Motes in the Serpent's Eye

Welcome to the Jungle (Part Four)

You won't get there for free


At which point Captain Ni Shen provides a practical demonstration of unspoken portion of his ship’s name.

Aboard the Paramour; Shortly after dining on the Speaks Softly
Nadira Torell-Gevise entered the conference room of the Paramour with an air of offended dignity and extreme displeasure. The assembled department heads went silent as their captain entered the spacious room, already quite aware that the meeting with the RES captain hadn’t gone well. Torell glowered at her senior staff and seated herself at the head of the gleaming weirwood table. Leaning forward, she placed her fingertips together before her, and spoke crisply.
“Where are they now?”
Lomack-17c, Torell’s first officer, touched a control along the edge of the table, causing a glowing 3D display of Chadra and orbital diagrams to appear over the table’s surface. The endogenous soulmech spoke.
“The RES Speaks Softly has changed orbit. I estimate that they’re aiming for an altitude of 1200 to 900 miles, angling away from us. Loss of Line-of-Sight in twenty-two minutes.”
“Time to re-quire?”
“If they enter my predicted orbit, approximately four hours.”
“I concur,” interjected Karash, the Paramour’s tactical officer.
Torell glanced at the pershala over her steepled fingers.
“Any changes to your assessment of their defenses?”
The pershala snorted and flicked his tail. “We can’t take their shields out without a serious fight, but we can hold easily against a science ship.”
A tattooed, lean elven woman at the far end of the conference table snorted derisively.
“Don’t underestimate them. That’s an RES ship. It’s better armed than it appears. And they don’t staff their officer core with fools.”
Captain Torell frowned at the elf. “And that’s the official opinion of the Hunt Master, Onas? How the hell would you know?”
The elven woman shrugged. “I served in the RES for a few decades. They’re not idiots and won’t go down easily, trust me.”
Torell turned to a thin human with too-blue eyes and short blonde hair.
“Bellan, now that you’ve had time to contemplate your exploratory sortie?”
The noetic mindwalker had taken the time to change back into his simple robes after dinner aboard the
Speaks. He opened his eyes, glancing about the room with his blue, blue eyes, and spoke quietly.
“All of the crew that I … interviewed are highly confident that they can repel a boarding party with ease. The captain is equally confident that he can match the
Paramour in ship-to-ship. They are outfitted with a Science Team rather than Exploratory or First Contact. RES high command is unaware of their position."
Torell smiled waspishly. “Really? Interesting.”
She turned to the Willan, her Operations Officer.
“Where do we stand per our quota?”
The well dressed halfling flexed his hands, activating his fingerdots and typed in mid-air. Graphs and charts appeared above the table.
“We are currently at 67% of quota for exotic foodstuffs, 72% for artifacts – that’s little ‘a’ – and 92% at our ‘fragile special orders.’ We are still in negotiations with Zhelshu, but its looking promising. If we pull out now, we could supplement with pickups from Cediva, but we’d show a 40% or so Loss for the trip.”
Captain Torell nodded.
“Get on the ansible. It’s time the crew of The Maxx earned their retainer.”

Characters Attending:
Lord Rwvyan Nenoic, Lady Kotonaru, Ereyie Wel, Lord AcRei Burü C’Ge “Pei’Fa,” Bishop-1, Dr. Nodagil Maaran, Dr. Eon Rose, and Ditak Kirrin
Unable to Attend:
RC-880 “Durendal,” and Lord Serpentce Z’Entropyse Augenmanthias.

Executive Officer’s Log, RES Speaks Softly, 5041.128:1330 I.E.; Chadra; Rwvyan Nenoic recording.

The crew of The Khanniption Fit is settling in. Pei’Fa has been keeping them entertained with various games and activities while we continue our mission here on Chadra.

At 2200 on 123, we hosted Captain Nadira Torrell, and her assistant Bellan Gouwilh of the Paramour for dinner. After a tense meal, the Captain gave orders to change our orbit so that we were not in the same place when our ship came around the planet again. There was a mercenary vessel moving to attack our previous position. We used our stacaster to avoid the fight, waited until the mercenary was gone, and then returned to Chadra.

We starcast right on top of the Paramour and blew out their shields. They surrendered quickly after that. Captain Ni Shen was able to reach an agreement with Captain Torrell, and we returned to our mission.

Over the past couple of days, we were able to meet with two native tribes. We managed a good enough trade with the second tribe to gather sufficient samples to please the science team. Dr. Nodagil was able to spend a day on planet gathering various archeological data.

Personal Log, RES Speaks Softly, 5041.128:1330 I.E.; Chadra; Rwvyan Nenoic recording.

Did my last entry say this was a shit show? Well, it’s a shit show. Complete with fuckery.

Serpy did some research on The Khanniption Fit. They’re an independent outfit, who paid a fee to House Gevise for the “right” to go down to Chadra. They were on planet for two months this time, and it’s not their first trip. Their poor deceased dwarven friend’s remains are stuffed full of treasure. Or “booty” as the Captain likes to scornfully call it. They’re pretty happy to be alive, but we’ve been watching them closely and their movements are restricted to a portion of the middle deck. Since we’ve stowed them in the rec room, none of us are getting our normal workouts, and its making us all cranky.

Directly after my last entry, we got a call from the Paramour, saying their Captain was going to accept our offer of dinner, with a plus one. I covered for Durendal on the bridge while he cooked dinner. We agreed to restrict our guests to the upper deck, and the ready room, where dinner would be served. The Captain picked Tic Tac as his plus one, and we decided Koto would serve, while I handled security. The bridge door would remain closed, with Durendal in command and ready for action should it be necessary. Ereyie was piloting. I woke Yevon and asked her to handle security on the lower decks. She took care of arming the rest of the crew, because we weren’t taking any chances. Dr. Rose made sure that the science team would either be in the lab or their quarters during dinner.

In the meantime, Pei’Fa and Nodagil had dinner with our guests from the Fit and got some useful information. These folks know quite a lot about Chadra. It used to be ruled by giants, and they were rivaled by the dragons. Apparently, they wiped each other out, and none exist today in any civilized form. They asked a lot of questions about the political officer and speculated about the “party being over” on Chadra now that we were here. They lost six crew members, including their half-green, a guy named Logash, who is still down there somewhere. He was sick, and they restrained him but he broke loose. They suggested that he caused a lot of problems for them because he went crazy and took off with most of the heavy ammo.

Promptly at 2200, Captain Nadira Torrell arrives with her “assistant” Bellan Gouwilh. She was an attractive pale woman with inky black hair. Bellan was a slender man with whitish blond hair, buzzed close to the scalp. He had unnatural blue eyes, and seemed unfocused most of the time. That raised my suspicions, so I asked Serpy to see if anyone was accessing the systems. He looked, but he wasn’t able to find any intrusions and got really snotty with me. I mean, I don’t hate the guy, but he is literally the Monday of my life. Finally, we described him to Pei’Fa, who was able to identify him as a telepathic monk from the Noetic Order. Assuming that his absent expression meant he was scanning us, I marched into the dinner and informed Captain Torrell that it is extremely rude to bring a telepath onto an RES vessel unannounced. The whole time Pei’Fa is telling me to shoot him in the head before he has a chance to read me. Koto manages to detect a thought that isn’t hers, prompting her to think about our defensive capabilities. Dinner ended early, needless to say.

As our orbit took us around the planet and out of sight of the Paramour, Captain Ni Shen ordered us to change our trajectory, so we would come up in a very different place than expected. When we eventually made our way back to the same side of Chadra, neither ship was where they should have been. Next to our expected location was a mercenary vessel, and once we appeared it immediately moved to engage us. We declined their invitation by starcasting to the edge of the system.

We were reluctant to depart without completing our mission, and it grated to run from these sneaky bastards. We talked over a number of plans, but eventually the Captain agreed to one that would get us what we wanted.

At 124:0830, we starcast again, but this time right on top of them! We blew out their shields and one engine. They were quick to surrender. The Captain explained our position to Captain Torrell, and they came to an agreement. Then we made new plans to go down to the planet’s surface.

I managed to inadvertently piss off the Captain. He agreed to minimize the planet’s existence in his reports in exchange for being left alone to pursue our mission. I asked him if he was so dedicated to the RES mission statement, why then was he so reluctant to report Chadra to his own organization. He didn’t answer, but got up and walked off the bridge. Yevon told me that he’s conflicted. (As if I couldn’t tell that…) so later I apologized to him for causing offence. Then he told me it was none of my business. That’s not true, but I’ll argue it later. I asked Yevon what she was going to do and she answered, “Whatever the Captain orders. The real question is, what are you going to do?” I guess she’s right. That is the question.

Based on new information gleaned from our unexpected guests, we landed the Cudgel near a large tree in a slightly different part of the same continent we were already exploring. We planned to make peaceful contact with a tribe of native pershalans. Ereyie was the main point of contact, and I went along to be sure he came back. Kirrin, Nodagil and Underbough were waiting on the ship for us to come back. Koto had to relieve Underbough of his “lucky grenades” before letting him on the Cudgel. So that was a thing that happened. I guess I should have searched the science team more thoroughly before I let them on board. Who knew that such a squirrelly little guy would have a bunch of grenades down his trousers? I swear, I like the little guy better and better all the time, even if he can’t remember my name. The look on Koto’s face! I swear, by the egg, it was all I could do not to bust out cracking up!

We took some trade goods out to the big tree, and Ereyie laid them all out on a blanket. We waited a bit and the tribe’s trader came out, with two apprentices. His name was Mowanaway. They wore a fabric of a coarse weave, in blacks, greens, oranges, yellows, electric blues, and deep reds. Ereyie talked with him, and we realized we should have a second apprentice, so we got Doc Underbough to come out and join us. We traded samples of various things, like canteens, some of Ereyie’s silks in red and yellow and some distilled catnip, that we called “shaman’s oil”.

They offered up something called jaala fruit, some berries to use as red dye, and spell bones, which were kind of creepy but useful. They actually carved spells into the bones of other humanoids. Ereyie told them it was a tradition among our people to spit in a little tube upon conclusion of a successful trade, so they gamely did so, but it was only three samples. The jaala fruit smells like rotting meat, but it was really very tasty. I can see why they kept telling Ereyie that “Everyone likes jaala fruit!” We agreed to meet again in a few days, and departed with our samples.

I spent the afternoon and evening reviewing the portion of the RES Regs entitled “First Contact Protocols”, and I’m feeling a little uncomfortable about the catnip. And the canteens. The whole thing really. I think we were flying a bit by the seat of our pants, but since they spoke only pershalan, I can’t be sure. Ereyie must have more experience with this than I do, so I guess I’ll just have to trust him.

The next morning, we went back down to meet with the drow. The survivors from the Fit were earning definitely their keep. They told us where to land and what to do in order to safely trade with one of the dark elven tribes. Relatively safely anyway. In exchange for all their help, they asked for two things; 1) to be dropped off somewhere civilized, and 2) to be paid the standard RES guide fee. That seemed fair, and was within the regs, so we agreed.

Since we weren’t sure that anyone could communicate easily with them, we decided that Tic Tac was the right person to be our front man this time. Caliel certainly never went out of his way to teach us to speak drow, and our proficiency with their secret sign language I attribute entirely to the existence of a similar language used by space and star dragons. That and the eagerness of three young children to know what the adults most want to hide from us.

Ria told us that the drow most want charges for the weapons they’ve managed to steal or take from offworld forces they’ve managed to kill. We loaded up 50 charges to trade. The same crew piled into the Cudgel as before and we flew down to the coordinates Ria provided. Kirrin went out and Bishop went with him to unload since he is immune to poison. We had to wait quite a while before anyone showed up. Finally a male showed up and talked to Tic Tac for a while. They made arrangements for us to come back the next day at the same time. Kirrin left 100 spit vials to be filled by a variety of drow. They pushed for us to leave the ammo we brought and to bring more. So that’s what we did.

This time, quite a few drow showed up, including a woman who was clearly in charge, and probably a priestess. She spoke with Kirrin for some time in the drow language, making the deal for the vials. I watched their body language and felt worse and worse about the situation. Something wasn’t going well. Finally, Tic Tac came over to the ship and said, “She wants to talk to Dr. Nodagil.” And I’ll be cracked if Dr. Nodagil didn’t just get up and walk outside. He didn’t even consult, he just waltzed out into the middle of what was probably a drow raiding party. The next thing I hear is Underbough squeaking, “Did he just trade away Nodagil?”

Kirrin trots back on board and says, “Nodagil is staying overnight. We’re supposed to come back and get him at the same time tomorrow.”

I think I said something like, “WHAT THE FUCK. KIRRIN?!?!” but I can’t really remember. Frankly, its kind of a daze. I do remember him saying something like, “She’s bored with me.” When we got back to the ship, I went to see Dr. Rose and tell her we managed to lose her archeologist.

As I walked into the lab, I passed Telliar coming out. She stopped me and said, “Rwvyan, I need to talk to you.

“Not now,” I snapped. I was, possibly, a little bit surly.

“Where’s Nodagil…” she began, but I cut her off.

“NOT NOW,” I growled and walked away, leaving her in the middle of the hall.

“Asshole,” she said.

“Right back at ya’ sweetheart,” I responded.

I explained the situation to Dr. Rose and asked her to come down to the planet the following day. I had a feeling we should’ve started off with a woman in the first place. She sent me to talk with Pei’Fa, who agreed and said he was coming with her. Then I had to tell the Captain, who was, surprisingly, not pissed. He told me things change fast during a contact mission, and asked me my plans to get him back. When I made a joke about cutting through an army of drow, he advised me to call him first.

Every time I think I’ve got the Captain figured out, he surprises me. He’s a pretty cool guy.

The next day we all piled into the Cudgel, loaded for bear. It was a shock to us when Nodagil teleported right onto the ship. Ereyie immediately reversed, and we hauled ass out of there.

I still can’t believe we pulled this shit off. We got the samples, plus Nodagil. I’m calling it a win, and having a drink.



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