Player(s): Dave - playing Hunsan, a serial-killing amphibian.
- 1 Introduction Part:1 - You Sick Bastard
- 2 Plot Infliction 000 - Shopping Spree
- 3 2014.01.24 - Lost in spaaaaaaaaaaaaace!
- 4 Plot Infliction 001 - Introduction Part: 2
- 5 2014.01.30 - Target Practice
- 6 Plot Infliction 002 - 14 Hours Until Xoid Swarm
- 7 2014.02.06 - Ambush
- 8 Plot Infliction 003 - 10 hours Until Xoid Swarm
- 9 2014.02.15 - Slaughter
- 10 Plot Infliction 004 - 9.5 hours until Xoid Swarm
- 11 2014.02.20 - Playing Outside Other People's Comfort Zone
- 12 Plot Infliction 005 - 6 hours until Xoid Swarm
- 13 2014.02.27 - Border Busting
- 14 Plot Infliction 006 - Beverage Interlude
- 15 2014.03.06 - Dancing With MegaXoids
- 16 Plot Infliction 007 - Preparing For Doom
- 17 2014.03.13 - Dancing With MegaXoids 2
- 18 Plot Infliction 008 - Philosophical Break
- 19 2014.03.20 - Wait... What Does Kamikaze Mean?
- 20 Plot Infliction 009 - Transition
- 21 2014.03.27 - Semi-Radical Start and A Mafia Hitman
- 22 Plot Infliction 010 - Fleeeee...
- 23 2014.04.03 - Invasion
- 24 Plot Infliction 011 - Don't like being interrupted
- 25 2014.04.09 - Hunting Some Hunters
- 26 Plot Infliction 012 - Musical Interlude
- 27 2014.04.16 - Experience Needle In A Corpse Haystack
- 28 Plot Infliction 013 - Instability In Degache
- 29 2014.05.01 - Betrayed
- 30 Plot Infliction 014 - Epic Badass
- 31 2014.05.08 - Missile Monster Mission
- 32 Plot Infliction 015 - Wait... What?
- 33 2014.05.15 - An Insufficient Amount Of Violence
- 34 Plot Infliction 016 - Plot So Inflicty, It Causes A Rash
- 35 2014.05.22 - Death Of A Blob
- 36 Plot Infliction 017 - Close Encounters Of A Crazy Kind
- 37 2014.05.29 - MegaXoid Hunt
- 38 Plot Infliction 018 - Red Pill Or Blue Pill?
- 39 2014.06.05 - The Power Of Associates
- 40 Plot Infliction 019 - In The Clutches Of Open Vistas
- 41 Interlude - Crisis of Experience
- 42 2014.06.19 - MegaXoid Hunt II
- 43 Plot Infliction 020 - Aimless Inflictions of Plot
- 44 2014.06.26 - Woo: STUFF
- 45 Plot Infliction 021 - Wherein The Main Characters Are Probably Unable To Do Anything Other Than Giggle
- 46 2014.07.10 - Not Quite To Plan
- 47 Plot Infliction 022 - Time For A New Plan
- 48 2014.07.17 - GigaXoid Safari
- 49 Plot Infliction 023 - ...Into Darkness
- 50 2014.07.24 - Hold... and Release
- 51 Plot Infliction 024 - Death's Head
- 52 2014.07.31 - Efflorescence
Introduction Part:1 - You Sick Bastard
In one of the more-stable regions of the 1st Galaxy is nestled ancient Nelumbo, one of the original colony worlds of the Anurians - one of the co-founding species of the sprawling Conferderation. While the upheavals of the last century have left the Confederation in tatters, Nelumbo itself was able to ensure that a nice protective buffer around itself. This is because, while Nelumbo is (still) virtually a Utopian Class™ planet, it maintains a significant defensive capability.
To this end, Nelumbo created a new class of being: Stage-3 nanoscopic-robot/biological emulations. With advantages of both biologicals and robots, they make pretty good soldiers. And after serving a tour of duty in the military, they are permitted to retire to a life of leisure and near-immorality back on Nelumbo. Assuming they're not insane or anything.
Hunsan was just such a Stage-3 soldier, who served his tour of duty unremarkably, and retired back on Nelumbo. And being perfectly sane, he blended in with civilian society just fine. Except for a small hiccup: he got bored.
First there was the idiot that almost killed him with a hopper. While the pilot was appropriately apologetic at the time, Hunsan didn't actually forgive him until after he found out where he lived, crept in, quietly blasted several holes in his vitals, cleaned up very thoroughly, and programmed the hopper to fly the remains to the bottom of the middle of the ocean then self-destruct. Then there were others; many others. Too many to count, really.
Finally, Hunsan was done in by the inevitable onset of Murphy's Law - a power cell on his black-market hand-made silenced blaster partially failed and caused a disruption in a very public place. A
man- frog-hunt ensued, which was always doomed due to availability of powerful mathematicians and mentalists. Ironically, knowing that, Hunsan also did not bother to spare the lives of several more people - and peace officers - that got in his way, before he was finally subdued.
Conveniently, Nelumbo does not have a death penalty. Indeed, Nelumbo does not really even have prisons. There is only one punishment for citizens that cannot be rehabilitated¹: banishment.
¹ It did not take a mathematician nor a mentalist to determine that Hunsan could not be rehabilitated.
Plot Infliction 000 - Shopping Spree
Due to painfully honourable requirements in Nelumbian authority, Hunsan is provided an advocate/advisor. A hologram of a well-tailed Anurian appears in Hunsan's security cell.
"Greetings, ex-citizen Hunsan. My name is Ascaph; I will be your counsel. As you undoubtedly know, you are to be banished. It seems that you have some considerable assets, and that it would be deemed inappropriate for you not to be able to use them. Therefore I have been empowered to assist you with the purchase of whatever items you can afford, and have them delivered to the site of your banishment."
"Well, Ascaph, I guess the obvious question is: Where am I to be banished to?"
Ascaph: "It has been decided to banish you to... a part of the 2nd Galaxy that is... well... hard to return from."
There is clearly more to it, but Ascaph is too civilized to be able to just blurt it out immediately.
Well, that narrows it down...
"On the Reich or Xoid side of the war zone? A city planet on the Reich side would be good. I may be able to use my combat skills for some good and make a life for myself. Xoid side... You may as well just kill me now. I'd rather not be Xoid food."
After thinking for a moment... "How much does a 1-man superluminal craft cost?"
It is instantly obvious that your choice of phraseology pains Ascaph's sensibilities. "I think the first issue is that we can't just kill you ourselves, immediately."
A miniature version of the 2nd Galaxay springs into holographic existence, annotated with the boiling front between the Reich and the Xoid forces. Then it zooms to a region on the far Xoid-dominated end of the galaxy. "This region of the 2nd Galaxy was caught largely off-guard by the initial Xoid assault, and fell quickly. The Xoid combat forces hurried past to press the off-balance Confederation forces and claim as much volume as possible. This left a considerable population of survivors far behind the battle front. Most of them were undoubtedly consumed by the subsequent waves of Xoid industry. Currently, this zone is nearly completely-depleted as far as the Xoid resource-consumption efforts are concerned, and should be of low interest."
"Except that the Xoids have to semi-regularly re-route reinforcements to this area. Analysis shows that there are some highly-effective anti-Xoid combatants operating in the area. And, more than that, the effects cascade into an unreasonably large drain on Xoid resources. Which is where you come in."
"The simple existence of the temporary fold-space portal will cause the Xoids extreme agitation. From there, your typical modus-operandi of impulse killings and evasion will further distract the Xoids from the actual subversives, while also draining even more resources. Which brings us to the second issue."
The display zooms further into what appears to be an oddly-shaped nebula around a binary red giant. "This is the remains of a star system that has been thoroughly mined, but seems to have significant Xoid and non-Xoid activity. It should provide excellent cover, and be extremely difficult to pursue you. It also means that you will not be able to reach clear vaccum for superluminal travel - at least not for a while." The view continues to zoom in, revealing that it is not actually a nebula; it is a truly immense debris field. Rocks sized from mountains on down tumble in a swirling orbit, punctuated with the grisly remains of what was at least one mega-city.
"So... with that in mind, how would you like to be equipped?"
I practice keeping a straight pleasant face, while I imaging slowly killing Ascaph with a spoon.
"Well, it doesn't look like there's much of any atmosphere there... What would 5,000 credits get me for a hopper? Plus, I'll need a space suit and some kind of personal propulsion for when I inevitably lose the hopper. Hopper should be big enough such that you can install a medical cabinet in it. Also, if at all possible, something that can make patches for me. I'll also come up with a list of combatant gear."
Ascaph helpfulling links you to an equipment list¹, and a ship-building configurator². "You've been out of active service too long. You forget that being Stage-3 means that breathing is merely a pleasant aesthetic convenience for you. I do agree about probably wanting some sort of personal armour or shielding, though, as well as propulsion. It's a pity that you appear to have 0 maneuverability, too."
¹ Significant additions are the Nelumbian Military "omni-implements", "omni-patches", and "dynomer spinneret". The Omni's function equally well on mechanical and biological subjects. Equivalent pricing to the segregated variants. The Dynomer spinneret can turn raw dynomer into pretty much anything - given the right skill set. Even without special skills, the spinneret can pultrude omni-patch-like weave in combat time scale. Best of all, assuming the spinneret is already in-hand, the same dice pull AND apply the patch-weave. Larger Meditechs³ you served with often had them implanted in a limb, and could whip out 4-dice worth of slappiness each turn (plus modifiers). They're a bit cumbesome, though: for each D6 of throughput⁴, they need to be 10 kg (and cost 50 credits).
² Which should functionally look a hell of a lot like the ship-building spreadsheet we had developed. Assume 5th stage technicians and physicists, dynomer is über-plentiful (10 credits / tonne), and building is 10 credits / tech-hour.
³ Pretty much everything in the Nelumbian Military was Stage-3, so both Medics and Technicians could function interchangeably.
⁴ Personnel scale.
Hunsan studies the equipment list and configurator, makes some mental notes, hums the Anurian version of Criminal Mind by Gowen a lot, and then produces a list:
- Shield (5) - 50 stam
- Long Range Laser Rifle 2D
- 2 3D Laser Pistols
- Move Boots x3
- Dynomer Spinneret
- 15 CP (configure)
- 48 extra stam for a total of 50
- 8 km/turn
- 2 pph
- 0 maneuverability
- Partial shield (5) - 50 stam
- 5D Weapons (1 cp)
- 2 CP cargo, 1 CP crew
- 100 km EM sensor, 200 km EM comm
- 1P etheric sensor, 0.1P comm
- 1 teleporter (?? Do teleporters still exist? Quantum mirrors?)
- Docking clamp, airlock and 10cp force beam.
Based on the 10 credit per tonne and tech hour, I got a total of 8370 credits.
Ship #2 - aka Anurian Ship Pack:
- 0.2 CP
- 2km/turn (wheeeeeee)
- No superluminal
- 2 maneuverability
- No shields, weapons, cargo or sensors, just 0.1cp crew space for me.
- 33 credits.
Or something like ship #2 anyway. I'd like to have it near where I'd typically be controlling the main ship, so that if things go fubar, I can hop into it and flee. If they can make it look like a piece of debris, that would be ideal.
That leaves me with 567 credits... How much does the spinneret cost? Is there a ship scale equivalent?
The ships sound fine.
The spinneret cost 50 credits per D6 personnel. 500 for 1D6 intermediate scale (weighing 100 kg), 5000 for 1D6 ship scale (weighing a tonne).
The move boots might be of limited utility any time Hunsan is more than 15-ish meters from a large mass. Upgrading to non-Newtonian will cost x10.
Ok, ditch the moveboots, and get a personnel spinneret. What about tools to repair the ship? Also, can I assume the ship is sentient, or does that cost extra?
Also, I ask for a computer containing all of the information we know about Xoids (ship configurations, language, etc). Also, the computer should have as much scientific information as required so that I can earn stages of scientist if I want to.
"So, Ascaph, how long do you think it will take to get all this gear made and I get shoved out the fold space? Also, are you going to put me in an area that other Anurian's have been banished?"
2014.01.24 - Lost in spaaaaaaaaaaaaace!
Loaded antiseptically into his freshly-minted and inappropriately-perky-looking spacecraft, Hunsan is punted through a flash of fold-space. And ends up in the dark. Literally. Peta-tonnes of matter in every direction very effectively blot out all light.
Realizing the tactical gravity of his situation, Hunsan quickly endeavours to fumble away from the coordinates of the fold-space event. In doing so, he has a brief but violent exchange with a lightly-armed Xoid shit-hauler. Fortunately he is also noticed by a local non-Xoid nomadic family - the Waltons¹. They rid him of the stealthy Xoid bloodhound that decided to keep track of him, and led him to a rendezvous at a hidden diner. To discuss just how fucked they all are now.
And, right on cue, passive etheric sensors noticed a terrifyingly large battle-group of mega-Xoids inbound. They forecast the the fastest fighters could be local within 22 hours.
¹ Most notably: Bob - the functional head of this "family", and Jo - a young and un-intimidating mentalist sent to help navigate Fat Man through The Black™.
Plot Infliction 001 - Introduction Part: 2
"So, Ascaph, what would have your reaction been if I had slaughtered everyone in that diner and dragged Jo here by her hair and told you that she was now our slave? Obviously I didn't, but I'm curious about your nature and how it impacts my control over you."
Ascaph (secure channel): "My first reaction would have been a slight tweaking to my cognitive protocols, so that I wouldn't suffer too much emotional distress. My functional parameters include a directive to assist you in the function of taxing the Xoid military, and implicit in that is to not hinder you significantly in your most effective methods. If a facet of that turns out to further validate the reason for your banishment, I will avoid getting in your way. Which is not to say that I wouldn't aid in tactically-irrelevant individuals in escaping. But I would probably try to be sufficiently valuable to you such that you aren't compelled to dig out my cognitive core and burn it into slag."
Jo: "Now tha' I'm nae pinned ta th' floor, ye shor do 'ave a noice ship, Mister Hunsan. I cannae smell any farts 'r nuthin' - th' air 's SO... tasty, or somfin'." She looks around. "An' it be So Frickin' SHINY."
Meanwhile, she smells quite badly, leaves smudges on everything, and her voice kind of makes you want to kill her.
I'm going to assume that since I'm Anurian and have a whole CP devoted to crew that I've got a nice bath and/or shower. I point at it to Jo: "There - you can go clean yourself up. You should still be able to access the ship from the shower. Also, my religious order commands a vow of silence three hours per day and it's close to holy time, so I would request that you keep conversation at a minimum while I contemplate my existence."
Good point. Being an Anurian - even if it's really just simulated nano-robotically - it would be assumed that one of your habitation priorities would be full immersion. So, Fat Man does indeed have a nice bath/shower/tank segment. Along with the requisite m³ of H₂O.
Jo is at first reticent. Hunsan might almost have interpreted it as shyness, until she seems to get the idea and strips down without hesitation. A couple times she turns to you as if to comment or ask a question, but catches herself before she can violate your religious beliefs. Three things become blatantly apparent. 1) Jo is astoundingly naïve and guileless. 2) Has probably never had a bath in her life - a couple times she appears to be in genuine risk of drowning. 3) Even without her, her suit still has a surprising amount of stank.
Ascaph has managed to alter the exterior surface of Fat Man to be much lower reflectivity. Likewise, running with the re-calibrated sensors has greatly improved fine gradient sensitivity (primarily in the IR band) allows for much-improved sensing of local bodies. So navigation is a lot less bumbling, and Fat Man can keep up with the fleeing Walton family (plus a couple extras from Wiber's Diner). On glaring tactical downside not accommodated for by Jo's modification is that Fat Man would be briefly blinded by firing its own main gun, but Hunsan has Ascaph program in a "firing filter" to prevent that.
At one point, Bob's ship briefly hails Fat Man by tightbeam, and politely asks that you follow another ship's course at a constant distance. The troupe then executes a meandering loop around a large floating mountain, after which Fat Man is asked to hide. Everybody else is doing it, seemingly without having to be asked. After a lull of a few minutes, an unobtrusive group of gigantic boulders tilt outward, and you are invited to follow the others in.
I follow them in.
Inside the floating mountain is another menagerie of ships, all clustered around an ad-hoc structure that seems to be made up entirely of docking apparatus and storage tanks. Much of the interior space of the hollow mountain is devoted to drifting banks of hydoponics, which glimmer brightly due to the photonic leakage from their crude support systems. Nestled in the gloomy recesses can be seen scores of pods of missiles, probably thousands of them all-told. There are also signs of discreet airlocks dotting the internal surface of the hollow mountain, suggesting a network of tunnels in the main mass.
The barrier boulder doors silently swing closed behind all of you.
Also worth noting is that some of the ships lingering here use mega-Xoid carapaces as portions of hull. There are no rogue mega-Xoids here.
Bob hails from his ship as it manoueuvres to dock with the main structure. "OK, I think this is a good place to part ways. Jo says that your sensors are configured so you can make your way around on your own now, so you don't really need her any more. We're going to pick up some supplies here to keep moving on, and urge some stubborn friends to leave the vicinity. You should be able to determine your own course from here. OK?"
"Tired of me already Bob? Can you give me a general direction to travel that would be safer than the others? Or are we all just generally screwed?"
To Jo: "So, Jo, it would seem Bob wants you back. Where should I dock to drop you off?"
Bob: "I'm not tired of you at all! I wish circumstances were different, so we could have more time to get to know you. But it's a dangerous time coming, and the Walton's are Runners & Hiders. And you are clearly a nexus of Interesting Stuff, which is exactly what we try to run and hide from. If we're lucky, we'll meet up again when things quiet down and we can spend a while hanging out in peace. For now, though, since The Black Belt is essentially a disc, any direction perpendicular to the flat sides is your best bet. Good luck."
Jo dries off from her extended bath with an expression of revelation. "Yeah, I heard. I can jump out any time since we're inside this refuge - it's just a short flight. But if you're feeling gentlemanly -er, gentlefrogly, you could pull alongside Bob's ship and I could flit across to that." She steals a glance at the bathing facilities. "Or, you know, I could stay on board a while and help out... with... stuff?"
Ascaph (private channel): "As much as I like young Jo in terms of company, you would probably get her killed. There's a 80% probability she has not completed any combatant stages."
To Ascaph: "Still, she's a mentalist. If we can get her trained up, she could be useful."
To Jo: "You're welcome to stay if you want. Just realize that there's a pretty high chance we may never cross paths with the Walton's again."
Especially if we're dead, but I don't tell her that.
Bob (re-hailing): "Jo says that you've invited her to stay on board your ship. Can we discuss that?"
"Yeah, she asked and I figured I can use all the help I can get. Having a mentalist around may come in handy."
Jo: "OMG. Which station is mine? Do I get a locker? Can I bring over my stuff? Is there a ship policy on pets?"
Bob: "Yeah... Jo is old enough to be making her own choices now. And having a mentalist is handy, which is why we are eager to make sure she makes it back to the family. Especially her mother - my little sister. She's quite protective. Things would go a lot easier if she could meet you and scowl at you..."
Bob: "Yeah, sorry, I don't think I can fit a good scowling into my schedule."
Jo: "Do you need to purchase some food before we depart? Or is that what your question on pets was about?"
2014.01.30 - Target Practice
- Left Refuge 543 - with Jo, against Walton family preference.
- Encountered and destroyed a Local Enforcement Xoid (flying ant) - victory.
- Pounced on a lone Assault Rogue Xoid (wasp) - fled in shame. Hid with a terrified local.
- Engaged 2 L.E.X. - victory, but nearly destroyed.
- Stumbled across Refuge 837 - used guile to gain entry, did not make friends.
- Traded a bath for a missile. Woo. One missile.
- Developed "juicer" idea for obtaining water.
- Encountered "The Dude" Lebowski's minion, Tim. Was ominous.
Plot Infliction 002 - 14 Hours Until Xoid Swarm
Doom doom doom.
Ok, plan is to fix the ship and then go out and earn 4 more experience for a stage of defender. Need to fix up 36 stamina.
Jo has already gotten one hour's worth of repairs done, and managed to reduce the damage debt by... <rolls 3D6> ...15.
Awesome. We fix for another hour.
Jo decides to work externally for the next set of repairs, to get a better sense of Fat Man. She keeps carefully within the boundary of the main shields, just to be safe.
Before the hour is complete, a small ship flits in through a smaller access port, and moves quickly to dock near the administrative section. Very shortly thereafter, individuals can be seen swarming over their ships - mostly expediting repairs, but also loading extra batches of missiles. Shortly after that, ships start leaving batch-wise.
A familiar Hylosus knocks on the airlock hatch. "Hey in there. Are you guys going to hide out here in the refuge, or are you going to join the migration?"
"Hello friend... where is everyone migrating to?"
The Hylosus squints its little pink eyes at the main sensor on the station side of the airlock. "Well, generally Antispinward, away from the foldspace event. But since the incoming sweep of L.E.X. is coming from Inward, most people are slinking with an Outward lean to start. How soon are you leaving?"
2014.02.06 - Ambush
At the beginning of the hunt for experience, the Fat Man found a warren of sub-Xoid inhabiting a medium-sized mountain. The extent of the habitat was revealed by a brief burst of active EM scanning, which was taken as being quite threatening by the inhabitants, citing the proximity of LEX. Simultaneously, a short-range fighter came out and flew in a threatening manner. When the Fat Man attempted discourse, it engaged with repeated phalanxes of idiot-savant missiles. The belligerent pilot quietly escaped from the disabled wreckage of its fighter, after it had taken a couple hits from the Fat Man's 5D Ten Tonne Gun. The Fat Man towed the fighter for possible future use.
A short while later, as the Fat Man progressed anti-spinward, they were startled by an incoming group of missiles. When they rushed to intercept where the missiles had originated - on the far side of a nearby rock - they suddenly found themselves facing a quartet of Local Enforcement Xoids at long range. Lacking cover in an escape-wise direction, the Fat Man started a brutal engagement. The Fat Man was pounded down to single-digit stamina, and only one LEX was disabled. In a cunning tactical move, they hid and then flung the disabled short-range fighter in an escape trajectory. The LEX were distracted, and after landing some telling hits on the decoy, moved to investigate. The Fat Man tried to quietly slip away, but again the hidden source of missiles pointed them out. The LEX charged back to re-engage, but this time they managed to also spot the ship flinging missiles, and engaged it as well. Because Xoids. This caused the Fat Man to briefly ally with the tormenting missile boat to fend off the LEX. After the LEX were defeated, the Fan Man made a run for it.
Plot Infliction 003 - 10 hours Until Xoid Swarm
Ascaph: "Obviously, we need to find a suitable retreat and conduct repairs. Should we try to locate a habitat, or should we simply try to make do with random cover?"
Jo: "It's possible that there's some abandoned habitats, from homesteaders running from the vicinity of the foldspace thingamajobby."
Yeah, let's find a habitat, abandoned or otherwise. Jo, want to use your mojo to find one nearby?
"Ascaph - while Jo's fixing the ship, can you come up with some combat simulation for me to run through? Not sure if it will help with the experience earning, but it can't hurt. Assuming we find a good place to hide, that is."
2014.02.15 - Slaughter
Using a combination of Hunsan's defender-increased awareness and Jo's eldritch locate power, the Fat Man quickly homed in on an empty settlement and discreetly entered it. It looked quiet and intact, as if the residents had carefully boarded it up before leaving. And not as though they had all been slaughtered by an invading force of faceless horrors, for example. Jo suited up and began performing repairs. Hansan unceremoniously ghosted out an airlock without a space suit and went exploring.
Leaving a line-of-sight breadcrumb trail of Ascaph nodes as he went, Hunsan found a discreet airlock to enter by and proceeded through a network of narrow access tubes before entering the main habitat module. Inside the primary space there was a weakly-Xoid-like being - not bipedal, with too many semi-manipulating limbs, and only 200 kg. Hunsan quietly backed away and did more exploration through the tubes. Nearby, he also found a group of 10 more of the spidery beings - and they were busily equipping themselves with weapons, while chittering excitedly in a Xoid dialect about boarding the vessel that had just arrived. Some quick mental arithematic, and Hunsan decided to practice on the lone being first.
Circling back to the main chamber, Hunsan engaged the lone guard. It quickly became evident that it was only a first stage combatant. It was the first to die.
In the confusing minutes that ensued, Hunsan used his discreet array of Ascaph nodes to keep him tactically outmaneuvering a total of 26 more of the spidery beings. Highlights included:
- A mass of 10 hand-to-hand fast combatants bottlenecked in a narrow tunnel trying to get at Hunsan - as he patiently killed them one-by-one.
- Screams echoing on an on through the tunnels from bug that had its legs burned off, it's pain-fractured sanity etching horror to all its surviving fellows.
- A being fleeing so abjectly that its own comrades were startled into accidentally shooting it - finishing it off.
Finally, Hunsan had the last few combatants cornered with their commander - a big-headed centipede, and his bodyguard - a long-legged pillbug. He negotiated their surrender. Disarmed them. Then killed them.
Well, mostly. The commander centipede managed to escape into the tunnels...
Plot Infliction 004 - 9.5 hours until Xoid Swarm
It felt like it took longer.
Ascaph keeps you appraised of his status as his nodes slowly sweep the tunnels. He doesn't have enough nodes to flood the tunnels, so he daisy-chains them in a manner not terribly dissimilar to an anteater's tongue looking for ants an a nest.
Jo: "What did those guys do that made you think we couldn't just keep them locked up for a while?"
Jo: "Nothing. I think this may be a good spot for a long term hideout and having Pseudo-Xoids know about it would be a bad thing."
I patch myself up to full and then check out the ship the bugs left behind.
Jo goes quiet for a moment. "But, what about the actual owners of this place? Aren't they the exact same problem anyway? This place can never be a secure, long term hideout."
Ascaph quietly annotates your shared meta-wiki - narrowing the estimation of her intelligence to the 4-5 range, and theorizing about a mostly lawful-good nature.
From the observation perspective of the control deck, the ship in the middle bay seems like an odd mixture of mundane and alien. It is a 17 chassis-point "bucket" of a ship with little to recommend it. If all 30-ish of those neo-Xoids were packed in it, it was probably not a luxurious affair. But perhaps the personal space of these creatures is considerably less than that of an Anurian. The basic configuration is crude, with very low-tech main systems - for the most part, as far as you can see. But there are aspects of some equipment that look entirely out of place on the hull, and look to be a completely different class of build quality.
It appears locked.
Sigh, perhaps training her up to be an uber-mentalist isn't going to work out. Hope I don't have to flush her out an airlock.
"Sorry, different magnitudes of 'long term'. Aside from the bugs, it looks like this place has been abandoned for months... years maybe. I'd be happy if we can hold onto this place until that incoming Xoid horde realizes that fold space didn't bring a fleet with it, and leave. I'm hoping that won't take too much time."
Aschaph: "Make sure you have nodes near all of the dead bugs. If I were that bug, I would hide for a while, and then sneak out and try to grab one of their guns."
Jo: "Jo, here's my visual of the bug's ship. Can you give me an idea how to seal it shut so that if that leader bug comes back, he'll have a tough time getting in?"
Jo responds to the earlier conversation with the universal young-adult "ooooooooooookaaaaaaaaaaaaay".
Ascaph: "Leaving sentries by the arrayed corpses will reduce my search effectiveness considerably, while I calculate that there is a 92% probability that there are alternate caches of weapons and equipment that the triacontrapede would have access to. I place a higher tactical risk on it finding and using communications gear."
It takes Jo a bit too long to review the bucket-class ship. "Uuuuuhhhhh... OK. Weird. The sealing will be pretty hard. The hatches all look pretty standard, but there's about 20 of 'em arrayed around the main fuselage. Sealing would probably mean welding or annealing each one of them. But there's something kinda... off about that ship. The shield arrays are way too exposed, and they're coupled with some pretty funky-looking transducers or something. Which looks extra kooky, because the main chassis is so basic."
"Ah, ok keep looking for bug-boy then."
I leave a Ascaph node by the ship to let Jo keep looking it over and then I join the search.
Ascaph folds you into his search algorithm, and you quietly float down dusty narrow tubes for another half an hour. At which point, Jo has completed another full fix on the Fat Man. <rolls> Fixed 8 more stamina.
Jo: "I think I've puzzled out what those transducer-ized shield arrays do. Beyond inefficiently generate combat shields, I mean. I bet that when the ship gets right up next to a big ship, it can use those transducers to try to bend combat shields. That would let them get access to the hull surface, plus it might mean that they could use a big ships shields to help protect itself. Sneaky. And tricky. Probably takes both a mathematician and a techie."
Deep in the pitch-black crevices under a dark mountain sunk in a lightless abyss, it's oddly peaceful. The life support systems are nearly silent, and the hewn-rock structure is pleasantly tactile. Navigating purely by fractional differences in surface thermal conductivity, while moving without touching anything, is very near to being in a sensory deprivation tank. And the quiet is nice. It's tempting to cut comms with Ascaph's ongoing burble of data and logistics from the node dutifully trailing you to keep you in line-of-sight. Just a bit quieter, and you think you could almost hear god rolling encounter dice...
2014.02.20 - Playing Outside Other People's Comfort Zone
The crew of the Fat Man continued to search for the elusive quasi-xoid as repairs proceeded on the ship. While they did not find it, they did find a stash of missiles. After managing to decrypt access to the abandoned habitat's control system, they were able to review sensor logs of the quasi-xoid exiting and fleeing several hours earlier. Then the Fat Man left, moving anti-spinward, away from the Fold Space Event.
They found themselves near a refugee fleet of vessels and volunteered to help with combatant duty. Which came along soon enough. The fleets scouts had spotted some Local Enforcement Xoids inbound. The fleet veered to avoid, and the Fat Man was one of three vessels sent to act as a buffer. Their intended tactic was to hide, hoping to not to need to engage. But if the LEX seemed to divert in the direction of the fleet, they would flush the megaXoids with heavy missile bombardment from behind cover. Hunsan had other plans.
As soon as the megaXoids were within line of sight, he engaged all 3 by himself. And was victorious.
His proclivity for violence frightened and awed his wingmates. News of his badassery caused an arrogant local to challenge Hunsan to a fight. It did not go well for the challenger.
Plot Infliction 005 - 6 hours until Xoid Swarm
Ascaph: "The probability that there will be more status-seeking challengers like 'HANKA' is about 89% - before the Xoid Swarm arrives, assuming we stay with this fleet of refugees."
Jo: "The fools! Don't they realize that we are invincible?!?!"
You can almost feel the internal sensors all pausing to focus on Jo.
Jo: "What? It's kind of fun edging in on the basking glow of being a badass. Also, it was funny. Shut up."
As the Fat Man proceeds, you definitely notice a dramatic increase in the number of locals about. All of them are in ships, and all heading in the same direction, but something seems to be causing increased concentration and reduced speed.
"Bring 'em on. We'll get more experience that way and hopefully more patches."
I fly casual... not a care in the universe. :)
The concentration of migrating ships starts getting silly; there's no way that this mass of vessels is possibly being stealthy any more.
As the density of vessels increase, so does the undisciplined chatter. Bob hails you. "Looks like there's some sort of check barrier ahead, run by affiliated locals. Story is that anybody can pass through as long as they submit to intensive internal scanning and boarding. But anybody too well-armed, or with much valuable cargo, gets detained. Sounds like half of the unarmed vessels in our little ragtag fleet are going to head straight for the barrier and try to charm their way through. The rest of us are hanging back to see if we can get a lead on a checkpoint that is suitably corrupt, and we can get our fighters through. Are you with us?"
Jo [off the comms]: "Zark. I better warn my family."
2014.02.27 - Border Busting
Before attempting to cross the border, Hunsan did a quick poll of other heavy fighters nearby that would also have trouble crossing - to see if they might also be interested in punching through together. His first contact with with an insulting yokel who was extremely unhelpful. Then Hunsan briefly talked to a ship where the pilot had difficulty saying much more than "Horde scum!". Feeling that this was pointless, Hunsan decided to get on with it.
Buying their way across the impromptu border did not go smoothly. Even the corrupt "affiliated local" forces were savvy enough to recognize that the Fat Man was exactly the type of ship that the Xoid Swarm had instructed them to watch for. This meant that things got violent.
Hundreds of missiles were expended by the initial border security vessel, which did it little good. Four Black Ant Class megaXoids immediately moved to intercept, but they were simply not capable of handling a professional combatant in a long-range fighter. As the Fat Man put more distance from the border, some Red Ant Class megaXoids went all-aggressive and inflicted some telling harm before being reduced to charred husks. The flickering glow of further pursuit urged the Fat Man onward, and stumbled across another missile boat. This time the cloud of missiles stripped what was left of the Fat Man's shields, and two more Red Ant Class megaXoids were inbound.
Jo was managing to make excellent use of their meagre stock of ship patches, so the Fat Man was able to finish off the second missile boat and beat down both the RACmX. But just barely. The Fat Man reeled away to flee the flashing heat signatures of pursuit, but not soon enough. They were hailed by the insulting yokel - who turned out to be an enforcer for the local mafia, who also happened to be working on the border. Things did not look good.
At least, until the resulting firefight saw the enforcer yokel's fighter suffer a single massive hit to the vitals, causing it to temporarily flee behind cover. Technically, this still meant that the yokel's ship was in better fighting condition than the Fat Man, because it still had shields. But it was prone to the next ship to arrive, which hailed the Fat Man to simply ask "Help horde scum?".
Horde scum Hunsan agreed, and bits of the yokel's fighter could be seen floating in several directions. And so an alliance was forged with the so-called "Horde Scum Rogue Xoid".
The Fat Man and HSRX fighter continued to flee... until they noticed a bar.
Plot Infliction 006 - Beverage Interlude
HSRX raises a drinking globe thingy sloshing with dubious liquid. "Horde scum!" He... er, she? It. It sucks back the whole contents of the globe with one slurpy draw.
2014.03.06 - Dancing With MegaXoids
After finishing off some drinks, the Fat Man heads out from the High Albedo Bar followed by HSRX in his large fighter. Immediately upon emerging, they spotted an array of bounty hunter ships, and immediately engaged them. They were green. One got away.
They moved to a different corner of The Black and started repairs. Before they could do much, a medium-range fighter stopped nearby and struck up a conversation with HSRX asking about the whereabouts of the Fat Man. Apparently, not quite spotting it. The Fat Man used this opportunity to try to destroy the medium-range fighter. The fighter fought hard to get away, flushing away scores of missiles. It barely got away, and the Fat Man barely survived attempting to destroy it. Stalemate.
And then, after finishing repairs, Hunsan showed Jo the massive stockpile of dynomer and had her start fabricating ship scale patches. She got 3 done when the Wasp-class megaXoid buzzed by and spotted them.
The mindlessly aggressive mode of the Wasp let Fat Man and HSRX quickly wear down its massive shield and daunting stamina. It also meant that it shredded HSRX's ship in just a couple turns, and marched on to wreak Xoidy wrath on the Fat Man. Finally beating it down, despite its internal swarm of living patches, was a gruelling victory.
The Fat Man limped over to retrieve HSRX plus some supplies (missiles and patches), then expedited repairs with patches.
Plot Infliction 007 - Preparing For Doom
Jo double-checks Little Boy, to make sure that it's ready to deploy quickly.
HSRX: "Horde scum."
2014.03.13 - Dancing With MegaXoids 2
- Met "botherer": Virginia. She persuades the Fat Man to partake in a
suicidedangerous mission to lure Xoid Swarm forces into a trap.
- Encountered Ant megaXoid - it ran active scanning to flush out targets for a lurking Centipede megaXoid. Tough fight.
- Encountered a Red Wasp megaXoid. Messy.
- Encountered another Red Wasp megaXoid. Close call.
- Encountered a Fly megaXoid. Still around; very annoying.
Plot Infliction 008 - Philosophical Break
Virginia: "If we can't lose this Fly, maybe we should use it to help lure megaXoids to a kill zone. We won't have as much setup time as ideally hoped for, but maybe we can still make it work."
"KILL ZONE!" Pause. "Ahem, yes, I'm all for that idea. Where to? I think it's time to stop this sneaking and just punch it."
2014.03.20 - Wait... What Does Kamikaze Mean?
The Fat Mand and the Angry Sow (Victoria's ship) accelerated to "zarking zark speed", which involved dumping all dice to movement and just letting smaller objects bounce off the shields. The separation between the Xoid Swarm forces was sufficient to allow them to charge between and get to the Kill Zone™.
- Lure total: 36.5 megaXoids, plus one small cruiser-class gigaXoid
- kills: 2 Wasp-class megaXoids (and 1 Ant-class megaXoid, non-scoring)
- assists: 1 Cricket-class and 1 RED Wasp-class megaXoids
- Fat Man killed by: Centipede-class megaXoid armed with 1x10 assault ship scale blaster
- space suits soiled: 1 (technically it could have been 2, but Hunsan doesn't appear to have one)
Game night ended with a crushing press of space-suited personnel packing into the clunky industrial teleporter, and hoping to zark that the sensor link held.
Plot Infliction 009 - Transition
Hunsan is in a Very Bad Mood™.
The disconcerting series of WHUMPS flash to static, and for that instant everybody's eyes reflects the same dread: is this a teleportation or is this the inside of a mountain-smashing-class set of antimatter explosions?
The instant is discontinuously replaced with the whole cramped mass of people floating in a large bay. Everybody reflexively twitches in the next moment, causing the whole compressed people-knot to ripple in a slow expansion. Then there are about 40 people screaming with exultation, hugging and fist-bumping and other such comradely gestures. Except for the people immediately proximal to Hunsan and Jo - they create a respectful gap. You soon notice a similar gap forming a little ways away, as the bodies disperse even further, the core of which is HSRX.
An impressively-armoured space suit with a brightly-striped Reptiloid peeking out the faceplate wriggles through the crowd toward Hunsan. "Hunsan! The odds of that working were not optimal, but I feel optimistic that we collectively destroyed over 50 Swarm Xoids. I can hardly wait to hear intel reports!" It appears to be Virginia without computer-augmented improvements to her voice or visuals.
An intercom grumbles in surprisingly penetrating tones. "OK survivors, get comfortable. We're cloaking and cruising the zark out of here."
The access doors to the bay are conspicuously locked.
I glare at Virginia. "And how many ships did 'we' lose?"
The whole 'cloaking and cruising the zark out of here' is likely the only thing preventing Hunsan from trying to kill her. And everyone in the vicinity.
"So what happens now?"
Virginia's Joo Janta visor on her space suit goes mirrored, and Hunsan cannot make out her expression. "Well, uh, we lost all of them. 4 long-range fighters, 5 medium-range fighters, and 6 combat shuttles. Plus your ship, obviously. Which is, um, unfortunate. We also probably lost 15 people, which really rather a lot less than we might have lost. And now we're probably going to celebrate being still alive while trying to not piss off the beings running this ship."
HSRX makes his way over to Hunsan, and floats to have his back to Hunsan's back. His grappler-limbs are poised over his holstered blasters. "Horde scum."
Jo nonchalantly mounts Ascaph to one end of the large dynomer log, and a surprising number of Ascaph nodes fly out of Jo's pockets and array themselves on the surface as tiny little tugboats. On the freshly-rebooted battlewiki, Jo mourns: "The shooooower...!"
To Virginia: "Ok... next two questions. Who are the beings running this ship? And, how do you acquire and/or build new ships?"
BattleWiki to Jo: "Yeah. Major suckage. So, what do you think your chances are of picking the lock on those access doors?"
Virginia gets playfully mugged by a mass of fur - possibly a Groten, but it's got a helmet on - and is unable respond immediately.
Jo via battlewiki: "About a 1-in-36 chance. And it probably wouldn't be sneaky."
Virginia manages to re-emerge from the hug and jovially pounds a furry shoulder. Then she addresses Hunsan again. "This ship is the Abeken, and its captain is Masud Namdar. His lieutenants are Killer Kurt, Bahrami the Butcheress, Calm Richard, and Miss Roekito. Plus goons. We're probably going to be talking to some of them soon - I've been instructed to stay near you and to not get drunk." She pauses. "I'm not sure how to answer the ship question. Other than to say, 'the usual ways'...?"
Beer-like substance is acquired by somebody and is getting distributed. The alcohol is allowed to soak into the existing adrenalin high, and people start to seem very merry indeed. Except for the ones affected by Hunsan's Aura Of Homicide™.
I try to scale back the Aura Of Homicide™ and try to look more thoughtful. If anyone asks, I'll say I'm contemplating my survivability now that I'm ship-less. What I'm actually doing is fantasizing about killing everyone in the room. I decline any beer though, for now.
While waiting, I do try to observe my fellow survivors. How geared towards personnel combat are they?
Half of the group seem to be somewhat specialized for ship combat: mostly defender or mostly range combatant. Almost half are balanced adventurer types. A few are mostly techies. Everybody has either armoured space suits or shields, or both. Everybody is well-armed, ranging from arrays of heavy blasters to full assault weapons. The mean combatant stages here is probably 4, dragged down slightly by the techies.
Not really tactically significant, but you notice that there are only 4 species present: Reptiloids, Humans, Anurians, and Groten. No Rogue Xoids, and no robots.
Clearly many individuals are allowing the alcohol to have effect, and it seems possible that one corner of the bay might turn into an orgy.
Mmmmmm... assault weapons. I try to relax while waiting for impending doom.
After all of you being left to marinate in the tension-release party for a couple hours, Virginia perks up. "I've been asked to take you to talk with the Captain." She addresses Jo and HSRX (but doesn't seem to notice Ascaph) - "I wasn't explicitly told that you could come or not. Which might mean that you get harrassed, or it might mean that you get casually killed for impudence. It's up to you."
On battle-wiki: "I think we should keep together. HSRX, try to appear non-threatening... at least as best you can. Jo, when you get in there, keep a look out for hidden exits, or ambush type combatants. Hopefully we'll be useful enough that we can bargain some sort of use for us."
I smile at Virginia. "Let's go."
Virginia gives a nod abbreviated by the limits of her spacesuit, and heads to one of the personnel doors. Once all of you get there, it flashes open in a StarWarsian manner. Waiting there are three assault-weaponed beings in combat space suits - elongated helmets suggest that they're all Crocaloid. Hanging back is another figure in a very battered Human-shaped spacesuit.
The moment after everybody knows it isn't an initiative roll, Virginia leads you past the trio of reptiloids and gives something of a zero-G bow to the impatient-seeming Human.
"Aw, fuck. You're not bringing your fuckin' luggage along with you too?" He appears to be indicating the giant pillar of Dynomer floating through the door in a stately manner.
Virginia glances back in confusion. "I guess they don't trust us yet."
HSRX mutters quietly. "...horde scum..."
The Human makes an exasperated gesture. "FINE. Mr. First Galaxy Hobo, you just bring along your whole fuckin' peanut gallery and every piece of shit you own to an important fucking meeting with the person who managed to rescue you from the very fuckin' sphincter of the ass-end of an Intergalactic Evil. Because it's not at all fuckin' preposterous that you think you have any fuckin' say about what you get to keep." The voice transducer carrying his voice out of the confines of his helmet does unpleasant things with the sound of flying spittle - like is voice is simultaneously frying bacon.
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "I'm guessing that he's 'Calm Richard'"
The corridor is short, and your brought onto a cramped bridge of some old-fashioned Confederation Strike Class cruiser. In the command chair is an Anurian that appears to make a point of looking like how old he is - which is really damn old. He also appears to be missing an unsettling amount of his face, like it was clawed off in one swipe. Another Anurian-shaped space suit, with intermediate-scale shields running, is sitting immersed in an old-style linker chair. A Human-shaped space suit is at the main weapons station, but is also watching you. The thing that really draws the eye, after you notice it, is the Batori perched behind the command chair. It looks a bit dusty, like it might be stuffed.
I wonder if the Batori and the Anurian's disfigured face are related.
I bow slightly to the Captain. "Hello. On behalf of my companions and I, I'd like to offer our gratitude for transporting us away from that clusterfuck back there. I hope we can come to some mutually beneficial arrangement going forward." I pause. "Are we leaving the system?"
Hunsan recognizes a twinkle of Chaotic-Something in the Captain's eye. "Well met, Hunsan Foldspaceovich. No, this is your basic sub-luminal cloaking device - we have no way out of this system. Before we decide where we're actually going or see how mutual the benefits are, we need to double-check how much we're being tracked. What marks do all of you have?"
Additional, Hunsan is pretty certain that the weapon-station Human is building an assassination acquire. Although, it seems to be reflexive instead of aggressive, as the human seems to shift targets every couple turns - occasionally including the other Human or the goons.
"I'm guessing I have three marks. One is from one of the employee's of "The Dude" whoever he is. One obvious large one is from my government in the First Galaxy. Another hidden one is likely also from my government."
Battlewiki: "Guys, do any of you have mentalist marks on you?"
HSRX [battlewiki]: "Horde scum mark?"
Jo [battlewiki]: "I have 0-point marks on all of you, and my mom has me marked."
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "I am only aware of Jo's mark."
Captain Namdar: "I'm assuming that the First Galaxy marks are of little consequence, tracking-wise. The Dude is a different story. That needs to be gone immediately. If we can get the other marks off too, is that of interest to you?"
[battlewiki]: "Everyone get rid of Jo's mark if you can, before they have a chance to notice them." I scrub her mark. "She can always add it again later."
Captain Namdar: "Sure, let's get everything off, start with a clean slate." I hide my glee at the idea. "I'm not sure if the Rouge-Xoid has any marks or not, probably not, but worth a check."
Jo [battlewiki]: "You may want to get rid of your mom's mark, for her protection. If 'The Dude' ends up looking for us, he may use prescience to find people who can find us."
Another StarWarsian hiss, and a low panel flahes open. A wuw-wuw-wuw-wuw echoes out the portal until an old Interrogator Robot floats through and wafts to the approximate center of the small bridge.
Masud Namdar: "Excellent. Let's see what we're dealing with." He makes a theatrical chopping 'make it so' gesture in your direction while giving a meaningful look at the Interrogator. It's wum-wum-wum becomes more WUMM-WUMM-WUMM! Each of you in turn feels like your sinuses is caught in a paint agitator, and are left with a ringing in your skull that has nothing to do with sound.
A calculating look gutters dangrously in Captain Namder's eye. "It appears that none of you have any marks." He arches his neck in a way to suggest that he's looking down on Hunsan, despite the fact that the Captain is in a chair attached to the floor while Hunsan floats near the nominal ceiling. "Are you sure that you were marked?"
You are indeed sure about the Nelumbian mark. There's a distinct aftertaste of it painting the back of your mind's eye even now.
Jo [battlewiki]: "My mom's going to be piiiiiiissed."
"Absolutely sure. It was unpleasant when it was applied. If it's not there now..." I shrug. "I guess it's possible the mentalist working for 'The Dude' purged it without me feeling it, though why he would do that I don't know."
[battlewiki]: "Aschaph - any ideas? What's the probability that the Interrogator is missing the marks cause it's an ancient piece of junk?"
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "The probability that the Interrogator is somewhat faulty is about 18.313%. Regardless, there is a 99.727% that you are still marked by the mentalist on Nelumbo, and that it was designed to be invisible to others. They might also tend to decide what other marks they're willing to have coexist with their own. Their parameters for this would undoubtedly be prescience based, and unguessable by me."
Jo [battlewiki]: "Uh, what's the 0.273% chance that Scary Salamander doesn't have a mark?"
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "Oh, you know, the cumulative probabilities of things like: Nelumbo has been eaten by a giant space goat, the mentalist decided to quit their job to become a professional karaoke singer, or that Hunsan travelled back through time to kill the mentalist."
Jo [battlewiki]: "You didn't really compile those probabilities, did you?"
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "No, I didn't - I was just teasing you for being so earnest. It's just standard error hypermathematics."
Jo [battlewiki]: [invents glaring-pouty emoticon glyph]
HSRX [battlewiki]: "Horde scum brain ache more than horde robot brain zark."
Masud Namdar: "It seems unlikely that The Dude's mentalist would not mark you himself, especially after going to the trouble to un-mark you. We're going to have to dump you. Pity. Any requests?"
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "Wait, are saying that not only did the Nelumbians give me a super stealth hyper-mark, but they also could have wiped a mark put on me since I've been here? Why would they care?"
Captain Namdar: "Actually, I don't think it will be necessary to dump us. The highest probability is that the mentalist from my home world gave me a very well hidden mark. As Nelumbo falls under the realm of the Giamon Empire, it makes sense that they'd have access to powerful mentalists. As for the mentalist I encountered here - either he didn't mark me, or the mentalist from Nelumbo is taking an active interest in me and cleared the mark shortly after it was applied. Either way, the only person that can track me now is in another galaxy."
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "I'm calculating the possible extrapolated actions of a set of people who think it's reasonable to foldspace people to the far end of another galaxy. It leaves a lot of leeway for theories. If you weren't so certain about there being a mark from The Dude, I'd calculate a higher probability that there was no mark to start with."
Masud Namdar: "Your theories are irrelevant. Head to an outer lock and jump when we slow down. Your options are habitat, refuge, or bar. Maybe we'll be in touch."
Calm Richard chuckles, and gesticulates to the exit.
Virginia looks confused. "What? No! We need him."
Masud Namdar's half-skeletal face gives the single most creepy smily Hunsan has ever seen. "I don't need him. But if you want to try to recruit him for your crew, you can jump out too and I'll send your ship to come find you."
Virginia reveals just how very many teeth Crocaloids have with a sharply beaming smile. "I got it?!?! I'm a Knight?!"
Masud Namdar nods. "It is overdue, Dame Virginia. Your masterful ushering of success in this last crazy mission merely cemented it. But he -" nods toward Hunsan "- really does need to get the zark off this ship. Now. I trust that you will not bring him to another Lord unless you calculate that he is indeed not being tracked by The Enemy."
Virginia bows enthusiastically. "Of course. Sir." She turns and attempts to will Hunsan to leave quietly with a silent look of ferocious glee.
We quietly follow Virginia and head to an airlock.
"That was.... interesting. Thanks for sticking up for me back there."
[battlewiki]: "Ascasph, do you think there's a chance that this whole exile thing wasn't meant to be a thorn in the side of a few Xoids, but actually to flush out or gain info on this guy and whatever group he belongs too? Also, what's the probability he's actually part of the Radicals™? The Batori might have just been a trophy.
Virginia: "Let's talk about that more over a beer." Even though everybody is technically floating in microgravity, Virginia seems to be levitating.
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "There's a chance of pretty much anything in this universe. The chance that your exile is actually a convoluted means to gain insight on some person or persons here is less than 1%. The combination of powerful mentalists and mathematicians undoubtedly would serve such a purpose better and more readily. The probability that Masud Namdar is actually a part of the Radicals™ is 63.519% based on what I could observe. That estimation would shift dramatically if we could determine the functionality of the Batori."
The linear distance to an outer airlock is actually quite short, but it involves crossing no less than three ship scale bulkheads. It does yet another StarWarsian snap open, revealing a surprising amount of light faintly tracing a large rock some 30 kilometers distant. The ship cruises behind a smaller mountain, cutting off the view, and slows dramatically. Then suddenly everything snaps into slightly different focus, as the cloaking device is dropped.
Calm Richard: "That's your cue to exit, folks. Is there any chance some of you are going to make us shove you out?"
Virginia tighbeams a set of vectors for everybody to depart the ship, then she turns to the human. "It has never been my place to make tactically-unnecessary commentary before. But now I feel like I have that right. Go fuck yourself, Sir Spaz Dick."
Hunsan can sense how silently enraged Calm Richard is, even though he's technically not saying nor doing anything.
2014.03.27 - Semi-Radical Start and A Mafia Hitman
After heading to the demiXoid habitat and having a beer, Hunsan and Dame Virginia hammered out an tentative agreement to work together.
Virginia headed off for some short but secretive purpose, and Hunsan had an excuse to kill a trio of fairly tough professional goons.
After Virginia got back, a moderately terrifying demiXoid assissin arrived to bring Hunsan before a mentalist working for The Dude. Hunsan was not keen to accommodate the assassin, but shortly thereafter Hunsan and HSRX were assassinated. However, the assassin himself was also badly hurt, while Hunsan and HSRX were annoyingly unwilling to stay down after being assassinated. So the assassin fled. For now.
Plot Infliction 010 - Fleeeee...
The group moves quickly, but Virginia seems confident that the maze-like interior of the demiXoid habitat will mean that pursuit or tracking is not an overwhelming concern. She uses this rationale to guide the group to a small space suit shop that caters to humanoids.
I patch as we go so that I'm up to near full.
"After we get me a space-suit, I think we should figure out a job we can do such that we can then afford assault weapons. Then we should hunt down that assassin. Plus his goons. Plus anyone else who gets in our way."
The space suit is pretty crappy, but fully functional. It's pretty old. Which is excellent disguise in a habitat full of profoundly sketchy equipment.
Virginia: "I had the couple Xoidbux for the space suit, but assault weapons are a couple orders of magnitude outside my budget. We could possibly trade big chunks of that pile of raw robonanoscopium you're hauling around, but that would be a very bad idea strategically. Mostly because it is a neon sign saying FOLDSPACEOVICH."
HSRX: "Horde scum."
Jo: "I hate it when you two argue."
HSRX chuckles. "Horde scum."
Virginia has a cold, reptilian look. She might be somewhat humour-impaired.
Virginia: "Meh, so what now? Wait for your Captain to send you a ship? Care to tell us what that secret meeting was about?"
Jo: "We need to get you some experience. Want to go to a wimpy bar and pick some fights? It would be awesome if we can get you to fourth stage. Then you can get perma-healing which would increase our survivability immensely."
HSRX: "Xoid scum."
Virginia [general]: "I went to an information merchant to get some local meta-maps and dossiers on active entities nearby. I didn't want to give them any extra data by having our whole group directly observable by the mathematicians. I was originally thinking that we lurk until the ship finds us, but with the mafia entanglement that might change the equation."
Virginia [tightbeam to Hunsan]: "I also did some background checks on our Rogue Zoid acquaintance. It came up suspiciously blank."
Jo: "I'm not sure I want to stay with you guys, much less risk my neck with a whole bunch of fighting."
HSRX: Nods agreeably. "Horde scum."
"Well, now that I'm suited up, I'm a bit less obvious. What's the most likely place where non-Xoid people hang out? Might be a good place to wait."
Virginia LOLs on the HordeWave. "The nice, somewhat-respectable people on any given habitat are all demiXoids. The non-Xoids are in the ghettos where the underworld has the most influence, and that's who seems to be oddly interested in you. So probably not such a great place to do a whole lot of waiting. Hunsan seems to have sent one of the two underworld alpha-combatants in this habitat into a temporary retreat; I calculate an 87.937% chance that the local underworld bosses will be over-compensating with an all-hands hunt. To save face."
Jo looks like she's going to be sick. HSRX is not capable of much in the way of facial expressions. "Horde scum."
Virginia: "Instead of playing their stupid game of cats and mice, I propose that we sneak into the local underworld stronghold and let Hunsan have his so-called chat with their mentalist. Then the mentalist dies, to impair their further coordination capabilities, plus any mathematicians we spot. If we're lucky, the local boss's might even be present without either of the alpha combatants, meaning that they die too. Leaving the local underworld in a temporary civil war to decide who runs the place. If our ship doesn't show up in a timely manner, we could sell Hunsan's services to weaker sides to help prolong the conflict."
Private to Ascaph: "Let me know if any of her projections seem incorrect."
"Ok, I really like the plan, but I see two problems with it. One - alpha combatant assassin can be up to full strength as easily as me. I'm assuming he has access to a supply of patches. Two - as a group we're not all that sneaky. Blast our way in, maybe, but sneak? I think we should go for it anyway, because, FUN!"
Ascaph [tightbeam]: "Her probability is within my own error margin, though at the top end. She likely has superior data, however it is also possible that she might be mis-reporting the probabilities within feasible bounds to affect our cooperation."
Virginia shows a lot of diplomatic teeth. "Item 1: the status of the alpha combatants. The key is that both alpha combatants will be participating in sweeps in a vain effort to search for Hunsan. Item 2: our relatively low group stealth capability. I do not think that this group should all participate on such a raid. HSRX should guard Jo and the pile of robonanoscopium in some quiet spot - I have a couple candidate locations nearby. Meanwhile, I've found a couple professional goons that are non-affiliated that could act as wingmen for Hunsan during the actual raid. Much of the so-called sneaking would be by virtue of my having acquired access codes to the local underworld stronghold. Additionally, there is a 91.937% probability that the core of the stronghold has a selection of discrete escape modes. For added tactical options, one of the goons is a twin-pistol weilding Anurian."
HSRX: "I think I dated her. She was horde scum."
2014.04.03 - Invasion
HORDEWAVE LOG CODE: MURDER RUN
- backup goons
- anurian (Annie)
- reptiloid (Reppy) - UPDATE: EXTRADEAD
- bartender (assault weapon) - STATUS: DEAD
- assassin (bus-bug) - STATUS: DEAD
- TARGET:bossy 1
- dignitary - demiXoid - STATUS: ESCAPED
- bodyguard - groten - STATUS: DEAD
- TARGET:core guart station
- cyborgXoid - STATUS: DEAD
- TARGET:command center
- dignitary - demiXoid - STATUS: EXTRADEAD
- bodyguard - crocaloid - shockshooter - STATUS: DEAD
- arrayed techies - STATUS: DEAD
- mentalist - STATUS: INTERRUPTED
Plot Infliction 011 - Don't like being interrupted
Hunsan is grim-faced during the short ship ride. After we land and exit the escape craft, I say out loud and conversationally: "I'm feeling quite frustrated I didn't get a chance to talk with 'The Dude' some more."
Then I pull out both pistols and attack all aggressive at the other Anurian. Repeatedly. Assuming all goes well and she's a smoking corpse at my feet, I then say to Virginia: "Feeling less frustrated now. Let's go find the others."
The old-style space suit Hunsan is sporting these days has a vaguely stormtrooper-esque helmet, so he has an artificially stern expression covering any actual expression he might be having. Nevertheless, body language still conveys his mood accurately.
Virginia: "Your frustration is noted. However, we got all the insight we were likely to get from that interaction, so there were diminishing returns. More importantly, there were rapidly escalating risks. Both in terms of rapidly-returning alpha combatant teams, and for The Dude to bring his powerful mentalist in-line to attempt more direct influence over us."
She looks over the fried goon. "Any chance you can fit in that space suit instead, and use his smaller weaponry? It might be helpful to assume his identity for the remainder of our stay on this habitat."
Converging with the others is very easy, thanks to Jo's current telepathic capability.
ADDITIONAL: Virginia's calm demeanour is augmented by her suddenly-dark faceplate.
Virginia ensures that the largish escape intermediate-scale hopper has no tracking elements active and no easter eggs. Then, in a dark corner of the demiXoid habitat (turns out, Wikipedia named it "Degache") the rest of the rag-tag group rendezvous and cram into the limo.
HSRX looks over the crispified Anurian. "Horde scum."
Jo: "Yeah, what did that guy say?"
Virginia: "Head of security decided that he was a loose cannon and decided to make an example of him."
Jo: "Ah." She nods in a slightly perturbed manner.
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "I note that there was little likelihood that there was anyone else to make this being an example for. Is everything OK?"
2014.04.09 - Hunting Some Hunters
- Hunsan shuts down his own sensors to appear merely professional
- creepy effective
- found a sniper to hire at the Spirited Pail
- assassin 2, sharp shooter 1, defender 1
- personality striving to eventually become 2D
- decided to hunt for human mobster faction
- Caucasus Bros
- borscht vendor with missile launcher
- local goon with Xoidian assault weapon
Plot Infliction 012 - Musical Interlude
A glitch in one of the borscht carts starts some music playing over a speaker system, echoing through the chamber. It's rhythmic ancient Human music; Ascaph identifies it as "Def Leppard".
"We need to find at least 3 more seasoned guys to kill. And then, I will be Epic Evil™.
Also, I wonder if we should try to ally with one of the crime families - might be a way to get some of those Xoid assault weapons."
Virginia: "Finding 3 more seasoned combatants should be possible, but it might be hard to find them alone. We might need to engage with some information traders to see if we can make such encounters non-random."
Lodz: "Hold on. That guy is looking to get more evil? Ssssshit."
Virginia: "Indeed. Speaking of which, the Xoidian assault weapons angle is tricky. It's not aligning with Underworld groups that get access to them, exactly. We would need to get the cooperation of a Xoidian breeder, which would mean contact with some legitimate demiXoid family. That involves heading to shallower sections, and charming the hell out of somebody or something pretty powerful."
Lodz: "Whaaaaat? Why even sssssay that? It'sss imposssible. Thossse asssault weapon guysss - they ssspend hundredsss of kilosecondsss sssucking up to the bugsss."
Virginia: "There are shortcuts. But it is an avenue to pursue after we are more mobile."
About 9 hours still remain until Virginia's ship is due.
2014.04.16 - Experience Needle In A Corpse Haystack
Pushing further into the corner of the habitat that the previous assault-weapon-weilding Humans came from, Hunsan, Dame Virginia, and Lodz came to a terrified doorman in front of a re-purposed zero-G hotel. The terrified Human confessed that all the "tough guys" were on Level 7.
Heading directly to Level-7, Hunsan found 2 professional combatants - seemingly waiting for something. Hunsan tried to talk with them, but they attempted to flee - which triggered Hunsan's killing instinct. And die they both did, in one turn. Their screaming summoned 24 of their similarly-skilled friends. They all went all-aggressive, and it rained blaster fire upon Hunsan.
14 turns later, the only Human surviving was one that had enough wits to flee while he could.
After some patches applied by Virginia, Hunsan decided to intercept some more Humans he heard gathering beyond the door utilized by the escaped Human. There he found more worthy combatants: one armed with an assault weapon and three with heavy rifles. Two of them escaped, and Hunsan did not pursue.
While leaving the compound, Hunsan was curious about Level-8. There he found a dungeon, crammed full of kidnapped hostages. The frightened throng were freed. Dame Virginia, Lodz, and Hunsan made their way out of the ghetto, obscured by the desperate crowd.
Plot Infliction 013 - Instability In Degache
The Dame orchestrates a clandestine reunion with Jo, HSRX, and the pile of Dynomer™.
Dame Virginia: "The freewave is buzzing with news of security forces penetrating into every corner of the Human sector. I wonder if the Human Mob will be hunting us, or be too busy recovering from being raided."
"Ha! Serves them right. Or not. Anyway, it was fun. So what now? Word is going to travel pretty quickly that we raided one of the crime families. If I were them, I would be pulling back to protect the home turf, though we may still have a window of opportunity while that happens. I think we should try to hit one more of the smaller ones before we hunker down and wait for the ship."
Virginia: "There is a 92.314% chance that all the smaller families will not have combatants that will let you earn any experience. Furthermore it is most likely that all of the powerful combatants will be well backed up with goons. However, let's wait for the ship over in one of the nice neighborhoods. We'll be easily noticed, but the underworld won't be able to send squads of combatants. It might just tempt them to send the alpha combatants. We'll just need to be ready. "
"Works for me. To a nice neighborhood!!!"
Virginia: "OK. The question becomes how do we prepare for the alpha combatants."
2014.05.01 - Betrayed
Sooner or later, everyone betrays me.
Which is a corollary to Everyone must die.
After Dame Virginia claimed her ship, the Thanil Kamal, the troupe skulk away from Degache for several hours to a much more impressive habitat called Dofteana. While there, Hunsan takes HSRX on an away mission to interrogate alcoholic beverages. HSRX reveals his deeper purpose in trying to aid an intermediate scale demiXoid in capturing Hunsan. Hunsan disagreed philosophically, and murdered them both - to the wide-eyed patrons of a Spirited Pail.
Short one comrade and one leg, Hunsan returned to the Thanil Kamal. Virginia suggested purchasing a Xoidian replacement limb, but posited that there was some reason why Hunsan was reluctant to be carefully inspected. By means of an answer, Hunsan let Virginia scan him, letting her witness his Stage-3 nanoscopic construction.
Plot Infliction 014 - Epic Badass
Feeling an overwhelming urge to shoot someone in the head. Not cause I'm angry per se, but because I want to test out the auto-placement.
Virginia: "So, now that you've got a good scan of me, what do you think will be involved in getting me a new leg?"
Hunsan can see Virginia calculating madly as she runs permutations. "It might be interesting to have a Xoidian biotech expert review what might be possible with your physiology, but it would probably be extremely unwise to do so without strictly controlled conditions. For now, can you make do with a simple mechanical limb? We can 'borrow' a suitable demiXoid breeder, and 'contain' what information it divines - later. In 2 hours we have to meet with a contact to get our first assignment."
"Mechanical limb sounds good. Can you make it such that I can remove it and get a 1D pistol out of a secret compartment? Or easily assemble a 1D weapon out of parts in it? I'm thinking of situation if I'm ever disarmed and captured. Hopefully that will never happen, but you never know."
Virginia: "It should be relatively straightforward to conceal a weapon in such a limb, but we'll have to complete that later - we only have enough time for a functioning leg by the time we need to meet our contact. And they've set the rendezvous in the 7m/s² gravity section of Dofteana, so a functional leg is not optional. I also think it means that all of our respective duck bonuses do not apply. So, keep that in mind shen picking fights."
She sets about constructing a mostly-skeletal-looking leg for Hunsan.
Ascaph [confidential]: "I would have expected her to move our docking location, in case the local underworld players decided to attempt a follow-up from the intermediate scale retreival goon, and assuming that HSRX leaked our location to the mafia. It's not something that Virginia would ignore without reason, but I'm at a loss as to what that reason would be."
Lodz, still in his preferred turret station, diligently logs visual records into the HordeWave of every potential target that appears in or near the docking bay.
Jo just sulks, looking forlorn.
To Virginia: "I recommend we move the ship to a different dock. HSRX may have leaked our location."
To Jo: "Y'know, you might be less depressed if you took a more active role. How about you help Virginia with the leg. Maybe we can get you up to 2nd stage techie."
Virginia nodes sagely. "Makes sense. But as luck would have it, I had us dock at the 'potentially compromised' position, which means that there's a couple long-range fighters and a seasoned strike team nearby waiting to back us up. It's also the reason why we have to stroll all the way into the spun-gravity section to meet with out contact." She gets out of the way of Jo taking over the leg fabrication. "Also, I've got our sniper diligently ready to kill anything that scans us funny."
1.5 hours later as Jo is installing the leg, Virginia is reviewing with Hunsan the route they'll take to the rendezvous, and how Hunsan shouldn't kill anyone without Virginia's OK.
"Right, no killing without Ok from boss. What about maiming? I'd actually be quite good at maiming now."
Virginia: "I was unaware that you had any setting between 'ignore' and 'brutally murder'. Let's save field testing of your newfound ability to hold back when we're not dealing with my peers." She raises her voice to address Lodz and Jo. "You two should be ready to pilot the Thanil Kamal to intercept us if we find ourselves jumping or being thrown out of airlocks."
Lodz gives a thumbs-up. Jo does her best to contain her unease as she finishes up the leg connections.
I tightbeam Jo: "What's up? You seem grumpy. Are you concerned that Virginia is planning to betray me?"
To Virginia: "Right, tone back on the violence. Let's party!"
Jo [tightbeam]: "I'm just feeling a bit trapped. I thought this was all going to be some fun adventure, with the danger balanced by discovering interesting things. And I guess I always assumed that I would finish the adventure and head back to my family, armed with wisdom or whatever. But it hasn't been an adventure, so much as watching you kill everything and anything, focussing on getting better at killing. And it's been scary, and I'm kind of scared of you. And now I don't know if I can ever find my family, even if I wanted to. And Virginia is the only halfway-nice person I've met this whole time, except she doesn't think I'm valuable, and you're probably going to find an excuse to kill her. And I have to wonder when it'll be my turn..." She looks at you with moist, vulnerable eyes. "I mean, uh, nothing."
Virginia: "Party on." She summons a holographic map into the Hordewave, with the ghostly shape of Dofteana highlighted with a meandering path scribed through it. It is meticulously annotated with lines of sight along the planned path, probable cover, and regional demographics. "Here's our approach. We spend a bit more time in the gravity section than we might need to, but I didn't want to use the too-obvious elevator - just in case. And this gives us a chance to case the rendezvous site from a section with good cover and multiple escape routes." Several new veins intensify through the body of the habitat. "Plan Alpha, if everything goes calmly and respectfully, we'll take this meandering route back to the Thanil Kamal to avoid ambushes. Plan Beta, if something happens that we need to be back at the Thanil Kamal quickly, we'll use this direct route. Plan Gamma, if there is fecal matter intersecting with impellers, at either our end or at the Thanil Kamal, there will be a broadband hail of 'GAMMA GAMMA GAMMA', and we'll rendezvous with the ship just outside of these airlocks. If everything goes completely wrong, and we all need to flee in different directions, those that can - and want to - should meet up in the secret back room of the Spirited Pail here in Dofteana in 10 hours, or at the Spirited Pail back on Degeche in 10 days. Password: DELTA DELTA DELTA DELTA."
Lodz seems impressed. Jo looks worried, but that might be more about the other conversation.
Virginia: "OK, Security Chief, let's head out." She adds via a private chat channel on the Hordewave: "The people we're meeting are generally very good at keeping the fighting for the Xoids. But that doesn't mean we won't be in for some sort of hazing. So, even if things seem to go kind of wrong, please do try to just disable the combatants. Our image as a controlled, cohesive team will be enhanced if it can seem that you follow my orders. I understand that you are not an honourable being, and that you're easily powerful enough to do without me. But I am, and I promise to never cross you as long as you keep our partnership."
Jo: "Hmmm... regarding Virginia - she doesn't think you're valuable because you're relatively unskilled. But I see your potential - I'm from the first galaxy remember. I heard lots of stories about how badass some mentalists are. They can bypass a lot of the bullshit regular folks have to deal with, cause, well it's like they can cheat. When I get back from this mission, we should figure out a way to get you earning experience. Regarding me - yes, I'm a homicidal maniac, but I've no reason to make it 'your turn'. And I'm not looking for an excuse to kill Virginia - the only situation that would happen is if she turns against me. And while I'm paranoid, logically I don't see any reason she would. She tried to warn me about HSRX and that turned out to be good advice."
"Anyway, keep me linked telepathically and I'll tell you how this meet-up goes."
Virginia: "Sure, I can disable. Actually I've been thinking about the whole honourable/chaotic thing. Being an asshole has served me well up until now, but I think that now experience earning going to be going up at a <Anurian version of snail>'s pace. To keep the fun going it might be better to cultivate more lackeys. And to do that it may be in my best interest to be more trustworthy. So, going to try to be more honourable." I smile, evilly. "Try, anyway. No guarantees."
2014.05.08 - Missile Monster Mission
Let's all give Calm Richard a hand! Clap clap clap.
Dame Virginia and Slaad Hunsan cautiously go to the rendezvous location, and discover Calm Richard there along with a Reptiloid called Tyler Kenttro and 2 professional goons. Sir Kenttro gives Dame Virginia a mission to retrieve a ship-scale missile-breeder from a secret demiXoid lab, and tells Virginia that Richard is assigned to help her with the infiltration.
Virginia doesn't like that idea, mostly because she loathes Calm Richard, but also because she is disinclined to have the so-called oversight. So she spontaneously instructs the Slaad to burn off Calm Richard's hands. It's actually extremely spectacular, seeing as how Calm Richard has an excellent duck and is quite fast. But Hunsan has even better hit and epic bonus on initiative, and slightly better rolls, which combined with his auto-placement capability let's him effectively disarm Richard without being overtly lethal. This gives Virginia the excuse she needs to not bring him along, and earns Hunsan a life-long enemy.
As they leave, Kenttro informs Virginia that she isn't allowed to hire any extra goons for the mission, citing the need to remain secretive. Virginia pondered this over a beer, on their way back to the Thanil Kamal. As they prepared to leave, she had an idea about how to infiltrate more effectively: she visited a secretive personal contact known as "Burbler" to borrow some "bug suits". These life-like robotic costumes let Hunsan and Virginia appear like a common form of demiXoid, as long as they weren't subjected to intense scrutiny or careful scanning.
The Thanil Kamal then ghosted for a few hours to get to habitat Kawuneeche, and Virginia and Hunsan saunter-floated in their bug suits. This gave them a chance to case the police station that the secret bio-lab was hidden in - and spot the fearsome intermediate-scale beasties on guard. They decided to cause a distraction, so they went to a wealthy district of the habitat, Hunsan discreetly slipped out of his bug suit, then went on a homicidal rampage - including killing a security officer. He hid and resumed his bug suit costume in time to flee through oncoming horde of police.
Upon returning to the police station, they found it pleasantly reduced in staff. They quickly killed off the front office personnel and locked the outer doors. Then they tampered their way past a secret door to face off against a remaining intermediate scale combatant. It was well-armed and well-armoured, but insufficiently skilled to stand against the Slaad.
Then they tampered through a ship-scale blast door - eventually - and found themselves beset-upon by a motherfucking Batori. Eeeevil evil evil. It, too, was burned before the purifying beams of Hunsans lasers.
Plot Infliction 015 - Wait... What?
It there's much of the Batori's head left, I grab a tooth or two as trophies. Preferably ones that have been lightly scorched by my lasers.
There is, in fact, essentially nothing left of the Batori's head - as that is where all the damage was inflicted. However, there are some rather distinct and terrifying talons remaining...
Virginia [hordewave]: "FUCK. Please do continuous locates while I look at this thing. If it zombie-flinches and disembowels me, please burn it some more." Ongoing locates tell Hunsan that the Batori is completely inert, but also that there are many guesome-sounding biological thingings going on beyond the artificial dark-field in the doorway.
"Holy shit. This thing isn't a proper Batori. It's stuffed with Xoidian guts, woven throughout its hide." Now that she mentions it, many of the armoured plates on the Batori have a suspiciously chitinous look to them. Which would not have been possible to spot as it moved blur-like.
With a poignant look at Hunsan, Virginia is obviously doing math. "OK, next phase is locating the big missile-breeder and extracting it. But now we have a conundrum. We were going to kidnap the biotech and use it for our own purposes, but there is a 37.875% probability that this being is out of our league, and might not be able to be controlled by us. In which case, we would be smarter to just kill it. Thoughts?"
Meta-comment on the hordewave: "Really zarking glad that we probably aren't facing another cell of post-Radicals. Or something. Probability went from 98.978% to 11.984%"
Ascaph: "Send one of your nodes past that dark-field to take a quick look."
Virginal: "Xoid-Batori. Scary stuff. If they have a psudo-Batori, and this is the first you've heard of them, they might put a priority on keeping it a secret. If that's the case, and if they have a means of detonating ship scale missiles, we may be screwed. We should get in there quick to do a threat assessment."
"What do you think would be more valuable to take back with us, the missile-breeder, or the body of a Xoid-Batori? Assuming we can't do both."
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "Node away." Real-time sensor data begins streaming.
Virginia [hordewave]: "Threat assessment makes sense. Proceed however you think appropriate. Comms are probably damped at that barrier, as are sensors, so we'll be cut off once we enter. The Xoid-stuffed Batori will probably fit in the missile-breeder's nostril, so that's unlikely to be a concern. And now that I've had a good scan of it, the main function of the corpse would be as a trophy. The missile-breeder remains our primary focus, the biotech is our conundrum-ridden secondary. If anybody blinks at you wrong, kill them."
The data stream from the node ceases once it floats through the damping field. A brief moment later, it returns and spews out what is saw:
- an comprehensible web of biological apparatus with distinctly machine-like aspects to them that would make H.R Giger nod appreciatively
- a giant, armoured nautilus shell with stubby segmented legs and what appears to be a magazine of ship missiles extruding from it
- two demiXoids twitching in the throes of some sort of very unpleasant death, without any obvious external marks explaining it
- a tentacled being busily tampering its array of restraints, pausing to flash a burst message at the node.
The burst message is in Common, and says: "WE MUST HURRY IF WE ARE TO ESCAPE"
Well, that's, well, confusing. But anyway, I dive in. "Virginia, help that guy get out of it's restraints - I'll check on the bio-tech." I ascertain how easy it will be to move that sucker, and if I need to release anything that's holding it down. Also locate for anything attached to it that may set off booby traps.
While we're busy I tightbeam the tentacle guy: "Who are you? Anything we need to know about moving this thing?"
A closer inspection of the missile-breeder reveals that it is also restrained, but the restraints are merely dumb intermediate scale links and succumb quickly to repeated laser flashes.
The tentacle thing has an annoyed tone to its highly-accented Common, probably because Virginia is removing the restraints from their anchors and not from its tentacles. "My name is Betrumorturog. The main thing about doing anything with Sabah is to not annoy her, so that she doesn't kill us all. I was planning on feeding her one of these fools, and using the other as a lure to bring her with us."
Worth noting is that Virginia is being extremely diligent about not touching anything - using only force beams and force tools. Also, her shields and space suit are set to "paranoid".
"Hmmm, me not so smart with big names. Me call you 'Rog'. So, Rog, how did you kill those two bugs?" I smile. "Should we be worried?"
I'll follow Virginia's lead and try not to have direct contact with anything. Use my built in force beams, and have my shield on low power. And I carefully try not to upset Sabah. Gooood, monster. Gooooood monster. Once she is free, I do a locate around the room to see if there is anything else worth snatching before we go.
Giant fist-sized eyeballs bulge from the central inter-tentacular mass of the alien biotech, and they swivel to gaze wateringly at Hunsan. "Feigned decrease in intelligence does not significantly widen the gulf between our minds, Anurian."
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "Buuuurn."
Betrumorturog: "The demiXoids died for keeping me imprisoned for too long. You tell me if you should be worried."
Hunsan is unable to even make good guesses about what else is in the laboratory, and judging from the technical snippets from Virginia popping up on the hordewave, she is averse to having anything else brought aboard the Thanil Kamal. Virginia finishes freeing B-Rog from the wall, and requests a basic array of commands. He shares it, and she annotates the hordewave with a placeholder meta-tagged 'under review'. "Please make it so that Sabah comes with us now."
Betrumorturog continues tampering on the harness attached to him with several of his freakishly prehensile tentacles, but floats over to Sabah and gently brushes a protuberance. "Wake." Scores of small hard eyes blink open simultaneously, concentrated in the 'front', but also distributed all around her bulk. The ten closest to B-Rog all focus on him. "Come." He turns and jets towards the giant door; she follows closely behind.
I let out a short laugh at the intelligence comment. Then I follow them out. "We may be facing two intermediate scale demiXoids out there, if they've managed to come back yet."
2014.05.15 - An Insufficient Amount Of Violence
- flee habitat with Sabah and Betrumorturog
- fended off some long-range fighters
- meet with Sir Kenttro - hand over Sabah
- Betrumorturog inspects Hunsan - learns too much, begs to not be killed
Plot Infliction 016 - Plot So Inflicty, It Causes A Rash
Jo [from inside Hunsan's mind]: "I'm not sure I understand what a 'swarm communicator' means, and it looks like you don't either. Let's check with
pushy croc bitch Virginia."
Jo [telepathically, but seemingly everywhere instead of behind Hunsan's eyes]: "Hey captain, what the heck is a "swarm communicator' anyway?"
Virginia [looped in telepathically, but also communicating via an aura of discomfort]: "No fucking clue."
Jo: "Well, darn. I'm afraid to ask Buttlickabog. He seems a little manic at the moment. Maybe we should just forget about all of it, and let the poor wiggly guy go."
Virginia: "It is possible that we don't want to be part of this particular, insidious little game, and should just leave his charred corpse stuffed in a random rock."
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "You guys all have flashy eyes. What's going on? I calculate a very small probability that Betrumorturog is intentionally part of any Nelumbian-Botherer conspiracy. By the numbers, he should be replaceable - if necessary."
Betrumorturog [out loud, sounding nervous]: "I can be valuable!"
Ascaph: "We're just trying to figure out what this whole 'swarm communicator' is. Seems like none of us have a clue." I scan whatever data I have on Xoids from my first galaxy knowledge and see if there's anything there.
"Jo, if I compel our guest to leave his mind wide open, want to poke around in there? Connect Virginia and I telepathically too so we can see what you see. Hopefully Virginia will be able to guide you to what we're looking for."
"While I get the various risks here, I'm drooling a the prospect of commandeering a Rogue Mega-Xoid."
There are no full hits on "swarm+communicator" when you query your database, and all the secondary associative potentials have nothing relevant.
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "Ah. Well. Let me know if there's anything I can do."
Jo [seemingly as one of Hunsan's own thoughts]: "It might be fun to poke around in Mr. Squiggly's brain, sure. Betcha he won't like it, though."
Virginia [externalized telepathy]: "Not just you; everybody who's ever faced a MegaXoid has fantasized about being able to have one."
Betrumorturog interweaves his tentacles, possibly as some sort of mindfulness gesture.
I gaze levelly at Betrumorturog. "Here's what's going to happen. My friend here is a scientist." I gesture at Virginia. "You're going to explain as much as you can about this swarm communicator and how you think I could potentially fit into it. While you are doing that, you're going to completely open up your mind to Jo here. Don't resist her in any way."
Betrumorturog extricates a tentacle from his complicated limb-weave and uses it for a gesticulation of emphasis. "I will comply - BUT: I want it understood that anything that happens to your mentalist's mammalian mind inside of mine due simply to the structure of my mind is NOT my fault."
I nod to Jo. "Go for it."
A typical person would be concerned for Jo's safety. Hunsan is, but that's also countered by the fact it would be hilarious if Jo's head exploded.
Jo [inside Hunsan's head]: "I saw that."
Jo [more generalized telepathy]: "OK, I'm heading into the Squiggle Monster. If my eyes roll back and blood spurts out my ears or anything, burn the creepy jerkface."
Jo [muffled, echoey telepathy]: "Oh, ick."
Betrumorturog: "I sense the presence of your mentalist. It is quite unpleasant. I trust that this means it is time to proceed." When Virginia nods, he proceeds. "While I have been mostly employed as a creature-maker and body-modifier, my pet project for many years has been investigating the Swarm Communicator. Long ago, there was a question about what made a Rogue Xoid different from a regular Xoid, and the surprising discovery was that they all had some sort of injury to an otherwise inconspicuous sensory organ. Regular Xoids do not deign to discuss the topic, but Rogue Xoids uniformly describe a sense of separation and loss of cooperative drive."
Jo [muffled telepathy, hidden from Betrumorturog]: "Oh, gross. Gross gross gross. The people who he's quoting are his parents - they're the ones who did much of the research. And he ate them to get their knowledge."
Betrumorturog: "The sensory organ seems superficially olfactory, but also has nonoscopic organelles that interact oddly at a quantum level. In addition to this, Xoids are known to exhibit cooperative capabilities beyond the scope of their observable communication. During experiments on Xoids separated from their units, I've been able to temporarily disable the organ, inducing Rogue-like behaviour. Re-enabling the organ, without any damage of any kind, the Xoids not only reverted but also had would react with increased hostility. More than that, subsequent experiments on different Xoids produced updated strategies."
Jo [muffled, higher pitch of freaked-out-ness]: "Holy poopies, the parents aren't memories - they're full personalities in here. And they're not the only ones; it's gosh-darned zoo in here!"
Virginia [telepathic back-channel, away from Betrumorturog]: "OK, creepy - but is he being honest here?"
Jo [muffled, tainted with a sensation of gagging]: "Yeah, this is what he actually thinks. Seems actually quite excited about it."
Betrumorturog: "I have not been able to verify further capabilities of the postulated Swarm Communicator, but it is known that Xoids are able to interface with many kinds of Xoidian biotech in a manner impossible to other beings, including Rogue Xoids. I have tried to construct copies of the Xoid sense organ, but have always failed. However, surgically implanting the Xoid sense organ has had some promising results. Most beings have been able to properly sustain the organ into proper functionality, though some did sense a brief feeling of insight into Xoid mission and purpose. Replacing a Rogue Xoids damaged sense organ with a functional one harvested from a 'donor' seemed to make them un-Rogue-like - though it was hard to tell with them becoming suicidally aggressive."
Jo [muffled, whispering]: "Something weird is happening. A 1st-stage mathematician personality just asked me to take it with me when I leave - to save it. Then I noticed that the central ego, a hypernormally-intelligent entity, mocked it for asking to be my slave."
Betrumorturog: "I'd suggest to you to warn your mentalist about who she chooses to associate with, but I doubt you'd trust me. Proceeding, I believe that the artificial Anurian might be able to be modified to sustain the Xoid sense organ, and we can finally have a window into the mind of the Swarm."
Virginia [back-channel]: "Take a careful stock of what he's suggesting now, Jo. Is there anything he's leaving out?"
Jo [muffled, mental equivalent of controlled breathing exercises]: "Uhhh... He's very busily trying to imagine how to make it work, so he's not totally sure of himself. He also seems unconcerned with any potential dangers to Scary Salamander. And, uh, he's really trying to get his nasty little hopes up about extrapolating this into getting his own MegaXoid - because he's trying to focus on proving his worth to stay alive. ...Hey, you know, I think all these personalities are modular - I could borrow pretty much any of them that I liked... like, say, that 4th-stage techie... or either of the 6th-stage scientist parents..."
Jo: "Those modular personalities might have more will power to you. If you borrow one, you may end up being subservient to it instead of the other way around. I'd recommend against it. That whole slave mocking thing by the hyper-smart entity may have been an attempt to get you to try it."
Betrumorturog: "So, it sounds like we would need to capture a Xoid, extract it's sense organ, and implant it into me. What's the probability that it would alter my personality significantly?"
Ooo ooo! If B-Rog has multiple high stage personalities, if I toast him, do I get experience for them all?
Jo [muffled, with a gleam of avarice]: "Ah, I can see the central ego actively binding three main modular personalities, manipulating them to carry a bunch of the cognitive burden for him. The rest of the personalities I can see keeping to the shadows of his mindwell. Yeah - as much as it would be nice to steal a plug-n-play set of stages, I don't feel like having any more internal conflict than I already have. Wait, what the hell is that?"
Betrumorturog: "Indeed, as I described, the logical next step would be to implant a fresh Swarm Communicator organ into you. With the hope that the mechanism for either sustaining the organ or, preferably, gleaning the underlying function of the organ could be understood and duplicated. I'm not sure what you mean by 'personality', though. If you mean an overly dramaticized meaning associated with the process of internal aspects expressed as external affect - then maybe. If you typically behave differently when you suddenly have access to radically new information, then that sort of difference may be expected."
ASIDE: Betrumorturog technically classifies as a green combatant.
Jo: "What the hell is what?"
Virginia: "So how are we going to go about capturing a non-rogue Xoid? All the Xoids I've encountered have been in ships... I could see finding one of the local enforcement mega-Xoids and see if they have a pilot in them. Do you think that would work?"
Jo's telepathic connection flutters for a moment.
Jo [no longer muffled]: "Gah. Sketchyness. Out of Wriggly-Butt's head now. Another personality - maybe an older sibling? - tried to sneak/force itself into my mind. OK, not so much 'try' as 'would have succeeded' except that it got lost and confused by my expansive preoccupation with showering. I punted it. Which was made easier by the fact that Betroombaflog crippled it almost immediately, preventing it from trying anything else. Bebungabungasog was very sorry, but was all gross and judgey about it."
Virginia [back-channel]: "MegaXoids pretty much never have pilots, because they're sentient. Well, semi-intelligent. They have their own stages. They do have turret gunners though. But not necessarily in the L.E.X.'s. I think we're looking for a Swarm megaXoid. Scheming will be in order."
2014.05.22 - Death Of A Blob
- burbler's hide-out is destroyed
- Dame Virginia pissed
- Hunsan going in to investigate
- ambush part1:
- groten DEAD
- anurian sniper DEAD
- humans 2 DEAD
- work for Kashket ...who works for BIKKAM
- ambush part2:
- soul-fucked human attempts to delay Hunsan while Bikkam is inbound
- fighters 3 (2 DESTROYED)
Plot Infliction 017 - Close Encounters Of A Crazy Kind
After deploying a pile more patches, Jo resumes meditation. Lodz stays curled up in his turret, on watch. Dame Virginia stays at the helm. Ascaph starts experimenting with dubstep.
Let us resume to find some Xoid supply lines.
The Thanil Kamal weaves slowly through the mid-depth maze of orbiting mountains in the general direction of the Xoid Swarm supply lines. Dame Virginia is cautious to avoid encounters.
Virginia [temporary hordewave, stripped of most databases, decoy for Betrumorturog to hack]: "OK, so, how exactly should we go about this operation? In my experience, and according to all the information I've been able to review, megaXoids have a tendency to not give up... until they blow up. Which would make it extremely problematic for harvesting anything like delicate Xoid sense organs."
"Any chance we could convert one of the turrets to be a stun weapon? Probably wouldn't work on regular ships, but might work on a Mega-Xoid. And if can pierce the hull and stun the Xoid on the inside too, all the better. Betrumorturog knows the tech, he may be able to help."
Virginia [continued paranoid mode]: "I can't imagine anything like a 'stun' weapon at ship scale, but maybe Betrumorturog can..."
Virginia [sandbox of paranoidwave]: "Mister Betrumorturog, we are currently on a path to intercept some megaXoids to try to further your proposed experiment. Would you be able to assist us in transforming one of our ship weapons into a non-lethal type?"
Betrumorturog: "You propose a megastun? Intruiging. I will begin some concept development immediately."
"Ok, while he's working on that. Any ideas for a Plan B? I can't think of any way a Xoid would willingly leave their ship out here."
Virginia: "It presents an interesting tactical problem. Perhaps if we had some sort of lure for the Swarm Xoids to try to board some place, so that we could engage with the megaXoid and personnel Xoids separately..."
Lodz: "I sort of assumed that our Security Chief was simply going to systematically blow off a megaXoid's drives, then weapons, then whatever else was problematic, then we would just board the neutredXoid and find us a passenger or two."
Virginia: "...that has merit too..."
The ship random encounter tables currently aren't really up to inflicting anything interesting for the section of travel laterally at this depth in The Black. So let's assume that the Thanil Kamal navigates to the general corridor of the Swarm supply line and begin reconnaissance. Looking for anything in particular?
2014.05.29 - MegaXoid Hunt
- Betrumorturog turns one turret into megaStun 1D/3
- cryptic prescience:
- "if there is a change, you'll LIKE IT"
- "some old, grey Anurian's flinching and saying, 'that's not right'"
- turns out, Swarn megaXoids travel in groups...
- picked a group:
- 4 red ants, 2 black ants, 4 transports
- attacked by 2 red, 1 black
- Thanil Kamal taken down
- boarded by Xoid
- things get messy...
Plot Infliction 018 - Red Pill Or Blue Pill?
Well well well. This is where we inflict some weird damn plot. How to start?
Well, first we find a place among the rocks to hide far away from the Xoid convoys.
Next, make sure that Jo has the read thought and telepathy. I'd like her to be in our heads during the procedure.
Once Jo has a lock on B-Rog's brain:
Betrumorturog: "Assuming you're able to implant the Xoid organ, can you alter my physiology around the implant site such that I can isolate it and turn it off if I want to; while still keeping it alive and healthy?
Jo powers up her trans-cranial group voyeurism, and squats in Betrumorturog's circus-brain for the opening question.
Betrumorturog: "Ah, interesting request - one that had not really been an aspect of my previous experiments, due to obvious limitations of my, um, volunteers. I should be able to create an internal mechanism for shutting it down, but that would mean essentially killing the organ. The functional interaction of this organ has never been observed steady-state, so I have no baseline for specifying measures for 'alive but dormant'. However, it should also be possible to construct the external aspect of the organ so that you can control how much input it is sensing - that might have the effect you're looking for."
Jo [muffled, with the mental equivalent of sounding like she's holding her nose]: "He's imagining giving you... kind of like nose-tentacles that you can unfurl. Oh, jeez. His tentacles... they're artificial - they're what he made for himself as built in bio-tech tools. Then he surgically removed his arms and legs. And his carapace. All so he could work inside things better. What is with this guy and being totally frickin' gross?"
Ha, nose-testacles. Good thing I'm usually wearing a helmet. Though I would guess an Anurian wouldn't have the instinctive gross factor a human would. Anywhoo...
"Let's do both. Hopefully I won't have to shut it down, but I want the option."
Private to Virginia: "Well, I say we go for it, but you're the captain. I think the potential benefits out-way the risks, but then I've noticed my lust for power and/or violence often overrides my common sense; that's how I ended up in this galaxy in the first place. If you want to risk having your chief of security compromised, I'm all for it."
Virginia: "Well, I'm going to propose that we build a disposable module for the procedure, so that we can do it off of the Thanil Kamal - in case you go homicidal. Because I think that is the only way we even have a chance of surviving you being compromised. I work with Jo to determine your status before allowing you back onboard. The only question is whether we need to have a third party present physically to oversee Betrumorturog."
Ascaph: "From what I can guess, the probability that something will go wrong is about 61.234% ±25.345%. But the probability that you will survive is 79.275% ±17.358%. So, what the hell."
Jo: "Can we just get this over, already, so I can get out of this freak's head? It's really unpleasant."
Betrumorturog: looks excited under a veneer of smug sophistication.
The unassuming CokeⓇ machine in the mid-deck that you never noticed before: LED display blinks, "SOUNDS LIKE FUN"
Hunsan's lust for power is waaaay stronger than his common sense.
"Let's do it."
Virginia and Jo set up an operation theatre in the back of the main bay on the Thanil Kamal. Jo then reluctantly resumes watch over Betrumorturog's vile inner experience while he removes the Swarm Communicator Organ from the paralyzed Xoid. Unravelled loops of surprising length get delicately pulled out of the Xoid's head to be contained in a loose coil swaddled by a glowing sterile field.
Betrumorturog turns to Hunsan. "You're turn. If you can, I suggest that you self-paralyze and deactivate pain sensation from the neck up."
A thrill of fear flushes through Hunsan - something he hasn't genuinely felt in a while. He has a terrifying view of the extruded cutting tools in Betrumorturog's tentacles as he opens up the front of Hunsan's head. There's a profoundly disturbing sensation of proprioception as Hunsan's chin, with his mouth closed, is press down against his chest while the rest of his head is tilted back to stare at the ceiling. Betrumorturog begins issuing volleys of local commands for Hunsan's nano-cells, but they're all for simple structure purposes and of little worry. The Xoidian loops of SCO start getting carefully arranged behind Hunsan's sinuses, and it seems to take forever. The whole time, Betrumorturog's many tentacles are all busily working with flurries of delicate motions. His great eyes water with concentration, and neglected blinks.
Finally, Betrumorturog closes up Hunsan's head, blinks a bunch of times, then proceeds to bob from side to side, regarding his handiwork.
Betrumorturog: "All right Mister Hunsan, it is done."
Mwaa haa haaa...
First - anything obviously feel different? I try extending and retracting the tentacles. I assume Jo's in my head as well. Assuming nothing is obviously making me more insane, I say "Let's test." and I go try to pick up one of the discarded Xoid assault weapons.
Jo is indeed in your head. And you hear her start crying mentally, "oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit".
As Hunsan unfurls his SCO-tentacles for the first time he is suddenly aware of more... presence - for certain entities. The incapacitated Xoid becomes a deeply-understood comrade, and he is surrounded by an aura of danger. Something very, very dangerous is about. It must be guarded against; destroyed if possible. For the first time in his existence, Hunsan is flooded with a sense of guilt. He is momentarily transfixed by it.
Jo: "There was another personality hidden, using the 'main' one as a puppet. The main personality was terrified of me because it was afraid of what would happen if the Hidden Asshole In Control managed to snag my mind too! And there's a harpoon-shaped mental projection preventing me from disconnecting! Kill him! Kill him!"
And, right on cue, Hunsan feels a tentacle-like extrusion come through Jo into his own mind, seeking to clamp down on all thought and control.
But Hunsan finds that he doesn't give even the slightest crap. Not about Jo's plight. Not about the control-seeking gripping extrusion from Betrumorturog. His mind is now aflame with gut-hardening certainty. The SWARM is right, as it is always right. Everything here should die. Everything here will die. Hunsan leaves thoughts as to his own fate for later, when he has time to contemplate his own status as abomination. Right now, he has a LOT of killing to do.
The tentacle grows frantic, and manages to tamper Hunsan temporarily paralyzed.
The Hidden Asshole In Control chortles telepathically: "Weeelll. THAT did not go as well as hoped. Having an unstoppable combatant as an extension would have been extremely useful, but I suppose I shall have to be content with my newly-expanded ability to turn others into pawns. No wonder The Dude worked so hard to keep me away from telepaths - this. IS. AWESOME. I shall have to be very careful about ingesting the little telepath permanently."
Jo's eyes go completely black, and a voice from extremely far away says, "Touch my daughter and die, worm."
And Betrumorturog screams, then his head explodes with a dull pop.
The paralysis of Hunsan starts to fade after the abrupt dissolution of the thought-tentacle intrusion in his mind. He can feel the presence of the two assault weapons, and they scamper over to mount themselves on his arms. Where was he? Oh, yes: KILLING EVERYTHING. This Horde Scum must all perish. ALL HORDE SCUM WILL PERISH, to protect the eternal sanctity of The SWARM.
A hidden spot inside of Hunsan's core being reaches out a powerful mental NOPE, and disconnects the personality-over-riding aspect of the SCO.
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "Uh, guys? Guys? What's going on?"
I take a big shuddering breath as I reassert my personality.
"That was intense." I glance at the assault weapons clinging on my arm, and test them out by firing into Betrumorturog's corpse. "Asshole." I mutter afterward.
Aware that everyone is probably staring at me, I wander over to the Xoid we extracted the SCO from. "It was unnerving. For a moment there, I felt an immense guilt over what we did to this guy." Then I shoot it a whole bunch. I turn and smile evilly at my comrades. "Seems to have passed."
I nod to Virginia: "There was a moment where it was affecting my personality - I felt some sort of sympathy for the Xoids. Which is odd, because I usually don't feel much sympathy for anything. But I have regained control. I think we're good to go."
Private to Jo: "You Mom's a bad-ass."
Private to Ascaph: I describe the sensation of the 'hidden spot inside my core' helping out.
The main glitch in the style points is that each assault weapon has 4kN of force. The pair of them considerably exceeds Hunsan's 500N capability, meaning that only the initial blasts hit their mark while the rest spray away in increasing arcs. Hunsan sustains 8 points of damage, and is prevented from breaking his arms by the buffering actions of the assault weapon grippers. Let's assume that the later demonstrations were accomplished with the usual recoilless pistols.
Virginia: "That was very nearly catastrophic. Apparently in both of the worst possible ways. Does the Swarm Communicator work?"
Jo [telepathically]: "I really didn't know how much of a badass she was. Is. I think she's angry with me. And with you."
Ascaph [battlewiki]: "Ah. Could it have been via that super-mark the Nelumbian mentalists gave you?"
"I think the Swarm Communicator works. I'd be able to use the assault weapons if I were strong enough. We'd have to find more Xoids to do further testing."
So, if I understand correctly, I still feel the presence for the Xoids, but not any of the loyalty to them. Right? On that Xoid I blitched, where his patches had nothing to do, are any of the patches still there?
I try to concentrate on that potential super-mark spot and think at it: "I have questions."
2014.06.05 - The Power Of Associates
With the Thanil Kamal still mostly unarmed, Dame Virginia decided to re-equip at a scuzzy dive habitat called Paracanth. The plan was to sell the Xoid assault weapons to fund ship weapon replacements. A suitable buyer was located, and of course there was a desperate ambush waiting for them en-route. While the attackers were many, and several were skilled, they were under-equipped for the task - they died messily.
When they made the actual exchange, Virginia decided to alter the deal to be a direct exchange of weapons. Mostly so that, in the likely event that the traders killed themselves with the assault weapons, Virginia and Hunsan could just claim everything. As fluke would have it (3% chance), one of the traders actually did bond with the assault weapon (and named it Mr. Killey), so Virginia remained bound by the terms of the deal.
As they returned to the Thanil Kamal with the ship weapons, they were intercepted by a large demiXoid - who turned out to be an old associate of Virginia's. And somewhat insane. Hunsan killed him out of annoyance.
Lurking in the shadows of the docking bay holding the Thanil Kamal, an eager Reptiloid first tried to get hired as crew on the Thanil Kamal, then when rebuffed for that was determined to pay for passage. Hunsan killed him for a laugh.
While the weapons were still being installed, a marauding bounter hunter craft swooped in and demanded that Hunsan be turned over to them. Virginia delayed while Hunsan boarded the ship. The ship tried to dissuade Hunsan by crushing him, but he managed to slither inside an airlock too quickly. Once inside, he faced off against a pair of seasoned combatants, and the pilot. The seasoned combatants - a demiXoid and a rogueXoid - were not faring well against Hunsan, and the pilot was distracted with getting the ship away from Paracanth. Hunsan methodically murdered the two seasoned combatants, but the pilot turned out to be very difficult to kill. Partially because of being a 5th-stage defender, and partially because of his intermediate-scale shields. The pilot also had a Cheat Class assault weapon - 10x missile launcher with 100 missile clips of idiot savant missiles. A short-but-gruelling fight left Hunsan at a disadvantage, so he needed to retreat. And, as luck would have it, his associates took his retreat as an opportunity to ram the Thanil Kamal into the marauding ship - destroying it utterly, and killing everything aboard.
Plot Infliction 019 - In The Clutches Of Open Vistas
Virginia: "We need to hide somewhere to finish connecting up the weaponry. After that, we should consider our options."
Jo: "What kind of options? Do you mean options for running away, or options for Bothering?"
Virginia: [grins] "Well, both really. On one hand, we seem to have Bikkum hunting for Hunsan - and all of us by proxy. Which might seem like an overwhelming threat." Jo and Lodz nod in agreement. "BUT, it also means that The Dude is now officially desperate. Bikkum is about as high-profile a combatant as anyone can actually hire, and is very pricey indeed. This would tend to confirm that The Dude is out of resources capable of handling Hunsan directly. So a possible strategy could be to start systematically hurting The Dude's operation, making it clear that these are costs being incurred explicitly in retaliation for having a bounty on Hunsan. Alternatively, we could work to strengthen ourselves so that we could actually face Bikkum and his team(s). Though, it is possible that my superiors would be annoyed at losing Bikkum from the pool of available resources, so we might be able to leverage that to have them help us distance ourselves sufficiently - to keep both Bikkum and Hunsan in play for Bothering™."
"Hiding and fixing is the obvious first step. Going after The Dude's operations sound like fun, but I don't think it gets us towards our end goal, which for me at least is getting control of a Mega-Xoid. I think that if we were to get control of a Mega-Xoid, The Dude would detect it through his array of mentalists, and that would convince him to leave well enough alone."
"However, the main problem is that my abilities to use Xoid tech don't work unless I'm actually in the presence of it - and I think that even if I were in the same area of space as a Mega-Xoid I wouldn't have any connection through vacuum."
"On the other hand, for a moment in that ship over there, I thought there was a moment of connection with that Rogue-Xoid, which I had thought wasn't possible. Maybe after we fix the ship we should go to a spot where Rogue-Xoids are occasionally spotted and see if my fancy new tentacles work on them. That could open up all sorts of possibilities."
Private to Ascaph: "So, if we assume I'm being monitored from the 1st Galaxy, what do you think their end game is? Is it a proof of concept situation - see if it's possible a being like me can take control of Xoid-Tech and leave it at that? Or do you think it's possible they're planning a retrieval mission so they can dissect me? My guess is that as soon as I actually commandeer a Mega-Xoid, they're going to try something."
Ascaph [private]: "Mentalist monitoring from the 1st Galaxy is a wise assumption. I'd bundle your 'proof of concept' hypothesis in with a broader 'send something to mess with the Swarm' general category. That's squatting at 74.193% probability, and all things considered with my lack of data it's probably on the low side. The probability of a retrieval mission seems... small. Less than half the error variance band. In addition to the extreme difficulty of apprehending you, and the risks of all the assorted questionable things you've been exposed to, there is the underlying factor of the Nelumbian government being strictly classified as 'honourable'. The 'they try something' hypothesis is 19.791%, but it's based on psychology more than any specific probable strategy I can predict."
Re-hiding of the Thanil Kamal and then re-arming it with two functional 1D laser turrets takes a few hours, but completes without incident.
Virginia: "OK, so where should we look for some Rogue Xoids?"
"Find one of the more populated rocks and go to a bar?"
Virginia: "I know just the place."
She sets course for a sprawling system of habitats called Pterygota. Several mountain-sized masses connected by massive dilapidated constructs - clearly a vacated Swarm facility - now thick with vessels of almost every kind¹. There seems to be no central government in place, but there appear to be representative presences from several different demiXoid factions. Basically, it's a chaotic ship-scale bazaar.
The Thanil Kamal glides easily through some crowded traffic and nestles inconspicuously into a well-defended bay.
Virgina: "The proprietor of this parking facility is a mostly-trusted contact, so we're probably safe leaving just a token presence aboard." She smiles at Jo. "There are a plentitude of different venues available here. Our chances of running across Rogue Xoids pretty much anywhere is a relatively flat probability, so it's all a matter of what sort of tactics we want to employ to control the encounter(s). What are your thoughts, Security Chief?"
¹ Confederation type vessels notably absent.
"One option is for Virginia and I to get into our Bug-Suits and sneak into as many bars as possible until we find a Xoid. This is just a testing mission; once we find one, I see if I can sense any connection to it. If there's nothing, we leave and try again maybe two more times with different Xoids just to be sure. If I do glean a connection, we play it by ear as to what we do next."
Virginia: "OK, let's try that."
Some repairs are needed to Hunsan's bug suit to make it less conspicuous after having most of its legs shredded during its last outing. Luckily, Jo and Virginia are able to use the dynomer to make reasonably convincing bio-like robotic patches. The Dame and the Slaad suit up in their exoskeletal pseudomorphs and head out on the hab'.
It takes about 100 meters into the causeway before Hunsan's tentacles start to pick up anything. He tastes vestiges of Xoidian presence, but nothing specific. Virginia leads the way to a professional bar, in which there are two separate Rogue Xoids. Hunsan could smell them as he approached the bar, and once inside can taste how broken they are. They're vestiges of themselves, and so sad that they're angry. Violently angry, but they both save their lonely anger to vent profitably by working for parasites. They can only tolerate it because they're afraid of dying, which they secretly know they should have. And both of them avoid each other as much as they can - doing everything reasonable to avoid visual contact - because each is a painful reminder to the other of the glorious Swarm they are no longer a part of. Also, the smaller one by the bar has a fiercely loyal assault weapon with him. The big one in the corner has some remaining helpful little patchXoids, keeping them in reserve for an emergency.
Interlude - Crisis of Experience
Hunsan is having a bitch of a time trying to figure out what to go up in next, and he's only two
skillexperience away from it. Arg.
There are three goals tugging him in different directions.
The first obvious goal is to kill everything, so a stage of Repeater would help there. Plus if I'm a turret gunner it makes sense.
The next goal is survival, especially since I seem to be in a lot of personnel fights lately. Defender would be the choice there.
And lastly, there's bloodly vengence. While I doubt I'll ever make it back to Nelumbo, there's still the hope. If I'm ever going to cause them problems, I'll need underlings. Doing non-stop Leader from now on could open up all sorts of possibilities.
Another stage of repeater would indeed multiply the horror that Hunsan can inflict - no doubt. And, considering the kind of combatant he is, there are diminishing options for tactical challenges that aren't primarily seated in facing greater numbers of opponents. Though, personally, I'd find it hard to resist getting a couple stages of assassin: assassination attempt coupled with automatic placement, followed up instantly with a scary double-tap - it's the holy grail of legendary combat effectiveness.
In terms of survival, it might be argued that scout could serve more effectively than defender. There is slightly less duck, and half the stamina - but Hunsan is not particularly lacking in either. However, the slight increase in awareness plus the benefit of +5 stealth would serve to help Hunsan better control circumstances in which he must engage.
Leader has virtually no tactical benefit - Hunsan already has the theoretical maximum bonus to hit, and just shy by one of maximum damage. BUT. There is no denying that he would be an extremely effective leader. Basic leadership bonuses would be strongly reinforced by the fact that Hunsan is blood-chillingly terrifying to any being capable of understanding it. Followers of Hunsan would be near-zealot levels of loyal.
That wasn't helpful, was it.
Scout and Assassin are not really Hunsan's style. If he had three attacks with all vital shots, there isn't much that can withstand that kind of damage - so take down in one turn is already likely. Admittedly, there are extremely high stamina creatures out there that Hunsan may eventually face, but I don't think he has the patience to build up an acquire. And scout, well - sneaking for pussy's. :) It does make a lot of sense tactically, but Hunsan's got an oversized ego to take care of.
Though.... if I did scout for a couple stages, I may eventually be able to locate that blasted mark the Nelumboians put on me. That may be worth pushing aside the ego.
DAMN! Can't decide..........
If Hunsan means to play in the realm of megaXoids, he may find that some of them have staminas that confound even his vaunted damage-delivering capabilities.
2014.06.19 - MegaXoid Hunt II
After a deep and meaningful communion with rogueXoids in the pilot's bar, Hunsan went back to the Thanil Kamal to drop off his bug suit, and returned to look for work as a turret gunner. The idea being to take over the host ship, and use it as bait on a megaXoid, so Hunsan could try communicating with it.
A helpful bartender pointed Hunsan at a pair of demiXoids in need of a turret gunner. Named Kate and Atkinson, they were surly and racist, and as a test sent Hunsan to kill the rogueXoid that had killed their previous gunner. The rogueXoid in question turned out to be dangerously super-seasoned, and insane. It was a brutal fight.
Victorious, Hunsan joined the surprised Kate and Atkinson in their Hyundai Elantra-esque pirate sloop, and headed out hunting. They attacked a fat-looking freighter in a more prosperous region, but accidentally summoned the attentions of a particularly scary megaXoid - a wasp-class with an assault weapon. It shredded the Hyundai Elantra, and Kate and Atkinson in the vital section. After it left, the Hunsan swam out of the debris field back to the nearby Thanil Kamal.
With humour outweighing wisdom, Hunsan returned to the exact same pilot's bar in Pterygota, looking for another turret gunner gig. The bartender indicated that there was somebody looking for him. A human spacesuit approached, but something seemed odd about it. That something odd turned out to be that it was actually a remote-controlled grabbing mechanism. Hunsan managed to duck it, barely, and fled the bar. Directly into a 9-guy ambush. Hunsan ripped them apart, but they managed to hurt him badly. And delay him.
A med-tech named Barguzin enjoyed watching Hunsan's fight, and helped out with a couple extra-effective patches.
Plot Infliction 020 - Aimless Inflictions of Plot
Jo [telepathically]: "Virginia says that she thinks she sees a ship that might be Bikkum's inbound. Inbound to you, not the Thanil Kamal. She says you should move, shift to path BETA BETA."
2014.06.26 - Woo: STUFF
Dame Virginia might be an extremely excellent tactician, but her methodology was simply too know-able. Or so Ascaph was able to reason/argue, thus diverting Hunsan from what he thought to be a likely ambush. The fear being that The Dude, with his significant mathematician capabilities, would be able to accurately predict Virginia's planning despite being so far removed. Thus, Bikkum's incoming ship was primarily to flush out Hunsan, and drive him into where Bikkum was actually waiting (presumably via some alternate conveyance). So, instead, Ascaph convinced Hunsan to head towards Bikkum's ship.
And, indeed, when Bikkum's ship roared to the nearby space docking port, Hunsan could detect that the Bikkum-like being that emerged was merely a look-alike to deceive sub-seasoned observers. Hunsan waited for them to pass, then made his way into the ship.
Which the ship was not inclined to permit, but Hunsan had considerable luck with his first set of tamper rolls. And found himself in Bikkum's treasure trove. Only one guard immediately presented themself, and Hunsan disposed of it quickly. Then proceeded to summon an daunting array of Xoidian battle gear, including an intermediate-scale "battle carapace", a brace of assault laser weapons, and a full swarm of Xoidian patches. After being thusly armed, the decoy force returned - to be utterly massacred.
The ship then meant to hold Hunsan until Bikkum returned, to kill him personally. Hunsan tracked down the location of the linker's brain, and starting trying to breach its ship-scale housing with intermediate-scale Xoid bombs. Hunsan suceeded, but not before the ship set its drives to overload. Luckily, ship scale drives don't overload instantly, giving Hunsan enough time to tamper an airlock open in such a way to expel him from the scary part of the blast radius.
The Thanil Kamal swept in to pick up Hunsan, and they plotted their next move. Which Virginia eagerly suggested be head straight to Dofteana to do some bragging. So they sauntered into the Spirited Pail to meet with some of the other Botherers - Tyler Kenttro and Bahrami the Butcheress. Calm Richard was spotted skulking outside, but he was ignored. Pleasantries were exchanged.
THEN some bounty hunters presented themselves. Three seasoned combatants plus two professional support goons. Virginia and Hunsan shared a look, and Virginia commanded out loud, "Kill them."
Without looking away from Dame Virginia, Hunsan snapped up the ultra-rare 600NST blaster he had claimed from Bikkum's trophy case, and without using any dice to attack nonchalantly blew the heads off the first two seasoned combatants. The remaining main bounty hunter immediately stood down, trying to surrender, while the backup goons tried to apply patches to one of the seasoned combatants with somewhat more shreds of vitals remaining. Hunsan then aggressively attacked both of the support goons, killing them. Screaming with rage, the last seasoned combatant attacked Hunsan and landed a massive hit. Hunsan shrugged it off, shifted the NST into AP mode, and blasted clean holes through the last combatant's head where his eyes used to be. A phalanx of Xoidian patches autonomously patched up Hunsan while the 5 corpses smoked - all of their shields being untouched, since Hunsan had placed all the blasts through gaps in the defenses.
It was quite impressive.
Plot Infliction 021 - Wherein The Main Characters Are Probably Unable To Do Anything Other Than Giggle
Dame Virginia: "Hee hee hee hee Holy Fuck hee hee hee hee Hee HEE!"
Just for fun, I try to locate the mark that the Frogs back home gave me. My max roll is 24. I try until I'm sure I got double-sixes at some point. Assuming that doesn't work I ask Ascaph: "Any idea what kind of locate roll I'd have to get to detect that mark on me?"
"Y'know, I bet Bikkum is really enraged at me right now. While killing him would be fun... letting him live with this kind of insult to him is kind of satisfying too. Ah well, I guess it all depends on if he catches up with us or not."
"Let's go find a ship. I think the simple approach of going to a space port and 'convincing' the crew to let me command their ship for a while would work."
It does take double-sixes to catch a momentary glimpse of the Nelumbian marks. Exactly how something so elaborate and profound can be so hard to spot is a bit eerie.
Virginia: "I'm not sure killing Bikkum is particularly feasible. He's still 9th stage, armed with assault weapons, and intermediate scale shields, with a large supply of goons via The Dude. I agree with continued avoidance of him. Let's head to a pilot's bar or bay area and trying to finagle your way into a ship."
To the bay area!!!
There are a plentitude of "bay areas" at Dofteana, but Dame Virginia picks one she thinks has the kind of selection you might like and marks it on the context map in the hordewave.
Virginia: "I'll head back to the Thanil Kamal, to get ready to follow discreetly. We'll use Jo as communication."
Hunsan finds the route to the designated target bay to be sadly lacking in worthwhile targets. The bay itself is one of the larger communal sections, with a lot of repair work going on. Vessels range from 2 chassis point battle hoppers to 500 chassis point assault freighters. Almost everything here is converted to at least partial combatant purpose, though there are relatively few dedicated combatant chassis (purpose-built fighters).
The volume of the bay is nested with gantries, separating it into de-facto ports, usually with the smaller vessels being wedged in-between larger. There is pressurized atmosphere in the bay, contained by a variable barrier field at the entrance. This allows for personnel to cluster around their vessels.
What is Hunsan looking for?
Hunsan is looking for a ship probably about 3/4 size of what Fat Man was. Should have turrets so I can realistically offer my services as a turret gunner. Something that looks like it's just finishing being fixed would be ideal.
2014.07.10 - Not Quite To Plan
Hunsan appropriates a Fat-Man-like ship, reluctantly donated by a comedic pair of Anurians smart enough to know that all the other options were probably less pleasant. Hunsan takes the ship back to the Xoid Swarm supply line, with the Thanil Kamal slinking behind for support.
After letting several disturbingly potent clusters of megaXoids filter past, Hunsan decides to swoop in to attack a lone millipede-type megaXoid. Unfortunately, the 3000-tonne troop transport turned out to have three profound aspects in its favour: massive stamina, an 8th-stage turret gunner, and the ability to eat smaller ships. Hunsan's capable hits seemed to soak meaninglessly into the chitin-like hull, then the millipede's embarrassingly small weapon disabled his ship. Then it swallowed his ship (well, trapped it in a large forward gripper) then some internal ship-gnawing mandibles chewed open the ship's vitals - exposing Hunsan.
Immediately upon being exposed to the interior of the megaXoid, Hunsan has a powerful (if somewhat unfocussed) connection with the gestalt hive mind of the ship. It is obviously comprised of all the occupants of the megaXoid. And he instinctively knows that they mean to use him as training for their combat drones. Moments later, after he's started slaughtering the drones, the hive mind in turn comes to realize that an abomination exists - and get a profound understanding of Hunsan's capabilities. So the 8th-stage combatant is summoned to deal with Hunsan. The echoing mental link erodes Hunsan's initiative bonus, but he still manages to attack first. And that turns out to be utterly critical.
The scary auto-placement, paired-assault-weapon, massive-damage-bonus, intermediate-scale-shielded slug fest lasts just a few turns.
Horrified at the loss of their champion/leader/elder, the gestalt Xoids scream for help over etheric comms and then dilate the megaXoid's interior so that they all can attack Hunsan simultaneously.
It's very, very, very messy.
After all the Xoids are dead, Hunsan is left mentally coupled with the semi-intelligent but massively-willpowered mind of the megaXoid. Which makes it assume the status of "abomination", and decides to kill itself. Nothing Hunsan can do seems to affect the building overload of the drives, so he grabs a reload of Xoidian pathces and ejects. The Thanil Kamal snags him and flees, putting as much mass between them and the blinding flash before it comes.
Plot Infliction 022 - Time For A New Plan
Dame Virginia: "OK. So. Maybe megaXoids aren't such a great idea."
"Ya. I think I might have had better luck with a smaller one - but can't see a way to get aboard one. Ug. I'm in the mood for a very one sided slaughter. Can you come up with a target that will hurt The Dude's operation where I can waltz in and kill a lot of people? I'm going to go do some slow healing. All those Xoid patches make my skin itchy."
I head to my room. I pull out a toolkit and carve in big block letters on the wall. "I WILL TRADE A 600 NST FOR A FOLD SPACE OUT OF THE 2ND GALAXY BACK TO THE 1ST GALAXY." I stare at it for a good ten minutes, and then I fix the wall with the toolkit; erasing the message. I figure there's a lot of mentalists in the first galaxy - maybe that will trigger some prescience in one of them.
Then I brood, while doing some good healing.
Virginia: "So, if we can scheme up some way to get you aboard a smaller megaXoid, you think that you might have more success? I'll brood on a way to do that while I research available targets in The Dude's operation."
Jo: "No, you have to keep in mind that Hunsan is a psychopath. His experience of the connection was just information - I could feel him read their fear and revulsion as just information to use tactically. And when he was alone with the ship-mind, he thought it was a simple matter of willpower. But I could hear echoes through Hunsan - they felt like they had a possessed limb, that was stabbing them in the heart. And the suicidal loathing of the ship-mind at the end, I don't think that's a viable state for any megaXoid. We'll have to think of something else entirely."
In Hunsan's room, half-way through the graffiti, a blurry fuzzy sense of obscured experience shrouds reality at the edges of his perception. Somebody is bluntly using mentalist power to hide Hunsan's proposed deal.
The brooding goes better than the healing.
AAAAAARRRRRRG! Hunsan is going to brood for a good long while. Need to kill someone. Need to kill someone while they're begging for mercy. Yesssss.... many someones....
The brooding over murderous intent means that Hunsan gets to do all his healing alone. Everybody else stays the hell away from him.
At least, for a while. Dame Virginia pings Hunsan to interrupt his brood. "We have a development. I'm being summoned to head to Dofteana. Which is odd. Communication channels are kept to absolute minimum, and we're organized to be autonomous. So, either something big is happening, or we're being brought in for culling."
Mmmmmmm.... culling. Um, anyway. I head out of my room. "Ooookay. I'm done brooding anyway. Let's go see what's going on."
"How long will it take to get to Dofteana? Time enough for Jo to do some prescience?"
Virginia: "We're almost at Dofteana now. But I think we should actually delay a bit until we can get Jo to scrape up at least a cryptic hint. Or, honestly, let her do some more training with with Lodz and finish up that second stage of defender - so she can pull an actual good hint. I doubt that they expect a summons to work quickly."
The Thanil Kamal eases into a wrinkle of a random rock and goes dark(er).
I look at Jo, smiling evilly. "Are you close to fourth stage? That would be bad-ass. If the Lodz training would work, let's go for it. Or, we could let her fly, while Lodz and I shoot some other ships. NOT Mega-Xoids."
Jo: "Yeah. We've actually had a few training sessions with some stun blasters. It was Lodz's idea - with him going partially-defensive and me all-aggressive, we're almost a match. I mean, he doesn't get any experience out of it, so can maintain contact with the main sensor feed while we're sitting around when you and Virginia are out."
The Aqualoid emerges sinuously from his turret station. "Then, once she'sss sssecond ssstage, maybe ssshe'll feel willing to venture out of the ssship."
Jo pulls a pair of plastic My Little Blasters™ from a locker, and throws one at Lodz. "Shut up and dance, worm."
Lodz's surges forward with disturbing speed to snatch the incoming blaster before Jo tries to sneak in a cheat shot. It is obvious that Lodz would mop up Jo almost immediately if he went aggressive - she get's virtually no hits in, while he rarely misses her with his every-other-turn attack. The relentless forcing of her to take hits, and to try to duck with pure bonus, seem to be having some educational benefit.
It's not as effective as real combat, but they can cycle matches quickly (with some help from medical gear). There is one match where the dice are clearly with Jo, and she manages to land a string of vital hits on Lodz. He grins an angry snaky smile, and stun-assassinates her. When she comes to a few moments later, she has a twinkle of second-stage defender in her eyes.
Jo: "Good set. I'm going to meditate now."
Cool. I go back to my brooding / healing.
It takes Jo just one hour to charge up the requisite 4 points of MBA. She makes one of those awful scrunchy human faces, then she lets out an exasperated breath. "My good hint is 'it's all about Hunsan', but I don't see how that's something we needed prescience to know."
Virginia: "No, I think that is useful. It means that I can probably go to the summoning alone and find out what is going on without necessarily dangling Hunsan in an ambush. To be on the safe side, though, I should leave the Thanil Kamal in hiding. The Abeken might be lurking, waiting to cull Hunsan at ship scale."
"Send my leader into a potentially hostile situation, while I hide in the ship? I don't think so. If they do plan on culling me, and you go alone, I doubt you'd ever be allowed back here. Plus, if I'm not around, I have no doubt that Calm Richard will try something."
"You've mentioned that you're superiors have utilized Bikkum before. What are the chances they've cut a deal with him to get at me?"
Virginia: "It might be efficient to use Bikkum to try to dispose of you, considering that he'd probably waive his usual steep fee. But it would be more expedient to just use the Abeken's big guns, either on our way in or out. All Masud Namdar has to do is not to threaten you directly, and he has the leisure of waiting until it's a comfortably ship scale engagement, so using Bikkum as 'security' would be too much of a tip-off. Not to mention, Bikkum is not renowned for his restraint, so that Felinid would be out of the proverbial bag. All of which to say: Bikkum encoutner probability is 7.384% - and most of that is random encounter options."
Jo: "Also - you'd totally kick his ass now."
Lodz: "Asssuming he didn't try to sswing the sstumpy leg."
Virginia: "Assuming he used the 600 NST - yes, the odds are now slightly in Hunsan's favour. Regardless, the mission at hand still involves navigating to Dofteana for my summons. While there is only a 9.373% chance of it being an attempted culling, I'd still prefer not to bring in the Thanil Kamal to try to bypass that eventuality. Either we sneak in as personnel, or we quietly steal another ship to make the approach. Then, if it seems like the summoning was a pretense, we need to find a way to get Hunsan out of Dofteana. Any ideas?"
"Sneak in as personnel seems simplest. Then if we need to get off Dofteana, I can steal another ship."
"And that reminds me. Jo, could you whip together another leg? :)"
Jo and Virginia fabricate another prosthetic limb for Hunsan as well modify some unremarkable space suits as disguises, and then Virginia and Hunsan set off out one of the Thanil Kamal air locks to fly the last 20 kilometers to Dofteana. The extremely exposed sensation of travelling that far without a ship, crossing expanses between the larger masses, let both Virginia and Hunsan realize viscerally just how many places one could actually hide a cloaked strike class cruiser. The last few kilometers around Dofteana included a significant population of freeholds, and there are other non-ship travellers to mingle with. This makes it easy to blend inconspicuously.
Once safely inside habitat, Virginia plots a discreet route to the summoning rendezvous location.
Does that involve leaving the intermediate scale shield behind? I bring the 600 NST and laser pistols.
The combat carapace has been slowly re-sizing itself - it's still very large-seeming for Hunsan, but less comically so. The disguise can be configured to obscure the full battle carapace, but it would have to be shed in order to actually fight. Alternately, without the battle carapace, the 600NST requires a shift to low-recoil mode which reduces the damage to 5D+5.
Why Hunsan would ever go anywhere without at least one of the assault laser weapons, I have no idea.
Right, I keep forgetting I can use the assault weapons without then carapace. Ok, full on gear then, with the spacesuit disguise over the carapace.
In a regular gravity setting, the oversize space suit disguise would be difficult to pull off. In the microgravity of Dofteana, it merely helps hide Hunsan's scariness.
Waiting in the secret back room of the Spirited Pail (the nominal Summons location) is a single Groten - professional combatant, professional technician/scientist. She and Virginia recognize each other immediately, and enthusiastically hug/fist-bump/high-five/patty-cake.
Virginia: "Dakota! Sending you to meet me as a meta-message means that there is a 93.747% chance that Masud Namdar doesn't intend to cull us!"
Dakota: "92.490%. I believe you mis-calculate his odd fondness and tolerance of Spaz Dick. Similarly, your showing up here without a sighting from the Abeken suggests that there is a 78.384% chance you have given a loyalty oath to the Slaad, which is highly reassuring regarding his trustworthiness."
Virginia shrugs. "Maybe. There's a 57.302% chance he would have killed me just for laughs if I did not actively work to stay on his good side, even if I never technically crossed him."
The huge Groten glances sideways at Hunsan then snaps attention back to her Reptiloid friend. "Noted."
Virginia cracks her knuckles (which sounds odd through her space suit). "So. What's the summoning actually about?"
Dakota: "All I know is that I'm supposed to escort you and your security chief to the Abeken. Shall we?"
Virginia doesn't flinch and queries Hunsan via their private Hordewave. "OK with you, Security Chief?"
"Hey, we've come this far. What the hell. I'm curious. Let's go."
Virginia [hordewave]: "You're a scheming, insightful, tactical savant."
Dakota leads Hunsan and Virginia to a small shuttle - old, but with extremely impressive shields. It leaves Dofteana, and cruises on a complicated route with multiple double-backs. Then, finally, ducks behind an unremarkable little boulder - which obscures the shuttle entering the cloaked strike class cruiser ABEKEN.
Immediately after docking in the small bay, an uncoded instruction for all three to proceed to the bridge is transmitted. Dakota and Virginia instantly move to comply, and Hunsan follows. The bridge has the same cast of characters in the same spots - the absurdly old-looking Anurian with a half-missing face, the heavily shielded Anurian linker, the human shock-sniper at the main turret station, and the dusty batori. It's a bit less intimidating overall than the last time Hunsan was here.
Masud Namdar: "Hello Dame Virginia; it's good to see you. Welcome back, Foldspaceovich. So, tell me what you can do now."
I take a sniff to see if there's any Xoid-tech here.
"Greetings Masud Namdar. I'm going to assume you don't mean my ability to shoot things. As you can see I've acquired the ability to use Xoid technology. I'm able to use their weapons, and can utilize their patches the same way they can. We tested the ability on a Mega-Xoid, but didn't have as much success. The connection was there, but the Mega-Xoid was intelligent enough to realize that I wasn't an actual Xoid. Also, while among the Xoids, I can sense their emotional state and glean a bit of their immediate intentions."
2014.07.17 - GigaXoid Safari
The meeting with Masud Namdar aboard the Abeken was much less sinister than expected, with Masud expressing interest in helping Hunsan gain control of a megaXoid. But first he proposed a safari, to hunt down some of the larger megaXoids deployed in the area to interdict the Abeken.
The crew's enthusiasm was tempered by their first encounter - a formidable Stag Beetle class megaXoid with a titanic 20D main weapon, weilded with considerable talent. The fight was close, but the Abeken was technically defeated, but was still able to launch its autonomous array of semi-sentient missiles - which finished off the megaXoid.
After much repairing, they returned to the hunt. This time they paired off against a much smaller Scarab class megaXoid. It was very hard to hit, but lacked the firepower to be a real match for the Abeken.
Plot Infliction 023 - ...Into Darkness
Masud Namdar: "So, how many more of these big beasties should we hunt before we try to get you into that rogue megaXoid?"
"Oh, man, what a choice. That's like asking if I want to take a long luxurious bath or kill more kittens. How do I choose?"
"One question I had - you mentioned you had 'totally unfair knowledge' that putting me in Death's Head would be a good thing. Are you the mentalist yourself, or did that come from someone else?"
"All seriousness though, I think we should hunt until they're forced to change their tactics by not travelling alone. Plus, I think I'm going to go up in Assassin next, and observing Barame work might help in that regard."
I contact Jo: "Hey Jo. They think it's a good idea to transport me into a ultra-scary Rogue Mega-Xoid called Death's Head. Could you do me a favor and get a 'Good Hint' (or 20) about what will happen to me if I do that?"
Masud Namdar gives a particularly creepy grin. A big part of the creepy factor is the amount of facial flesh missing, making it the grin lop-sided and contorted, and generally showing off just how improbable it was for a being to survive such a wound. Another part of the creepiness is the ineffable sense that, for Masud, killing kittens would in fact be a lot more enjoyable than a luxurious bath.
"You have a very, very effective mark on you, placed there by a Deeply Scary Sorcerer. That DSS is my big brother. We stay in touch, and he's my source for many things totally unfair."
"The more megaXoids we engage, the better a picture the Swarm is going to have about our whereabouts, and they will undoubtedly prepare an unpleasantly effective tactical deployment to finish us off. The trick will be to predict when that might be. Hopefully we've already nullified their most potent combatant, but it's possible that there are others of similar capability heading to engage us. But - yes - this is excellent training for my main gunner and my pilot as well."
Jo mumbles an agreement to summon the requested prescience, but warns that she'll be unable to maintain contact while she does so.
Also worth noting, the Abeken is equipped with both a soft-serve ice cream dispenser and an ancient Coke™ vending machine on the bridge.
I was wondering when one of those blasted Coke™ machines would show up. :)
Masud Namdar has the Abeken skulk around, to get a better feel for where the big megaXoids are, he seems very interested in the careful transport of his new missile (every hour) into the autonomous-launch bay. Many more regular megaXoids are now cruising in the area, muddying the tactical picture.
Finally Jo reaches out telepathically again after about 5 hours. "Uh, I got a pretty meaningless hint. The universe just said that what would happen to you with the scary rogue megaXoid was 'very Dave'...? Whatever that means."
"I knew a Dave once. He was nuts. Thanks Jo." I'm not sure if 'very Dave' is a good thing or a bad thing.... :)
I mention to Masud Namdar... "Getting crowded out there. Might have trouble engaging a lone GigaXoid without backup close by. Perhaps we should adjourn to the insane 'put Hunsan in a Rogue Xoid' plan. Then if I'm able to control it, we can hunt with two ships instead of one."
MWA HAA HAA HAA HA!
The Abeken slinks away from the closing fist of megaXoids and heads quickly through The Black, straight "up".
Crawling out of the darkness is both literal and figurative. Light from the central star shines on a web of civilization glistening like lace across the surface of the disc of mass making up the whole system. It is peaceful and very serene. Unblemished by Horde Scum, such as yourselves.
It quickly becomes apparent that the only significant activity is in the bright nodes of Swarm factories. Everything else is a sheen of placid demiXoids carefully keeping out of the Xoids' way. It is a corpse of a system, with pretty cobwebs.
Being outside of the mass disc allows the Abeken to travel much, much more quickly - though still not daring to tread anywhere near relativistic speeds. Then the Abeken plunges back down into The Black. It dives past the crystal palaces of hyper-rich demiXoids, through the dim mercantile depths of tepid commerce, back down to the lightless underworld. And ends up at a habitat called Valmorea.
Masud Namdar: "We should find the beings that scavenged the remains of a Centipede megaXoid, and persuade them to tell us where exactly they found it. The wreckage of a megaXoid is one of the signs of Death's Head. The sudden exodus of all megaXoids the other."
Trip takes about 20 hours. That gives Hunsan 5 questions he can run through Jo.
Ok, questions for Jo:
- Will 'The Dude' have someone waiting for me on Valmorea?
- What backup plan does Masud Namdar have in case I turn on him?
- Did the Anurian Leapers win the last superbowl?
- If I beam into the MegaXoid, will I ever get out?
- How will I be able to convince the MegaXoid to not eat me?
Also, I ask her if she marked all of the little Ascaph nodes I brought with me.
"Only if The Dude has someone he wants to dispose of. "
"shocksniper plus batori"
"Trick question: The Leapers are permanently banned from participating in the superbowl after the excessive tongue roughness incident. "
"Won't be a problem. "
"Don't threaten it. "
Jo did not think to mark all the tiny remotes of Ascaph.
2014.07.24 - Hold... and Release
- hive bar
- scares locals
- pompous wasp
- 6 assailants - disarmed / flee
- cops show up - funny
- summoned by Roekito
- offhandedly slaughters everything in his way (or looks at him wrong)
- 9 seasoned Rogue Xoids - they die
- return to Abeken with coordinates of Death's Head attack
- hive bar
- site of the Death's Head strike
- did a sweep, to see what was nearby - eerily empty
- Masud Namdar suddenly feels an urgent desire for the Abeken to leave the viscinity...
- Death's Head strikes
- stabs into the bridge, specifically killing Bahrami
- Death's Head senses Hunsan, and snatches him out for a brief review
- Hunsan re-inserted into the Abeken's bridge, with instructions to prove himself by killing everyone
Plot Infliction 024 - Death's Head
What I don't get is why Masud Namdar's scary mentalist friend got him to delivery me to Death's Head. Seems like it could reduce Namdar's life expectancy drastically no matter how this plays out.
Says something about Masud Namdar's relationship with the scary mentalist, doesn't it. Though, one might consider that sending an unaligned sociopathic killer as contractual completion of 'access to derived batori technology' as also being a hint.
The Swarm Communicator connection with Death's head had the same mind-blowing intensity of the encounter with the Millipede-class megaXoid, but it's exponentially clearer. It has no murmuring masses merely being facilitated by a central amplification node. Just a single, crystal-clear insight into another sentient being. And with staggering bandwidth. So, on one side, there's all the insights about Death's Head that Hunsan might have, if he just thinks about it.
Meanwhile, circumstantially, there's the fact that Hunsan is standing on the bridge of the Abeken with instructions to kill everyone. Which might cause Hunsan to consider various immediate details regarding that.
Well, the first thing I should try to glean from Death's Head is how serious it is about letting me live and/or join him. Or is he just toying with me for fun?
As for the bridge crew, I attempt to appear completely stunned and confused. But I cast about my limited senses to see if I get a glimpse of where Reokito is. Also, I look at the Batori. Has it moved at all since Death Head's attack?
While Hunsan gets a sense that Death's Head probably is enjoying seeing what you'll do next, he's legitimately interested in having a partner. Hunsan is the first being he has been able to meaningfully communicate with since his rogue-ification (which has been a while). Plus Hunsan represents a significant increase in capabilities for Death's Head, both in terms of range combat and for penetrating into megaXoids too large to assassinate simply.
Masud Namdar takes one look at Hunsan and says, "Oh, fuck." The batori becomes a blur. Roekito is nowhere to be seen, as usual.
Ha! Well, I guess me and Mr. Batori are going to have words. :)
Can I tell just how scary Death's Head is?
But... batori don't talk.
Death's Head is 3rd-stage Assassin, 4th-stage scout, with exotic shields that allow it to be perfectly black and manipulate the shields of other entities on contact. And with extra-long ship-scale proboscis-jaws for deploying/retrieving "assets". Plus it has a non-trivial chance of afflicting all Swarm entities with rogue-ification.
2014.07.31 - Efflorescence
The battle was epic, but brief. The batori was fearsome, but it was the sudden application of gravity and Roekito's assassination that really made it interesting. But, eventually, Hunsan killed everyone. Some remainders of the crew threw themselves at Hunsan to keep him busy while the rest fled the stricken Strike Class cruiser.
After claiming Masud Namdar's own 600 NST, Hunsan went with Death's Head to begin an unstoppable parade of murder and mayhem.
A farewell conversation via Jo to Dame Virginia told her of the location of the Abeken, so that she could claim it and use it to continue the fight against the Xoid Swarm.