game reports


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.

Our heroes have rescued three women from an uprising on the Chagos Islands, and now stand atop a small hill in the lazy afternoon heat, looking around at a field of dead Islanders as they ask the three ladies about the events that led to the uprising. As they might perhaps have expected, the entire uprising was triggered by Alan Marshall, the man they had been sent to the archipelago to find. Spurned by one of the ladies at tea, he had raged down to the hovels where the islanders dwell and tried to assert his overseers’ privilege over one of the local women, but this time his advances were not only rebuffed, but violently put down. He now hung from a tree a short distance from his own house, stripped to his smalls and flayed to the waist. The ladies led the PCs down to the tree, and from that hideous splayed corpse along a small path to the overseers house. This wood cabin held a prized view over the atoll, with cool sea breezes to ease the afternoon heat and a small garden of island flowers that had been tended by an old native lady until the uprising. The islanders had left Marshall’s house untouched, perhaps seeing no point in burning it down when its owner was not alive to see the conflagration, so the PCs entered the cabin to search for evidence of their erstwhile contact’s history.

In the house they found a small box holding 6 silver bullets, a stock of gin, and a collection of letters and documents that they hastily gathered together. Satisfied they had all they could get, they retreated hastily to the ravaged docks, deciding against taking on the bulk of the island population. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, and sometimes bad men get what is coming to them. They took the skiff back to the Nostromo, and instructed their captain to make haste out of the bay before the natives returned to the port and decided to deploy the remaining cannon in their direction. At sea they dug through the notes, and were able to learn a depressing fact about Alan Marshall: he was a fraud. He had never been to Rugby school, and all his credentials had been faked in the service of winning a colonial commission. No doubt after a few years of leadership on the Chagos Islands he aimed to step up to a more prestigious post, and make that all-too-common jump from petty bourgeois ne’er do well to colonial boss. His faked letters of introduction and claims to Rugby education had been sufficient to impress some functionary in the Colonial Office and get him on the first step of the ladder of opportunity that the exploitation of colonial properties offer; but his appetites showed him to be manifestly unsuited to the job, and had been his downfall. Now he had perhaps lost the Chagos Islands for the British crown: now that the natives were free they would no doubt strengthen their defenses, and if they had a second wizard capable of conjuring, perhaps they would raise some monster of the deep to defend their new realm. Whatever, it was of no matter to the group: they sailed on to Mumbai.

The Mumbai docks

They arrived in Mumbai five days later, drifting at midday into the busy and hectic ports of the city. In 1857 Mumbai was not the great city it would later be, but under rate pressure of Her Majesty’s continued colonial investment of the sub-continent it was continually developing. Their ship sailed in past a motley collection of Dhows and local freighters to the end of the docks where the foreign ships rested, and immediately their attention was caught by two strange newcomers. At the end of the docks a British corvette floated in the air, tethered to an old cannon tower in place of its usual pylon. This ship would usually be seen floating above a British military corps, giving the Imperial army military superiority over all but the most well-armed of opponents. But here it hung alone in the dusty Mumbai air, bereft of its ground forces, repainted with bizarre markings and flying the flag of a foreign nation. Nearby a large ocean-going ship floated, built of bundles of reeds lashed together around beams of rich dark wood. Two long, narrow canoes hung on divots from this ship’s raised stern, and a hard-faced warrior stood at the gangplank, stock still and carrying a two-handed club. This ship was not of any design they had seen before, and though as large as a galleon it came from no European tradition. Truly, Mumbai was another world.

They docked smoothly and found an agent of the East India Company waiting for them. On his advice they took accommodation at a guesthouse slightly inland and uphill from the docks, and accompanied by a small group of porters they passed through the bustling dock and up the hill to the guesthouse. The three ladies they had rescued, for want of better things to do, accompanied them and offered to help them in their endeavors in Mumbai. “It’s the least we can do for you fine fellows after your valiant efforts to save us from those brutes!” They would go about town gathering information – who would suspect a newly-arrived British lady of being an agent of the crown?

Once their things were settled in they decided on their afternoon’s investigation. First they would go to the docks to find out about the two mysterious ships, because they all had a feeling that their presence was not a coincidence. Then they would go to Mr. Bond’s house and find out what he had been up to, and who his cream-breasted, kohl-eyed temptation had been.

The Gurmukh

The interlopers

They approached the floating ship first, the corvette that had once been a British military unit. It hung above a cluster of men and animals, porters busily loading and unloading equipment from a mid-sized skiff that hung just off the ground, swaying slightly in the heat. As they approached one of the men broke away and strode over to them, clasping his hands and calling to them in greeting. He wore a long golden robe, had his hair tied up in a perfectly-pointed red turban, and wore a wicked-looking ornate dagger at his hip. He was tall, broad-shouldered, scarred but genial-looking. He greeted them warmly and introduced himself. “Akashpreet Singh, captain of the Gurmukh, valiant warship of the Punjab navy!”

They introduced themselves, and with a short conversation learnt that indeed this ship had been a corvette of the British Navy, the HMFS Eagle, which had been captured some months ago in battle with the kingdom of Punjab, and now saw service in the honor of the Sikh people. Akashpreet was not a free-booter, but a soldier in the service of the noble military of the Punjab. He had traveled to Mumbai some two weeks ago, on a mission to recover a stolen artifact of value to his people. On that topic he would say no more, but he did take the time to assure them that he was not at all concerned by the possibility that the resident British soldiers might take offense at his ship and try to recapture it. “They can take offense all they like!” He declaimed. “But they’ll not try to take it if they value their pale hides!”

Intrigued but satisfied, they moved on down the docks to the strange reed galleon. As they approached they gained a closer look at the soldier guarding the vessel. His skin was not the color of Indian locals, paler but not white, and his face was covered in complex whorls of tattoos. He watched them warily as they approached, standing calm and readying with his spear by his side. As they came near they heard a strong voice from the ship itself, raised in greeting. “Hoi, greetings Pakeha! You stare as if you have never seen a ship before!” A tall, solid-looking middle-aged woman came marching down the gang plank, dressed in simple sailor’s clothes and walking with an assured swagger. She strode past her guard with a nod and introduced herself to the staring group. “Manawa, captain of the Manawapou, at your service.” They clasped hands and she explained that she came from the distant land of Aotearoa, which their nations might have introduced to them as New Zealand. Her ship was one of 14 galleons of the Aotearoa navy. They talked a little, and she offered to host them in for dinner. Over dinner she revealed that she was in Mumbai chasing a stolen artifact, which she had planned to send her warriors to recover as soon as she arrived. Unfortunately an old adversary of hers, a man called Harry Flashman, was in town and had stumbled upon her in the markets. She had reason to believe that he was in cahoots with the rich white man who had stolen her artifact – or, more particularly, as was his wont, that he was in cahoots with the white man’s daughter – and had likely told the thief about Manawa’s presence. She was thus waiting in port for a chance to strike, but had not yet devised a plan. The old man she was pursuing was known as the Collector, and had taken a priceless feathered cape of her tribe, which would render the wearer invulnerable to almost any form of damage. The only weapon that could be guaranteed to pierce its blessing was silver, and it was a potent cloak for war.

Manawa also told them a little of her ship. The Aotearoa fleet had been built recently when the first of the Queen’s vessels had sailed into Maori waters, and they had realized they needed to compete with these newcomers. The elders had enacted a ritual, sacrificing 7 white sailors to the tribes’ ancestors in order to draw forth from their distant past the lost maritime secrets by which the people had reached Aotearoa over the oceans some 10 centuries earlier. They had built 14 ships on the basis of that knowledge, and when each ship was commissioned it was blessed with the flayed skin of one of the sailors they had sacrificed to learn the ancient lore. She took them below to her hold and showed them the shrine that lay at the heart of the ship; on one wall was the flayed skin of a white sailor, just his back half, with strange sigils and symbols tattooed over it in disconcerting patterns. She explained to them that the front half – and the face – were hung on another ship in the fleet, and that each of the ships carried one such terrible charm in the hold, to protect it from inclement weather and keep it sailing strong and true over even the most treacherous of waters. This ship and her sisters would serve to protect Aotearoa from the incursions of the white man, which had wreaked such terrible havoc in neighboring Australia, where the land was ravaged by war and the stalking spirits of the native clans’ ancient demons. But while the other ships patrolled the waters of her homeland, Manawa was here, trying to find a way to recover her tribe’s stolen cloak.

They thanked her and asked her what boon she might give if they were to return the cloak, since they somehow suspected that the Collector was entangled with Bond’s disappearance. Satisfied that they had met someone they might be able to turn to for help if they could return that cloak, they bade their farewells and returned to their residence.

Bond’s lodgings

They found Bond’s lodgings easily enough from a local grog smuggler, and visited in the morning. They learnt from the smuggler that the woman they had been supposed to think was his deceiver had disappeared, and he himself had not been seen for several weeks. His house was a small townhouse a little distance removed from the bustle of the port, in a leafy and wealthy neighborhood criss-crossed by small canals lined with fragrant bushes. They pushed their way through the gate and into the garden, approaching the house with a little caution. William Oxbridge crept ahead, carefully checking for enemies, but finding none called the group forward. They entered the house, and began their search.

The house had been turned upside down by intruders, but not in a search for secrets or money; there had been a battle, and it had been titanic. A single corpse lay against one wall, rotten and disgusting and long dead. It was one of the same kind of assassin that had waylaid them in Muscat, and it had fared worse than those who attacked the PCs. There was a knife stuck in its ribs, and its head had been blown apart by a pistol placed right under its jaws, the bloody remains now dried in a huge fountain of crusted brown all over the room’s delicate wallpaper. There was blood scattered liberally across other parts of the room too, and signs that the battle had been vicious and extended. Ultimately though it appeared that Bond had been beaten and captured, and dragged out of the house. Nothing else had been taken, though a lot of material had been disturbed. In particular they found notes scattered around his desk, and a map that had been torn down in the battle but was still largely intact.

It appeared their employer in Muscat had been wrong. Mr. Bond had not gone native, but had been kidnapped by the same people who attacked them in Muscat. Presumably whatever information he carried had been of great value, and they planned to get it from him, and whatever plot they had hatched stretched as far as Muscat. Given that they had been told Mr. Bond was magically bound to be unable to reveal any information under torture, it seemed likely that though he had been taken three weeks ago, it was still possible that he could be alive, and they could rescue him and perhaps help find out what plot was being run here.

For the rescuing they turned to the notes and the map. The notes were not clear, but suggested some plan to unleash communal violence between the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities, though no details were written down. The map was a map of the entire northern region of the sub-continent, with 11 sites marked with simple red crosses, and one site marked with a big red tick in a circle. They guessed that whatever the site was, that was the place of interest, and perhaps that was where he had been taken. But they could not be sure – they needed a local guide. They decided to take the map to Akashpreet of the GUrmukh, and see what he knew of the locations marked on it.

Akashpreet was happy to see them and invited them onto his ship, taking them on a tour of its defenses and carefully avoiding showing them the central room where its strange infernal magic kept it afloat – rumour has it that the workings of a corvette are based on magic that requires child sacrifice, and can be unsettling for the uninitiated when they see it. He then took them to his navigation room, called the navigator, and examined their map. The navigator told them that the 11 crosses likely marked sites of religious significance to the Muslim population of the region, and the ticked place was a fort in Rajasthan, infamous as a centre of Hindu resistance to the white invaders.

No doubt then – that was where he had been taken. He must have uncovered some nefarious plot and had been planning to do something at the base where that plot was conceived, the fort in Rajasthan, when he was betrayed and attacked. Presumably now he was held in that same fort, being tortured for whatever information he held. They must rescue him!

But how to get there? Would Akashpreet fly them there in his corvette? Sadly he could not, because he had come to Mumbai to recover a stolen artifact, a diamond called the Koh-i-Noor that was of great significance to his people. It had been stolen by a man called the Collector, and Akashpreet had been planning to liberate it from the collector and could not leave town until he had it. Unfortunately an old adversary of his, one Harry Flashman, had seen him in town, and the cad had no doubt informed the Collector, whose wife he was likely secretly tupping. Now AKashpreet could not mount a raid on the Collector’s home, but could not leave Mumbai until he had the diamond. He would help if he could, but …

So it was decided. The PCs would raid the collector’s home and recover the diamond (and Manawa’s cloak). Akashpreet would then fly them to the fort in Rajasthan, to rescue Bond and find out what plot was in train. Their mission was set! They thanked the Sikh captain for his help, descended from his stolen sky ship, and prepared for battle.

I have a few friends from my old Compromise and Conceit campaign visiting Japan for a few weeks so I am running a three session revival of my compromise and conceit world, this time set in 1857 just after the Anglo-Persian war and the creation of Afghanistan from the rump of the Persian Empire. The PCs are a group of agents returning from active service on behalf of the crown in the Anglo-Persian war, and the adventure starts in the city of Muscat. The PCs are:

  • Duke Markus, an Austrian Hermetic wizard specializing in fireballs and arrogant nobility
  • William Oxford III, a ruffian from London with a dubious past as a resurrectionist
  • Fergus, a Scottish fusilier with bagpipes that can strike terror into the hearts of men and monsters, and a huge claymore
  • Talita Tumani, a Lakota warrior traveling the world to export the Red Empire’s special brand of democracy
  • Abdul Hassan, a Hashashin exiled from the court of the Persian Empire and on a vengeance spree

The system is based on Coriolis, but with a corruption mechanic that I first trialed in my short neolithic campaign and have modified following the excellent stress mechanism introduced by Fria Ligan in the new Alien RPG[1].

Henry’s Hamam

The PCs have gathered at Henry’s Hamam, a complex of massage parlours, saunas and tea houses near the port of Muscat, and the only Hamam in the entire peninsula run by a British man. At this time in history the Sultanate of Oman had just broken into two parts in a disagreement over Zanzibar, but the Sultanate of Oman remained a powerful naval force in the Indian Ocean and the British were their honoured guests and allies, rather than a colonial power. With the secession of the southern portion of the Sultanate, however, brokered by the British, and with debts mounting, Oman’s attitude towards the British had turned from one of trusting equals to resentful junior power, and British potentates in the region were viewed with both awe and contempt. Henry’s Haman was thus an oasis of calm British rectitude, where only the most wealthy and trusted Arab locals were allowed, and where British officials often conducted underhand affairs of state.

So it was that the PCs found themselves in a large drawing room, seated on sofas around a table set with sweets and teas, as the local agent of Her Majesty, Sir Ian Markels, swaggered drunkenly in to do business with them. At 3 in the afternoon he was already tipsy, and dragged a bottle of gin from a countertop as soon as he entered the room. He wasted no time in telling them their task, crashing rumpled and slovenly onto a wicker chair and informing that “One of our spies in Mumbai has gone native!”

Their job, it appeared, was to get this spy back. Sir Markels told them that the spy was bound by magic not to spill secrets if he was tortured, but no such authority prevented him from telling someone voluntarily if he switched sides – and Sir Markels suspected he had fallen for “some creamy-breasted, kohl-eyed wonder of the Orient, all scented and soft-skinned glory”. In between his reverie at the thought of the spy spending lazy Indian afternoons in this imagined sylph’s boudouir, Sir Markels let them know that this spy possessed important information that they were worried he might spill, and they needed him back. They also needed to know who he had told any information to – and those people needed to be “dealt with, whether man, woman or child!” A spark lit up in his eye at the thought of slaughtering the colonials, his warm feelings for his imagined creamy-breasted paramour extinguished in a rush of typical British bloodlust.

Going native, it appeared, was a common problem on the sub-continent, due, Sir Markels informed them, to “a surfeit of heat and creamy-breasted women, and a decided insufficiency of suitable gins!” It constantly threatened harm to the interests of Her Majesty’s Empire, and Something Needed to Be Done. To this end, they were to travel to Mumbai forthwith on the spindrift clipper the Nostromo, find this spy and bring him back. First, however, they were to travel to the Chagos Islands to collect a man called Alan Marshall, who is said to have studied in the same year as the spy at Rugby School, and also to be an expert on Mumbai. As sometime classmates with shared interests, it was likely that this Mr. Marshall – currently working as overseer of the mining works on Chagos – would be able to help them find their spy and convince him to come back. Were they and Mr. Marshall to prove unable to bring the spy back, they were to ensure his secrets were buried, and all people who knew them buried with them.

The spy’s name was Bond. Mark Bond. He was a known womanizer, philanderer and alcoholic, with a fondness for these newfangled mixed spirits, which he drank on ice, stirred and not shaken. He was rumoured to have Scottish heritage, which might explain the ease with which he turned on the empire, and though once a dangerous agent had no doubt gone to seed living the soft life of the Indian colonies. “Those Hindis,” Sir Markels informed them in his increasingly drunken drawl, “ain’t savage heroes like your Redskins – no offence, young lady – nor are they fanatical lunatics like their Mohammedan neighbours – no offence to you either, my good man – and are in fact weak, with little magic to speak of and more interest in bickering amongst themselves and praying to their million fantastical gods than fighting back against our superior race!” With this dissertation on the ills of an entire continent Sir Markels staggered to his feet, told them to be at the Nostromo at dawn, and weaved out of the room, still clutching his bottle of half-finished gin.

As they were talking, some of the group had noticed a curious shift in manner among the servants of the Hamam. Their room was graced with two muscly local men in breeches, whose job was to pump two large ceiling fans that kept the room cool. Soon after Markels entered, a sleazy looking young Arab had slipped in and whispered something to one of these fan-wallahs, who had ducked out a moment later and been replaced by a much less proficient fan-wallah, who seemed much more interested in their conversation than in his half-hearted flailings at the fan. Once Markels left this man left too, replaced by the earlier, much more expert fan-wallah. Something seemed suspicious, so they decided to set out immediately before whatever plot was enacted. Once they reached the outer door of the Hamam they noticed that sleazy chap sidling around the walls, and decided to lay a small trap. Two of the group returned to their apartments to begin preparations for departure, but Abdul, Fergus and William lingered behind. Fergus stayed in the Hamam and left a little late, while Abdul hid behind some spice baskets on the far side of the road outside the Hamam, and William lounged against a wall near the entrance, yelling at the servants that they had been skimping on gin.

Fergus soon saw someone slipping over the outer wall of the Hamam, and set off to follow them. At the same time someone crept up on Abdul and tried to stab him from behind, and battle was joined. Their assailants were armed with poisoned weapons and had supernatural powers of leaping and acrobatics, but eventually they managed to kill both of them, though they weren’t able to keep either alive to talk to. Both wore lose assassin’s outfits, had dreadlocks and a strange pattern of white marks on their chest, a kind of dust that may have been powdered onto their chests in some ritual. They also carried kris, wave-bladed daggers, and poisoned darts.

None the wiser as to who was after them, the PCs dumped the bodies and returned to their apartments. They decided to move to their ship immediately, since their mission appeared to be known about after Markels’s poor choice of venue to hire them. On their journey to the ship they were attacked by six more of the assassins, in a vicious rooftop ambush that would have been their end if they had not noticed it before it started. Two of their assailants fled under the influence of Fergus’s bagpipe music but the rest were cut down in a vicious battle in the darkened alleys near the port. They retreated to the ship, battened down the hatches and waited to depart.

The Chagos Islands

Their journey to the Chagos islands was uneventful, with their spindrift clipper skipping fast and light over calm and clear seas until a week later it arrived at the northern tip of the main island of the archipelago. Here, as they approached Eclipse Point and prepared to enter the inlet to the coral atoll where the British base was located, they saw smoke rising in ominous spires from the island. Their ship skipped over the rough seas at the edge of the atoll and rounded the point towards the British port, and their worst fears were confirmed as it hoved into view – it had been destroyed, with only smouldering ruins left along the seafront. A single small sailing ship floundered in the port, and a skiff had been wrecked on the shore. One of the port’s two cannon had been destroyed, and the other – at the opposite end of the seafront – pointed inland towards the port itself and not out to sea. It looked as if there had been a rebellion, and the island had been thrown into chaos.

As they approached the port they saw a worrying harbinger of their coming troubles. On the beach lay a huge, severed crab pincer, a pincer large enough to crush a man and probably blown off of a crab so large that it would be the size of the wrecked skiff on the shore. Such a beast was clearly not natural – someone had summoned that from the angry deeps, and unleashed its wrath on the people of the island. There was trouble here, and the Nostromo‘s captain refused to sail his ship closer to shore. Until they cleaned up the crab and found out what dangers lurked in this tropical idyll, they would only be allowed to use the ship’s rowboat. They tried arguing but he would not budge, and so finally they all decamped onto the rowboat and pushed hastily for the shore.

Their captain had been right in his suspicions. No sooner had they set foot on the shore than a huge crab emerged from the water and charged towards them, obviously intending to tear them apart on the orders of its summoner. The thing scuttled towards them on hideous legs so large that they could hear them drumming on the sand, and clicked and clacked its pincers with flesh-rending intent. Fergus and Abdul ran up the beach toward the distant cannon, hoping to turn it around and bring it to bear on the beast, while the rest of the party prepared for battle. They need not have bothered, however: William Oxford III took a careful bead with his pistol, fired once, and struck the crab right between its eyestalks, blowing its tiny brain apart with a single well-placed shot. It skidded and crashed to a shuddering halt in the sand, dead[2].

They began to explore the town, looking for survivors, and soon were alerted to action up the hill, in the thick woods of Eclipse point. They heard a rifle shot, and the unmistakable sound of a British woman in distress, as she yelled “Not on your breeches, you fiend!”

They dropped everything and charged up the hill into the trees beyond the burning port, sprinting uphill until they burst into a small clearing and tumbled to a halt. Here they found a squad of rough and ugly native men, wearing just breeches and carrying bows, crouched down and facing an old ruined British fort that stood atop a rocky outcrop facing the sea. They could hear the distant boom of surf far below and beyond the fort, a tumultuous backdrop to the clarion voice of a woman hidden among the rocks of the ruin, as she yelled, “I’ll never accede to your demands, you murderous thug!” and fired another wild shot down the hill.

As they burst into the clearing all the men turned to look at them, murder in their eyes, and battle was joined. The battle was short and ended poorly for the islanders, as the PCs shot down the islander leader – their wizard – in a blaze of missile fire, and Fergus used his evil bagpipes to drive the men away from battle. They soon mopped up the rest with fireballs, claymore and axe, and soon the clearing was silent but for the panting of their pugilist.

They called the lady down, and when she heard European voices she emerged in a rush, accompanied by two other women, carrying rifles and dressed in sweaty, soot-stained traveling gear. They introduced themselves as Elizabeth Bennett, Nancy Drew and Oddeia Landry, young women traveling to India who had been driven off their course by a storm and forced to take shelter here. Unfortunately just days after they took shelter the island’s natives – “sore hard done-by folk, if the story must be told” according to bleeding heart Miss Drew – rose up against their overseer and wreaked havoc on the island. Abandoned by their menfolk, the three ladies had shown good British grit, stolen some rifles and fled to the fort. It transpired that Nancy Drew had been a dab hand at shooting and horse riding as a youngster, miss Bennett had spent long hours on tedious hunting parties with her rich first husband, and Oddeia’s father was a well-decorated hero of Afghanistan, so they had been able to muster a spirited defense for a few days while they tried to find a way to safety.

Sadly, however, the island’s overseer – Alan Marshall – was dead. Flayed, in fact, and hanged alive from a tree just down the hillside. He would not be going to India with the party. But the three ladies were on a mission to find husbands in the colonies, and would their valiant rescuers happen to be heading to Mumbai?

They sighed, helped the ladies down the hill and stood at the edge of the clearing, staring at the smouldering wreckage of the first stage of their mission. They could only hope things would improve when they reached Mumbai …


fn1: I have the quickstart pdf for this and it does look legendary. The stress mechanic seems perfectly poised for space horror role-playing, but I’m not convinced it works so well when translated to corruption for Compromise and Conceit. But who cares, for a three session adventure?

fn2: A 65 on the critical table, instant death.

picture credit: The first picture is a watercolour by David Bellamy, taken from his website. The second is out of copyright, and I took it from the National Gallery of Australia.

Our heroes have returned to Coriolis loaded with Firstcome loot that they stole from a drifting cargo ship beyond the Eye of Anuba. They plan to relax in Coriolis station for a week or two, selling off their loot, repurposing some Firstcome artifacts, and looking for new work. The cast for this session:

  • Pilot Saqr (Pilot)
  • Gunner Oliver Greenstar (Colonist)
  • Deckhand Reiko Ando (Deckhand)
  • Sensor Operator Siladan Hatshepsut (Archaeologist)
  • Doctor Bana Delecta (Medicurg)
  • Captain Al Hamra (Mystic)

Their first act upon arrival at Coriolis was to sell off the torpedoes they had scavenged from the ruined freighter. Once they had done that they settled in to count the money, while Dr Delecta set to work on the strange medical device they had recovered from the ship, and Siladan Hatshepsut tried to reconfigure the defence drone they had salvaged. They learned that the medical device had the power to cure any critical injury just by being placed on the wound, though they weren’t sure how it worked[1]. They managed to not only repair the defence drone, but also to give it a voice-activated command setting, and build an app that they installed on everyone’s tabula so that they could activate it remotely.

The crime

The PCs were relaxing on the third observation deck of their ship (the deck with the sumptuous cushions and the arabesque wood panels) when they were alerted to a visitor requesting access. His calling card introduced him as a policeman, detective Alef, and he seemed quite intent on being admitted. They roused themselves from their mid-afternoon caffeine revelry and assembled in a greeting room, and waved him up.

Detective Alef was a stern middle-aged man, trim but not excessively macho, wearing regulation khameez in a suave dark grey, hair at a business-like buzz cut with streaks of grey running through it. He introduced himself and took a seat, obviously impatient to begin business, and flicked them all a picture of a dead woman. In the picture she lay on a steel floor, swollen face streaked with dried blood and eyes hideously misfigured. They did not recognize her.

“This is Lydia,” he told them. “She arrived on your ship from Rockhome 3 on the 37th of the Merchant, and she was found dead two days ago. I’m here to ask about her.”

With the name and the date came recognition, and they realized this was the sole surviving corsair from the raid on Rockhome 3. Her mother had been with her, and her mother had agreed to tell them everything about the raid in exchange for Lydia’s freedom. They had then brought her to Coriolis and dumped her on the station with a small amount of birr, and the promise that she would not return to the corsairs.

“We found her dead in an old airlock down near the cellars. Conveniently the security cameras and activation alerts were long since dead, probably used by smugglers. You can see she didn’t have a chance. So I’m here to ask you about her.”

They looked nervously at each other, because they could see where this was going. Detective Alef then proceeded to lay out his theory: that they had brought her here from Rockhome 3 to do some criminal work for the people of Rockhome 3, but she had betrayed them and the PCs had killed her in the secluded airlock. He had joined the dots well: he had evidence of Rockhome 3 suddenly paying off a debt that had been festering for years, and the PCs suddenly disappearing on a long journey into the Dark Between the Stars. Was it smuggling? Artifact dealing? Slavery? Organ harvesting? Had she failed them or betrayed them? Which one of them pressed the button that depressurized the air lock and killed her?

They denied everything of course, with all the shifty contempt of people who know they are falsely accused. They could hardly tell him the truth – that they had spaced her mother and left her colleagues to be beaten and tortured by the Rockhome 3 survivors, then brought her here and dumped her on the express condition that she never tell her pirate bosses about who did all that to her. All they could do was deny any knowledge of her purpose and her origins, and assure Alef that they had done nothing wrong and were not involved in crime. Eventually, with no admission and no contradictory evidence, Alef was forced to give up and leave – but not before giving them all his number and telling them that whoever cracked first would be treated leniently by the adjudicators. “Call me,” he grunted as he walked out of the cargo bay entryway.

They shrugged it off. There was no evidence they had done anything. Presumably Lydia had returned to a life of petty crime when her small birr supply ran out and, not knowing the station, had crossed the wrong people. Their promise to her mother had only delayed her spacing for a few cycles. Truly, crime does not pay. They returned to the observation deck, and prepared for the week of job hunting.

The sniper

Al Hamra was returning from a day spent looking for possible work when he noticed a group of stevedores working at a cargo lifter near the entryway to the cargo hold of the Beast of Burden. As he passed them by he realized that their coveralls were a little bulky, and they were watching him a little too attentively; a second glance confirmed for him that their coveralls were hiding body armour, and that these were not stevedores at all. He reached for his tabula to send a warning to his crew, when he was suddenly struck by a huge force in his shoulder and thrown to the ground. A moment later he heard the crack of a sniper’s rifle and realized he had been shot – and terribly wounded. He rolled onto his face, trying to cover his tabula, and played dead. The last thing he saw as he fell was the stevedores reaching into the cargo lifter and pulling out vulcan carbines. Moments later they walked past him, briefly talking about whether to finish him off but deciding against wasting the ammunition. The threat passed as they walked inside, and left Al Hamra dying on the cold floor of the dock.

Al Hamra waited until they were heading up the ramp and sent a message to Saqr, in the cockpit, warning him of the incoming thugs. Then he gritted his teeth and hauled himself up the ramp towards the entry, beating the sniper to the shot and ducking under the cover of the ship’s hull.

The raid

Saqr sent the alarm across the bridge, and they sprung into action. Siladan opened the app and activated the defense drone, which was in the cargo hold that the thugs entered by. As it came to life they noticed it and three of them opened fire on it, while three more ran to the elevator out of the cargo hold. Saqr, sitting in the bridge, sealed the doors to the living quarters and the bridge so that they would be trapped in the elevator access hall when they arrived. Dr. Delecta ran to the rear elevators to descend to the cargo hold, while Siladan and Reiko Ando grabbed weapons and ran forward to engage the incoming raiders. Downstairs the defence drone engaged the three thugs remaining in the cargo hold, and Al Hamra hauled himself up the entryway and into the cargo hold. His wound was very bad, and every action was a struggle, but he had to defend his ship.

The battle that followed was short but brutal. Upstairs, one of the pirates managed to hack the doors and enter the living space before the team could properly gather, and a vicious battle broke out in the main lounge, with Reiko Ando and Siladan in close combat against two of the thugs while Oliver and Saqr fired on them and a third took cover behind the doors. Downstairs Delecta sprinted the length of the hangars and into the cargo hold, reaching it just in time to see the defence drone under heavy fire and Al Hamra knocked down by gunfire. She opened fire from her surprise position at the door, and her intervention was enough to turn the tide: between her and the defence drone two of the three raiders went down, and the third sprinted out the door. Upstairs, with four PCs attacking the thugs from two directions, they cleaned up quickly, although it was a close fight.

The death

With the raiders defeated Delecta was able to run over to Al Hamra and assess his condition. He was dying of his wound, and they would need the new Firstcome medical device immediately. She called to Siladan, who ran to the medibay and trashed it looking for the device. Finally he found it and sprinted down to the cargo bay, but the huge distances in the ship prevented him getting there quickly. As he arrived Al Hamra’s condition had worsened, and he appeared to be breathing his last ragged breaths. They slapped the machine onto the dying mystic’s chest and activated it.

Al Hamra breathed his last, his eyes opened and he died without even the grace of a few last words. Delecta had failed.

Moments later the machine beeped and a robot voice said, “Download completed. Please transfer to stable storage within one minute.”

They looked around in confusion. What had they done? But the machine was insistent – its battery was low and it needed to transfer the data before shutdown. They hadn’t even charged the damn thing! Yelling recriminations at each other, Siladan and Dr. Delecta connected the machine to a data outlet for the ship’s computer and, not really knowing what else to do, yelled at it. “Commence download!”

Moments later the ship spoke to them in Al Hamra’s smooth Zenithian drawl. “You people really can’t do anything right can you?”

Their mystic captain had become the ship’s intelligence.

The nest

As this battle unfolded Oliver Greenstar was returning from a mission to make a deal with a hacker. He saw the remaining raider and a heavily-armed sniper hustling away from the docking bay, and guessed that his ne’er-do-well companions had got themselves into more trouble. He called a nearby street urchin who had been lounging around the docks for the last few days looking for work, and gave him 50 birr to follow the fleeing thugs. The urchin took the job eagerly and disappeared after them. Greenstar returned to the hangar and boarded their ship just as the rest of the group were cleaning up. The PCs had found one of the thugs still alive and were interrogating him in the blood-soaked cargo hold when Greenstar returned.

The thug had little to say, but they learned what they needed to. He and his friends were agents of Samina’s corsairs. They had learnt that it was the PCs who had foiled their mission on Rockhome 3, and they had come to get the ship’s data core of the Algebraic Escalation back from the PCs. They had killed Lydia in the process, and intended to kill the PCs too once they had the information they needed about the ship’s data core.

Well that hadn’t really worked out, had it? They killed the remaining thug and dumped him in the trash disposal with the rest. It was then that the doorbell rang, and detective Alef returned, responding to Al Hamra’s call.

What to do now? They spun a fast story and delayed the detective until they could clean the cargo hold and hide the bodies in the smuggler’s stash. They told him that Al Hamra had called him because they had been under attack by some local thugs, but that the thugs had gone. Somehow they convinced him to leave, and disposed of the bodies in the spaceship’s recycling unit. They were not in trouble with the law – yet – but they still had work to do, because Oliver Greenstar had received a message from his street urchin. The two thugs had returned to a base near the cellars, and they were not alone.

It was time to finish these corsairs. They prepared themselves for battle.


fn1: Actually it’s a recorder, that downloads the soul of a dying person, but they rolled a botch on their skill check and didn’t know this, a fact that will become relevant later …

Broken the barred gate, rime on the plaster,
walls gape, torn up, destroyed, consumed by age

Earth-grip holds the proud builders, departed, long lost,
and the hard grasp of the grave, until a hundred generations
of people have passed.

Our characters have escaped from a djinn-possessed ship, and returned triumphant to Coriolis station where they reported word of the Syndicate’s smuggling ring to the Coriolis Guard. But it was not their intention to run an aborted rescue mission on a doomed ice hauler: they had been out at the Eye of Anuba on the trail of an ancient Firstcome spaceship, which an ancient book told them was lying silent and untouched beyond the Eye. They decided then, after the distraction of the ruin of the Orun II, to try and reach that Firstcome ruin again. They spent a few days in Coriolis station recovering their good humour and resupplying the Beast of Burden, and then set off again for the Dark Between the Stars.

The crew for this mission:

  • Pilot Saqr (Pilot)
  • Gunner Oliver Greenstar (Colonist)
  • Gunner Adam (Soldier)
  • Sensor Operator Siladan Hatshepsut (Archaeologist)
  • Doctor Bana Delecta (Medicurg)
  • Pilot Al Hamra (Mystic)

Syndicate Salvage

The journey to the asteroid belt was uneventful, as it had been before, but as they approached the Eye of Anuba, following the same course as their last journey, the PCs were hailed by a passing ship. Captain Arrak of the Amoeba was pleasant enough in his greetings, but soon began asking pointed questions about their route, and whether they had encountered any abandoned ships on their journey. He told them that the Amoeba was a salvage ship, simply looking for wrecks to scour out here in the Dark, but their sixth sense told them there was something more involved than that. Siladan scanned the Amoeba and noticed that she was heavily armed, much more dangerous than is necessary for a salvage ship working the asteroid belt in the Kua system, and likely on the prowl for some illegal purpose. They guessed that this was the Syndicate, looking for evidence of the Gunmetal Logic, the ship they had sent out 10 days before to intercept the Orun II, and which the PCs had captured and hidden away on Rockhome 3.

They played dumb, a simple luxury yacht taking a bunch of rich tourists on a joy ride past the Eye of Anuba and out into the Dark. They had seen nothing but if they stumbled on anything they would let captain Arrak know immediately. He thanked them and the ships parted ways, although not before the Amoeba slyly dropped a drone in pursuit of their ship. Whether or not their story had worked, captain Arrak was keeping tabs on them.

Once the Amoeba was out of sensor range Saqr jumped into their fighter, the No Satisfaction, and dropped into the edge of the Eye of Anuba, flying through the storm of asteroids into a position behind the drone and out of its passive sensor range. Oliver and Adam took gunnery positions in the Beast of Burden, and Saqr opened fire on the drone. Saqr’s shot hit, but the drone had ablative armour: The drone disappeared in a storm of melted plastic and crystal dust and then emerged fully intact, its sensors going onto full broadcast mode. Before it could send a warning to its parent ship Adam fired their accelerator cannon and blew the newly-vulnerable drone to fragments.

Safe from prying eyes, they skipped over the Eye of Anuba and began their search for the shipwreck.

Firstcome Ruin

They found the ship after a day of searching, lying on the line of travel their ancient book had recommended. It was not as large as the book suggested, perhaps 600m long and a narrow 100m wide. It lay there in the vast emptiness, completely silent, powered down, motionless in the vast Dark. Under its belly there was a cloud of wreckage, and as they approached they could see that it had been in some kind of intense battle. The huge engines at the back of the ship had been torn apart by various heavy weapons, and the ship had been torn apart all along its belly.

They flew under its belly and into the shadows of Kua’s sun, looking for entry points. The belly of the ship had been blown out along a 300m long line, with pieces of the  hull lying in a rough sphere near its belly, perhaps having melted off after an intense fire. It appeared to have been a cargo ship, but the superstructure and all the contents of its cargo bays had been ruined by fire and brutal missile strikes. There it lay, nameless and ruined and unclaimed for 500 years. The PCs drifted in, looking for a way to loot this graveyard.

It was then that the Muzhadjar struck, unfurling themselves from the ancient wreck and swooping down to feast on the Beast of Burden. Fortunately Siladan detected them before they could come too close and the gunners were able to open fire on them, while Saqr threw their ship into a rapid spiral to try and avoid the beasts. They destroyed the first one as they sped towards the ship, but Oliver’s shot on the second one did not kill it, and Saqr had to throw the Beast of Burden into more complex evasive manoeuvres to stop the beast catching onto their hull. Were even one of these beasts to latch onto their ship they would be unable to kill it with their ship’s weapons, and would have to do a space walk to take it on with their personal weapons. Saqr thew their ship into a desperate loop and Adam released a torpedo, which hit the second beast as it swooped in, blowing it apart into a cloud of shadows and wrecked flesh.

They flew back towards the ship, scanning carefully for more of the Muzhadjar and finding none. So far away from the Rimward Reach and the main crowd of Firstcome shipwrecks, perhaps this remnant vessel had only been able to draw a few loners rather than the vast flocks that they had heard populated the Reach, and could tear a ship to ruins in just a couple of hours. As they drew close to the ravaged ship nothing more emerged to attack them, so they drew the Beast of Burden to a halt, suited up, and prepared for an EVA.

Among the Ruins

Saqr flew across first, using a hand-held rocket to move from the ship to the roof of the devastated cargo bay underneath the ship. Here he tied a guideline to one of the cargo crane gantries stretching across the roof of the cargo bay, and waited for the rest of the crew to join him. They left Reiko Ando behind to manage the ship, and traveled across the guideline one by one. Oliver Greenstar lost control of his ascent and flew into a crazed spiral, hitting a piece of floating hull and hurting himself before he finally reached the cargo bay. Trapped in his wake, Al Hamra was nearly hit by a piece of flying debris but managed to pull out of its way just in time. Finally they all gathered in the cargo bay. From there they took another careful space walk to the engineering section at the stern of the bay, Siladan almost kicking himself away into the Dark before Saqr and Dr. Delecta caught him. They reached the engineering section without further incident, and settled into the relative safety of its blackened and wrecked consoles.

Now they were in amongst the wreckage they could see that this ship had been horribly damaged in some ancient battle. A huge hole had been blasted through the middle of the ship by some enormous ancient weapon, leaving a perfect tunnel some 10m in diameter that traveled from the very top of the ship to the very bottom, emerging midships in the cargo bay. At the rear of the ship, in the engineering section, the floor and walls were riddled with holes from some powerful projectile weapon, as if perhaps the ship had been repeatedly strafed at close quarters, leaving raking sweeps of holes that pierced the walls and structure of the ship and let in pale shafts of light from distant Kua. The walls and floors had been blackened by fire, and the engines had obviously been massively damaged by missile fire, cannon and super-heated energy. They could find no human remains, probably because anything that was not secured to the walls and floors had been sucked out by the massive, explosive decompression when the base of the ship was blown out by whatever rail gun had punched the hole ‘midships. Throughout the engineering area and the cargo bay there was a faint cloud of dust, the scattered remnants of ash and melted plastic floating in the space of the hold. Where beams of Kua’s pale light shone through the blast holes in the ship’s hull they were caught by this cloud, filtered into faint rays of light streaking the empty space of the hold and the engineering section as if it were an abandoned cathedral to some primal god.

The cargo bay was perhaps 300m long and 100m wide. The engineering section was 80m wide and 20m long at its widest, a huge sweeping room of control panels, strange ruined machinery, and wreckage. It had once been separated from the cargo bay by a huge sweeping wall of plexiglass, but that wall had been blown out by the force of decompression, or by the implosion of the ship’s reactors, and now only shattered fragments protruded from the floor, leaving it open to space and the desolate emptiness of the hold. There was an elevator shaft, but the elevator was jammed and wrecked inside it and riddled with holes. Next to it a narrow staircase led upward to the ship’s main deck.

Before they headed up Siladan and Oliver found a control panel that held switches for emergency power batteries, and flipping the switches managed to engage enough power to turn on emergency gravity generators. Everyone gently drifted to the floor of the engineering bay, finally able to walk in vaguely natural gravity. Oliver through a piece of broken steel out of the shattered window into the cargo bay and watched it slowly accelerate toward where the floor had once been – and then pass beyond it, outside where the hull had been, and off into the emptiness of the Dark Between the Stars.

There would be no jumping out, then.

With the reserve batteries some emergency lights flicked on, casting a grim red glow over the wrecked panels. They marched up the stairs.

The drones

The stairs took them up to another engineering section, abandoned and empty like the last but not as badly damaged. Two more huge engines loomed over the stern wall of this section, wrecked and full of holes but not as badly burned as those downstairs. Here the plexiglass was mostly intact, and looked out on another huge cargo bay, perhaps 100m wide and 30m high, stretching 200m to a distant wall. The starboard side of the hangar had been blasted open by multiple missile strikes and all its contents torn outside by decompression. Across the blasted wasteland of the cargo bay itself the walls on the far side were riddled with holes from secondary blasts and perhaps also the same cannon fire that had hit the engines. Kua’s light streamed in through the holes in the starboard walls, casting a diffuse golden glow over the slowly settling plastic dust.

As they advanced across the open space Dr. Delecta checked her motion sensor and warned everyone that there were two incoming targets. Moments later something opened fire on them from the far side of the bay. Energy weapons streaked across the open space, and they rushed to cover – finding none. Instead they dropped prone and returned fire, shooting at vague shapes in the distant gloom around the far wall of the cargo hold. Energy weapons fired at them, and two strange floating drones emerged from the shadows of the far wall. They had cylindrical bodies with wiry tentacles hanging down to the ground, a blue glowing exhaust of some kind beneath the cylinder and an energy weapon on the top. As they moved forward firing, the tentacles writhed and twitched, looking for someone to grip and drag into the air. The party fired into them as fast as they could, Oliver and Adam using full burst autofire. One of the drones struck Oliver in the leg, but they managed to shoot them down before they could reach melee combat and grab anyone with their tentacles. The drones fell broken to the floor of the hold, and the PCs advanced to investigate them.

Siladan was able to confirm that one robot could be recovered, and perhaps reengineered to serve as a drone defender on their ship. They moved on, into the bow of the ancient ship.

Loot

Dr Delecta’s motion sensor warned them of more movement above, but at this level now they were safe, so they searched the bow of the ship for loot. They found a docking bay filled with high quality firstcome exo suits, and called in the Beast of Burden to dock with the air lock. They also found some torpedos, which they moved into the Beast of Burden – though they dropped one and activated its nuclear warhead, and had to throw it out of the hole in the middle of the ship before it detonated, leaving it drifting off at gravitational speeds into space to detonate 11 minutes’ travel away. They changed into the Firstcome exo suits, dragged the dead drone defender back to their ship, and moved upstairs to the top deck of the ancient ship.

They had to climb up the elevator to do this, and as soon as they emerged they were attacked by a strange, animated suit of armour that looked like it had been cast from mercury. It fired on them with a vicious thermal weapon of some kind, knocking Oliver unconscious almost immediately and almost killing Adam before their return fire could cut it down. Even as they destroyed it a second one entered the room they had entered, and they were forced to fight it too. Siladan charged in with his mercurium sword but the beast caught his strike, tore the weapon from his hand and hurled it out of the ship’s hull and into space. As the team poured gunfire into the strange suit of armour Siladan lost his cool and headbutted it with his new Firstcome exo suit. Somehow he found the beast’s only weakness, caved in its skull and killed it with one hit. The strange mercurium armour fell dead at his feet.

They looted these ancient Kinetic Intelligences, and searched through the ruins of the upper decks diligently until they found the ship’s data cores. They removed these carefully, finding also the captain’s personal tabula, and dragged it all back to the Beast of Burden. Satisfied they had found enough to profit handsomely, they cut loose from the ship and headed back towards Coriolis. Once they were a good distance from the ship Al Hamra contacted captain Arrak of the Amoeba and told him of the find. For 25,000 birr they sold its location and agreed never to speak of it to anyone.

Behind them the grave of the Firstcome floated in the empty Dark, the story of its destruction untold, its crew forgotten. It had been a good day, and its secrets would make them rich.

We talk about it all night long
We define our moral ground
But when I crawl into your arms
Everything comes tumbling down
Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down

 

Our heroes find themselves in the engine rooms of the Orun II, an ice hauler that has been overrun by an ancient Djinn. They have rescued the engineer and a deckhand, but the master Stevedore is trapped midships, and they need to make a decision about whether to risk their lives to save the ship itself, which is plunging out of control towards the Eye of Anuba, a cluster of highly active asteroids that will almost certainly tear the ship apart when it reaches them. They have just hours to act.

The roster for this session:

  • Pilot Saqr (pilot)
  • Gunner Oliver Greenstar (Colonist)
  • Engineer Reiko Ando (Deckhand)
  • Sensor Operator Siladan Hatshepsut (Archaeologist)
  • Doctor Bana Delecta (Medicurg)

The gunner Adam, their main soldier, had been badly injured in a battle with one of the Djinn’s ancient bodyguards, so he retreated to the Beast of Burden along with Al Hamra, the captain, who had been traumatized in the battle and was on the edge of breaking. The rest of the group retreated with their leader to their ship, where they upgraded their armour and weapons now that they knew the kind of enemy they faced. The engineer turned off the ship’s graviton projectors, so that the ship would no longer be accelerating towards the Eye of Anuba, buying them perhaps an hour of time, and retreated with them to their ship.

They decided to travel to the workshop in the centre of the ship, rescue the stevedore, then abandon the ship and leave it and its crazed Djinn pilot to die in the Dark Between the Stars. Armed and ready, they set out for the centre of the ship. This could only be reached by an old service elevator that ran down the centre of the ship, so they climbed in and set it running. The elevator was huge, large enough for service vehicles to fit in, but old and rickety, and it almost did not start when they first stepped in. After a moment though it sprung to life with a shudder and began to track through the centre of the ship. The Orgun II is really just three control centres connected by a huge spine of external cargo attachments, so as they traveled along this spine they could look out of the elevator windows and see the huge chunks of ice hanging from the outside of the spine. The distant light of Kua’s sun shone through them, refracting into pale rainbow patterns on the wall so that as the elevator passed along the ship’s cargo it filled alternatively with the faint honeyed glow of the sun itself, and then a rich pattern of dancing rainbows as the sun’s rays were blocked by the ship’s icy cargo. Occasionally the elevator juddered and rocked, and at one point an asteroid struck one of the icebergs as they passed, spraying chunks of ice all over the outside of the elevator. Finally the elevator docked with the central control section of the ship and they were able to enter the workshop area.

They passed through an outer chamber and through a large door into the workshop itself, a huge domed space full of gear, disassembled service vehicles, spare parts and random pieces of shipware. As they entered the room a shot rang out, nearly hitting Reiko Ando and forcing them all into cover. They called out and after a moment were able to convince the shooter that they meant no harm. After a few tense minutes spent confirming they were not possessed or here to kill him, the master stevedore Kolb Zir emerged from his hiding place behind a workbench and agreed to talk to them.

The Syndicate

They were just beginning to talk to Kolb Zir when Siladan received a message from Al Hamra, telling him there were strange signals on the ship’s scanners. Could he patch into the ship’s sensor system and check them? Siladan opened his tabula and patched into the ship’s sensors to check the scans – and saw to his horror the remains of a space battle glittering in the dark a short distance behind their ship. Whatever ship had won that battle was heading towards them, inbound at high speed and running without a transponder. Someone else had been coming to their ship, and someone else had intercepted them, destroyed them, and was now approaching as fast as they could.

The time for negotiation with Kolb Zir was over. They handed him back his gun, jumped into the service elevator, and began the slow, rickety ride back to the engineering section. By the time the elevator had reached its destination the crew of the other vessel had docked, and as the PCs emerged from the engineering section they met the interlopers in the docking area. This new crew were immediately identifiable from the symbols on their combat armour – Syndicate mercenaries, hired killers for the crime gangs on Coriolis. What had they done to deserve this?!

Battle was joined, but it was quick and brutal and in the first moments of the fight they were able to take down the gang’s leader. After a short firefight the team were cut down, and only one man was left alive after he surrendered. He called down the pilot of their small ship, and told them that they had been sent to the Orun II to recover some drugs that were onboard. The Syndicate had been running a smuggling operation using ice haulers and scrap ships from the asteroid belt: they would ship in drugs and other contraband from across the Horizon, hide it in shipments from the asteroid belt and then smuggle it into Coriolis in the freight, with the help of corrupt stevedores on Coriolis. They had been told that on this occasion the Orun II was carrying a quantity of a highly dangerous drug called Black Lotus, that had been strapped to some stasis pods and buried in the ice. When the Orun II went dark and disappeared they had been sent out on a mission to find the drugs. As they approached the Orun II they had seen another ship, a small vessel sent by the Melem Gesurra shipping company that owns the Orun II. Assuming it had been sent to take back control of the ship they had destroyed it and docked to take control of the vessel. They had come ready to deal with raiders or pirates, and had not realized they would meet such stiff opposition.

The party laughed at that, and came up on an idea. They handed the pilot the armour of one of his dead colleagues and told both of them to head forward, get the drugs, and come back with them, and they would let them live. If they did not come back, or did not bring the drugs, they would be abandoned on the ship to die. The Syndicate thugs, having little choice and knowing nothing of the djinn, agreed to this ugly bargain, and set off on the elevator.

As this interrogation happened Saqr had taken the Syndicate ship and docked it within the Beast of Burden’s second hangar. They prepared themselves for the return of the Syndicate thugs: Oliver Greenstar took up a position in the upper gun turret of the Beast of Burden, autocannon aimed at the central elevator shaft; Reiko Ando and Siladan placed themselves at the airlock connecting the Beast of Burden to the Orun II, ready to meet the thugs if they returned; and Bana Delecta waited in the airlock of the Beast of Burden in case anyone needed medical care. They waited.

A Grand Bargain

They had set up both thugs to have an open comms link to the Beast of Burden, but they did not plan for Oliver Greenstar’s personal problem. Oliver had told no-one, but he had been possessed for many years by a creature from the Dark Between the Stars. As he sat at his gunnery station it took control of him and made contact with the Djinn where it sat in the darkened bridge of the Orun II. Alerted to the character’s plans, the Djinn sent its warriors to the entry of the elevator shaft. They killed one of the Syndicate thugs while the Djinn took control of the other, as Oliver Greenstar ran a monologue over the comms system to distract from any small noises the others might have heard[1]. They waited, not realizing what was coming, as the elevator moved smoothly down the shaft, Oliver Greenstar’s possessing spirit ensuring he did not shoot it. After a long, tense wait the thug emerged in the engineering section, but instead of going straight to their ship, he accessed the engineering panels and restored power to the bridge of the Orun II, restarted the engines and gave the Djinn full control of the ice hauler.

The PCs knew none of this was happening, of course, and only realized something was amiss when the lights on the bridge came on and the engines fired up. Moments later one of the Djinn’s palace guards came charging around a corner and attacked Reiko and Siladan with its mercurium sword. They had been betrayed! Confused, they fought back, but as the battle entered full swing a massive asteroid from the outer edge of the Eye of Anuba smashed into the engineering section, breaking it open and causing massive decompression in the whole section[2]. Somehow Reiko Ando was able to struggle against the explosive decompression and haul herself into the docking tunnel, but Siladan was torn away from the door and dragged towards the tear in the hull, the Djinn’s palace guard stalking after him. Meanwhile the Beast of Burden, connected to the decompression zone by the docking tunnel, began to decompress as well, and Reiko was forced to seal the airlock shut, trapping Siladan on the Orun II.

It was then that the Djinn made contact with Oliver Greenstar and offered him a deal: let the ship go free and his palace guard would not kill Siladan. Oliver, still ridden by his own possessive spirit, agreed, and the palace guard retreated, leaving Siladan to the dubious mercy of the Dark Between the Stars. Moments later Siladan was sucked out of the hull and tossed into space, in a suit of armour that had no exo suit functions. The Beast of Burden detached hurriedly and rushed to collect him, somehow managing to line him up with an airlock and drag him inside before the cold of space took his last breath[3].

As Oliver Greenstar’s possessive spirit faded away the Djinn contacted the entire party. It introduced itself to them as Kh’Oudour, told them that it was indebted to them for saving it from 300 years of sleep, and promised them they would meet again. As the Beast of Burden tumbled off into space and the Orun II accelerated away from its previously fatal flight path, Kh’Oudour also gave its thanks to the Green Knight, the beast in possession of Oliver Greenstar. The ships separated, and the Orun II was lost to human reckoning.

For now.


fn1: I made a big GM-ing mistake here, to be fair. I should have run a conversation rich with tension, where the two thugs were attacked and one seemed to survive and flee, and the PCs had to guess whether he was possessed or acting, while Greenstar tried to confuse them, but I completely forgot the thugs were wired up and the players didn’t remind me, so when things went south I didn’t give them any chance to figure out what was going on or to enjoy the rich tension of their two press-ganged servants getting whacked. This was a big GM-ing mistake!

fn2: I had 4 darkness points left and I figured I should use them! Since the campaign started the PCs have become leery about praying to the icons, because they have seen the horrible ways darkness points can be used, and now they would rather fail skill checks than give me free rein top lay with all the environmental hazards that darkness points give me.

fn3: The group has a group talent called “Survivor” which enables them to somehow survive situations exactly like this, and they called on it now. During character creation there had been discussion of which group talent to take, but as soon as they discovered the survivor talent every player who has previously been in my campaigns insisted that the group take that talent. They promised the new members of the group that they would not regret it. Siladan’s player is one of the new members, and he does not regret that choice!

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