Setting: Dragon Toasters
- 1 PAST
- 2 NOW
- 3 2013.01.31 - Welcome to Charon
- 4 Plot Infliction 001 - When Is It A Good Time To Panic?
- 5 2013.02.07 - Nice Hit
- 6 Plot Infliction 002 - Just Sit Right Back And Hear A Tale, A Tale Of A Fateful Trip
- 7 2013.02.15 - Nice Hit Part 2
- 8 Plot Infliction 003 - It Started From A Tropic Port, Aboard This Tiny Ship
- 9 2013.02.21 - Ninny Flailing
- 10 Plot Infliction 004 - The Mate Was A Mighty Sailing Man, The Skipper Brave And Sure
- 11 2013.03.01 - Screamer Test
- 12 Plot Infliction 005 - 5 Passengers Set Sail That Day, On A 3 Hour Tour... A 3 Hour Tour
- 13 2013.03.07 - KAH Imminent
- 14 Plot Infliction 006 - The Weather Started Getting Rough, The Tiny Ship Was Tossed
- 15 2013.03.14 - Angry Cattle Attack and Mr. 8 Legs
- 16 Plot Infliction 007 - If Not For The Courage Of The Fearless Crew, The Minnow Would Be Lost
- 17 2013.03.28 - Weaknesses And Strengths
- 18 Plot Infliction 008 - The Ship Set Ground On The Shore Of This Uncharted Desert Island
- 19 2013.04.18 - Field Of Doom
- 20 Plot Infliction 008 - With Gilligan The Skipper too, The millionaire and his wife, The movie star The professor and Mary Ann, Here on Gilligans Isle.
- 21 2013.04.25 - If Not KAKAH, Then Maybe POKAH
- 22 Plot Infliction 009 - THERE IS NO PLOT, ONLY ZUUL
- 23 2013.05.02 - What Happens To Machines When They Die? Let's Find Out
- 24 Plot Infliction 010 - Plot? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Plot
- 25 2013.05.16 - Gilligan played accordion
- 26 Plot Infliction 011 - Slinking Into The Shadows
- 27 2013.05.23 - Sewers, Giant Shrimp, and Displacer Beasts
- 28 Plot Infliction 012 - NO PLOT HERE EITHER
- 29 2013.05.30 - Gunballs, Empty Nightmares, Displacer Beasts, And Cicada Techies
- 30 Plot Infliction 013 - In The Secret KAH Factory
- 31 2013.05.30 - Nightmares Can Be Fun
- 32 Plot Infliction 014 - Let Him Die
- 33 2013.06.19 - Pause For A Moment While I Terrify You Into Paralysis
- 34 Plot Infliction 015 - Did The Sidekick Limit Just Go Down?
- 35 2013.07.04 - Reunion of Doom
- 36 Plot Infliction 016 - Don't make me angry... You wouldn't like me when I'm angry
- 37 2013.07.11 - Meet SparkleLord
- 38 Plot Infliction 017 - Whose Mortality Gets Tested Next
- 39 2013.07.25 - After The Slaughter
- 40 Plot Infliction 018 - AFTER After The Slaughter
- 41 2013.08.02 - Goodbye General Greer
- 42 Plot Infliction 019 - Hiding Is A Handy Talent
- 43 2013.08.15 - The Dangers Of Chasing A HORROR
- 44 Plot Infliction 020 - An RTG In The Hand And A Ricardo On The Lam
- 45 2013.08.22 - Confirmed: Reaper Is Evil
- 46 Plot Infliction 021 - Time For A Vacation
Reaper is Forked from the Reger Primary. He was created primarily to act as focussed security for Reger and his crew of technicians when they were deployed on the Charon Bootstrap Platform in low Earth orbit. The idea was to imbed with the contracted security forces to ensure no counter-infiltration and general quality control. Also, probably to act out Reger's underlying fantasies about adventure, considering how the Reaper Fork would probably never be able sync with the Reger Primary, nor likely able to return to Oasis (a stable and powerful collective station at Earth's L1).
In order to be willing to be exiled, Reger spent much of his anticipated profits of the technical project to equip the Reaper chassis with a 1 kW RTG. This is in addition to the full array of 4 toolkits, and 2m² of retractable superconducting solar panels.
The Reaper Fork was sent ahead of Reger and his crew to accomplish combat training with the security contract house - Sunkoshi Gurkha Securities. They were oddly delighted to be focussing on skills not normally requested...
In a solemn and semi-formal ritual, Reaper attempted to sync with the Reger Primary (you know, just in case). Both entities were relieved it failed, because combatant occupations are prohibited by civilians at Oasis and would have to be wiped anyway (and the RTG would have been a bit of a waste). So Reaper officially became a new, separate Primary, and bid farewell to his old self.
What the hell would a machine bar look like?
2013.01.31 - Welcome to Charon
It turns out that there really isn't a bar, per se. Charon station is a disc with a diameter of about a kilometer, made mostly as a lattice, and ringed with attitude ion thrusters. And heavily permeated with mechanical bastards.
Once operating independent of Sunkoshi Gurka Securities, Reaper found himself adrift amongst some rather rapacious sentient machines. Wrangling with several roach-like predator machines, including one hard-to-stop 200 kg professional defender with hypernormally-strong mantis claws, Reaper managed to not die.
While struggling with life and death and earning combat experience, Reaper was made aware of post-human humanoid machines (such as himself) being specifically hunted - including a lucky glimpse of one nightmare machine doing the stalking. This was made somewhat more relevant shortly after an AI ship docked with Charon, and Reaper found himself staring down a largish nightmare with three large independent turrets taking an unlikely interest in a small fry such as himself.
Luckily, Reaper had recently made the acquaintance of - and established a vague alliance with - another humanoid machine named Ricardo. Also luckily, the nightmare focussed on the sharpshooter, giving Reaper a chance to bring his assassin ability to good use. And save both their shiny metal asses.
Shortly after that victory, Charon station began to tremble in a way that felt completely unlike something that was probably not a problem and would be totally fine.
Plot Infliction 001 - When Is It A Good Time To Panic?
Ricardo: "What the fuck?"
A sense of general discontent stirs all the nearby machines, and the whole lattice of Charon seethes with machines deciding to be somewhere other than where they are. Broadband chatter overlaps into white noise, but through it a particularly powerful transmitter in a narrow band pulses out a coded message. And it just so happens that it's encoded with the last-rev of the Sunkoshi Gurka Securities comms encryption key. "PLATFORM MAY BE COMPROMISED. BRAVO TEAM ASSEMBLE. ALL OTHER TEAMS TO LIFEBOAT."
Wheeeee... From my time with S.G.S, do I know where the lifeboat is? If if so, I head to it quickly.
You do indeed know the location of the lifeboat, and since it's on the dark side there's less in the way of encounters as you make your way. Once you're within 20 meters of the SGS lifeboat you come across a member of Echo Team armed with an assault laser actively discouraging machines from getting any closer. It queries your ID, and requests that you do no proceed until you're cleared to proceed. Tagged is a metafile with an instructional video about the effectiveness of a 1Dx5 assault laser.
Ricardo: "It's been a hundred years since I've had a throat, but I've still got a gulp reflex."
2013.02.07 - Nice Hit
Reaper negotiated with his old trainer and liaison, Sarah, and arranged for possible inclusion on the SGS lifeboat in exchange for helping protect the security perimeter. Which he did with enthusiasm.
This enthusiasm waned with the approach of a scary skeleton-like monstrosity. It chased Reaper without being spotted by the other perimeter guards, and handily dispatched one of them with a single viciously-flung weapon. Clearly this was a nigh-unstoppable monster of at least seasoned levels of combatant. Insanely, Reaper flung himself at it, and managed to land a full assassination of it. It restarted an instant later, and expressed its dissatisfaction with Reaper by way of a telling hit. But being badly damaged, it was forced to flee before SGS reinforcements could arrive.
Withdrawing from the perimeter for a moment to conduct repairs (and build re-entry mechanisms for individuals), Reaper contacted Ricardo and heard about the cooperative aggressor machines. They called themselves KAH - Kill All Humans. Reaper also was allowed to know about various failed attempts to counter-strike the KAH vessel. And so was somewhat less surprised when the SGS defensive perimeter crumbled and SGS tactically scattered and planned to regroup. Somewhere in that mess, Ricardo regrouped with Reaper.
During the scattering, another triple-turreted KAH medusa pounced on Reaper causing grievous harm. Reaper and Ricardo continued the difficult fight, but Reaper updated the SGS battle-wiki to request assistance. A professional striker named Simirenko came to help with his curiously-effective robotic whips. Together they slew the beast, and rejoined the regrouping.
Plot Infliction 002 - Just Sit Right Back And Hear A Tale, A Tale Of A Fateful Trip
Once regrouped with SGS, Reaper is immediately requested to resume working on re-entry gear.
Sure, seems like a good plan.
The >= 2nd-stage techs are collected and protected so that they can fabricate as many sets of functioning re-entry gear as possible. Teams of decoy machines were sent out to confuse the probing forces of KAH. Then the shuddering of Charon station crescendoed and then stopped.
Ricardo: "That doesn't feel good."
Sarah (on secured SGS net): "The KAH vessel has shoved off, and the platform is going to enter the mesosphere in about a kilosecond. Platform thrusters have all been destroyed. High probability that the KAH vessel will follow the platform down to shoot at anything that tries to flee. Everybody should wait as long as possible before jumping so that the burning platform re-entry will give cover. Beware that there is speculated to be coordinated KAH activity around the platform impact zone. Also, waiting too long might make re-entry unpleasantly fiery."
Ricardo: "You guys all just got some significant news, didn't you? You got all attentive in a far-away kind of way."
Ricardo: "Oh good. It's nice to know my paranoia during an assault of genocidal machines and the impending prospect of falling out of the sky isn't misplaced."
I relay the information to Recardo. "I've always wanted to see Earth..." Though, I probably have some post-human memories of it from a long time ago.
Using my above average intelligence and my techie knowledge of the structure of both the base, our bodies, and the quality of our re-entry gear, I try to guess the best time to jump. When that time comes, I bellow out Geronimo!!!! and jump.
The high intelligence and techie knowledge suggest that the safest re-entry would be to keep as far away from the breaking-up platform as possible, but your re-entry gear and robust construction make for a pretty big window. The stage of leader has some fairly pessimistic comments to make about the prospects of dangling from a drag chute into range of large-scale lasers aimed by KAH machines. Luckily, a pleasantly-dense formation of stratocumulus provide some visual cover, and so Reaper and Ricardo both Geronimo.
It's quite exciting. Giant tumbling chunks of exoplatform start to burn up and sprout all sorts of heat-shielded machines. Giant, awful lasers vaporize many. Also, judging from the splatters of debris, there's probably some hypersonic projectiles coming up. Luckily, Reaper and Ricardo watch this from something of a distance, having judiciously picked their time and vector to Geronimo during the stratocumulus to get some distance from the main group.
Saving the final descent chutes to minimize dangle time, Reaper and Ricard slam down with only moderate damage some 20-odd kilometers from the main debris field of the Charon impacts.
While repairing our moderate damage, we attempt to see if the other survivors are being ambushed by KAH robots. If so, we bravely run in the opposite direction and make ourselves scarce. If not, we start heading towards them.
During the descent you had possible tracking of others, but the nearest was still about a kilometer away - towards the epicenter of the Charon impact field. Now that you're down in a rubble-strewn crater, your current position only has a sight horizon of about 300 meters due to terrain features, and your typical line-of-sight distance is more like 30 meters with cover averaging 5 meters apart. So, Ricardo is feeling claustrophobic, and you're feeling cozy.
Radio is crackling with encrypted comms on every frequency. However, some unencrypted broadband signals a muttering quick warnings about aerial recon drones leading murder teams of KAH machines. Punctuated by some occasional radio screams.
Right... bravely running away it is!
2013.02.15 - Nice Hit Part 2
After stumbling across some tank ants, Reaper and Ricardo discovered that they had acquired some KAH surveillance drones. This, in turn, lead a largish KAH killer drone. It doggedly followed their tracks and looked certain to rip them apart with its assault rail gun. Until Reaper jumped it and assassinated it. The monstrosity did not stay down, but it was essentially beaten. Ricardo took a heavy hit so that he could snap a put-down hit into it. And after that, Reaper disassembled it and stole its wheels.
More KAH machines were closing in, so Reaper and Ricardo fled towards a machine forest. It turned out to be an organized collective, and overall quite reasonable. They paid for safe passage through the forest, and set out using it as cover.
Plot Infliction 003 - It Started From A Tropic Port, Aboard This Tiny Ship
Ricardo: "Those wheels make you look like you're trying to play in a roller derby."
Forest Collective: "Actually, that sounds like fun."
Ricardo: "Shit! You guys are listening in to our private conversation?"
Forest Collective: "You say that like you're not essentially like mosquitos buzzing in our collective ear."
Ricardo: "Well, these mosquitos are paying their way, so stop snooping."
Forest Collective: "Firstly, you're only here by our good graces. Secondly, you would have no idea we were even listening if we hadn't pointed it out, so chillax. And thirdly, one of the main reasons we allow independent machines in our territory is to relieve the boredom. You guys are kind of like reality television, except that we can taunt you."
Ricardo: "I think I'm starting to empathize with KAH."
2013.02.21 - Ninny Flailing
- Left the Forest Collective.
- Headed for the mountains.
- Came across another post-human, didn't kill each other, and was pointed to an upcoming trade bazaar at a nearby canyon.
- Passed the perimeter inspection without killing anyone or dying.
- Took a look around the construction of the bazaar infrastructure (very webby).
- Asked questions of a non-affiliated badass - received bad news about the viability of KAKAH due to scariness of KAH.
- Picked a fight with the badass - had ass kicked, and discovered appeal of having range edged weapons.
- Repaired. Avoided scolding gaze of missile-equipped security machines.
- Found a mantis-machine patiently waiting to fight next.
- SLAP fix fix
- SLAP fix fix
- POKE fix fix fix fix
- POKE fix fix
- POKE fix fix fix fix
- pokey slappy pokey slappy pokey - FAINT
Plot Infliction 004 - The Mate Was A Mighty Sailing Man, The Skipper Brave And Sure
Ricardo: "I think people think we're buskers."
"Maybe we should start singing. Know any good ones?"
Some awkwardly-rendered show tunes later, the bazaar does not so much start as coalesce.
It quickly becomes apparent that the bazaar is mostly organized to cater to "angry cattle" post humans. They view killing of machines as a game, and even have an elaborate point-keeping system to compare scores. And they're all kind of dicks.
So, let the shopping begin!
2013.03.01 - Screamer Test
- Purchased a Screamer - a robotic articulating ultrasonic burrowing tool for assassinating machines.
- Ripped apart some opportunistic post-human thieves.
- Turned down a dangerous mission to kill a seasoned striker monster machine and steal its hoard.
- Killed a couple crab machines.
Plot Infliction 005 - 5 Passengers Set Sail That Day, On A 3 Hour Tour... A 3 Hour Tour
Ricardo: "Holy shit, look at that sunset. I haven't seen a sunset in, like, forever. I seem to recall that they looked sort of pretty. But that's just horrific - it looks like the horizon is a gout of blood and it's riddled with cancer."
"So, do we have any particular plans? Are we looking for a way out of this gravity well? Or are we trying to carve a niche?"
Let's carve a niche... a BLOODY NICHE... except without the blood, cause, y'know, robots.
Let's keep heading towards the mountains, to see what's there.
Mountainward: check. The terrain is sloping upward, though still irregularly pock-marked with creeptacular craters. Clearly, at some point in the not-too-distant past, higher ground was tactically contentious for beings with very large weapons.
Ricardo: "Sounds planly. And not just because we'd probably never be able to afford a ride to civilization. However, if we're going to survive, I think we need to expand our crew. While you're on your way to some decent assassin-y take-down power, and I'll be able to hit anything given a chance, we lack crowd control. I don't think we'd do well if outnumbered, even by greens. Especially by well-equipped greens, like those Angry Cattle, or something like tank ants."
2013.03.07 - KAH Imminent
- Continued climbing the mountain.
- Spotted an observation drone high overhead.
- Sniper Bait crew with a pair of Ginsu-matics and a pair of techie machines.
- After the Sniper Bait and one Ginsu-matic were killed, the techies and remaining Ginsu fled into a hidden chamber.
- The hidden chamber was rigged with explosives - so Reaper left one techie alive (and the Ginsu repairable).
- KAH murder crew of 4 nightmare machines spotted moving fast several kilometers away.
- Sought help of anybody/anything nearby, and got one volunteer/victim.
- The volunteer turned into a victim at the mention of KAH - Ricardo is now a Shockshooter.
- There was some amusingly witty banter with the KAH murder crew via tightbeam (they were disturbingly polite and cheery while also not negotiating at all).
- The victim had several large solar arrays and a tracked crawler for transportation.
- Plans for dealing with the KAH murder crew continue...
Plot Infliction 006 - The Weather Started Getting Rough, The Tiny Ship Was Tossed
"So, what's our plan again?"
"Most of the plans I can think of involve stealth... and that drone makes any of those plans difficult."
"I got it, we extract your brain and slap some solar panels on it to keep you alive. We then create a new brain, put it into your old body and Fork your memories into it. We then repair that guy you just killed and make him look as close to me as possble and then Fork my memories into it. We all travel in the crawler at high speed and at some point, I sneak off of it with you and hide. The crawler with the Forked me and Forked you continue on as far as possible until KAH catches them. They try to make it seem like they actually have some skill and die knowing that they saved us. Then long after KAH is gone, I emerge from hiding and build you a new body."
Ricardo: "That shit's not funny, man."
Crawler: "You guys are so screwed."
Ricardo: "OK, congratulations on finding a way to be even less funny. Now stop playing ventriloquist with the crawler and help me think of a good plan. Why can't we just run from these guys on the crawler? I mean, sure - it's a delaying tactic because it'll suck juice we can't replenish. But that observation drone can't stay up there forever, either."
To Ricardo: "It could if it had a RTG."
To Crawler: "Hello crawler. My name's Reaper. Pleasure to meet you."
Ricardo: "Or even better, if it had a tokamak! Or a team of mystical unicorns that could pull us along. And everything would be wonderful - until somebody figured out what we had and an unending horde of unicorn/tokamak/RTG wanting monsters hunted us down."
Crawler: "Call me Lance."
Ricardo aims his rail gun at the crawler and readies a structural tool set.
Crawler: "Whoa there, shooty. I'm not exactly a threat - I have no manipulators... any more. And I'm post-human, so I'm not particularly eager to be caught by KAH. I need people with hands to juice me up with those solar arrays."
Ricardo: "Down boy... he's not a threat. Let's start the delaying tactic while we think of something."
I go grab the body of the robot he killed, we all pile onto the crawler and we zoom away at top speed.
Ricardo [tightbeam]: "Everything is potentially a threat - it's just a matter of clarifying immediacy. Until I rule out that it's a conniving machine running a Turing-test-beater interface, I'm going to be ready to make it holey. Because if it's really post-human, at best we just killed its partner. At worst, we just killed its Fork. So I'm having a hard time swallowing it being all help-y and non-threat-y."
Ricardo: "Righty-ho. Run away! Run awaaaay!" He heaves the machine corpse and piles it with all the solar arrays on the crawler.
Lance accelerates directly away from the inbound KAH murder crew, but it's not exactly "top speed". It's crawling at the default 9 meters/turn for a bit, and spending a couple dice for locating. Everybody reflexively compares speeds with the incoming KAH, and determines that you're not going fast enough. Lance communicates "Please say that one of you is skilled enough to do some locating as a turret." then ports his locate dice into movement, bumping your mean speed to 16 meters/turn.
2013.03.14 - Angry Cattle Attack and Mr. 8 Legs
- Isn't it fun when they are too stupid to duck?
- Almost as good as getting a good roll on the first assassination attempt against the Tough Guy.
- Learned some more about Lance. (Summary: He's kind of messed up.)
Plot Infliction 007 - If Not For The Courage Of The Fearless Crew, The Minnow Would Be Lost
Ricardo: "I'm supposed to say something topical and mildly witty right now that might further the plot."
Lance: "You guys are so screwed."
Ricardo: "OK, 3 things. ONE: You should spend a couple hours upgrading my targeting to be +2 to hit, as well as some of the missiles. TWO: We should mount the rest of the missiles on the crawler on an independent sentient turret looped into our battle wiki - that way it can provide artillery support for us based on vectors we designate. THREE: That turret as well as the crawler itself should be controlled by one of our personal forks. Screw this Lance fuck-up. He seems to have a single stage of defender - maybe - in terms of combat stages anyway."
"Targeting? Won't that screw up your skill earning? Though I guess you could turn it off when you don't need it. Missile idea sounds good. Don't see a reason to kill off Lance, he's been helpful so far. And really, the difference between 1 stage of defender vs no stages is huge if you think about stamina. If he didn't have that one stage, he would have been toast on that first hit he took."
I start working on a turret for the crawler with a forked version of myself. Assuming that goes well, I work on Ricardo's targeting, with a back door such that I can turn it off remotely if need be.
Ricardo: "I've been using targeting the whole time - the +1 I could do myself. Just feeling like we need all the edge we can get before those KAH motherfuckers inevitably catch up to us. But good point about the pitiful stamina repercussion of having one of our forks driving the crawler."
So, when you say "turn it off", does the "it" mean the targeting or the weapon system? They have significantly different levels of difficulty with respect to both accomplishing and stealth.
The electronics toolkit makes it pretty simple to harvest parts and assemble a brainbox suitable for a fork. A self-contained turret is pretty easy to fabricate, especially since it only has to point sensors and comms because the missiles are all guided and can be mounted fixed to the main chassis.
Reaper_fork1 [tightbeam+encrypted]: "Oh shit! Seriously, I was there for the decision, but actually popping into existence with half your skills missing is pretty fucking shitty. And to also be a parasitic bump on an ugly-ass crawler... Dude, this sucks. If it weren't for the stage of leader keeping me zen, I might have a stress point right now. Definitely do NOT trust a fork of Ricardo to remain sane in anything like this."
Only the targeting... I kind of thought disabling the weapon system would be too difficult to risk detection.
So, does the stage of leader transfer to the fork?
To Reaper-Fork: "I hear you brother."
Backdoor into targeting system: check. Backdoor into weapon system might be feasible based on superior stage of tech and higher awareness, but there would have been… penalties.
Reaper_fork1 is tech2/leader1, as were you when you first forked. "Hey, Lance, can I port into your arms sometimes? I've got 2 stages of technician, so I can perform repairs on the fly. "
Lance: "OK. But I get first priority. "
R_f1: "Absolutely. "
R_f1 [tightbeam+encrypted]: "MWA HA HA HAAA!"
2013.03.28 - Weaknesses And Strengths
While still on the run from the KAH murder squad, Reaper, Ricardo, Lance, and Reaper_fork1 came across the smoking remains of a large battle. A sweep revealed a small squad of survivors holed up the slope doing repairs. Naturally, Reaper decided to charge across the rubble-strewn ridge to kill them.
In the ensuing fracas, it became clear that Reaper isn't particularly effective head-to-head against a professional sharp-shooter and a professional shock-trooper. Reaper was forced to withdraw back down the boulder-filled slope.
Cue the return of the swarm. They primarily used missiles from arrayed positions to overwhelm targets, which is additionally handy for dealing with targets with approximately known positions behind cover. The sharp-shooter and the shock-trooper machines were quickly defeated, and even Lance's considerable speed did not let him make to a ridge for cover.
As the swarm spread out in a loose search pattern, it then became clear that Reaper was extremely effective at hit-and-fade tactics. Many individual combatants in the swarm came to surprisingly swift ends, with Reaper immediately fading back into the shadows. After a quarter of the swarm had been mysteriously lost, the swarm called for a retreat.
In the aftermath, Reaper spotted the sharp-shooter and the two technicians fleeing up the slope. He hailed them, but their only response was a weakly-encrypted signal - with no key to decrypt it.
Plot Infliction 008 - The Ship Set Ground On The Shore Of This Uncharted Desert Island
Lance righted himself and trundled back down the boulder-y slope while R_f1 finished off repairs that couldn't be done stealthily. "That sucked."
Ricardo: "I disagree. Hearing the sporadic call of the screamer in the midst of the shitstorm was pretty awesome."
Lance: "Yeah, I was massively relieved when I heard it repeat."
R_f1: "I was more relieved when they decided to cut losses and retreat."
Ricardo: "That actually leaves us with a bit of a problem. We've still got KAH tracking us - probably under 10 minutes behind us. The obvious direction is the way the swarm fled, which is a risk for everybody that can't stealth as well as Reaper. Cutting down-range opens us op to be spotted sooner and easier. Heading directly up the mountain might mostly just end up getting us cornered."
Question: Was the last sighting of the sharp-shooter and striker-techies posted to the battle-wiki?
2013.04.18 - Field Of Doom
Scrambling further up the mountain, Reaper, Ricardo, Lance, and R_f1 found themselves at the edge of a huge rubble-strewn crater blasted into the shoulder of the peak. The precarious boulder field across the lower sweep of the crate made multiplied travel with wheels impossible, and while it did provide excellent cover for small beings it had little for beings larger than 50 kg. About half way through the lower crater zone, the sharp-shooter revealed that it had taken cover at the top crest of the crater. From there, it turned out that it had excellent opportunity to enfilade Ricardo and Lance.
Reaper flanked the crater as quickly as he could, using his small size to keep cover as best as possible. Meanwhile, the cover used by the sharp-shooter proved nearly impossible for Ricardo to spot the sharp-shooter between attacks. And Lance could not move quickly, and had no cover - and survived only due to constant fixing by Reaper_fork1.
Once up to the top lip of the canted crater, Reaper had to wrangle with the ninja-techies before even trying to find the hidden sharp-shooter. Fighting 3-on-1 wore Reaper down, but Ricardo was able to spot the revealed ninja-techies and helped out by picking them off. Reaper finished off the sniper.
They scarcely had a chance to revel in their victory when the heard the sounds of rapid approach - from back down where they had faced the swarm. Hastily, they regrouped at the perch overlooking the crater, and prepared to make a stand. They planned on waiting for the KAH Murder Crew to grind into the middle of the rubble field, then Ricardo would control three highly-aimed swarms of their missile supply to blast away all but one KAH machine. They did not think that dividing the missiles into 4 would be sufficient damage, and they hoped that they could defeat one KAH machine.
They were right. But Lance and Reaper_fork1 did not survive the advance of the final KAH machine. Ricardo was also almost destroyed. But finally Reaper was able to carve the ultracapacitor from the KAH machine's nightmarish thorax.
Before the end of the battle, they were contacted by an entity claiming that the Field Of Doom was theirs, and they demanded 10% of the spoils. It turns out that they are based in a dirigible called "Zepplin Molotov", to which Reaper and Ricardo were invited. As opposed to trudging North to the machine city of Rochester, blundering back South into KAH territory, or wandering around the border lands some more.
Plot Infliction 008 - With Gilligan The Skipper too, The millionaire and his wife, The movie star The professor and Mary Ann, Here on Gilligans Isle.
No airship arrives. Instead, a pod with maneuvering motors dangling from some nearly-invisible cables descends to the ridge-top. "Greetings post-humans! Would you care for a lift?"
"Sure!" I hop on. Hopefully they don't plan to kill us, cause it'd be super-easy once we're in the air.
You sense that Ricardo also has qualms about boarding the pod (and, by extrapolation, the aerostat), but he expreses none of it.
The Sentient Agile Multipurpose pod has one of those painfully-superficial fake-cheery pretend-personalities that were popular as reception machines for large companies, back in the day. Despite the thoughtfully designed harnessing mechanisms for safely lifting all kinds of objects and cargo, SAM makes you consider cutting the support lines so that you can end your suffering and take it with you. SAM maintains a cheery near-monologue during the whole ascent, though none of it is particularly useful. It is possible that SAM could answer serious questions and provide some important information about what you're getting into - but that would require not deleting your conversation logs every 90 seconds out of pure self-preservation.
Zeppelin Molotov is quite a beast. About the size of three old-fashioned aircraft carriers, it is clearly configured to maximize solar array surface while maintaining platform stability. Huge laser turrets feature prominently, as does quite a lot of reflective lightweight graphene armour. SAM is reeled up into a claw-like assembly on an arm, and is cradled to allow easy egress. Waiting there is a tall wispy humanoid machine, and tank-like entity with powerful-looking grappling limbs.
"Hello, welcome to the Molotov." The wispy humanoid takes a tottering step forward. "My name is Commander Ludwig. I'm sorry about SAM. We didn't want to make you uneasy with a combatant pod. And, well, if you were unreasonably violent, we wouldn't want you taking it out on one of the pods we actually like. No offense SAM."
Sam erupts in a stream of placating-but-nauseating banter. Ludwig gestures for everyone to move along down the limb, into the Molotov. The wrestler-tank moves aside to let everyone pass, then takes up the rear.
Ludwig resumes conversing as it heads purposefully into the Molotov. "The main thing we can offer you is a ride. There's nothing like a few hundred klicks of un-trackable relocation to throw off KAH. If you don't like the direction we're heading, we can give you some cheap gliders - at this altitude they're good for at least 40 klicks in any direction. In return, we'd like to ask you a few questions."
The corridors have occasional machines moving purposefully through them, and they get out of Ludwig's way. There is a definitely military demeanour to the operations inside the Molotov. Presently, Ludwig ushers you into an empty chamber, which lights up harshly as you enter. Ludwig interfaces with the room controls, dimming the lights, then transmits some 3D interactive mapping showing the local geography. "We know KAH somehow brought down Charon..." [scroll, zoom, annotate] "...here. Probably for their usual reasons. Reason. Are you survivors of that clusterfuck? And, if so, can you tell us what happened?"
"A ride would be awesome. Yeah, we're from Charon. Those bastards launched a ship which docked with Charon. They sent machines over to attack us while they used their ship to push Charon out of orbit. A bunch of us managed to build some re-entry gliders to make it safely down, but even so, the bulk of us were killed by KAH when we landed. Me and Recardo here just barely managed to escape. I don't know if anyone else did."
"That's a pretty awesome map... would we be able to get a copy when we depart?"
Ludwig: "KAH can launch vehicles into low-Earth-orbit now? THAT's distressing. That might officially ruin their S.E.P. status. We'll have to confer with the Captains."
Ludwig: "Our current course plan is to head to the Chaba Strip Mine and rendezvous with the Buffy. Should take us about 15 hours." A couple map files ping you for upload. "Here is a low-rez version of our map data to help you pick where you might want to go. Also, here is a redacted plan view of the parts of the Molotov you can be in. If you have any questions, hail me."
2013.04.25 - If Not KAKAH, Then Maybe POKAH
Riding in the Molotov, Reaper and Ricardo sign up to help the Blimp Brigade do some probing of KAH's extents - starting at Chaba. Followed by their new padawan Katharipulam, Reaper and Ricardo descend into the machine ghetto in the pit mine section of Chaba. They quickly find combative machines to oblige their particular ilk of probing. Including one rather large one.
Plot Infliction 009 - THERE IS NO PLOT, ONLY ZUUL
[Fixity fix fix]
Ricardo: "So, maybe we should come up with some weakly-tactics-like thoughts before the next wave?"
I stare at him dumbly. "Why?"
Ricardo: "Because neither of us does well when outnumbered?"
Kathar: "Oh, I'm so going to die because of this 'training'."
2013.05.02 - What Happens To Machines When They Die? Let's Find Out
Sniper - assassinated.
Assassin that was using the sniper-like machine as bait - assassinated.
Giant tentacle monster that thundered in to destroy the impertinent post-humans - assassinated.
Ghetto swarm of machines - combatants assassinated.
Assault-weapon-wielding seasoned machine lording over the ghetto swarm - assassinated.
Plot Infliction 010 - Plot? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Plot
Ricardo is weighing the merits of lugging around the massive 1Dx5 assault weapon.
Dooo it! Doooooooooooo it!
Ricardo: "Yeah, 5 Megajoules per attack seems expensive, but the amount of opposition we're regularly encountering probably justifies it. Can you help me out with the structure and power? I've only got combat tools."
"Sure, no problem." If I figure it's fairly easy, I put a disable code on the 1Dx5 same as the targeting. Also, I give him 100 Megajoules for the first 20 attacks.
It is indeed fairly easy to put a disable code on the assault rail gun, seeing as how it mostly involves resetting the existing remote disabler system.
Ricardo: "Thanks for the extra juice. I am definitely burning more power than you are, both offensively and systemically.
Kathar: "Hell, I'll donate some of my reserves to keep the big gun talking in this neighbourhood."
Kathar [tightbeam, encrypted]: "What the bit you did with the controls toolkit on the weapon?"
Kathar: "There was a remote disable system attached to the weapon. Seems someone wanted to be able to shut down that big guy if need be. Too bad we didn't know the code earlier."
Kathar falters in his good-natured banter with Ricardo, and his motions become less smooth. Probably thinking really hard, and not sparing the run-time for emulating a personality.
Ricardo: "OK, I'll admit that the no-strategy strategy worked out this time. But can't we at least come up with some more balanced tactic than, 'if there's an overwhelming force, hope there's enough cover for Reaper to kill everyone'?"
"Hey, it's not my fault no-one's as cool as me." <snicker> "Seriously though, I'm open to suggestions. Sneaking around and killing works for me because I'm good at it. Not sure how to do anything else. I think a problem prior to this is that you lacked damage potential. With that 1Dx5, it should even things up a lot."
Ricardo: "I like the gambit where we pick a spot I can shoot from cover, and Reaper hides near me to discreetly kill those that get to our cover. "
Kathar resumes pretending to have a personality. "I could provide repair support from cover as well. "
Ricardo: "Right. So a default tactic would be for us to use cover that fits all 3 of us. Best of all if Reaper can sneak so that nobody suspects his presence. "
2013.05.16 - Gilligan played accordion
On that horrific note, Reaper built an accordion from scratch, with some moderate success. And thereby revealed that he is, in fact, a POLKA MASTER.
While polka-ing (Is that even a verb? So, so wrong.) a stunningly large and intimidating seasoned humanoid machine starting polka-ing along with him. The Big Guy clarified a few strategic considerations regarding the socio-political structures of the machines in Chaba. He also revealed the existence of an information network known as Unkovice, and mentioned that the main leader of KAH was a being called Sparkle Lord.
Shortly after that, 4 neo-KAH machines tried to hunt down the crew, but found them somewhat... resistant.
After handily defeating the neo-KAH (but not bothering to question any of them, to Kathar's confusion), they stealthily stealthed with stealth to, uh, sneak a look at what was there. The -10 to sneak/hide mirror-polished empty canyon around the nearly-featureless monolithic central structure seemed pretty hard to breach without detection.
With a thought of perhaps "borrowing" a chassis to send in and see what happens, the group went back to the populated area and Reaper killed a random small machine. This machine appeared to subscribe to a distributed security service (as, apparently, do a largish number of other spectator-class machines). Two observation drones arrived immediately, and utterly failed to restrain Reaper, who assassinated one. However, it wasn't until Reaper removed the energy core in a single swift motion that the crowd decided that perhaps they'd prefer less proximity.
Reaper fled down into the substructure of the city. The rest of the crew discreetly followed.
Ricardo: "So, interesting. Does this mean that there's some sort of bounty on Reaper's head?"
Kathar: "I would assume so. I can't ask the Molotov from down here, though. Should we head up to ask some questions?"
Ricardo: "Would you be willing to head up alone?"
Kathar: "Willing? Yes. Happy to? Not so much."
Ricardo: "What if you heard some inspiring polka first?"
"Nah, we should all go. I can sneak well enough to be not seen, and if there is a bounty, you two wouldn't be part of it. I'll keep the acordian at bay for now, though it makes him grumpy."
I then pet the accordian, attempting to sooth the savage beast.
Technically, you could install a Fork into the accordion.
Even with the affluence of this section of Chaba, it's still quite far from being a police state and there is no systemic monitoring. So Reaper's stealth and ability to use hypernormal speed for capitalizing on gaps in attention means that the climb up to the sky-viewing layer of this section is not difficult. But it should be pointed out that the privileged denizens here are loudlyª integrated into multiple information webs, and that any interaction with beings here will probably be widely noticed.
Immediately upon getting a view of the sky, Kathar does a broadband ping upward-ish and establishes encrypted contact with the Molotov. Due to the distance, the whole group is awash in the response laser, but the decryption key is not shared.
Kathar: "The intel folks on the Molotov say that we've done a lot of feather ruffling, and that several different groups have shown considerable interest in us. Most of which appear to be KAH sympathizers or neo-KAH machine supremacists. Ludwig says we should ignore the machine supremacists and bother the KAH sympathizers. We've been given some locations of possible interest." An overlay layer for the map of Chaba is added to the battlewiki.
Ricardo: " 'Bother' is a pretty vague verb."
Kathar shrugs. "My report was noticeably lacking any interrogation intel."
ª "loudly" in this case referring to several obvious communications bands, with wildly differing degrees of encryption/privacy.
"Ok. Let's head to one of the areas of possible interest. See if we can capture someone this time..."
There are 4 main LoPI:
- High-Rent Repair Bar
- pretty nearby
- probably has decent security
- Dive Repair Bar
- near the outskirts of Chaba
- Machine Union Factory
- large facility
- exists as more of a commune now than as a functioning business
- Mine Operations Center #435
- rim of the pit
- little is known
Ricardo: "#1 looks like it should be avoided. For now, at least."
2013.05.23 - Sewers, Giant Shrimp, and Displacer Beasts
Went to the Machine Union Factory. Decided to try the sewer approach. Found a giant shrimp in the old sewer entrance. Killed it, and found that the sewer was actually pretty difficult to navigate due to gravity and a universal lack of grip gloves. Decided instead to try to head in along the path of the factory's power conduit, but ran afoul of their security. Displacer beasts and spotlight-bots were sent to investigate. After they were destroyed, sounds of klaxons and considerable movement filter down from the factory above.
Plot Infliction 012 - NO PLOT HERE EITHER
Only a split second exists from the cessation of action and the required resumption of game-time, so very little plot can indeed be inflicted.
So, instead, I shall write some poetry.
2013.05.30 - Gunballs, Empty Nightmares, Displacer Beasts, And Cicada Techies
Actually, the title kind of covers it.
...except for Nightmare_FORK.
Plot Infliction 013 - In The Secret KAH Factory
Speaking of Nightmare_FORK, he's nowhere to be seen.
Ricardo: "OK, it doesn't look like any of these arrayed techies are interested in confronting us, but there's absolutely no way that they're being quiet. It's only a matter of time before they summon/hire combatants capable of dealing with us. What's our next move?"
Kathar: "I don't want to guess how much risk we want to expose ourselves to by spending time here, but I think we should pry open some of those stealth crates to get a look at what they've been making."
"Ok, Kathar and Ricardo, go and check out the crates. I'll be back in a moment - going to go see what happened to the Nightmare I created."
I head back to the other room to see what became of my newly minted Fork.
Ricardo and Kathar give terse assent. Before Reaper moves out of sight of the battlewiki, Ricardo and Kathar coordinate the shockshooter to mostly keep watch while Kathar pries open crates systemically.
Heading through the took crib area and into the power substation, there is a suspicious concentration of cicada techies pretending (poorly) to be nonchalant. But no Nightmare_FORK. Continuing on through the power substation into the repair bay, the cicada techies have started construction on what appears to be a crude combatant chassis. And also no Nightmare_FORK.
There is a continuing sense of hundreds of camera eyes tracking your every move.
I do a locate for signs of battle that were not our original fight. See if Nightmare_FORK was overpowered. Also check other exits from this room.
To the best of your scrutiny, there are no signs of recent struggle that don't correspond to your own fight. Although, in fairness, the arrayed scores of technicians could have redecorated the room into a unicorn-themed nursery with pearly pink tiles. There is, in fact, a couple bay doors, but they open up into the main factory space you were in, and it would have been hard to miss their opening.
Well, if I were a newly minted Nightmare_FORK, I would have fixed myself up and then went to see what the rest of us were up to... if for some reason I couldn't, I would have probably left the way we came in. I'm hazarding a guess there's an evil third option I haven't thought of...
Anyway, I go back to the other two and see if they've managed to pry open a crate or two.
[SOUNDTRACK]: Dun Dun DUNN
Back in the main factory floor, Ricardo and Kathar appear to have paused their investigation. Catching up on the battlewiki reveals their exploration of the various crates. The first three they popped open revealed slight variations on the standard nightmares - the subtle differences in their assymetric aesthetic wrongness making them unique but in a way that is clearly part of a shared formula. Then they noticed that the crates were all uniform - except for one. It looked more like a sarcophagus, and more impressively protected. The last thing logged in the battlewiki is Ricardo saying, "Holy fuck."
Now Ricardo is just standing there, staring down into the open sarcophagus, while Kathar looks back and forth between the open crate and Ricardo.
2013.05.30 - Nightmares Can Be Fun
Amongst the small batch specialty production of the KAH_Nightmare chassis, they discovered a particularly terrifying special KAH chassis. Being a prudent and cautious being, Reaper of course had his cognitive core transplanted into the Horror chassis. Where it was discovered that the KAH chassis has a distributed intelligence, and that it does not graciously accept post-human entities controlling the chassis. While Reaper was able to grunt through the process with his willpower and awareness, it does explain what probably happened to the missing Nightmare_FORK.
Which meant that there was an entity with everything Reaper knew, and it was loose, and probably headed towards KAH agents. Hoping to prevent this, Reaper Ricardo and Kathar contacted the Molotov for intel, and discovered that the Nightmare_FORK was heading towards the high-rent repair bar. They intercepted it, aided by the speed and power of Reaper's Horror chassis. Before they could make good their escape, another KAH Horror chassis emerged. It was quite scary. They ran.
Reaper and Ricardo arrived at the rendezvous. Then they were hailed by the Molotov, saying how Kathar was being held for ransom.
Plot Infliction 014 - Let Him Die
So... Kathar is being held hostage. Aaaawkward.
Commander Ludwig: "While the ransom request being information about you two is probably problematic, the simple fact that they knew to beam the ransom at the Molotov is a very, very bad sign. It means either they have a mole, which would make no sense for them to burn at this point. Or they've already got an interrogator prying open Kathar's mind. Or they've got intelligence-gathering capabilities of terrifying breadth. The trouble is, KAH doesn't negotiate with post-humans. So we don't know who, or what, we're dealing with."
Ricardo: "So, does this mean we just leave him to die?"
Ludwig: "There is another option."
"Does the other option involve killing them all?"
Ludwig: "It involves killing all but one. "
2013.06.19 - Pause For A Moment While I Terrify You Into Paralysis
Declining to commit to the matryoshka of ambush-contemplations, Reaper and Ricardo decide instead to just take a peek at the High Rent Repair Bar to see what relevant parallel information they can gather. The risk from KAH agents is considered minor, because of the impressive population of legendary post-human machines that apparently frequent the HRRB.
As they approached the observation arena around the HRRB tower, Reaper and Ricardo spot a huge thug machine hidden in a vantage point. Naturally, Reaper hides Ricardo as cover and sneaks over to the thugbot to assassinate. Just before the REET REET REET, an unobserved machine tries to warn the thugbot - but to no avail. The thugbot is assassinated, and its power core surgically extracted moments later. Then Reaper_horror moves with disturbing alacrity to be proximal to the other machine - whatever it is. A few locates later, Reaper finds it. By a fluke of initiative, the other machine gets first action, and uses it to plant an explosive on the Reaper_horror and flee. Sadly, it can't flee far enough, as Reaper simply keeps up with it as the explosive detonates. It eats up much of Reaper's stamina, flattens much of the solar arrays around them, and obliterates the luckless munitionist.
While Reaper frantically repaired himself, another machine emerged from the elevators feeding the HRRB - and this one was stealthy enough to shake Reaper's gaze. Ricardo and Reaper regroup, and just as they're trying to decide what to do next, they notice that the stealthy machine has faltered in mid-temper due to the hypnotic effect of Reaper's Horror_chassis. A few tense willpower checks later, and they agree to a temporary truce. The stealthy machine, Glauberyt, suggests that they continue their conversation up at the HRRB. Reaper agrees; Ricardo stays behind, hidden at the thugbot to cover Reaper's eventual exit from the HRRB.
While the HRRB does indeed host several legendary beings, they seem aloof, and most of the facility is busy with seasoned entities. The KAH_horror machine is there, but it hangs back from Reaper and Glauberyt. Glauberyt leads Reaper to a group including a T800 (Cyberdyne systems 101 chassis), a hulk machine, and Kathar - zombified and with a robo-squid interrogator brain-hugging him.
It turns out that they sell tactically-relevant information about Sunkoshi Gurkha Securities and the local operations of KAH, which is shared with (and largely paid for) by the Molotov. Kathar is reactivated, and the Molotov sends down a pod to retrieve them from the bar rooftop.
Except that Ricardo seems to have gone missing.
Reaper sends the rest on up to the Molotov, and has the pod drop him off 0.5km away so that he can sweep back for Ricardo. On his way, Ricardo has to pause to wrangle with a seasoned weapon-specialist hillbillybot. Eventually he comes to the remains of the thugbot where Ricardo was hidden, but finds no sign of him (or the supply of missiles the thugbot had). The plan is to move on to the previously-used rendezvous location...
Plot Infliction 015 - Did The Sidekick Limit Just Go Down?
So, what occupation does Reaper_horror go up in?
Scout. I'm enjoying imagining sneaking up on a group of professional to seasoned post humans, appearing out of nowhere in pure horror, and slowly removing their hearts one by one while they are helpless to stop me. I'm evil.
Na, just regular scout. Next stage might be leader-maximized defender.
Noiiice. Scoutification as follows:
- Stamina: +10
- Stealth: +5
- Duck: +3
- Awareness: +3
Moving on to the rendezvous?
Yes... on to the rendezvous! With a base sneak of 20! 2D to movement, half movement, full sneak. Pausing for locates from time to time.
That's kind of freaky: steady-state sneaking with a 20 (plus occasional circumstantial bonuses) and average movement of 13m/turn. Pretty much everything that flukes out and catches a glimpse of you will lose sight of you a turn later.
The rendezvous appears empty of Ricardos when you get there.
I contact the Molotov and request that they scan their information sources for any sign of Ricardo.
Ludwig: "A preliminary query of our data sources doesn't show anything trending. We'll see what we can extract before we have to mobilize. Do you have a hypothesis as to what happened to Ricardo?"
Parallel to the discussion, Ludwig downloads a deployment plan to strike some key KAH military buildup points. It's pretty dry - mostly long-range laser and missile strikes, but it involves the Molotov not being at Chaba. The version of the plan Ludwig shares has some aspects of obfuscation, so it's not entirely clear about chronology or priority.
One of the occasional buzzing drones pauses nearby the rendezvous, and executes a quick flight around the perimeter before settling to land on a knobby gothic-looking truss. It immediately commits suicide - in a most peculiar way.
First it starts streaming its run-time processes, which doesn't amount to much as its not very smart. The stream is transmitted over infrared, unencrypted; so very short range line-of-sight. Next, it initiates a control system capacitor buildup, which will eventually overload and reset its BIOS. Which seems stupid and unpleasant, but then it starts systematically deleting all of its OS. And you can track its progress over the course of 3 seconds as it wipes its own mind, up until the point where it finally wipes the last routine - the one that handles the run-time transmission. It's kind of horrible, and then the little machine crackles from the capacitor overload, and triggers a ground-up reboot.
Except, of course, there's nothing in there to reboot except elementary functions. It beeps its POST and pauses at a "ready for instructions" mode. At which point, it rings. Like an old telephone. With an audible click, and some analog static, a voice is relayed.
"Hello Reaper. I'm pretty sure that you're here somewhere, but don't worry: I can't tell exactly where. This little fellow's stock image-processing isn't capable of picking you out even if I wanted to. My name is Thireb, and I would like to negotiate some transactions with you. Before Sparklelord manages to find a way to get that chassis back, I mean. It should be easy to get a message to me if you're interested."
There's another loud click, and the static is gone.
I blink a few times (even though I don't have eyelids), and then wander over and eat the robot (even though I don't have a digestive system).
Ludwig: "No idea on Ricardo. Either he's dead, or he decided hanging around me was too creepy. When you leave, can I hitch another ride with you? Also, have you ever heard of someone called Thireb?"
Ludwig: "A dead Ricardo would be pretty hard to trace. A cowardly Ricardo should be pretty easy to get leads on; humanoid chassis aren't that common. Yes - you can catch a ride on the Molotov, but without the loyalty subroutine your movement would be restricted. Thireb is an alias for whatever being holds the title of Baalberith - leader of the Terrestrial Assassins Guild."
The snacking and blinking are fundamentally unsatisfying.
Hmmmm... four paths appear before Reaper
- Do a job for Thireb - could be an interesting contact to have.
- Find the remains of Sunkoshi Gurkha Securities and help them out.
- Use the KAH data to further be a KAKAH.
- Decide that killing post humans in this body is waaaaay too much fun and start indiscriminately killing every one.
I think the second option will be my primary objective for now, while keeping the other three in reserve.
Ludwig: "Ok, could I hitch a ride to where the info said the Sunkoshi guys were located?"
Ludwig: "We can hoist you up and lend you a glider to get there, but that's about it. You'll be out of direct communication once you touch down, unless you head to high ground. But, if you don't mind my asking, is there something special about these Sunkooshy Gurgle Security Blanket goofballs?"
"That works... they were with me when the station went down, so I'm curious to see how they're doing. If you hear from Ricardo, let him know what I'm up to and will try to meet up with him later. Give my regards to Kathar and the Reaper fork up there. Once I make contact with the goofballs, I'll let you know what I'm up to. If you end up needed a sneaky assassin on one of your KAH missions, let me know."
So, is it easy enough to carry my old body with me? I'm thinking if I ever get a hold of another RTG, I'll fork myself and train up my own sidekick.
Ludwig assigns you a pickup - in a different location, in about 10 minutes. The new rendezvous is located amidst a field of articulating solar arrays, which gives excellent cover for stealth laterally, but really really miserable cover from overhead observation. The tactical pod that descends is formidably armed, and in it are a Wrestler-Tank and Reaper_Fork2.
RF2: "Shit. You are terrifying. So... what can you tell me that only you would know - and would be unlikely to have been leeched by an interrogator? To make sure you're not a really terrible Trojan Horse?"
I had originally assume that you had just left the old Reaper chassis behind, but the narrative wouldn't really make sense for Reger's hyperfast masterpiece to be left in an enemy facility, so I spontaneously assumed that it had been carried along with no detriments. The Swift_Horror chassis is suitably powerful to carry a 50 kg corpse without any penalties, but dragging it through combat will expose it to cumulative stray damage.
RF2 (as tight-beam as possible): "Well, we put the disable switch in Ricardo's targeting so he'd be easier to kill if he got too annoying."
RF2: "Too easy. An interrogator would have burrowed straight toward the tactical data. Tell me... your Favourite Polka!"
[cue musical sting - on an accordion, naturally]
Mwhaa ha haa... And I still have my accordion too.
Reaper_Fork2 seems well satisfied of your authenticity. You board the tactical pod, and are whisked upwards. The sentient turrets twitching, tracking various targets of interest during the ascent.
RF2 [tightbeam, encrypted]: "In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I was strongly encouraged to install the loyalty subroutine. I briefly ran a judgement-impaired fork in a sandbox, and had it install the subroutine. It seemed mostly unaffected, but lost its taste for polkas. I took that as a bad sign, and have refused the loyalty subroutine. Fortunately, I'm rather useful, so I get fairly decent access around the Molotov - but I have to be escorted a lot, and log my activity. I'm just here to test your authenticity; these guys seem fairly freaked out about your chassis change. Do you have any questions for me?"
RF2: "Yeah, when I took over this bad boy, it tried to take over my brain. Not fun, but gave me an added paranoia about anybody messing with my code. These guys seem serious about taking on KAH which is all sorts of cool. What's your impression? How committed do they seem and how much damage do you think they can do?"
"Oh, and I'll be on the lookout for another RTG. If you hear of any that could be obtained by someone of my skills, let me know."
From what I remember of that bazaar we encountered soon after arriving, how difficult would it be to sneak in?
RF2: "These battle blimp guys seem pretty cautious overall, but capable. They are serious about taking KAH down a notch, and from what I've seen they've got the tactical capability to do that - long range missiles, lasers, and some impressive strike troops. But they simply don't have the capability to eradicate KAH, from a machines-on-the-ground point of view. So their goal is to deflower KAH ability / ambition for orbital strikes - or even long-range action. But if KAH proves to be too formidable, they might just run for it. They're fundamentally survivalists."
"As for an RTG, I don't think somebody of my access would ever find out about one. Sorry me."
The bazaar has probably folded up shop, and is looking for a new place to happen. The relative difficulty in sneaking in would depend on where the next iteration manifests, and who is participating. And, tellingly: who is running security.
2013.07.04 - Reunion of Doom
- Ascended to Molotov, got a disposable glider, and flew down to 3 km ahead of projected location of Sunkoshi Gurkha Securities group.
- Located probable tracks of SGS - and a terror-class KAH hydra machine following said trail
- initially assassinated tcKAHh easily, but it proved difficult to keep down
- tcKAHh was capable of inflicting grevious harm in just one turn
- both machines reduced to zero-ish stamina multiple times
- endgame arrived when Reaper_horror assassinated the technician turret - and took its tools
- endgame accelerated when Reaper reverted to hit-and-fade tactics
- Continued following SGS tracks - to the ambush they had set up.
- Recognizing the ambush, Reaper instead hailed the SGS and began discourse. SGS were blatantly suspicious of Reaper.
- Reaper approached (skirting the ambush kill zone), and managed to get within 20 meters of the SGS formation before being spotted.
- Reaper demonstrated what a KAH_horror chassis is capable of with respect to posthumans.
- Discourse faltered when a seasoned assassin managed to drop Reaper, and almost every member of the SGS sprinted over to jump on him to pin him down.
- Reaper writhed free of most of them, and bodily heaved off the rest with a quick-rise. Then he fled, and hid.
I'm not sure whether to be annoyed that they attacked me, or gleeful that they gave me an excuse to destroy them.
Plot Infliction 016 - Don't make me angry... You wouldn't like me when I'm angry
So, I resume communicating with the group. "So, if I were really a KAH machine impersonating Reaper, do you really think I would have just wandered up and started chatting?"
In all of my communication with them, I'm going to superimpose some background accordion music. Accordion death music.
Sarah: "That is exactly what happened last time. Then it casually slaughtered half of us with point-blank attacks from an assault weapon. The more-seasoned and non-human members had to rush in while dodging missile strikes to grab whomever they could to make an escape. Most of the non-human members are gone now. So wandering up and freezing all the seasoned members with horror triggered tactical defensive behaviour."
"So you're saying, you've seen one of these horror chassis before? How did you escape it last time - I know for a fact that they are damn fast when they want to be."
Sarah: "We split up. We're some of the ones it didn't chase."
"Let's see it. Send me some images of it and of the battle."
A sensor data file is transferred.
It plays as a binocular feed with 360∘ augmented peripheral-vision and Surround Sound 42.2. The native processor of the POV machine probably has smoothing algorithms tied to accelerometers, because the visual feeds are pretty shaky. And after growing accustomed to the feed resolution and adaptive perspective of the Swift_HORROR chassis, it makes you feel like you're being pinched inside a small head.
The smash-open is behind some rocky cover encrusted with free-range solar panel lichen, and the POV machine is giving up checking its external antennae. There's probably jamming or something going on to mess with comms. Perched above the POV machine is a sniper peering over the cover - but oddly still. A very humanoid hand reaches up to tap its flank, with no effect. BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT! Bursts of heavy assault weapon fire start ripping away in the distance in quick succession. BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT! The POV machine quickly peers over the cover towards the sound, but the view is obscured by a ripple of explosions making the scene briefly semi-opaque. The contrails hanging above the cloud suggest that it was from long-range missiles fired from beyond the far ridge.
BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT! A set of three flame-licking flashes illuminate a silhouette of a machine being utterly obliterated by three assault weapons in parallel. Dancing in front of it - fleeing towards the POV machine - is a familiar-looking shape.
BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT! The three assault weapons spray bits of a different sentient machine in a burning fan, and the familiar-looking shape is gesticulating emphatically.
Four bright sparks pop up over the ridge and streak in toward the familiar-looking shape. But, holy tapdancing fuck, the ducking. That's at least 4 stages of defender, or equivalent. The other shape steps with fluid celerity to be in front of another unmoving silhouette, and presses three assault weapons to its vitals. BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT!BRUUUUUDT! The miasma of dust hides most details, but the brightness of the friction lets the combat optics register the thoroughness of the victims erosion. What is that thing?
Except that you know: it's a HORROR-class KAH hydra machine. Not as massive as the intermediate-scale terror-class you recently destroyed, but sooo much scarier. Scary enough that the POV machine has frozen. Scary enough that Reaper feels twinges. It probably has a willpower of about 10, so Reaper isn't at much risk of staying frozen due to the feed, but most other posthumans would be stuck watching this feed in a loop.
The rest of the scene plays out with the POV machine being rooted in place, watching the HcKAHh kill everything. Hydra_HORROR chassis doesn't have the reach/movement of the Swift_HORROR chassis, but it's still fast. And its got three 2Dx5 assault weapons on sentient turrets. The familiar-looking shape resolves into the Surly Machine that talked to you before, while the assassin acquired from behind cover. Surly Machine grabs the sniper and is about to grab the POV machine when the feed loops back to the first good glimpse of the HORROR-class - perpetuating the cognitive trap.
Epic. I shake off the residual twinges of horror.
"Sigh. Ok, I guess I understand the trigger happiness of your assassin." I shut down the death polka music. "I'll keep my distance and help you survive for a while, then I'm probably going to head back to Chabba Mine."
I sneak a short distance away and find a good place to hide. Then I fix the hole in my head.
Sarah: "The working consensus here is that if you were the Reaper we knew, you should probably be mostly paralyzed now. It's possible that you are Reaper, just extremely powerful now. Or it's possible that you're a KAH-like machine using Reaper's database to run a Turing-beater interface program. Either way, we are disinclined to let our guard down with you near."
Surly Machine: "It's not like we plan to let our guard down in the near future regardless. If the Horror helps us survive - great. It's too stealthy for us to actively deter it if it's actually working against us, so we'll just have to defend as best we can. Either way, there's no value in antagonizing it, and no reason to hang around here. Let's move out."
The Sunkoshi Gurkha Services arrange themselves in a tactical formation, with the Surly Machine on point. And they run/sneak/locate cooperatively, mostly in single-file - to hide their numbers. Their average group sneak is a 15, so it's trivial for Reaper to pick up their trail after completing repairs.
When I get back within communication range... "So, not to sound alarmist or anything, but we might be seeing even more KAH activity in the near future. They seem to want to kill you pretty badly, and I know they are pissed off at me for stealing this chassis. Having us both in the same location might mean a fairly large attack force is coming."
As if one cue, you spot a small flying drone sniffing discreetly along the SGS trail. Size and distance currently make it a 24-point awareness feat, meaning that few of the SGS crew are likely to spot it at this time. Its rate of progress suggests that it is trying to stay within line of sight of something(s) - behind it.
Based on speed, vectors, estimated line of site, etc, I attempt to guesstimate the distance to the something(s) behind the drone, as well as the velocity they are moving based on the velocity of the drone.
"Yup, there they are." I transmit my guesstimates.
Your guesstimation algorithms pick an approximate distance of 1.3 km (±0.3 km), and an approximate speed of 24 m/turn (±3 m/turn). Collectively, SGS is moving at about 10 m/turn.
Sarah: "Can you give vectors for the drone you see?"
"Okey-dokey." I point out the drone.
After a brief pause... Surly Machine: "Confirmed. Possible long-range engagement in 5.95 minutes, probable short range engagement forced in at most 7.74 minutes. Single drone suggests that we can run a Defensive Split, and when we determine which half is being pursued, lead them into an ambush by the other half. Mister Horror, we are not going to elaborate how we'll set up either ambush, so you'll probably be out of position even if you're lucky enough to be among the ambushers instead of the bait. However, if you wait here, and follow the KAH machine(s) stealthily, you stand a greater chance of being able to engage in a timely manner. It also means a possible perceived risk of being caught in our ambush. I promise that we will not initiate any offensive actions against you, for what that's worth."
"If I'm hidden, I may be able to observe them and get information on their numbers to you. Especially if there are any HORROR machines among them. How about this - you give me a single missile. I'll build a remote control and communication unit onto it. If the approaching force includes HORROR machines, I'll upload and encrypt info on their numbers into the comm unit, launch the missile into the air and have it transmit the data wide field just before it explodes. Hopefully you'll receive the data and can adjust your plan appropriately."
That is, unless I'm capable of making a missile type launching communicator myself, in which case I say the same thing without asking for one of their missiles.
While you are capable of constructing a missile type launching communicator, it would take more than the 4.5 minutes you probably have before they're at your present location. And while SGS is more than happy to give you a missile, they have a crude quadcopter-type drone they offer you instead. It's non-sentient, and you can replace its OS with a standard one in your library. Though it's probably going to get blown away a turn or two after launch, it's still technically less valuable than a missile.
Sarah: "Are you confident that they won't find you after they realize that there's an observer? Because if you're right, they're sending forces capable of dealing with you. And that might mean somebody with exceptional locate."
SGS moves off in two groups of 5, in opposite directions. 2D to move (averaging 12), and nobody seems to be pausing to locate.
2013.07.11 - Meet SparkleLord
Initially, Reaper was sneaking towards the approaching KAH forces, and then lie in wait when the KAH drone buzzed past as it followed the SGS tracks. The combatant that immediately followed was another swift_chassis, but just nightmare-class. Reaper lashed out and assassinated it immediately, and dragged its corpse away for final dispatching the next turn. The drone raced back, but could find nothing. Neither could the other 5 drones that subsequently appeared.
Taking this for a bad sign, Reaper hid. And watched carefully. As luck would have it, he managed to spot the HORROR-class chassis sneaking towards the assassination scene. It crept in, and started looking for Reaper. Additionally, 4 other machines could be heard to be racing inbound. Before they arrived, Reaper dropped the slippery_HORROR with a flung drill. He raced in to finish it, but it was already conscious again. He stayed out of the line of sight of the KAH combatants newly on the scene, and contented himself with trying to lash the badly-damaged slippery_HORROR with his whip. But the slippery_HORROR was relaying Reaper's position, allowing a missile-user to arc in aggressive attacks.
Being fundamentally evil, Reaper couldn't resist leaping onto the slippery_HORROR and ripping its vitals out through its nose. The price for his action was to catch a large number of high-velocity rounds. Badly damaged, he retreated to cover. And so began a deadly game of hide-and-seeks between Reaper and a force of KAH machines (3 hydra_nightmares and a shockshooter_nightmare). Who knows how the game would have turned out, because the game changed.
A megadrone arrived at the scene, and atop it was a sophisticated holographic display. The virtual entity that appeared on the megadrone was a stunningly beautiful unicorn (machine). Its appearance had the same mesmerizing effect as the HORROR machines, except its fascination effect was felt equally by posthumans and artificial sentiences. It cast a fascination-paralysis over the whole scene, and started monologuing. "I. Am. SparkleLord." Applying a cheese filter, basically he threatened Reaper to join him - by virtue of a "Vulcanizing program" which would purge the illogical human traits from his intelligence - or be hunted and killed.
Reaper was curious, and made contact (giving away his position). He created a fork of himself, and let it run the Vulcan Program. The end result was an annoying apparatchik, and not exactly a glowing testimony to the degree of Reaper-ness maintained by the process. The fight resumed, in the guerrilla style Reaper excelled at. First he assassinated one of the drive systems of the megadrone, then started to fade back into the shadows. The megadrone managed a damage-avoiding controlled descent - near Reaper's last known location. Then, through some slimy subterfuge, tricked Reaper into looking at the image of SparkleLord, inducing paralysis. But before the megadrone could pick out Reaper's frozen location, Reaper succeeded in a willpower check and returned to cover.
Reaper ran. As we went, he saw a contrail come over the horizon. Approaching. When he was certain that he was completely out of line-of-sight, he changed direction and ran hard. The Swift_HORROR chassis served him well - getting over 400 meters away before the tactical nuke detonated, just outside of all the relevant areas of effect.
Plot Infliction 017 - Whose Mortality Gets Tested Next
As Reaper lopes stealthily towards Chaba, a few thoughts percolate:
- The Sunkoshi Security Services guys weren't exactly comfortable with his existence before - but maybe they would be more so now.
- SparkleLord is clearly a titanic douche, and is undoubtedly going to try even harder to get Reaper.
- Where did all those drones go during the hide-and-seek portion of the fight?
- Why didn't that slippery_HORROR chassis try to "horror-ize" Reaper?
- Say... wouldn't that slippery_HORROR chassis have had an RTG...?!
(Answers to at least 2 of those is: god forgot.)
RTG!!!! Did I keep it's heart after I removed it?
If I were to disappear for a while, I wonder if SparkleLord might be convinced I died in the nuke.
Sadly, the "heart" of a chassis is the superconducting supercapacitor. RTGs classify systematically like solar arrays, and would have little immediate tactical effect. So I don't think it would have been extracted accidentally, or without at least some additional tampering.
Disappearing might be hindered functionally in two ways.
- - The Swift_HORROR chassis leaves some trace radiation behind now, which can be tracked - slowly - if you know what you're looking for. So leaving the vicinity might reveal Reaper's continued existence.
- - (more importantly) Disappearing would probably necessitate a cessation of violence. Good luck with that, psycho.
Heading North toward Chaba, Reaper comes across the poorly-concealed tracks of half of the SGS crew. Detour, or ignore?
Unless, of course, you're heading back towards the fight scene - to see if it was outside of the melty radius of the tactical nuke, and see if the Slippery_HORROR's RTG might be salvaged.
Radiation? Ug. I'll follow tracks of the SGS crew. I think going back for the RTG might be too obvious - I may get nuked again.
Strictly speaking, radiation suffuses pretty much everything to one degree or another. It's a legacy from an ugly period - which Reger was glad to not be biological for any more. The newly-acquired flavour of radiation is just a slightly distinct mix of isotopes. Hence the "know what to look for" caveat.
Tracking the SGS crew isn't quite complete when Reaper spots a drone flitting away from the center of the blast zone. It's moving fast and straight, implying its assumption that there is nothing around to witness it. It is of the same basic configuration as the drone Reaper is carrying. Triangulating the mostly-straight SGS tracks versus the SGS drone, you have a pretty good guess about the location of this SGS crew.
Excellent. I head straight there. 2D to move until I'm within line of sight, then half 2D move and full base sneak, occasionally doing locates until I spot them.
Done: you spot them at a range of about 60 meters. They're arranged defensively, with good lines of sight and lots of cover. But the Surly Machine is not in this group, so they need double-sixes to spot Reaper amongst the +3 to sneak/hide terrain.
You spot Sarah working on the Seasoned Assassin Machine. And it occurs to you that you could kill all of them. It would be fun. We'd hardly have to roll any dice.
I'm torn. On one hand I've got history with these people. They were the ones that initially trained me and we went through the crash together and we have a common enemy blah blah blah...
On the other hand, I'm now a super-sneaky killer robot of doom who just survived a nuke being tossed at him. I'm thinking it may be appropriate to kill, well, everyone.
Decisions. Decisions. Do I spot the drone they were using?
You never lost sight of the drone. It took up station nearby; since it's not running a perimeter search it's probably being used as a communications relay.
All you would have to do is sneak within sight, kill Sarah and go Full HORROR. Then just slowly and deliberately carve out all of their hearts. Sure, one or two might make a lucky willpower roll and try to escape. But if they tried to actually interfere, they'd probably be re-paralyzed. And, well, they'd be easy to track down and murder if they ran for it. None of them can out-stealth or out-run you - hell, you can do both simultaneously. In a fair fight, they'd probably kick your ass. But fighting fair is for suckers.
Just for fun, I hide, and then do a detailed diagnostic of my mind to see if there's been any tampering or altering of it, either from having that Vulcanized Reaper-Fork connected, or from being exposed to Sparkle-Lord, or well, anything else.
As it happens, while you were Reger you were fairly paranoid about "neural drift" in an emulation. So you implemented a fairly thorough system of checksum validation of all identity code inside the personality firewall. It checks out: all modifications trace purely to existing and trusted elements inside your own personality.
It's not the game's fault that the player is evil.
Just checking. :)
Based on it's position, does it seem like they are using the drone to communicate with the other group, or is it just for this group here? While I can imagine the fun of surly machine watching me butcher everyone, I think it would be best if he was oblivious.
The drone would not be necessary for this cell of SGS to communicate with itself - they are arrayed with good overlapping lines of sight to maintain their battlewiki. It is much more likely that they are using the drone to link to the other cell of SGS.
I believe that you are out of throwing drills, but even a 1-point rock should be sufficient to take down the drone if you want to finish the slaughter unwatched.
Ok... here's the plan
- Sneak close and hide.
- Do a good locate to make sure I know where all of them are.
- Get full acquire on Sarah.
- Throw rock at drone to take it out.
- Hope that nobody spots me - watch them futilely scan about to see where that rock came from.
- Burst out full-HORROR with an all aggressive assassination attack on Sarah with the screamer.
- Keep attacking Sarah until she's dead.
- Assuming everyone is paralyzed, I start transmitting polka death music. Then everybody dies - starting with the seasoned assassin. Actually, no, if he's sufficiently paralyzed, I want him to witness everyone else's death first. As I kill everyone, I take their power.
- Once it's all done, I grab the drone and see if I can figure out where it was transmitting to.
BWA HA HA HA HA HAAA!!!
I'll have to wait until I'm home to craft a description of what happens - it is too awkward on the phone.
...and move houses, and wait for new internet connection...
The approach goes according to plan, because it's nearly impossible for the arrayed SGS personnel to spot Reaper in such stealth-enhancing terrain. Also, locating everybody is pretty straightforward - they conform to standard SGS tactical arrangement and are quickly all accounted for. Acquiring on Sarah goes pretty straightforward, too.
Trouble starts when the rock gets thrown at the drone. With a regular attack, the full-defensive drone evades the projectile attack. Worse, it can track the trajectory of the rock to extrapolate Reaper's hiding spot. This requires Reaper to re-hide, and use assassination bonus on the drone to take it out (it might have recovered from the assassination with luck, but the plummet onto the pointy rocks shattered it). This requires more re-hiding and more re-acquiring on Sarah, but only just delays the inevitable, because it all happened without Reaper entering into line-of-sight of the SGS crew, and the drone did not seem to get a fix on Reaper at any moment.
Full-HORROR has the expected result on the SGS crew, save for Sarah who is not post-human. She has non-trivial amounts of Defender, which means that it's not completely surprising when she manages to duck well enough to prevent assassination immediately. Unfortunately, she has no significant offensive capabilities and tries negotiation. This does not go well for her, as she gets dropped two turns later, and dismantled shortly thereafter.
The seasoned assassin seems to succeed in a couple willpower checks, but fails to use the opportunity to escape, choosing instead to acquire on Reaper. Which, technically, makes things worse. As planned, Reaper dismantles him last.
Aside from the gut-wrenching HORROR aspect, after the brutal slaying of Sarah, it is actually kind of a peaceful scene. Like Reaper is laying puppets down to pretend sleep.
A new SGS drone hails Reaper from 100 meters away. "WHY?"
2013.07.25 - After The Slaughter
After The Slaughter, Reaper hid from the SGS drone, then discreetly chased after it. Perhaps guessing that it might not be fruitful, Reaper changed tactics to find the tracks of the other half of the SGS crew. He succeeded, and followed it for a time. But after a while, the tracks abruptly started disappearing. Suspecting that something was afoot, Reaper hid. Sure enough, from the direction the SGS drone flew, a force of Angry Cattle manifested as mechanical orcs came charging. Lead on by promises of treasure (in the form of an RTG), the orcs were directed to the approximate vicinity of Reaper's hiding spot by the SGS drone.
Just before Reaper figured out what was happened, the Surly Machine lead the remaining SGS crew out of hiding. They detonated some smoke bombs which also created an opaque dust cloud - covering their escape. Being horrifyingly swift, Reaper reached and crossed the dust cloud somewhat sooner than the fleeing machines might have liked. But still they were able to deploy their hastily-constructed velocipedes and get sufficiently far away to make good their getaway - toward scene of the slaughter of their comrades.
Annoyed, Reaper swept stealthily back through the dissipating dust cloud, and started assassinating the mechanical orcs one-by-one. It took until a quarter of them were suddenly missing (for, indeed, Reaper would take and hide the bodies) that they decided to flee for their simulated lives. Reaper let them.
One orc was briefly resurrected for questioning, but proved to be just a useless fool.
Plot Infliction 018 - AFTER After The Slaughter
Chaba lies 25 km to the North.
An unknown pursuing force of KAH exist to the East.
Some source of Adventuring Idiot Orcs (and the like) is somewhere Southerly.
Brooding snow-capped mountains loom to the West.
Somewhere up in the sky floats the Molotov.
Which way does Reaper go?
I follow the direction that the rest of the security group went... I think that was towards Chaba. They must die.
All must die.
The tracks do indeed first lead to the site of the slaughter. From the marks left behind, it appears that they paused to retrieve the CPUs and physical memory from most of the chassis. Then they continued to flee at speed.
The tracks show the velocipede being pushed a bit recklessly fast as they head North - vaguely Chaba-ward. It becomes evident that the velocipede is moving faster than even the Swift_HORROR chassis can manage without being reckless. But at the 4 kilometer mark, Reaper comes upon an array of dispatched vaguely-lupine predator machines, and the remains of one downed SGS member. Small scavenger machines have already flensed the fiber-reinforced titanium chassis of the easily recyclable materials, but the removed CPU and memory of their comrade was probably done by the SGS. The velocipede track rolls away from the scene with continued haste.
After 7 kilometers, Reaper's EM sense picks up a faint hail coming from over a rise ahead. It is distinct from the clicking-warbling-screeching backround EM of various semi-sentient machines, and the angry hiss of encoded comms traffic. It's playing on plain old CB frequency as plain signal. "Calling Reaper. Reaper, are you here yet? Helloooooo Reaper." And so on, without simple repetition.
Assuming due stealth is applied, Reaper approaches to within line of sight of the signal source and finds a roughly spherical being perched atop 8 stalk-like legs 5 meters long.
I sense another delaying tactic. I sneak around to the other side of the robot and see if I can pick up the tracks again. If so, I continue on.
It is possible that Reaper should become a cleric, due to his bothersome understanding of god.
Travelling with his standard speed and stealth, Reaper bypasses the entire encounter table for this region. The velocipede tracks weave onward for another 9 kilometers, where they veer drastically towards a suburban outpost of Chaba. The population of sentient machines dramatically spikes in this vicinity, with teams working cooperatively to install new solar arrays and with a modicum of security services keeping a protective watch. The velocipede tracks wind up with a bemused-looking long-legged grasshopper machine contemplating how to modify the velocipede for its own geometry - on the steps of a combination aerodrome (for zeppelins and the like) and maglev train station.
I approach the grasshopper... "Excuse me gentlebot, do you happen to know where the former owners of that contraption went to?" I also try to access any public terminal for the train station to find out where recent trains have gone.
Hopperbot: "Well, I'll be scrap. There really is a monster chasing them. They said to tell you that you might have gone insane in that chassis and that you should make sure it hasn't dissolved your humanity. Or some such quasi-religious nonsense. Posthumans. AmIright? Ran into the station. "
The open station network shows that this station is an extremum of the rail web; all trains go to Chaba from here.
2013.08.02 - Goodbye General Greer
- Survivors of SGS seem to have made good their escape - for now.
- Corresponds with Molotov:
- SGS has been in contact with Molotov
- Molotov and allied zeppelins have made tactical strikes against KAH
- Meets with Molotov personnel to let them study the HORROR effect.
- Corresponds with Baalberith of TAG
- Declines job to kill everyone aboard the Molotov
- Accepts job to penetrate Chaba military facility and kill one General Greer
Plot Infliction 019 - Hiding Is A Handy Talent
Broadcast messages throughout Chaba identify Reaper_HORROR as an enemy combatant, and post a 44-GJ bounty. Wanted dead.
Well, there goes my ability to trust anyone. Ah well, probably better this way.
Do I have a means to contact TAG without going to the bar?
Here's the sneaky bit that I didn't bother explaining during the game night¹:
Your actual contact with TAG is encrypted access to a hidden message board with extra-encrypted private chat rooms that get wiped. Baalberith functions largely as an Administrator, but does intercede as a facilitator for n00bs. There are several seconds of lag on the TAG boards, which can potentially be attributable to encryption, distance, and parallel distribution. Your contract thread is easily accessible to you via the public nodes in Chaba.
The contract allows for a non-sentient machine to be dispatched at a time/route of your choosing to deliver payment of the 4 GJ. (I think it was 4.) The thread includes one new update from Baalberith commenting that the privacy setting of the thread disallows non-involved TAG members from seeing or participating. He also states that considering the high-profile nature of the hit, this is probably wise. But that it is sometimes helpful to have other TAG members update commentary about planning before hand, and notify about repercussions afterward.
¹ Or, indeed, even really have fully worked out in my head at the time. So please consider reality as having been translated from a conversation with Thireb as more explicitly being a chat, and also coordination of the contract thread with Reaper_CUSTOMER_001. C_001 was similarly oblivious to the identity of Reaper during negotiation of the contact. Might have worked some of it out now, though.
Ok. I sneak to an area of Chaba I've never been before and find a place to hide. Then I send some nearby coordinates for the payment robot - don't want to send my current coordinates, but coordinates that I can easily see from my current position. Then I wait to see what shows up.
After about 3 kiloseconds, a completely unremarkable vaguely-humanoid machine stops in the exact coordinates you specified. This somewhat disrupts the local ebb and flow of machines going about their scurrying business. Then Customer_001 pings that their cut-out is ready to complete the transaction.
Let's assume a properly paranoid approach and careful survey of all observers, yadda yadda yadda, Reaper collects the 4 GJ without any drama.
I post another message to the chat room. "Well, obviously I'm going to be spending my time killing bounty hunters, but while I'm at it, are there any similar jobs I may be interested in?"
Thireb: "Amusingly, there has been a number of droll requests to generate an assassination for you (for various iterations of guesses about who you are). Which TAG does not do for members. There have also been requests for your services specifically, which makes sense, but extremely suspicious. In fact, we are going to temporarily suspend new contract operations in Chaba for the time being, seeing as how every customer might be tempted to double-cross their Hire in the vague hopes of a 44 GJ bounty."
"On a related note, we have Guild-certified temporary residences and travel arrangements available if you have need of such."
2013.08.15 - The Dangers Of Chasing A HORROR
Venturing through the shadowy seams of Chaba, including the dark recesses of its information web, it quickly became obvious that nobody felt particularly inclined to try for Reaper's 44GJ bounty. Various pundits had attached the label of "The Beast In The Tower", and general mostly-machine consensus was that the post-human-dominated military had gotten a taste of comeuppance.
Following in the vague direction of Ricardo's sightings (according to the information-gathering of the Molotov), Reaper took a fast maglev to the edge of Chaba. There, at the boundary of the station, was a pair of intrepid bounty hunters visually sifting through the crowd. They might not have even been looking for Reaper (or TBITT), but their implied threat triggered Reaper to be cautious. Well, OK, not so much cautious as aggressively evil. He ninja'd his way around behind one of them, and made an assassination attempt - which did not immediately succeed. The shock-shooter got back up and retreated into the open. A couple turns later, Reaper surprised the retreating shock-shooter by clearing the entire gap and ramming the screamer through his vitals. His shock-trooper parter finally had a chance to get some good shots in. But the next turn he saw his partner carried all the way back to cover, followed by some horrific rending noises. He decided to flee.
He ran through the mostly-open shantytown out past the maglev station, to try to maximize his range weapon advantage. All the locals who had initially watched the conflict figured out that TBITT was here, and they all hid and kept to cover. Reaper repaired himself, then tracked the shock-trooper. Stealthily. Before he had speed-stealthed a kilometer, Reaper's keen senses picked up the shock-trooper circling back, hoping to gain a vantage over his possible pursuer (while mostly hoping that TBITT wasn't bothering to pursue him). Reaper instead moved to lie in wait for where the shock-trooper would likely try to perch. It did not go well for the shock-trooper, although it did manage to get a couple good hits and some begging in before the end.
Then the capricious Encounter Dice struck.
A towering collective entity machine spotted Reaper, and strode over to investigate further. It wanted to know where Reaper's "maker" was, and demanded to inspect the Swift_HORROR chassis. It recoiled when it realized that Reaper was acquiring for an assassination attempt, and shifted into blackmail: using its technical and information-gathering prowess to threaten to help bounty hunters track Reaper. (It also offhandedly gave away information about Ricardo's more recent whereabouts.) Reaper did not respond well to the blackmail, and charged over and assassinated one of its core entities. Groot-Borg-like machine repaired the damage almost immediately, and began swatting at Reaper with clumsy but powerful attacks. Frustrated, Reaper decided to carve out one of the giant's 5 hearts - and with a fluke of a tamper roll coupled with a lucky guess, Reaper extracted an advanced RTG.
Being battered nearly to death, and pleased with his prize, Reaper fled. Groot_borg suffered from paralyzing internal dissent and so could not effectively give chase. But it did manage to extrude tens of missiles to try to finish off Reaper as he ran. But Reaper is a slippery HORROR...
Plot Infliction 020 - An RTG In The Hand And A Ricardo On The Lam
So. Where to now?
I head north along the border of Chaba for a bit and then hide. Then I attempt to contact the Molotov.
2013.08.22 - Confirmed: Reaper Is Evil
- Reaper makes an exploratory call to the Molotov.
- They're terrified of him.
- He asks about the possibility of a lift.
- They agree, but with terms too paranoid to appeal to Reaper.
- Hell's Post-Angels biker gang tries to intercept Reaper.
- They manage to luckily spot him before he can surprise-assassinate them.
- Their large assault weapons cause Reaper to decide to err on the side of discretion.
- Groot_borg seemed to be about to join the Post-Angels when Reaper lost track of everyone during his escape.
- During his speed-stealth run through Chaba, Reaper is spotted by a bouncer at a bar.
- The machine bouncer stands his ground, working valiantly to defend the green post-humans in the club.
- It quickly becomes clear that the bouncer is outclassed, but manages to make it an interesting fight.
- Ultimately the bouncer manages to stave off Reaper long enough to let all the green post-humans escape, but ends up ruthlessly slaughtered so that Reaper can drain his measly 2 MJ.
- Subsequently, Reaper came across another lesser assassin machine.
- After a quick spar, Reaper considers letting the evil little bastard alone.
- Then Reaper considers earning
skillexperience by foregoing his own assassination ability, and beats the other machine to death.
- Further through Chaba, Reaper comes across an intermediate scale combatant machine in an open atrium area performing katas.
Plot Infliction 021 - Time For A Vacation
It is worth noting just how well Chaba proper suits Reaper's modus operandi. While there are lots of open areas, they are invariably surrounded by fractal-like structure that is incredibly well-suited to stealthy beings. Also, the dark and congested bones of the city allow very short lines of sight, which is good for both stealth and hand-to-hand combatants. This is contrasted to the wide-open barren wastes of much of the rest of post-earth.