SS Collateral Damage, Mainday Shift, 02 February 3201…
The annual gamefest rolled around again a little while ago, and as we had some of the same players as in the first session and some different ones, this is a flashforward – we assume that somehow the PCs managed to complete the first episode and escape with their lives and the stasis pod. Ironically, Captain Couder sells it to their boss, Torun Balkan, who quickly discovers that he needs the codes to open it.
Adept Aytuna Durak, Librarian of the Great Archive, unwittingly has the codes in her section of the Library. Somewhere. Torun instructs the PCs to retrieve the codes for him so he can open the pod.
Meanwhile, Lord Mareecha still wants the pod, and if he wants it, Sertac Bayram of the Confederation Embassy and his saurian bodyguard Engerec don’t want him to have it. Whatever it is.
- Fromar, mad scientist and AI researcher.
- Lisa Williams, ship’s doctor and renegade psion.
- Captain Roscoe, lostworlder seafarer and pirate. Arrr.
- The I-9 Handybot, library drone with deficient antivirus software.
- Big Ted, urseminite legbreaker-for-hire.
- Ed Dyson, ship’s engineer.
Urseminite? Yes, I borrowed those from Galileo Games’ Bulldogs, I’ll share the racial writeup in due course, but for now think of Big Ted as an alcoholic, psychopathic ewok.
NOW READ ON…
Torun Balkan is hiring surveyor crews for the aging, leaky and heavily-insured freighter Collateral Damage, registered out of Gazzain, which allows him to avoid certain inconvenient regulations. Amongst those he has hired are the PCs. It turns out that Captain Couder has sold the stasis pod to him, and he believes that the pod access codes are on record in the Great Archive at Zonguldak. He commissions the PCs to go there and recover the right code for him; after all, two of them were in the party that recovered the pod, and might know useful details, and another one is an ex-Archive library drone.
What could possibly go wrong? I mean, he’s basically asked them to check out a library book for him, right?
Tooling up – which in hindsight is my fault for not explaining the local law levels to them, I must fix that – the party catch the monorail from the spaceport to Zonguldak, which takes them through the nature reserve that featured heavily in Back in Black. Arriving in town, they quickly locate the Great Archive and approach it, studiously ignoring the razor wire and the ornate lion statues flanking the entrance.
After a brief altercation with the guard, who doesn’t want to let the urseminite inside, Captain Roscoe – who is possibly the most intimidating man in the entire sector – bullies the guard into letting them in without raising the alarm.
In reception, they quickly establish that the library AI is not authorised to give them pod access codes – you never know what’s inside a pod – and they need to talk to a human librarian, who is duly summoned.
Meanwhile, Lord Mareecha, who burns for revenge against Andrews and Fromar, has followed them to the Archive. He enters with insults and threats. While they are trying to out-intimidate each other, Sertac Bayram and Engerec, who have been following Lord Mareecha on general principles, intervene and calm things down. Mareecha storms off in a huff, affecting not to hear the party’s sarcastic comments.
The group chat briefly with Sertac and Engerec, but decide they are not worth following up. Adept Aytuna Durak, the Librarian, arrives and they engage in a mutually satisfactory discussion of the I-9 Handybot’s prototype status, Mandate history, and other small talk before explaining that they need access to codes. Aytuna provides the public domain codes right away, but explains they will need authorisation from the Grandmaster Adept to get at the restricted ones, which are of course what they need.
They call Torun Balkan with a progress update. He points out to them that he already has the public domain codes, which he downloaded from the Archive datanet earlier. They ask Aytuna where they can find the Grandmaster – "That building over there, his office is on the 10th floor, I’m sure you can get an appointment."
Now, this was intended to be an episode of social interaction and intrigue, but as you will see, the party had other ideas.
Having tried and failed to hack into the Archive’s AI, and in the case of the I-9 Handybot infect it with an extremely dangerous virus, they briefly consider hacking the Grandmaster’s diary so that he will see them today, before deciding on asking the Librarian to accompany them into a sealed booth so they can discuss the next step in private. This happens all the time, so the Librarian is not worried. The booths are small, so only Roscoe and Big Ted go in with her. Fromar, who grows frustrated and restive at not being able to hack the AI, disables the booth’s internal surveillance.
I point out that they are in the heart of one of the most heavily-defended areas of the planet, and about to irritate the third most powerful group in the sector. They acknowledge this, but proceed with their Cunning Plan – Roscoe explains to Aytuna that if she doesn’t give them what they want, he will first cut off her ears with his cutlass, and then step outside, locking her in the booth with an urseminite.
(We establish at this point that the urseminite is the former star of a children’s holovid show called "Don’t Cry Children, It’s Blood All Right", recently cancelled after an unfortunate incident involving Big Ted and one Looby Lou. The tape of this incident has been withdrawn from general circulation but is much coveted among the online snuff movie community.)
After a show of willpower not expected from an Extra with Spirit d6, Aytuna eventually cracks and gives them the restricted codes. The booth is soundproofed and isolated, but as they open the door to leave, Aytuna screams for help. The AI puts two and two together – Adept in distress, suspicious activity in the surveillance system, armed intruders in the library – and raises the alarm.
The party now flees the building. Slowly, because Roscoe has a wooden leg and Big Ted only has little legs (Small Hindrance). Armed security converge on their location, both on foot and in gravsleds, and they steal a soccer mom’s people carrier for their daring escape, engaging the police in a vicious firefight as they go – the death toll among security forces will eventually rise to eight.
Roscoe demands to drive, despite his only vehicle skill being Boating. Dyson – who is a genius among engineers – reconfigures the vehicle’s controls so that they work like a boat’s. The I-9 Handybot is actually an accomplished gravsled pilot, but has not been asked to help. Roscoe damages the vehicle pulling out of the car park, so Dyson is called upon again for running repairs. Meanwhile Big Ted and Lisa Andrews are firing submachineguns at the pursuing security forces, and Formar manages to hack their flight controls, causing one to crash into a building and the other to roll over, tipping out all the occupants (who thanks to some truly appalling rolls have all forgotten to fasten their safety belts).
They flee towards the spaceport, 25 km away. After a few more casualties the police decide to follow them a little out of range, and order them to pull over, throw down their arms, and emerge with their hands plainly visible.
This leads to an entertaining scuffle between the I-9 Handybot (which feels it must pull over to minimise further harm to sentient beings) and Captain Roscoe (who is shouting "Mutiny! Mutiny!"). This consumes most of the party’s bennies.
The party contact Torun Balkan on an encrypted channel, and demand that he arrange fake IDs and passage offworld, and organise an orbital strike to help them fake their deaths, or they will reveal his involvement. Torun is happy to oblige, and they go offroad into the nature reserve, having established that they are only a few klicks from the clifftop mansions of the elite. As they bump through the forest, Dyson McGyvers the entertainment system to show convincing holograms of the party still inside the vehicle (admittedly, dancing to Brotherhood of Man songs, but hey, he’s under pressure here), then bail out. Ably assisted by Dyson’s expert guidance, Big Ted blows up the vehicle with his SMG.
Seconds later, the remains of the vehicle (and a number of nearby trees) are totally obliterated by an orbital artillery strike. The party calls to thank Torun Balkan, who explains he didn’t do it. They discuss this for a moment but discard it as irrelevant. A quick jog brings them to the mansion they previously raided, now under repair by contractors before being sold. These they evade, and take the cliffside path to the obligatory boathouse, where they steal a cabin cruiser and make their way to the spaceport (which is also on the coast) under cover of darkness.
They spend the next day or so laying low, and identifying Balkan Group’s warehouse managers. By dint of following these worthies and some low-grade hacking, they establish where the stasis pod has been taken, and prepare to assault the warehouse and steal it (they now have the codes, you see). Hacking the warehouse system to find out where it is, they discover it has already been loaded onto the Collateral Damage. In a fit of pique, they spoof the warehouse computer into sending three tons of assault rifles to their ship as well, before sneaking into the spaceport proper and making their way to the Collateral Damage.
When opened, the pod is found to contain Mandate-era grav engine spares, mint in the box, of a type Torun knows are in demand on Kov. So off to Kov they go…
- Why was Torun Balkan so eager to help the party acquire fake IDs and flee offworld? How could this possibly benefit him?
- Who was it who ordered the orbital strike on the party’s vehicle, and why?
- Further, why did the local government cover that up afterwards?
The party briefly considered these questions, but quickly drove on. I, however, will build them into the emerging backstory.
If you set up a world to be the PCs’ permanent base of operations, tell them so, before the little murderhobos have to run away. Tell them about the law levels as well. Really, I should have known that by now, so it’s my own fault. Oh well, never mind – easy come, easy go.
At this point it looks like the PCs actually are one of the Combine’s surveryor crews, which is just fine.