Part 37: Auroran - Part 06 - April 19th, 1179 NC: Taking NamesApril 19th, 1179 NC: Taking Names
We beeline for the Moash border. The Moash are already hostile.
Luckily, so are we. We coast in to the first Moash outpost, but no luck.
Heraan LP posted:
This system is the most likely route that invaders from the Heraan House might take. Ever since the Great Moash Invasion of their space some two centuries ago, the Heraan warriors have been more than willing to harass Moash space, so the warriors stationed here are almost constantly being raided. By the end of their stint here, if they survive, they are covered by the small red heron-shaped battle tattoos indicating successful engagements against the Heraan House.
It's on Airfor that we get our first clue. What's Airfor? Breathing, silly!
Heraan LP's Bar posted:
The Moash House warriors drinking here have an air of arrogance about them as if they know they are members of the First Family and are somehow stronger because of it.
The Moash House maintains a massive supply depot here, where most of the supplies required by the entire military are kept in readiness for their use. The three hundred dumps controlled by the depot dot the surface of the world like grotesque pimples. The Mundokiir of the House has decreed that there will also be a garrison of warriors here to protect this vital installation against outside attack.
Airfor's Bar posted:
The warriors stationed here all seem to have a few grumbles about their current posting. They would rather be on the borders of Moash space defending against the depredations of warriors from the other houses than being posted to guard this planet.
As before, Earth provides the key.
You are sitting in the bar observing the Moashi dogs, disguised as a humble worker, dirty from the days toils, listening in the hope that one of them will let slip something about the traitor.
"I strongly suggest you get out of our seat, 'miss'," hisses the leader of a small group of what you guess passes for warriors amongst the Moash, and, in keeping with your disguise, you slide off their seat, keeping your eyes down.
"Just like that scum that Am'Rosso sent those guys to meet," sneers the leader, and the others laugh and your ears pick up as Am'Rosso is the name of the Moash Thurokiir. "Apparently the Heraani weakling didn't want to be seen anywhere in Auroran space so he sent a message saying to meet him somewhere in Federation space. But then I suppose that it is fitting that it will be cowardice that will finally be the downfall of their supposed 'House'."
As you digest this information, you let your rage slowly dissipate away. You remind yourself that the yapping of dogs is meaningless, and no true warrior would react to it.
You slowly finish your drink and start making your way back to the spaceport to start searching through the Federation.
All storylines lead to New England.
As you sit sipping your drink a crusty old spacer sits next to you with his drink.
"You're one of those Auroran warriors, aren't you?' he asks rhetorically, not even waiting for an answer. "Don't see too many of your kind outside of your ships up here in the Federation. You would want to watch yourself, or the Bureau will drag you in to have a word to you.
"Mind you," he continues rambling on, "the last one of you guys I mentioned that to didn't pay too much attention, but then the last time I saw him, he was headed towards New England, and everybody knows that only the old retirees from the military or the Bureau live there, so maybe he knew someone who still had a little clout."
You listen quietly as a he rambles on, and you even buy him another drink. He tells you his life story, which bores you no end, but that first snippet of information was worth every long minute you spend in his company.
Finally you manage to disengage yourself politely and head off toward your ship, finally with a specific destination in mind.
Shit. Looks like we just started a war! Back to Heraan!
In a dingy alleyway in a distant spaceport, you enter a bar to listen to yet more rumor and hearsay. Unexpectedly, you glimpse Bariod, the Dominance dockmaster, talking animatedly to a group of men. As you approach, smiling widely, one of the men turns and beneath the swirl of his cape you notice the emblem of House Moash!
You shake Bariod's hand warmly, while your mind races. The Heron Style has changed your view of combat - by ships, fists, and wits. You realize now that Bariod is the traitor. You have been lucky to catch him at his game. You also know that Bariod will betray you as quickly as he betrayed House Heraan, so you must lull the man with guile and cunning.
You gesture to his companions and ask him to introduce you. "I'm always happy to meet fellow warriors."
Bariod hesitates but introduces you to the four men who are with him. You keep smiling and lock their names into your memory, and ask what it is they were discussing, exchanging hearty handshakes with them. You see confusion in his eyes. He must be wondering whether or not you know of his treachery. To survive, you must keep him confused.
Bariod says, "These men are undercover agents for House Heraan who have recently stolen the prototype of a new Federation assault weapon of incredible power. They were about to show it to me when we saw you approaching."
Bariod's blundering excuse tells you a number of things. He's not a master spy at all, which means he has only recently turned against House Heraan. Also, by openly mentioning that the men were undercover agents, he showed that he had little knowledge of such things. Bariod, it seems, is a fool and his capture will be relatively easy - once you dispose of the Moashi.
You accompany the four men toward their ship, ostensibly to 'view the prototype'. As you walk, you distract Bariod with talk of matters in Dominance, carefully avoiding anything of importance. Bariod may have sold out, but he might not have given away all his secrets yet. When the Moashi ship is in sight, you summon all your strength, and leap at Bariod. You snap your feet into his head, knocking him unconscious. While performing this attack, you pull out a pistol and fire over your shoulder into the Moashi leader's head. You feel blood and brains wash over your back. You hit the deck rolling, as two shots from the man behind you whistle over you. Continuing the roll, you piston upwards at the last possible second and smash your head under the chin of an assailant, snapping his neck with an audible crack.
Pain flashes in your side as a knife from the man beside you cuts through your tunic and slices across your ribs. You grab his knife arm and pull his shoulder into the barrel of your pistol. His shoulder and half of his upper back mist out behind him as you pull the trigger. Shock kills him before he even hits the ground.
Spinning, you narrowly avoid being decapitated by the remaining Moashi dog, whose sword passes across your cheek and lodges in your shoulder. Twisting, you wrench it from his grasp, catch it in mid-air, and stab it neatly into his mouth, which is conveniently opened in surprise at the speed of your movements. Blood pumps from his shattered face as you let the sword go, allowing him to collapse on the floor.
After this, the task of dragging Bariod to your ship seems to take forever, especially seeing as the local guards are out looking for you. While it would be easy to establish your credentials, it would take time, time which the Council didn't give you.
It is a long and weary journey back to Heraan, with only the attentions of your ship-based Med-Station to heal your wounds. Some scars will remain with you always, but at least you're not dead. You quickly grow weary of Bariod's tirades against House Heraan, and his wheedling promises of power and wealth if you would but release him. Paying him no heed, you deliver him to the Council before you are hurried to one of the arcology's hospitals.
...was that a proposal?
It is some days before you are able to stand before the Council and learn of Bariod's fate. Kuron, whom you now know as the Mundokiir (the tactical leader) of House Heraan, tells you that Bariod has been taken to the Heraan Gulag system for interrogation and execution.
"A fitting fate for a traitor against House Heraan," says the stern-faced Kuron. Bazara walks forward to stand before you. "I have lost a brother this day," he says bleakly, "but I have found family to replace him and more. But you're a girl, Little Wolf, of House Heraan; will you honor me by joining my family? Will you sit at my table, teach my children, side with me in battle? What say you?" he asks, with a most serious but gentle look on his features and his hands upon your shoulders.
"I will, Bazara. With all my heart, I will!" you reply. The cheers are deafening as Bazara hugs you to him, and you feel as if you have not known pride until this day.
After allowing you a few minutes to savor the moment, Kuron pulls you aside.
"You have begun growing into a great warrior," he praises you seriously, "but for now you need experience the universe. Go out and start making a name for yourself by testing yourself against our enemies, I will make sure that any missions I think could benefit your growth as a warrior will be passed on to you via the mission BBS system. When I think you are ready, I may have something for you back here."
With that he walks away, and you are left with a determination to show Kuron and the other house leaders that you are strong enough for anything they require of you.
We waste some time by defending Heraani borders - this is a simple recurring mission that usually consists of showing up somewhere and killing three enemies, usually Abominations.
And we finish off our hat trick. We capture a stray shuttle disabled in the crossfire and land to cheers and adulation.
You and your fellow warriors greet each other with gleeful bear-hugs and a lot of shouting. After you all celebrate each others' kills, you head off to find the dockmaster to see if you are going to be recompensed for your services. He thanks you heartily when you enter his office, and pays you the sum of 25,000 credits for your efforts.
We then head off to northern Federation space to resupply on Rebellion hellhound missiles - all this mission-running for the Aurorans is not endearing us to the Feds, and access to worlds is diminishing. Among the many pirates felled by our guns on the way north, a class D starbridge is captured and used as an escort. It manages to take out a pirate carrier on its own before dying, paying its cost many times over after looting spoils are divided up.
Heraan LP - 'Heraan' posted:
This listening post is named for the Heraan House in remembrance of the deaths of the many thousands of warriors who died ensuring the escape of the House leaders through this system during the Great Moash Invasion two centuries ago. Because of their sacrifice, the leadership of the Heraan Family survived and was able to travel through Federation space to lead a counterstrike against the Moash homeworld. The result of this attack caused the Moash warriors to be recalled, allowing the Heraan House to resettle its own space.
We return to Heraan, and we have been expected.
You are summoned before the Council by a messenger. He stops you fetching your loincloth with a laugh.
"That is only worn on formal occasions. The clothes you have on will suffice for now."
In an annex of the great hall, Kuron indicates for you to sit at the table with Bazara, Nuada Skullsplitter, the head of the Family, and his adviser Tuatha Widowmaker. The Thurokiir, Techerakh the Bloody Hammer, imposes over the gathering. His tattoos are so closely packed that it is all but impossible to see his actual flesh color.
Kuron talks of the corruption and complacency of the Moash, leading the Auroran people down a dark path of little hope. He speaks of the ascendancy of the House of Heraan, and the work to topple the House Moash.
"It is our belief," he intones seriously, "that we only need to find their weaknesses in order to crush them utterly."
"Little Wolf," he says. "You will not be a typical Auroran warrior. You will be an integral part of House Heraan's war machine: a spy, a phantom of retribution, a thorn in the flesh of the Federation, a turner of tides. Yours will be a lonely path, and a dangerous one. I saw the potential in you, as did Karlaekaar. Your skill is great. If you fulfil your potential, you'll be a major worry for our enemies."
There's really only one "border world" between Federation and Moash space:
Techerakh now turns to you and grins.
"I'm not goin' to blow smoke up your bum, lass. Kuron can do that. What I am goin' to say is that the destruction of the Moashi is the most important task that I could ever take on, 'tis me life's work." He gestures along the edges of Auroran space on a holographic map.
"There are rumors of a supply fleet moving from Federation space into Moashi space. You've just got the job to destroy it. Only problem is it has connections with the Bureau of Internal Investigations. This 'Bureau' is supposedly a department of officials dedicated to protecting the Federation from espionage, but, in reality, they basically run the Federation. These guys make the most bloodthirsty of killers look like my Aunt Daffodil. They have no honor whatsoever. If the Bureau is working with the Moashi, we know who to blame for the blockade of Dominance. Combine that with Bariod's treachery and you have a merry mix. But this is just conjecture. I need you to check out the ships in that convoy. I suggest that you disable one and board it. Capture some of the cargo, and then destroy the rest of the convoy. You may get lucky and find the escort light. If not, you will have a real fight on your hands. Get it? Good!"
You smile at Techerakh. Even though he is the toughest warrior in the ranks of House Heraan, he also has a sense of humor. Bidding farewell to all, you rise and decamp.
Unsurprisingly, we find the Bureau there. Now, this system has no stellar objects, so they are in theory free to run at any time. They of course do not.
I run in and smack the Frigate hard before its escort jumps in to intercept - a handful of Class I Valkyries, nothing notable. They quickly run away, and I finish the job. I leave no survivors.
We return to Heraan.
Doesn't the use of trackable, encoded money invalidate the galaxy-wide use of the credit for all these shady backroom deals and rebel blockade running we do?
"The battle was remarkably brief," you tell Techerakh as you dock, "but they were very upset with me by the time I left." Techerakh chuckles, and nods knowingly. You get the impression he has done this before. Together you open the cargo container you captured, and are surprised to see it full of pile upon pile of credit chips.
Hunting through, you find a computer pad and quickly run a patch to break into the encoded information. It takes a while. You scan the contents. You are more than a little surprised by what you see!
The Bureau were exchanging the cash and containers of weapons and supplies for Moashi spies in return for accelerating operations against the Wild Geese of New Ireland. They felt that those mercenaries were a threat to the future balance of power in the galactic south, and might hamper operations between the Federation and the Moash Empire.
Once again, we head out to defend our borders. This time we end up facing down three cruisers!
You feel the anger rise inside your chest, fiery as the furnace of hell itself. The Moashi were planning to liquidate the remaining families! If ever there was a piece of information that could bring down the First Family this was it.
Techerakh smiles at you wolfishly. "You picked the right container, didn't you! Keep this to yourself for the moment. I need to consider the best possible way to use this new-found information.
"In the mean time," he smiles proudly, "you should be out there making a name for yourself, Little Wolf. The road ahead of us is long and arduous, I need to know you are ready. If you can show me you are stronger than our enemies, I will look for you here."
I can't even approach them, such is the volume of railgun fire they produce. Instead I lure them next to the listening post they were raiding, and let its tiny 150mm railgun chip down their health while I use my own railgun to add to the fire.
A silly amount of time later, all three are disabled and ready for a plundering.
Well, not quite disabled. They all die regardless.
I wonder if we get a tattoo for every crew member killed, or just per ship? Because we just killed about 500 people. We return to Heraan.
Techerakh spies you sitting chatting to a few other warriors as soon as he walks in to the bar. He ushers you to a quiet corner.
"Swift action is required. Things are afoot here that even our combined minds could not have foreseen. The Dani have begun to sniff about the borders of Heraani space like the dogs that they are. It is necessary that they do not cause too much havoc. Our warriors are still smarting from the Moashi blockade. 'Twould also be politic at the moment if the other Houses knew little about the strengths or weaknesses of House Heraan. The Dani must withdraw without forcing our lads into a swirling battle across a multitude of systems. No doubt the Moashi have put them up to it from behind the scenes. Cunning curs, the Moashi, avoiding suspicion by bullying us by proxy."
"So! You will lead a raiding force into Dani space. I suggest hitting the Dani Himear system, as my intelligence tells me that they have an elite formation of warships patrolling there while their normal fleets are out harassing us. If you spot them, destroy them. But be warned. By the time you start to jump back to Heraani space, the Dani war fleets posturing on our borders will have turned around, heading for home. You'll have to come back through that way." Techerakh grins at you. You get the impression that if you were forced to give the Dani a bloody nose on your way home, Techerakh wouldn't mind...
If you're male his quip is instead "Never refuse your wife anything she asks for, and maybe she'll let YOU keep all yer limbs."
You meet a number of warriors in a briefing room at the spaceport. All of them are hardened looking men and women, and Techerakh knows all of them by name. You are surprised to be introduced to Karrod the Gifted. He smiles at you, showing a mouth full of chipped and broken teeth, and the plastic of his cybernetic hand feels cool to you as you shake. He notices your gaze, and chuckles to himself.
"Don't you start! My wife already took one hand, I'm not looking to lose to another women. Imagine what she would do to me then!"
You laugh heartily. If Karrod can make jokes before a mission, he must be able to handle himself well. He is after all known as 'The Gifted' because of his ability to kill large numbers of enemies. Rumor has it that he lost his hand in battle against Techerakh to decide which of them should be Thurokiir. You do feel better knowing that Karrod is going with you.
Next time: Team Heraan, Galaxy Police!