War Pig game

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Setting: strongly AIF-like

Referee: RooK

Player(s): Dave - playing Hirigoyen, a grimly purposeful combatant without a particular purpose

Dramatis Personae

Hirigoyen "War Pig"A half-tonne Hylosus range combatant sporting a large flare rifle.
Ghandi VegaTiny 20 kg array of tentacles called a Lawrencian, 2nd-stage medic, and escaped Harperian pet-slave.
KlamathPart of a delicious species called Brentian, but this one happens to run a contract-enforcement business - and occasionally hires Hirigoyen.
BattiTuskat Trop scout / bounty hunter who works for Klamath.
TORTUGASentient shuttle with a cloaking device who works for Klamath.
Mek PawlLawrencian seasoned technician who masterminded a mass escape of Lawrencians from the Harperians.
ParameshashEquidon shockshooter with DMD-gun.
LawrenciansSmall, trusting squiddy beings with self-reliance issues.
HarperiansLarge assholes surrounded by long tentacles, shells, and Dunning-Kruger effect.
XerathiansAssholes with more money than brains.


Brent is one of those rare jewels of a planet that not only was the cradle for sentient life, but whose dominant species managed to make it to starfaring without annihilating themselves. However, shortly after encountering other species, the Brentians found it necessary to maintain significant security protocols and limit external access to their populations. As, unfortunately, most every other species appears to find Brentians especially delicious.

Orbiting Brent is a tumbling rock called Relic. It is currently embued with an artificial gravity and atmosphere to make it more convenient for trading vessels to use it. Fully one-third of the surface is heavily defended as a Brentian settlement, and used as a safe location away from Brent with which to do major trade with the rest of space. The rest of the surface is left as a (mostly) free-for-all hub of trading. And stuff.

A remnant of Relic's ancient culinary past, Pagliacci's is a restaurant dedicated to providing excellent food and not pissing off any of the scary people who frequently go there.

Pinnacle Bar
A remnant of Relic's ancient buccaneering past, and present, the Pinnacle bar is a heavily-defended palace of delights and horrors.

Brent's celestial neighbour, Korol's local populations decided that they could not play well with each other. The majority of a species called the Ihori (mostly religious extremists) have been fighting for years against a smaller group of religious extremists aligned with a secretive group known as "the Shadows". Fleet combat in orbit decayed to intercontinental strikes, then to major ground offensives, and has descended into pitched flurries of personnel combat. It mostly just sucks on the planet, though it is quite pretty when you ignore all the horror.

Traian refugee camp
A few square kilometers on Relic are staked out as the last remnant of a species called Traians. Large, asymmetrical and somewhat combat-oriented, their fortunes have not gone well. Dumped on Relic many months ago by the well-meaning freighter that smuggled them away from the rest of their planet's extinction, they were deemed too unreliable to foist on any other convenient planet. Though things are now looking up after having been recently helped to have the ability to connect to data networks.

Mean People Cantina
Mostly just a pit dug under a slab of massive armour, it serves as a trough for God's chosen people: total assholes.


Hirigoyen has no past, finding himself spawned mostly-fully-formed in a bar on Relic. Not being a complicated being, he set about becoming the biggest badass he could, and is well on his way. In the midst of that, he saved a little Lawrencian medic named Vega who has become his personal medic. Which, in turn, has earned him the ire of the Harperians that Vega escaped from. That ire was then fumbled into a full-fledged vendetta. Meanwhile, Hirigoyen has taken to working occasionally for a quasi-legal goon contractor named Klamath, which has proved to be a source of much entertainment.

Mid-Action Musing 1

"So, Vega. Were you by any chance bragging to those guys about your awesome steed?"

Vega: "What? No. That would be stupid. Of course not. Nope. OK, fine - maybe I was making some 'yippee yahoo' motions with my tentacles. But absolutely not bragging."

2015.12.03 - Back On Relic

Returning from a Seek-And-Extort mission on the war-torn planet of Korol, Hirigoyen asked to be dropped off somewhere where there's something good to eat. Perhaps it was coincidental that he had just turned down an offer to join Batti at his favourite restaurant, but the Tortuga decided it would be amusing to drop Hirigoyen off in the middle of refugee camp.

The refugees in question were a species called Traian, and they did have relatively delicious food available. However, they were also keen to gain experience by picking hand-to-hand fights. Hirigoyen decided to avoid simply blowing away the first being to propose a duel, and instead traded hand-to-hand blows. This allowed Hirigoyen and Vega to avoid the awkwardness of having to fend off hundreds of extremely protective and communal combatants. And, by virtue of being built like a brick shithouse, Hirigoyen prevailed in the slug-fest. Then, an off-handed act of courtesy - rendering minor medical aid - lead to Vega and Hirigoyen becoming considered heroes of the Traian nation.

Weirder things have happened.

Wandering away from the Traian refugee camp, Hirigoyen then ventured into the nearest drinking establishment. It was an underground bunker-like cavern labelled simply as "MPC", and it became quickly obvious that everybody within it was unpleasant. Not only did the bartender inflict a stream of insults at them, he also tried to serve a bowl of urine with a small sentient being half-drowned in it. There was also a group wearing matching uniforms that appeared to be mocking Hirigoyen.

So he killed them. The huge flare rifle would throw them against the wall, and then they would suffer massive bonus force damage from the gun. Except for the big insectizoid hand-to-hand combatant that ran up - he was blasted down against the floor then splattered liberally across many patrons shins.

This performance earned a replacement beverage of considerably higher quality, and the appreciative interest of one of the seasoned combatants in the MPC. An equidon, it sidled up and compared flare rifles. His name was Parameshash, a shock-shooter with a gun called DanceMonkeyDance, and he inquired about the possibility of hiring Hirigoyen.

Hirigoyen checked with Klamath, who seemed to not be too worried - just so long as he wasn't contracting with something called the Red Coven, whatever that is.

Conspiring was interrupted by the arrival of many more individuals in uniform. They were quickly scared off, only to be immediately backed up by a 5-tonne battle suit. Parameshash fled. Hirigoyen danced with it - eroding its shield with successive hits from the big flare rifle, while it demolished the interior of the cantina with intermediate-scale blaster fire. Unable to land a single meaningful hit on the Combat Hylosus, and its shields about to fail, the battle suit retreated from the Mean People Cantina.

Boring Story Bit 001 - Gophers Have No Feelings

Vega: "We should get bigger shields."

Bartender: "NICE! This place really needed a fresh coat of cauterized blood and some festive new smouldering craters."

I'm probably going to sneak to another exit and try to view what's happening outside with the battle suit.

It can be clearly seen bounding away (x10 style) between parked freighters. Just over the horizon can be seen a scout class cruiser with similar coloring.

Huh. Ok then, I head back to my seat and enjoy my drink. Since this is a Mean People Cantina with all sorts of vileness occurring, I ask Vega if he'd like to make me some armour out of the recently killed guys.

Vega contemplates. "Sure! If you want. Should we move to someplace less dangerous for making you immobilized for the surgeries? Where on you would you like the armour implanted?"

A fight breaks out between two Colloidlings over a particularly large partially charred Groten. It's an extra-slappy kind of sumo match with a vigorousness not common for the species. Then they seem to tire and focus more on grappling with each other with bizarre knotted holds. The bartender looks disgusted. "Go get a room! We don't need to watch your necro-sadism fetish."

A message comes in from Klamath: "Wheeeellp, looks like you pissed somebody off pretty good. Hope it was a paying gig. Let me know if there's anything I can do." Attached is a few variants of a data-bounty for Hirigoyen - a credit per second of live telemetry. Appended to that are a few data-mined sensor logs of the suspected source of the bounty: a suspiciously spiky vessel.

Vega: "Hey! I just figured out a way to earn thousands of credits per hour!!!"

2015.12.12 - Got Stabbed A Lot

Hirigoyen climbed out of one of the entrance burrows of the MPC, and could see an incoming tide of problems. A few hundred meters away there were glimpses of two commando teams moving fast through the good cover of the local sprawl, converging on the MPC. Behind them, just over the oddly-close horizon, the scout class cruiser was lifting off ominously. Meanwhile, from a completely different direction, a vessel (decorated with spikes in a manner exactly meant to be displeasing) hove over the horizon on another inbound trajectory.

Realizing that his shopping trip and spa retreat would have wait, Hirigoyen hoofed it toward the nearest ship-scale structure: an ancient dockyard. Wanting to thin his pursuers somewhat, he paused to ambush a few before disappearing into the heavy organic lattice of the dockyard structure. But before the commando teams appeared, to be treated to the tender ministrations of the huge fucking flare rifle, the spiky ship swooped in from stage left and an imposing Harperian leapt to the surface brandishing a pair of huge force blades. Naturally, being an equal-opportunity badass, Hirigoyen pivoted to regard the new target and unleashed the fury of the HFFR.

The Harperian range-parried them.

"Well shit."
Note, this is a translation of Dave actually admonishing that he thought range-parry was a discarded ability from the rules. To which God laughed heartily.

Hirigoyen disappeared into the tangles of the dockyard, pursued by the mentalist Harperian and the two commando teams. Perhaps his stealth could help him evade his foes.


Well, he probably would have been able to terrorize the commando teams, hit-and-fading them to death gradually. But the mentalist Harperian, though suffering difficulty spotting Hirigoyen outright, was still able to generally zero in on his location. And once the HFFR was in play, it was a beacon to the two converging commando teams.

What followed was a titanic slug-fest. Hirigoyen used the massive force output of the HFFR to regularly add distance between him and the terrifying Harperian. Protected by an intermediate scale shell and an intermediate scale shield, the Harperian would wade in despite the HFFR and deliver savage slashing and stabbing attacks. When the commando teams arrived, they served to be a dangerous annoyance by adding occasional hits to further overwhelm Vega's ability to heal the damage.

The final phase of the battle saw the remains of the commando teams hanging back. While it appeared that Hirigoyen was on his last legs, he had been particularly brutal about killing many of them. So they were content to let the monster Harperian wade in to finish off the War Pig. Instead, they saw the Harperian get blasted out into the open, then his shield and armoured shell failed in subsequent blasts, and finally he was dispatched with several further volleys of the HFFR.

After the finalé, but before Hirigoyen mopped up, he was hailed by the facility administrator offering a job - and access to the system sensors and communication.

Some of the remaining commandos fled more effectively than the others. Two actually got away, because they left early. Two were brought down immediately, because they were caught in the open mid-flee. Two others were chased to the edge of the facility and forced to surrender before they could escape. The scout class cruiser chose that moment to interpose itself. Hirigoyen decided that invalidated their surrender, so he executed them and went back into the dockyard.

Boring Story Bit 002 - So Go Ahead And Kick Them In The Head

I take my captive and find a place to hide. I get Vega to tamper him paralyzed, and make it so that his voice is muted. I want him to be able to subvocalize to communicate with me, but not scream. I double-check to make sure that jamming is still going on, and if so I get Vega to patch him conscious.

Finding a place to hide becomes a philosophical uncertainty. A facility AI seems to guess Hirgoyen's intent and flags up some tactically-expedient corners of the structure nearby with good cover and lines of fire. It also maintains local jamming for 10m radius around all the not-totally-dead commandos. Meanwhile, Hirigoyen has access to external comms and sensors, both of which suggest that the scout class cruiser is somewhat pissed.

A transcript of the ship's conversation with the facility administrator (so far) is available.

Xerathian cruiser Owain: "You have a fugitive in your facility. Lower your shields, cease jamming, and we will deal with it for you."

Sokamye Dockyard administrator Gyrell: "Your personnel have already violated our private property, but have been dealt with to our satisfaction. Leave now before we feel like you need to be compelled."

Owain: "We have sensor data proving that the fugitive murdered our crew. We demand access to justice."

Gyrell: "We have more complete sensor data demonstrating that it was clearly self-defense. And very messy. Unless you are volunteering to clean up the stains that are the remains of your crew, I would not advise you remaining anywhere near."

Owain: "Don't make us burn down your pathetic little dock-hole."

Gyrell: "Look - you're in a very nice, shiny scout class cruiser. I'm sure you could - eventually - batter down our shields. Which would be highly inconvenient to all our heavy fighter and corrival customers. Who, as a group, are not known for their patience or their temperance. So, the longer you make us delay them by keeping our shields up, the more likely you are to be a prize hull being rebuilt in our main bay - with whatever survivors there are having a chance to make your 'justice' case face-to-face with the so-called 'fugitive'. Go away."

The captive is paralyzed, muted, and terrified.

I smile evilly at the captive.

"Welcome to your interrogation." I show him the disruptor. "This is a disruptor, I'm sure you know what it does. If you would like a demonstration, just start lying to me. First, you will transfer all of your credits to me. And again, if you're withholding, I'll know. Second, you're going to tell me everything you know about that scout class cruiser up there. Is it sentient? How many crew are left aboard?"

"If I'm happy with the information you provide me, I'll let you go. If you disappoint me, I'll also let you go, but only after driving you insane with the disrupter, and ripping off your arms. Clear?"

The captive licks its scaled lips and appears to take your threats extremely seriously.

It nods and transfers over 162 credits. "Our scout class cruiser is called the Owain, it's relatively new. Pretty fast, I think, but not very heavily armed - mostly. I think we've got a large supply of missiles to fill in any firepower holes. Uh, crew. Seven, I think. Of regulars, I mean. Ship is sentient, but it has both a captain and a pilot. About forty of us on board as reg-force troops. Plus a few battle suits and a couple short range fighters with jockeys for each. Uh, and a cat-bat thing that the captain likes to keep on the bridge, says its for security.

It gulps, seemingly out of things to reveal.

"Excellent. I'm definitely going to let you keep one of your arms. Now, send me a visual of the cat-bat thing, cause that sounds cool. Why is the Owain at Relic? And how do you guys have so much money that you can blow it on keeping track of little ol' me?"

I pass a message to the facility AI - "The guy I'm questioning says that the cruiser has a large supply of missiles."

A half-beat after Hirigoyen says "one of your arms", the Xerathian gets the implication and quails.

"I don't get up to the bridge very often, so have only caught glimpses of the cat-bat thing." It sends some stills of something around 200 kg wrapped unhappily in some leathery-looking wings sulking in a corner. "We're here as a layover from our usual patrols of the slave runs." It pauses before answering the last question. "Uh, we have some good business people on our planet?"

Facility AI: "Well, that would have been unpleasant. Fortunately, they seem to have decided to stand down." It flags external sensor feeds showing the light cruiser sidling away with as much hauteur as it can muster. "Which leaves the question of what should done about the Harperian's ship. Several of our tenants are bickering about who gets to claim it. Do you have interest in inspecting it first?"

Captive: "Slavers. Distasteful. Ah well." I get Vega to un-paralyze him and let him go. "If we ever meet again, I'll probably kill you."

AI: "Yes, I do. I'll head over. On the way, how about you tell me about the job offer?"

I start heading towards the Harperian ship. I also check that surveillance bounty to see if it's still active.

The Xerathian hurriedly gathers up its newly-farmed Stress Points and flees.

Facility AI: "Please stand by while I patch you through to Administrator Gyrell."

Sokamye Dockyard Administrator Gyrell: "A-yeah. Big scary guy. You got a name? More importantly, you got an outfit you're working for? See, our last rent-a-goon got himself eaten trying to help round up somebody's pet - or so we're told. Sooooo, we got a need for an impressive no-fuck-you sort of ass-kicker without any complicated other affiliations to help us out occasionally. Right? 50 credits minimum per summoning, plus hazard pay depending on what's going on. We got some good comms, and access to the Old Pirate's teleportation network enhancers to pop you on site from pretty much anywhere on this hemisphere between the Secure Zone and Pinnacle. So, no need to linger on site, see? Plus we've got good cover in case you need to hole up somewhere, and you can have full access to anything not being leased or part of the command core. It's a good deal. We'll make it worth your while. I'll tell the AI that you're on the A-list Special Security roster. Let it know your particulars and so forth. Good talking with you, and welcome to the team. Gotta talk a client out of threatening to make his ship detonate its core, so I'll chat more later." Communication ends.

The Harperian ship is just hovering there, the drag from its lower spines digging into a sand dune having slowed it to a stop in the middle of the sheltered perimeter under the colossal eaves of the dockyard. Several local entities are eyeing it from cover, but it appears to remain unexplored.

The data bounty appears to still be active - technically. Almost all the data sources terminated at the timestamp when Hirigoyen entered the dockyard. There is one remaining data feed that had paused contact for a while, then resumed burst streaming. The burst streaming appears to have hijacked the data bounty feed and converted it into pay-per-view highlight reel. It features a tease sequence of the big Harperian being lifted by a giant blast and slammed into a bulkhead from a compelling first-person-shooter POV. It appears to be very popular, considering the bandwidth its eating up.

2015.12.18 - Merry Fredmas

After clarifying the ambiguous aspects of the contract terms with the Sokamye Dockyard AI, Hirigoyen went out to look at the Harperian's ship. After some quick thinking, he checked in with someone he know that might know about Harperian ships - Mek Pawl - who warned Hirigoyen that the ship almost certainly was sentient, and therefore problematic to claim. So he decided to pass on it.

Instead, Hirigoyen went out to the MPC for a drink. During the short trot back, he noticed that he was garnering noticeably more attention and deference. People were taking good looks/scans at him, and commenting "That's him!" or other such exclamations. Once ensconced in the Cantina properly, he was lavished with even more attention. Several fans gathered around, and they whiled away a couple hours discussing combat tactics as Vega performed some good heals.

The reverie was shattered by a craven assassination of Vega, who hung limply from Hirigoyen's shoulder with an impressive plasma-burned hole through him. Roused to wrath, Hirigoyen engaged with the five-person assault team. Three of them were clearly slaves, conscripted to attempt to deprive the War Pig of his medic and his gun. The other two were heavy damage dealers, for when the War Pig couldn't fight back. But they had misjudged how well Hirigoyen could duck, and their sniper didn't manage to knock Vega off or to disable the flare rifle. This meant that things did not fare well for the slaves, who were not allowed to disengage. The two non-slaves retreated out of the Cantina, and fled under the cover of a couple battle suits back to a Xerathian shuttle.

Hirigoyen duck back into the MPC. The bartender asked if the battle suits were going to come back in. "Good thing I got some good shields!" Which turned out to only protect the bartender, as is appropriate for the venue.

After the Xerathian forces left, Hirigoyen decided that it would be interesting to visit the Pinnacle Bar. His short hike across Relic was opportunity for even more of his fans to say hello. Ducking into the lower level of Pinnacle, looking for trouble, Hirigoyen found some.

Trouble was a seasoned Massetin Striker. The two fought a vicious sparring match which cleared out all the locals. They battled to a technical standstill - both one good hit away from being taken down. But Hirigoyen had the advantage of Vega's patchification, and the Massetin had to rely on just self-deploying patches. They called a draw. Though the Massetin admonished Hirigoyen to stay put while he went to get a small medic of his own.

From there, Hirigoyen ascended to the top level of Pinnacle. The Host welcomed him warmly, and treated him to his first properly-brewed Volcanic™.

Boring Story Bit 003 - I'll get you my pretties!

You get sent a video file from the Sokamye AI. It shows a team of technicians and security approach the Harperian ship. They walk right up to the ship without any problems. One technician and one security carefully enter the ship. Something happens inside, bits of the people are spat out, and then the ship lurches about impaling people with the external spines. It gives a disdainful spin, flinging the corpses away, and then zooms away.

Ha! I forward the video to Mek Pawl.

On the various video feeds of my exploits, I post messages that I'd be interested in keeping an eye out for that scout class cruiser and/or it's crew. Let's see if my fan base posts anything accurate.

I also do some poking around for information on the Red Coven, whoever they are.

The posted question to the ad hoc discussion forum generates more heat than light. However, it soon prompts direct messages from Klamath and the Sokamye AI. The former gives terse tactical briefs about personnel sightings and movements, while the latter grants access to the dockyard sensor arrays which are tracking the cruiser continuously.

There is very little hard information about the Red Coven. Apparently a fearsome alien operation often hired by rich corporations to do some extremely dirty work.

Mek Pawl: "Yep. Very Harperian. By the way, has your gun melted yet? I saw on the feeds that its heatsinks were perforated."

Awesome. I use the tactical briefs to try and get a feel for their habits and activities here, and keep an eye on the sensors in case they dock anywhere or drop off personnel.

Mek Pawl: "Um, no not yet. Are you at Pinnacle?"

The Xerathians had been carousing at locations proximal to where their ships were conducting business. But more recently they have shifted to mostly staying close to their ships, with all forays including some sort of heavy escort.

Mek Pawl: "Yeah, I'm working a couple contracts at Pinnacle. Are you sure you want to pay for a 5th-stage tech to patch your gun?"

Good point, I'll just get a toolkit and fix it myself. I'll spend a couple hours at Pinnacle, soaking up the atmosphere, and then head out. I'll stop by an equipment store and get a tool kit and hang out at some random bar and fix the gun.

Hirigoyen is aware enough to notice that many of his fellow Top Level patrons receive deliveries of various items, handed off to bar staff at the entrance dias for final conveyance to people. Should he be feeling lazy, that is. Or wary of stepping out onto Relic with a potentially compromised gun.

The gun requires 12 points of repair. So either a few hours of fixing, or a handful of patches.

Vega is mesmerized by the crucible of Volcanic™ he's ordered. Wondering if it would kill him, and if the taste might be worth the risk.

I hail Mek Pawl again: "How much would it cost to make me an intermediate scale shield - say 5 points?"

I get the staff to order me a tool kit and 5 robot patches. I'll keep the patches in reserve, and use the tool kit to fix the gun. Since Hirigoyen's never fixed anything before, this will be an experiment in how much he enjoys it - see if it's therapeutic enough to lose a stress point. :)

I start chanting in a low voice so that only Vega can hear: "Chug! Chug! Chug!..."

Mek Pawl: "What kind of duck buffer would you be hoping for?"

The delivery of "stuff" has cost associated with it. 1 credit for drone delivery - no guarantee of arrival. 5 credits for a standard courier.

Vega: "The conundrum is that I don't have the required 20 ±5 stamina, though I think I can tamper my roboeome to fake it well enough. I think..." His lidless eyes water a bit as they are transfixed by the angry red fog burbling out of the crucible. "...a real Volcanic™..."

Mek Pawl: "Well, that depends a lot on the cost. How much for a 5 duck buffer?"

I spring for the 5 credit courier.

Vega: "Pity, that would have been fun to watch."

Mek Pawl: "Duck buffer of 5, I could probably wrangle that for 605 per point. Duck buffer 7 would be 857 per point. So, 3025 or 4285 for a 5-point intermediate scale combat shield, with duck buffers of 5 or 7 respectively. Gets pricey quick to fit on personnel. It'd cost a lot less to integrate into a ship. But, whatever - you probably aren't too concerned about the technical peculiarities."

A pleasantly short time later, an out-of-breath reptiloid with a mohawk arrives at pinnacle with your purchase. It gets transferred to a considerably more elegant hostess, who brings puts it in Hirigoyan's blunt hands.

Vega: "Fuck it." He lurches over to the crucible and lowers his beak into it for a careful sip. "Ooooh!" Then he shudders and keels over, his tentacles writhing with frantic flailing motions as if each is now controlled independent of a sentient mind or any sense of dignity. One tentacle happens to accidentally pluck a patch from his bulging med pack, and then crams it down his mouth. The thrashing of the tentacles eases slightly, and he's able to weakly pull himself away from where he's fallen. It reveals a burn mark where the drink had etched the surface of the table, after eating its way out of him.

"Yeah, OK. That killed me." He takes a few laboured breaths. "I need to earn more experience."

Mek Pawl: "Ok, thanks. I'll start saving my credits."

Vega: "Are you thinking combat experience, or another non-combat stage? I think you would do well to earn a stage of defender somehow. Or scout. We could contrive some situations where you gain some battle experience."

Vega squints teary eyes at Hirigoyen. "Fuck, dude. I don't like that dying stuff. It's very unpleasant. So... how would we go about training me as a Scout?"

Hirigoyen picks at the plasma-poked heatsinks in the HFFR, and promptly shorts their emergency mode accumulators causing them to fry the primary graviton pumps and create a giant sooty cloud of smoke. It is not popular.

Via their shared battlewiki, Hirigoyen notices that Vega gets pinged by another table. "Perhaps your steed wouldn't mind smoking outside?"

"I'm not suggesting shit while he's still got the blast rifle and is in a bad mood. You suggest it to him if it matters that much to you."


Right. I slap a couple robot patches on it.

"Well, we could play hide and seek. We go out in the street, you try to sneak away, and if I spot you, I shoot you? Don't worry, it will be with my smallest weapon. And I won't use any dice. Or, you could go alone into a green bar and cause some trouble. I'll wait outside in case you need help."

The robotic patches work their high-technology wonders and the HFFR is returned to operability. It's not pretty, or optimized, but that is of minimal concern. However, there might be some stress points to ease by working on the weapon to return it to nominal configuration with good fixes.

Vega: "Actually, I'm thinking of taking s short sabbatical in the Secure Section. You know, to actually relax and experience civilization for a bit. Maybe take a self-defense course or scout training, maybe volunteer at a medical center for a bit. Just for a breather, yeah?"

"Getting assassinated got to you, didn't it? Are you not worried that the Harperians would find a way to get to you there? Sure, it says it's secure, but I got in to cause trouble and kill people. They could too."

"I can understand a near death experience would make you want to 'take a breather', but I fear that once you are feeling secure you'll never want to leave. You'll let your guard down, and when you least expect it the Harperians would be there to make you a pet again. While I obviously have selfish reasons for keeping you around, I do honestly think you'd be better off with me and earning combat experience."

Vega's tentacles coil and uncoil uncomfortably. "I know I'm not very smart, but I'm also not stupid. My whole reason for escaping the Harperians was to do what I wanted and not be... um, a servant to anyone. Sure, hooking up with you was great for helping me stay away from the Harperians, and I consider you a friend. But this isn't exactly a partner-thingie either. You work around sharing any profits whenever you can, and I don't get a wage or anything. And I'm not even consulted about what we do."

He scuttles a little ways away on the table, clearly feeling bad. "And trying to freak me out about the big bad Harperians getting me is shitty. It's pretty clear that the Harperians have waaaaay more interest in getting at you than they ever had with making an example out of me. Not to mention Xerathians. Shit, dude, hanging out with you is basically deciding to being in life-or-death situations all the time."

"So, yeah, being assassinated freaked me out. It really made me think about how I'm riding along into situations waaaaay out of my league." He gestures at the half-full crucible of Volcanic™. "Shit, I can't even drink the cool drinks in the bars we hang out in." He scuttles back and puts a tentacle on Hirogen's arm. "So, I want to go have some Green guy adventures where it's not so insane. And hopefully work up to being worthy of hanging out with you sometimes. And if you ever are in need of a medic you can trust, just let me know."

He fluidly walks down the leg of the table to the floor, and the battlewiki indicates he's planning on walking out of Pinnacle and catching a cab.

"Wait up. You don't want to be walking out there alone. I'll escort you to the secure zone." I drink the rest of his volcanic and follow him out. Plan is to escort him to the secure zone, let him go, and find a random bar to brood in. If/when I get there, I'll try again on good fixes to the flare rifle.

Outside, the hopper taxi he hired is waiting, and it whisks you both to an entry hanger at the Secure Zone. He gives an abashed fist-bump (well, curled tentacle and ham hock bump) and floppily scampers through security without incident.

There is actually a not-at-all-random bar immediately adjacent to the entry hanger, with all sorts of people waiting impatiently. The thick traffic of small vessels coming and going means that it probably has a fairly high turnover.

Connected to that, Hirigoyen gets a steady stream of pings from hoppers asking if he needs a ride somewhere.

The patchwork information net also declares the presence of many random-class bars in the vicinity, across the security apron and somewhat concealed by the masses of structures huddling close to the Secure Zone.

I'll go into the bar adjacent to the entry hanger. I'll find a seat near the back and start working on my gun. I also see if somewhere on the network, there's a registry for ships leaving that are willing to take on passengers. While I'm at it, I try to familiarize myself with the area of space I'm in - any large population centers within say 50 parsecs? Larger than Brent/Relic. Any interesting political landscape stuff people are talking about. Any wars going on? Any contact/travel with other galaxies?

This is a Craigslist-like posting board for connecting ships and cargo and crew and passengers. There's a lot of options - basically anything you can imagine can be found. Relic is a busy place. However, the vast majority of the nice vessels operate from inside the Secure Zone.

There are only about 5 major populated worlds other than Brent in the local region of space, and all of them except for Korol is protectively controlled by some authoritarian entity or other. Instead there are thousands of habitats smeared across all the local systems, in a complicated dance for resources between competing interests - both governments and companies. Skirmishes are common.

There is virtually no information about contact or travel with other galaxies. Nor even any mention of foldspaces.

Just for fun, the next time a server comes by, I ask them if they know what a fold space is.

During my time so far, have I seen many robots?

I start investigating the Harperians some more - looking for their facilities off world. Are they one of the 5 major populated worlds? Aside from being jerks and keeping Lawrencians as pets, I don't know much about them. I'm looking for something where they wouldn't expect a lone nut with a gun to cause trouble. If there's something to steal, even better.

Server: "Foldspace? Yeah, I know what a foldspace is. It's a kind of hole through spacetime that connects two different points simultaneously. Good for travelling really really far. A physicist could explain it better..." They look at you, concerned. "Did that make sense? Should I use smaller words?"

Robots account for about 5% of the population - out and about on Relic, at least. Very rarely do they seem to be completely independent.

The Harperians are a minor species from one of the 5 major populated worlds. Not the dominant inhabitants, mind you, as their home world is now fully-controlled by a large interstellar corporation. The Harperians you've encountered - or indeed anybody seems to have much notice of - are the ones that resisted the takeover of the planet despite being a minority. They fled and assumed dominion over a star-less cloud of planetoids for almost a century. They've recently emerged, seemingly resentful of galactic society in general. Outside of their home turf (where virtually nobody else ventures), they have no established holdings though they do conduct trade.

Something brushes against Hirigoyen's mind. Not trying to read it, or make you do anything. But rather disconcertingly like somebody brushing their hand across some bristles feeling for where the long ones are.

Ug, mentalists. I mentally think 'Screw off' to the feeling.

What about the Xerathians. Facilities? One of the 5?

repair... repair... repair...

By the time that Hirigoyen recognizes the feeling it's already gone. Still, it's the principle of the thing.

Xerathians are another species originally from one of the 5 local populated planets (named Xerath, fittingly enough). Like the Harperians, they are no longer the masters of their home planet. Unlike the Harperians, they happily sold their planet to a company. Or, at least the powerful oligarchs who were in control were happy. The planetary population they sold into indentured servitude as a factory planet are probably somewhat less happy. The Xerathians oligarchs now reside at some luxurious habitats in an asteroid belt, and share their expertise in screwing over others as their primary industry. (AKA Slavers)

A couple hours of careful fixing allows the correct reconstruction of the HFFR's graviton pumps, which does a lot to return the symmetry and balance to the beastly gun. And allows Hirigoyen to shed a stress point.

I check out places where the Xerathians sell the slaves. Are there auctions? Or is it all done online?

Most of the Xerathian "product" is custom-tailored for individual clients. But they do divest themselves of "unpopular stock" at various auctions. Some auctions are regular, usually hosted by one or another of the totalitariant planetary regimes. They have a higher overhead (totalitarian regimes aren't known for their benevolence), so many lesser auctions happen secretly in ungoverned space. The secrecy is due to the widespread unpopularity of slavers, and they have no illusions about how many people would be happy to crash their party purely on principle.

A message from Klamath comes in. "Hello Hirigoyen. We seem to have a Daemon visiting Relic. I should like to suggest that you refrain from being too... interesting."

"Thanks for the warning. I'll do my best, but knowing the universe, it's likely I'll run into him eventually."

The next thing I look for on the nets are bounties. If nothing obvious, I search for mathematicians to hire.

Klamath: "Well, that's certainly fatalistic. You must think that the universe is fundamentally malicious. Seriously, though, these things are pretty much always nearly legendary. In addition to being intermediate scale and having massive mentally based abilities. They don't usually mingle in places as vulgar as Relic, so something is up."

Keeping in mind that the nets on Relic are so patchwork that they make Web 1.0 seem cohesive, it is not surprising that all Hirigoyen can really find directly are local grudge bounties. And they're... less than satisfying, both in terms of remuneration and potential experience. There is some vague mention of some "interstellar bounties", but nothing usefully specific. In fact, pretty much all the information you can get from the public information nets on Relic are of a data quality on par with "a guy the pub said".

Which is possibly why there is such a flourishing array of Mathematicians for hire.

2015.12.30 - Space, the violent frontier

Pew, Pew, Pew!

Wracked with guilt and personal recriminations for forcing away his only friend-like entity in the universe, Hirigoyen subjected himself to long bouts of depressing reflection. The War Pig's tiny little heart struggled to keep up the burden of pumping in the face of such overwhelming emotion. Poor noble little Ghandi Vega! And in his grief he could not even bring himself to reach out to ask for him to return, because the raw power of the sense of his personal failure forbade him from insulting Vega further by subjecting him to Hirigoyen's wretched state.

So crushed by his newfound loneliness, he sought some mechanical proxy to comfort himself. But it was not the same.

By happenstance, his occasional employer contacted him to discuss some trivial news items. Upon learning of Hirigoyen's terrible predicament, he suggested a leisurely cruise with an acquaintance to distract himself. Hirigoyen sullenly agreed, and contacted the ship's captain to inquire.

Bruuuce, captain of the modest vessel Ionympha, along with his jolly crew (Reptilianish, Lawrence, and ROIN3236), took Hirigoyen out on a pleasantly diverting voyage¹. Feeling some measure of catharsis, they now return to Relic.





¹ Intercepted a small Royal Eupholid yacht and its heavy fighter escourt, pirated some weapons and artifacts from it, and earned the ire of a nearly-legendary combatant by taking a small technological item of some import. You know, the usual pleasure cruise stuff.

Boring Story Bit 004 - So shiny...

To Bruuuce: "When we get back to Relic, I know a seasoned technician that can take a look at that bauble if you'd like. Might be able to get a better read on how much it's worth before talking to your fence."
How hard would it be for War Pig to get to the cargo area to check out the crates of assault weapons?

Bruuuce: "If it makes you feel better, we can let your seasoned technician contact inform you however you like. My fence is going to give us the deal he's going to give us. He's honourable to a painful degree, so I have no worries about him lying to us or cheating us out of the terms of our deal. He's also evil to an extent that we do not wish to provoke. My recent run of 'bad luck' you might have heard about? He made that happen, as a way of getting me back in line. This job is my opportunity to get back in his good graces."

Reptilianish appears to have a substantially similar urge as War Pig. He manipulates some internal bulkheads and gains some limited access to the main hold, and drags through one of the weapon crates. It does not fit well, so gravity is turned off to make more space to work in. The stout locks are tampered open in short order, and the tightly-packed array of Eupholid Military assault weapons are revealed.

War Pig extracts one and regards it with Seasoned perspective. 1Dx10 at the core, with a robotic chassis. No resident AI, but room for one if desired. Comms set to contact-only, to direct the robotic limbs to act as: holster, assisted deployment to designated limb(s), bracing for lower-strength users, or as separate turret (no extra dice for default, but a good AI could fix that). Integrated tactical scanners: +1 to locate, +1 to hit. The design aesthetic is No.Fucking.Around serious and plain.

Bruuuce: "Ok, if you trust him, I'm good."

I make appreciative noises at the assault weapon, then put it back. Rapid-fire isn't really War Pig's style.

No, indeed, while they are clearly effective tools for combat, they feel awfully... puny. They lack the sense of being able to used as a backup flail/bludgeon quite as solidly as War Pig might like.

Bruuuce: "It's not so much a matter of trust as fatalism."

The Ionympha races back to Relic, and shoves its way in to park in a deep crater near Pinnacle. Communications dance cryptically, and a welcoming committee meets the Ionympha. An imposing battle droid robot(!), a familiar Lawrencian, and a hunched old Trop.

Familiar Lawrencian? Is it Mek Pawl?

I size up the battle droid robot, while Bruuuce does the transaction.

It is Mek Pawl. He gives a complicated high-appendage greeting to Lawrence, and also nods at War Pig.

The battle robot is the one with which Bruuuce engages in the transaction. It carries itself with a relaxed readiness of a professional Defender.

Bruuuce: "Rufus, you're all dressed up... we got trouble?"

Battle robot apparently named Rufus: "We have a low probability of trouble for the duration of this interaction. This body was required for the appointment immediately previous, and it was simply expedient to come here without changing."

Bruuuce: "Cool. As you suggested, the job was very doable - with the right crew." He nods in your direction. Rufus makes no outward reaction. "Is this an OK location to review the take?"

Rufus nods... no, wait, his head isn't mobile. He gestures, and Mek Pawl engages a brutal dampening field which blots out the view of the sky. "Let's see what we have."

Lawrence and ROiN persuade the Ionympha to regurgitate the contents of its cramped hold.

First out are the crates of Eupholid military assault weapons. Mek Pawl starts inspecting them when the first crate comes out, and declares them extremely salable. Rufus does not seem impressed.

Then the single crate of "artifacts" gets deposited by the ship's force beams. Both Mek Pawl and the hunched Trop converge at the container and start reviewing the contents. Mek Pawl's advantage of manipulating limbs and ability to physically enter the container gives him first look at most of the items. Jewelry, scepters, masks, and random-seeming blobs all get scrutinized first by Mek Pawl then handed off contemptuously to the Trop. Then he comes across an ornate ring about 20 centimeters in diameter and brightens significantly. "Found one."

He force-beam hands it over the Trop who manifests some esoteric scientific gear and interfaces with the toroid somehow. "Confirmed: Royal credentials."

Rufus: "Excellent!" The battle robot seems to regard Bruuuce again. "Just what I was hoping for. The weapons are worth 80 kilocredits, and easy to sell. I'll give you 50%. The art...?"

The old Trop: "One point three."

Rufus: "1.3 megacredits, but very hard to sell. I'll give you 5%. I'll have to decrypt the Royal credentials we found, which makes them technically worthless right now, but... they buy you back into my favour."

Bruuuce seems immensely relieved. "We also managed to get this." He brandishes the technological thingie triumphantly. "Not sure what it is, but they suuuuuure seemed much less willing to part with it than any of the other stuff." Bruuuce tosses it to Mek Pawl.

Mek Pawl reviews it intently. Then begins to handle it reverently. "Unknown artifact. But the construction is... quite impressive." He hands it to the Trop.

The Trop regards it calmly, and consults its scientific scanner some more. Then, with trembling hands, orients it in a particular way and reeeeeeally looks at it. He makes a croaking sound.

Rufus: "What?!"

The Trop: "It's... it's a hyperspacial fulcrum."

Mek Pawl go limp. "No...!"

Rufus address Bruuuce with palpable intensity. "Did you leave any witnesses?"

Bruuuce: "What?"

Rufus: "Survivors! Did you kill everybody? Is there anybody who knows you took this?" He doesn't even wait for Bruuuce to answer, having calculated it already. "Shit. And to think your modus operandi of usually not killing people you don't have to actually made you an attractive operative for not triggering the Eupholids over some small treasure."

Bruuuce: "Uh..." He turns to the Trop. "What?"

Mek Pawl: "You seem to have taken the important bit of a 1-variable foldspace. And now we're all going to die for it."

Fun. I'm guessing a retrieval team (or armada) is already heading towards Relic.

After a suitable dramatic pause, I grumble. "Told you we should have left it." I look to Rufus: "Is simply returning it to them an option? Or will they still expend great effort at ensuring our deaths?"

Bruuuce looks pale. "I thought that..." He gesticulates confusion. "...whatever they were trying to hide would be what Rufus actually wanted. Zark. Zark zark zark. What do we do?"

Rufus answers Hirigoyen first. "It's an interesting question. It does not make cost-benefit sense for the Eupholids to transfer such an item via... a yacht with light escort. Probability >87% that this was part of some complicated internal political plot, and even I cannot extrapolate whom exactly to return..." Points with exasperation. "THAT. The yacht I sent you after, and apparently which you left intact, has since been listed as 'lost'. If the apparatus that it goes to is already complete, then our deaths mean nothing compared to the tactical and political might of a functional 1-variable fold-space generator. However, if the apparatus is not ready, then even a whisper of its existence is worth amassing an invasion armada for."

Rufus then turns to Bruuuce. "What we do is: play our parts. We sell our mostly-normal ill-gotten gain, and pretend like nothing is horrifyingly wrong. There are entities which would notice our fleeing, circumstantially, and they would be obliged to chase us. There is the possibility for finding advantage in this..."

The old Trop turtles his eye stalks with doubt. "Even zero-variable foldspaces are too militarily unbalancing to operate in this sector. It's a bad sign that the hyperspace fulcrum even exists!" He can't help but say its name complete with italics and bold.

Mek Pawl: "You're thinking that if we stay quiet, the Eupholids might be inclined to stay quiet so as to avoid bringing attention. But they'll still send covert forces for it. Scary covert forces."

"So, is this complicated at all by the fact there's a Daemon lurking about?"

I tightbeam Mek Pawl: "I don't know this Rufus guy at all, but if I were him, I'd be seriously considering reducing the number of witnesses to all of this. I'm officially in paranoid watch my back mode. Even more so than usual. You should do the same."

I prepare a data packet containing visuals of the battle, the interactions with the scary Eupholids, and this conversation. I don't send it to anyone, just have it ready to go in case I'm about to die and want to mess these guys up.

Rufus stiffens. "Yes. And also 68.3% probability that it could have anticipated this via Mentally Based Abilities. I had previously attached a correlative assumption that it was interested in the Red Coven locally. But now that also might explain their recent influx to Relic too. Zarking mentalists." As a robot, he doesn't spit, as a general rule. But his manner of speaking that last bit would have been spittle-flecked if he were biological.

The old Trop: "No. The Red Coven are here because of the artificial mentalist field noticed here at Relic."

Rufus speaks carefully. "We investigated and found no corroboration."

Old Trop: "I'm detecting it right now." He holds up his specialized scientific instrument, which displays rather a lot of technological gibberish.

Mek Pawl [tightbeam]: "I do know this Rufus guy. I expect that if he were to be ridding the scene of witnesses spontaneously, he'd have to be contracting you to do it. Which reminds me to tell you that I think you're a really great guy, and that I look forward to working with you for a long time. And I should warn you that one of the things Rufus had me make was an interferometer that can read tightbeam transmissions if the source or the target is visible and within 20 meters or so."

Ha! I briefly smile in such a way that no-one notices, unless you're also a leader.

"Right, so business as usual. Pretend nothing is horribly wrong. Wait for either a Deamon, or a very Seasoned Eupholid combatant to come looking for us. Fun times."

I wait for them to finish the business end of the transaction. By my calculations I'm owed another $4850 from Bruuuce once he gets paid.

Bruuuce echoes the leader-only smile weakly, clearly worried about the future.

Rufus focuses on the old Trop. "Can you get a direction on the source of the artificial mentalist field?"

The old Trop: "No... I don't think so. The effect is curiously flat, even across Planck frames."

Rufus seems to notice something about Mek Pawl, and turns to regard him. "What?"

Mek Pawl gestures at War Pig. "He's got something he showed me before. I didn't know what it was. Seemed like some sort of power supply."

Rufus imperiously addresses War Pig. "You have an artificial mentalist field?!"

I was wondering if he was going to bring that up. I bring out the IDB and toss it to the Trop. "Not sure exactly what it is. Something to do with how I got here I suppose." I make sure all of my body language conveys that I'm going to want it back. "Do you think that the Red Coven and/or Deamons are here because of that?"

The Trop doesn't quite catch the IDB, and scrabbles on the ground to pick it up. He inspects it more closely, but his body language conveys that he can detect nothing conclusive. He glances at Rufus. "Let me try my psionic plate, to see if it is affected." A device that would be perfectly suited for decoration on a Dr. Frankenstein set or some steampunk dungeon is revealed, and commences humming malignantly at a tone that everyone can feel behind their eyes. "I'm getting nothing."

Rufus eventually asks, "Exactly nothing, or nothing notable?"

Realization dawns on the Trop. He starts modulating the evil version of a waffle iron. "Less than nothing! It prevents the psionic plate from registering that it's even missing anything." He looks oddly satisfied for somebody rather convinced that he's going to die soon.

Rufus: "So, yes. That does fit with the rumours the Red Coven are chasing. And the presence of the Daemon is still 96.2% correlated with checking the Red Coven."

Bruuuce: "Uh... so we're not going to die?"

Rufus: "Oh, no, we're still probably doomed. Just not as immediately as we were fearing." He turns to address War Pig. His calculating manner plain to read to a leader or seasoned combatant. "How much do you want for that device?" He means the IDB.

"Sorry. Something that obviously plot-centric isn't for sale." I mentally prepare to kill everyone if they don't give it back.

Rufus: "OK, then. Clearly, the fulcrum should stay with the MBA-cloak until we figure out what to do with it. Right? No need to attract the interest either the Daemon or the Red Coven before the Eupholid agent comes to kill everybody. Also clearly: we all keep quiet about this. Neither confirm nor deny any information about the raid at all. And, nobody run for it. Like I mentioned earlier, fleeing is noticed."

Bruuuce: "We don't usually sit still for long."

Rufus: "This first stage of figuring out won't take long. You and your crew should stay here to guard the nominal take until my pick-up team arrives. Should be 20 minutes. Then we should meet back in Pinnacle, at which point I should have a better idea of what our options are."

I retrieve the IDB from the Trop. And, if they give me the fulcrum I'll take that too. Mhwaa haa haaaah ahaaaaah haaaaa wheeeeze gasp!.

"So if we're going to wait here twenty minutes, I'm going to gently caress one of those assault weapons, just in case we need it. Did Bruuuce get paid?

Rufus seems bemused by War Pig's persistent avarice. "Right, let's nominally settle things up so we can get on with behaving normally." Payment trickles down.

Mek Pawl skitters over to War Pig. Says nothing, but presses a small communicator into the palm of his hand.

Rufus, Mek Pawl, and the never-named old Trop take their leave of the landing pit. The especially-heavy dampening field fades away, and the background chatter of Relic filters back in.

Reptilianish: "I haven't been inside the Pinnacle Bar in a while. Good food."

Lawrence: "I don't think they serve food in the lower level."

Bruuuce broods. The rest of his crew soon behave similarly.

So, just to be clear, did they actually give me the fulcrum. Or does Bruuuce have it?

"Cheer up fellas. Just think. You successfully pirated one of the most valuable objects in the galaxy. That's got to be worth some bragging rights. And really, in this line of work there's always someone wanting to kill you, so nothing's much changed. And well, remember, we're acting normal. Is this how you would normally act after a successful payday?"

I connect the comm Mek gave me to my own so that I can easily answer if he calls. I won't pester him for now.

Ooops, that seems to have fallen down an edit-hole. I blame chocolate poisoning.
When Hirigoyen rolls up to the old Trop to reclaim the anti-MBA device, he also gets handed the fulcrum. DUN DUN DUNN!

Lawrence: "Right, we should be doing repairs." He rides ROiN over to start doing some work on the Ionympha.

Bruuuce eyes War Pig's hefting of an assault weapon, and does the same. Reptilianish then also hefts an assault weapon. He tries to appear relaxed; fails.

After connecting to the communicator, it undergoes a long and involved authentication process involving at least three layers of encryption. After which, it seems to connect to a single wiki. It's contents are pretty thin so far, mostly just placeholders for some pending project, plus telemetry on Mek Pawl, Rufus-010 (in Pinnacle), Rufus-011 (with Mek Pawl), a being named Goojje (with Mek Pawl), and a being designated The Rajin (in the Brentian Secure Zone).

On the wiki I add my own telemetry: War Pig (outside Pinnacle), FULCRUM (War Pig's pocket). Then I add a place holder for a pending project: War Pig Shield (5 point intermediate scale, 5 duck buffer)

And then we wait for the pickup crew. Just curious - how far away is that bar that I originally found myself deposited in, when all this started.

On the wiki, the War Pig Shield project gets annotated by Mek Pawl (Funny. In Progress.) The Rajin queries what a FULCRUM is, to which Rufus-011 tersely comments. (A DEFCON-1 item. Current status DEFCON-3.)

The bar in which you found yourself is some 50 km distant, and much closer to the Secure Zone.

The pickup crew arrive, four large beings led by a pair of professional goons. They all seem to have personality as their dump stats. Bruuuce seems to know them well enough, and makes sure to tuck his and Reptilianish's assault weapons back in their crate before the pickup is done.

Bruuuce: "Whelllp. I guess we paint stupid smiles on our faces and traipse over to Pinnacle."

Lawrence: "Shit-tonnes more work to do here on the ship. Go on without me."

Bruuuce ponders. "No, that doesn't look right either." He indicates Reptilianish. "Go grab us some take-out for a couple hours. We can all head to Pinnacle together after we get Ionympha mostly-ready to rock."

Yeah, I put the assault weapon back when they come to pick them up.

"Well, I was just a hired grunt for this mission, I think I'll head in. Later. If you need backup, let me know." I head into Pinnacle, up to the first level and enjoy a frothy Volcanic™. While I'm there, I take another look at the IDB - is there any way I can nano-robot connect with it like other items of equipment? Any way to activate it?

I check my status at the Sokamye Dockyard as well. Do I still have the ability to use their teleporters?

Before you leave the crew of the Ionympha, Bruuuce responds in a good-natured way. "You are welcome to stay as part of the crew, though we would probably address how much of a share you get. But it is ...understandable, how this other thing we're caught up in might make such a job seem less ...important. Be seeing you in Pinnacle in a bit? Have to at least raise a few glasses together, and hear what Rufus has to say."

Inside the top level of Pinnacle, you are invited to your usual table where a Volcanic™ is being placed. It's goooood.

The IDB/anti-MBA/deus-ex-machina device remains as inscrutable as ever.

Hirigoyen's access to Sokamye is as before - teleporters, sensors, comms. The activity log shows that people have been lying low recently, since the arrival of the Daemon.

A new entry on the secure wiki under the FULCRUM header: meeting 00001.

RUFUS011: Strategic options pinged with preliminary results. Not good. Meeting with core team advised prior to meeting with assets. Shall we convene at one of the southern corners in the lower level near the Vurm infestation? War Pig could provide sufficient security.
PUFUS010: Note that War Pig has access to top level at Pinnacle. Better security to ask to join him there.
MEKPAWL: Are you sure we want all the entities in the top level seeing us convene?
THERAJIN: Top level of Pinnacle seconded. Bloody brilliant drinks.

War Pig gets a message from Mek Pawl. "Can you get access for me, one of the Rufus, the old Trop, and a Brentian granted to visit you in the top level?"

Ok, I keep a connection open to the dock's sensors, keeping an eye out for familiar looking ships. And I'll try to arrange the access for the four non-seasoned dudes. I'll meet them at the stairway and escort them to my table.

There are a few ships that are familiar that are being tracked by the Sokamye sensors passively: the Xerathian scout class cruiser, the Harperian ships - especially the one that deposited the mentalist combatant. Nothing overtly worrisome seems to be lurking near Pinnacle, aside from the overtly worrisome ships that have been parked there for a while.

To be clear, all of War Pig's guests are indeed seasoned. They're just not seasoned combatants, which is the litmus test for casual occupancy of the top level bar. Mek Pawl, the old Trop (apparently named Goojje), and an extremely non-threatening robot (designated as Rufus-010) all enter the top level bar together. As they settle in at War Pig's table and soothe their unease, a Very Interesting Brentian arrives looking completely at ease. If it's not a seasoned combatant, it's probably close, and bolstered with an abundance of Tricks™ up sleeve-like hiding spots.

Mek Pawl: "Can't shake the feeling of being in a predators den. There's a lot of scary beings in here."

Goojje looks about to agree, but instead gets distracted by the drink brought to him.

Rufus: "Predatory though they might be, none of the denizens of this space are likely to serve anyone else's interest. Plus they add a significant buffer to the difficulty in bothering us here."

Somehow, the VIB manages to have a waitress intercept him with a Volcanic™ as he reaches the table. He hoists the crucible in a small salute to the table, and tosses it down his throat. "Bloody brilliant!" He reaches out a hand to formally shake War Pig's hand - it is covered in a thin sheen of some sort of encounter suit, probably at least preventing his deliciousness from pouring out. "Good to meet you. I'm the one they call The Rajin. I understand that you're to be our lead combatant associate."

Rufus: "We haven't exactly explained that part to him, but it's the most obvious function for him."

The Rajin settles down after deftly ordering another drink with a subtle hand sign. "Quite. I thought that combatants were too... noisy, to work with us other than as contractors."

Mek Pawl puts a tentacle on Goojje's arm, preventing him from killing himself with a Volcanic™. Shakes his mantle as a subtle warning. Then he looks at everyone in turn. The secure wiki gets updated with: discretionary dampening field activated.

"Hmmmmmm... 'Lead Combatant Associate'. Could work. Though to be honest, the smart thing for me to do would be to attempt to disappear. Admittedly, that's not really my style, but I think I would live longer." I smile. "Then again, I'm not that smart."

"What strategic options have you come up with?"

As they are answering, I sneakily double check I am still in possession of the Fulcrum, and the IDB.

The Fulcrum and the IDB are still safely stashed in War Pig's loot bag.

Mek Pawl: "I think he was being sarcastic. Our usual operations try to keep combat as an external entity."

Rufus: "Our usual operations don't include taking possession a hyperspacial fulcrum."

The Rajin is motionless for a moment, then seems to address Goojje. "You confirmed this?"

Goojje assents.

The Rajin: "You weren't joshing about the DEFCON-1 silliness. Had to look that up, by the way. Odd reference."

Rufus: "Indeed. I did some very discreet inquiries about selling some foldspace tech, and ran into an unexpected glitch. Nobody is even slightly interested in obtaining anything. The major entities are so averse to operating foldspaces in general that it was not not possible to even try to push further to suggest the possibility of 1-variable foldspace tech. All my contacts were very interested in the possibility of trying to illegally sell off bits of foldspaces that they were wasting budget having to keep secure."

The Rajin: "Who were you talking to?"

Rufus looks at The Rajin for a long moment. "Let's just say not Brent."

The Rajin: "Quite. But what about the Eupholids?"

Rufus: "Not directly, no."

"So, let me see if I understand the situation. We have an important bit of a 1-variable fold space. We know of people who are trying to sell other bits of fold spaces. And we have a seasoned technician, and I'm guessing a kick-ass physicist. Is it possible we use the hyperspacial fulcrum to build our own fold space device?"

Dun, dun, DUUUUUN!

Mek Pawl and Goojje both look like you've proposed to use their baby sisters as clubs to beat their mothers to death. The Rajin is doing an excellent impersonation of a rather sombre statue. It takes the combination of leader and being seasoned to recognize that he's doing a series of Willpower checks - and succeeding - to get a measure of everyone else's feelings and inclinations about your utterance.

Rufus: "It's exactly that sort of thinking that makes me glad that War Pig volunteered to carry the fulcrum."

Now The Rajin's eyebrows race to see which can clamber over the top of his face first. "You're carrying a bleeding hyperspacial fulcrum around with you?!"

Rufus: "That's not all. He also appears to have in his possession the suspected artificial mentalist field. Which, coincidentally, acts as an MBA blind spot. It will serve to hide the fulcrum from the attentions of both Daemons and the Red Coven."

The Rajin covers for his apparent astonishment by ordering another drink.

After it arrives a few moments later, Rufus resumes. "More than just keeping the fulcrum obfuscated, it will also permit War Pig to gallavant about doing unexpected things."

The Rajin: "I see where you two are heading with this. What's our window, and what's our contingency plan?"

Rufus: "Our friends in the Eupholid Kingdom will doubtlessly send their first probing strike team in 33 hours, ±9 hours. If we are willing to sacrifice the crew of the Ionympha as a distraction, we should be able to buy ourselves an additional 7-23 hours. I expect at least six extraction operations required to gather the necessary illicit hardware, all of which will doubtlessly include a backstab as the sellers will maximize their earnings by also leaking the fact of the sales to other interested parties. We have probably 44 hours until the Brentians even read The Rajin's report, and only a 34% chance of taking it seriously. No offense."

The Rajin shrugs. "Sounds about right."

Rufus: "No extraction team, or teams, in mind, though I assume we'll be using War Pig. Ships might be a problem, as I'm not sure we have enough different ships to adequately conceal the hurry we're in. And I'm open to suggestions about who to set up to take the blame."

"I know of one ship that might be willing to be hired - the Tortuga. It works with an associate of mine. Though we'll have to make sure it's cargo capacity can handle what we're getting. Plus the Ionympha of course, if we can avoid sacrificing them. That's two ships."

"What about the location for actually building the fold space device? I'm going to guess that it's going to be of a smallish diameter, so would building it inside a ship make sense?"

"I had a thought about blame setup. There's a Xerathian scout class cruiser around. If we can contrive some reason for them to attack the Ionympha, it may look like they're trying to erase witnesses to their crime. They kind of hate me at the moment, so I could be bait for the attack. Might be risky though. They've got a lot of missiles."

The Rajin: "You got the Xerathians to hate you? What did you do, make a comment in their vicinity supporting common decency or good taste?"

Rufus: "He casually murdered one of their teams on shore leave, then embarrassed one of their battle suits. Then slaughtered an assault team sent to kill him. Then another. Plus got them to lose face in public with their whole scout class cruiser by a dockyard."

The Rajin orders War Pig a drink by way of a compliment.

Mek Pawl: "Harperians. We should set up the Harperians. I could gather some Lawrencians to help complete the ruse."

Goojje: "Not a ship. We should mask it with mass. With a blind approach - preferably via shielded hard-line teleporter."

The Rajin: "The Harperians are ripe for blaming, Mister Pawl, it's true; but I worry about your objectivity. Mister Goojje, I do believe that you are proposing to build the device not on a ship. What sort of mass are you proposing?"

Goojje: "A small moon at least..."

Rufus: "I'll research potential bases of operation, let's table that for now. War Pig, can you confirm whether or not you can hire the Tortuga - or if you want to involve them? Then we need to decide about whether or not we send the Ionympha off as a distraction or if we need them to help us with our gathering."

The Rajin: "We might also consider what our agenda is, with such a device. What do we mean to do with it?"

I hail Klamath and Tortuga: "Hello my good friends. I may have a line on another job - but I'll need a ship to get there, and back with some cargo. Tortuga, do you think you may be interested? If so, I'll find out the specifics on destination so you can let me know your rate. It looks like it's a 'need this yesterday' type of job, so just want to check if you were available. Also, could you let me know the maximum amount of cargo you can carry? Thanks."

Rajin: "So many options. Obviously, secrecy is important at first, so I think being really effective smugglers might be a first endeavor. Maybe mixed in with some long range thievery. I'm a little ignorant on the science - is there a way to use these things effectively without flashing a big 'here I am' sign whenever we use it?"

The Rajin: "Well, perhaps we shall see if we can come up with something somewhat more..." His eyes are brimming with portent. "...amusing."

Goojje: "That a foldspace has instantiated will be impossible to hide, but the ability to detect its location is proportional to the size foldspace portal relative to the slope of local spacetime. If we run a foldspace of any size on a ship in deep space, it'll be pinpointed easily. At the other end of the spectrum, if we open a foldspace inside a black hole it might be hard to narrow its location down to the correct quadrant."

Mek Pawl: "Basically, a personnel sized foldspace inside a gravity well is probably pretty hard to find."

Rufus: "Long range tactical operation becomes troublesome without concurrent communication."

Klamath responds to the hail after brief delay. "Howdy there, big fella. Can you be a bit more specific about the particulars of the job you're intending? Did your thing with Bruuuce not work out after all?" The Tortuga does not overtly participate in the communication, but Klamath imbeds indication that the ship is linked in to the conversation at his end.

Klamath: "The thing with Bruuuce worked out fine. It's through one of his contacts that I found out about this job. From what I understand it involves picking up some purchased gear at a destination, and then delivering it. As yet I don't have either location. The idea is to be as discrete as possible, which is why I thought of Tortuga with the cloak. I'm there in case being discrete doesn't work so well. :)"

Rufus: "Yes, troublesome. When we go on operations, we'll have to follow strict schedules of where and when the fold space will be activated. At least until we become so rich we can hire a high stage biologist to grow us some mentalist psudian armour. Mhwaa haa haa haa... But I'm getting ahead of myself."

I eye them all with my beady little pig eyes. "Which reminds me, we should probably get some tedious negotiation out of the way. I'm quite interested to help get this venture going, even with the insane risk we're taking. I just want to make sure I'm more of a partner among you instead of an external contractor. If you can agree to that, we can figure out any details if we survive. Sound reasonable?"

Klamath: "What? No needlepoint? Yes, we assumed that it would involve transporting somewhere. However, we need to be able to gauge the difficulty of said task. And, while I appreciate you have been a no-questions-asked sort of contractor, we exist in a complicated web of alliances and understandings. So, more details or context please. Especially if you're working with who I think you're working with now, after having helped out Bruuuce. But, yeah, we're generally inclined to help you out - within reason."

Rufus eyes Hirigoyen levelly. Mek Pawl writhes somewhat uncomfortably. Goojje sends his eyestalks wandering, as if to see who is going to answer.

The Rajin: "Looks like I'm nominated to respond. Right then, we aren't exactly a formal arrangement type partnership. We're all engaged more because we need each other, each member contributing something unique to our generally-aligned efforts. We're work by consensus, with some modicum of 'honour'. If you don't want to work with us, just say so. Considering what we've stepped into, we're probably going to be hunted down and killed, so we are going to try to align with some seasoned combatant of some sort. But, seeing as you are stuck in the same problem, you seem like a natural fit."

Rajin: (I probably look a bit relieved): "Good. I was hoping it was something informal. Just wanted to know exactly what I was getting into. I'm talking with Klamath and he seems open to me using the Tortuga, but he obviously wants more information on the job. I'm not sure how much to tell him."

I send a text message to Vega: "Bored in the secure zone yet? Something's come up and I could really use your help again."

Rufus: "I suggest telling him nothing specific, obviously, to avoid getting us all invaded. The degree to which you reveal the scope of risk associated I leave up to you. As a word of warning, do not mention The Ragin. Klamath has a... complicated relationship with him."

Vega: "Maybe. For the record, I'm at Pagliacci's with Klamath, and he's laughing his ass off. What's up?"

2016.01.07 - Step 1: Fuck Up Some Harperians

The Nameless Cadre Of Different Bastards (henceforth referred to as NCODB, or En-COD-Bee) agreed that phase one of operation Why Not Build Some Science Fiction Awesomeness included:

  • Build a secret base.
  • Plan who to buy/steal foldspace parts from.
  • Fuck up some Harperian's shit to set them up later.

So War Pig did that last bit. Found a Harperian ship shuttle parked somewhere, walked up, and slaughtered all associated Harperians. Then he staffed it up with Lawrencians, sauntered over to the Ionympha, and started riding it around Relic to systematically destroy most of the Harperian ships.

When finally the operational Harperian fighter around Relic intercepted, the Ionympha with the pirated Harperian shuttle decided to depart. The fighter skulked along, keeping track of both ships. Shots were traded at extreme long range, but not really engaged. All ships eventually slunk into hyperspace.

Boring Story Bit 005 - Pointed Issue

Bruuuce: "So, uh, what are we going to do about this fuckin' guy?"

"We need to figure out a way to get him close so that we can blast him with the turrets. Any uninhabited star systems nearby we can go to? Maybe play cat and mouse in an asteroid belt or something?"

"Or, is there a way we can use that missile of yours to keep him at sub-light while we get to him?"

Lawrence: "He's faster than us in subluminal by a fair margin. We're never going to be able to make him engage with us in open space."

Bruuuce: "Yeah. We could keep him stuck for 10 minutes with the superluminal missile, but then it would flame out and he'd catch up with that shuttle pretty quickly. Brent space is not conducive to playing peekaboo - the large masses in the system are defensively controlled by the Brentian navy, other than Relic. The nearest system for shenanigans is Korol."

Vega: "Ugh. Korol."

Lawrence: "You know Korol?"

Vega: "Yeah. Did a mission there. Not really as part of any side - just some dude owed money that we were hired to collect. It's not a happy place."

Lawrence: "That's saying something considering we've spent time on Relic and among the Harperian diaspora."

Reptilianish: "I heard it was pretty."

Vega: "It had big green and blue patches we could see from orbit, so probably has pretty bits. But the inhabited part we went to had a lot of people with very little, living near big ruined things."

Bruuuce: "Yeah, well, the main planet itself is not what I'm thinking. They had a whole interplanetary war in the system, and it's riddled with exploded space stations and wrecked ship battlefields. And pretty much everybody living in the system, and not stuck in the gravity well of Korol itself, is now basically a freeholder mostly wanting to hide from everybody else."

Lawrence: "Yeah, but there's also lots of salvage crews, too. And they're territorial."

Reptilianish looks at the weapons array, looks at War Pig, then gives Lawrence a flat look.

Lawrence unfurls a tentacle at him. "Good point."

"Sounds good to me. Let's go to Korol!"

The Ionympha and the stolen Harperian shuttle veer vectors and set course for Korol - except not straight there. Bruuce plots a route that includes a popular spacelane, helping mask the particular whereabouts of any given ship. The corrival pushes to get a few minutes ahead of the shuttle, and breaks from the spacelane when it swerves to avoid the Korol system. Then he drops out of hyperspace.

A tense couple minutes pass, and another ship veers from the spacelane. It blithely roars past the Ionympha at superluminal - but it is indeed just the shuttle. More tense waiting occurs, to see if the fighter emerges to and stumbles within range.

It does not. Almost immediately a fighter-sized ship breaks out of the spacelane a full 0.1 Parsecs away, but starts sprinting toward the now solitary shuttle. The Ionympha jumps to hyperspace to intercept, but the fighter dances away again. Not willing to be lured too far away from the shuttle, Bruuuce swings back to protect the slower shuttle.

Bruuuce: "Had to try."

Lawrence: "Yep."

Reptilianish: "Are Harperians typically that stupid?"

Lawrence shrugs.

Vega: "Sometimes. They're smart, mostly. But definitely able to be willfully stupid too."

Bruuuce: "Another hour-or-so to Korol system. Any ideas what to try next?"

I shrug. "The entirety of my tactical experience has been walking up to people and shooting them. Let's just go to Korol and try to get lost in the debris. See if we can lure him closer. Or make him give up."

Lawrence: "How much time do we have to get rid of him?"

Vega: "Yeah, Harperians are a bit... well, they don't give up on things. Even when it makes sense."

Bruuuce: "I'm more worried about who might be showing up if we wait around. If I were a lone fighter chasing a corrival that was involved in killing your guys, I'd just track it so that overwhelming numbers could show up to the party."

The Ionympha and the stolen shuttle swoop towards a faint blur of mass on the etheric sensors, and a vast field of ruined ships is revealed when you draw in close.

2016.01.15 - Step 2: Get Some Fold Space Bits

Skulking about a debris field did not manage to lure in the lurking Harperian fighter, but the intrepid crew of the Ionympha did manage to find an entity calling itself Hakone. It eerily managed to breach their security while remaining infindable - while maintaining nearly-continuous conversation. It only left when it had noticed that they left the Harperian shuttle behind.

With time being too precious to waste any more, they simply returned to Relic in the Ionympha with the annoying Harperian fighter continuing to shadow them.

War Pig promptly shifted to being aboard the TORTUGA, along with Vega and an array of Lawrencians. Their mission: trade some data for a large chunk of a foldspace generator. And to deal with whatever backstabbing happened.

To help further the illusion of Harperian-backed activity, Vega insisted on War Pig wearing a gimp suit and riding on his head triumphantly (rather than cowering behind his shoulder, as usual). They rendezvoused at the designated coordinates, and met with a large freighter. Scanning it revealed a large-ish complement of robots, and three short-range fighters.

Instead of landing inside the docking bay, the TORTUGA decided instead to let the away team jump into the waiting bay to complete the transaction. The Lawrencian technicians confirmed that the component was as expected - except clamped down by large force beams. Also as expected, the data submitted as payment was claimed to be not what they wanted and refused to deal.

So War Pig killed everyone. First just one at a time, then after retrieving an eccentric assault electric stream, vast swaths of robots simultaneously. Somewhat complicating things were the fighters shooting at him, a glancing hit from any of them being utterly deadly. But he merely danced - all the way to the bridge, killing the crew and releasing the cargo, and then back to the cargo area to get swallowed up by the cloaked TORTUGA.

Boring Story Bit 006 - So Far So Good

A couple hours later the TORTUGA has returned to Relic.

TORTUGA: "So, where should we drop this off?"

I contact the rest of the guys and find out where to take the first shipment, and get the specifics on the next run.

Rufus: "Welcome back, War Pig. Please meet us at the landing pit at [coordinates in the middle of nowhere]. We need to confer about our next steps."

Shortly after that, Hirigoyen gets 212500 credits. The secure wiki is updated with a new post: Art sold to an interested collector. Weapons sold to Harperians.

2016.01.21 - Step 3: Get Some More Fold Space Bits

After dropping off the first foldspace component, Hirigoyen went to the Sokamye Dockyards to hire a new ship to retrieve some more of the shopping list. With guidance from one of the Rufii mathematicians, he selected a small freighter called Procalyptis(or Moth) who seem to be 1) cheap, and 2) fans.

The first part of the exchange went as agreed - they met another freighter and made the exchange. After the other freighter transmitted the data they had received in payment, suddenly a phalanx of medium-range fighters jumped into theatre. First they dispatched the other freighter, then set upon the Moth.

The battle seemed somewhat weighted in the Moth's favour, with War Pig operating some turrets. But then the last couple fighters got desperate - and lucky - and dealt massive blows to the freighter with swarms of missiles. Badly damaged, the Moth managed to pulverize the fighters and limp away.

Boring Story Bit 007 - Do We Really Want To Do That Again?

After getting a few more minutes away from the system, the Moth drops back to sublight to effect repairs.

MothCrew-1: "Can we ask..." He aborts his request when he sees that the technician Lawrencians are already deploying to help with repairs.

MothCrew-2: "That turned out, um, a bit sketchy at the end there."

MothCrew-1: "Yeah. Whatever this cargo is, it's a bit more dangerous than just some drive parts."

"Indeed that was bracing. I'll reimburse you for any patches used. The next one may be similar, but we should get going as soon as possible. I doubt there's any contact between our attackers and the people we're meeting with next, but we should limit the time between operations as much as possible. Do you wish to renegotiate the fee for the next leg of the mission?"

MothCrew-1: "Let's just put it to a vote."

MothCrew-2: "I'll go with whatever, I don't want to push any of you guys."

MothCrew-1: "Maybe - we still might need you to be a tiebreaker, though."

MothCrew-3: "I say yah. Add danger pay."

MothCrew-4: "Agreed. The Moth's getting some good experience, and we'll feel shitty if we don't go for it."

MothCrew-5: "Shoot! Shoot shoot shoot shoot!"

MothCrew-1: "So much for needing a tiebreaker. OK, let's do this. As soon as we get the Moth back above half stamina we'll head out. Our typical modifier for danger pay is 50% - is that OK?"

The huddle is interrupted by Carl. "A couple thoughts for optimizing things. First: I can crank up the targeting bonus to +2 on your fire stations." The MothCrew all seem to brighten at the suggestion. "Second, I could rig in another fire control station for War Pig to use to control the missile guidance."

MothCrew-1: "Uh, we have to open the bay door to fire the missiles. And we prefer to keep that as a last resort."

Carl: "Yeah, we saw that. But there's a maintenance hatch we can convert easily into an up-to-3 missile port."

MothCrew-1 blinks. He turns to MothCrew-2. "What missiles have we got in inventory?"

MothCrew-2: "I forget. It's been a while..."

Carl: "You've got standard 47 seeker missiles, and 10 idiot savants. The missile port will be limited to firing all the seekers before it gets to the idiot savants. If you want to switch up the order, or fire more than three at once, you'll still need to open the bay doors."

2016.01.28 - Step 4: Get Even More Fold Space Bits

After repairs and refits, the Moth jumped to the next rendezvous. However, they did not find anything at the position they were expecting to meet at. Careful scanning with the passive sensors happened across a faint thermal signature off in the void about a terameter away - so they went to investigate.

A short hyperspatial hop later, they saw a large freighter matching the configuration of the one the were to meet, except that it was disabled. Probably by some of the fighters that were lurking about it. First one of the long-range fighters came to chase off the freighter, then after it was forced to eat a few too many missiles, it hung back while the other fighters joined in. A short but savage space battle raged, with one of the fighters barely escaping the blazing onslaught of the Moth's turrets and missiles.

Then the Moth cruised over to the prone shape of the large freighter and gave it an active scan. It revealed the probable location of the gear they were hoping to acquire, a number of people aboard, and a shuttle. The Moth was hailed from the shuttle, warning them to go away or they would destroy "the thing", and were not amenable to any negotiations.

So, War Pig arranged to be flung across the expanse to the larger freighter and to infiltrate. On board he found a ship in a desperate state, with only vestigial systems still functioning to keep life support barely going. He also found signs of a struggle aboard; some well-armed aggressor force had boarded and slaughtered the scantily-equipped crew. He also discovered that the bay holding the desired foldspace part was locked behind ship-scale doors and reinforced with some sort of shield.

Skirting around the inner bay, through the engineering section, War Pig burst into the outer bay with the shuttle and the majority of the existing personnel. The gruesome efficiency of the assault electric stream on large groups of lesser combatants made it a very brief encounter.

External threats eliminated, War Pig attempted to tamper open the locked bay door. This resulted in him catching a particularly fearsome surge of defensive energy charge from the shield. (And, after being lightly mocked by one of his captives, executing them all.)

Then, it came to light that the people hiding inside the inner bay were actually the remains of the ships crew (saved by the valiant efforts of the ship's technical staff). They were massively relieved when War Pig told them that the invading force was dead, and that he represented the buyers of the piece of equipment they were delivering.

Boring Story Bit 008 - Dropoffs

The bravest of the emerging crew addresses Hirigoyen. "Thanks again for intervening. We were starting to think that the whole operation was a trap, and that things were hopeless."

The rest of the crew nervously eye the crispy remains of the boarding goons, while avoiding looking too hard at War Pig's imposing presence for fear of causing insult.

Ok, I get the techies on the Moth to try and figure out the best way to get the cargo out. Also, I look at the shuttle. Is it big enough for the remaining crew to use? I'd rather not have hitchhikers.

Carl: "No problem with the cargo - I'll just carry it out." He dramatically trudges from the Moth (which has docked) as though he is many tonnes and powerfully built. Then he turns off the gravity, and slowly guides the large piece of technological sculpture into range of the Moth's force beams.

The shuttle is clearly capable of carrying all the freighters remaining crew for a short voyage. It should also be noted that the shuttle has been lightly modified for combat purposes while remaining utterly nondescript, and that it would fit inside the Moth along with both the foldspace components.

And, just for flavour, I'll also note that there will be very little discernible left of the large freighter and anything aboard it when its fusion containment eventually fails.

You're trying to entice me to be evil.

It's probably working.

Once the gear is loaded I wait for the techs to confirm it's the gear we want.

Hirigoyen is technically classified as "probably kind of evil", and therefore it is sensible that not entirely altruistic aspects should be evident to him.

Carl and his squad of Lawrencian techies swarm over the curved technological monolith with their highly-specialized scanners. Reading their body language, War Pig can sense that something is amiss. They start intently wriggling into the various crevices, until one gesticulates triumphantly and summons Carl. Carl employs an esoteric toolkit, and presently removes something cunningly embedded in the device's structure.

Carl: "Yeah, the component is legit, but somebody tried to bury some spy gear into it. All clear now."

"Excellent." I guesture to the shuttle. "Let's check out the shuttle to see if there's any tracking beacons in it that can't be easily removed. If not, let's grab it too."

I turn to the refugee crew. "I believe the transaction was for some information." I pull out the data thing-a-ma-jig that had the data we were suppose to trade and transmit it to the one that had spoken earlier. I glare menacingly. "My masters are disappointed that you attempted to sneak a surveillance device on the cargo."

And once everything is loaded, we hop over to the Moth and fly away. If any of the crew attempt to intervene, I'll crispify them with the electric stream.

Refugee Leader: "Tell your masters that I swear we knew nothing about any surveillance device. We're just the transport crew. We don't even know what that thing is! If there's any message you want us to pass on to our bosses, at least help us fix the communications."

Carl, paying no heed to the refugee crew: "The shuttle is clean of tracking devices, but the controls are locked out. Probably one of the overdone bacon impersonators had some access security. We'll have to gut the brains and install fresh control hardware, which would take a few hours."

Simultaneously, Carl tightbeams: "The secondary power should last another couple hours, but after that there's a 20% change of a blinding white flash every hour after that. Or a 100% chance if I send the 'cleanup' code I installed when I adjusted the gravity."

Everything gets loaded aboard the Moth without complication otherwise.

Ignoring the refugee crew, we leave. Once we're at a safe distance, I tell Carl to send the cleanup code. Mwhaa haa haa.

As the Moth speeds away at sublight, the Mothcrew seem quietly morose at leaving the refugees behind, but probably recognize that security is first priority. When the blinding white flash is detected, a few of them wince.

"Aw, shit. I was hoping they'd make it."

"Poor bastards probably tried to mess with that flaky secondary system to get the comms working."

"At least it was quick."


The jump back to Relic is uneventful, taking no risks and sticking to shipping lanes as much as possible.

On Relic, the landing pit has changed only slightly, with some dirt berms having been added obscuring the rim even more. The dropoff of the two foldspace components into the lower chamber goes quietly and without a hitch. The Moth and its crew ask to hop back to Sokamye to re-stock on missiles and do some good fixes.

Rufus011: "Welcome back War Pig. Things are proceeding within acceptable parameters on all fronts. The next two components are going to be trickier. One is going to require breaking into a storage facility on a totalitarian company planet, and the other likely requires possible combat with a cruiser and several wings of fighters. Which do you want to try first?"

2016.02.05 - Step 5: Yet Even More Fold Space Bits

War Pig decided to attempt the infiltration mission first - to Xerathia.

While preparing for the mission, Hirigoyen summoned the Tortuga. To ride as a turret alongside Vega, Carl the Lawrencian was inducted to perform technician duties. His highly-augmented tools were supplemented with a set of ship-penetrating plasma charges. A load-lifter hover-harness upgraded with a small ship-scale shield was also obtained, to assist with the loading of the 10-tonne foldspace component. Also, a set of missiles was obtained to provide cover from outside the target zone. Including one tactical nuke.

The trip aboard the Tortuga to Xerathia was carefully uneventful, keeping to trade lanes and moving with traffic. The descent down to the surface of Xerathia was depressing, as the affliction of a totalitarian company's dedicated exploitation was etched in every global feature. The target was a featureless rectilinear building away from the gridlines of global industry.

After depositing the missile cache and some sensor/comms at a lookout position, the cloaked Tortuga inspected the target zone more carefully. It quickly became evident that the whole structure was a gigantic trap, but they found a secret personnel entrance after some more careful searching.

War Pig, with Vega and Carl riding as turrets, crept carefully inside, and quietly incapacitated the guards. By virtue of having been stealthy, and some epic tamper rolls, they were able to clandestinely lock down all the section of the hidden underground facitility and take their sweet time reviewing the secretive contents of the secret vault. They did set off some alarms, but the sounds of agitation from the other sections did not seem to have much hope of breaking through too soon.

There they found the target foldspace component, and hooked up the loadlifter. Other large artifacts were ignored, except for noting a huge Y2000 robot that was deactivated and restrained. Inspecting several secure crates they found, all secured, a Tundak, a gun, another robot, a computer, and a stasis pod. War Pig was unable to resist taking the gun, and also the computer - and that was all that they could easily purloin in one go.

Pounding from one of the intermediate-scale doors finally managed to breach, and a large being stumbled out - to its dismay. War Pig followed it back into its barracks and silenced all the witnesses therein with the assault Electric Stream.

Striding out in a haze of bacon smell, they then opened up the big doors. There they faced three battle suits. While technically formidable, their abilities were mostly the product of augmentations, and simply not up to the rigors of fighting War Pig and the HFFR.

The outside team warned War Pig that some ships were inbound. But first War Pig had to take out a couple missile turrets inside the cavernous bay. The move boots were put to particularly good use as Hirigoyen danced around the missiles and pasted the turret operators.

It was then that he realized that the ships were now already on top of their location and needed to be dealt with. Worse, one was a troop ship and it had dropped off a strike team of purposeful-looking battle suits. War Pig remotely fired two of the missiles and decimated most of the new strike team. This prompted their fighter escort to charge the missile placement, so War Pig launched the rest of the missiles at them. He landed a pair of lucky placements, which managed to disable both short-range fighters in the first turn.

War Pig's satisfaction was cut short by the surviving member of the assault team breaching the facility and attacking. They had a furious trade of heavy weapons fire, and it was a closely-fought battle. However War Pig revealed the existence of the nuke in a very convincing manner, so the final battle suit broke off so that it could warn others.

This gave the infiltration team time to make their escape. The bay doors were opened and the foldspace component was loaded aboard.

Except Hirigoyen though, "what the hell, I'd like to have a Tundak for a pet". So he bounded back, and juggled the Tundak back to the Tortuga - which required a bonus payment of 20 kilocredits just to permit it on board.

Boring Story Bit 008 - Tundak Juggler

Vega: "So, for now, it would probably be a good idea to not post a video of me juggling a Tundak."

I'm guessing I don't have to remind Tortuga/Batty to keep quiet about this, though I'm sure they're going to tell Klamath. I'm ok with that. I get Carl to make another crate or some kind of enclosure for the Tundak so I can carry it out of the ship without people knowing what's inside. When we get back to Relic I send a message to the rest of NCODB: "Mission successful. However, we should meet up."

A tear shimmers in Vega's eye. "It's a crime not to share something so awesome! But, yeah, I understand."

Back at Relic, the whole NCODB meets at the landing pit.

As we're landing I ask Batty to do a few hard locates to make sure there's nobody in the vicinity I'm not expecting. I do as well. I send a message to NCODB to set up whatever that dampening field was that they used at Pinnacle.

After everything is unloaded, I thank the Tortuga and wait for it to leave. Then I smile at the rest of NCODB.

"Alrighty then. The mission was a success. We were able to sneak in, get the gear and fight our way out." I gesture at the fold space gear. "There's the fold space gear. However, in the same room, there was a lot of other equipment. Much of it was around the same tonnage so I couldn't grab it, but there were some crates that I could grab." I pull out the gun. "This was one of the items. I haven't had a chance to try it yet, mostly because I was hoping Mek would look it over to make sure it's not going to blow up in my face if I try. It's possible it's sentient, mostly because that seemed to be the theme of the items in the crates." I hand the weapon to Mek to look over.

"Next was a computer. I have no idea how powerful, or what was on it, but if it was there, I felt it was something worthwhile to steal." I pull out the computer and hand it to Rufus.

"Stuff I couldn't grab included a Y2000 Giant, something in a stasis pod, and a robot who's type I didn't recognize. Both of the robots were inactive and restrained."

Then I wait to see if anyone comments on the gun or computer, or anything else.

A couple of good locates show that nothing is untoward in the vicinity of the dropoff pit. From there, the unloading is ushered into the tent-like structure at the bottom of the pit. As Hirigoyen talks, the foldspace component is re-inspected, then is teleported away.

Mek Pawl looks over the gun. "Well, somebody sure as shit was worried about this gun being used. Its got physical locks on the trigger system and the sighting, plus some explosives tethered to the muzzle. The grip is pretty simplistic - won't fit many species." He slides a schematic scan over to Rufus to query. "Don't recognize the weapon mechanism itself, though. I'll do some tests." Goojje also peers on with interest.

Rufus' body language is as though the computer you handed to him were a steaming dinosaur turd. "I'm not sure we want to multiply risk vectors by carelessly exposing ourselves to a processor so worrisome that it had to be deactivated and stored in a secret secure facility."

The Raijin maintains a level look at War Pig. "There's something else. What else did you bring back, War Pig?"

Rufus: "I don't want to carelessly expose ourselves either. I think we should store the thing until after we've got our project done. And then find a nice empty asteroid somewhere to set up some tests."

Everyone: "Right. The last bit of technology I grabbed probably should have been left there, but I kind of lost myself in the moment." I show them the control pad I have. "It's inactive, and bound, so it's not a threat. This control pad was there and is the means to activate it if we ever want to. I really, really don't think we ever should."

And, after a dramatic pause, I open the crate and carefully pull out the Tundak and show them.

By "show them", I assume you mean the juggling.

Yes, but very carefully.

Everybody forgets about everything except for the Tundak.

Goojje: "I appears to be completely intact! Marvellous!"

Mek Pawl glanced at him. "Yeah, it appears completely capable of killing all of us." A couple of his tentacles are used to make 'you cray-cray' gestures.

Rufus: "Hold on - I'm still just cataloguing catastrophic scenarios that have opened up without any chances to rank them."

The Raigin nods thoughtfully to himself. "Please put the robot back into its container for now - this location is insufficiently secured." Mek Pawl also inspects the restraints on the Tundak, making some minor adjustments, then assists with the re-packaging.

The Raigin: "Bloody brilliant!" He beams at War Pig.

Rufus pivots his head to regard The Raigin closely. "Explain."

The Raigin shrugs. "I'll skip over the exciting part about how it's a bloody Tundak, and that that's worthy adventure potential all by itself. No, I'll just highlight how it makes for not only excellent cover for that operation on Xerathia, but also would be a fantastically effective distraction should we need it."

Rufus: "Have you thought about the possibility that the Tundak has contemporaries that might have been looking for it, and would now have a lead... to us?"

The Raigin: "I suggest that we do not leave it deactivated for too terribly long."

Goojje, who had been looking like a child whose toy was being taken away, brightens considerably.

Rufus: "Let's table that for now. I propose we create a new silo for these items, for now, and proceed with haste to finish our original idiotic project."

"Sounds good to me. Next mission?"

Rufus nods. "Next mission. The care and deliberateness that this penultimate deal is exhibiting cranks up the probability that it is a shell for a counterespionage operation. As such, the permutation is that the inevitable surprise arrival changes from a small strike team consisting of some fighters to one, or more, cruisers."

Mek Pawl: "We've had to confirm for Rufus, repeatedly, that we don't have any magical technical defeat option we can manufacture against a cruiser ready for combat."

"So, if we know there's a possibility of cruisers showing up at the exchange, can we find out where the ship making the exchange is coming from and intercept them before anyone has a chance to intercept us?"

The Raijin: "I like where your head is at. Hard to imagine that such an operation would let the prize ever get far from the escort, though."

Rufus: "Agreed. Such a tactic has a 79% probability of having the support cruiser arrive before the cargo can be secured - even in scenarios where there actually is a legitimate cargo."

The Raigin: "If I were running such an operation, I'd make it so that the freighter has a cloaked strike class prowling right beside it the whole time."

Vega [privately]: "That sounds bad."

"So, what are the odds that the fold space gear will actually be there at the exchange?"

"Assuming the odds are good... I've been in three ships so far, the Tortuga, the Ionympha, and the ship I hired, the Moth. What if we used all three at the same time? If we're all in close formation when we drop from hyperspace, the Tortuga might be able to cloak before being noticed. We get Bruuuce to handle the deal, and if a strike class shows up, the Ionympha and Moth can distract them while the Tortuga deposits me on the ship that has the fold space. I kill everyone aboard, assuming I can get in, and the Tortuga retrieves me and the fold space gear."

"Of course the problem then becomes escaping... And if anyone is captured, it's likely the enemy will find out we're based out of Relic."

Mek Pawl: "Well, technically you could fit the Tortuga inside the Moth. So you could cloak and fly out any time you liked without notice."

Rufus: "The odds that this interaction has the desired component is rather good - over 83%. Mostly because they don't think there's much risk and want the bait to be as good as possible if the target is overly cautious. But you make a good point about too much pointing back at Relic. Especially while we still need to get a further sixth component before we complete the device. Also, I'm not sure that either the Ionympha or the Moth is sufficiently potent to distract a cruiser."

The Raijin: "Bruuuce and his crew are a considerable problem for us, as they're the link Eupholid Royals can trace back to us. If they're not participating, we should find some flamboyant purpose for them."

"Would it be possible to get to the meeting location first, stay cloaked, and wait for them to arrive. Somehow get me aboard their ship and then wait. Meanwhile, we leak information to someone that's hostile to the company/government we're dealing with about the meetup. Someone who couldn't resist trying to take out one of their cruisers. Hopefully, someone will arrive to engage the cruiser and when that starts, I attack the crew of the ship the gear is on. Once the crew is dead, I open the bay doors and the Tortuga scoops me and the gear out."

Rufus: "I do not doubt your ability to infiltrate a ship and overpower whatever might be onboard single-handedly. However, there are two hurdles to this plan. First, getting any ship within a light-week of the rendezvous will doubtlessly be noticed on long-range sensors. Second, the cruiser will undoubtedly be waiting some inconspicuous distance away, making it not much of a target. There is also some difficulty in that the government in question is not at war - mostly because its powerful enough that other nations go out of their way not to provoke it."

The Raijin: "Aren't we clever, then."

Mek Pawl: "Pity we couldn't have him board the cruiser."

"If we go with the Moth and/or Ionympha, and the cruiser destroys them, how likely is it that the cruiser will stick around, and stay still long enough for me to board it? Any way to get me past their shields?"

Mek Pawl: "Getting past a cruiser's shields is pretty much impossible. Either you bludgeon past them or you Trojan Horse aboard."

The Raijin: "Protocols in this kind of engagement would forbid them from docking or letting anything aboard. Tricky."

2016.02.11 - Planless

Struggling with planning how to confront the probable arrival of a cruiser for their penultimate foldspace component acquisition, War Pig gets called away to assist the security detail at Sokamye Dockyards.

There a belligerent near-legendary combatant was casually dispatching people in a way that was extremely worrying. War Pig himself had considerable difficulty tangling with the automatic-placement badass (Adolf Zytogorski!), but had the benefit of an intermediate scale shield and a recently-earned third attack. And, when it mattered, kickass targeting to level the playing field. Zytogorski limped away, humbled, and no longer a problem.

After that encounter, which Vega was streaming for pay-per-view, Hirigoyen was notified that a suspicious person was asking about his whereabouts. Following up the lead, War Pig found a Harperian fighter. This seemed to require the assistance his trusty Lawrencian technician - Carl - who eagerly came to assist. Including asking to be shunted alone inside the fighter to tamper it to be neutralized. Then Hirigoyen strode in and decimated the Harperian.

Stowing the claimed semi-intelligent Harperian fighter at the Sokamye Dockyards, Hirigoyen called for a meeting of the Nameless Cadre Of Different Bastards at the Pinnacle Bar.

Boring Story Bit 009 - Planification

Hirigoyen needs to be at the upper Pinnacle Bar first, in order to ensure that the others aren't casually murdered by the other patrons for sport.

Ok, I head to Pinnacle, and escort everyone up. On the way I fill in the information on the Harperian ships onto the Wiki.

Then I order a Volcanic.

When Hirigoyen arrives in the Upper Pinnacle Bar, there is a Volcanic™ already being delivered.

Mek Pawl: "That flotilla of Harperians is too big. It's more than any one faction can field."

The Raijin: "Ah. So that's not likely to be the Harperian's looking for you or War Pig. What's the probability that they're reacting to our suggestions of Harperian's collecting foldspace gear?"

Rufus: "Quite high. If one faction of Harperians were to secure a working foldspace, it might drastically alter their internal power structure. What we're seeing is probably the Harperians looking to bring one of their own rogue factions back into line, and possibly to make sure the foldspace portal is used by the ruling council of the Harperian diaspora."

The Raijin: "That makes coming and going potentially trickier..."

Mek Pawl: "And we might want to consider warning the Moth and the Tortuga."

Rufus: "Agreed. Plus we also still need to figure out how to deal with a cruiser. And a Daemon."

2016.02.18 - Fightless

In a tragic twist of circumstance, god failed to have something violent happen to War Pig. Apologies.

While the NCODB convened at the Upper Pinnacle Bar, they discussed various aspects of their planlessness. The lurking Harperian fleet, the Daemon(s), the Red Coven, the Eupholids, the Xerathians, and the Brentians were all contemplated. Futilely.

With a philosophical strategy of "fuck it", Hirigoyen decided to go and converse with the Daemon currently squatting in the Relic secure zone.

Using his contact Klamath to get through security un-scanned (carrying both the Fulcrum and the Mentalist Blindspot), and was provided with a stout blaster from The Raijin on the inside. After an awkward lunch with Klamath at Pagliacci's, Hirigoyen went to the now-deserted public park to chat with the Daemon.

It didn't start off great. It's an aloof, moody being with odd concepts of dignity and appropriateness. For example, when War Pig that they might be able to have a mutually-beneficial exchange, the Daemon felt obliged to shoot a 4D (intermediate scale) F-blaster at him for suggesting that he might be lowly enough to engage in barter.

Boring Story Bit 010 - Talks With A Daemon

The Daemon remains seated, though probably able to leap up without negatives, likely as a gesture of treating War Pig as unthreatening. His gear and clothing appears casually disarrayed, but War Pig can detect how elaborately deliberate the appearance is. The Daemon is probably quite vain.

Various drones are having difficulty remaining discreet with the atypical gusts of wind swirling about. They all flee his gaze.

"Keep talking, warrior cutlet. I am having difficulty determining if you are what I was drawn to this silly moon for." His expression fails to hide the fact that there is much he is not saying.

"Aaah, 'warrior cutlet'. Have you tasted a Brentian yet? Delicious."

"Well, I'm not sure if I am what drew you here either, but let's explore the thought. You arrived a short time after I did, so it's possible my arrival is what sparked your prescience. Now the reason it sparked your prescience is unclear. It could be simply that I arrived in an unorthodox fashion - the manner of which is still a bit of a mystery to myself. Or it could have been a signal that I'm someone you could use. I'm not sure what your motives are, but it seems like there's a power balance between the Daemon warlords. My guess is you'd like to tip that balance in your favour. I'm in a situation that has the potential for great power, so that might be what your prescience is telling you to exploit."

"However, the situation I'm in is only potentially powerful. I would need help to make it a reality."

"What a delicious thought! Could it be that you are indeed the grave threat to galactic stability that I need to extinguish?" He rises and looms in a way that only a 5-meter-tall being can. "You do appear quite fearsome, for something so small. But you don't strike me as being capable of turning into a government-toppling menace. So show me what this potentially powerful future. SHOW ME."

His eyes glow, and horrific tingling sense of his mind intruding into Hirigoyens spreads through the War Pigs awarenes. But it's clearly corrupted: the Daemon thinks it is a vast mind peering into a helpless little thimble of a mind, but instead Hirigoyen sees its embarrassingly-simple mind raptly looking at a puppet show.

So, what does Hirigoyen show the Daemon? And what does he want to know from the Daemon's exposed mind?

Ok then. First I'm going to make it seem like I've had training to resist a mentalist - reciting some Hylosus children's rhyme over and over again. Also that there's some external mentalist protecting me. He'll smash through both levels of protection of course, but I don't want him to wonder why an unprotected mind was sent to talk to him.

Then I show a flash of me receiving orders from my Harperian masters telling me to find out what he's doing here and if the Daemon's are going to be a threat to the GIANT FLEET the Harperians are amassing. The fleet is hidden in a nebula somewhere and the Harperian mentalists are shielding it from prescience. We're talking thousands of cruisers here. The whole me killing Harperians thing was a necessary sacrifice to make it seem I'm not connected to them when I go and question others.

Then, hidden deep in my mind, I show an image of a display screen I accidently witnessed - my Harperian master talking with a Tundak.

MEANWHILE, I sift through his thoughts - location of fold space gear, access codes to get past locks and automated defenses, probable guards, that sort of thing.

And, I get ready to run like hell.

2016.02.25 - Fleeing The Daemon

If the Daemon Baphomet wasn't mildly obsessed with eating new species, Hirigoyen would probably have died from one of the gigantic blasts from the F-blaster. Looming close, Baphomet gave Vega the chance to sneak up his body and tamper him briefly unconscious. They used the short reprieve to flee.

They made it most of the way out of the park before Baphomet regained consciousness. It is possible that they would have made good their escape then, except that they were spotted by the lurking Harperian. The Harperian did not intentionally give away their location, but had his mind read by Baphomet as he was outside the area of effect of the Mentalist blind spot. Baphomet ripped off the roof of one building they were hiding in, and partially-demolished another with the F-blaster. It was a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse, but eventually Hirigoyen and Vega were able to slink away out of the secure section.

They quickly coordinated with the NCODB and hid in the secret fold-space base and contemplated how totally utterly screwed they were.

While warning Klamath about the fallout of the encounter with Baphomet, he passed on a message from a Harperian. Which turned out to the ragged outcast Harperian from the secure zone park. His name was Witclip, and he was terrified about the indelible mentalist mark Baphomet had left on him. Being a mentalist himself, he perceived that Hirigoyen was somehow able to shrug off the same marks, and begged for help. His backstory includes helping the Lawrencians escape, making him outcast and also making him the prime suspect for the recent rash of fold-space capers. Hirigoyen consulted with the rest of NCODB and recruited Witclip and scrubbed his mark with the MBS then took him to their secret base.

Boring Story Bit 011 - Waiting To Die

Vega: "OK, let's set up a death pool. Who wants to bet we'll die of boredom hiding down here? Or are we going to get discovered and killed in a raid somehow? Or who wants to bet that we do something foolish and get killed by that Daemon?"

"My bet is that I die while trying to retrieve the second to last fold space gear. Let's set up a subsection of our secure wiki that Witclip can be included in, fill him in on the mission and likely run-in with a cruiser, and get him to do some prescience on what we're actually going to face. Maybe that will help us come up with a plan."

Rufus011: "That's an excellent idea. I'll create a shell of the secure wiki that we can use for coordinating with Witclip. It can also double as a way of interacting if we're ever concerned that someone might be listening into our thoughts."

Witclip: "Wait - now I really am affiliated with the group that is gathering fold-space components? Funny."

How much time to conjure prescience do you give Witclip? It's about 7 hours until the planned rendezvous with the cruiser.

Well, what's his maximum MBA he can use? Good hint? Juicy Morsel?

Conferring between Rufus and Hirigoyen, the best guess is "Good Hint" class prescience.

Ok, let's do the obvious one first. First attempt at prescience should focus on the following question: "If we meet as planned, what kind of resistance are we going to encounter."

Witclip: "I see a minnow in the center of a pond, and the word 'BUYAN' reflected in the surface of the pond."

Good thing War Pig has access to Wikipedia.

"Ok, so not only is it a cruiser, but it's likely a Corvette. Or a disappearing island.. but that could just be a reference to the cloaking device. So all that does is confirm that meeting as planned is a no go."

Rufus011: "Agreed - Buyan-class corvette makes sense. And the Chita Syndicate only has two such Corvettes."

The Raijin: "Corvette? Not strike class? Well. That's interesting."

Mek Pawl: "Basically a fat, slow strike class. But still massively outside of our capabilities to face."

The Raijin: "Except a corvette is a defensive class - an escort. That might mean it's being diverted from some other duty to engage in this task. What is the probability that it's being used because they suspect infiltration of their aggressor fleet command structure?"

Rufus011: "Interesting query. [tic tic tic bing] About 78%."

Goojje: "Er, ah, I'd like to reactivate the Tundak and ask it what it would like to do. I bet it's fascinating."

He pretends to not notice everybody gaping at him.

"If it's a defensive part of their fleet, can we arrange for it to be called away? Distress call of some sort? Or, if there is a schism in their command structure, can we entice another faction to take it out? If the aggressor fleet is corruptible, they may be interested in a functioning fold space they can hire."

"Of course this is all moot as we also need the fold space bits from the Daemon and I don't think anyone's thought of a way to do that either."

Rufus011: "To have the corvette called away would require for us to establish a credible threat that only it could respond to. We don't have any levers to pull inside the Chita Syndicate to falsify orders or engender insurrection, and I do not think they're the right group to prostrate our not-yet-functional fold space capabilities before."

The Raijin: "Yeah, but... War Pig's got the right idea about distracting the corvette. I just think we should do it the other way around."

Rufus011: "That literally makes no sense."

The Raijin: "You have all the poetry of an especially-smug microwave oven."

Rufus011: "Somehow, you have managed to make your sense quotient go down."

The Raijin: "Quite. What I mean is that send a ship to rendezvous as expected - except perhaps a bit early and a bit far away. While they strain their attentions to glean if it actually is the intended victims, we come at them from a blind side."

Rufus011: "That made slightly better sense, but I need you to elaborate about this supposed blind side. You've already told us that the corvette will be on guard."

The Raijin: "Well, would it be feasible to derive what the defensive mission of the corvette is?"

Rufus011: "...Maybe. Perhaps with another dose of prescience."

The Raijin: "Right. With that, would it be possible to track down any supply missions that might be heading to the defended zone in the next few hours?"

Rufus011: "Theoretically..."

The Raijin: "Right! So we get War Pig here to borrow the cloaked ship again to violate a supply run to whatever is being guarded. He and his wiggly-armed technician compatriots further violate some other element with legitimate authorization to visit the corvette. Then he goes all commando, Bob's your uncle, and suddenly we don't have to worry about the corvette any more."

Mek Pawl: "Just like that, eh?"

The Raijin waves his hand. "Pish posh. Details. Work them out."

Goojje [muttering]: "And you all acted like I was nuts."

2016.03.03 - A Crazy Plan

In a moment of frustrated desperation, NCODB decided to let Witclip in on some of their crazy secrets to help him attempt some more accurate prescience. After overcoming his disbelief and scaring him squiggly, posed the question "what is the easiest way for us to complete the foldspace in our current circumstance" and he drew forth a clairvoyant image of a daemon distinctly without horns. After some confusion about what this might mean, The Raijin recognized the image as perhaps referring to the Daemon lord that claims Brent as part of its domain, with an ancient nickname of "Horntaker".

This did not help much. They pondered horrified plans of how to breach the daemon's armada and face it to take the required foldspace components. Then they hit upon a less suicidal - but still decidedly crazy - plan. The location of the armada left by the daemon visiting Relic was known. So they decided to gather a strike force to penetrate that armada and steal the components they wanted. In addition to War Pig and his Lawrencian turrets Vega and Carl, Witclip the mentalist and Rufus010 were deemed sufficiently useful to risk. To help balance that risk, War Pig recruited one of his fellow Upper Pinnacle Bar regulars to provide backup - Bernie, the badass Reptiloid.

Paying a small fortune to employ the Tortuga, they proceed with their assault. Penetrating the flagship destroyer is not immediately difficult - it's too proud to run with shields up, making tampering by technician relatively straightforward. Once aboard and in contact with the fringes of the control system, Rufus010 is able to massively compromise internal security such that they have relative freedom of movement.

The next hurdle was a phalanx of 50 professional guards with assault weapons protecting the core sections of the destroyer. War Pig left the rest of the team behind temporarily, and waded forward and killed everybody. Assault electric streams are nasty on crowds.

Boring Story Bit 012 - Mid-Crazy

General hail from the destroyer: "You are already doomed! Your scans have been forwarded to our Master, who shall hunt you down and eat all of you. If you flee now, you might extend your lives by a few days. He is on his way NOW."

Vega: "Not the most imaginative thing to say, now was it."

Carl: "Well, they're technically right, to the best of their knowledge. And it sounds pretty intimidating."

Vega: "What, like we accidentally penetrated a daemon's ship in the middle of a fleet of cruisers, with no consideration for the capabilities of a daemon? And we be all like, "Oh, shit! Really? A daemon's coming? Well, crap, let's get out of here now before we get what we came for."

Carl: "Gotcha."

Bernie: "Kinda gruesome how most of these guys have their eyes burned out."

Vega: "Yeah, that's the down side of having conductive nanoscopic robots concentrated in certain areas - they tend to be the parts that share in the current."

Mmmmm... bbq Reptiloid. I inhale deeply. "This is making me hungry. Let's go." And I continue towards the goal.

Enormous maintenance doors loom before War Pig and his entourage. They veritably hum with defensive power deep in their solid construction.

Rufus010 confirms an UNLOCK command, and the immediate lack of ship's power binding the doors is stunning hole of sound. Carl twitches a force beam readies the opening mechanism.

Carl: "Uh, we can either open the personnel door, or open the whole door. And we can control the speed that they open. Any preferences?"

Bernie ushers the cargo-hauler-riding Rufus and Witclip behind cover, like the seasoned combatant he is.

"They're probably expecting us to come through the personnel door. Let's open the whole thing at top speed. Maybe we'll catch them off guard. But be ready to close it again quickly."

"Plus, dramatic entrance points."

The Dramatic Entrance Counter™ increments.

In the giant-sized corridor beyond are about 10 more security personnel (professional S.I.G.'s with assault weapons) and two intermediate scale machines. One is a loader-suit in the midst of fortifying the personnel door. It is caught off guard by the sudden shifting of the main bay door, and totters backwards in slow motion. Behind it and off the side is a large battle suit.

Let's just say that the time factor is now at a crawl, as initiative begins. Any observations that require dice will affect the first action. It is clear from the 'oh shit' expressions that War Pig gets initiative.

2016.03.10 - More Crazy

Kill kill kill kill grab flee flee flee

  • Pitched battle with large guardian battle suit.
  • Claimed the two required fold space components.
  • Survived the destroyer being blasted apart by the rest of the Daemon's fleet.
  • Used Witclip's mentalist power to intercept one of the cloaked strike class.
  • Boarded strike class and claimed it - but not before it sent out a distress call.

Boring Story Bit 013 - Dramatic Escape

First, Rufus configures a means of the Tortuga and the Strike class to send encrypted messages to each other. As we're both cloaked, we won't be able to send them tight beam, so they need to be encrypted enough so that the other ships can't figure them out.

Then, we flee at sublight to the edge of the strike class cruiser's range, and then the Tortuga continues to triple long range. Then the Tortuga will jump to superluminal heading to the nearest space lane. If the other ships go to superluminal to chase, we blast them. Otherwise, we give the Tortuga time to get away, and then we flee ourselves.

Complicating this plan is the distribution of a couple frigates and strike class cruisers, plus several squadrons of fighters that barf out of the frigates. They spread out in a search pattern that means some of them will be out of range of the strike class should they jump to pursue the Tortuga.

There is also the matter than nobody other than the Tortuga itself has any bonus to duck with ships.

Just for clarification, who and what is on which vessel?

Rufus is on the Tortuga as liaison to our group. Everyone else is on the Strike Class. Fold space gear is on the Strike Class.

We position ourselves out of range of the frigates. And using Whitclip, position ourselves at double long range of one of the strike classes. The Tortuga will only do a brief hyperspace hop to see how many follow it. If the enemy strike class also jumps to hyperspace, we'll attack it, otherwise, we'll try to take out three of the fighters that jump. Immediately after we attack, the Tortuga will go back to sublight and we'll also change our position. If we get attacked by nearby fighters, I'm hoping the strike class's shields will hold. Then we move off while cloaked to let the shields recharge.

We'll see how that goes the first time. If we're able to take out any ships, we'll all change our positions and try it again. I get Rufus to set up prearranged positions/vectors for a few attempts, and whenever either of us are decloaked we'll send burst encrypted communications to the other with any change of plans.

It's hard to really appreciate the scale of motion involved. The long range guns on the frigates are about 200 km, with an effective range of about 2000 km. The whole formation of the search spread of vessels extends about 10,000 km across.

The Tortuga, when it jumps to hyperspace, moves at 17,000,000,000 km/s. The fighters and strike class are double that: 34x109 km/s.

So wracking my brain for what experienced pilots would do: I think all the ships would conspicuously avoid flying through weapons range of the origin of the Tortuga's jump to intercept. So no opportunities in that direction. They were also primed to give chase immediately. I also think that the fighters might try ramming the Tortuga in hyperspace - it's probably -10 to hit and only proportional damage, but is possible because of the short initial separation and their speed advantage.

[rolls dice for 10 kamikaze fighters and 2 strike class versus Tortuga - 4 dice for all]

  • Tortuga: epic roll of 22, +6 to duck, for a target of 28. Attackers probably looking for double-sixes.
  • fighter 1: NOPE
  • fighter 2: NOPE
  • fighter 3: NOPE
  • fighter 4: NOPE
  • fighter 5: extremely NOPE
  • fighter 6: more very NOPE
  • fighter 7: NOPE
  • fighter 8: NOPE
  • fighter 9: NOPE
  • fighter 10: and NOPE
  • strike class 1: NOPE
  • strike class 2: NOPE

The Tortuga of course drops to sublight. It is temporarily incommunicado, as at this range only etheric communication is possible and that would reveal their location.

Tricky. What's next?

Ok, Whitclip's telepathy only doesn't work on me right? If he's on the strike class, can he communicate with Batty on the Tortuga?

Witclip doesn't have telepathy currently; he currently has +3 locate and empathy. His powers are foiled on other beings within the vicinity of the Mentalist Blind Spot. Let's assume that he helpfully applied 0-point marks on the Tortuga and Batti so that he doesn't need to locate them any more. It'll take him at least an hour to meditate back the 2 points required for telepathy after dumping the empathy and part of the locate bonus. If you have him do that, it also means that the Nameless Strike Class can spend the time putting distance between from the current vicinity. It does mean that your movement cannot be advised by Witclip's locate, though.

Carl temporarily ceases to be a turret while he effects repairs on the hull. On principle. It's obvious that War Pig and Bernie will interface via turret controls. But who is actually going to fly?

Before he dumps any locate, I get him to try and mark all of the enemy ships. Then he dumps and gets telepathy back.

Two questions:

  1. How long will it take the strike class to get back to Relic?
  2. How long would it take Carl to transfer Tortuga's mind from his ship to the strike class? Assuming he's agreeable.

I hereby christen the ship 'Hog'. I let Vega be pilot.

Vega is almost unbearable in his wriggly joy. "Piss me off now, Harperians! BWA HA HA HAA HAA!!"

Witclip has a considerably easier time locating the people on board the ships than the ships themselves, but they might be alerted to the marks and be able to brush them off, so he strains and applies marks to the actual ships as best he can.

The Hog can get back to Relic in an hour.

Carl is unsure about the time to transfer the Tortuga's sentience, if he's agreeable. Usually, ship's intelligences are well-buried inside of the ship construction specifically to make it hard to remove them, and that will make the removal portion wildly variable. Actually installing the sentience in the Hog should be quick, as long as no special security measures are needed.

Only an hour... mhwaaa, haaa, haaaaa. Ok, first we go an hour at sublight while Witclip gets his mojo back. Then with telepathy we find the Tortuga and meet up with them to grab Rufus.

Tortuga/Batty: "Ok guys, we're going to go back to Relic. I'm fairly certain that the ships will follow us instead of worrying about you, so all you have to do is stay cloaked at sub-light for a while. After we drop off the cargo, if you're still in danger we'll come back."

We then go in opposite directions at sub-light for a while, make sure we're not near any enemy craft, and then punch it to superluminal. I keep a close eye on the sensors looking for other ships coming from the direction of Relic.

Whitclip: "See if you can find Mek Pawl's mind to let him know we're coming."

An hour spent to get Witclip's telepathic mojo working: check.

Grabbing Rufus is more of a problem. Assuming that they were in hyperspace for even just one second (instead of the usual 5-second turn approximation), and assuming that travelling at half the speed of light is reasonable without triggering etheric sensors (150,000 km/s) instead of the more-reasonable 1/10th luminal... it'll still take 31.5 hours to get to them.

And it's not like you want to skip through hyperspace to get near them either.

Nevertheless, communication via telepathy is still valid to inform them of your plan.

Witclip is unable to locate Mek Pawl's mind at this range.

There is indeed a large vessel travelling quickly this direction from Relic.

The fundamental choice is whether the Hog jumps to hyperspace and leads a chase to Relic (or wherever), or does the Hog jump to try to meet the Tortuga again, or the Hog sits in local space and everyone aboard learns how to macrame.

Or maybe there's something clever I haven't thought of?

Me no clever.

Screw it. We let the Tortuga know we're racing to Relic and to lay low. Then we punch it and get to Relic ASAP.

Engage operation Kermit the Frog. CHECK.

Another phalanx of fighters are primed to try ramming, but they lack sufficient superluminal speed advantage to make it work against the Hog. As the strike class streaks towards Brentian space, a group of cruisers give chase - briefly. At the boundary of Brentian territory, they halt.

The rest of the Daemon fleet jump to the proximity of the Tortuga. The large ship that was coming from Relic turns around. It isn't fast enough to intercept the Hog, and it won't make it back to Relic until well after the Hog gets there.

Anything the people aboard the Hog do during the hour transit?

On the assumption that we're going to have to hire a pilot, I get the technicians to give me override on the control systems in case I have to take over. Can't think of anything aside from that.

All righty then.

Let's assume there's no difficulty dropping the Hog out of hyperspace at minimum safe distance from Relic. Rufus011 can assist with a flight path that allows a cloaked cruiser to arrive at the deposition pit, and then Mek Pawl takes over the offloading and starts the final assembly with Goojje in the NCODB secret base. Estimated time to completion: 2 hours, then an hour of testing.

What's next?

Do they need the fulcrum during that two hours, or only once testing begins?

Whitclip: "Are you still able to contact the Tortuga? They ok?"

Bernie: "Know any good pilots?"

They do indeed need the fulcrum - and the mentalist blind spot. The fulcrum will be buried at the heard of the mechanism and nigh impossible to remove without a 5th-stage technician and an knowledge of the machine's schematic. The mentalist blind spot will be housed in a secret compartment, locked via the secure wiki, and with a launching mechanism should such a need exist.

Witclip: "Batti reports that the Tortuga is still safe, but Rufus says that there is a 37% chance that they will be detected and blown up by the Daemon when it arrives."

Bernie: "Aye, I know some decent pilots. Thing is, pilots are a prissy lot, and they'll scratch each others eyes out for a shot at piloting a strike class cruiser. You can probably recruit somebody better than the ones I know."

I reluctantly hand over the fulcrum and mentalist blind spot. What's the ETA on the Daemon ship arriving near the Tortuga?

It is possible that the grim humour of Rufus010's prediction - the Daemon is headed back to Relic.

I'm assuming that Bernie is not at the NCODB secret base, and therefore he's possibly still on the Hog. But, just to be completely certain: who is where?

I figured we were all still at the landing pit. Ok, if the Daemon is still on the way to Relic, the Tortuga is fairly safe. Here's my plan:

  • War Pig goes down to the secret base.
  • With the mentalist blind spot gone, Whitclip will mark the Hog, Carl, and Bernie.
  • Bernie and Carl will fly the Hog away from Relic. Opposite direction from the incoming Daemon. I tell them we'll contact them in three hours. If they don't hear from us in say, a day, they get a free strike class cruiser.
  • Everyone else down to the base to finish construction of the fold space.

By the way, I ask Rufus what they typically paid seasoned combatants for high danger jobs and pay Bernie that plus 20%. I impress upon him a strong desire to keep Carl safe and that there will be many more adventures and riches if things work out.

Bernie: "Wait - so you mean to tell me that the fact that we managed to pirate a motherfucking strike class cruiser while we were impetuously fetching that other... stuff... that the strike class - a Daemon's strike class somehow isn't the surprise main prize of the adventure?" He blinks with ongoing puzzlement. "Aaaaand... you're saying that you're willing to hand it over to me." Realization flashes. "It's still whatchamacallit - marked - by the Daemon, innit? Are you sending me off to be a diversion?"

Carl: "I call captain!"

Bernie scowls at the Lawrencian.

Carl: "Don't make me space you, turret gunner."

Bernie: "Fine. Let's get the zark outta here and see if we can quietly score a reliable pilot."

Rufus011 [securely]: "We have no set payscale for combatants or jobs. However much you feel like paying Bernie is up to you."

Final construction of the 1-variable foldspace begins in earnest.

I transfer 5K to Bernie before he goes. Then down to the secret base to await a functioning fold space.

After an hour, the Daemon arrives. And he's pissed.

No, pissed isn't the right word. He's a legendary being that has been embarrassed. It is a matter of honour.

However, saving face does not seem to include going easy on the local Brentian government. Rufus011 is able to determine that he is actively crushing information out of key government personnel.

Good thing War Pig's kind of evil, or he might feel guilty about that. I do send a message to the dock yard: "Sorry, but there's a possibility a Daemon might come there looking for me. You should probably have an evacuation plan ready."

Rufus: "So if the Daemons figure out that we've got a fold space somewhere on Relic, do you think they'll incinerate the place?"

Rajiin: "Is there any information we can plant with the Brentian officials or computer systems that would throw the Daemon off our trail?"

Sockamye Dockyard AI: "Well, isn't that horrific. You don't plan to engage the Daemon here, do you? Our shields will be set, and all organic controllers will be quietly de-permissioned temporarily."

The Raijin: "It might also be appropriate to warn the Pinnacle Bar, not that they're likely to be taken off-guard."

Rufus011: "The probability that this Daemon suspects there is a foldspace on Relic is less than 5%. Relic's reputation as a crossroads for all kinds of nefarious plans means that his primary intent is probably to find out where you're going. Similarly, it might not appreciate that the equipment stolen had a particular purpose. Foldspaces are virtually useless in this galaxy, because nobody is brave enough to let others connect to their local spacetime. The 87% probability is that he thinks this was done purely to shame him, and that the primary goal was to goad his defensive fleet to scuttle his destroyer. Plus the whole stealing of a strike class cruiser."

He pauses thoughtfully. "OTHER Daemons, however, might make better use of mathematicians and be extrapolating scenarios that are dangerous for us. Same with various governments and large corporations."

"For the mean time, probably the most constructive thing we can due is hire an array of ships to leave suddenly and quickly in multiple directions. Although there is the fact that his indiscretions might draw the attention of the Daemon that actually claims dominion over this territory. He might be forced to leave soon anyway."

Construction continues on schedule.

Over the course of the next hour, the Daemon does indeed rampage around the Sokamye Dockyard and the Pinnacle bar, but is unable to inflict serious harm on either establishment. He does coerce a couple unfortunate individuals to come out and have their brains squeezed out - first figuratively then literally. (Mmmm! Jelly!) He soon determines that War Pig is in neither location, and his giant personal shuttle heads in the direction of the Hog.

Not very shortly after that, a sizeable fleet of the HornTaker Daemon passes by. Apparently to escort Baphomet out of her territory.

Then the fold space generator is physically complete, and calibrations begin.

Mek Pawl: "OK, let's run through some fold space basics, just to make sure that there are no surprises operationally."

"First thing: range. The operational range of our 1v-FSG is 10,000km to 100P. The bottom limit is physics-limited - that's as tight as we can fold space-time. We might be able to eke something slightly closer, but it would risk burning out our systems and there would be a very obvious energy spike emitted from us. The upper limit is data-limited - we lack sufficiently precise information about gravity maps to place the portal near a 'surface'. That being said, technically we can go to functionally-infinite distance in void, send through somebody with the capability to accurately determine their location and modulate from there. Probably not necessary though. Also, we can hook up with any 0v-FSG of sufficient diameter, as long as our separation is above the minimum limit for both FSGs."

"Next: functionality. Our bad boy is a 3-meter maximum diameter portal. We're going to have a ship-scale shield hyper-toroid covering the edge of the portal to aid transit. We also have both a ship-scale shield barrier we can fire up if desired, plus a simple airlock field generator. The foldspace can only instantiate as long as it doesn't transect any disruption nodes - which mostly means it can only open in space or open air. We can't open a portal in the middle of most solid objects, because any nanoscopic robots will generally have a disruption net for self defense. We also can't move a fold space portal once it's open - it will have the effective inertia of a small planet relative to local spacetime and won't move easily."

"Rufus seems to think that the Mentalist Blind Spot effectiveness will extend about 5 meters from the portal - in addition to the functional core of the base. So anybody going through will have to get at least 5 meters from the portal opening for Witclip to be able to mark them to maintain telepathic contact."

"We're going to have a couple 'oh shit' protocols pre-programmed. They called 'code brown' and 'fuck all y'all' respectively. Initiating code brown means that the foldspace will open seven portals in succession. The first six will be effectively-random locations - within parameters of being near the surface of habitable plants with interstellar contact. The seventh will be to the corona of a brown dwarf star. That should turn the base and a sizeable pocket of Relic's core into magma, but not cause too much destruction on the surface. Fuck all y'all powers up the system isolation shields to full power, and opens up a portal to behind the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. Goojje says that everything within a few light-minutes will go away."

"Any questions?"

The Raijin looks like he's doing a fine job of hiding how appalled he is.
Vega, not so much. "Ho-ley zarking shit."
Witclip just blinks.

"Ok, so for testing. Can we construct a probe to send through to a random spot in space, test the marking ability of Witclip, and then retrieve it?"

"Also, can we construct a tiny superluminal ship that will fit through the portal? That way we're not limited to transporting personnel to a planet surface."

"Finally, anybody have any ideas what to do with our new toy?"

Mek Pawl: "Way ahead of you on the probes-in-space calibration, with plans to dial in Witclip's marking ability. As for tiny superluminal ships, it might be easier to buy some small aerospace hoppers. After we excavate extra room to fit them in, obviously. Though that's a shit-tonne easier now that we don't have to teleport mass up to the surface. But frankly big guy, there isn't much in the way of any vessel that will fit through our aperture and can haul someone your size. Much less something that's superluminal capable."

Rufus011: "I think our first order of business should be to begin operations to counter plausible threats from entities that might deduce our existence."

Vega: "Uh, shouldn't we rescue the guys on the Tortuga?"

The Raijin: "No, we should not. Opening a portal to the Tortuga would both give away their location and reveal the existence of our super-secret space folder. Besides, presumably the Daemon's fleet will eventually have to bugger off to catch up with the Daemon."

Vega seems unconvinced. "So, what do you propose we do?"

The Raijin: "Well, obviously, we should open a portal to a nice, distant, civilized resort planet, and treat ourselves to some first class food and drink. Being stuffed inside a reinforced bunker in the core of a moon is a tad claustrophobic."

"By catch up with the Daemon, would it not make more sense for the Daemon to go to his fleet instead of the other way around? If the Daemon is being escorted away, how do we know he's not being escorted away in the direction of his own fleet?"

"I think I should go up to Pinnacle, hire a pilot, get the Hog back here, and then go mess with that fleet."

Mek Pawl: "Well, if you feel like hailing the Daemon to explain to him what he should do, please do so from a location far removed from this base. Meanwhile, we can clearly see on etheric sensors that the Daemon's personal shuttle is heading almost exactly along the path taken by the Hog when it departed. It is a path leading generally away from his fleet, which is still positioned near the Tortuga at the other end of Brentian space."

Rufus011: "Daemons are classically stubborn beings. Even though his shuttle is only capable of 1/4th the speed of the Hog, he'll probably be willing to chase it for centuries. The hypothesis that his fleet will have to meet up with him is highly likely - the slowest ships in his current flotilla are 3 P/h frigates, and they'll be able to intercept him easily, even with circumnavigating Brentian space."

The Raijin: "Hrmn. If the Daemon is chasing the Hog, it's going to be tricky to have it loop back to Relic. It might make the most sense if it never returns."

"Well, if the Daemon is out of the picture, and the Tortuga is safe, I'm leaning towards the resort planet."

Portals are opened, probes are punted through, marks are applied and considerable calibration is made. Portal placement accuracy goes from ±1000 km to ±100 m, then down to ±1 m, and finally ±10 mm.

Goojje slumps from the released concentration. "There!"

Mek Pawl nods. "Yeah, that's about as dialed in as we can get this beast. How did the mentalist-reckoning accuracy score?"

Rufus011: "We're still going to have to deal with increased accuracy decay proportional to distance from our base, cross product to distance from a previous portal opening."

Mek Pawl does a 6-limb shrug. "Sure, but better than nothing when we don't have somebody reporting to us their coordinates."

The Raijin: "Splendid. Nirvana-4 then?"

Rufus011: "That is a wasteful suggestion."

The Raijin: "Shouldn't matter to you - you can't go. You have to stay here with Witclip to run the magic door. The rest of us could use a brief respite of opulent comfort. If we discuss anything important, we'll think it at Witclip to share with you."

Goojje actually smiles a bit. Mek Pawl chuckles. Vega rubs his tentacles together eagerly.

Rufus011: "Fine." The holographic controls cause a miniature Andromeda galaxy to shrink around Relic, and then expand on a planet a thousand Parsecs away. He manages to find a section of beach outside of a resort 10 minutes from sunset. The portal snaps open on a glorious view of soft sand a few meters from gentle surf.

The Raijin strips off his weapons and equipment, and his boots, and strides triumphantly through. He continues on into the waves, elaborate robes and all. Mek Pawl drops most of his gear, but can't readily discard the semi-implanted tools and scanners. He scuttles with enthusiastic speed into the surf, joining The Raijin and the oddly attractive Felinids that he chatting with. Goojje gets bare naked with one deft, dramatic motion and waddles his wrinkly butt through and into the water too.

Rufus011 confirms via tightbeam. "No weapons of any kind tolerated. Bringing one will mostly just shorten your stay and make returning difficult."

Hmmmm... I can see three possibilities if I go through without weapons.

  • I have an awesome time frolicking in the ocean until we head back.
  • I'm somehow stuck there without weapons either due to locals attacking, or unforeseen backstabbing.
  • I cease to exist because I'm too far away from my IDB.

I shrug, lose the weaponry and gear (except for the move boots) and dive on through. Probably while wondering if those are the first Felinids I've seen since I've been on Relic.

They might not be the first Felinids, but Felinids have been sufficiently rare that it's still effectively novel and oddly reassuring.

An odd thing happens when War Pig appears on the late-afternoon surf beach on distant Nirvana-4. People don't react to him with overmuch caution or awe. Everyone nearby is green, awareness-wise. The few slightly-less-green or possibly-slightly-combatant individuals are sufficiently spaced out that they haven't noticed anything special about Hirigoyen either. In fact, the only person War Pig thinks has a glimmer of appreciation is the waiter armed with a tray of beverages who took care to offer a musically clinking glass to War Pig first. After collecting drink orders, he returns up the beach with ineffable dignity to the beach-side bar at the edge of the resort.

The Raijin's suit seems to have magically freshened itself up with the seawater and is now impeccably dry and smooth while he sprawls on the sand with his newly-acquired beverage. "See, there's the thing. And I realize that it massively undermines what I can contribute to the group, but I think we should conduct operations somewhere completely separate from Brent. All we get for trying to leverage our new capabilities in our local sector is an unnecessary exposure to risk."

Mek Pawl has constructed an elaborate force-straw mechanism to extract his drink from its container while he lazily buries himself in sand. "I dunno, man. We've got a lot of grudges to tend to. The best part of this whole thing so far has been the excuse to start fucking with the Harperians."

Vega, who has indecently mounted his drinking vessel to plunge his mouth into the main volume makes some slurpy grunting noises. Hirigoyen thinks he means to agree with Mek Pawl.

Goojje: "No matters what happens now, we will always already have successfully built and used a 1-variable fold space. We are legend."

Mek Pawl: "Except we can't tell anyone about it without massive personal risk."

Goojje shrugs. "Legends come alive when the subject dies anyway."

The Raijin: "Philosophy from our centuries-old comrade aside, I think we should tidy up our affairs on Relic to not give anything away and to avoid risk. The Eupholid death squads have to be crawling everywhere by now. And who knows what the Daemons might get into their antlered-skulls to look into. Harperians. Xerathians. Corporations. Governments. Or, heaven forfend, any of that painfully long list starts to cooperate."

He takes a dramatic swig from his drink and gives a theatrical shiver. "NO. We should set up a new operation miracle-workers somewhere else. And when we make too many enemies, we simply never go back and start up somewhere equally distant and new."

Mek Pawl: "Information gets surprisingly far, though."

The Raijin: "Yes, quite. And for those we impress, we leave behind instructions for contacting us. For select customers."

[cue A-Team theme music]


So have you got something in mind for continued War Pig adventures? This seems like a good game end or game pause spot. As Goojje said - He is legend. I think he'd be happy kicking back and living the good life for a while on a pleasure planet.

I do have a game in mind... setting anyway, probably will start off as a make up as we go along game like this one did.

Nope - no concrete plans.

The detailed web of incoming threats surrounding Relic space was what I had obsessively constructed. But then I realized, via The Raijin, that these threats need not be faced after the 1v-FSG is functional, complete with telepathic communication. So really it was looking to be a return to the roots of the game - random violence. Except that, obviously, Hirigoyen would have a lot more ability to pick what to expose himself to.

I have been toying with the idea of running a non-aggressive character. Somebody with a useful support skill, so they could join up with teams easily, but also have considerable survivability and escape prowess. Just saying.

Hmmm... non-aggressive character could work. I'm worried it will get dull though. The battles just end up NPC's fighting each other. Still, for the game I'm thinking, I was going to start you off as 1 stage non-combatant and 1 stage defender, so that would work. Could try it and see how it goes.