Collateral Damage Episode 4: Everyone Comes to Mizah

Posted: 10 November 2015 in Collateral Damage

I had an unexpected opportunity to run a couple of games last weekend, and with nothing beyond vague ideas for the next adventure prepared, I grabbed a couple of the free one-sheets for Daring Tales of the Space Lanes and filed off the serial numbers… The first one was “Everyone Comes to Trix”, free to download at the Triple Ace Games website. Here there be spoilers!

SS Collateral Damage, Alterday Shift, 01 March 3201…

Arriving back at Mizah with the intention of getting their version of events at Kov published first, the players discover that their "terrorist attack" on the Great Archive has resulted in a substantial tightening of weapons regulations. Dissatisfied with what he is now allowed to carry, Big Ted tells the I-9 Handybot that the group are fastening the components of their weapons to its back, and they will reassemble them outside. When stopped by the customs officials, the I-9 Handybot points this out and is taken away to be searched and field-stripped. Big Ted takes advantage of the distraction to Stealth his way past security with a sawn-off shotgun concealed inside Little Ted, his cuddly toy which he deludedly considers (a) real and (b) his best friend.

(If he is prepared to eviscerate his best friend, and insert a concealed weapon in his friend’s guts which if fired will blow off said friend’s head, one has to wonder how safe the rest of the part are with him. Since he has by this point concealed a loaded assault rifle in Roscoe’s cabin in the hopes that Roscoe’s slave girl Maryam finds it and shoots him with it, one has to assume "not very".)

Captain Roscoe’s cutlass, while attracting unwanted attention, is not actually illegal, and neither Dyson’s Horripilator nor the I-9’s taser are lethal weapons, so they are allowed out without problems. While they are re-assembling the I-9 Handybot – Mizah customs are much better at taking things to pieces and searching inside them than they are at putting them back together again – Torun Balkan, their employer, approaches them and says he has a plan for dealing with the various criminal charges against them. It is in three parts; first, he endorses their plan to give the Mandate orbital defence grid node at Kov to the Great Archive, which will surely improve the Archive’s perceptions of them. Second, they were due a large bonus for that completely successful mission, which he has diverted into bribes and other payments to encourage law enforcement not to pursue the case. Third, he has an old friend who needs some discrete help; she is married to an influential political figure, and if they help her, she will influence him to influence the government in their favour. Between the three factors, he thinks he can get the charges dropped.

The party briefly discuss with Balkan who might have dropped an orbital artillery strike on them last time they were here, and how anyone could do that at such short notice; they consider briefly infiltrating the orbital defence grid nodes and looking for clues, but discard that idea in favour of accepting the mission, and head off to rendezvous with the patron in a spaceport coffee house. Here, they meet Lady Hellien Galavar, who explains that she used to be an actress and once starred in a porn holovid, long thought destroyed. However, someone is now threatening to release the recording to the press if she doesn’t pay them a large sum. Not wanting to see her marriage or her husband’s career destroyed, and not wanting to face the blackmailer, she will bring her influence to bear on the heroes’ behalf if they handle the exchange. Her primary interest is that all copies of the recording be recovered and handed to her for destruction.

(Big Ted, in line with his hindrances, is now knocking back 20 oz mugs of espresso as if they were water, and Roscoe is matching him mug for mug – it’s a macho thing. We agree that this will give him penalties on rolls to resist going berserk later.)

The party agree to the commission and Lady Galavar leaves. They immediately fall to planning how they can complete the mission while keeping the money and at least one copy of the recording for future leverage and personal entertainment. At this point they are interrupted by a plucky cub reporter, badgering them for information about Lady Galavar and their involvement with her. Dyson tries to persuade her she is in over her head and should go somewhere quiet with him to talk it over, but Roscoe has no truck with such wimpy approaches and uses his d12 in Intimidation to get rid of her.

Leaving the coffee shop and making their way to the swanky nightclub where the exchange is set up, they encounter four armed thugs who tell them to walk away before they get hurt. Predictably, the party declines this kind offer; Big Ted kills one outright with his concealed shotgun, Dyson’s Horripilator (a Weird Science fear device) scares off two, and the I-9’s taser incapacitates the fourth. Roscoe moves to interrogate the survivor, and the I-9 turns up the voltage in the hope of tasing Roscoe as well, but this fails. Roscoe explains that he is going to cut off one of the thug’s fingers with his cutlass every second until he gets some answers; the thug decides he is not being paid enough for that, and tells all he knows, namely that he was hired by a rival politician who desperately wants something that will be traded in the nightclub that evening, something that could end his rival’s career.

Pausing only to loot the bodies, they let their captive go and move on to the nightclub, where they pick up an impressionable girl in a hooded cloak from the back of the line and bully their way past the bouncers. Once inside, the party splits in two; Dyson goes to the assigned table for the rendezvous carrying the payment, while the rest of them commandeer a nearby table, pretending the girl is Lady Galavar and they are negotiating with her.

Dyson discovers that he is dealing with Drakkar Ferr, newly released from prison and a former actor in the same holovid, who found a copy of it and just wants some money for a new start. At this point, a dozen thugs come barreling into the nightclub and make for the decoy table, having incorrectly decided that’s where the swap is going down. Big Ted uses his concealed sawn-off to kill Drakkar, allowing Dyson to grab both the holovid and the money and scuttle into cover. Meanwhile, Roscoe piles into the dozen thugs and lays about him with his cutlass. One of them manages to land a punch, triggering Roscoe’s berserk edge, and the fight becomes lethal.

It is at this point that Dyson notices the cub reporter has somehow got inside and is filming everything on a handheld camera, and he and the I-9 Handybot scoop her up and make good their escape. Mission accomplished, Roscoe and Big Ted follow, getting out under cover of the panicked guests fleeing the club.

With no prearranged rendezvous to fall back on, Big Ted and Roscoe make their way back to the spaceport, reasoning that they will probably have to leave the planet again soon, so their spacecraft is the de facto rally point. Meanwhile, the I-9, Dyson and the cub reporter have holed up in a cheap hotel to review their findings. By watching her video, Dyson discovers that Lady Galavar was in the club, watching them in the mirror behind the bar – this explains why the cub reporter, who works on a gossip column for the local news, appeared; she followed Galavar there. The reporter quickly fills them in on local politics, explaining that Galavar is aligned to the Free Trade Party and thus the Mizah Combine, while his less-powerful rival is aligned to the Phoenix Party and thus the Great Archive. She herself supports the FTP fervently, and hesitates as she realises that she faces a moral dilemma: Publish and advance her own career at the cost of her party, or cover up the truth.

Dyson cunningly offers her a third alternative: He will give her another story if she drops this one and hands over the evidence – an interview with an Urseminite, something he argues has never been done before and will lift her out of the celebrity gossip circuit into real investigative journalism.

She agrees, and to everyone’s surprise Big Ted honours the deal – Big Ted is a former children’s entertainer who harbours a grudge against the networks for cancelling his show after the unfortunate demise of his co-star Louby Lou. Big Ted puts forward his case for racial discrimination and the dramatic necessity of Louby Lou’s death to advance the storyline, painting himself and his species as oppressed and downtrodden. The reporter is unconvinced, and the eventual interview makes her career but paints Urseminites in a poor light.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party are trying to crack the encryption on the credit chip containing the blackmail money, having determined that it requires a one-time passcode to access the cash. (Drakkar had received the code previously, but being dead is spitefully refusing to pass it on.) The I-9 Handybot succeeds in cracking the code, but doesn’t tell anyone; instead of sharing out the booty, the I-9 wires it to Dulchich the Defiler, leader of an insane death cult which may or may not exist outside of the I-9’s delusion hindrance.

Business concluded, the party takes a few days R&R and goes shopping before reporting back to the Collateral Damage, now loading mining supplies for Simba, which is their next port of call.

REFLECTIONS

We couldn’t find anything to use for bennies, so improvised – everyone had an extra die, turned so that the number of spots showed how many bennies they had left. That ought to work really well, but in practice I kept forgetting to award bennies – I do that anyway, but scaling poker chips across the table is fun, which means I remember to do it more often.

The work I’ve been doing on the "series bible" paid off in this session as I was able to answer player questions about local politics and fashion fluently and off the cuff.

Nobody cared that the names didn’t fit in to the local culture. I suspect nobody noticed – to be fair, they have only spent a few hours in the setting and may not know what does or does not match the pattern. Clearly though, my original intention of renaming everything with culturally-appropriate names was unnecessary effort, so it’s as well I didn’t do it.

The party leave behind on Mizah new allies in the form of a rising press star and an influential politician’s wife – and new enemies, one the politician’s rival, and another a burned-out psycho cop who won’t stop until he gets justice for his friends killed in the line of duty. They don’t know about him yet, but I feel he should be there. He probably won’t last long against Big Ted and Roscoe.

Finally, I have now worked out who did call in the artillery strike on them, which may at some point lead to a story of intrigue and conspiracy at the highest levels of the government.

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