities. It also contains a Confederation prison base, which in turn means a high probability of a run-in with a Confederation patrol or two. The characters may have made things easier on themselves back at T'kon Meth if they were able to convince the transport captain to drop off Nagkilin's decoy, but this will still by no means be an easy flight.

Ni'Rakh will proceed from the encounter in the T'kon Meth System by to jumping to Nav 7 Qua'lat system and then proceeding through Nav 5 and Nav 3 to Nav 2 Qua'lat system, jumping to Nav 7 Valgard system, where this encounter begins. The total transit distance for the route is 815,998 kilometers; at its maximum sustainable speed of 75 kps, the ship will arrive at the start of this encounter in three hours, one minute and twenty seconds. Again, going any faster will blow out the engine system well before the characters would arrive (though sufficient time will have passed for the characters to have completed another Internal Systems Check by this point).

The GM should read the following text aloud: You have completed the jump to the Valgard star system. Almost immediately, a threat warning tone sounds from the science station as the sensors begin picking up Confederation-registered tachyon radar sets.

If the characters convinced the transport captain during the Qua'lat encounter to drop off the decoy buoy for them, the GM should continue reading here: I appears as though the immediate vicinity of the jump point is clear. You begin picking up a distress signal emanating from the direction of the jump point to Cephid 17, warning local traffic about a sighting of a Kilrathi cruiser; it looks like your transport captain friend was true to his word and has successfully deployed your decoy. Whether or not the intended distraction has occurred remains yet to be seen.

Problems: During this encounter, the players will proceed from the Qua'lat jump point at Nav 7 Valgard system, pass through Nav 9, and finally arrive at Vigrid jump at Nav 10. The distance between Nav 7 and Nav 9 is 208,087 kilometers and it will take 46 minutes and 14 seconds to complete the transit, assuming a best possible speed of 75 kps. The remaining transit distance is 711,126 kilometers, which will take just over 2 hours and 38 minutes to complete. (Sufficient time will have passed for the ship's engineers to have completed the third Internal Systems Check by the time the ship arrives at Nav 10, and the possibility exists for the engines to be back at full capacity for the final portion of this encounter should the characters have successfully completed all three Checks while still in transit).

What happens at Nav 7 (the starting point of the encounter) is largely dependent on whether or not the players convinced the transport captain to drop off the decoy buoy for them during the T'kon Meth encounter. If they were successful, the Nav Point will be clear when they jump in and they may proceed to Nav 9 without delay. Otherwise, the GM will need to make the standard check for a pseudo-random encounter and conduct the encounter if one is indicated.

If an encounter at Nav 7 is indicated, the group may encounter commercial traffic from Bronte Corporation or Persotech, Confederation patrols and/or DeathHeads and Despoilers (as indicated earlier, any encounter with the Demon's Eye Pack should be ignored). The Confederation and commercial groups are escorting commercial traffic through the system, and for the most part the escorts are not equipped with torpedoes. Upon sighting the players, they will attempt to send out a distress signal to the Valgard Military Prison, reporting the group's position and heading (i.e. towards the Vigrid jump point). If they are sighted here and if the opposing group can get off a distress call, a pair of complications will occur in the form of an encounter with a Confederation cruiser at Nav 9 and a Confederation destroyer at Nav 10, both of which will be dispatched from the station to intercept Ni'Rakh. Le'a'he/Warrior Bard will be responsible for jamming any distress call, since he's sitting at the communications console. If he is successful, the opposing group will make another attempt to send out a distress call every five rounds until either they are neutralized or until Ni'Rakh moves out of the area. In the meantime, commercial ships will attempt to give Ni'Rakh a wide berth, while their fighter escorts will move to intercept any fighters the players might be fielding, and will do their best to defend their charge should Ni'Rakh attack directly. Any torpedo-wielding opponents will directly engage Ni'Rakh, breaking off only to shake off a pursuer or if they become heavily damaged. The Confederation groups may include warships; these ships will directly engage Ni'Rakh, breaking off only if they sustain heavy damage. Murphy-class destroyers, if present, will begin launching pairs of fighters every ten rounds, alternating between Wasps, Tigersharks and finally Shrikes. Confederation groups will otherwise behave as commercial groups. Pirate groups will also behave largely the same way; the chief difference is that they will not risk sending a distress call. While Ni'Rakh might have their attention, they will also have a tendency to focus on any commercial targets in the area before turning their attention to the players. The pirates don't have the resources to take on Ni'Rakh directly (not at this point anyway), but they won't hesitate to take out the ship's fighter escort if they can. In all cases, use the appropriate minor character template to handle the statistics of the opposing groups.

At Nav 9, the GM will need to make a check for a pseudo-random encounter regardless of whether or not the players were successful during the T'kon Meth encounter, and conduct the encounter if it is indicated. This Nav Point is should be handled similarly to Nav 7 for the most part; possible commercial groups that may be encountered here belong to Persotech, Hurston Dynamics, Rondell Corporation, Bronte Corporation and Bartok Industries, and Confederation forces may also be encountered here. The group should not have to worry about pirate encounters here, as there are only encounters with the Demon's Eye Pack and Crimson Claws indicated - both of which should be ignored as aforementioned. If the alarm was sounded at Nav 7, Ni'Rakh will encounter a Confederation Plunkett-class Cruiser here, which will attempt to close the distance with Ni'Rakh and engage with its guns as soon as it enters range. The encounter with the cruiser is in addition to any other encounter indicated by the pseudo-random encounter generator. Once again, commercial and Confederation groups will attempt to send a distress call to the prison; if successful, a Plunkett-class Cruiser will be encountered at Nav 10.

At Nav 10, the GM should go ahead and perform a check for a pseudo-random encounter as they did at Nav 9, conducting the encounter if it is indicated. If the group has made it this far without any alarms being sounded, no Confederation craft will be encountered here. An alarm at Nav 9 will result in an encounter with a Confederation Plunkett-class Cruiser here, while an alarm at Nav 7 will result in an encounter with a Confederation Murphy-class Destroyer; this destroyer will have had time to launch a forward Combat Air Patrol consisting of a Shrike bomber and two Wasp interceptors prior to Ni'Rakh's arrival, and will continue to launch pairs of craft as the encounter progresses as per above. Again, the encounter with either the Confederation cruiser or destroyer is in addition to any other encounter indicated at this Nav point; only commercial forces will be encountered here otherwise, belonging to Paulsen Kinetics, Hurston Dynamics or Bronte Corporation (once again, any encounter with the Demon's Eye Pack should be ignored). Some of the commercial groups encountered at here may field torpedo-wielding craft - specifically, most of Paulsen groups are fielding Claymores, while at least one of the Bronte groups field Gladii; while their proton torpedoes won't cause a great deal of damage, they are still considered Heavy Ordnance and can bypass Ni'Rakh's shields.

To complete the encounter, the group only needs to make it to the Vigrid jump point at Valgard Nav 10 and complete successfully complete the out-system jump. They are not required to destroy any craft they may happen to come across, though doing so will (naturally) make things a great deal easier.

Results: Hopefully the characters didn't run into any Terran patrols, or they were able to dispatch those patrols before they got an alarm out; if an alarm was raised, Kabla Meth will become significantly more difficult. They shouldn't have any major issues between here and Kabla Meth, which is where they're headed next.

Kabla MethEdit

Okay, mister hotshot Kilrathi pirate: time to run the gauntlet.

Setup: Whether they took the longer route through Valgard or the more harrowing route through Orestes, the characters have made it safely to the Vigrid system, where the two paths finally converge back upon one another. They need now only make it through Vigrid and Kabla Meth before they will arrive at their final destination.

There are two ways in which the characters can arrive at this encounter, depending on if they took the Pasqual-Orestes route or if they took the Qua'lat-Valgard route to Vigrid. If they took the Pasqual-Orestes route, they will have ended the previous encounter at Nav 3 Vigrid system; they need simply to proceed to Nav 5 Vigrid system and make the jump to Kabla Meth. The total transit distance for this route is 619,112 kilometers; at its maximum sustainable speed of 75 kps, the ship will arrive at this encounter in 2 hours, 17 minutes and 34 seconds. Again, going any faster will blow out the engine system well before the characters would arrive. If they took the Qua'lat-Valgard route, they will have ended the previous encounter at Nav 4 Vigrid system; they simply need to proceed to the Kabla Meth jump at Nav 5. The total transit distance for this route is 615,224 kilometers. If the ship's engines have been successfully repaired by now, it may make the transit at its normal maximum speed of 150 kps, arriving at this encounter after one hour, eight minutes and 21 seconds; otherwise it will complete the transit in 2 hours, 16 minutes and 43 seconds, assuming a best possible speed of 75 kps (and once again assuming the player's don't overtax the engines and blow the Engine system in the process).

The GM should read the following text aloud: You have completed the jump to Kabla Meth. The sound of the threat warning tone once again begins to sound from the science station as the sensors begin picking up Border Worlds-registered tachyon radar sets.

If the characters raised an alarm at Valgard or went through Orestes, the GM should continue reading here: The radars in question likely belong to the flotilla of Border Worlds warships in the immediate vicinity of the ship, one of which begins to send you a hailing message. It looks like the Borderworlders have prepared a welcoming committee for you.

Problems: During this encounter, the characters will have to proceed from the Vigrid jump point at Nav 1 to the K'nag Rha jump point at Nav 3, a total distance of 371,214 kilometers for the route. If the engines are still damaged, the transit will take 1 hour, 22 minutes and 29 seconds to complete. Should the engines be at full capacity, the transit will take 41 minutes and about 15 seconds to complete. (If the players passed through Orestes, sufficient time will have passed for the ship's engineers to have completed the third Internal Systems Check by the time the ship arrives at the K'nag Rha jump point, and the possibility exists for the engines to be back at full capacity for the final portion of this encounter should the characters have successfully completed all three Checks while still in transit. If the group went through Valgard, sufficient time will have passed for a fourth Check (if necessary) prior to the initial portion of this encounter).

If the players made it through the Valgard system without raising an alarm, the GM will need to make the standard check for a pseudo-random encounter and conduct the encounter if one is indicated (as previously indicated, any encounter with the Demon's Eye Pack should be ignored). Commercial groups that may be encountered here include Paulsen Kinetics, Persotech, Guinterin Combine and Bronte Corporation, none of whom operate torpedo-equipped craft. Upon sighting the players, they will attempt to send out a distress signal to the Kabla Meth station, reporting the group's position and heading (i.e. towards the K'nag Rha jump point). The station can do nothing but log the sighting in this case, so the distress call will have no bearing on the encounter at Nav 3; Le'a'he/Warrior Bard will be responsible for any attempts at jamming a distress call, since he's sitting at the communications console. There is no planned penalty for failure if Le'a'he/Warrior Bard fails, but feel free to add a UBW Tallahassee-class cruiser to that encounter if you want to make life harder on the players). If Le'a'he/Warrior Bard is successful, the opposing group will make another attempt to send out a distress call every five rounds until either they are neutralized or until Ni'Rakh moves out of the area. In the meantime, commercial ships will attempt to give Ni'Rakh a wide berth while attempting to make a run for the jump point, while their fighter escorts will move to intercept any fighters the players might be fielding, and will do their best to defend their charge should Ni'Rakh attack directly. Ni'Rakh need only move out of the area for this portion of the encounter to come to a successful conclusion.

If, on the other hand, the players raised an alarm at Valgard or if they went through Orestes, the normal check for a pseudo-random encounter is not necessary. Instead, the group will encounter a welcoming committee of Outerworlds Naval Reserve forces, who have been alerted to their approach and will demand their surrender on sight. The size of the opposing group will depend entirely on how many fighters the players may be fielding at this point:

Fighter Escort Table for Secondary Encounter at Kabla Meth
Player Fighters One Fighter
(One Fighter + Claymore)
Two Fighters
(Two Fighters + Claymore)
Three Fighters
(Three Fighters + Claymore)
Claymore Only 2 Avengers
Darkets 1 Avenger
(2 Avengers)
1 Avenger
(2 Avengers, 1 Hellcat)
N/A
Dralthi 1 Avenger
(1 Avenger, 3 Hellcats)
1 Avenger
(1 Avenger, 5 Hellcats)
1 Avenger, 2 Hellcats
(2 Avengers, 3 Hellcats)
Vaktoths 1 Avenger
(1 Avenger, 4 Hellcats)
2 Avengers
(1 Avenger, 6 Hellcats)
N/A

In addition to the fighter escort, the Borderworlders will have dispatched a Southampton-class Destroyer and two Caernaven-class Frigates to guard the jump point.

The players will be given just the one opportunity to surrender Ni'Rakh and prepare for boarding or face destruction, and the Border Worlds commander will demand an immediate answer. Should the players refuse, the Border Worlders will launch an immediate attack. The Southampton will maneuver out of Ni'Rakh's gun range and will set up to launch Capship missiles her way, which the players must shoot down if they are launched. The destroyer only has three such missiles at its disposal and will launch all three at Ni'Rakh in two round intervals once a target lock has been achieved. The frigates will fly close escort to the destroyer, engaging any of the player's fighters or bombers that come in range. Meanwhile, the enemy Avenger bombers will maneuver to gain a torpedo lock on Ni'Rakh and will salvo off pairs of torpedoes at a time upon achieving a lock, waiting until they know the outcome of their salvo before coming around to fire additional torpedoes (if any). They will stay on course to maintain a torpedo lock once acquisition begins; if they haven't begun attempting to acquire a lock, they will maneuver to shake off any pursuers. Any Border Worlds Hellcats will fly close escort to the Avengers, engaging any of the players' fighters engaging the bombers. If the Border Worlders run out of heavy ordnance - if all the Avengers&aprime; torpedoes and the destroyer's capship missiles are destroyed, or in the event that these craft are destroyed before they launch their ordnance - they will retreat, picking up any survivors and jumping to Vigrid as soon as they can manage to do so. In the event that a Hellcat is destroyed, the destroyer will launch a replacement craft after three rounds (to a maximum of five replacement craft). To conclude this portion of the encounter, the players must drive off the Border Worlders. The players can opt to surrender if they choose to do so, of course, but doing so will lead to an early end to the campaign.

Regardless of the encounter at Nav 1, the characters will have the same final encounter at Nav 3; the normal check for a pseudo-random encounter is not necessary. Instead, the players will encounter a pair of Confederation Murphy-class destroyers on a patrol of the system. If the players have made it this far without raising an alarm, the destroyers will be there by themselves; otherwise, a number of hostile fighters and bombers will have been launched from the destroyers, the number of which is dependent on how many fighters the players are fielding at this point.

Fighter Escort Table for Primary Encounter (Climax) at Kabla Meth
Player Fighters One Fighter
(One Fighter + Claymore)
Two Fighters
(Two Fighters + Claymore)
Three Fighters
(Three Fighters + Claymore)
Claymore Only 3 Shrikes
Darkets 2 Shrikes
(3 Shrikes)
2 Shrikes, 1 Tigershark
(2 Shrikes, 2 Tigersharks)
N/A
Dralthi 2 Shrikes, 1 Tigershark
(2 Shrikes, 2 Tigersharks)
2 Shrikes, 1 Tigershark
(3 Shrikes, 1 Tigershark)
3 Shrikes
(4 Shrikes)
Vaktoths 2 Shrikes, 1 Tigershark
(2 Shrikes, 2 Tigersharks)
3 Shrikes
(2 Shrikes, 3 Tigersharks)
N/A

As at Nav 1, the enemy forces will demand the immediate surrender of Ni'Rakh, and again, the campaign will come to a quick end if the players choose to do so. Should the players not surrender, the Confederation forces will launch an immediate attack. Any bombers already launched will maneuver to gain a torpedo launch on Ni'Rakh and will salvo their main torpedoes as soon as they obtain a lock, firing their light torpedoes in the event that they have to come around for a second pass. Bombers will return to one of the destroyers as soon as they've salvoed all of their heavy ordnance, and will not break off once they've begun their torpedo run; they will evade any fighter that attempts to engage them before a torpedo lock is achieved. The Confederation fighters will fly close escort to the bombers, moving to intercept any of the players' fighters that come within range or any torpedoes launched from Ni'Rakh.

The destroyers will also launch new child craft as the encounter continues. Each one carries up to 8 Shrikes and 8 Tigersharks. A destroyer will launch one pair of Tigersharks followed by one pair of Shrikes four rounds later until it has launched all of its available craft (if there are fighters and bombers already launched at the beginning of the encounter, assume they are all launched from the same destroyer and adjust the remaining launches accordingly). The two destroyers will stagger their launches so that one ship launches craft followed by the other one two rounds later. Since the destroyers aren't armed with torpedoes themselves, they will try to stay out of Ni'Rakh's gun range and support the bombers with long-range missile attacks against would be attackers.

Fortunately for the players, they aren't alone in this encounter; after ten rounds, a flight of four Hellcats will enter the battle and will join in the fight against the Confederation forces, siding with the players. The pilots of these Hellcats are members of the Morgan's Raiders pirate clan (Use the Morgan Elite Pilot template for their statistics) who were dispatched specifically to find and assist Ni'Rakh if necessary (at least this is the story they'll give the players if asked - and it's mostly true, but these pirates aren't aware of the plot to seize Ni'Rakh once the situation turns in their favor. If pressed for an explanation, the pirates will "explain later".) The pirates will offer to help hold off the Confederation forces while Ni'Rakh makes a break for it. They will happily provide firing cover or escort if asked and for the remainder of the encounter will follow directions given to them by the players. They will not, however, obey any order to follow them to K'nag Rha or land aboard the ship (they aren't getting paid to do that).

To succeed, the players need only maneuver to the jump point and successfully jump to K'nag Rha; the Confederation forces will not pursue them (the system is beyond their patrol range).

Results: With any luck, the characters will have jumped successfully to the K'nag Rha system. They're just about home free at this point, though as is soon to be seen, the Morgans didn't help them out out of the kindness of their own hearts.

K'nag RhaEdit

Don't you just hate it when it turns out people have ulterior motives?

Setup: Ni'Rakh has jumped out successfully from the Kabla Meth system with the help of a group of pirates from the Morgan's Raiders pirate clan, and is at the Kabla Meth jump point at K'nag Rha Nav 2, where this encounter takes place. As will shortly be shown, their motivations weren't entirely altruistic...

The GM should read the following text aloud: You have successfully completed the jump into the K'nag Rha system. A warning tone sounds from the engineering console alerting you to the fact that the ship is now out of antimatter fuel - information you knew already anyway. A quick sensor sweep reveals the presence of a Caernarvon-class frigate near the jump point and their escort of fighters, no doubt the command base of the Morgans that helped you get out of Kabla Meth. The frigate's defensive systems appear to be in a state of full readiness as it begins hailing you.

Problems: The players may have wondered why the Morgans would've taken the time to help them get out of Kabla Meth. It turns out that the leader of the local cell had heard about the theft of Ni'Rakh from T'kon H'hra and has decided to try and take the ship for himself - he dispatched a pair of his frigates to the two most likely places for the ship to go, Peleus and K'nag Rha, with orders to try and snatch the ship if it should come its way. The captain of the frigate will state as much willingly to the characters should they bother to answer the hail. He will then demand their surrender, with the promise that the crew will be put off at Rah K'rakh and allowed to go on their way if they cooperate and don't offer any resistance. Morgans aren't Despoilers or DeathHeads - they're honest when they say they'll spare the lives of Ni'Rakh's crew if they'll surrender the ship - but it'll be awfully hard for Bloodeye's group to conduct any piracy or attract any followeres without a ship. The Morgans will have to go to Rah K'Rakh to refuel the ship just as the group would have, though, so if the group surrenders the ship now, it's possible to sneak in a mission where they re-take it from the Morgans at a later date. The alternative is an early end to the campaign...

If the characters refuse to surrender, the pirate captain will apologize, saying what's about to happen is "just business" before closing the channel and commencing an attack. If the characters don't answer the hail, the pirate will commence an attack anyway; either way, they're going to have to fight to get out of this one. The size of the attacking force is - once again - dependent on the number of fighters the characters are able to field at this point:

Fighter Escort Table for Encounter at K'nag Rga
Player Fighters One Fighter
(One Fighter + Claymore)
Two Fighters
(Two Fighters + Claymore)
Three Fighters
(Three Fighters + Claymore)
Claymore Only 1 Thunderbolt, 1 Razor
Darkets 1 Thunderbolt
(1 Thunderbolt, 2 Razors)
1 Paktahn
(2 Thunderbolts)
N/A
Dralthi 1 Thunderbolt
(1 Thunderbolt, 2 Razors)
1 Thunderbolt
(2 Thunderbolts, 1 Razor)
1 Thunderbolt, 1 Razor
(2 Thunderbolts, 2 Razors)
Vaktoths 1 Thunderbolt
(1 Thunderbolt, 3 Razors)
1 Thunderbolt, 2 Razors
(3 Thunderbolts)
N/A

The goal of the pirates is to disable Ni'Rakh, not to destroy him, so the Thunderbolt pilots will be taking the extra time they need to specifically target the ship's Shields and Engines (despite the fact that B'de/Engineer and Irgu/Mechanic "just got the damn things fixed!", possibly). If they manage to destroy or disable either of these systems, the frigate will launch a Phoenix shuttle to attempt to board the ship. The pirates will detect the open escape pod hatch on the ship's ninth level, and will attempt to break in that way (bypassing the ship's docking ports and landing bays, areas where the characters could repel them easily). If they are successful, they'll head for the main corridor and attempt to take Engineering and the Bridge; the ship will effectively be theirs if they can take secure these areas (If a boarding action occurs, use the battle maps for the Ninth-Level Amidships from the Elevator encounter in Chapter 2.1 as a combat map). If the players manage to destroy the shuttle before it docks or repel the boarders, the pirates will give up on the notion of capturing Ni'Rakh and will instead begin attempting to destroy it out of spite. In any case, once they've begun their attack, the pirates aren't looking to take prisoners...

Meanwhile, any Razors in the area will engage Ni'Rakh's escorts (if any). They will pay particular attention to any craft going after any of the Thunderbolts in the area, and may break off an attack on a player to engage another player making a run on one of them. The frigate itself will attempt to stay back out of the fighting but will engage any player that enters its gun range, and will attack Ni'Rakh directly if he should close on the frigate's position. If the characters manage to destroy the frigate, any remaining pirate fighters will retreat to Rah K'Rakh. The players do not necessarily need to take out the frigate to succeed in the encounter; if neither ship is in a position where they can destroy one another, the frigate will retrieve any Thunderbolts in the area and then jump out. They will need to take out all of the fighters in the area to bring the encounter to a close.

Results: With the Morgans dispatched or rendered harmless, all that remains is for Ni'Rakh to head for the Rah K'Rakh pirate base at Nav 1 K'nag Rha System, the characters' final destination. It's 268,328 kilometers from the Kabla Meth jump point to the base; if the ship's engines are still damaged, then it will take just under an hour to reach the base at the ship's maximum sustainable speed of 75 kps (sufficient time will have passed for the ship's engineers to have completed the third Internal Systems Check by the time the transit ends if the group traveled through Orestes, and the possibility exists for the engines to be back at full capacity for this encounter should the characters have successfully completed all three Checks while in transit; impeccable timing on their part). Should the engines have been restored to full capability earlier during the voyage, it will take the ship just under half-an-hour to reach the base. If Ni'Rakh can reach the base intact, the mission is complete. The mission epilogue can be read to the players, read by the players, or paraphrased as the GM sees fit. Afterwards, proceed to the next mission, entitled "Bharg'Yi'nargrast'hra".

Mission EpilogueEdit

As it sputtered to life, the image of a skyhook in orbit around a moderately-sized dwarf planet filled the forward viewing screen of Ni'Rakh's bridge and a tone sounded from the ship's navigational console. "Approaching Rah K'rakh, Shintahr," Dakut'he Kira reported. Ja'lesh gar'keraduk ko, Ni'Rakhi hu'aiychur'dakutkvi'd'aiynisjha'lanarg ergdargbhuniswuni hukornakingaja'lgaro and el'elk aqvidrislan'shint. "Danisdulanma eshma, Rah K'rakh, Shintahr," gar'wurk, Dakut'he Kira.
Arrah Sutaghi, who was still getting used to the notion of being "Shintahr Gux'a P'nt", was leery and his anxious state was reflected in his tone. "Let's all hope the reception we get here is better than the one we received when we first jumped in; we certainly aren't going anywhere else at this point. Hail the station." Gar'ha'q'gri maks gar'balan'favin ha'ktakhma'insk dugar'dikiquxi, Arrah Sutaghi, ja'lhra ha'kda'k ro eshma du so erghagar, "Shintahr Gux'a P'nt". "Gathga'kai rashthrak mas hi ek'bha lanma ha gara ja'lhu ek'bhak ja'lesh ek'jaq lanma nisss; ek'havnis gris g'lantakav dumesh. Ledargbhu."
"Better let me go ahead and do the talking," Nagkilin offered. "I'm pretty sure I can get us in without any problem." "Gar'h'askha kiga desh ri'gathnai ale'a," gar'rashgathk, Nagkilin. "Ni'ha griga mas ni'h'indakai jaqbhakik r'avg'k'varg."
"Fine by me - go ahead." "Mas'ha h'inbhaki - nis."
Nagkilin walked over to the communications station while Le'a'he punched in the sequence to open the channel. A few seconds later a blue light shone on Le'a'he's board and he gestured to Nagkilin to proceed; the base was responding to their hail. Nagkilin gestured his understanding and cleared his throat. "Rah K'rakh base, this is the cruiser Ni'Rakh. I want to speak directly to Ratharin Sa'guk," he said weakly. Gar'aml dukovirgnistrathkhi, Nagkilin, deshas gar'di'aj'vikhaklehafkotakhlan nodinisargs. D'karav'knavk esh'ininimangin dijha dugar'yinvarg maks gar'de'iq, Le'a'he, ta gar'nis, Nagkilin; darbhu'ha'kgathle dugarga'le. Gar'de'iq gar'bhakil maks shikgar'yai, Nagkilin. "Dargbhu Rah K'Rakh, ma'hafral Ni'Rakh. Ni'rash le rothraks dugar, Ratharin Sa'guk," gar'lek gis.
He looked directly at Bloodeye, who was sitting in the command chair. Nagkilin's lips were twitching with amusement. Do I want to know what you think is so funny about this situation, you drunken bastard?, Bloodeye thought. Gar'diyaik rothraks duKayi, ja'lhra ha'kvork duhuvork'shintahr. Gar'lanagkhi'ha'kdanisek raleki, Nagkilin. Ni'arash ik ja'lhu ri'dalpa ha raleki'hagaga ergmabalan, rai jaq'hrakrah?, gar'dalpak, Kayi.
A few seconds later, the station responded. "This is Ratharin, cruiser Ni'Rakh. State your clearance code," a gravelly voice on the other end growled. Esh'ininmangin dujha, dargbhu'gathlek. "Fral Ni'Rakh, ma'hanai, Ratharin. Leheri'lehafgath," yelortins'lelq dulantakav.
Nagkilin smiled mischievously, then roared, speaking in a loud, angry tone. "DAMN IT, YOU VOMITOUS, PUS-FILLED SACK OF ROTTEN MEAT, LET ME DOCK BEFORE I RIP OFF YOUR NUT-SACK WITH MY CLAWS AND FEED THEM TO THAT WHORE OF A LAIR-MATE OF YOURS!" Gar'yinahkik xins, jha lekarhgakmakslek dudikiquxi alksmakslega. "K'BAKIGAR, RAI HUKORALUKOLCHUR AQDALHARMAKSDAKUTERGRANG, GATHNAI DYATAHKLAN ESHCHUR NI'KU TALAN RI'OTHUDE RANI'NAJI MAKS GATHUKGARGA DU MASKILAVRAX ERGNONVRASH'RAI!!"
Bloodeye, as did the entire bridge crew, looked at Nagkilin in utter shock. The latter merely continued on as he had been, his lips still twitching in amusement. Gar'diyaik duNagkilin rak'rathrggataga, Kayi, takh a'qo'a'ilanarggata. Jha'ask anruni takh gar'dyakha'k, gar'lanagkhi'danisek eshma raleki.
The response from the station was immediate; the monitor adjacent to the communications station sputtered to life, displaying a garishly adorned Kilrathi with smoky grey fur dotted with black rosettes and small black spots over his face. His pale green eyes were bright with narrow slits, and when he spoke again it was with considerable joviality. "Nagkilin, you dirty bastard!! How are you?" Gathle aqdargbhu ha'k eshmathrak; vi'd'aiyyin dukovirgnistrathkhi leraduk duko, d'aiy Kilrathidadiyaikik d'aiyexgaras rap'yadakji orkekink rakn'hhukorsi dugar'chokut maks kn'orkekini'in dugar'yin. Garz'yi'igi'ha'k knava makskn'hukorihudya'in, maks ja'lesh gar'lek du gar'ha'k rahkih'insa. "Nagkilin, rai jaq'hra uts!! Ja'l ri'ha?"
"That's Shintahr Nagkilin, you old sack of shit, and since you ask I'm entirely too sober." Mas'ha (Commander) Nagkilin, rai churhukoral hukorharakh, maks ta ri'rath ni'hakrahv gatas gara ni'sa'ki."
"I must say this is a surprise - last I heard you were still in prison." "Nai hale mas ma'ha k'rathrg - huthrak mas ni'elk, ri'ha'k eshma dudaiduxal'hra."
"Worse, I've been at T'kon H'hra," Nagkilin said with an ear flick. "Xiga, Ni'dyaha'k dulanma, T'kon H'hra, "gar'lek radanisekin'elal, Nagkilin."
The station administrator's lip curled with disgust momentarily at the mention of T'kon H'hra. "You must smell worse than usual then. So what brings you to my humble station?", he continued in a mock-accusatory tone. "Let me guess - you want halfway decent food, you want repairs to that somewhat-impressive and obviously stolen piece of shit I'm seeing on my screens, and you want charity." Lanagkh'ajahrdargbhu'kork eshinthraks ragathxi dul'ek erglanma, T'kon H'hra. "Jha rai hadyol xigara ro. Takhjaqgu, ja'lhu'dyarai duni'dargbhuk'chodyapaki?", gar'ask dudikiquxidakonisiv. "Gathnai bajtahe - ri'rashuqidyahu'ins, ri'rashdakodu'i du mashukutavdadalpawikins maks xhak aiyvargs erghar mas ni'haiy duni'vi'd'aiyi, maks ri'rashkiratakav.
"Right on the first two counts," said Nagkilin. "I actually intended to do some bartering this time around, but since you seem to be offering charity, I suppose..." "He ergwi de ar," gar'lek, Nagkilin. "Ni'aj'k hes adatakavmang ma'esh, qu ta ri'sa hagathkiratakav, ni'baktahe..."
Ratharin cut Nagkilin off with a slashing motion. "Bartering is fine," he interrupted. Gar'drishkNagkilin ranisdakekh, Ratharin. "Datakav'hah'inbhaki," gar'drishk.
"So, can a delegation from our ship come aboard or not?" "Takhjaqgu, ahn'h'injaq aqek'shint dudargbhu qu va?"
"Sure, as long as your goods are worth anything," Ratharin said dubiously. "If you're trying to off a load of plastic boryangee shit again, though, I'll have to offload you all out of the nearest airlock, of course..." "Hagai, desh riga'gathvihu'i'hadyarashro g'hu anruni," gar'lek k'gris, Ratharin. "Ja'lg'esh desh riga'hah'in r'riga'hra du erggathvihu'i ergharboryangeewiv, ni'h'asharathrgk r'ni'hra ergraiga talanbrajdak ma'inthrakthrak, hes..."
"Trust me for once: what we've got is worth it," Nagkilin said reassuringly. "Dyalanai ta unidu: ja'lhu ek'dya haki," gar'lek dagris, Nagkilin.
"And if I hadn't heard that same line come from out of your mouth before today, I'd be more eager to do business. But, I have nothing better to do today, so I might as well let you come aboard and take a look at what you've got to offer. I'll make the arrangements for you to come aboard right away - we have a lot of catching up to do. One hour alright?" "Maks desh ni'dyavelk masletakh'jaq aqri'lanagkh eshchuraiy'hra, ni'h'askha chodyapargsga agathvi. Qu, ni'dya k'g'hu kiga a aiy'hra, takhjaqgu gar'ha kiga tanai gathraiga jaqdu maks aiy ja'lhu riga'harashgath. Ni'h'asda aji ta riga'jaqdu eshmathraks - ek'dyalergga a. Gar'haki, esh uni?"
"That'll do nicely," said Nagkilin. "We will see you in one hour. Ni'Rakh out." "Mas'h'asa kis," gar'lek, Nagkilin. "Ek'h'asaiyrai du esh uni. Ni'rakh gatak."
The screen shut off as the channel closed with a short burst of white noise. Nagkilin turned to look at Bloodeye, a look of satisfaction and accomplishment on his face. Bloodeye could only return a demeanor of utter bewilderment. Apparently they had been granted access to the station and all was well, but exactly how such an event had transpired was escaping his comprehension. At least he was not alone in his failure to understand - the eyes of the rest of the bridge crew remained fixed on Nagkilin, their faces puzzled at a minimum and somewhat fearful at worst. Vi'd'aiy'drishqo deshas dinisargs'vano radakekrgeshin ergh'indrish. Gar'kork diyai duKayi, Nagkilin, radiyai erg rumaksbhagatak dugar'yin. Gar'h'injaqdudiyin anruni erggathkalkpagataga, Kayi. Garga'dyakha'kgathkh'innis sas dudargbhu maks ga'ha'qi, qu ja'l masbalan'dyakbalank rothraks ha'kamgaq gar'bhakil. Inthrak gar'hakav anruni dugar'toth bhakil - yi'i'ko'a'ilanarg'laneshk lamduk duNagkilin, garga'yini'gathkorpak du inthrak maks rak'fa'ins duxithrak.
Bloodeye spoke slowly, still trying to digest the conversation that had just taken place. "'Rip off your nut-sack with my claws and feed it...'" Gar'lek v'eks, h'in eshma bhakille'a mas dyakbalank anruni. "Ku talan ri'othude rani'naji maks gathukgarga..."
"'...to that whore of a lair-mate of yours,' yes, I know," said Nagkilin with considerable humor. "That actually is a clearance code for this place, and moreover it's the one that Ratharin Sa’guk reserves for his close, personal friends. We've suddenly become VIPs, you see." "...du masikilavrax ergnonvrashrai', hagai, ni'ik," gar'lek raleki'hah'insa, Nagkilin. "Mas'halehafgath hes tamalan, maks gar'halehaf maks mas gar'dra ta gar'takharihras, Ratharin Sa'guk. Ek'dyajaqhradyapaga k'rathrgs, ri'bhakil.
"I see. Well, if that's the case, let's get ready to go over. I think this could be an interesting experience." "Ni'bhakil. Desh mas'habalan, gathkai aj nislanma. Ni'dalpa mas ma'h'inha ikgadyapa."
"Yes indeed. Just wait until you meet his whore of a lair-mate..." "Hagai he. Drish anruni eshdugu ri'is gar'kilavrax ergnonvrash..."

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