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spinwardstar-crewlounge

Scooby Trap

The Crew were at the crew-lounge table discussing their next moves when the bug they found in the hold activated, then went dark again. They knew, then, that the spy knew they had found it, so after some deliberation, one of them smashed it. Studying the pieces, Buck decided there was something strange about it, at which point Haank examined it as well, and pointed out that it did not appear to have any sort of radio receiver—it was likely psionically controlled. This suggested Zhodani involvement—sensible, as they were the other party in the War—or potentially some covert psi agency; either way, it meant they had a psi-agent aboard, and would have to assume that their thoughts had been, or would be read—no secrets. However, there was really nothing more to be done except to wait for the spy to make its next move. Sam continued to study the data on the OSD, and found a number of interesting coordinates in the near-empty Gileden system, that did not correspond to any astronomical feature he could determine; as far as Haank could recall, Gileden had no real significance in the War—on record, at least. Copies were made, as insurance.

On the last night before exiting jump-space, on Buck’s watch, he felt a strange, disorienting sensation wash over him. He concluded the psi-spy was making his move, and turned to leave the cockpit to rouse the others, but was met at the open hatch by a baklava-wearing, black-clad intruder. The assailant tried to grab for Buck’s sidearm and put him in a hold, showing some martial skill, but dinged his—no, her—arm on the door-frame, such that it fell useless. Yelling an alarm for the others, Buck continued to backpedal into the lounge as the intruder tried to grapple (one-handed), and sweep at his feet, to no avail, as Buck had some martial arts training as well. A heartbeat later the entire Crew was in the lounge with pistols leveled at the spy; she surrendered, and was bound with duct-tape. Removing her mask, they discovered her to be, not Eleanor, but the courier, Katelyn.

KatelynElla deferred to Haank for the questioning of their captive. Haank attempted to convince her to give up her handlers; he asked her name in the Zhodani language, which, although she didn’t answer as such, did elicit a reaction that indicated she understood it; he also played at not knowing what it was she was looking for, but she didn’t fall for it. She refused to name the organization she worked for, but would only say that the information the Crew now had in their possession put them in danger, and that their safest action would be to let her walk off the ship with the OSD, and forget about it. She informed them that handing over the data to either the Imperial Navy or the Zhodani would be a grave mistake, as would be handing her over to either. Resigned to not getting anything more from her, they decided to put her in a low-berth stasis for the remainder of the trip—one of the low-berth passengers would get an upgraded ticket, taking over her cabin. As Buck looked on, Abe settled her into her sleep-pod; at Buck’s last-second encouragement, she offered to give up some helpful details in exchange for a safe exit, but she wasn’t buying Buck’s disingenuous “agreement” to her condition, and so said nothing more before entering hypersleep.

The Crew was left with little more than speculation: she appeared to be working for some unknown third-party to the War, and had not indicated what was so important about the data in any way. They brought her things down from her cabin to rummage through for clues; she had a datapad that contained a contact list, including some Navy and Zhodani contacts. A few of those contacts were on Porozlo, so they decided to keep her on ice after arrival, until they could look into those contacts and determine what the danger of letting her and/or the information go might be.

The Spinward Star emerged from jump-space near Porozlo II, and some hours later, landed at their assigned pad at the spaceport, where the cargo and passengers—minus the courier/spy—were offloaded.


Notes

  • In the end, all the Players are suspecting the Psionic Institute is involved, but it’s not commonly known to exist, so the Characters don’t share that suspicion (yet)
  • After a roll, the GM gave Haank a recollection about Zhodani Jump-Commandos; during the session, we never tried to figure out how the spy got out without us knowing it, but that recollection suggests she might’ve teleported—will probably try to confirm that later
  • Herodian encountered, to his benefit this time, the “Crit Success on defense causes Crit Fail on the attacker” issue, resulting in his attacker’s temporarily crippled arm—he still doesn’t like that rule
  • Rigil was unavailable this week, due to work, so Abe mostly acted in the background; had he been present, he would have undoubtedly been involved in the questioning process—might’ve gone better

Bug Hunt

EleanorAround a day in jump-space, the members of the Crew had separately taken some time to socialize with the passengers, in an effort to present a friendly and available persona. During that process, the secretive female passenger, Eleanor, approached Sam, asking to be escorted to her luggage, stowed in the ship’s hold. After recovering from the fact that a woman was speaking to him, he referred Eleanor to Haank, the de facto “security chief” aboard. Haank agreed, and led her to her luggage, musing to himself that some ground-rules regarding fetching of luggage while in-flight might need to be discussed. As Haank looked on, Eleanor found her case, took care to keep her pass-code hidden as she entered it—not unusual—and retrieved a box from it. On request, she agreed to allow Haank to scan the contents for security risks; using his multipurpose hand-scanner, Haank detected nothing of any interest within. He then escorted the woman back to the passenger deck.

A good portion of the first day of jump had been taken up with installation and testing of the ship’s new security system, purchased before they left Rhylanor. In the wee hours of the next morning, during Sam’s watch, the security system indicated a hatch opening—the passenger deck iris leading down to mid deck. He could see nothing on the camera system except the hatch being opened, as if by some invisible intruder. He woke Ella, and the two looked around the access area on mid deck for whatever-it-was, but found nothing, though Ella swore she had heard something scraping around under the lounge table. As they searched around the lounge, they heard the iris-hatch to the lower deck open. They rushed over and cautiously peered into the hold, eventually descending and triggering the lights, but again, saw nothing.

K9-5The rest of the Crew was roused, and together, they all started poring over the available security camera footage, but saw nothing but the hatches opening of their own apparent accord. Tabling the discussion about security procedures for later, Haank checked all the passenger cabins for occupants, and found them all where they were expected (although the corporate manager was a little put out at having been awakened so early). As they tried to come up with other ways of detecting the intruder, Sam spent the entire morning reviewing the recordings; in a lucky break, he managed to briefly spot a tiny, unidentifiable object moving around the area of the hatch at the time it opened. After showing his find to the others, they all agreed it was probably some sort of robo-bug, remotely-operated by one of the passengers, the most-likely suspect being Eleanor, with the most-likely purpose of locating whatever-it-was that the commandos were looking for previously. Since damage to the ship or Crew was unlikely, as counter-productive and unnecessary, they decided to keep the details from the passengers and allow the culprit to think he/she remained unsuspected. Abe was dispatched to give the passengers the story that there was a glitch in the new security system that had been addressed and corrected; he also set his robotic pet dog, K-9, to sniffing around the lower hold. Haank pored over the ladar data in a fruitless attempt to detect the bug, while calibrating the system for better detection of the tiny object. Buck produced an EM-detection wand, normally used to find radiation leaks, and calibrated it to home in on the bug’s and/or its controller’s transmissions. Sam also spent some more time rummaging about the lower hold, between the containers and packages, in a continued attempt to figure out where someone might smuggle something, to find whatever-it-was.

The following morning, during Haank’s last watch, using Buck’s EM detector, he picked up transmissions coming from above (passenger deck) and below (lower hold). While waking the others, he moved around the mid deck to triangulate the origin of what he assumed to be the “controller” transmission, narrowing it down to cabin three or five—five being Eleanor’s. Once awake, Abe and Sam went below with the EM-detector to find the bug. As they closed in, the transmission went dead—their search had been detected. After quite some time, about to give up, Sam finally pulled the right panel (that he hadn’t previously) and found an old, dusty OSD cleverly tucked away, about the same time that Abe spotted the robo-bug, which he cautiously collected with some vacc-tape, and handed over to Buck for analysis. They opted to plug the OSD into a personal computer disconnected from any network, for safety reasons, and found a vast wealth of 10-year-old, military navigational data centered around the Rhylanor Sector; they surmised that it was far too specific and complete to have been compiled by either side of the Fifth Frontier War, though they were unable, at the time, to determine the source of its apparent value.

unbranded-hex-bug-robotic-toyWith both the bug and its presumed objective in hand, the Crew had a decision to make—what to do with it all? Getting the spy to fess up who it’s handlers were would not be easy, and wouldn’t really change anything, in the end. They could let the spy off the ship without being the wiser, going so far as to put the bug back where they found it, as if nothing had happened—it would, of course, never find what it was looking for (that having been already recovered), and may convince the spy’s handlers that it was never on the ship in the first place. They could hand over the OSD to the spy, having had the data removed and replaced with something else (the images of the commandos from the Rhylanor docks incident came to mind). They could keep the data and sell it to whomever wanted to pay for it—though the Crew would need to determine what sort of threat its possession might impose on the Sector before giving it to anyone. They could turn it over to the Imperial Navy, as-is.

And, they had four more days in jump-space to figure it out.


Notes

  • We had no idea, when we decided to purchase the Basic Security system (SS69), that it would be featured centrally in the next session; lucky it was there
  • The idea of the “bug” inevitably spawned the mental image of this scene
  • The EM detector was Buck’s use of Gizmo for the session; we all said it looked/sounded like a sonic screwdriver
  • Sam kept attempting skills at default, to have an excuse to spend points in them; his player has been trying to figure out what to do with him to make him more useful when he isn’t flying the ship
  • Sam was using his Smuggling skill, Perception-based, when searching the hold; this had been done repeatedly over the last few sessions, trying to find what the commandos were looking for, but finally paid off
  • We’re treating the OSD as a “treasure map” until we learn otherwise


309_max

Cloak and Dagger

After Sam alerted the rest of the Crew to the presence of the intruders in the lower hold, they all sprang into action, fetching their personal weapons in expectation of combat. They had no idea what it might be that the intruders were looking for, except for the knowledge that the ship might have been involved in military operations during the Fifth Frontier War, and could easily have something hidden away. Ella headed for the bridge, to contact port security, but immediately saw telltale signs of computer-hacking underway on one of the terminal screens—all systems were locked down. At the same time, Haank used the intercom, and in a calm, diplomatic manner, asked the intruders to identify themselves and state their business, even offering to help find whatever-it-was; the intruders responded that the Crew should remain where they are and, “Don’t do anything stupid,” as they had taken control of the ship. The Crew then called port security via personal communicator; the message was received, but earned them an intercom-delivered scolding by the intruders. Some moments later, they heard approaching sirens, and saw the flashing lights of port-security officers en-route. They arrived to find no intruders on the ship—they had vacated. With nothing really to be done about it after-the-fact, statements were taken, and assurances given that it would be looked into.

Haank and Abe spent a good deal of the day researching what could be learned about their new ship’s past on the planetary info network. They dug up quite a lot of records; manifests, flight-plans, and heavily-censored accounts of missions on behalf of the Imperium during the War, to places unknown, for purposes unknown. From what they gathered, the crew that was buried next to the ship, on Kegena, was the same crew that conducted these clandestine operations—they would not be revealing any secrets now—and that some of the ship’s upgrades were paid for, covertly, by the military. Cross-referencing manifests and logs left them with a reasonable assumption that those black-missions were based out of Jae Tellona and/or Porozlo, probably into a number of systems in the Rhylanor sector that were under Zhodani occupation at the time. Ella was unable to reach Cpt. Gloval for any assistance on that account, still away on Navy business.

Sometime during the research process, the port-security investigator assigned to their break-in case came by the ship to let the Crew know that there was no camera-footage available, and that they wouldn’t be able to do much of anything to resolve their case. A few of the Crew were not convinced he was giving them the truth; Abe turned on the smooth-talk, and convinced the guy to, very-reluctantly, admit to the fact that some “Navy” suits came in and confiscated all their data, and told them to forget the whole thing.

imagesThe Crew decided, for a number of reasons that included the ship’s connection to operations there, that they would go to Porozlo next. Haank set about getting some freight and passengers for the trip, and spent the rest of the day dealing with the particulars, and getting it all loaded. They also decided that it would be a good idea to get a security system installed on the ship; Abe and Buck would see to its acquisition during the freight-loading. Later, during the freight-loading process, Haank was approached by a port security runner who handed him an OSD on behalf of parties unknown. Haank checked it on his datapad, and it contained camera footage and stills from the break-in, featuring the masked intruders, including the unmasked face of the one assumed to be their leader, at the gate to a Navy logistics center at the docks. Haank relayed the information the others before getting back to work.

Abe and Buck went to check out the logistics center, surveilling it from a safe distance; they saw nothing of interest, except to note that security there was rather inadequate, enough to allow a covert team to easily operate without notice. The two left their brief stakeout to purchase the security system for the ship, and they were soon able to determine that they were being followed by someone they presumed to be one of the “Navy” men—they led the guy around a bit, in a successful attempt to prove he was following them. They went to a public terminal, as if to make a call, and left their tail a note with their contact information and a message to, “Call us.” A few hours before scheduled departure, after Abe and Buck had returned to the ship, the call came; it was put on speaker-mode for the whole Crew to hear. Ella, in her new official role as Captain, spoke for the Crew, and offered to allow the agents to come search the ship providing they display proper Navy credentials, although there was a limited time-window before departure, and a full load of freight had already been loaded, so it would be tight quarters. The voice demanded to be allowed to search freely, and insisted that they were not “Navy.” Ella would not back down from her demand for Navy credentials, and ended the call, though the voice warned that this was not over.

The Crew neverminded the warning and finished prepping the ship, departing on schedule outbound for Porozlo, and jumped out without incident.

During the jump, Abe was exercising his new duties as Steward, and attracted the interest of one of the passengers, a secretive woman of unstated profession. She inquired about the cargo hold, and how she might retrieve some of her belongings stowed there…


Notes

  • Ella’s player was out for vacation, so the character was run by Herodian in her stead
  • The lead commando having been revealed as Keanu Reeves resulted in some inevitable remarks about him being back at the base, eating a sandwich, alone (for those unfamiliar with that meme)
  • The “OSD” term comes from Mass Effect—I’m not sure what the canonical storage device is for Traveller; I just like that term


turuumptower

Market Value

Six days after the arrival at Rhylanor-Prime, the Rhylanor Capital Protection Service made contact with the Team, and set up a meeting to discuss ownership of the Proud Mary. All of the members of the former-crew of the Titanic VII would attend the meeting, dressed in their finest—which, for some, had to be purchased locally, and for Sam, consisted of “the usual” (Hawaiian shirt & spacer-boots). Some of the Team hadn’t been to Rhylanor before, and were rather impressed with the lavish offices of the Turuump Tower, in the finance district of the sector-capitol. They appeared to make a good enough impression with the RCPS representative (in spite of Sam’s casual dress); Ella elected to let Haank do most of the talking, as he had the most training and experience in business and finance matters. Haank happened to notice the representative’s cuff-links indicating nobility, and made a point of his proper address so the other Team-members would be aware. The meeting seemed to go well. RCPS had already taken a loss on the ship and were looking to recover what they could, but were willing to hand over ownership of the ship for five million credits, or buy it back for half the original purchase cost of 49 million credits. Haank enlisted Buck’s expert opinion on the ship’s condition, but was unable to convince the company to lower the offered amount. Both sides being satisfied with the negotiations, the meeting was ended so that the Team could confer and return an answer to the RCPS offer, which would remain open for a week.

After some serious discussion, the Team decided it would be better and/or easier to keep the ship, as-is, than to take the near-25 million and attempt to buy a new one. Over the next three days, they worked together to build a solid business plan to present to a bank for a business-capital loan. Having decided to keep her, Buck finalized the arrangements, and sent her off to have the annual maintenance done, and everyone checked into a local hotel for the duration. At the summit of the mountain of paperwork, they would form a limited-liability partnership under the name, Spinward Star, LLP; Smith and Jones would be officially hired on as employees. Roughly a week after registering their new partnership with the Imperial offices, they easily secured a bank loan for 7.5 million credits against the ship. After paying the 5 million to RCPS, as negotiated, ownership of the Proud Mary was officially transferred to the new company.

The ship now belonged to the Team, and they, to the ship. And the ship’s cat.

Four days hence, the ship was returned from its annual maintenance, and after a thorough checking-over by her new crew, given a clean bill-of-health. It was unanimously decided to spend a tiny amount of the remaining capital on a christening-party aboardships—officially christened Spinward Star. That evening, there was much celebratory drinking (though Sam made himself rather annoying, especially to those that were not drinking to excess), and near-half the Crew passed out in their beds.

Some hours before sunrise, Sam was awakened by the cat, for reasons his drink-and-sleep-addled mind couldn’t process. As he stumbled into the crew lounge, he heard some shuffling noise from below, and so, made his way to the central hatchway, to descend into the lower cargo hold to see who these intruders might be. He keyed the ship’s intercom and demanded the occupants of the lower hold identify themselves, to no response. He then opened the hatch, and began to descend, but was greeted from below by a handful of gun-wielding commandos, pulling wall-panels in the hold, obviously looking for something left there long ago. The commandos demanded he quietly continue to descend, and to “not do anything stupid.” However, he instead lept back up the access ladder, pulled his feet clear of the expected gunfire (which did not occur), and reflexively slapped the close-switch for the iris-hatch, locking it down.


Notes

  • Though Ella’s Contact was available the previous session, when the ship arrived, he was not available for this one; we determined he had been called away on official business, and couldn’t hang around
  • I had designed Haank’s character with just this sort of thing in mind, so it was nice to get some use out of all those “business” skills
  • As one might expect, the bookkeeping took up quite a bit of time. First time using the “Finance” section of Traveller: Far Trader, wasn’t so bad
  • Ended up with the $7.5M at 2% interest for 10 years; having the ship as collateral meant we could get away with the bare-minimums without any problem. Our expectation is that we can make that up pretty easily
  • Sam rolled an 18 on his Carousing check at the christening party; the second time he’s failed so spectacularly at carousing, something he’s supposed to be good at

Under Way

Ella and Abe headed over to the traffic-control office to speak to the director about helping the Proud Mary get clear of the expected attack by the Vargr Corsair, Ella’s nemesis. They knocked on the back door, marked “staff only,” and were eventually greeted by a traffic-control officer. The two informed the officer of their desire to speak to the director, who had earlier sent a runner to warn them; the officer let them in and fetched the director. The director was sympathetic to their situation, but there was little he could do but delay their departure—helpful, yes, but not a solution. After some discussion, it was decided to pay the usual fee to the Scout Service for an escort; the director made the call, and set up the escort. All they could provide was a single 100-ton Scout—not much, but maybe enough. Ella also asked to submit her flight-plan in person, to eliminate the need to broadcast it where the Vargr could intercept; this was not an unusual request, and the director agreed to take the flight-plan on paper. Ella gave the director her thanks, and the two returned to the ship to finish prepping for departure.

beowulf_new_1

Back aboard the Proud Mary, Haank noticed that their Vargr observer a few pads down at the Corsair had fallen asleep at his post, and advised they rush their pre-flight to get more of a head-start; the Vargr were later observed frantically trying to catch up. Meanwhile, Ella coordinated their departure with the the Scout Service escort, the ISS Athinea, on a secure channel. The Proud Mary was cleared for takeoff, and Sam put her into orbit in record time; just after, the scout vessel joined them in orbit as well. The Vargr tried to follow, but were delayed by the tower—eventually, illegally breaking out of traffic to pursue. Buck overloaded the Proud Mary’s drives to squeeze out more power, doubling her acceleration. The Vargr Corsair did the same, and was easily able to keep up, and would beat them to the jump point, but the scout vessel demanded they heave-to, and when ignored, launched missiles. The Vargr dropped back to deal with the scout vessel, giving the Proud Mary the chance to escape. (The fate of the ISS Athinea is unknown.)

The rest of the voyage went without incident. The Proud Mary jumped to Belizo and unloaded her cargo and passengers. Neither freight nor passengers were available bound for Jae Tellona. After three days in transit, the ship was refueled at the nearest gas-giant, and jumped out to Jae Tellona. At the mainworld, they took on freight and passengers bound for Rhylanor, and after four days in transit, refueled at the nearest gas-giant, and jumped out for Rhylanor. At the mainworld, the Proud Mary was cleared, landed, and the passengers and cargo were unloaded.

CptGlovalOn arrival, Buck got started arranging for the ship’s long-delayed annual maintenance, while Ella got in touch with Cpt Henry Gloval, and old friend of her father. He was surprised and delighted to hear from her, and agreed to meet her for lunch, where Ella told him her story, from asteroid strike to Vargr encounter. He confessed that there wasn’t a whole lot he could do to help with her salvage claim on the Proud Mary, but he did recognize the ship’s name, and recalled she may have a history with the Imperial military…


Notes

  • Abe’s player was out, due to illness; it had already been decided that Abe would go along to talk to the traffic-control guys, but he didn’t contribute much (not that it would likely have affected the results)
  • While doing pre-flight, the GM called for a Perception check to see what had been observed regarding the other ship’s preparations; Haank rolled 4; the Vargr rolled 18 😛
  • The escape took up a lot of session-time; combined with a delay getting started, it was decided to fast-forward through the voyage
  • Used the new freight/passenger generation spreadsheet for the first time; worked well enough, but determined it would still be optimal to handle it all beforehand, when possible—still a lot of bookkeeping, just to record the results. We were in a rush at that point, though, to get through three stops. More testing needed

Bad News

beveyThe Proud Mary was cleared to land, after doing the usual bureaucratic tango that preceded doing anything at all on the chilly, crowded, desert-world of Bevey. During the process, Ella explained the apprehension on her countenance to the others; the Vargr ship docked below belonged to an old enemy crew from her Navy days, and she expected to be harassed. Given their presence, and the iron-fisted state of things on Bevey, the Team all agreed that they should remain within the startown limits for the duration of their hopefully-brief stay here. Once landed, Haank immediately saw to the unloading process, while the passengers were disembarked; farewells were said to Kella, while former-Ensigns Smith and Jones were invited to join the current crew—they accepted (though Jones admitted his new wife would undoubtedly be furious at his delayed return). To celebrate, Smith insisted they go for drinks at a local establishment; expecting trouble, everyone went along anyway.

vargrmerc11Trouble didn’t wait. The Vargr crew intercepted Ella on the street, greeting her with feigned rapport and expressing their surprise at this chance-encounter; Ella kept her distance, and made no attempt to hide the fact that she had no desire to speak to them, ending the “conversation” abruptly, before continuing to the bar.

The bar was a dive, a menagerie of species. Sam’s attempts to carouse with the other patrons fell flat; Ella chatted up the bartender for the latest news; Haank kept to himself at a booth, and watched some golf-related programming while sipping at some bourbon; Abe’s and Buck’s attentions were drawn to the alien females present, and Buck ended up chatting up a table-full of blue-skinned humanoids (three of the four were female), crew of another Free-Trader looking for new work. Otherwise, the Team left after a few hours, without incident. In the morning, the Team went together to the warehouse-offices of Neverfail Freight, LLC, their soon-to-be former employers. On the way out, Haank spotted one of the Vargr Corsair’s crew keeping an eye on their comings and goings from their berth a few pads down the dock, and alerted the others.

At the office, the Team found the boss at his office, and sat him down to give him the bad news. Ella told the story of the loss of the Titanic VII, and the rest of her crew, though she left out the pertinent details of the Astro-Core unpleasantness. The boss was saddened to hear of it; he then asked if the Team were looking to be assigned to another ship. Ella informed him of their desire to leave the company to form their own opportunity with the ship they had recovered. The boss was understanding, thanked the Team for their contributions to the company, and wished them well (to the Team’s collective surprise, having expected legal hearings, at least). After collecting their final pay, the Team returned to the Proud Mary, now free to seek their fortunes wherever they liked.

Some time after they arrived at the ship, a runner for traffic control came over to give the Team a heads-up; the Vargr crew had been asking about their departure schedule. Abe tipped the guy twenty credits for the info.

The Team gathered in the crew lounge to discuss what to do next, and decided a few things: they would continue, as previously discussed, to Rhylanor, to report the salvage of the Proud Mary; they didn’t want to hang around Bevey any longer than they had to, and would depart as soon as possible; they wouldn’t go through a great deal of trouble over maintenance, nor spend a great deal of money, until they knew the ship was “theirs”; they were convinced the Vargr Corsair would attempt to jump them at some point after they left—initially they didn’t want to spend the money for fuel, but skimming for fuel at a gas-giant would leave them vulnerable to ambush, so in the end, they decided to fork over the money.

Haank hit the network and found plenty of freight lots and passengers bound for Belizo, the next stop toward Rhylanor; he signed up enough to fill the available space, and got it, and the fuel, all loaded. Ella filed the flight-plan, and Sam got the ship prepped for departure. In the final hour or so before takeoff, though, the Team tried to come up with some potential solutions to avoid the Corsair’s inevitable attack. Among the ideas discussed: delay departure to coincide with other traffic, to provide some friendly cover; sabotage their ship or their flight plans; talk local authorities into providing escort. In the end, Ella decided to take Abe with her to go see if the traffic control guys might be willing to extend a bit more help…


Notes

  • The session was cut a bit short, so we didn’t accomplish as much as we would’ve liked. We were also delayed a bit by the usual lookup process that normally accompanies finding new freight & passengers; this prompted me to work on a spreadsheet/die-roller to handle the workload, which will be field-tested soon

Desperate Measures

The arrival of the Albatross in the local evening was cause for celebration amongst the Team—their ticket off this snowball, in the form of a [coupling] to repair the broken jump-drive. Listening in to ATC radio traffic, they heard their captain declare they were looking for the Titanic VII and wanting to know what happened; the colony director took the comm himself, and told them “It’s complicated,” and that they should look up the surviving crew once on the ground.

CptStannisThe Albatross set down next to the Proud Mary on the clearing that served as the colony’s landing pad. The Team went out to meet her crew, and invited them aboard to go over the situation. Seated in the passenger lounge on the top deck, drinking Buck’s coffee, Ella told the whole story, from the asteroid-strike to the final showdown with Astro-Core. The captain of the Albatross, Stannis, explained that they were chartered by the company to determine the condition of the Titanic and get it running again, if necessary, and were not prepared for a total loss of the ship, nor authorized to render aid to its survivors. It was apparent that their captain didn’t really trust the Titanic’s survivors, but Ella successfully convinced him to give their claims a serious look anyway. However, as she followed up with an attempt to guilt-trip him into giving up the jump-drive parts, he took offense and insisted the meeting was over. The crew of the Albatross was escorted off the ship, and were thereafter observed being intercepted and picked up by an Astro-Core roller on the way into the colony. Afterward, the Team spent some time discussing their limited options, in the event the Albatross refused to help.

The next morning, the Albatross was observed taking off, heading in the general direction of the wreck of the Titanic, and returning some time later. Haank commed over to see what they had found; they reported that they had only found a little debris at the site, the rest presumably having sunk into the depths, but that was good enough to corroborate the report of the accident.

XOLukeKaaliiThe Team was bereft of ideas on how to repair the situation, and by proxy, the jump-drive. Sam suggested they smooth over any raw nerves with copious amounts of adult-beverages; it might be a stretch, but the others agreed to give it a shot, taking the opportunity to do whatever it took to convince the Albatross’ crew that they were worthy of a second chance. Almost-surprisingly, given the earlier encounter, the scout’s crew agreed to come over. Over the next hours, Sam engaged their XO, Luke, in some lively drinking games (specifically, Battle-Shots), while Haank and Buck cheered them on (Haank capitalized on Luke’s inebriation to find out how their encounter with Astro-Core had gone; Luke admitted Astro-Core had tried to strong-arm them into not helping get the Proud Mary off the planet); Abe schmoozed up to Kaalii, their engineer, eventually following her back to her ship to spend the night; Ella took Cpt. Stannis to the bridge to talk, one-on-one.

In the morning, Abe returned with a smile, to tend to the formerly-drunk (Luke had passed out in one of the passenger cabins), giving Ella a knowing high-five—although her meeting had resulted in capitulation, with regard to the jump-drive parts, Ella would never actually reveal what it had cost her. Some time later, Kaalii returned with an old, spare [coupling] that should do the trick, and assisted Buck in installing it; with Buck’s expert touch (or good luck), they figured it might last quite a while.

So, finally, the survivors of the Titanic VII were free to leave Kegena-Prime.

Haank immediately hit the network to pick up some freight and/or passengers bound for Bevey. He found enough of both to fill the ship to capacity. Three cabins were spoken for already: Kella paid the standard-rate for a cabin (covered by her grant money), and Smith and Jones had already been offered a ride out of here. He avoided the Astro-Core freight, and put the leftover passenger cabins to auction, getting considerably more than the average—a lot of folk were also desperate to get anywhere-but-here. It was decided to take on jump-fuel from the sea—as Kegena was 90% water. Once the fees were taken care of, and everything/everyone stowed, the Proud Mary took to the Black once more, to leave Kegena-Prime in her wake; some hours later, without incident, she made the transition to jump-space, Bevey-bound. The Team took advantage of the week in jump-space to discuss their options, but they were all in general agreement that staying headquartered at Bevey would be less than desirable—thanks to the iron-fisted government—and that continuing in the employ of Neverfail, LLC (headquartered in Bevey), which would undoubtedly mean returning to Kegena, was also right out. There was also the matter of the ownership of the Proud Mary, registered at Rhylanor; after some plotting, they determined it might be best to take her to Rhylanor and declare for salvage in-person, taking a bit of cargo on the way—a chance to make some money first, in the event someone laid claim to her.

nolgOtherwise, the trip was uneventful, and the ship exited jump-space in the Bevey system, and was cleared to land at the starport. As the Team gathered to see somewhere-other-than-Kegena outside the window, they didn’t notice the smile fade from Ella’s face at the sight of a familiar (to her) Vargr Corsair at dock…


Notes

  • Ella had some help, and success, with her initial Diplomacy check, but when she made a Fast-Talk attempt to get the parts “now”—must’ve come across as desperate—it backfired. The dice are a fickle mistress. There was some real concern, afterward, that we might have to resort to either theft, or waiting another two weeks (minimum)
  • The Carousing plan was one of many unsavory ideas—perhaps the least unsavory—involving someone sleeping with someone over there, to get in their good graces
  • Captain Stannis—who was randomly determined to be less than attractive—actually failed at a Sex Appeal attempt against Ella, by two, but she had decided to play along and “take one for the team,” though in the end, it was never decided whether or not that involved…more than words 😉
  • Buck rolled a Crit on the coupling installation—the GM decided that, rather than last a single jump as originally intended, it would last a few
  • The decision to forego any Astro-Core freight wasn’t solely an “F-U” to the corporation, but a paranoia extending from our experiences in the previous Traveller game, with the Emerald Monarch (which involved explosives and cargo containers)
  • The Vargr ship is Ella’s “Enemy”—which nobody else on the crew knows anything about

Snowball’s Chance

The Team gathered and processed all the intelligence they had on the situation. There were few choices: raid Astro-Core offices for evidence they had ordered the hit on the Team and/or the massacre of the Aslan colony, a blatantly illegal action that would cast doubt on their story, whether or not it succeeded; talk to the Imperial authorities and convince them to deny Astro-Core’s extradition demands, which held only a marginal chance of success without some sort of proof of the Team’s innocence; submit to “due process” and hope for the best, which they believed to be doomed to fail, as Astro-Core held the majority share in the colony and had all the power to do as it pleased, and so would likely fabricate whatever evidence they liked to keep the truth from ever seeing the light of day. They decided, as a backup plan, to head back out to the Aslan site, where they could dig around for clues, let Kella have a little longer to study, and by making a show of their leaving, potentially draw Astro-Core into another confrontation that could be recorded as evidence against them. All agreed, the Proud Mary was readied for departure, and a flight-plan registered with colony traffic-control—the Director commed, and, while expressing his sympathies with their situation, warned that running away would result in official arrest warrants being issued—then, with a close pass over the colony, they made for the SE range.

crevasse640On arrival at the crevasse, the Team split up: Sam, Buck, ENS Smith and ENS Jones would remain aboard the ship, Sam watching the sensors and scanning comm frequencies for traffic, and Buck on the ship’s laser, to provide security (the ship would hover inverted, as the laser was in the dorsal turret); Ella, Haank, Abe, and Kella dismounted to descend into the crevasse.

As they set up autograpnels for the climb, Haank noticed some unfamiliar boot-prints in the snow, and alerted everyone to the potential of a trap. At the bottom of the cavern, Haank proceeded in first, scanning ahead with his sensor pack, in biosniffer mode—he picked up a number of other human biosignatures—and continued down the “street” as the others searched the area for other evidence, and looked for a good place to set up Buck’s button-cam to record the inevitable confrontation. Everyone that had the capability was transmitting video back to the ship to be recorded. On the surface, it seemed that nothing had been disturbed, but Ella had a strong sense that they were walking into an ambush. Then, as Haank followed the biosignatures through the colony, he heard a boot on the stone surface, and spotted a shadowy figure in one of the homes carved out of the cliff-face: LT Richards stepped out, slow-clapping, and with his usual sneer, pointed out the Team’s apparent predictability. Haank matter-of-factly asked him if he had come to finish the job from before, to bury the Team here; Richards responded that he had. Haank then revealed, with a finger-tap to his HUD-glasses, that Richards had just recorded his criminal confession, which had been transmitted back to the ship.

This is when things started to unravel.

LTDickLT Richards revealed that he had gunmen hidden throughout the site’s buildings, prepared to kill everyone—including those on the ship—and started negotiating for the handover and/or erasure of all recordings relating to the Aslan site and his own confession. Ella was unwilling to acquiesce without some assurances of the Team’s safety. Richards would allow all but one of the Team to return to the ship, providing they were escorted by one of his men, who would oversee the erasure of the incriminating data; Ella ordered the others to go, as she would be remaining behind. Haank and Abe reluctantly complied, though before Kella could follow, Richards demanded she stay as well, despite Ella’s protestation. Richards then demanded Ella surrender her helmet, with its integral communicator, so the rest of the Team would not be able to communicate with her without his knowledge; Ella protested again, and Richards gave her his communicator in exchange. Richards also demanded that ENS Smith be sent down—as Smith had shot Richards in the back during the previous incident here, it was an easy guess what he meant to do with him.

This is when things completely snapped.

Haank and Abe preceded Richards’ man into the ship, which had been righted to allow access to the ventral airlock hatch for entry. Haank seized the opportunity, as the man had his rifle slung to climb the ladder, and dropped onto him, feet-first, knocking them both out the bottom of the ship. Haank, still prone, went for his pistol, while the other got to his feet and went for his rifle, alerting the other security-men to the trap via his comms (which Richards was unable to hear; one of the men had to come out of hiding to let him know). Haank took careful aim at the man’s weapon arm—expecting a standoff—but the other man fired a burst at him instead, a round hitting Haank in the torso; his armor soaked much of the impact. Haank pulled the trigger three times; an ETC APHD round cut through the man’s monocrys body armor and splintered the bone in his arm, crippling it, leaving the man writhing in pain (afterward, Haank would provide first-aid, preventing him from bleeding out, though the man didn’t exactly “appreciate” the help).

As Haank’s gambit was in progress, Abe was attempting to descend the ladder to provide assistance, when Sam and Buck spotted a telltale smoke-trail of a surface-to-air missile coming from a copse of trees some distance away down the ridge, and Sam performed an evasive maneuver, causing the missile to miss; as the missile returned, Buck snap-shot it down, and promptly turned the ship’s laser on the source of the missile, as Sam pitched the ship forward to allow the turret to bear down on its target. There was nothing left of the area but ash and steam when Buck finally let off the fire-button.

Meanwhile, in the cavern, after some tense words as a result of learning of the attack, Ella pulled her pistol, resigned to a firefight. Backpedalling to cover, she failed to hit Richards, who tackled her to the ground (not wanting to give up his living hostage) and attempted to disarm her. They struggled, Richards slamming her hand against his knee in an attempt to force her to drop the pistol, while she punched at his head with her free hand, eventually stunning him, such that she was able to turn the tables on him. Kella had run for cover, but was shot through the abdomen in the process, as was moaning in pain, bleeding. Richards finally snapped to with Ella’s gun to his head, and agreed to order his men to stand down; they complied.

Afterward, Abe was able to tend to the wounded, and the kill team members were all collected and secured aboard the ship. The ship then returned to the colony, and the Team handed Richards and his men over to the Imperial authorities—all the while knowing that they would be given over to Astro-Core custody (as they were responsible for security at the colony), who would release them. However, Astro-Core made no further attempt on the Team; instead, given the evidence, Mr. Duushii pinned the entire matter on Richards, claiming he had gone rogue. The Team remained behind the extrality zone for the next two weeks, after which a company scout-ship arrived insystem, as predicted.


Notes

  • As it turned out, the GM was caught by surprise with the plan to go back out to the site; he was expecting the office raid to go on as originally planned; after talking it over, with several characters bearing the Honesty Disadvantage, we just couldn’t justify the break-in
  • Buck used Gizmo to give us the button-camera, expecting to leave the site and catch the security guys tampering afterward; there was some confusion at the Aslan site as to whether or not it was already being used to record, as Richards kept demanding it be handed over—a likely culprit for any apparent logic holes in the ensuing chaos
  • Haank’s death-from-above is actually a standard Technique from his Military Zero-G style; been waiting for a chance to use it 😉
  • The struggle between Ella and LT Dick over the pistol went on for quite a few rounds, as Ella was strong enough to keep hold of it no matter Dick’s apparent success, which gave her time to actually connect—she was having a really bad dice night
  • ENS Smith never got the opportunity to shoot LT Dick (again)
  • The GM is now talking about making LT Richards into a recurring villain, since we screwed him over so badly, but left him alive

Rule of Law

The Team landed the Proud Mary back at the colony quickly, hoping to precede the news of the failed assassination. There was some discussion about how to proceed; Buck didn’t trust the Director on principle, and every potential move they could think of left the Team vulnerable in some way or another. In the end, Ella went, escorted by Haank, the only Team member who was authorized to carry weapons inside the colony walls.

The Colony Director received Ella and Haank, and listened intently as they told the story of the Aslan find, the warning from Mr. Duushii, and the attempted murder by Astro-Core security. Even as they explained the matter, they knew that the Director would be in a weak position to do anything about it; he seemed to believe their story, and wished to do the “right thing,” but limited by his Imperial office, he could do little more than file a complaint when the next ship arrived insystem. Haank commed ENS Smith and Jones, still on a “scenic route” back to the colony, and asked them to proceed to the Director’s office on arrival to tell their side of the story. After some discussion of their legal position, it was decided that it would be best to remain aboard the ship under the protection of the Extrality Zone—the limits of which were a bit fuzzy in this situation.

During the conversation with the Director, the two rollers driven by ENS Smith and Jones arrived at the colony gate, but Mr. Duushii was there to greet them, presumably to enquire about the status of the “mission.” ENS Smith commed back to Haank to inform him, and ask for recommendations on how to handle the situation. Haank suggested that if their passengers (the kill-team members who surrendered) were likely to keep quiet, to play along, and if not, pass him up—he would learn of the results soon enough either way. ENS Smith’s impetuous nature won out, and he gunned the roller past Mr. Duushii without a word of explanation, making haste to the Director’s office.

duushii

Ella and Haank knew they didn’t have much time before Mr. Duushii would make a move, so they thanked the Director for his time and hurried out to meet the incoming rollers. They released their captives, and as they were about to pile into one of the rollers, they heard Mr. Duushii in the distance, yelling at his men to arrest them; Ella growled, “Don’t even think about it,” while Haank shook his head sternly, and their former-captives decided to let someone else handle it. Haank slipped behind the wheel of the roller and spurred the vehicle toward the gate, where Mr. Duushii and a handful of armed security personnel had spread out across the path, blocking their exit. Haank opted for a game of “chicken,” counting on their opponents’ sense of self-preservation to win out. Mr. Duushii didn’t blink, but held his ground, and the security personnel raised their gauss rifles. Ella was convinced their opponents would not budge, and rather than be party to vehicular-homicide, shouted for Haank to stop, but as Haank aimed the vehicle for the right-hand guard, he read “jump” in the man’s body-language, and proceeded through despite Ella’s orders, scraping the buildings that bounded the path; the guard dodged the speeding vehicle as predicted. Ella was less than pleased, but held her tongue for the moment. Seconds after, as they continued speeding toward the gate, Mr. Duushii and his men in pursuit on foot, they spotted the gate closing; Haank mentally timed the closure and sped through with nary a scrape. The rest of the Team had been prepping the ship for departure—just in case—and Buck opened the ramp to receive the speeding roller, and closed it after them.

The Team was settling in for a long bout of waiting when Sam received an incoming comm: Mr. Duushii, demanding they return their “kidnap victims” and turn themselves in to face murder charges, and Sam hung up on him; he continued to call, but Sam refused to answer further. Abe had done what he could with the wounded Astro-Core men, and as LT Richards was healthy enough to drive, they were put in the roller and released—there was little more to be done with them, though the Team agreed that they would likely run afoul of these men again. LT Richards sneered and quipped as he drove off, not knowing that Buck had removed a necessary part of the roller; the Team watched as he reached the colony gate, only to break down, forced to walk the rest of the way.

Some time later, the Colony Director commed—Astro-Core had demanded extradition, and the Imperial authority needed to take statements from those involved to determine whether or not to grant it; he also informed the Team that they may need to be legally detained. Of course, there was much discussion of the relevant law, and what could and could not be expected. Buck was adamant that the Director had been bought off, and that this was merely an attempt to put them in a position to be “silenced.” Running away would be seen as guilt, and crossing Astro-Core would mean they might face blacklisting in this sector, at the least. They had no indication as to how high up the Astro-Core chain-of-command the cover-up went. ENS Smith brought up the involvement of the Death’s Head Hussars mercenary unit in the early days of the colony; this might be important later, but didn’t serve their situation at the moment. Ella eventually agreed to allow Imperial reps to take statements, at least; they also offered up copies of their video evidence of the Aslan site and whatever else might be helpful. Some time after the statements were taken, and reviewed, the Director commed again to inform the Team that those who had discharged their weapons in the incident—Buck, ENS Smith, and ENS Jones—would need to be detained, at what Imperial facility was available, or on the ship, providing it was landlocked; he gave until the morning before he would send men to arrest them or landlock the ship. The Team was still concerned about safety, knowing that Astro-Core had all the power here—they could easily be framed as guilty of murder and/or accessory, and little could be done about it. In the end, the only plan they could come up with was to raid the Astro-Core offices for evidence that would exhonorate them, before the detainment deadline.


Notes

  • It was fortunate that I had spent a point in Driving (Tracked) from Kella’s Rescue, as Haank would need to make emergency use of it several times. His knowledge of Law (Imperial Astronautical) was also leaned upon quite a bit
  • This session tested the limits of those characters that had the Honesty Disadvantage—it would have been far easier otherwise—and it will be tested more next time, as the chosen course of action is definitely not “legal” (though certainly “justified”); this would not have been a hard call for the crew of the Emerald Monarch, I think 😉
  • We were a little surprised ENS Smith didn’t just shoot Mr. Duushii—“Day ain’t over yet”


121026052546-antarctic-air-shot-horizontal-gallery

Cold Betrayals

The morning after Kella’s rescue, after the blizzard had cleared, a courier delivered a message from Mr. Duushii, Haank’s Astro-Core security boss, requesting his presence to brief him on what had occurred the previous night. Haank did as he was bidden, and told Mr. Duushii the whole of what happened, including the discovery of the Aslan ruin, as he had no cause to be suspicious, and informed him that they had promised to take Kella out to the site when the weather cleared. Mr. Duushii warned him against returning to the site, as the geology crew had declared the area “dangerously unstable.” Haank asked to speak to someone in Geology about the area, hoping to gain some insight into what sort of dangers a survey team might expect from the area; Mr. Duushii made the call. A couple of geologists arrived, and they all went over the maps—paper maps; these guys are Old-School—and data together. Haank had some trouble following their geological jargon, but their story matched that of the security boss; stay clear of the area. Haank acknowledged the warnings, and responded that they were going to take all necessary precautions to get a “quick scan” of the site, for the sake of their promise to Kella, and return. On the way out of the office, Mr. Duushii cornered Haank and, in a subtly-threatening manner, again warned Haank to stay away from the area.

Now, with plenty of cause to suspect Mr. Duushii’s intentions, Haank brought the matter to the rest of the Team. It was decided to go ahead with the mission: the Team would take Kella to the site in the Proud Mary’s air/raft, while Ella and Haank would remain behind to observe and report whatever actions the security department might take in response.

Not long after the air/raft departed for the SE range, Haank, while practicing his golf-swing on the roof of the ship and keeping a subtly-watchful eye, spotted a pair of rollers leaving the colony in the direction of the Eastern mining facilities; he zoomed in with his HUD-glasses, and identified the occupants as eight members of the security department. He radioed ahead to the rest of the Team that company was on its way.

crevasse640

Meanwhile, the air/raft arrived at the crevasse they had discovered the night before, now re-buried in snow. Although the plan, as discussed, was to scan the ruins from the safety of the air/raft, on arrival, Kella excitedly jumped out and set about digging it clear, so Abe and Sam followed; Buck remained aboard to keep watch, bringing out his hand-held sensor pack to scan for incoming vehicles. Once the crevasse was cleared, Kella wasted no time, but immediately secured a line and climbed down; Abe and Sam followed after. The conclusion from the night before was easily confirmed; it was an Aslan colony, dug into the rock-face. Skeletal remains of Aslan colonists were found; Abe scanned them, and determined that they were likely between 5-10 years dead, and riddled with bullets—given the behavior of the colony security team, everyone presumed that the attempts to warn them away from this place was an attempt to cover up a massacre. Everything witnessed was recorded for later study. Knowing they had little time left before the security team would arrive, Abe and Sam convinced Kella to leave—perhaps to return later.

Before they could climb out of the crevasse, Buck’s sensor picked up incoming vehicles; the security team had arrived. Buck alerted the team via radio, and still seated atop the air/raft, placed his laser rifle across his lap, expecting a fight. The colony rollers pulled up to their position and the team dismounted; ENS Smith and ENS Jones were among them. The team-leader, LT Richards, with a haughty sneer that belied his ill-intent, declared that they were trespassing, and should surrender; seeing only Buck at the moment, he demanded the location of the remainder of the Team. Buck was undaunted; he patted his laser rifle, and in so many words, inquired which of them wished to die first. As a result, some of the security team began to think less of their leader’s murderous plan; an argument was sparked, and in typical ENS Smith fashion, ENS Smith shot LT Richards on the spot. A brief firefight ensued among the security team; some fled for cover, some stood their ground trying to follow their orders by firing on Buck and the “traitors,” while the others (ENS Smith and Jones) tried to prevent them. Sam was the first out of the crevasse, and joined in the fray from a distance. The fight ended with one dead, two seriously wounded (including LT Richards), and the others surrendered; ENS Smith was wounded as well, though not severely. Abe climbed out of the crevasse in time to see to the wounded, and Kella followed without incident.

Once the call went out that the rollers had arrived, Haank and Ella fired up the ship to come to the Team’s aid; it arrived as the fight was ended. The wounded—including LT Richards—were taken aboard, while ENS Smith and Jones drove the rest in the colony rollers on a “scenic route” back to the colony (to give the Team time to interrogate LT Richards before, themselves, returning). Abe patched up the wounded, and forced LT Richards to consciousness. Ella began to question LT Richards, still on the medical table, as to the nature and source of the orders he was attempting to execute; when he refused to cooperate, she responded by poking at his wounds with a finger until he changed his tune (to Abe’s irritation). LT Richards confessed that his orders came from Mr. Duushii, but knew nothing of why they were given; they had initially headed for the Eastern facilities for the purpose of “plausible deniability,” leading the Team to believe that the non-corporate colony administration was unlikely to be involved in the plot.

After a brief discussion of their findings, the Team decided the best course of action would be to report the incident to the Colony Director, and go from there…