Tuesday 21 to Wednesday 22 June 468 AT

9 Jun

The Dawnstar arrived in-system just as Diomedes, a local delittante of Mal and Gambit’s former acquaintance, found his situation becoming untenable. Accusations of misappropriation of funds and resources during the planetary evacuation in the Star Demon War were flying, and his rivals and enemies were throwing around terms like “war profiteer”. It was past time for a change of scenery – ideally, by taking a ship out of system, but for the time being getting a position on the spaceside section of the Trade Federation starport would at least put him out of local jurisdiction.

As luck would have it, Administrator Malik – the uplifted dog who was the Trade Federation chief in the system – had a job for him. Captain Alder of the cargo ship Nomad had been murdered some days ago, on the evening of the grand reopening of many of the bars in the starport’s entertainment section; enquiries by the security teams had drawn a blank, but a less official-seeming investigation might loosen a few lips. Diomedes’ local knowledge would help, and to give him a cover story for the investigator Malik paired him up with the Dawnstar crew (for Malik was their contact in Lt. Dillon’s network), since it was believable that a free trader crew might ask questions about the death of a fellow trader.

Between them, the party started piecing together the last movements of Captain Alder, as well as the activities of his crew. The Nomad was currently grounded due to what the crew were referring to as “technical issues”, and the party’s suspicions were raised when they noted that the crew hadn’t been enjoying their shore leave to nearly the extent they’d have been expected to.

Working on an initial theory that Alder was the victim of a mutiny by his crew, the party checked out the bar he was last caught on camera inside. So far they had been unable to reconstruct a crucial part of the evening – how Alder got from the toilets in this bar to an alleyway a couple of blocks away, where his beaten body was found. As Gambit investigated, a spacer calling himself “Larry Butler” accosted him from outside the bathroom window and said he had important information. With Mal and Max observing from a nearby table, Diomedes and Gambit met with Larry at a nearby bar, where he told them a wild story about Alder being assassinated by a hit squad loyal to the Benefactor. Max, however, noted that a woman at a gambling machine got up and left after Larry did – and left money still riding in the machine.

Tailing the mystery woman, Mal discovered that she seemed to be working with Larry and another man, and managed to get footage of the trio meeting in a disused park in the abandoned section of the pleasure district. Analysis of the footage allowed the party to not only cross-reference the individuals’ appearance with the starport’s database – the three were not the mere spacers and drifters they appeared to be, but were actually captains of small trading vessels with unsavoury rumours of piracy floating around them, as well as a tendency to visit the territory of the Eater of Worlds (a Star Demon purported to be an opponent of the Benefactor’s) every six months or so. Even more damning was what the lip-reading algorithm Max coded on the fly was able to make of their conversation: they were discussing heading down into the very access tunnels they had directed the party towards in order to plant false evidence of the Benefactor “death squad”.

From the rest of the conversation it was possible to piece together what had happened. Allusions to the Nomad‘s crew struggling to get its computer under control suggested that its computer’s legal partition had gone into lockdown on the Captain’s death, preventing any personnel not designated as his next of kin from taking charge of the ship. Evidently, the crime really was the simple case of mutiny (as a result of the Captain misleading his crew about the profits the ship had been making in order to short-change them), and these agents of the Benefactor’s foes had opportunistically tried to use it to make it look as though the Benefactor had breached the Trade Federation treaty – an action which would either result in the Federation-Star Demon war erupting all over again, or the Benefactor being taken down by her fellow Star Demons (or at least losing a lot of status) in order to patch over the diplomatic rift.

Administrator Malik disclosed that the Benefactor was expected in-system within the week, and suggested that the party might be in line for an appointment to meet her. He also suggested they offer their services to the Droyne, who were seeking ships to undertake a quick archaeological expedition to the outer asteroid ring. The Droyne found the Dawnstar crew acceptable, mostly because they found that Gambit had an acceptable smell…

Tuesday, 14 June 468 AT

7 Apr

Having debriefed the Baron, the party decided to move on to the world of Verve, a planet whose post-war reconstruction process was being overseen by Edenic Reclamations Incorporated. Loading up with passengers and a cargo of basic manufactured goods, the party initiated the week-long jump to Verve.

Monday, 13 June 468 AT

24 Jan

Baron Tildin explained the premise of the mission: in order to aid his long-term project to repair the nuclear war-damaged ecosystem of the system’s former capital world (a tidally locked world with constant winds and differing ecosystems within the human-habitable band, the intolerably hot portion of the dayside and the frozen portion of the nightside), he needed the player characters to retrieve a database of genetic data and a live (cryogenically suspended) Revokian pseudo-wolf from the bomb-proof basement laboratory he had built under his mansion. (Gambit found the whole “basement lab and hidden nuclear shelter” angle somewhat suspicious until somewhat later, when the party’s investigations revealed an intriguing interrelationship between the aristocracy and academic infrastructure of Revok Prime.)

Investing in a motion detector, the party flew to the old capital world and, met by the Baron utilising a telepresence system to remotely operate a rover droid in order to guide them in. The Baron had done some reconstruction work himself so far, but there were tasks to accomplish and parts of the mansion which it would be awkward or impossible for him to accomplish with his telepresence rover. The party had no trouble getting into the basement and deactivating the security robots therein with the Baron’s override codes, but once they got to the lab they discovered some problems – after penetrating the outer blast doors they found that the computer which the genetic database should have been stored on had been wiped clean and disconnected from the intranet, and the cryogenic pod was not where it was supposed to be. Radioing back to the Baron, Tildin speculated that perhaps the maintenance droids had detected signs of some imminent power failure in that section of the lab and removed the materials to a safer and more secure location.

Moving deeper inside, the party discovered the lab’s security droids, which had been destroyed at some point in the years following the war by a gunfight. On hearing the pseudowolf’s howl and finding that their radio link to the surface had cut out, the party tried to withdraw, only to discover that the exit bulkhead had been closed. Cornered by three guards leading the pseudowolf on a leash, the party were surprised to discover that the complex was inhabited by Revokians who had taken shelter during the war, and who seemed to be under the impression that the war was ongoing and the party were foreign spies.

The party persuaded the guards to let them talk to the survivors’ leader, Counsellor Blackford, once Montano convinced them that he was an agent of Trade Federation intelligence. The Counsellor, who seemed to have a powerful psychological hold over the inhabitants of the complex, explained that they were the survivors of an evacuation ship that had crashed nearby during thr war, who had taken shelter in the complex as the nearest place of safety. After a tense negotiation and a brief Mexican stand-off, the party convinced Blackford to let them go and give them the data and wolf in return for a promise not to tell the outside world about the Counsellor’s strange little dictatorship – a promise they had no intention of keeping.

Saturday 11 to Sunday 12 June 468 AT

10 Dec

Mal’s investigations revealed that the strange phenomena on the ship was due to the hull itself being subjected to a powerful psionic field and taking on unusual properties as a result – namely, it had become a sort of psionic mirror, reflecting psionic signals and thus providing some safety from outside scrying. Mal was also interested to discover that Lt. Dillon was in fact the fellow cadet that she had dated for a while back in the Space Corps Academy.

The party decided to help the police with this narcotics ring, which turned out to be smuggling cybernetic narcotics – specifically, wafer chips which could be used by data addicts to experience first hand real life murder from the point of view of the killer or the victim. Mal’s naval training proved effective in locating the smugglers’ vessal – a yacht owned by a local noble – in time to allow the party and their police allies to get the drop on them. The party then returned to Dillon’s club to discuss politics and wait for a mission briefing from Baron Tildin, who apparently has audacious plans concerning the rebuilding of Revok Prime’s ecosystem…

Thursday 2 to Friday 10 June 468 AT

3 Dec

Loading up on passengers, precious metals, uncommon raw materials and textiles, the party set off on the Jump to Revok prime, during which Mal, Bella and Dietrich scoured the ship in the search for a psychic amplifier which Bella believed must have been installed onboard, since without some sort of external amplification her latent psychic abilities wouldn’t have manifested so overtly.

Arriving at Revok Prime, the party set about examining the lie of the land. They soon ascertained that the Star Demon in charge of the system was a mysterious figure who called herself the Benefactor, and appeared to control a fiefdom of 9 other star systems (of which two were in Jump range of the party’s ship). They were also able to have a chat with some of the local Better Living diplomats, who were able to shed some light on the internal structure of the Star Demons. Apparently, beyond the inner circle of the original Star Demons, there was a set of rulers of local empires who had willingly thrown in their lot with the Star Demons, and it was these sub-empires who had actually driven the Demons’ recent expansion. The particular sub-empire dominant in this region of space was ruled by General Frakes, who had led a coup on his homeworld in order to deliver it and its empire to the Star Demons, and was given Star Demon status as a reward. Frakes had elevated a number of underlings to Star Demon status too, including the Benefactor, who seemed to be one of the less nightmarish Demons to be ruled by and who was currently involved in a power struggle with another third-tier Demon to increase her influence.

As the conversation continued at the TAS restaurant, Montano noticed that over on the other side of a room was an individual dining alone, who Montano recognised as Lt. Dillon, a former Space Corps naval officer and Revok Prime veteran – and eventually remembered that he was one of the veterans who was supposed to have disappeared. Confronting him, Montano was able to wrangle an invitation to the “L.E. Club” surfaceside, which Dillon was apparently managing. The next day, the party’s investigations (and a little hacking) revealed that Dillon’s nightclub had a basement fitted out like a military briefing room.

Dillon explained to the party that he was running his own little “foreign legion” out here – recruiting various veterans of the war against the Star Demons in order to perform missions to help the Benefactor’s position, on the grounds that if internal conflict is about to break out in Star Demon territory, the Benefactor thriving would be better both for the citizens of this region of space and for relations with the Trade Federation. Seeing an opportunity to get into the Benefactor’s confidence, the party agreed to do a little job that the usual foreign legion recruits weren’t suited for – namely, undertaking an expedition to the irradiated former capital world of the system to retrieve a certain animal specimen.

Thursday 2 June 468 AT

1 Oct

The party infiltrated the filtration systems of the underground complex under the guise of an inspection of the nanotechnological hub. Making their way to the sub-levels, they made a shocking discovery; the Solarii military elite were practising a form of institutionalised cannibalism, with both political prisoners and cloned humans from the colony ship’s reserves used for meat. In a confrontation with Lisa (after the party escaped the security forces scrambled to prevent them leaving), the party realised that the dysfunction of the Solarii military culture ran deep, with Lisa ranting about how eating human beings made her people closer to Old Earth than off-worlders and bragging of eating Arion’s leg.

Chief Advisor Toshoyo engaged in a little gunboat diplomacy, after the party were able to get an SOS to him through rudimentary Solarii jamming attempts, in order to get the party out safely and declared that he’d be seeking to have the Solarii domes declared a Red Zone, which would greatly restrict travel into and out of the domes. He also intended to set up a plantation elsewhere on the planet to produce food (to make up for the inevitable collapse of the Solarii’s own export market as news of the scandal spreads), and was going to pressure the Solarii into allowing their political prisoners and dissidents to go into exile on this plantation – the idea being that whilst in the short term the Solarii would be glad to have a means of ridding themselves of unwanted elements and slightly rehabilitating themselves in the eyes of the galaxy, in the long term this would mean that sooner or later the only folks left in the Solarii domes would be those who were happy with the cannibalism – and once the supply of Old Earth clones runs out, they’ll have to either radically rethink their attitudes or turn on each other.

The Chief Advisor rewarded the party with 5000 Credits. The party can also expect to earn major profits from the passenger trade, since there’ll be a lot of offworlders wanting to get away from Solarii in a hurry now…

Wednesday 1 June 468 AT

24 Sep

The process of planning the infiltration gained an unexpected boost with the arrival on the scene of Montano, a former acquaintance of Gambit and Mal who, in his former career as a Trade Federation intelligence operative, had investigated the Revok Prime fiasco.

Evening, Tuesday 31 May 468 AT

3 Sep

With Gambit satisfying himself that Chief Advisor Toshoyo was on the level (and incidentally winning 100 Cr. whilst in the process of making his inquiries), the party disclosed the photograph to Toshoyo, who mentioned that his scientists had noted that the area around the filtration hub had been thoroughly cleaned up before they got there – which meant it would be near-impossible for them to tell whether the equipment had overloaded, been deliberately blown up, or was caught in the crossfire of some sort of altercation. He also mentioned that a Star Demons diplomatic vessel had arrived in the system, and the Star Demon diplomat would be present at the reception that evening.

The party travelled to the reception in the Chief Advisor’s antigrav limousine. The streets were once again deserted, but Mal noted a child watching the limousine pass from an upstairs window with an expression of disgust and revulsion. When they arrived the party were greeted by Lisa and shown into the reception in the university’s main hall. Present were diplomatic representatives from Better Living, Inc. and the Star Demons, as well as representatives of Solarii science (university professors and graduate students), government (diplomats and civil officials), and security (military personnel).

The Star Demon diplomat, a woman named Colonel Wynne, made small talk with the party and seemed interested that Mal and Gambit were veterans of the Revok Prime incident – apparently numerous veterans from both side of that battle had visited the planet over the intervening years. She also mentioned how at diplomatic functions she liked to watch how the locals approach the buffet, since their eating choices can apparently reveal things about their culture. Gambit observed over the course of the evening that the scientists and academics ate no meat, the diplomats and civil government folk ate plenty of meat but little plant matter, and the military personnel didn’t eat from the buffet at all…

Meanwhile, Max and Mal were trying to wheedle information out of various individuals. Max mentioned to Colonel Wynne about how the party had come to help out with filtration systems and provide important technological goods to help with the repairs, whilst Mal happened to get a graduate student to slip up and mention buried sections of the colony starship underneath the domes. Arion approached Gambit and, feigning dropping some meat on him, slipped something into his picket – Lisa noticed, but Gambit was able to trick her to prevent her from pickpocketing the item back. It turned out to be a data store of blueprints of the dome cities, showing the buried sections of starship underneath each of the domes. Most of them had been filled in to provide solid foundations for the domes, but there seemed to be extensive chambers underneath the central dome which had not been filled in – and the corridor serial numbers indicated that the photo Arion had passed to the party earlier in the day had come from this area. A large chamber at the bottom of this area had been marked by Arion as “So horrible you wouldn’t believe if I told you – you have to see this for yourselves”.

Back at Toshoyo’s office, the party were called by Lisa, who apparently had been having a word with Arion. She tried to suggest that Arion was trying to spread nasty stories to scare off the off-worlders, and implied he was part of a local faction opposed to an off-world presence on Solarii. She also sent through a mildly different version of the plans of the underground section (which she claimed consisted of government offices and a large civil defence shelter) in which the large chamber was marked as being filled in with cement. The party determined that one way or another, they needed to get inside and have a look…

Daytime, Tuesday 31 May 468 AT

21 Aug

Max, Mal and Gambit made themselves known to Chief Advisor Toshoyo, head of the Better Living operation at Solarii. He explained why Better Living were especially interested in sorting out the world’s filtration problems: apparently, the filters were based on a nanotechnological system hailing from Old Earth, and that whilst it might take some decades even with this technology in hand to reconstruct the science and engineering behind it, the dividends for those who accomplished this are potentially vast.

Toshoyo had liaised with the Solarii authorities to enjoy a tour of the planetary museum, an exhibition highlighting the world’s history. Led through the exhibition by curator Lisa Zephyr, the party learned of how the world was colonised by one of the many cloneships which had been produced during the colonisation boom prior to the Telepath Wars. The world hadn’t been touched too badly by the Telepath Wars thanks to the Solarii’s decision to keep their gene lines as close to Earth normal as possible – an attitude which extended to the plants and agricultural products they had reared from embryos and seeds stored on the cloneship. The cloneship itself had in fact remained part of the infrastructure of their society – although the AI and robots that had controlled it had long since shut down according to their programming once the colonists had reached a point where they could make their own decisions, the ship itself had been dismantled in order to build the dome network the people of Solarii live inside.

As they exited the exhibition, the party were presented with gift baskets by Arion, Lisa’s assistant. A note had been secreted at the bottom of Max’s basket – a scribbled “Don’t trust L. – A.”, and a photograph showing security personnel standing over the bodies of dead citizens in a corridor somewhere – presumably the aftermath of some violent civil disorder. Having already decided that there was something creepy and totalitarian about their museum visit – the way the streets were clear, the fact that they’d been brought along at a time when other citizens wouldn’t be at the museum, and so on – the party decided to do a little digging. Their research established that, so far as they could tell, Chief Advisor Toshoyo didn’t appear to be overtly in the pocket of the Solarii – at least, he’d stood up to them from time to time when they’d made especially egregious demands of the spaceport population.

As far as the local culture went, by aggregating a large number of news stories and other media Max and the ship’s computer were able to come to a shocking discovery: the Solarii had a quasi-religious reverence for Earth to the point where original ideas and bringing in alien and extraterrestrial influences was anathema to them. “Research” consisted not of original experiments but of attempting to reconstruct Old Earth technology and knowledge, for instance, and easy and obvious ways to improve local conditions – such as modifying local plant life to be more nutritious to human beings – would be rejected on the grounds of this socially-mandated xenophobia. The lack of even fringe groups questioning this suggested a tightly controlled society. All disturbing stuff to discover, especially since the party had an invitation to a diplomatic reception at the university that evening…

Monday 23 to Tuesday 31 May 468 AT

23 Apr

During the Jump journey the crew spent their time on various projects and personal training regimes.

On the 29th, Gambit was perturbed to notice cold spots on the internal sensor readings from the cargo bay. He roused Max to help him investigate and Bella to make sure someone knew what was up and could rouse the others if necessary. When Gambit and Max investigated the cargo bay, they discovered the cold patches had disappeared, but in the locations where the patches had been they found two areas of moisture in the shape of prone bodies; Gambit was reminded of the passengers in the low berths, and sure enough beneath the area where the patches were was a vent for the life support system, leading to the low berths. Mal and Dietrich were woken up and when they checked over the berths they’d discovered that two of them had malfunctioned mildly – not enough to cause danger to the occupants, but enough that there was some low-level brain activity on the part of two of the low berth passengers.

On a hunch that there was some sort of unusual psionic activity, the crew checked on the middle and high berth passengers. None of them admitted to any problems except one of the diplomat’s aides, who mentioned having odd dreams. Also, the ship’s cat seemed to be being stroked at one point by someone who wasn’t visible.

The mystery was cleared up somewhat when Bella was asked about her own dreams, and it turned out she’d had three, each of which was suggestive of the different phenomena the crew had noticed. It was decided that an attempt would be made to get Bella psionic testing at Solarii.

On the 30th the ship emerged from Jumpspace. They identified themselves to the local Better Living patrol ships, who asked to fly them in under escort – not a measure imposed by Better Living, but one required by the locals, who were apparently not welcoming when it came to offworlders.

Arriving at the starport, the party was able to sell the electronics they’d bought at Manwe for a tidy sum.