game reports


Our heroes are on the planet of Marfik 4, fighting an epidemic in an ice-mining community that has been abandoned by its medical and security staff. They have been told that some of the ice that was the likely source of the disease is en route to the Lithofor on the ice hauler Callow Boy, and need to stop it before it infects that community of 700,000 souls. They were planning to first attack the security and medical staff who abandoned the community, however, and were preparing to attack this group – who they call the Isolation Faction – when they learnt of a new complication in their mission. The Callow Boy has turned off its transponder and has disappeared in the Dark Between the Stars. They need to rush to find it before all trace is lost.

The cast for this mission:

  • Adam, gunner and acting captain
  • Reiko Ando, deckhand
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Dr Banu Delecta, medic

First defeat

The PCs decided that they still had time to liquidate the Isolation Faction before they headed after the Callow Boy, and wanted to prioritize this because they thought they needed more information about the ice and whatever the Isolation Faction knew about it. So, they decided to approach the factory where the Faction hid, carrying breaching charges, break down the door, and kill them. Unfortunately they did not see the automated machine gun turret set up on the roof of the factory, and were gunned down by a hail of bullets as they approached. The attack was ferocious, knocking down both Adam and Reiko with potentially fatal and heavy-bleeding injuries. Banu and Siladan had to drag their colleagues back to the main settlement under a rain of gunfire, and administer emergency first aid in the shadows of the settlement.

Defeated, and needing days for Adam and Reiko to recover, the PCs returned to the Beast of Burden, and took her away from the planet of Marfik 4 to search for the Callow Boy.

Lost in the Dark

They headed first to where the ship had last been recorded, assuming that there was some chance it would be waiting near that location for a rendezvous, or had continued on a straight path to some secret purpose. They were afraid that it might have changed course and was now heading to the portals, perhaps to offload its ice at a more populous planet in Caph or even Coriolis, but since they had not thought to download the schematics for the Callow Boy they were not aware that it was incapable of portal travel, and their fears in this regard were unfounded.

After a few days’ travel they reached the point where the Callow Boy had gone silent and discovered a very simple reason for its sudden disappearance: it had been destroyed. The ship lay silent in space, broken into four parts, its ice cargo floating harmless around the wreckage of the ship. There was no emergency message, no SOS beacon, just the silent ruins of the 1km long ship hanging in four huge pieces in the darkness. They approached the ship and soon learnt the cause of its destruction, as two huge squid-like monsters detached themselves from its ravaged hull and began moving rapidly toward the Beast of Burden. The infamous vacuum beasts of Marfik 4 had taken the Callow Boy, and now sought to destroy the PCs’ ship.

The fight with the beasts was difficult. Their shadowy, biological structure was hard to lock onto with the ship’s sensors, and they moved quickly and easily through the Dark Between the Stars. Before Adam and Reiko were able to destroy one of the beasts they other had latched onto the hull, and was preparing to begin eating its way through to the crew. Adam had to disengage from the gunner’s post and run to an airlock, carrying the ship’s only machine gun, with the perilous task of going outside the ship to attack the beast himself, since the ship’s guns could no longer lock onto it. As he ran through the ship Saqr threw the ship into complex manoeuvres to try and shake off the beast, as Reiko destroyed the second beast. Fortunately Saqr was somehow able to shake off the beast, and Siladan somehow managed to get a lock onto it as it flew off the hull of the ship. Moments later their torpedo struck the newly-locked beast, and it blew apart in a cloud of ichor. They had survived.

The Draconite Message

They approached the ship and were able to identify three crew hiding in a safe room in the centre of the engineering section. After some complex manoeuvres they were able to dock and rescue the crew, who came on board relieved but shaken. They knew nothing about the disease in the ice, and had simply been conducting standard cargo operations on Marfik 4. They had not kept track of the ice as it was loaded, preferring to enjoy the settlement’s spartan accommodations while the ice miners loaded the ice, and so could not tell the PCs which of the ice in their cargo had come from a potentially contaminated source. They were innocent of any plot to poison the Lithofor, and were able to confirm to the PCs that they had planned no secret course changes on their mission – they had simply been attacked by vacuum beasts and their comms systems destroyed before they could send off a distress signal.

Near the wreckage of the Callow Boy the PCs found a small message drone, of the kind used to deliver physical messages between ships. This message drone had detached from the Callow Boy when it was attacked, following some algorithm intended to preserve the drone, but had been caught by one of the vacuum beasts and partially consumed. They recovered it and confirmed that this drone had been programmed to move secretly between ships, intended to latch onto a ship heading to the portals. It was an advanced Draconite design, small and highly stealthy, and obviously intended to take messages in a physically secure manner. The message it carried was intended to be delivered to a contact on Coriolis, some kind of procurer who must be working for the Draconites. The message was a short video message from Amira, the medic on Marfik 4:

We have found a possible specimen of interest to your employer. Direct experiments are not being conducted, but we are recording evidence of its progress in a human population. It is highly effective. Please inform your employer to send agents to investigate.

It was short, and clearly indicated evidence that the Isolation Faction were working for someone. The PCs returned to Marfik 4 with a clear plan.

Liquidating the Isolation Faction

The second attack on the Isolation Faction went more smoothly. They used the ion cannon on the No Satisfaction to destroy the automated gun turret and managed to approach the entryway without being attacked. A breach charge soon tore down the outer door and they burst in, all guns blazing. Through judicious use of a motion sensor they knew where all their enemies were, and could anticipate their ambushes and flanking attacks. There were 8 remaining security guards in the Isolation Faction plus their leader and the medicurg Amira, spread through three rooms in a flanking formation. While Adam and Delecta took on the main front of the guards in their position on a gantry over the factory floor, Reiko Ando and Siladan charged into the side rooms to take on flanking troops. The battle was soon over, and ended with the death of the security guards and their medicurg Amira.

The Draconite Contract

On Amira’s tabula the PCs found a short message from the same contact on Coriolis. The short video message was a year old, and it told Amira that her planet had been identified as one of a set of planets with a high probability of hosting native pathogens capable of infecting and harming humans. Were any unusual diseases to present themselves in the settlement she would receive a large payment for identifying the source. Extra money would be provided if she were able to track the natural history of the disease, study it directly in humans, or obtain samples. The sums on offer were huge, and clearly an incentive for her to react as she had done when the disease struck the settlement. When she had indicated her willingness to perform the task, the Coriolis contact had shipped her the Draconite messenger drone, to use if she identified any such samples. It was clear that when she had seen the opportunity to profit from the colony’s disease outbreak she had decided to abandon her role as doctor and become instead a mercenary, waiting for the colony to die and filming their final death throes. She had planned to burn the whole settlement down once the epidemic was complete, blame the whole thing on a huge accident, and then profit from the ice samples. Unfortunately she had not expected Md. Jenin Abad to be contacted secretly, and had not planned on the PCs interfering with her plans.

So what, the PCs wondered, were the Draconites doing? They must have sent these messages to other settlements, and had a broker in Coriolis collecting information on potential bioweapons that they would then presumably collect for research. Why were the Draconites building a bioweapons division? Why had they been hunting that statue on Kua? What was the Draconites’ secret plan?

A few days later Md Jenin Abad isolated a cure for the disease and distributed it among the colony, saving 60% of the colonists. The PCs made sure they obtained a copy of the cure, and left Marfik 4 for the Amedo system considerably richer, and considerably warier, than when they arrived.

Marfik 4 on a clear afternoon

Our party have arrived at Marfik 4 and found it in the midst of an epidemic. The population of the one settlement on the planet has split into two parts, with one small group of security and medical personnel in a separate section where they have established a quarantine and appear to be unaffected by the disease. The PCs think that the disease may have been uncovered from ice mined on the planet, or perhaps is a bioweapon being tested by the medical personnel on the planet, but they have not yet established which. Their task now – for which they are being paid handsomely – is to guard the medicurg Md Jenin Abad as he tries to save the colony, and to figure out what has gone wrong. The cast for this session:

  • Adam, gunner and acting captain
  • Reiko Ando, deckhand
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Dr Banu Delecta, medic

Day 3 of the epidemic has now begun, and the PCs have made a little more effort to prepare for what they expect to be inevitable conflict with the security team. They have managed to access some basic schematics for the factory area where the quarantined security squad are, and have started referring to these people as the Isolation Faction. Most of the patients taken to the Grace of the Icons 7132 in the first two days have died, and in the morning of the third day Md Jenin Abad took another 10 up to the ship for further investigation and treatment. On the surface, in the small and cold rooms of the settlement, the epidemic raged on.

The emergency message

The PCs were in the briefing room discussing the best approach to take to the Isolation Faction when they were alerted to an emergency message being broadcast from the planet. Adam answered it while Siladan traced it to a small relay station perhaps two hours’ drive on a crawler from the settlement. The message was weak but urgent, and when the broadcast opened they could hear gunfire in the background. The messenger was a person called Hamza, who told them that he and two others were trapped in the relay station and under attack by security guards from the Isolation Faction.

Hamza was not asking for help, however. He and his two colleagues had fled from the Isolation Faction and run to the relay station when the Beast of Burden arrived in orbit. Because they had fled the Isolation Faction they knew that the ice from which the disease had come was now being transported on an ice hauler to the Lithofor, but no one in the settlement knew this because the shift supervisor was dead and his records had been altered. The leader of the Isolation Faction, Mehrak, had told everyone that they could not alert anyone to the ice hauler’s journey because this would invite orbital bombardment, and the rest of the Isolation Faction were doing as they were told, but Hamza and his friends refused to obey this terrible command, and fled to the relay station. They then spent days rerouting command systems to avoid the control the security guards in the Isolation Faction were exerting over the planet’s comms and to try and make contact with the Beast of Burden. They had finally managed to set up a temporary bypass and need to send a message to anyone who would listen: they had to stop the ice hauler. This ice hauler was on a course for the Lithofor. It was carrying the ice that the PCs suspected might have held the disease – and being transported now to a planet with 700,000 people living in it.

Once Hamza and his colleagues set up the relay bypass the security guards had come to physically stop them. They had barricaded the door and now they only had hours to live, but they needed the PCs to act: stop the Callow Boy in its journey to the Lithofor, and prevent a disaster.

The PCs checked their star maps and determined that the Callow Boy was traveling slowly on a long journey – it would take about 20 days to reach the Lithofor and was moving about half the speed they could do in the Beast of Burden, so they could catch it even if they left the next day. Someone pointed out that if the Callow Boy changed course and headed for a portal they would not be able to catch it in time, but they decided to risk it: if the ship changed direction for the portal they would have to send an emergency message to the whole system, which would likely mobilize one of the Queen’s old Firstcome ships to despatch it – and would end with an orbital bombardment of Marfik 4 and the death of everyone on the planet.

But first they would rescue the people at the relay station.

Travel on Marfik 4

Battle at the relay station

The PCs did not waste their time with ice crawlers. They took the No Satisfaction and screamed in to the relay station in a crash dive from orbit, arriving 10 minutes after they left the Beast of Burden. At the relay station they found two ice crawlers, with soldiers hiding in them and firing on the sealed door. Rather than end the fight quickly and gracefully using the No Satisfaction‘s ion cannon they piled out of the ship onto the ice, and Saqr took the ship up to provide air support.

As they approached the crawlers the soldiers inside them switched their focus and began firing on them. Reiko Ando ran forward to engage one squad in melee, and Siladan ran forward to attack the leader, who was crouched in cover behind a crawler. Meanwhile Banu Delecta and Adam provided covering fire from prone positions on the ice slopes. Saqr fired the ion cannon at one crawler but missed, leaving a long dagger of super heated fog expanding in waves in the frozen air above the battle zone. After that one shot Siladan and Reiko entered melee, and the No Satisfaction‘s weapons could not be used, so Saqr completed a circuit of the relay station to search for other attackers, finding none.

Although the battle did not go too well for Siladan, Reiko was a vicious whirling dervish of violence, managing to knock two attackers unconscious and drive the others away into the snow without taking any injuries. She chased after them but they ran straight into the No Satisfaction‘s firing zone and, caught in her spotlights and receiving threatening warnings from Saqr, dropped to their knees and surrendered. Meanwhile Siladan and Adam finished off the other four attackers, Adam firing into the ice crawler until Siladan could charge in with his halberd and begin cutting them. Finally all but two were dead, and the relay station was liberated. Hamza and his colleagues emerged, saved just in time by the PCs’ bravery and overpowering firepower.

Their gaze turned back to the settlement, and the two Isolation Faction soldiers they had taken captive.

The Isolation Faction’s story

They learnt little truth from their two prisoners, or from Hamza. The Isolation Faction doctor, Amira, told them that the disease likely came from the ice, and ordered the security guards and their families into the factory for safety in the first day of the epidemic, before it could spread. They shut down communications with people off planet, and waited. Amira and the leader of the security guards, Mehrak, told them there was nothing they could do about it – it was likely a fatal xenoorganism and no treatment would stop it in time; all they could do was wait and pray to the Icons. Similarly, they could only hope and pray that the ice in the Ice Hauler was safe. Hamza stumbled on the shift supervisor’s body, however, and his abandoned tabula, and learnt that the records had been altered; realizing he had been betrayed, he convinced two of his friends to flee with him to the relay station and risk their lives to send the message to the Beast of Burden. In his cowardice, he had not simply gone to the settlement because he did not want to catch the disease; and he did not expect the relay station would have been shutdown by central authority. So he had done what he could, and thankfully with the Icons’ grace it would be enough.

Hearing this story the PCs again began to suspect that this was not simply a story of an accidental epidemic released from ancient ice. There was too much going on, and too many strange plots. That medicurg was up to something, and they intended to find out what. They returned to the No Satisfaction, and headed back to orbit to plan their next move.

As good a place as any to die

Our PCs have fought off an attack by the Order of the Pariah on an archaeological dig at Caph B1, and after a cursory interrogation of the sole survivor learnt that the remaining detachment of the Order of the Pariah on the planet lacked sufficient troops to conduct a follow-up attack. Confident that this would mean they did not need to confront the Order’s local Abbott at the settlement, and not wanting more trouble than they needed, they decided to wait out the week at the dig, maintaining a careful watch on the area but not making any extra trouble. After a tense but uneventful week the dig leader, Sorabad Min, was able to register his bid for the site successfully and told them they were free to go.

The roster for today’s adventure:

  • Adam, gunner and acting captain
  • Reiko Ando, deckhand
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Dr Banu Delecta, medic

Md Jenin Abad makes contact

From Caph B1 they decided to travel to the system’s main planet, Orchid, where they would rest for a few days on the space station and see if there was any work available for the next leg of their journey, on to Marfik. Orchid is a religious dictatorship, a ruthless extremist cult of the Church of the Icons ruling over a small and increasingly fractious population on a hot and exhausting planet, and nothing in their library database commended the planet to them. The spaceport was an ordinary and shabby old tube design, 500m long and about 100m wide with docking stations on the outer side and a sweep of service rooms, accommodation and businesses clustered on the planet-facing side, all with a slowly changing view of the clouded surface of Orchid. Most life on Orchid is reptilian and while they passed their time on its space station they became intimately acquainted with a range of lizard, snake and turtle dishes. They looked around for work among the few denizens of the station, and Reiko Ando was able to buy two hand grenades from a dubious trader in one of the markets, but no work presented itself. On their second day of fruitless searching, however, Dr Delecta received a message from an old colleague, Md Jenin Abad:

Hi Banu, it’s Jenin. I know you remember me from class and I connected you to Adam. It’s good to see you’re still working together and seem to be doing well. I really need your help, on a sensitive job. It’s a medical job in Marfik that carries high risk and requires a great deal of discretion. I wouldn’t ask you – in fact I couldn’t ask anyone – but you have two ships, at least one of which I guess has a medbay, and for this job I need two ships. I saw you still have Adam with you, which means you have muscle, I need that too. I’m willing to pay 100,000 upfront and if we’re successful another 50,000 on exit. It’ll take about a week, you’ll need to transport me and my interns to Marfik 4 and stay in orbit while I do some medical work. We may die on the job which is why I need a ship – the decontamination protocols will ensure that nobody else goes down with me, which is something I can’t guarantee planetside. If you agree to help me then please let’s meet and discuss it quickly – it’s urgent. But it also needs a lot of discretion so if you don’t want to take the risks then please don’t ask me more information, I can only tell you what you need to know after you agree. I know you and Adam trust me to be honest, and I promise you I’m not trying to do you wrong, it’s just a delicate situation and I can’t share anything unless you’re in. Anyway whatever you decide give my regards to Adam, tell him to keep his head up his chin down and his armour on. Of course you ended up on an armoured Yacht, you can’t even adventure without a gold-plated toilet can you? Let me know your decision soon please.

Yours,

Class of ‘77

Md. Jenin Abad

She relayed the message to the rest of the group and they decided they should meet him. He invited them to a public observatory, where they found him sitting at a small ring of seats around a picnic table, the window opening on a great sweep of green from the planet below. He had prepared a small spread of fruits and grilled lizard meat, with cups of sweet tea, and to Delecta he had not changed a bit – even the faint incense smell on his clothes was the same as it had been two years earlier when they were in the academy together. His hair was in dreadlocks, as it had been when he first started studying medicine before the stricter rules of the later years had forced him to shave it off, and he had the same warm, infectious smile as he stood to greet her, the impeccable warmth of genuine humanity that had made it impossible for his richer and more arrogant peers to hate him no matter how out of place he was in their elite school. He took her hands and then clasped Adam by the shoulder, giving him a small, slow nod of recognition, before introducing himself to the rest of the group. They sat down to share out the fruit, dates and baklava, and fussed pouring tea for each other as over their shoulders the green arc of the planet inched slowly across the viewing window, slowly consuming the view and drenching the room in pale green light.

First they asked him about how he – a poor itinerant medic – had access to such a large amount of disposable money. He had a foundation, he told them, which received funds from various organizations and donors, but in this instance he was being paid directly by a separate organization, and the money was not his. He also told them that the job would take 1 to 2 weeks depending on how complex it was, and it could be very dangerous. They agreed to help him, and he revealed the situation.

The planet of Marfik 4 had been struck down by some kind of epidemic. Marfik 4 is an ice-mining world, which exists solely to dig up ice and trade it to Marfik 3, a desert world with a single settlement fashioned out of a fallen Firstcome space station called the Lithofor. Only about 700 people lived on Marfik 4, eking out a tough life in the ice mining trade, and once the epidemic struck they had split into two groups. The facility’s doctor, a few leaders and the security team had evacuated the living quarters to an industrial section with separate life support systems, and had left the remainder of the colonists to die of the epidemic. They could not call openly for help because if they did so and the Marfik system’s ruler, Queen Quara, heard of it she would activate her standard anti-epidemic precautions – orbital bombardment. However, by coincidence Jenin had been in the system, passing through on his way back to Coriolis, and someone from the Nomad Federation on the stricken planet had contacted him directly through activist circles. He thought he could do nothing but then seeing the Beast of Burden and Grace of the Icons 7132 in-system, and realizing they were under Adam’s captainship, he decided to put in a call for help.

Jenin’s plan was to take the two ships and his four interns to Marfik 4 and enter orbit above the mining site. They would use the shuttle from the Beast of Burden to ferry sick people up to the Grace of the Icons 7132, where he would establish a medical facility in the cargo hold. He wanted to use the ship for a medical centre because he could control the number of patients he dealt with, he would be away from the risk of any kind of intervention by the team who had separated from the diseased population, and if he was unable to cure the disease and himself became infected, he could be spaced, the ship opened to vaccuum, and standard decontamination procedures enacted that would ensure no biological matter remained on the ship. He wanted the PCs to stay on the Beast of Burden ready to move in and cleanse the ship if anything went wrong; he might also need them to go planetside and sort out trouble, which they could do in exo-suits without (much) risk of infection. Jenin’s team included a generalist who could fly shuttles, though she could not pilot spaceships, so he was confident that his team could handle the task of moving patients from the surface.

The PCs agreed to his plan, and the following day they set off for Marfik 4, 100,000 birr richer and considerably more apprehensive than when they arrived at Orchid.

Marfik 4

Pox planet

The trip to Marfik 4 took only a few days, both ships passing without incident through the portals and arriving over the ice mining colony without incident. The Marfik system is famous for vacuum beasts that are a hazard to shipping, but they did not encounter any on the journey, and arrived undamaged over the colony. Marfik’s sun is a red sub-giant, which has already expanded to consume the closest planet in the system and is slowly, over millions of years, going to consume the rest, so the system was suffused with its deep red light. Because Marfik 4 was an ice planet it did not reflect much of this light at all, and instead hung in space like a hellish ball of deepest crimson, almost black, with wisps of paler red floating across its surface where large cloud systems reflected a little more of the distant sun’s light. It looked like an evil bloodshot eye glaring balefully at them from the shadows of the Dark between the stars, a highly forbidding sight. As their ship drew into close geosynchronous orbit over the planet the could see the glitter of occasional satellites drifting across its surface, distant lights winking in the baleful charcoal blur of the planet.

They took their shuttle to the surface to meet the doomed colonists. At the landing strip they disembarked, wearing their Firstcome exo suits, and marched through drifting snow and over crunching ice to the grim, heavy concrete porticos of the welcome area. Here they passed through glassteel doors into a large atrium, where they were met by Jenin’s contact, Aramis. In a connected room, visible through glass, they could see 10 patients waiting in transport beds, no one tending to them. Jenin’s three interns – two doctors and a nurse – set to work moving them. Meanwhile the PCs explored a bit and asked some questions, and it became very apparent to them that there was something going on here. Why had the doctor separated himself so suddenly from the sick patients.

They took a connecting walkway to the industrial sector that the security team, doctor and leader had removed themselves to. As they walked they discussed a name to describe this breakaway group, and settled on The Cowards. They marched up to the door to the Cowards’ sealed industrial hideaway and, seeing it would not open, hailed them on intercom. The response was brief and rude: they were not going to come out or let anyone in, their number included the security team, and they were not going to welcome intruders with tea.

They returned with the shuttle to the Grace of the Icons 7132, but rather than returning to the Beast of Burden they accompanied the interns with the patients, looking for someone to interview. They settled on a woman called Selina, who had been in the canteen the first night with two of the index patients, Angelique and Scaggs, and had cleaned up Angelique’s vomit – which had been full of blood – and likely become infected immediately.

Interviewing her was difficult because the disease affected the brain of its victims, rendering them vague and confused and damaging their attention span. However, from the interview they learnt that Angelique and Scaggs had been on their day off together at the canteen when Angelique had vomited blood on the tables. This, Selina told them, was because Angelique and Scaggs were on the same ice-cutting shift that week, working the same site, and so had the day off together. She also told them that she had seen a doctor but he had been wearing heavy protective equipment, and had given her very little care.

The PCs discussed it as they disinfected before taking the fighter back to the Beast of Burden. They guessed that this disease had been buried in the ice, and somehow Angelique and Scaggs had been infected. When they asked around they discovered that ice cutters did not wear full exo suits: the air on Marfik 4 is breathable and the work is heavy, so they simply wear eye protection and scarfs, and it is possible they could breath in ice dust and definitely water vapour. The infection route seemed obvious, and when they consulted with Jenin he agreed; but the doctor’s use of heavy protective gear, and his sudden withdrawal from the community, was suspicious. Adam let Jenin know that they did not trust the Cowards and wanted to investigate the situation further: they would serve as an armed guard on any shuttle heading to the surface, and in the morning they wanted to do more investigation.

The missing manager

Overnight six of the ten patients, including Selina, died. The next morning they returned to the surface, and Siladan attempted to hack the computer system to find the shift roster so that they could find out where Angelique and Scaggs had worked. Unfortunately he failed, so instead they decided to use more old-fashioned methods. They located the shift manager’s room and visited him to interview him, but found his room empty and disturbed with obvious signs of a fight. They found blood on a cracked window, where perhaps his head had been banged on a window, and all of his electronic gear had been taken. Delecta took a sample of the blood, Saqr took a picture of the manager, and they left the room behind. Speaking with Artemis, they learned that the ice-cutting rosters were public knowledge, easily accessible, but when she attempted to access them she found that the last few days – including Angelique and Scaggs’s shift allocation – had been deleted.

As they expected! They found a quiet spot so that Saqr could use his mystic powers to seek out the shift manager, and were not surprised when Saqr, emerging from his trance, told them that the shift manager was buried in a snowdrift beyond the industrial sector, just outside the colony perimeter. Obviously he had been killed after revealing the location of Angelique and Scaggs’s ice-digging mission to the Cowards. That must be ground zero for the infection, and for some reason the Cowards were interested in hiding its location.

They returned to the Grace of the Icons 7132 with 10 more patients, and an investigation of the blood on the window from the shift manager’s room revealed he did not have the infection. They told Jenin what they had found and decided that the next day they would break into the Cowards’ refuge and demand answers. Something sinister was going on in this colony, and they were going to get to the heart of it.

They decontaminated, returned to the Beast of Burden on the ship’s fighter, and prepared for bloodshed on the blood red snows of Marfik 4.


Art note: The first picture is a satellite image of Antarctica. The second image is from the deviant artist called DesertDraggon.

 

Our PCs have defeated another attempt on Rockhome 3 by Samina’s Corsairs. But these efforts have brought them attention, and they began to feel that it might be wise to make themselves scarce from Coriolis station for a while, especially since the data core they paid a hacker to open has been reported to have exploded, killing the hacker and drawing more police attention to their activities. After they defeated the kill squad sent by Samina’s corsairs to get them in Coriolis, they learnt of a hacker employed by the Corsairs, who lives somewhere in the Dabaran system and is able to launder the transponders of ships to assign them to new ownership, and they began to think that a trip to Dabaran might solve a lot of their problems: they could escape from the increasingly cloying atmosphere on Coriolis for a while, and take the stolen ship The Grace of the Icons 7132 to this hacker to have him rebrand it in their name, so that they could legally sell it. They might also be able to press this hacker for some information about Samina’s Corsairs, in particular for information on their strength. They had by now killed some 40 of the corsairs’ number and taken several of their ships but they had no idea if this had made a big dent in their force of arms, or simply made them angry.

So they decided to head to Dabaran. But this system is some distance from Coriolis on the Dabaran Circle, and the first system on the closest path would be Hamura – the home range of Samina’s Corsairs. So, they decided to travel the long way, through Caph and Dabik and out to the slow, empty, rimward side of the Circle. Of course it is possible to travel rapidly between systems of the Third Horizon if you really want, by entering a portal and immediately jumping to the next system when you emerge, but to do this to Dabaran would require that they enter and exit stasis 7 times, and to do this in any short time period would be madness, so they guessed instead that their journey would be long – perhaps two months. They decided to take the Grace of the Icons 7132 with them, and to use it as a transport ship on the way; so, they looked for work that could pay their journey around the rim.

The Mercy Graves Mission

They soon found work. A venerable and well-respected archaeologist called Sorabad Min approached them and requested their help in lifting a large dig to Caph B1, known colloquially as The Mercy Graves, and remain present for about a week as the dig was set up. The Mercy Graves was a small, inhospitable planet, cold and with a thin atmosphere, with historically no settlements. Recently someone had uncovered evidence of a buried Firstcome fleet, known as the Hydra Flotilla because of the characteristic shape of its largest ship, and a settlement had been set up to dig into the fleet. This settlement was a mixture of Nomad Federation, Order of the Pariah, and Consortium expeditions, and they were not getting along. In the lawless environment of the planet Sorabad wanted a decent escort until he could establish a solid claim, which would take about a week, and after which he felt he would be safe from marauders. He would need a large ship to transport his dig workers and equipment though, so the Beast of Burden and the Grace of the Icons 7132 would be a perfect expeditionary fleet for him. Since he was paying well and had good bona fides with a reputation for careful and thorough preparation, the PCs agreed to his deal, and within a few days they set off for Caph B1.

Grace of the Icons 7132 at Caph B1

Sabotage at Caph

They divided the staff for the mission between the two ships, with Reiko Ando as pilot on the Grace of the Icons 7132 and the rest of the group on the Beast of Burden. Sorabad Min took a suite on the Beast of Burden, leaving much of his crew and his chef de mission, Angelique el Said, on the Grace of the Icons 7132. The PCs also hired an engineer for the Grace of the Icons 7132, since they only had one, and they set off for Caph B1.

They passed through the portals uneventfully, arriving in the Caph system with a three day journey to Caph B1. On the second day, however, something went wrong: someone jammed the docking station, and killed the engineer when he went to investigate. Reiko Ando, sensing something was up, followed the saboteur, but not before the saboteur was able to set the reactor to go critical[1], and evacuate all the escape pods. With just minutes to save the ship, Reiko had to rush to the engineering section to try and avert the shutdown while Saqr guided the Beast of Burden in to dock with the ship. With the docking station door system disabled, Adam was forced to use a breaching charge to enter the ship, and hurriedly gather all the passengers for evacuation in case Reiko failed to stop the self destruct cycle. They managed to evacuate with just seconds to spare, and sat in space hopelessly waiting to see if Reiko would be blown apart with the ship, until they received her message: she had aborted the cycle at the last moment. The Grace of the Icons 7132 – and their mission – was saved, though they had lost the ship’s escape pods, an engineer had been killed, and someone in the dig crew had been revealed to be a saboteur.  Whatever Sorabad Min hoped to achieve, it appeared powerful forces were out to stop him.

Attack on the dig

They landed at the small settlement on the Mercy Graves and set out for the dig site immediately, drawing their crawlers into a bowl-shaped depression after several hours’ travel. The PCs, expecting trouble, set up fire positions on some of the heights around the camp, with Siladan and Dr. Delecta remaining in the camp itself, and waited for trouble.

Trouble was not long in coming: an attack by squads of armed assailants coming from three sides of the camp within hours of laying out their supplies and equipment, when the place was still in chaos but too fully unpacked to allow anyone to flee. Fortunately the PCs saw the teams creeping in and were able to open fire from their positions, raising the warning and giving Siladan and Dr. Delecta time to take defensive positions. The battle was joined, with the PCs exchanging fire from the heights while Siladan entered melee with those who came too close to the camp, and Dr. Delecta stalked the attack squad through the piles of crates and gear that had been laid around the perimeter of the camp.

Unfortunately, no one saw the machine gun nest on the only unguarded ridge. It opened fire on Siladan and Delecta as they fought, and drove everyone into cover, giving the attackers the chance to fight back and consolidate cover. Fortunately Adam was left unmarked on a ridge, and was able to charge up to the machine gun nest and attack, hitting the gunner with his knife and tearing him away from the gun. Their melee was short and harsh, and when it was done Adam had control of the machine gun. He opened fire on the incoming strike teams, and the battle was soon finished.

In the aftermath, as Delecta provided medical care to injured archaeologists and team members, Adam and the uninjured members of the group searched the dead, revealing quickly what they had suspected from the beginning: their attackers were from the Order of the Pariah. They dumped the corpses in the snow and turned their faces back towards the settlement. Should they confront the Order, or persist with the dig?

And would they get danger money if they did…?


fn1: For some reason every reactor on every ship is required to be designed with an easily accessible critical explosion setting that has a very short fuse.

The coming storm

Our heroes are in Mumbai seeking the notorious womanizer and drunkard Mark Bond, who they have been told has “gone native”. It is 1857, hot, tense, and it is obvious to them after just a day in Mumbai that there is trouble on the streets of the city: the local population is not happy with the state of things, and after their time in the Anglo-Persian war they have an instinct for the trouble that is coming. They also think, after visiting his house, that Bond did not go native, but has been abducted by the same group that attacked them on the streets of Muscat. They have identified a likely place to look for him, but they need transport to get them there quickly, and so they cut a deal with Ashkarpreet Singh, hero of the Punjab and captain of the former British corvette the Gurmukh: they will raid the home of the Collector, a notorious artifact dealer, and steal back a diamond that belonged to the Sikhs. In return he will take them to the place they have identified, a hillfort in Rajasthan. They have also befriended the mysterious Maori warrior-captain Manawa, and discovered that the Collector holds an ancient cape of her people that confers immortality on its wearer. She told them that the only weapon that can penetrate this cloak is silver, and so after dividing the few silver bullets they own between their two marksmen, they head to the Collector’s residence in the rural fringe of Mumbai.

They arrived at dusk, taking a carriage to a nearby turnpike and then walking past fields and orchards to a small rural compound surrounded by a high wall. Rather than march straight in, they decided to first send a scout over the wall. William Oxbridge took on this task, slipping into the bushes on the far side of the wall and creeping through the garden to examine the compound. He saw a small estate house surrounded by gardens. A horseless carriage stood empty in front of the main entrance, and to the rear of the house he saw a small, unguarded entrance. Between the entrance and the cover of the bushes, however, was a small oriental-styled garden with some strange statues in it that William suspected would be dangerous. A path led from the back yard through the garden to a gazebo, from which he could hear voices. He crept closer to listen.

The death of Flashman

A man and a woman were engaged in breathless whispered love talk in the gazebo. The man, called Flashman, was desperately trying to escape from the garden before the girl Lucy’s father caught him en tryste with her. Lucy was trying to convince him – breathlessly, and with some disputation, since he kept grabbing her in the Flashman Crossgrip – to meet her father so that he could ask for her hand in marriage, but Flashman was having none of it. He departed from the gazebo to a final plaintiff whispered “Don’t you want to be the 8th Earl of Elgin!?”, and with a final “All in good time my love!” sidled off toward the main gate. As he departed, Lucy assured him she would leave the back door open for him to creep back in. William Oxbridge III sneaked back to the wall and crept over it to warn the others: Flashman knew a way into the house that would not trigger the statues.

 

They ambushed Flashman as he flopped over the wall. He was a big, ruddy-faced and pugnacious looking British man, a classic boarding school bully, the kind of man it is a pleasure to beat down. When they surprised them he eyed them up with a nasty, piggish look and demanded to know “Are you from the Maoris?!” and then “Did the Sikhs send you?!” and then “It was that devilish MacArthur wasn’t it? Gods, and his girl was a flat-chested hussy, barely worth the trouble!”

With that they laid into him. He was a hard man, wearing good quality infernal webbing and carrying a couple of useful and vicious little magic items that he deployed to his benefit. Unfortunately he was not the equal of Abdul’s shadow step, and caught without a sword on his devil’s mission to deflower a British lady, he was no match for the four of them. Finally they killed him, and the flower of British colonialism lay dying in the dust of a byway in old Mumbai. They looted him for all his gear, dumped his body in a drainage ditch, and scaled the wall.

The 7th Earl of Elgin

Having killed Flashman they decided to sneak into the house through two routes. First William Oxbridge would use his resurrectionist power to steal Flashman’s form and enter the house through the back door. He would open a side door for them so that they could all creep in, and then go upstairs to Lucy’s room. Disguised as Flashman, he would trick her into revealing the location of the room where her father kept the artifacts, and then come and tell the others. This plan went just as well as they had all expected, and William was forced to bed the girl in order to maintain his disguise. Disgusted with himself and the sad contingencies the universe sometimes forced a man to deal with in the course of his service to the nation, William left the girl dozing and slipped downstairs to open the window of a cloakroom. The PCs crept in here and William crept back upstairs to recover his belongings.

Unfortunately at this point things went wrong. As the PCs were preparing to leave the cloakroom the earl of Elgin emerged in a dressing gown, saw them, and called in his guards. The group were attacked by an animated suit of samurai armour, and as they were forced to defend themselves William was upstairs, unable to help, trying to learn from Lucy where the artifacts were. The Earl of Elgin then reappeared dressed in the Maori cloak of invulnerability, and in joining the battle revealed himself to be a powerful wizard. Fergus shot him with silver bullets, but even with three shots he could not kill the old man. William came downstairs to help but missed with the first shot of his silver bullet, and was then attacked by a second animated armour that hurt him so badly he had to flee upstairs to Lucy’s room. Bursting into the room, he failed to warn her and she shot him with a shotgun. With William hors de combat, the battle raging and Fergus out of bullets, the Scottish madman had to charge across the hallway to grab the pistol William had dropped, while Abdul tried to distract the earl of Elgin. Fortunately the man was by now so wounded that he teleported away, and the PCs had a chance to kill the remaining animated armour, heal William and regroup. As they did this Markus levitated himself out of a window and onto the roof of the house, to look for the Earl. He saw him loading a box of artifacts onto the back of the horseless carriage and beginning to ride away as the others emerged from the house in pursuit. Markus levitated the case off of the carriage and up to the roof, hiding it out of sight, as the rest of the group chased the carriage and finally killed the Earl. They took his cape and wand and dumped his body with Flashman’s. Up close they discovered that the cape was made from the huge feathers of some ancient giant bird.

In the box they found some money, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, and a few other small magic items. They retired to the docks, where they returned the cape to Manawa. In return for this gift she bound our Maori warriors to their eternal service. They parted on the best of terms, climbed into the Gurmukh, and set off for the hill fort where they expected to find Mark Bond.

The Mughal’s Tomb

The flight to the hillfort was uneventful and fast, and when they arrived the fort’s few defenders abandoned it in terror of the approaching corvette. They searched the fort and found Mark Bond in a tower room, his whole body flayed and nailed to a cross, insects crawling in his left eye. He was still alive after two weeks of torture, but only barely. He had not revealed what he knew, but he revealed the full facts to the group: a gang of Hindu extremists planned to desecrate the tomb of an ancient Mughal princess, and through an abominable ritual they would raise a god of death that would destroy every Muslim and Sikh in all the sub-continent and drive the British out. Already they were planning an uprising, that would break out just the next day. Soon after the uprising began the god of death would manifest, and destroy everything in her path. Furthermore – and this was Bond’s secret knowledge – the current viceroy, Earl Canning, knew of the plan for the abominable ritual and was planning nothing to stop it, because he was a virulent racist who wanted to destroy all the Sikhs in the land, and did not know (or did not believe) the reports that the god of death would be part of a plan to destroy British rule. He believed he controlled the Hindu nationalists and saw the extermination plan as a cunning part of the British strategy of empowering local leaders to rule on their behalf. This foolish man had kept the plan secret, helped the nationalists to stay unimpeded by the British army, and was ignoring reports of preparations for violence among the Sepoys as merely the necessary preparations for communal violence against Muslims and Sikhs. He had no idea the powers that were arrayed against him, or the extent of the violence they had in mind.

The PCs thanked Bond, cut him down from his crucifixion, and left him to die with a last sunset as his final view. They climbed back into the Gurmukh and made haste for the Taj Mahal. Even as they arrived they knew the uprising would be beginning all across the country, and they must stop the ritual now or they would face a far, far worse enemy than a horde of Indian Sepoys. They disembarked into the garden of the Taj Mahal, and raced past its serene reflecting pool towards the main gate, accompanied by their Maori warriors. As they attacked the Gurmukh rose up behind them, firing its light cannon at Sepoy soldiers who were attempting to move forward from the river’s edge and driving them back to the water.

At the gate they were attacked by Hindu warriors, wearing light armour and carrying Urumi swords. These swords were like whirling whips of steel, a flexible blade that curled around any parrying weapon and could not be stopped. They beat these men down quickly and charged into the tomb itself, down stairs into the cool dark of the basement. Here they found a scene of demonic terror: a wizard stood on one side of an ancient tomb, which had been hacked and smashed apart and dragged out of the ground, the bones of its occupant dragged out and desecrated with various vile fluids. In each corner of the room stood a terrified acolyte, holding a sacred knife and a cow, that most sacred of symbols in the Hindu pantheon. Near each a single soldier stood, uncertain of himself in the sight of the obvious evil about to be deployed. The ritual was near its zenith, a strange thick mist rising from the ground. The soldiers attacked, and battle was joined. Abdul used his shadowstep power to move behind the priest and stab him, but was unable to kill him. In turn the priest pointed at one of the acolytes, who killed the cow next to him with one smooth sweep of his knife. The priest unleashed the power that the cow’s death gave him, and a strange creeping horror overwhelmed Abdul – a magic of instant, irrevocable death. He resisted it and fought hard to kill the priest. At the sight of the cow’s death, and under the force of Fergus’s chaos bagpipes, the remaining soldiers fled, and the PCs were able to kill the priest before he could kill another cow and attempt to destroy them all. The acolytes gave up and begged for mercy they would not receive, and the ritual ended.

The PCs emerged into the sun leading the remaining cows, sickened and disturbed by the dark shadows of the ritual they had prevented. They released the cows and climbed into the Gurmukh, sailing over the burning towns of the sub-continent as they returned to Mumbai to report the success of their mission and much more besides: the defense of Britain’s only remaining significant colony, against dark powers from beyond this world.

Epilogue

As a result of their actions the PCs prevented the Indian Mutiny of 1857 from becoming something much darker and more terrible: the combined genocide of all the Sikhs and Muslims in the Indian sub-continent, and the ascendancy of a Hindu Empire powered by the dark magics of an evil cult. The mutiny proceeded as in the Earth’s real history, without much magical support, and was put down by the British forces. Earl Canning was forced to retire in disgrace when the group’s reports were relayed to London, and the East India Company lost its grip on India, and power was transferred to the British Raj. British colonial rule over India was strengthened and formalized, and while things for the crown were going badly in the antipodes and in Africa, for the next decades they could at least point to India as a sign of the possibility of success in their colonial project.

But would it last? And what other anti-colonial movements would arise in the future, in the ashes of the death cult the PCs destroyed. What does the future hold for the Raj, in a world of growing magic and colonial revolt?

 

The PCs stand in a wrecked apartment, surrounded by the bodies of dead corsairs. They have raided the nest of assassins sent by Samina’s Corsairs to kill them, and today’s session finds them standing in the blood and gore of their victory. As they scoured the apartment for loot, Siladan dug into the communication logs between the hit squad and their masters, looking for useful information. Today’s cast:

  • Pilot Saqr (Pilot)
  • Gunner Oliver Greenstar (Colonist)
  • Deckhand Reiko Ando (Deckhand)
  • Gunner Adam (Soldier)
  • Doctor Bana Delecta (Medicurg)
  • Captain Al Hamra (Mystic)

The gathered together weapons, armour and money, dividing it up between them and piling the loot they did not need for resale. As this task was nearing completion Siladan emerged from the media room with bad news: one of the hit squad had sent off an alert when the battle began, and now a contingency plan had been enacted.

The corsairs’ plan

Digging through the records, Siladan had learnt the corsair’s plan. Once the hit squad had killed the PCs they would send a message to an ally on the inner planet of Lubau, where two ships lay waiting. These ships, the attack ship Seven Sisters and the disguised freighter Icons Grace 7132, would depart for Rockhome 3. The Icons Grace 7132 was carrying a crew of 24 marines, whom it would land on the asteroid outpost under the cover of a trading mission. These marines would pacify the asteroid, kill its leaders and force the asteroid colony into submission under threat of complete destruction. The Seven Sisters would lurk nearby, jamming emergency signals and attacking any ships that attempted to flee. After Rockhome 3 was pacified, the squad left on Coriolis would travel to the Dabaran system, where the corsairs had a friendly agent called Livam who would be able to launder documents to transfer ownership of the Beast of Burden to the corsairs. They would then take the ship to Samina’s corsairs, where it would become compensation for the trouble the PCs had put the corsairs through.

Once the hit squad raised the alert that they had been found and attacked, the corsairs activated the whole plan. The two ships would soon depart for Rockhome 3, with the intention of taking by force what they had previously attempted to take by guile.

The defense of Rockhome 3

The PCs jumped into action. They already had a small class II fighter stored on Rockhome 3, the Gunmetal Logic, and they guessed they could mount a robust defense of the station using this ship and the Beast of Burden. They decided they would fly there, warn the people of Rockhome 3, and set up a simultaneous ground and space defense of the colony. They would allow the corsair marines to unload and then trap them in an ambush, while at the same time their spaceships attacked the Seven Sisters. If the defense went well they would capture one spaceship and salvage a second. However, they did not think that the colony had enough defenders to take on 24 marines, so they turned to their new contact on Coriolis, the street urchin Mifiln. Mifiln took some of their money to the Court of the Slummer Queen and, as a boon granted in exchange for saving the lives of some slummers, she provided them with 10 thugs and two nekatra, who would help in the defense of the colony. They set off for Rockhome 3.

To spring their surprise they would need to travel to Rockhome 3 with their transponder turned off, but two days into their journey they found themselves passing near a Legion Battleship, the Momentary Lapse of Reason. Being discovered by this battleship with their transponder off would no doubt trigger all manner of unpleasant questions, and they were forced to scramble into an emergency stealth mode. Reiko Ando shut down the reactor while Bana Delecta engaged their ship’s stealth feature, and they drifted past the giant battleship in the dark, hoping that they were far enough away and dark enough with the reactors shutdown that the ship would not notice them. After a tense hour drifting in the dark the ship passed them by without noticing, and they continued on their journey. Perhaps the crew of the Momentary Lapse of Reason were making the same assumption as the residents of Rockhome 3, that the Kua system was free of pirates and bandits, and they did not need to search especially hard for signs of trouble.

The PCs were not so sanguine. They could track the Icons Grace 7132 from its transponder, and they could tell that it was traveling alone. The Seven Sisters had turned off its transponder and was somewhere out there. Most likely it was traveling near the Icons Grace 7132, but the could not be sure. In case they were ambushed as they approached, they sent a warning to the station, and arrived a few days later, unmolested, still traveling stealthy. At Rockhome 3 they disgorged their soldiers, split into two squads, and took the Gunmetal Logic and the Beast of Burden to hide at a nearby asteroid, named the Shoulder of Orion by the residents of Rockhome 3.

The enemy ships arrived together, behaving as expected. The leader of Rockhome 3, Abraham, played his part and allowed the Icons Grace 7132 to dock, while the PCs tracked the Seven Sisters to a location near Rockhome 3. Once the disguised freighter was docked they sprung their ambush on the attack ship. The space battle was short and brutal. Outgunned and outnumbered, the Seven Sisters had little chance against her larger and more heavily armed opponents. At the last, however, as her systems were shutting down and her weapons disabled, she manoeuvred straight towards the Beast of Burden on some kind of collision course. The PCs opened fire on her with everything they had, collapsing the hull and killing the crew just in time to prevent the smaller ship’s captain from triggering a reactor explosion that would have been catastrophic for the Beast of Burden.

Barely scratched in the space battle, the PCs docked with Rockhome 3 and moved in to attack the marines. As they disembarked from their ships they were warned that the marines had established a bridgehead in the corridors between the docking bays and the residence section, and were slowly pressing forward. They were well armed, well armoured and ferocious. The PCs hit them from behind, forcing the marines into a vicious battle to escape the crossfire. This battle did not last long before it descended into close combat, with both Adam (in his defense droid form) and Reiko Ando getting caught in melee with the enemy leaders while Saqr, Adam, Oliver and Delecta fired into the support groups.

As the battle unfolded though they began to think that the captain of the Icons Grace 7132 might do the same as the captain of the Seven Sisters – and a reactor explosion in the confines of the Rockhome 3 docks would be catastrophic! Adam and Dr. Delecta broke off from the battle and rushed into the hangar, to storm the ship and stop the pilot from destroying everything. Here they found the two Nekatra, lying horribly dead on the deck, and a squad of four more marines rushing down the gangplank to engage them. Adam cut them down with rapid fire, and the survivors scattered to take cover while Delecta bravely sprinted across the hangar to the gangplank behind which they hid. Under the cover of Adam’s fire she managed to get into the ship and sprint down its hallways to the rear reactor. Here one of the crew tried to shoot her, and she was forced into gun combat while Adam finished the battle with the remaining marines outside. He rushed up to support her, as the ship announced that reactor criticality was imminent. They shot down the sole crewmember and rushed to disengage the reactor. With just seconds to go Dr. Delecta canceled the explosion orders, and the battle was finished.

Aftermath

They had killed another 24 corsairs, disabled another corsair ship and captured another. They would be able to salvage the wreck of the Seven Sisters, and although some of the Rockhome 3’s residents and the Slummer Court thugs had been killed, they had survived the battle relatively unhurt. They calculated that by now they had destroyed three corsair ships, captured two, and killed probably 40 corsairs, including several ship’s pilots. They guessed that no matter how powerful the corsairs might be, as a mere pirate gang they could not possibly sustain those losses. For at least a short time, while they were recovering, the PCs guessed they would have a pause in hostilities. In the meantime, they would be able to decrypt the stolen corsair data core, find the location of the corsair’s base, and travel to Dabaran to force the corsair’s contact there to register their stolen ships as their own possessions – as well as tell them what he knew about the corsairs. Perhaps then – once they had a small fleet of ships, and had learnt all they could about the corsairs – they would be ready to put an end to this annoying and increasingly frustrating nemesis. Perhaps once it was all done they could even turn the corsair base to their own use … but for now they would rest, and loot the growing pile of enemy bodies they were leaving in their wake.

Oh! We weren’t expecting you …

Our characters were attacked by a hit squad from Samina’s corsairs, who they defeated at the cost of their captain’s life. The corsairs are tracking them down to make them pay for what they did at Rockhome 3, and they now realize they will not be able to live in peace until they have dealt the corsairs a serious blow. Having tracked them to their lair they decided to attack the remainder of the hit squad, and begin preparations to raid the corsairs themselves. The roster for this session:

  • Adam, gunner and soldier
  • Al Hamra, captain (dead, but his soul uploaded into the ship’s computer, and capable of operating through a defense drone)
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist
  • Dr. Delecta, doctor

Mifiln and Kenji

The PCs were helped in their mission by an unexpected pair of new hands. Oliver Greenstar had sent a teenage street urchin to follow the hit squad and find their lair, which they did; and now this urchin returned to their ship accompanied by a big, gruff friend. The urchin, called Mifiln, introduced their friend as Kenji, a thug, and revealed that neither of them had anywhere to live after a small accident in their apartment. Mifiln had noticed that they needed eyes and ears – and contacts – on the deck in Coriolis, who could attend to their interests when they weren’t there, and Mifiln and Kenji were willing to take on this task for a mere 500 birr per month each. They would keep an eye on matters in the station, attend to details the PCs wanted dealt with, and help them navigate the vicissitudes of life on the station. Mifiln also accidentally revealed a talent for telekinesis, which immediately endeared them to the party, and also offered to show them a sure way to get to the corsairs’ lair undetected as a token of good faith.

The path they recommended was simple but a little dangerous. Mifiln knew of a docking bay in the cellars that was used by smugglers and would open, no questions asked, for a small fee. From that bay they could move up the central spine of Coriolis station to an entrance to the lower decks of the Coriolis core, where the corsairs had established their base in an old luxury apartment. There were no cameras on the way up, and the back paths to the area where the corsairs lived were also likely unmonitored. The corsairs did not know they were coming but were certainly not expecting any trouble from below, and had few connections in the cellars that could be relied on to help them. Mifiln, however, had an in to the Court of the Slummer Queen if they needed it, and could give them general directions on moving through the cellar.

They agreed, hired Mifiln and Kenji, and set to work.

Death in the Cellars

They took the Beast of Burden‘s shuttle to the docking bay in the mid cellars, and as Mifiln had told them found they could enter without documentation for just a small fee. From there they moved up the spine, which was a long series of staircases, galleys, empty halls and half-functional elevators that circled around a huge, open shaft. This shaft plunged from the Coriolis core all the way to the very bottom of the station, a vertiginous 5km deep shaft into which protruded various platforms, ruined spars, walkways, sensor spires and random junk. They trudged wearily up the core, walking for hours and stopping regularly. It was cold, tiring and dispiriting work.

After a few hours of climbing they stumbled on a large platform, and as they climbed the stairs to the platform they heard a gunshot, yelling and screams. Reiko crept ahead to investigate, and saw a terrible sight. Two soldiers were standing over a line of ragged-looking cellar denizens, all sitting slumped on their knees with their hands tied behind their backs. One lay dead on the ground, and the remaining five were crouched in terror, scared into silence by the death of their friend. The PCs had been warned about these police: purge patrol, heavily armed and armoured guards sent down from the core to do raids on the people who lived illegally in the cellars. They had free rein to do as they wished down here, and acted essentially as death squads terrorizing the people who lived in the cellar. Particularly for people pushed out from the lower levels to the upper cellar, they were a constant threat[1]. These six had obviously failed to patrol their area closely enough, and had been caught. Reiko explained what she had seen and everyone moved carefully up to the steps to wait and see what would happen.

It was worse than they expected. One guard dragged the woman from the end of the line over to the edge of the platform, where a narrow gangplank stretched out over the shaft. He pushed her, gesturing with the gun, and when she refused he fired the gun once at her feet, forcing her onto the plank. They watched in horror as she backed slowly along the gangplank, remonstrating with the guard and begging for her life, until finally she slipped and fell with a long, fading scream into the darkness. The guard turned away, exchanged a joke with the other guard, and grabbed the next of the ragged crew. This person realized that it was the end of the line for all of them and began struggling to escape the guard’s grip. As the guard raised his weapon Al Hamra lost his patience, and opened fire with his defense robot laser. Without time to make a plan or make any decisions, the party attacked the purge patrol. They killed the two guards quickly but as they were finishing them off were ambushed by two more coming from a covered section they had not seen. One of these guards managed to score a minor injury on one of them before they were able to respond and kill them too. They looted the bodies, freed the prisoners, dismissed their thanks, and continued on their path, hurrying now before their deed might be discovered by any other guards.

Near the ambush site they found an elevator that would take them up to the core, and after some debate decided that it might be wise to activate it, just in case they needed to bring injured PCs down, and in order to escape the zone of the ambush quickly. After a few minutes of work Siladan got it working, and they rose in clanking glory up to the lower levels of the core.

4 Bedroom Luxury Apartment Floor Plans – Floor Plans and Flooring Ideas

The raid

They found the safehouse easily enough, and from outside Siladan attempted to hack the apartment’s systems, to no effect. They were forced to open the entrance and enter blind. From the entrance hall some of the group turned right, moving down a narrow corridor to a large open area with a pool, deckchairs and a bbq area. Its two outer walls were reinforced glass looking out over the beauty of space, and the whole area was aglow in the reflected green light of Kua. At this pool area they found a group of corsairs lounging around, along with their leader. They opened fire on the group but were too late – the men had been warned and were already running into the residence rooms.

Meanwhile the remainder of the group pushed straight into the main residence rooms, heading directly inward from the entrance hall. They immediately ran into an armed and armoured guard who had been watching them on CCTV and was ready, opening fire on them as they opened the door to the inner rooms. Battle was joined!

The battle was short and brutal, with the corsairs taking cover in the hallways in the inner residence and fighting with vulcan pistols while one corsair ran to a weapons room to get heavier weapons, and the sniper emerged from another room with a shotgun. The battle turned to bloody close shooting and hand-to-hand combat in the hallways, and in the fray Oliver was mortally injured, only saved by Dr. Delecta’s hasty work. Finally, though, they pacified the whole building, killing six corsair grunts, the sniper who had killed Al Hamra, and the leader. Al Hamra used the tentacles of his defense drone to kill the sniper personally, squeezing her eyes into her skull and finally killing her by digging the tentacles into her brain. The rest were dealt with in a more orthodox way.

The luxury apartment was now theirs. All its outer rooms had floor-length windows with a full view of the planet Kua as it rotated beneath them, or the distant star depending on the time of Coriolis’s rotation. In the far side of the apartment from the swimming pool they found a media room, which had been used to communicate with the corsair base in Hamura system. Here they were able to uncover the corsairs’ plans for them, and for Rockhome 3. They were ready to launch a counter-strike, a strike heavy enough to bloody the nose of the corsairs and convince them not to push their luck in the Kua system. But first they needed to rest, and heal, and prepare.

They were ready to go to war with Samina’s Corsairs.


fn1: To be honest, I’m not convinced this is a good addition to the Coriolis station part of this universe. It makes Coriolis very cyberpunk or like a failed capitalist dystopia, like a latin American city in the 1980s (or I guess Manila or Brazil now?) and it doesn’t quite work with the image of Coriolis as the stable centre of the Third Horizon. Also this whole space station is only 8 km long and teeming with life, so how can it be that there is a whole underbelly that is completely beyond the control of the authorities and plagued by death squads? It seems a bit out of whack with the whole image of the station. But I’m running with it, for consistency with things that are likely to happen later.

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