Faj Smash-Smash is holding on to Monster as the two crews have been negotiating. Brynhold Swiitner regains consciousness, emerging from a pile of crates.
"You really ought to secure these things." – Faj Smash-Smash
"I think I've suffered a space concussion."
Bill and Flo have given the crew directions to the UPS Processing Center, and they're heading back to repair their ship before they make another run on the blockade. They refuse to surrender one of their parcels of Gorovian death-slugs to the crew.
The pirate who they've held hostage after the last fight is now being held duct-taped to the ceiling being supervised by Faj.
"Don't forget to feed the fish!" -Brynhold Swiitner
"Oh shit. I didn't know you had a fish!" -Faj Smash-Smash
☐ Support the UPS in their efforts to run the blockade
☐ Go to the UPS and get custody of Wong's shipments
☐ Go into the swamp and find some slugs ourselves
☐ Commandeer the Space Pirate juggernaut.
Bill also mentioned that the Space Pirate gear has been likely been scavenged from a mining colony from the planet over that has lost contact recently.
The crew recounts what they know about the Kei Pirates, currently occupying the monstrous juggernaut stopping all the shipments to and from Gorovia. Once a powerful and terrifying force in space, the Kei Pirates have been reduced to a petty band of criminals. Altuunius and The One discuss with the crew the history and rumors surrounding the Kei Pirates. Khalef Kokotl is busy with their data pad while this is all going on.
Kokotl, in private correspondence with Shimi, is eavesdropped on by the DICC who for some reason is not happy with it.
The crew arrives at the closest Gorovian outpost, a strange combination of Mos Eisley Cantina and Degobah meets a vacant lot. A strange frog creature, a Gorovian, jawing on a reed is sitting on a chair.
"Hunnerd credits fer the day."
"Frog's rude." -DICC
"Cat rude." -Jyownwo (Joan)
"Hello sir!" -Kokotl
"Bird's talking." -Joan
Kokotl pays Joan 150 credits, satisfying him. The Monster/DICC tries to make small chat with Joan, talking about the nature of the Gorovian death-slugs and their taste and preparation.
"When ya snap'em, ya gets the flavahs in dah meats." -Joan
The Gorovians are an amphibious sapient race which tend to be antisocial and stinky. They are capable of space travel, they just don't really like people and they tend to be very set in their ways and see no purpose or thrill in exploring.
The crew makes their way to the UPS outpost hub, passing over squishy unpaved roads with no curbs.
"I am wet." -Sharna Marsh-Marsh, annoyed
The town has not a few Gorovians about, as well as some members of Terran species milling about. Most folks that are not Gorovians are wearing UPS uniforms or seem to be otherwise affiliated with the UPS. The crew makes their way to the front desk of the UPS Hub. The person at the front desk begins to go into a spiel, which Kokotl circumvents with some corporate nonsense and essentially hijacks the front-desk person's programming chip and has them lead them to management. Monster jumps onto Koko's shoulder and snags their claws into Kokotl's sweater.
"YOU WANT ME TO COME WITH YOU meow, YOU DON'T WANT ME TO MAKE THIS A BIG DEAL!" -Monster
"I don't know what you're talking about!" -Kokotl
As Monster and Kokotl continue to squabble, they come to a quick understanding between each other.
"WE HAVE IT UNDER CONTROL." -Kokotl & Monster-DICC
"You people are a circus." – Brynhold Swiitner
The crew is lead into an executive room with the Regional Manager for the UPS Hub, a man by the name of Zwoodawg.
"Greetings! I am Khalef Kokotl, of the Kokotl Combine. I am here on behalf of our mutual acquaintance, Wong of Wong's Famous Noodles. We're here to help you with the blockade!"
"Oh. Uh. Okay." – the manager
Kokotl has Sharna sign the forms transferring control of the shipment of Gorovian death-slugs to their custody. Swiitner asks more about the nature of the behavior-adjustment chips, and the manager explains what it's for, with Kokotl's help:
"The chip is a regular anti-theft measure designed to enforce, um…" -Zwoodawg
"Corporate compliance." -Kokotl
"Yes, uh, thank you." -Zudog
Zwoodawg is humanoid in shape with very prominent cheekbones and a strong nose-ridge and is quite flustered with Brynhold Swiitner. He offers to take the crew on a tour through the Hub, explaining the company and their technology.
Active Question: Tour the UPS Hub.
"I'm gonna take my lunch. I'd love to give you a tour of the facility." – Zwoodawg
"I would be flattered." -Swiitner
As the crew goes through the facility, plans go into effect. Kokotl and DICC conspire to infiltrate the UPS Hub systems and scuttle the ships, hoping to get the juggernaut to send out all its Zwoodawg goes into a long and excited chat with Swiitner about the nature of the behavioral chips, what they're for, and why they're good. Kokotl takes firm hold of Monster while the DICC attempts to infiltrate the UPS security systems with no luck. The corporate AI notices the infiltrating DICC, who attempts to negotiate with it. DICC convinces the AI to let it go.
Red security lights come on briefly and turn off as the DICC reintegrates with Monster. Kokotl covertly messages Swiitner to ask Zwoodawg to find out the mainframe password.
"This has all been so fascinating. Hey, what's your password?" -Brynhold Swiitner
"Ha! Ha ha ha! Hahaha!" -Zwoodawg
Zwoodawg explains that the blockade, though not "officially" happening according to the UPS, has been doing on for a month. The UPS is paying extortionate rates for allowing some shipments to pass, but the UPS has trying to make runs anyway.
Meanwhile, at the behest of the DICC and Brynhold Swiitner, Altuunius slips away and is able to steal one of the behavioral-modification chips, plus the relevant gun mechanism needed to embed and remove the chip. The tentacled thief is able to do this without detection.
Kokotl offers to engage with the Kei Pirates, if Zwoodawg would scramble the UPS frigates on the planet to offer a cover. Zwoodawg, though interested, ultimately decides that the loss of material and to a lesser extent the number of casualties would not merit the cost of breaking the barricade at present. Zwoodawg says that the Kei Pirates can be reasoned with or at least bribed off, and that the larger UPS organization is currently negotiating a payoff sum that would convince the Kei Pirates to lift the blockade. That is, assuming nothing untoward had happened.
"You didn't…kill any of them, did you?" -Zwoodawg
"No, we just had a…hostile negotiation." -Kokotl
"Oh! I was afraid you'd have killed them. Can you imagine the retribution?" -Zwoodawg
"Ha ha ha! They'd burn this place to the ground!" -Kokotl
With this, the tour of the UPS Hub facility is completed. Regional Manager Zwoodawg tells the crew that the remaining four crates Gorovian death-slugs has been loaded into the cargo bay of the Oneship while the crew was on tour, and Wong will receive a return payment for the loss of one of his crates.
Quest complete: Tour the UPS Hub.
As the crew leaves the facility, Kokotl receives urgent and stressed communications from Zwoodawg, telling them that the Kei Pirates are…not happy. Kokotl sends a perfectly tailored boilerplate response basically saying that mistakes happen and it's not their fault and you can't sue us and you can forward any complaints you may have to our PR department head Brynhold Swiitner before ending correspondence.
"Some guy called. I let it go to the message hub. Your fish was a bit hungry. I fed him. He's under your bed right now. It's fish-ish and pretty upset. The pirate is not dead. He's duct-taped to the wall. The fish was not happy with him either…" -Faj Smash-Smash
"I don't have a fish, Faj." -Brynhold Swiitner
"Oh. Well, you do now." -Faj Smash-Smash
In Brynhold's bunk, there is something rampaging behind the door. Faj opens the doors and a aquatic monstrosity resembling a cross between a coalecanth and a gila monster scarpers up. It has extending jaws, like a goblin shark. This mud-colored moaning monstrosity runs up to Brynhold Swiitner and is, surprisingly, immediately smitten with him and affectionately nibbles on his shoe.
"I'm gonna name him Dump. He's not gonna be hungry for at least another whenever." -Brynhold Swiitner
There's a message from Shimi on the Oneship dashboard.
"Per our discussion, I've set up a small parley aboard the Tyrantus. You will be afforded safe passage on the Tyrantus. This meeting will be held in two days." -Shimi
A pregnant pause.
"WHAT DID YOU DO?" -Sharna Marsh-Marsh
"We're just e-mailing, Captain Sharna. We're pen pals." -Kokotl
Faced with this sudden revelation, Sharna Marsh-Marsh attacks Kokotl, lifting it off the ground and starting to tear its sweater. As Sharna Marsh-Marsh launches into a barrage of questions, Kokotl tells the crew that it had been in correspondence with Shimi since their last encounter on Plavagun.
"Why have you been talking to this guy?!" -Sharna Marsh-Marsh
"Oh, I don't know, Captain Marsh-Marsh. Maybe to keep us from BEING SHOT OUT OF THE SKY?" -Khalef Kokotl
Sharna Marsh-Marsh unravels Kokotl's sweater as the questioning gets increasingly hostile; Kokotl stands its ground and insinuates that the only reason that the Chaz Zabrick was able to be returned to Hoseki Station at all is because of the positive impressions that Kokotl managed to foster with Shimi.
The DICC, slipping out of Monster and into the computer's mainframe, reveals to the rest of the crew that the disembodied intelligent nanoswarm had accessed the communications logs between Shimi and Kokotl back when Kokotl allowed it to access its datapad to upload and replicate the schematics for the Bloat vaccine, and had been hoping to leverage this information against Kokotl, but was not sure exactly how to blackmail the shiltolvian. This shocks and wounds The One and Brynhold Swiitner, who are surprised that the DICC would withhold that kind of information from them.
The shouting and interpersonal squabbles continue to escalate; Faj Smash-Smash prepares some popcorn which he shares with Dump and the still-captive Kei Pirate still duct-taped to the wall.
"Do you really believe that we would have been able to separate Mr. Zabrick from his entourage and throw them off our trail? No. It was a business negotiation, same as always." -Khalef Kokotl
"You lied to us!" -Sharna Marsh-Marsh
"Did I, Captain Marsh-Marsh? Did you lie when you spoke to Vekna?" -Khalef Kokotl
At the mention of Vekna Fang-Fang, Sharna Marsh-Marsh rips Kokotl's sweater clean in half and tearing it off his body, deeply distressing the sweater-savoring shiltolvian. As Sharna Marsh-Marsh pulls Kokotl's favorite pink sweater out of storage, preparing to store it, Faj Smash-Smash asks who Vekna is.
"Who even is Vekna Fang-Fang?" -The One
"Vekna Fang-Fang? Oh yeah. That guy. Good fighter." -Faj Smash-Smash
"…I know who Vekna Fang-Fang is. He works for us." -the pirate
Finally speaking up, the Kei Pirate who has been duct-taped to the wall reveals that Vekna Fang-Fang recently approached the Kei Pirates offering his considerable fighting prowess to the service of the pillaging private post plunderers. He had offered to do this in exchange for a relatively small favor: a shipment of Gorovian death-slugs.
"He said he needed it for a dowry. For some Ctarl-Ctarl lady he was bethrothed to. Come to think of it, I think her name was Marsh-Marsh, like yours…" -Rolf
"WHAT?" -Sharna Marsh-Marsh
"What?! You were engaged before me?!" -Faj Smash-Smash
"We were NEVER engaged!" -Sharna Marsh-Marsh
"Well good! Because I'm NOT a homewrecker!" -Faj Smash-Smash
Sharna Marsh-Marsh, horrified, drops Kokotl's favorite sweater to the ground, causing Kokotl to get in a brief struggle with Dump before the scrappy shill can get the sweater away and put it on.
The rest of the crew's attention focuses on the pirate, who reveals that his name is Rolf. An aspiring actor before falling in with the Kei Pirates, he explains the situation on the juggernaut Tyrantus. It is crewed by a force of at least 90 pirates. The Kei Pirates also have a similar juggernaut vessel in relatively close proximity similarly manned, with another several hundred stationed on the nearby mining colony. To attack the Tyrantus head-on would be suicidal.
"Oh, okay then. Well, we have another plan." -Brynhold Swiitner
Swiitner embeds the behavioral-modification chip that Altuunius had stolen from the facility into Rolf's head. Swiitner and DICC reveal their plan to use the poor privateer as a sleeper agent, taking control of him to wreak havoc on the Kei Pirate forces.
They realize, immediately afterwards, that they have failed to program the chip before embedding it in Rolf, and programming it while still inside him would be…difficult.
"Oh well. We might as well have some fun…" -The One
"I like this kind of fun." -DICC
The crew briefly debates what horrible fate lies in store for Rolf. The DICC uploads itself into the chip, programming Rolf to blow a raspberry whenever anyone utters the word "pirate" and to begin every sentence with the word 'Brynhold' and end it with the word 'Swiitner'.
"There's more where that came from. If you don't wanna shit your pants every time someone says the word 'and', you listen up." -Brynhold Swiitner
Thus a cockamamie conspiracy is commenced: the crew begins to scheme on how to use the remote-activated farting space pirate to somehow break the blockade.
It's going to happen.
☐ Escape the blockade with Wong's death-slugs shipment.
☐ Rendez-vouz with Shimi on the Tyrantus.
☐ Deal with Errannius and their retinue.
☐ Skabis and Ashlee are still at large.
☐ Find out who has stopped the "special shrimp shipments" to Wong's Famous Noodles.
☐ Steal Melfina Khan's research.
☐ Investigate the Ctarl-Ctarl empire purges.
☐ Discover the nature of "The Plan" that Chaz Zabrick and George Luo has.
☐ Obtain a "big fuck-off body" for Reggie, who is still locked in a firewall in Reggie's ship.
☐ Seek the Galactic Leyline.