Collateral Damage, Episode 8: Stormy Weather

Another Bulldogs! freebie adventure…

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It’s just another day in Bugtown for the crew of the Collateral Damage; the Ion Mining Corporation, rulers of the waterworld Yentsin, need supplies even in the middle of a workers’ revolt, and who better to deliver them than Our Heroes?

When traffic control goes off the air, only to return with different voices and a change of coordinates, the crew is suspicious, but decides they don’t care as long as they get paid.

They land on a floating platform rather than the expected small island, and swap their cargo for a load of metal ingots. While they are taking tea with the alleged harbourmaster (who is sizing them up as potential recruits to the miners’ cause), an explosion outside denotes that a miner-saboteur has blown himself up while installing an insurance policy on the ship. Meanwhile, a group of gravsleds crewed by Ion’s security forces is approaching.

Dyson and Big Ted emerge and discover the main coolant pipe for the FTL drive is ruptured. Dyson can of course fix the damage (high Repair skill, Weird Science, McGyver, Mr Fix-It, Gadgeteer) but doesn’t have enough spare coolant. He makes contact with the incoming security forces and allies the crew with them.

The miners attempt to flee through the cargo lift into undersea tunnels connecting the platform to the nearby archipelago, but most of them are gunned down by Big Ted, who is in hot pursuit.

The security forces land and take over the now-abandoned platform, and the crew enter negotiations, the outcome of which is as follows:

First, the crew again gets paid twice. Dyson’s position is that while the miners did pay him for the cargo of supplies, it doesn’t count, because it wasn’t paid by the Ion Mining Corporation. The head of security needs the ship for her plan of suckering the miners into an ambush, so she reluctantly agrees to this, planning to use the payment as cover for her own skimming off company stores. It’s amazing how many metal ingots will be lost in combat during this insurrection.

Second, rather than Security’s planned ambush, Dyson proposes that they simply flood the mines with seawater, drowning all the miners. This sounds a lot less risky than engaging the miners in a Close Quarters Battle, so Security agrees.

They see to the flooding, repair the ship, and take off into the Big Dark.

REFLECTIONS

This session went very quickly due to a complete lack of empathy for the struggling miners both from Big Ted (he is an urseminite, after all) and Dyson (I was surprised by that, but as the player pointed out, they had hurt his ship). Lacking the time to start another session, we consoled ourselves with a quantity of single malt.

I’m running Beasts & Barbarians for my other group towards the end of the month, but for now, we return to the Arioniad and some reviews.

Collateral Damage, Episode 7: Node 43

This time, rather than run a straight Bulldogs! adventure, I picked a planet from the supplement Ports of Call and made that the destination for their current cargo run…

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Arriving at the Node 43 Starport on the planet Mariboa to deliver its cargo of munitions, the Collateral Damage finds itself in a small piece of neutral territory surrounded by factions in a five-way civil war between local clans. Having checked the tech level and forces available to the factions, Dyson and Big Ted decide it’s too dangerous to go out there, and contact their customer by radio to arrange pickup. With suspicious enthusiasm, the Blue 41 clan spokesman agrees, explaining that this gives them a good reason to give the Red 38 clan what for. They’ll be there in a couple of days.

Unfortunately, the Red 38 utterly demolish this attack, and when they make contact a second time to see why their client hasn’t arrived yet, the viewscreen shows a different Mariboan with a gruesome trophy.

“Head of clan yesterday,” the speaker explains, “Head on stake today.”

At this point Dyson makes a tactical error and uses broadcast radio to advertise his cargo of munitions to the highest bidder. By the end of the call, the five-way civil war has become a nine-way civil war, and all of those factions are marching on the starport, controlled by the Yellow 55, who throw the Collateral Damage out. The ship moves into orbit, out of range of local surface-to-air missiles, and observes over the next few days as the Mariboans whale the tar out of each other. The more the Yellow 55 protest that they don’t have the munitions, the more convinced the other clans become that they do, and have made a secret deal with the offworlders. Hilarity ensues.

(By this time I am making up clan names completely at random and not bothering to write them down for reuse, adding to the impression that the planet is totally balkanised and unstable as they never hear the same clan name twice.)

The crew manage to make contact with the Green 38, who control the distant Node 7 starport, and arrange to barter their munitions for a cargo of metal ingots. They land in Green 38 territory and complete the exchange without incident, but are then approached by a pacifist Mariboan from the Green 17 who asks if they will take her to Node 43 where she plans to negotiate a ceasefire. Big Ted notes thoughtfully that he has never had a Mariboan (considering they are sheep-faced humanoids with four eyes and rarely seen off their homeworld, this is not surprising). Dyson decides not to take her on as a passenger, on the grounds that if they do take her to the starport, she will be killed, and if Big Ted gets hold of her, she may wish she had been.

While they are debating this, a previously-unseen Mariboan kills the sentries and steals one of the trucks now carrying munitions. An Indiana Jones-style car chase develops, with Mariboans on motorcycles and Our Heroes in a gravsled chasing the fleeing truck – this occupies most of the session, actually. At length Big Ted injures the escaping assassin badly enough to force the truck off road and into a small ravine (she ran out of bennies); the assassin escapes, though wounded, and the jubilant Green 38 recover their goods.

Dyson is all for leaving as soon as possible, so they do.

“These people are completely insane,” he says. Coming from someone who is sharing a ship with an urseminite, several pirates and a schizophrenic library droid, this is a high praise indeed.

REFLECTIONS

Dropping the PCs into a situation and letting them run with it met both their desire for a sandbox and my need for low-prep GMing. The beauty of it is that when the ship lifts, all of the complications are left behind, and the campaign effectively resets. We discussed that point, and came to the conclusion that it only works because the PCs have no control over where they go for the next delivery.

We have also dropped all pretense of tracking money for these characters. Yes, they made a ton of money on this trip because they got paid twice by two different clans. However, Dyson spent it all on upgrading the ship. What upgrades were needed, they asked. I pointed out that they were a crew of eight in a ship with life support for five, and consequently either someone was sharing a stateroom with Big Ted or about three of them were in sleeping bags on the cargo bay floor, so it was agreed they were putting in a couple of new cabins.

Finally, a lot of rules didn’t get used. While the players were aware of – and used – bennies, I didn’t give any out (I forgot) and it didn’t seem to cause any problems. I also forgot about the chase rules (it’s been a while) and narrated the chase, with pauses for Shooting rolls from Big Ted.

This is about tailoring the session to the audience. The group does have players with a healthy acquisitiveness, and it does have players who are interested in the detail of the setting; but none of them attended the session, so I focussed on the problem-solving, NPC interaction and violence this particular pair crave.

The lesson there is as always, cater for the players you have, and this session brought into sharp focus for me that if you have a subset of your usual players, you need to cater for the subset you have, not the group as a whole.

Collateral Damage, Episode 6: Getting There is Half the Fun

Solitaire play goes on hold for a while as I have an unexpected opportunity to run a few face to face sessions with the alterday shift of the Collateral Damage, specifically the I-9 Handybot, the pilot; Ed Dyson, the engineer; and Big Ted, the, well, whatever he is. I have a bunch of Bulldogs! adventures lying around so pick a few of those out…

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In a starport somewhere, Ed Dyson and Big Ted are delegated to go pick up the next cargo they are to deliver from a warehouse in one of the starport city’s low-rent districts; a consignment of heavy weapons munitions.

Why does every adventure involve weapons, Dyson and Big Ted want to know. I remind them that their patron, Torun Balkan, is by trade an arms dealer and just dabbling in the whole heavily-insured-leaky-freighter business.

What are the local weapons restrictions? they ask. Sidearms and blades only, I say. Having digested this information, they feel it appropriate to take the gravsled with the improvised octuple assault rifle turret, Dyson’s Horripilator (basically a Fear ray), and Big Ted’s collection of personal automatic weapons, which is now large enough to give him encumbrance penalties. Fortunately Dyson has the presence of mind to leave the turret deactivated, so the rest of the traffic is merely subjected to harsh language and machine gun noises from Big Ted.

Arriving at the warehouse, they are told by the despatcher that they already picked up the cargo an hour ago. They deny this; he produces paperwork showing that they did, including a not-very-convincing forgery of Dyson’s signature, and declines to help further, turning to go back inside. Dyson tells Big Ted he wants to ask the despatcher some questions and allows him to proceed as he sees fit. Big Ted promptly leaps from the gravsled and twats the despatcher with a billy club, killing him outright thanks to a multiple aces on the damage roll.

“I wanted to ask him some questions,” Dyson says.

“You still can,” says Big Ted, enthusiastically beating the corpse with his truncheon. “He might not answer, though.”

“Couldn’t you attack to do stun damage only?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

Leaving the urseminite to it, Dyson wanders into the now-deserted warehouse office and makes use of his Jack of All Trades Edge and some flukey dice rolls to hack the security system; he gets an image of the imposter who took the cargo (and his truck) and links in the ship’s AI to edit the footage, making it look as if the imposter has just returned and killed the despatcher, rather than Big Ted.

By similar means he gets into the city’s traffic surveillance system and traces the truck to Hal’s Garage, about 15 minutes’ flight away. Landing, Dyson knocks on the closed doors and shouts that he wants to get some work done on his gravsled.

“Go away,” comes the reply. “We’re closed.” Indeed, now that Dyson looks, this is what the sign on the door says.

After circling the compound for reconnaissance purposes, the pair determine that the optimum approach is to ram the garage door, which they do, burtsing in to discover half a dozen people who are exchanging funds having clearly just transferred the missing crates to another truck.

Big Ted guns them down with his multiple assault rifles. Two survive for interrogation, but unfortunately neither is more than hired muscle and so have no answers. Dyson again reverts to Jack of All Trades and inordinately lucky dice rolls and determines that the would-be purchaser of the munitions is one Droogie Snaps. Dyson sends an email asking if he would be interested in the three tons of assault rifles they purloined several adventures ago, which the crew has reluctantly admitted is more than they require for personal use. Droogie replies that he is, and when and where should they meet?

Dyson contacts Mr Balkan, explains what has happened, and requests permission to use the munitions to remove Droogie from play permanently. (Dyson’s motivation is that he wants to McGuyver a delivery system, while Big Ted just wants to break things and hurt people.)

Balkan points out that he has a contract to deliver those munitions. He is content with developments – someone tried to rob him and was shown this is a bad idea – and would prefer them to make good on his contract.

Reluctantly, they return to the starport, load the cargo, and take off.

REFLECTIONS

This was a slow-moving session dominated by in-character banter between the two main PCs, and detailed explanations of how the I-9 Handybot (which is constrained by Asimov’s Laws except when the Death Cult Virus takes control) would be persuaded to help them; and no less fun for that.

I have experimentally abandoned starmaps and setting detail to see how far I can stretch that, so I took careful note of what the players asked about the planet; the only two questions were about local weapons restrictions and whether it was Balkan’s homeworld. It didn’t even get a name. A campaign with no map and no setting looks entirely possible.

Arion, Episode 11: A Man in a Mansion

Still I don’t see a man in a mansion
That an accurate pen won’t puncture
Go to town, go to hell, go to jail.
– Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Hallowed Be Thy Name

In which the Big Bad gets his comeuppance, but at a cost…

MASS TRANSIT EFFECT

Travel Scene: We’re moving from area 2 to area 6, so four chances for an encounter, it happens as we’re leaving area 5, Uptown, and heading for the high end residential area. It’s Late in the day when we encounter eight of the Big Bad’s minions, bent on stopping us: 2 x Rep 3 thief with pistol, 5 x Rep 4 gangster with BAP, one Rep 5 Femme Fatale with pistol, who is also Stunning and Smooth.

Arion’s little band currently consists of himself, Roger (Rep 5 BAP), Ms Huff (Rep 4 BAP), Bodyguard (Rep 5 BAP), and a Rep 3 with a BAP – Arion has quite a store of BAPs built up from looting the bodies of the opposition.

I decide this happens inside a tube carriage… Set up as per Confrontation, p. 59, then go to Walk the Walk on p. 60. Arion rolls 23346 (he has Steely Eyes but everyone is concealed) and gets 3 successes, the Femme Fatale rolls 1124 for 3 successes. As it’s a tie, we roll again at -1d6; Arion 2245, FF 356, so Arion & Co. act first. Most of this is on the Shoot page of the QRS now, and while I laid it out on the table I found I was using the figures mostly as status markers with very little manoeuvre, so I didn’t bother with pictures for this little skirmish.

Turn 1: Arion and Roger go for two Rep 4 Gangsters with BAP – I’ll gloss over die rolls because you’ve seen LTL gunplay before in the Arioniad – and force both to duck back. Huff scores a hit on the FF and she ducks back. Huff’s companions each fire at a Rep 4 gangster and astonishingly the Rep 3 drops one OOF, forcing a Man Down test for everyone within 4″, which is all but two of the group; one Runs Away and another Ducks Back.

Turn 2: The Big Bad’s minions activate first; Roger and the Rep 3 sidekick go OOF, Arion and Huff duck back. Two of the Rep 4 gangsters are gunned down, causing one of the Rep 3 thieves to flee and the other to duck back.

Turn 3: Doubles for activation – nobody acts. Turn 4: Ms Huff is shot by the FF and goes OOF. Turn 5: Lots of duck backs but no significant changes. Turn 6: Doubles for activation – a lull in the fighting. Turn 7: Huff’s bodyguard takes out the FF. Turn 8: Second Rep 3 thief flees after failing a Received Fire test, remaining minion ducks back. Turn 9: Arion and Huff’s bodyguard charge into melee and beat the surviving thug unconscious in short order.

Fortunately, I can roll for recovery as this is the end of a (travel) scene. Huff is retired, her Rep 3 companion returns with a decreasing Rep die, and Roger is OK. Our little band is down to four, though, and one of those is a bit flaky. Meanwhile, the Femme Fatale recovers, and frankly who cares about the mooks? I already have enough clues to solve the mystery, and there appears to be no benefit for overachieving, so I won’t bother interrogating the survivors.

-o0o-

Arion and his little band are in a subway car discussing their plan (such as it is) when a stunning woman and seven armed thugs enter.

“I like that one,” she says, pointing at Arion. “Bring him to me alive. Kill the rest.”

A brief but intense gunfight erupts, ending with Huff incapacitated, Roger and the professional wounded, the femme fatale and four thugs out of the fight, and three thugs fleeing the scene.

LOW LIFE IN HIGH PLACES

Once we get to the board, there is only one PEF, in section 2, composed of the Big Bad’s minions. These can be avoided if we move through sections 9, 8, 7, 4, and 1, and considering there are eight of ’em let’s do that.

Entering the target building gives a Defining Moment, and because we haven’t met any NPCs yet it’s automatically contact, and as it’s the final scene it’s Big Bad minions, four of them; Rep 5 bodyguard with SMG, 2 x Rep 3 thieves with pistols, and one Rep 4 gangster with SMG.

On entering the target building I also roll on the appropriate table and determine that Arion and Chapman arrive at the same time and will fight to win the treasure. Chapman must be driven off or captured to win. He is a Rep 5 Business Magnate with BAP, and is accompanied by three thugs; 2 x Rep 4 gangster with BAP, Rep 3 thief with pistol. So overall we’re outnumbered 8 to 3.

I’m about to set up the table when it occurs to me I only need the building, so I pull out a couple of SmileyBomb’s binder maps and declare them the ground floor of the mansion.

Walking the Walk, Chapman wins the In Sight handily and opens up with deadly force. Arion is forced to duck back behind the couch, and both his buddies are machine-gunned down by SMG-toting thugs. Man, I have to get me one of those; the two extra damage dice are brutal.

Arion, Roger, and Huff’s bodyguard move up to Chapman’s mansion and bluff their way inside – Arion’s jacket is now red, and labelled “Pizza Delivery”. As they enter from the front door, Chapman enters unseen from the back; four armed thugs are playing cards at a table, and noting that pizza delivery boys don’t often come in threes or carry large pistols instead of pizza, they deduce that something is amiss, and open fire. Roger and the bodyguard are both hit and crawl into cover, losing first interest in the proceedings and then consciousness. Arion dives over the couch and hides behind a solid-looking armchair.

Turn 1

Activation Arion 1, Chapman 6. Arion pops up, and since this is the first time he has been seen in this activation phase,he triggers an In Sight. Chapman’s little group can’t see him as they are around a corner – there’s no point having building maps if I don’t use what’s printed on them. Arion rolls 133556 for 3 successes, the four thugs at the table roll 12256 for 3 successes – a tie, so we reroll, and this time the thugs win and act. Everyone counts as in cover and concealed (in a building and not moving), and thankfully this causes everyone to miss Arion. As a Star he can choose how many dice to pass on the Received Fire test, and replies with a Rushed Shot at the leader, but misses. This causes that worthy to take a Received Fire test, and he shoots back, hitting Arion and taking him OOF. Time for some Star Power; 23455 means the OOF is degraded to a Miss, so Arion takes a Received Fire test, opts to pass 2d6, and takes another Rushed Shot, forcing the group leader to duck back.

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Turn 2

Arion 6, Chapman 4. The thugs at the table move up, the leader trying to flank Arion while the others take cover behind the breakfast bar. Arion could already see them so I decide no In Sight is called for. The Rep 5 SMG hits Arion and he uses Star Power again to reduce all the hits to Miss (rolling separately for each); this costs him a die, though. His RF test gives him the chance to return fire and he gets lucky, dropping the thugs’ leader – when firing as a result of a reaction test, you have to shoot at whatever provoked the test. The remaining thugs in that group take a Man Down test, one Runs Away and the other two shoot back, both missing thanks to cover, but provoking another Rushed Shot from Arion which guns down the other SMG-wielding thug and triggers another Man Down test – since the remaining thug can see his friends approaching, he Carries On.

Chapman and the second group move up the hall to gain line of sight and trigger another In Sight test. Chapman wins and the second group settle in around the table and open fire. Arion ducks back and can’t activate this turn.

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Arion comes under a hail of bullets, but he sticks his gun hand over the chair and fires back blindly. Luck is with him and both the team’s leader and his second in command gos down with 12.7mm rockets in them. At this point Chapman and three other thugs heave into view down the corridor, and start shooting. Arion crouches behind his chair and hopes for the best.

Turns 3-4

A3, C1. Arion pops up and triggers an In Sight, which he wins, and fires at Chapman but misses. Chapman’s return shot forces Arion to duck back. As everyone except Arion is now inside Chapman’s command radius I decide no-one else can see Arion and the turn ends.

Turn 4 is pretty much a repeat of turn 3; A4, C1. Arion aces the In Sight and hits Chapman – Mr C avoids going OOF by adroit use of Star Power, which gives him a chance to return fire. Arion ducks back.

Turn 5

A3, C4. Chapman gestures his men forwards, bringing them up next to Arion and triggering an In Sight. Arion wins this and targets one of the Rep 4 BAP thugs, hoping to whittle down the odds against him; he only manages a duck back though, then he is forced to duck back in turn by fire from the others.

Shooting isn’t working, so when he activates and wins the In Sight, he charges into melee, trusting to Star Power to win the day. One of the thugs manages to get a shot off, and Star Power turns the OOF result into a Miss again; then Arion is upon them. Chapman has more figures in the melee but can only use three; he opts for Rep 4, then Rep 3, then Rep 3, as the other Rep 4 is ducked back and as a Big Bad he need not dirty his hands with fistfights, he has minions for that.

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  • Round 1: Rep 4 vs Arion – Arion gets two more successes followed by boxcars and scores a clean KO.
  • Rounds 2-4: First Rep 3 vs Arion – Arion loses one Rep before removing his opponent from play.
  • Rounds 5-6: Second Rep 3 vs Arion – Rep 3 is clubbed to the ground at no loss to Arion. As this melee is now over, Arion’s Rep returns to 5.

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Turns 6-7

Turn 6: A6 C1. Not liking what he has just seen, Chapman and the remaining thug both fire at Arion, and both miss. Arion’s reaction fire drops the last mook.

Turn 7: A5 C6. Hand to hand worked last time, and Chapman only has two Star Power dice left, so Arion charges into melee before Chapman can shoot again.

  • Round 1: Chapman loses the round and a Star Power die. Now he has one left to Arion’s four.
  • Round 2: Arion loses the round and two Star Power dice, but that’s better than losing Rep.
  • Round 3: Arion gets three hits in, and Chapman’s lone Star Power die does its best, stopping two of them; but the last one gets through and takes the Big Bad out.

A few seconds of inconclusive gunfire follow, until Chapman yells “Get him! What are you waiting for, there’s four of you!” and stings his men into action. They move up – a mistake as Arion leaps from cover into melee, and disposes of three of them in short order in a hail of boots and fists. Arion still has his hand cannon, and when the surviving thug draws a bead on him, Arion shoots him in the forehead.

“That’ll be quite enough of that,” he pants, and after circling each other for a moment, he and Chapman pounce on each other. After a brief exchange of solid punches, Chapman falls.

MY FINAL REVENGE

Chapman rolls 4 successes, which would injure and permanently retire Arion’s love interest, except he doesn’t have one, so let’s off Huff’s love interest instead who is obviously tied up somewhere out of sight, probably sitting on the bomb. Arion does get three decreasing Rep dice though.

“You think you’ve won,” gasps Chapman through broken teeth as Arion stands over him, fist cocked for another blow.

“You haven’t. House: X-Ray Four Seven!” – and the scene dissolves in the white-out of a bomb blast.

-o0o-

We’ll leave that as a cliffhanger for now. In the next episode, I’ll do a retrospective of this first season – how the game worked, and what happened to everyone.

CREDITS

Rules: Larger Than Life Director’s Cut, THW. Figures: eM4, Mongoose. Floor Plans: SmileyBomb Productions.

Arion, Episode 10: Er Ist Mein Mann

“One question remains unanswered: Was it a lady’s gun, like this? Beng! Beng beng! Or a PROPER gun, like THIS?” – Bad Bob, Rex the Runt

In which everything comes together at last…

-o0o-

The dice say the next step is to Find An Object, last seen with a Civilian Rep 4 Dependent (male, so let’s say Huff’s boyfriend) in a No-Tell Motel near the Docks. It’s Late, so there are two PEFs in sections 1 and 6. We can avoid the one in section 6 easily enough, but should probably meet the one in section 1 because I have dodged a lot of them lately. Then there’s a defining moment, then we can look for the object.

PEF: Three people. Unarmed male Rep 3 Exotic Professional, with two other Exotics; a Rep 5 Bodyguard with a BAP, and a female Rep 4 Reporter with a Pistol – I decide that has to be Ms Huff.

Talking the Talk, the Rep 5 Bodyguard gets one success and Arion gets three, so they can be recruited – why not, let’s do that.

Then we’re into the Defining Moment, which turns out to be nothing at all. Now we can search the Motel. Object difficulty is 1, both the Object and Arion pass 1d6, so Arion solves another clue, taking him to 8 – the target number for this adventure. The next scene will be the Final Scene, so the clue must explain where that is – I roll for another Where To Next and get the Metropolis again.

-o0o-

“She’s either not used to doing this – not likely for a reporter – or she’s badly shaken, because she left her commlink switched on,” says Arion.

“So the, err, complete program suite aboard ship found her?”

“Exactly. We could still have done it from traffic cameras and so on, but it’s faster if she leaves her comm on.”

“There she is,” Roger says, nodding in her direction, “Just opposite the motel.”

“Ah,” says Huff as the two pilots approach. “There you are. Took you long enough.”

“Traffic,” says Arion, not missing a beat.

“The less we know about each other, the better,” Huff says, “So no names, all right?” She counts around the circle, pointing as she goes. “One, two, three, four, five. There.”

“Okay,” Huff continues. “My man Gary is in there, room 12, and we are going to get him out alive. Agreed?” Everyone nods. “You do not need to know who told me that or why.”

“Then, we are going to go find the stuff Chapman is after and take it away from him, because there isn’t any person he loves more than his loot. Agreed?”

“I like your style,” says Arion. “We’re in.”

“All right then, let’s go.” And with that, Huff leads the team into the motel, moving like she has a purpose. The bodyguard kicks in the door to room 12, and the team trip over each other getting inside, which would have been more serious if the room weren’t empty. Huff starts swearing, surprisingly well.

“Nobody move,” says Arion. “Ship, search the room with the spider. We need to know where Gary went.”

The spider drops from Arion’s shoulder and scuttles around, apparently at random, for a few minutes. Huff runs out of expletives and steps outside, quivering like a violin string but refusing to cry.

“Search complete,” says the spider in the ship’s voice. “You will find Gary in the Heights, at Chapman’s residence.”

“How do you know that?” asks Huff.

“Analysis of DNA and dirt in the carpet, combined with access to surveillance cameras across the city,” explains the spider.

Huff gives Arion a very strange look. “Where did you get your ship?”

“Best not to ask, really. It involves secrets, and pirates, and…” belatedly Arion realises he is talking to an investigative journalist. “…and, umm, well, stuff. You know.” He brightens.

“Oh, hey, does anyone need a 12.7mm gyrojet? I brought some spares. Here, Ms Huff, put that lady’s gun away and have a proper one. Very little recoil from a gyrojet, you’ll be fine… Ship, call us a taxi please.”

Arion, Episode 9: Huff Leaves in a Huff

In which the investigation is derailed somewhat…

-o0o-

The adventure stays in the Metropolis again, it’s day three, and Arion has to question a person of interest – I could roll for that, but the logic of the narrative suggests it should be Ms Huff at this point. So I overrule the dice and make it her.

The dice tell me the Day Part is Early, and we’re meeting Ms Huff in a (coffee) bar downtown. There’s only one PEF that early, and it’s in section 4 of the board, so I use unoccupied section movement to glide past it.

There’s still a defining moment in the bar though; Chapman (the Big Bad) isn’t there, but we do find an Exotic and 4 companions; a Rep 5 Bodyguard with a BAP (on a die roll of 4, fortunately not one of the ones Roger enthusiastically perforated earlier in the game), with a Mover (Rep 3 Hollywood), a Criminal (Rep 4 Dealer with a BAP) and two other Exotics (both Rep 5 Private Eyes with BAPs). The Bodyguard gets 4 successes, Arion 2; since the Bodyguard is Law & Order class and Arion is not a Criminal, at least as far as his Class goes, no confrontation occurs and thus the other group leaves the table.

Arion can now question the Person of Interest; Ms Huff rolls 2 successes and Arion 1. Huff has no information? That can’t be right per se, but it would be very genre-appropriate for someone to have scared her off.

-o0o-

“There she is,” Arion says, as he and Roger enter Green’s. Huff is sitting in a corner, alone; between her and the door a group of five people, most of them openly carrying large-calibre pistols. After an exchange of muffled and insincere greetings with our heroes, they rise and leave.

“Hello, Ms Huff,” Arion begins. “How do you want to proceed?”

“I don’t,” snaps Huff. “The evidence I saw was faked. I can’t use the story. I was a fool to believe it. Forget all about it.” And she stands and leaves.

“What was that all about?” Roger asks.

“Somebody got to her,” Arion says. “You’ve seen the evidence, at least some of it, and more importantly you’ve seen what Chapman is willing to do to get it. This doesn’t stand up. Somebody scared her off.”

“Good thing they didn’t try that with you,” Roger says. “You’re not smart enough for it to work.”

“I’m not going to dignify that with a response.”

“I think you just did. What now?”

“Coffee, while we plan our next move.”

Arion, Episode 8: The Preserver of Life

In which Arion and I find out just what is going on here…

-o0o-

Working through the sequence…

Where to Next? Metropolis. Advance the Story: Find an object, last seen with an Exotic Pilot in a bank downtown.

Travel scene: Move two areas. No encounters. Day part is now Late.

Advance the Story scene: Two PEFs, both in section 3; easy to avoid so I won’t bother.

Defining moment in the target building: Party of five; Shaker Attorney Rep 3, 2 Shakers (Rep 3 Accountant, Rep 4 Political Assistant), 2 Criminals (Gangster Rep 4 BAP, Working Girl Rep 3). Big Bad not present.

Rep 4 PA leads Talk the Talk 1 success; Arion 1 success. Exchange pleasantries.

Search for clue: Difficulty 3. Object passes 1d6, Arion 3 – solves 2 clues, now has 7. I suppose I’d better work out what this is about then, because next time he solves a clue we move to the final confrontation.

-o0o-

The metal spider on Arion’s shoulder speaks in the Dolphin’s warm contralto voice. “Call for you, Captain. ID withheld.”

“OK, put it through. Hi, this is Arion, how can I help?”

“Arion. You were just in my room, I think. Did you find anything?”

“Yes, Ms Huff. It looks like a key.”

“Yes, but it’s not what you think. Be at the Pilots’ Guild Savings and Loan on 14th at ten PM tonight. It opens a deposit box. I’ll call you when you have what’s inside.”

“How will you know…” Arion begins, but the line has gone dead.

It’s just before ten when Arion and Roger arrive at the PGSL.

“Why here?” Arion wonders. “Maybe the box belongs to a pilot?”

“It could just be that not many banks are open twenty-four seven,” Roger suggests. “Can’t legislate for when a ship lands. Or lifts.” Arion nods.

In the lobby, a group of five people, three obviously members of the elite and two equally obviously not, one a woman with a bruised face, are talking quietly. One of the suits gives the woman’s companion a briefcase, and he hands over a small package in exchange.

“What’s that all about?” Arion wonders.

“Stay on target,” says Roger. “We have enough trouble chasing us as it is.”

“You know what your trouble is? You have no spirit of adventure.”

“No, but I have a girl, and a steady job, and a nice place in midtown. What have you got, Arion? Besides your spirit of adventure, and some guy you owe dangerous favours?”

“The key to a safe deposit box. And more curiousity than is healthy for me,” Arion grins.

They swipe the key on a lift and descend. Below, a robot scans the key, motions them into a small room, and leaves them alone for a moment. With a pneumatic puff, a hatch just big enough for an attache case opens in one of the walls, and a box emerges. Arion takes it out and swipes the key over its sensor.

Inside is a battered leather notebook. And a commlink.

“Man,” breathes Roger. “Old school.”

The commlink beeps softly, and Arion answers it.

“Ms Huff, I presume,” he says. He puts the commlink on speakerphone and motions to Roger to stay quiet.

“Yes,” Huff replies. “You should have a book. It’s a diary, or maybe a logbook, written by Captain Utnapishtim of the – well, it’s not really pronounceable by a human throat, but it translates as Preserver of Life. You ever heard of it?”

“Not as such, no.”

“It’s a sleeper colony ship. A long time ago, it was used to evacuate an entire population before their planet became uninhabitable. If we can put together what’s in the diary with what’s on the data store, we can find out where the wreck is.”

“OK, but why bother? I mean, space is full of wrecks from who knows how many civilisations.”

“This one is special. These guys were supposed to have discovered an immortality treatment, or maybe a rejuvenation serum. Can you imagine how much that would be worth?”

“Frankly, no. More than enough for three of us, I think.”

“Quite. Now, you have a ship, the data store, the logbook and one of the two decryptor keys. I have the other, and I’ve done the research to put them all together and find out where the ship is. Shall we work together?”

Arion looks at Roger. Roger draws a deep breath, and nods.

“We work together,” Arion says. “What next?”