Yesterday a group of US politicians who cannot control guns threatened to regulate Facebook.

During his testimony, representatives showed Mark Zuckerberg a picture of one of the fake news items that had been circulated on Facebook during the election, and asked him what he was going to do to stop this kind of material being circulated. Now, I may be a little wet behind the ears but I had always been led to believe that America valued free speech – that the country even had some kind of thing in its constitution protecting free speech – but apparently this idea goes out of the window where Facebook is concerned.

Organizations that have not yet been held accountable in the way Facebook was yesterday include Twitter, Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, or the New York Times. And somehow the leaders of Cambridge Analytica have also escaped harsh questioning by these sudden defenders of democracy. Why only Facebook? Presumably if Rupert Murdoch took the stand he could be shown a picture of some of the bullshit his channel broadcasts daily, and asked what he was going to do to stop it. Alex Jones, obviously, constantly broadcasts bullshit and yet hasn’t been told to stop it or face regulation. So why Facebook?

Facebook is at its heart a form of content provider that enables ordinary citizens to present their opinions to all their friends and associates at once, without anyone outside those groups being able to see or know. Twitter, Fox News, the Young Turks, all these organizations are publicly viewable, so that if they say something bad about someone or broadcast lies everyone sees it. But with Facebook, only your friends and the people you choose to address get to see it. Sure Mark Zuckerberg and his evil wizards see it but they don’t care. One important group of people who do not get to see it are our political representatives and leaders. They don’t know what’s going on out there in the wilds of Facebook, they can’t monitor it. Sure, they can pay a company like Cambridge Analytica to use that to their advantage but fundamentally Facebook removes content provision and debate from the grip of organizations like Fox News, CNN, or any organizations connected to any political donors. In the 2016 election it may have helped Republicans (and Russia), but there’s no guarantee that it will always be a powerful tool just for evil. And there’s no guarantee that only Russia will stay out of future elections. What if China decides to weigh in on the Democratic side in the next elections? Facebook is a wild card precisely because it liberates our voices from mass media. It also offers another powerful tool that scares governments – the power of spontaneous organization. This power is already being deployed by left wing organizations in America, and it’s not something that politicians will ever be comfortable.

China has a version of Facebook called Wechat, and the Chinese government is terrified of it. They maintain tight controls over it – one could say they regulate it, to use a term that America’s representatives understand – to ensure it can’t be used for wildcat demonstrations, to spread dissent, or to provide information the government doesn’t control. Of course the Chinese government got in at the development stage and now see it as a useful tool for monitoring public dissent and keeping track of public opinion, but they also keep a careful eye on everything that goes on there, because they don’t want it being used in the way that Facebook could be – to spread information the government can’t see and can’t address.

It’s probably a safe rule for life that if Republicans decide they want to regulate something, they’re not doing it in the best interests of ordinary people. Seeing these politicians rounding on Zuckerberg, you have to think that they aren’t attacking Facebook because they’re concerned about our privacy, but because they realize this tool is out of their control, and they’re scared of its huge potential to break the stranglehold of a few rich donors on the dissemination of information in America. Yes, Facebook needs to tighten up its privacy rules and be more responsible about how it handles data. But the election wasn’t stolen by Facebook alone, and censorship and regulation of Facebook is not the solution to this problem. It’s a rare occasion when a politician wants to censor things out of a genuine sense of social responsibility – they have too much skin in the game. What we saw yesterday was not a group of brave politicians taking on a huge monopoly to protect our privacy. It was a bunch of tyrants who want to shut down our freedom to disseminate information in an uncontrolled and unmonitored way.

Don’t let them!

The media this week are exploding with news that a company called Cambridge Analytica used shadily-obtained Facebook data to influence the US elections. The data was harvested by some other shady company using an app that legally exploited Facebook’s privacy rules at the time, and then handed over to Cambridge Analytica, who then used the data to micro-target adverts over Facebook during the election, mostly aimed at getting Trump elected. The news is still growing, and it appears that Cambridge Analytica was up to a bunch of other shady stuff too – swinging elections in developing countries through fraud and honey-traps, getting Facebook data from other sources and possibly colluding illegally with the Trump campaign against campaign funding laws – and it certainly looks like a lot of trouble is deservedly coming their way.

In response to this a lot of people have been discussing Facebook itself as if it is responsible for this problem, is itself a shady operator, or somehow represents a new and unique problem in the relationship between citizens, the media and politics. Elon Musk has deleted his company’s Facebook accounts, there is a #deleteFacebook campaign running around, and lots of people are suggesting that the Facebook model of social networking is fundamentally bad (see e.g. this Vox article about how Facebook is simply a bad idea).

I think a lot of this reaction against Facebook is misguided, does not see the real problem, and falls into the standard mistake of thinking a new technology must necessarily come with new and unique threats. I think it misses the real problem underlying Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data to micro-target ads during the election and to manipulate public opinion: the people reading the ads.

We use Facebook precisely because of the unique benefits of its social and sharing model. We want to see our friends’ lives and opinions shared amongst ourselves, we want to be able to share along things we like or approve of, and we want to be able to engage with what our friends are thinking and saying. Some people using Facebook may do so as I do, carefully curating content providers we allow on our feed to ensure they aren’t offensive or upsetting, and avoiding allowing any political opinions we disagree with; others may use it for the opposite purpose, to engage with our friends’ opinions, see how they are thinking, and openly debate and disagree about a wide range of topics in a social forum. Many of us treat it as an aggregator for cat videos and cute viral shit; some of us only use it to keep track of friends. But in all cases the ability of the platform to share and engage is why we use it. It’s the one thing that separates it from traditional mass consumption media. This is its revolutionary aspect.

But what we engage with on Facebook is still media. If your friend shares a Fox and Friends video of John Bolton claiming that Hilary Clinton is actually a lizard person, when you watch that video you are engaging with it just as if you were engaging with Fox and Friends itself. The fact that it’s on Facebook instead of TV doesn’t suddenly exonerate you of the responsibility and the ability to identify that John Bolton is full of shit. If Cambridge Analytica micro target you with an ad that features John Bolton claiming that Hilary Clinton is a lizard person, that means Cambridge Analytica have evidence that you are susceptible to that line of reasoning, but the fundamental problem here remains that you are susceptible to that line of reasoning. Their ad doesn’t become extra brain-washy because it was on Facebook. Yes, it’s possible that your friend shared it and we all know that people trust their friends’ judgment. But if your friends think that shit is reasonable, and you still trust your friend’s judgement, then you and your friend have a problem. That’s not Facebook’s problem, it’s yours.

This problem existed before Facebook, and it exists now outside of Facebook. Something like 40% of American adults think that Fox News is a reliable and trustworthy source of news, and many of those people think that anything outside of Fox News is lying and untrustworthy “liberal media”. The US President apparently spends a lot of his “executive time” watching Fox and Friends and live tweeting his rage spasms. No one forces him to watch Fox and Friends, he has a remote control and fingers, he could choose to watch the BBC. It’s not Facebook’s fault, or even Fox News’s fault, that the president is a dimwit who believes anything John Bolton says.

This is a much bigger problem than Facebook, and it’s a problem in the American electorate and population. Sure, we could all be more media savvy, we could all benefit from better understanding how Facebook abuses privacy settings, shares our data for profit, and enables micro-targeting. But once that media gets to you it’s still media and you still have a responsibility to see if it’s true or not, to assess it against other independent sources of media, to engage intellectually with it in a way that ensures you don’t just believe any old junk. If you trust your friends’ views on vaccinations or organic food or Seth Rich’s death more than you trust a doctor or a police prosecutor then you have a problem. Sure, Facebook might improve the reach of people wanting to take advantage of that problem, but let’s not overdo it here: In the 1990s you would have been at a bbq party or a bar, nodding along as your friend told you that vaccines cause autism and believing every word of it. The problem then was you, and the problem now is you. In fact it is much easier now for you to not be the problem. Back in the 1990s at that bbq you couldn’t have surreptitiously whipped our your iPhone and googled “Andrew Wakefield” and discovered that he’s a fraud who has been disbarred by the GMA. Now you can, and if you choose not to because you think everything your paranoid conspiracy theorist friend says is true, the problem is you. If you’re watching some bullshit Cambridge Analytica ad about how Hilary Clinton killed Seth Rich, you’re on the internet, so you have the ability to cross reference that information and find out what the truth might actually be. If you didn’t do that, you’re lazy or you already believe it or you don’t care or you’re deeply stupid. It’s not Facebook’s fault, or Cambridge Analytica’s fault. It’s yours.

Facebook offers shady operatives like Robert Mercer the ability to micro-target their conspiracy theories and lies, and deeper and more effective reach of their lies through efficient use of advertising money and the multiplicative effect of the social network feature. It also gives them a little bit of a trust boost because people believe their friends are trustworthy. But in the end the people consuming the media this shady group produce are still people with an education, judgment, a sense of identity and a perspective on the world. They are still able to look at junk like this and decide that it is in fact junk. If you sat through the 2016 election campaign thinking that this con-artist oligarch was going to drain the swamp, the problem is you. If you thought that Clinton’s email practices were the worst security issue in the election, the problem is you. If you honestly believed The Young Turks or Jacobin mag when they told you Clinton was more militarist than Trump, the problem is you. If you believed Glenn Greenwald when he told you the real threat to American security was Clinton’s surveillance and security policies, the problem is you. If you believed that Trump cared more about working people than Hilary Clinton, then the problem is you. This stuff was all obvious and objectively checkable and easy to read, and you didn’t bother. The problem is not that Facebook was used by a shady right wing mob to manipulate your opinions into thinking Clinton was going to start world war 3 and hand everyone’s money to the bankers. The problem is that when this utter bullshit landed in your feed, you believed it.

Of course the problem doesn’t stop with the consumers of media but with the creators. Chris Cillizza is a journalist who hounded Clinton about her emails and her security issues before the election, and to this day continues to hound her, and he worked for reputable media organizations who thought his single-minded obsession with Clinton was responsible journalism. The NY Times was all over the email issues, and plenty of NY Times columnists like Maureen Dowd were sure Trump was less militarist than Clinton. Fox carefully curated their news feed to ensure the pussy-grabbing scandal was never covered, so more Americans knew about the emails than the pussy-grabbing. Obviously if no one is creating content about how terrible Trump is then we on Facebook are not able to share it with each other. But again the problem here is not Facebook – it’s the American media. Just this week we learn that the Atlantic, a supposedly centrist publication, is hiring Kevin D Williamson – a man who believes women who get abortions should be hanged – to provide “balance” to its opinion section. This isn’t Facebook’s fault. The utter failure of the US media to hold their government even vaguely accountable for its actions over the past 30 years, or to inquire with any depth or intelligence into the utter corruption of the Republican party, is not Facebook’s fault or ours, it’s theirs. But it is our job as citizens to look elsewhere, to try to understand the flaws in the reporting, to deploy our education to the benefit of ourselves and the civic society of which we are a part. That’s not Facebook’s job, it’s ours. Voting is a responsibility as well as a right, and when you prepare to vote you have the responsibility to understand the information available about the people you are going to vote for. If you decide that you would rather believe Clinton killed Seth Rich to cover up a paedophile scandal, rather than reading the Democratic Party platform and realizing that strategic voting for Clinton will benefit you and your class, then the problem is you. You live in a free society with free speech, and you chose to believe bullshit without checking it.

Deleting Facebook won’t solve the bigger problem, which is that many people in America are not able to tell lies from truth. The problem is not Facebook, it’s you.


At the end of the last session of the Spiral Confederacy campaign, Simon Simon the adherent visited a strange adherent cult in the Bones of Pearl 2, to find out why they were being hunted by the Pearl 2 authority’s mercenaries, the SSA. This was handled in downtime, which is where our group do “unimportant” or non-combatant things through Facebook messenger during the week. In this case things went a bit pear-shaped, they got into a bit of a fight, and one PC nearly had to kill another. This is a report of the full downtime, broken up into its various parts. I have made subsections to make it easier to follow, which are:
•    On board the Come as You Are
•    At the Coven of the Unredeemed
•    The Tale of the Unredeemed
•    Emergency at the Coven
•    Back at the Come As You Are
•    Flight from the Coven
•    A classic moment in GM-player interactions that everyone is very familiar with
•    In the Combustible Van with Lam and Ahmose
•    To be or not to be: Breakout from the Coven
•    Escape from the Bones
•    Return to Pearl 7
•    The Resurrection of the Unbroken

The downtime is reported as direct chat logs, just cleaned up and modified slightly to make them more readable, but they remain vaguely unreadable in that way that chat logs do. This was a long and winding downtime that occurred over a week, so I doubt anyone will want to read all of it. For insight into the magic of the universe, scroll down to the Resurrection scene; for an amusing moment of near death, go straight to To Be or Not to Be, where you can also see the effect of differing technologies between Confederacy and its outlying systems, combined with AI support and a psionic, which should further deepen the mystery of how The Reach has remained independent all this time. In The Tale of the Unredeemed you can learn something of the history of the Confederacy and adherents as a concept.

The chat log starts below.

On board the Come As You Are
GM: By way of downtime for you guys. Everyone is going to chill out now that you have that bone pile behind you. But still alva is a little freaked, and ahmose is in her Grumpy Edgy Captain state.

While Simon Simon is off being interesting you have a dig through the loot. The space ninja’s swords have changed to rusty useless metal. Alvas drone investigated the silver sword and tells you it is silver yes, but it seems too light. The priests notes are written – shock – in his native language. You can’t read it or even recognize it, though some of the diagrams make a kind of hideous sense. To decipher the notes would need access to a major research database of remnant languages, and a few years of research. Or an oracle. On the bright side, you take them to an expert and he or she could tell you where they are from. Which is all you really need to know. Further rummaging will reveal a list of transport options and costs for a couple of star systems, with travel dates 3-6 months from now.

The drone tells you that the bone on the priest’s staff is human. There may be other fragments of human bone inside the staff. Also in the bag there is a stash of about 1000 credits.

Lam: Lam is pretending she didnt hear that. Lam hears the credits jingle though!

GM: It is a leather pouch of coins made in some old fashioned mint, bearing an image of some old chick on one side and flowers and birds on the other. Remnant shit basically. There are a few knucklebones in the pouch. The death priest seems incapable of doing anything without a bit of dead human interfering.

Hmm, I wonder what the pouch holding the credits is made out of? Ooh a very supple leather. You want to keep that Lam? There is also a solid leather sheath that probably contains scrolls. This leather looks like it might be mundane.

Lam: Yay? Lam will look at the shiny coins but is unimpressed with this strange disturbingly familiar leather pouch. She will touch the scroll sheath!

GM: okay, she flicks the finger bone out of its little leather holder to unseal the sheath. It’s a small finger bone, hmmm ….

The sheath opens and reveals three scrolls and one set of scrolls. The three scrolls are sealed in wax with the mark of the death cult, held separately. The scroll set is bound together with a simple coil of ordinary string. Ordinary string!

Lam: Yay ordinary! Is it all in a weird barbaric language?
GM: It flops open to reveal several sheets of paper with maps drawn on them. All are tombs. There are marks on certain tombs. The tombspine is amongst the maps.

Lam: So we have a list of all the tombs that were due to be defiled?
GM: Well, not quite … you have a list you can’t read, with maps you can’t read, for tombs you don’t know where to find. But with the correct work you could find them. If you had a death priest you could even interrogate the dead!

Lam: Lam is satisfied that she has contributed to this mission! Now we need a weird language speaking guy!

Ahmose: Simon should give us a pick up call when he’s done. But we keep the ship ready to leave in case those mercenaries [GM note: the SSA] decide to pay us visit. That’s all Ahmose can come up with before her headache forces her to not think anymore

[GM note: Ahmose was touched by the wraith and is still recovering intelligence, but she had enough brains to warn everyone not to touch the sealed scrolls until they get]

GM: Okay, so you can busy yourselves preparing the ship while you wait for Simon Simon. Anyone want to open one of those wax-sealed scrolls?

Lam: Once she recovers she will search for a language specialist.

Alva: Alva is going to try and decipher the things we found, as far as he is able.

Lam: Open the seal!
Ahmose: Is Ahmose recovering intellect? She will try and stop Lam to contact any language specialist on this pearl! If there are peeps that can speak this language on this pearl, there is a high chance he’s involved with the priest. And I rather not open the seal before talking to Michael, the one guy who might knows what’s going on. Let’s go through all “non-magical” stuff for now.
Alva: There isn’t any magical stuff there. Just stuff that we haven’t logically explained yet. Alva is sure there is some explanation though.

At the Coven of the Unredeemed

GM: To set the scene, the dude lets you in and someone comes up behind you, puts a weapon at your back and demands your guns. Do you hand them over?
Note that with a mere thought you can disconnect your laser rifle from the ships energy so it becomes useless

Simon Simon: “I shouldnt die…” He says tiredly, like they should already know this. Simon will hand them his weapons, at this point there is little point in resisting. He is in their grasp and if they decide to off him he wont stand much of a chance. He leaves them activated for now.

GM: The guy behind you takes them with a grunt and disappears without you really seeing him. The dude with the heavy rifle leads you to a kitchen and gestures to a table and chairs. There’s a middle aged woman at the table with a pistol, a teapot and two cups. Wanna sit?

Simon Simon: Simon mumbles something to himself and shakely sits down. He sits straight with his hands on his knees, tapping softly. He looks around a bit nerveously, then gives a close lip smile to the woman. He looks like he is on an interview. (He, as stealthy as possible, tries to search for any nearby AI’s and systems).

GM: Stealthy. This whole section seems to be devoid of AI attention, something you already started to notice. Maybe it’s too tasteless even for AIs.

“Name is Sue. You? You confederate ?” She picks up the pot and leans forward to pour your tea

Simon Simon: “Sue? Sue.” He nods, Mary Sue he thinks, but holds the thought. “I’m Simon… simon.” He holds his hand out. “No tea, too hot. I need cold, cold shower actually.” He is fear-exhausted and dirty. “I’m… not sure I’m confederate anymore, but im not from here at least, but I’m interesting!” He says slightly defensively.

GM: Unfortunately she is already pouring the tea. Unfortunately because as you start speaking you hear a loud clack! and all the lights go off, plunging the room into near total darkness. You hear her say “Drat! Another power cut” as the lights cut, but you’re fine because your low light vision cuts in. However, she is not and you can see she is now missing your teacup, and a wave of hot water is about to lap over the table onto your legs. Do you move? Moving could risk getting shot; staying where you are risks boiling water

Simon Simon: Are the table / chairs light?

GM: steel!

Simon Simon: if the chair is light enough/not attached to the floor he will try to slide back while still sitting, if not he says “Hot water hot water!! I said too hot Mary sue!” and try to move out of the way.

GM: He does the latter. The lights suddenly come back on. Sue says “Don’t bother with the serum, Joe, he’s from the Core” You turn your head to see heavy rifle guy standing next to you with a wicked looking needle.

He stops sticking it towards your neck, and she gestures at the tea. “Low-light vision.”

Simon Simon: He spins about “Wow joe!” he says with wide eyes and raised hands, looking at the needle, he never liked needles. “Been poked enough for a day!!” His face turns to one of worry, and he turns back to the woman. “Serum?! No serum, don’t wanna put me down Mary Sue, I have informations for you, and questions.” His eyes are a bit intense.

Sue: “Don’t worry Simon, it was just a truth serum. Since it won’t work we’ll just have to trust each other. Why don’t we start by you telling me this information?” She gestures at Joe, who puts the needle down out of your reach and starts mopping up the tea.

Simon Simon: He squints his eyes at her and sits back down. “You’ve tried burn and stab me with a needle in the first 5 minutes of our meeting.” Not sure I want this job anymore he thinks. He sighs and is thoughtful for a moment. “Okey I’ll give you some information” He leans foward and whispers “I am adherent, with a Mother, which is nice, sometimes not so much. I know you are adherent without a Mother, how is that a thing?”

GM: Sue waves Joe away. “Joe, best you step back lest our guest get the wrong idea

“We are Abandoned.” Somehow the way she says it has a capital letter on it. “I will tell you the tale, if you care to hear it. But time may be short. First why don’t you tell me this ‘information'”

Simon Simon: He lifts his hands again half way in open surrender. “No ideas, just talk.” He thinks for a moment, looking Sue over. “Fine… but you gotta keep me safe, for a while, I am very interesting and shouldnt die you know. Deal?”

GM: “We’re having trouble keeping ourselves safe at the moment, Simon, and the SSA has spies everywhere. But we’ll try. Look, Joe here is warming to you already!” Joe gives you a nod. He’s a grizzled, muscly dude in his early 30s, broken teeth, looks like a street ruffian. Not very hacker-y at all.

“So, on with the tale, Interesting Simon”

Simon Simon: Simon retreats physically at the idea of warming up to Dirty Joe. He looks back at sue, smiling, joe momentarily forgotten. “SSA! That’s it; I found out about them same way I found out about you.” He looks serious. “They know about this place.. and they are coming. You shouldn’t die either…”

“Oh really?” She arches an eyebrow. “We’re rather aware that they’re after us. How did you know, and how can your knowledge help?”

Simon Simon: (Would simon be able to place a fake report on them with a different location?)

GM: [he might. But what he definitely could do is link up his hack of the security/municipal communications system to their computer, so that they would be able to learn what the security services are doing – remember these guys have no AI and (compared to you) relatively primitive hacking skills so it would be a big boon]

Simon Simon: “How I know? their networks are strong but not invincible; i’ve cut myself a small path in; I guess… I could show you or your computers the way in.” He says thoughtfully. “Are you sure you are aware of them? They know of this place, thats how I found you. They won’t be long coming.”

GM: She takes this news that you can hack their system quite well, and gestures for Joe, who wanders away. There’s a few minutes of awkward silence before he comes back with a tablet and a techie-looking guy.
“Can you install your techniques to work through this? It would help us a lot to know where to move, and when they find our next safe house.”
Distrust appears to have evaporated fast

Simon Simon: “I’ll give you whatever can help you for the now, the current road” He says as he quickly patches in the current SSA reports. “… you tell me why you are you Abandoned and promise to get me out of this place back to my friends and I’ll show you the path for more.” Trust goes both ways.

GM: She grunts what you guess is agreement, and you and the techie get to grips with the clunky old tablet. It only takes a few minutes but that’s a lifetime for a confederate. There are more communications flowing – thankfully none about the place you just raided and none about your ship or your colleagues – but there appears to be some roadworks scheduled for this street in two days’ time …

Simon Simon: Simon stares at the tablet like its an affront to all that is decent in the universe and gives a look of pity to the techie. “No wonder you are abandoned…” he mumbles to himself…

GM: the techie seems really impressed by your skills, including a couple of hacks you haven’t shown him that exploit weaknesses in old systems like this that will take another 50 years to be discovered. Then he scuttles away at a hard glance from Sue.

The tale of the Unredeemed

Sue: We aren’t just abandoned, Simon Simon, we are Unredeemed. We have become a cult of the lost, for the lost. Not just people who have lost, though. We are a home for people who wait helplessly for redemption. Take Joe here, lost his wife to slavery for his own misdeeds. He will never get her back. He cannot redeem himself while she toils in the silicon yards, he is not even allowed to know her status. Likely she is already gone, lost to his folly, so he waits out his days in this coven of the abandoned and the hopeless. And the conditions of our redemption are, well, let’s just say they aren’t the easiest.”
Joe grunts, runs his tongue over a broken tooth

“We started as a cult, maybe 1000 years ago. Not all of us were adherents but some of us were. No one really knew who we were but we weren’t illegal. Our AI was called the Starred One. It set our goals and the patterns of our lives, and we worshiped it, and followed the lead of those who could speak to it.”

“Then one day one of those priests of the Starred One went on a mission to the Gardens. We don’t know why, he would not tell us, but something went wrong. He fled and for some reason he took the Starred One with him. He jumped in a sublight ship with our God and fled this system. We searched for years to find them, because we knew they must be close but we couldn’t find them until they arrived at a system where we could track them, and the closest was 5 years travel for that clapped out old vessel.

“Maybe 30 years later they were found in an abandoned space station in another system, but the priest refused to speak to his followers, and the Starred One had gone mad. It killed anyone who ventured onto the station. So we had to leave them there. The priest died there and we never could approach the Starred One again, because in its madness it refuses to let anyone on board.”

“We could force it, but the priest sent us a dying transmission that reached us years after his death. He told us that one day we would meet more gods, and then our Starred One would become pure again, and until that day we should hold our faith and wait.”

“So we wait.”

Some things that Simon Simon would immediately notice in this story are listed below …

1.    The confederacy wasn’t in this sector back then, so either this “Starred one” and it’s “priests” were adherents fleeing from the confederacy or the AI was a random AI that developed separately here and was hiding in the Reach
2.    If hiding in the Reach, it’s possible it is a leftover from whatever culture created the Reach
3.    If the cult were led by adherents from the confederacy, they could have been con artists. Sometimes adherents go to the frontier to set up cults by impressing people with their “foresight”. It’s unusual for adherents to form groups, and often when they do the non adherent members are exploited by the adherents
4.    You don’t know if adherents are that old a thing as to have been around 1000 years ago. There is no history of adherents (or AI) but your best understanding is they are a newer phenomenon. The confederacy is at least 10000 years old (no one really dates it’s start ) but it spent much of that time consolidating in the core, and AI worship only began once there was a coherent wider space for AI to move through, nest in, and be chased around in. So if this cult is at least 1000 years old it’s either one of the first adherents or it was here before and the AI is an ancient one with no links to the confederacy. In either case it’s a novel and exciting thing
5.    You have never heard of an AI going mad but there are rumours that it’s possible… How, though?

Simon: Simon stands there with his mouth open in shock. He barely notices when the lady’s speech ends, lost in thought. “So many… new parameters… factors and entities to consider…” he mumbles to himself, he leans back on the chair and covers his face with his hands staying like that for a while. “Oh… Mother… how long have you been here and suffered alone..” He says imagining a single moment without his AI.
Simon wants to do a lot of things. He wants to lead then all to safety. He wants to fuel a rebellion. He wants to take over the Starred One. He wants to never be even slightly close to the Starred One. He wants to blow this whole place. He wants to go hide in a dark space for a while. He wants to ask Mother about this… he doesn’t want to hear the answer. It takes him a while but he absorbs the information as much as he can for the moment, then shakes himself a bit and looks back at Sue. “The Death cult.. the dark priests, they were involved, if not responsible, for the SSA hunting you… do you know why?” He says as he shows her the files he got, how the dates of the authorities hunting them matches those of them protecting the cult’s hideout.
GM: She accepts your evidence about the death cult and SSA hunting them, but knows nothing about this cult or why it would entangle her in its business. Do you tell her about the ansible and the priest’s journey through the tombs of the Galaxy?

Simon Simon: yes, I tell her I saw the cult in the gardens as well, and they are pretty insane themselves. I ask her if she knows exactly where in the gardens their priest went, and if she knows of the tombs; if not I, I tell her what I know

GM: That tale troubles her deeply, for all the obvious reasons. It seems like an awfully big coincidence that the death priest who set the SSA onto her cult should be rooting around in the same place that her cult’s fallen prophet had a calling to

Unfortunately their prophet and his the Starred One didn’t leave any evidence of their plans, and expunged all valuable information about the cult from its storage before they left. So the only way to find out would be to go to the space station and ask the Starred One itself…

Also why are the SSA also attacking the cannibal cultists? As far as she knows they have no special history …

[GM Note: the “cannibal cultists” are another religious group hiding in the Bones, who worship a saviour who was born to redeem humanity, but killed for some crime; they believe that eating his flesh will enable all of human society to transubstantiate and become gods, and they wait the day that their saviour will return for them to feast upon him. They are a completely harmless if slightly tasteless cult]

Emergency at the Coven
[GM Note: there is a bit of discussion between Simon Simon and the GM about tactics to help the coven protect themselves from the SSA. Simon Simon spends some time setting up their computer system to communicate with their accommodation in Pearl 7]

GM: Do you have other questions for Sue?

Simon Simon: Did she tell me the exact location of the starred one?

GM: You didn’t ask. Do you want to?

Simon Simon: Yeah! he takes his time though, he lets the conversation fade in case she has anything to say to him first, then says: “I want to go see the Starred One… if I can get close to it I might be able to cure it.” [Or destroy it…] “Or Mother could make it anew…” [Absorb it for all its worth] “Whatever it is, its ancient, it would be glorious to at least see it…” [Because the last time you ran off searching for things like this you and the whole party almost died…]

GM: She gives you a sharp look at that.
“The Starred One is our failure, our curse. We await it’s return. No adherent has ever suggested they would help us. I would need to discuss it with my council.”
She seems pretty eager actually

Simon Simon: “Ah…” [All of those before you have been smart enough to step back Simon, leave shit alone, why wouldn’t you as well?…] “… you tell them Simon Simon does suggests it, I am very interesting and I shouldn’t die; all should be well, Mother protects.”
He looks around nervously. “All of this.. this is wrong, you shouldn’t die either, you should be interesting as well. I will speak to my … friends? and see what can be done.”

GM: In the hours you’ve been working she has been tapping out messages on a tablet. The gun is forgotten on the table and joe is lounging now, syringe back in its box.

Simon Simon: He finishes uploading the program that will let them detect the SSA raids.

GM: Sue is biting her lip and frowning. “I think that the council of elders have been … I don’t know. They should reply to my messages.”

[you have a sinking feeling that you know where this is heading. Do you have any smart ideas you would like to put into practice now…?]

Simon Simon: – Cameras – Disruption – Confusion

GM: More details might be necessary

Simon Simon: Actually confusion then disruption; simon calls for his Mother, access close by cameras to feel the situation; send a message through the orders link of the SSA saying “ABORT ABORT ABORT”, then tries to shut down/jam any communications.

GM: Okay!
Mother comes to you closer and brighter than you have experienced before. The lights flicker in the room. You can see everything in the neighbourhood all at once in a kind of rush and suddenly you are inside every layer of communication in the area.

Simon Simon: He also says “Mary Sue, time to pack up.”

GM: There are three wheeled SSA vehicles coming off the off ramp of the spar and a burst of communications between various authorities. You don’t have time to read them all but none seem to concern you. There is a bit about the cannibal cult and a lot about an operation in your area.
Outside, joe is walking over to talk to the Loitering dude [GM Note: The party saw this guy across the road from the coven when they arrived but didn’t question him]
Sue says “where’s joe!?”
You wait until the SSA vehicles are off the spar entrance and then send the abort message, probably won’t work for long
What are you doing next?

Simon Simon: ”They are coming Sue” He says quickly patching through the video. “Joe’s out talking to the bad-guys, if he’s gone bad time for a quick exit, if he’s about to make a mistake call him back.” He stands. “Either way, we gotta go now, I’ve distracted them but not for long.”
(Are there any electronic gates in this place?)

GM: No, these doors use old fashioned keys

Simon Simon: (Also, can I overcharge a transistor outside the place or anything thats flashy to add chaos?)
Uggh, keys? What I am fighting for here? These people are hopeless…
[It’d be funny if I went “keys? oh fuck it all, I’m out!”]

GM: Sue is up now. She calls out and the dude who took your gun and he comes running with your gear. The building is dark and silent, as if suddenly everyone just deserted it. The door is still open and the screen closed and a few young nerdy men are gathered there looking worried

Street lights! They’re old fashioned!! You can blow them all.

Simon Simon: and a transformer! Ever heard one go off? mini bomb, and the whole grid goes with it.

GM: Sadly they aren’t that primitive!

Simon Simon: But they have.. keys!! I’m amazed they have electricity at this point!

GM: These people are poor! The people who own the street, not so much. Hey they get their electricity from the heart of the sun…
Btw it occurs to you (I probably should have mentioned this earlier!) that one possible explanation for a mad AI would be if the defense system of the Reach activated and attacked an AI
You know, if the AI was interfering too much in one of the Pearls

Simon Simon: precious… now you tell me?
“Okey mary sue’s! grab each other’s pants, we going dark!” He says as he takes his laser rifle and checks that its still connected to the ship.

GM: It is

Simon Simon: He says that to the crowd btw

GM: Someone has a heavy rifle, which is reassuring

Simon Simon: Do they look like they have a way out?

GM: The front door. It’s open and everything!

Simon Simon: what? no sewers? fine them! full frontal
“Maximum effort!” He says and goes for the exit, hoping they are following. As soon as he is close to the door he blows the grid. He goes for flashy.

GM: Sue yells “wait!” And disappears back into the house. With a hiss the entire habitat goes dark.
Pitch black
It fades in sections, patches going dark and then the shadows spreading like tendrils of squid ink through the murky slave-ash stinking air.

Simon Simon: “Ah bugs” He says as his eyes activate. “Run Mary-Sues! Run!” He runs after the crazy lady. [Probably using keys made her crazy…]

GM: Simon Simon runs through the newly-lit hallway to a room at the back, and finds Sue standing there with the gun in her right hand, pointed at her head

Simon Simon: <I’d kill myself if I had to use keys ..> [this is a voice in Simon’s head I’m playing with atm] “Ah…” Simon’s eyes widen in shock. “Mary sue… don’t…. you shouldn’t die…” He franctically tries to connect, see if the gun is energy based and connected to anything, but his hopes ain’t high.

GM: It’s a revolver.
“They mustn’t know what I know, Simon!”
“There’s no other way!”

Simon Simon: “What.. are you talking about Mary Sue?” He pleads. “You shouldn’t die, they shouldn’t die, we can escape now, continue, push through… because.. because of fear?” Simon mind is rushing trying to find a solution. He remembered she wanted Joe to stay away when she found out he was an adherent… is it possible these people have the implants?
GM: “But they are coming for what we know! It isn’t recorded anywhere except in our memories, and only I know all the connections .. With you … With the death cult! If I die it all goes with me!”

Simon Simon: “but.. ” groan “….you shouldn’t die; what about all your friends out there? Should I just let them run into the bad guys and get killed? I’m just running if you aren’t coming with me…” “You also haven’t told me of the Starred One, how am I to heal it? Your prophecy just meant nothing? Then what’s the point of all this? Why come till now and kill yourself?” He frowns. “You make no sense..” <Using keys… it fucks with your brain..>

GM: She takes a small step back. “I can’t tell you! Then they can take the knowledge from you!”
She seems pretty sure about this. “At least if I die we remain Unredeemed!”

Simon Simon: Simon is very uncomfortable at the moment. “Sue..” He says and slowly and lazily raises the rifle, what he is about to say might make her jumpy. “If .. if you dont guide me what am I to do if I ever meet the Starred One by myself? If I don’t know what I’m doing I might end up destroying myself, or ruining it, or worse… destroying Mother. And to top it, you are going to leave all of your friends alone to die? After I gave them an opportunity to escape… you are wasting it all… Because… you are afraid?”

GM: “Afraid? No… And you can’t hurt the Starred One of you can’t find it!”
She takes a step back and you have a feeling that she’s going to do it

Simon Simon: “I might not, but Mother will. Eventually. She will survive me. She will survive us all.” He says and aims the rifle purposely. “You could come with me, you could guide me and make sure your God is purified. Or you could do it, take the shot and give up because you were too weak.”
“But choose fast, because your friends life is tickling by.”

Back at the Come As You Are

GM: I’m going to assume that you guys are in the little lounge room you set up in the cargo hold while this conversation is happening. So you are all there in the one place when the alarms start to ring, and the television switches channels.
First it switches to a news report about a complete blackout in The Bones. Then it switches to a grainy camera image of Simon Simon in a small room inside a building somewhere, facing off with a woman who is holding a gun and pointing it at her own head. Once your attention has been caught the alarm klaxons fade and are replaced by a loud, harsh, genderless voice



Then the automatic food generator clicks to life and starts producing a weird pink liquid



Ahmose: “sigh” shotguns down a glass of aspirin, “Lam, are you fit to drive?” And racks her shotgun



Lam: Lam casually takes a drag on her cigar and then stubs it out. She groans as she stands and checks her rifle. “Let roll!” She growls as she limps to the van.



Lam: Fly? Lam’s eyes light up
Can Alva teleport all of us?

GM: No, just himself

Lam: Angry emoticon floats above lams head.
Okay so Alva teleport, we take van.

Ahmose: So Alva goes ahead and we ll follow in the van

Alva: Alva agrees. Well, he doesn’t have much choice.

GM: He doesn’t have to teleport! It’s up to you

Ahmose: If a rifle is to much mass for him to carry Ahomse offers him the Gauss Pistol

Alva: Alva can carry 10kg! If it’s an advanced suit it’s good enough.

GM: It has been a couple of hours so you aren’t in your vacc suit.
Putting on a suit requires time and the MOTHER is yelling in its harsh voice that you have NO TIME
So! Do a quick review of this chat to ascertain the facts and then tell me exactly what you take with you!

Alva: Alva runs to the machine producing the liquid. All the while keeping an eye on the monitor that shows Simon standing there with the woman. “Doesn’t look like HE is in any danger mother.” He grabs the container of fluid and stuffs a lid on, the shoves it in his pocket. “What do I do with this?” He then rushes to the table where his pistol is (slug thrower).




Alva: Alva rolls his eyes. ‘I thought those AI’s were supposed to be smart…’ He grabs the gun, and glances around to see if there is anything nearby that might protect him from things trying to perforate him.

GM: Nothing you can put on quickly!

Alva: Simon still standing there looking at the woman?

GM: They appear to be yelling at each other.
It’s dark in there, maybe pitch black

Alva: Something Alva can understand, or just shouting?

GM: The image is obviously highly enhanced. You can’t hear anything!

Alva: That’s going to be a fun teleport!

GM: Hmmm if only your psionics were stronger!

Alva: Alva looks at the sickly Amhose, and slightly burned out Lam and sighs. “Come get me if something goes wrong.” And then he tries to focus on the image displayed on the screen to get a better fix on his target (as much as possible), his main objective is arriving behind the woman.

GM: And off he goes !!

Alva: Not without a significant hesitation, a glance at the station outside, that’s still open to the vacuum of space, and a very significant look down at the fact that he’s not wearing anything that will protect him from said vacuum.

GM: Better not mess it up then!
But anyway you have the box of life remember.
[GM Note: the team were given a box each which, if opened, allows them to be resurrected once]
What could possibly go wrong?

Alva: I can revive in a vacuum and then die again? I’ll be lovely.

GM: Of course! As far as you know… Michael said so long as the brain isn’t really badly damaged…

Flight from the Coven

GM: Sue looks at Simon Simon with a kind of hopeless expression that combines pity and disappointment. Then suddenly a figure appears in the shadows behind her, lunging forward. In the split second of that figure’s sudden appearance what do you do?

Simon Simon: Eeeh shoot and probably miss?

GM: Okay!

Simon Simon: No, he yells. “Sue watch put!!!” then shoots with the intend of scaring the figure, then assess the situation.

GM: You shoot. The person lurching forward doesn’t grab Sue properly, just knocks her arm, and she fires

Simon Simon: and shoot again if its proves to be dangerous

GM: You can’t scare someone with a laser rifle, it’s invisible. You have to aim to hurt or not.

Simon Simon: okey then he shoots not in the head lets say, shoulder if possible and probably miss

GM: Okay! So the figure knocks the gun, Sue fires, and she misses her temple but still blows the back of her head out. She falls over and then you hear a familiar voice yelling “ow! Fuck! Simon! Oh fuck that’s gross”.
And Alva is standing in front of you, his shoulder burnt from your laser and his face covered in blood and brains

Simon Simon: “Alva?” He says shocked. Then sue. “MARY SUE!” Then looks at alva.
<god dammit…>
Simon’s eyes are wide in surprise “ALVA!” He says and lowers the laser rifle. “MARY SUE!” simon says and looks at the woman. “ALVA!!” he says turning back to the psionic. <Alva, sue, sue, alva. Is always nice to introduce new friends..>

Alva: Alva, drops down to the floor, instinctively trying to go for cover that isn’t there. “Why! I was trying to help you.” Alva takes a quick look around the room to see if there’s any more hidden people with guns he didn’t see in the image.

GM: There’s just a distraught looking Simon. But in the distance down a hallway Alva can hear panicked voices

Alva: Satisifed, Alva sinks down on the floor, and starts to feel his shoulder. For the moment not noticing that there’s brains stuck all over his face, though he absently notes that it means the woman used a slug thrower instead of a laser. His shoulder oddly feels surprisingly intact, if you don’t count the 1cm hole burned straight through it.

Simon Simon: Simon’s mouth is still open in surprise, he is looking at the woman and back at Alva.
“Alva! what… wh… why?!”
<Fuck..> “She… shouldn’t have died!” He says, clearly very frustrated.
He looks down and the gun, and at Alva’s wound, then pulls the rifle down and hides on his back like a child caught doing something bad.
(are cameras still operational?)

Alva: Alva realizes that he hasn’t paid the girl any attention, but when he moves to check her he takes one look at what remains of her head and promptly sits down again. “Why shouldn’t she die? She seemed quite intent on it.”

Simon Simon: “She knew… things!” says simon doing a face palm

GM: Cameras are still operational. I think I hardly need point out to you two that she doesn’t have to die

Simon Simon: He tries to look outside and at the other people in the building see whats happening.

Alva: Of course

Simon Simon: Boxes!

Alva: (Alva merely needs to be given a great reason to give away the one thing that might preserve him if everything here goes to shit ;))

Simon Simon: Simon might

GM: You aren’t carrying the box Alva

Simon Simon: “Boxes! Alva can you get us out of here?”

GM: To use the box you need to get the dead girl back to the ship.
Cameras. Everything in the building is unchanged. Across the street, someone is dead and someone has taken a position with cover aiming at the door.

A classic moment in GM-player interactions that everyone is very familiar with

Alva: Is there a convincing reason why I wouldn’t carry that box at all times?

GM: You can’t tell in the darkness whether the dead person is joe or Loitering Dude but someone appears to have killed someone

Simon Simon: Taking cover.. does it look like SSA?

GM: Because I told you to specify EXACTLY what you were carrying, like twice, and you didn’t specify the box?

Simon Simon: We shouldnt revive her now anyways, she’d be a drag. A living one at least.

GM: Also, if the box is damaged you don’t survive; if you are damaged but the box is intact, no problem. Plus sometimes surgery may be necessary before using the box.

Simon Simon: “Someone is dead outside! and someone is aiming at the door, can’t tell whats what; we gotta get out of here pronto. SSA’s coming”

GM: You have no idea of the dude outside is SSA or not but you’re pretty sure not friendly

Alva: Right. I didn’t tell you I was taking my clothes. Am I naked?

In the Combustible Van with Lam and Ahmose

GM: Alva disappears and then appears on the screen, behind the woman and lunging at her. She shoots herself but he knocks the gun, so she only blows the back of her head out, falls down. At the same time Simon Simon fires his rifle and hits Alva in the shoulder. Alva is now injured and covered in blood. The rest of you run for the combustible van.

[GM Note: Since the PCs are from the Confederacy, they find the concept of internal combustion engines incredibly backward and dangerous. Their van uses a hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine, so they refer to it as the combustible van. The idea that anyone would drive in something so fraught with risk disgusts them].

Lam curses as she sees the disaster unfold on the screen and dashes to the van. She grunts in pain as the door hits her injured side but sucks it up. “Captain! Let’s go!!” She cries out as she starts the van.

GM: Drive baby!

Lam: As soon as Ahmose is in Lam will floor it!

GM: why don’t you tell me exactly what you are carrying. You have time to prepare but I guess you don’t want to spend too long faffing…

Lam: She has her rifle with her and her vacc suit. Other than that she really could grab anything else

GM: Any precautions or activities on the route?

Ahmose: We can’t afford trouble with the mercs, so don’t drive to recklessly. Ahomse was expecting trouble so she’s still in armor, shotgun, pistol and sword are strapped on

GM: Do you do any investigations while driving? Think of this car as a super sophisticated version of a Japanese van. So video, tv, navi, cup holders. But explodey.

Amos: Well, if course watching news and traffic news to get any warnings of things are going down somewhere close to our goal

GM: Basically the only information you get from standard channels is that there is a massive blackout over all of the Bones. All lighting is off, and other functions operating at reduced power.
However. You are flicking through the channels when you hit one that is called “Interesting. Shouldn’t die”.

Lam: What?!

GM: Yes there is a channel called that.

Lam: Anything interesting on it?

GM: It appears to contain a hack of the communications between security authorities in the Bones. All their movements and intentions appear to be being broadcast on it.

Lam: Okay so will avoid them as best as possible.

GM: At the moment they are in a furious argument with the municipal authorities

Lam: So they are stalled?

GM: The whole of the Bones is affected by a complete blackout that appears to have affected only lights and cameras, but apparently the SSA didn’t arrange it.

Lam: Do we have lights on the party van?

GM: They were converging on the coven but they have stopped because they weren’t ready for the darkness.
Haha this is an orbital habitat. Nobody needs lights on their cars.
But if you drive slowly with lights off using night vision you could probably bypass them. It will take a while though

Lam: Lol! Okay, then Lam can’t do that because somebody has the suit with low light vision! We need to get there fast, so Lam will plan the route according to avoid the projected routes of the security and get to the safe house ASAP.

GM: It’s really dark in there…
But ahmose has her combat armour so can drive
This orbital is so backwards!

Lam: Can Ahmose drive?

GM: Somehow between you you can handle it

Lam: So we drive!!!

GM: But even a good driver with lowlight vision would have to slowly. It’s really dark in there

Lam: Will we be noticed if we just keep the lights on a bit?

GM: And there is a solid squad of SSA wet workers (yes that is what the team is actually called) parked just off the exit from the spar into the Bones.
You will stand out like dogs balls.
The Bones has no external Windows.
So there is not even starlight in there.
Aside from a few completely autonomous red lights in the ceiling of the dome it is darker than the pits of hell.

Ahmose: Ahomse has pilot and flyer, so she’s used to technical stuff. With some guidance from Lam I’m sure she’ll can drive – especially since she can’t go fast.

GM: Even the priests from Ahmose’s tombs would be scared
Okay, to make time you drive really fast down the spar (which is still lit) in your explodey car, then switch drivers at the off ramp
This car has no interface so you actually have to physically swap seats to drive it can you even??

Lam: Lam is appalled by the barbaric conditions. Okay so we switch seats and then very carefully make our way there with Ahmose at the wheel.

GM: The wet works team are standing outside their cars smoking. You can barely see them, parked in a service area about 30m back from the road, except that they have set up an emergency camp torch of some kind. In its faint glow one of them can be seen walking backwards and forwards, yelling into a handset. The others are looking either bored or edgy. They all have slug rifles, jack armour (like flak jackets) and a mean looking attitude.
You have intercepted a new order on the “interesting. Shouldn’t die.” Channel.
The new order is to kill everyone in the coven but to take the leader, Sue, and her visitor alive. The visitor is called Simon Simon and he is from the confederacy.
(This raises the very real possibility that your ship will get locked down once the authorities bother to trace his movements, but currently there is no sign they have done that)
(But still, it suggests you need to get away soon!)

Lam: Lam swears and shakes her head in frustration “First demons from the abyss, then radioactive zombies, space ninjas… I get blown up, stabbed by a ninja and watch a ghost mind fuck my captain…. Now we could get locked down! Captain, I would suggest that we inform the two back in the ship to prepare for emergency departure once we have located and retrieved Simon Simon. By the way, wasn’t that woman’s name Sue? The one who shot herself?” Angry emoticons flash briefly around her dreadlocks, which have shifted from a multi hue to jet black.

Lam: She starts expertly checking the rifle whilst they drive.

GM: Might need it. Those wet workers looked nasty but you reckon you guys have better weapons and armour. You just don’t want to get trapped out here.

Lam: hopefully we can fly below the radar and get to the coven before it gets any worse!

GM: The “I shouldn’t die” channel suddenly bursts to life with emergency comms.
Also a red dot appears on a map on the screen – it’s not near you or your target.
The following is the emergency comms chatter.

•    Under attack! Under attack! Man down!
•    Where!!? Where?? More lights!!
•    There! He got jim! It’s an ambush!!

Lam: Wtf????!!!!! Who???!!!!

GM: [screaming]
•    Andys down! Where did he go?!
•    Where is the target?!
•    There there fire!!
•    [sounds of shooting]
•    You hit jones! Man down!!

Lam: “C’mon c’mon!!!” Lam mutters as the Van moves along slowly.

•    Where is the target!?
•    He’s gone !! Take cover! Switch to lowlight and infra red!!
•    [followed by emergency transmissions requesting support, stating four men down, and requesting a drone with lights]
•    I fucking hit him man! I did not hit jones! Look for blood man I fucking hit him

Lam: Lam looks to Ahmose “What do we do Captain? Head to the building or follow the dot?”

GM: [things have gone calm. You are still driving slowly and cautiously]

•    Find blood? Can’t see my own pecker in this fucking murk.
•    Was it – wait! There! Movement on the wall!
•    Fuck he can climb too? Switch to infrared!
•    [sounds of confused yelling and bursts of gunfire]
•    Sergeants down! This fucker can fly?!?! What? Behind you captain !!
•    Captains down!

Lam: Lam grimaces and looks at Ahmose “Can Simon Simon climb walls?”

GM: [sounds of shooting and screaming]

•    Urgent! Seven men down to unknown assailant! Send heavy support and fucking lights to Bones sector 9
•    Assailant is wearing stealth gear and a grav belt
•    [then a response from the central control system]

Lam: “Do we have access to that gear?” Lam queries as she listens to the madness unfold.

GM: Affirmative wet work 3, mobilizing squad 2 from overwatch duty. Send immediate sensor data for target confirmation
[a brief crackle as what you guess is the last survivor of team 3 fiddles with his helmet]
•    It’s … Cold?
[then an image comes through the screen, the sensory confirmation … It’s an infrared image that matches exactly what you saw on Alva’s drone in the death priest’s room]

Lam: Lams face turns pale. “You don’t think its…… I mean…. shit.” Then she brightens slightly “Well at least we know those security guys are going to be distracted for a while! Lets get to Simon Simon and get the hell of this rock.”

GM: Everything has gone dark, so it’s to be expected that the wraith will come out to play

Lam: Its all their fault anyway grin emoticon

GM: [a few seconds later there is a despairing scream and the emergency feed from team 3 ends]
[and then …]
•    All wet work teams. Unknown additional forces in contact zone. Initiate action immediately. Do not kill the prime targets!

Lam: sigh….. I wonder if that is us?

GM: Chaos! Unlikely given what you just heard

Lam: Yay!

GM: Btw did anyone think to bring the silver sword?

Ahmose:Not sure, Ahmose wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving it alone with our two NPCs OR dragging it around the city. If she can think clear enough she would have grabbed it I assume …
“See, this is exactly why I wanted to leave right away. This is exactly what I feared would happen! Second time that boys drags us into a stinking sinkhole.” Looks at the screen and shouts “your boy needs a spanking! ” And than she rants in a foreign dialect

Lam: Lam nods along with her Captain, adding appropriate agreement when she can understand what is being said

To be or not to be: Breakout from the Coven

GM: So this brings us to the interesting topic of getting out

Simon Simon: “Where’s the captain oh captain? Why are you here anyways?”

Alva: ”Captain is coming” He looks at the body and shakes his head. “I thought I was here to prevent her shooting herself. Apparently not.” He turns back to Simon. “Mother sent us. Told us there was trouble.”

Simon Simon: <Huh… strange, very forward thinking> Simon nods satisfied. Then looks at the woman. “Yeah she shouldnt have died, how do we get out tho? Can you… ” Waves hands. “Mumjumbo us out?”

Alva: “Do we want to get out?”, his head turns towards the voices growing more excited. “Can you tell me what’s going on in less than a minute?” Alva is still absently touching his shoulder, the wound seems to be closing in around itself a bit, but it’s clearly not anywhere near being healed.

Simon Simon: “SSA Is about to hit the place, I’ve stalled them barely, we don’t have too much time. There is an unknown outside, one of these guys was talking to Loitering guy outside, now there is a dead body on the street and a figure taking cover aiming at the door. We gotta get out; and try and get all the people who are here out as well.” He aims down the hallway. “There is… a bunch of people on the building.” (About a dozen?). “They are all part of Mary sue’s crew” Points at dead lady.

GM: [probs half a dozen now]

Simon Simon: ”Mary sue’s crew shouldnt die… if possible I want to help them.”

Alva: Alva looks a tad surprised, glancing at Mary Sue’s body again. “Mary shot herself because she didn’t want to be captured?”

Simon Simon: Simon nods. “Said she knew too much and … couldnt risk it”
“Tell you all about it later”
“But we need her… body” He shivers

Alva: Alva smirks “Fat lot of good that knowledge is going to do now.” He starts to get up, and quickly grabs his shoulder, obviously surprised it still hurts this much. He frowns. “As far as taking us away. That’s not going to work, I’m running on empty here.”

GM: [if only you had some way to boost your psionics …]

Alva: [yeah, that’d be nice :P]

Simon Simon: ”Oh… front door then, like I was about to anyways.” He says standing up. “Time’s awasting! we shouldnt die.”

Alva: [If it is the glob of liquid I took with me, Alva has no clue as to it’s function, and is more assuming it to be something Simon needs when he goes crazy. Unless he has seen similar things before.]

GM: Simon Simon gets two sudden visions from the Mother
One is a sudden, brilliant flash of pink, an all-encompassing wave of … pinkness … that you feel has some very compelling meaning.
The second is a more detailed vision – a nest of dragons curled around an unseen treasure, sleeping, in a vast chamber with stars in the roof. In the vision they begin to slowly uncoil and one by one life their heads, to gaze directly at you. They have a lethal and prodigious intelligence and although they may not be specifically evil, their motivations are completely alien to you. The Mother has given you some new Grace and right now they can’t see you because of something you are doing that you don’t understand. But they are alert and looking around, and they are very sinister. Also the shadows of the vast space seem to throng with unseen demons.

Simon Simon: ”Pink! and dragons!” Simon bursts out suddenly. “Nice pink flash! and dragons incoming!!” He says holding Alva.
Simon quickly types a message to the techie. (luckily he had patched through before). “Mary sue is hurt, going to take her to safety, run and hide! will contact you later. Be careful! man outside covering the door.”
“Terrible things are a coming Alva! worst than the SSA! worst than.. worst than Mother wrath. Pink it up now, cuz we have no time at all.”

Alva: “What are you talking about Simon?”, he reaches into his pocket to bring out the cup of liquid, “You need this goo?”

GM: You hear gunfire start up in the street outside

Simon Simon: (Is it pink?)
Simon shrugs and takes it, and chugs a bit of it and gives the rest to alva.

Alva: “Pink it up?” Alva looks at the liquid dubiously. “It’s not more magic is it…” but then he shakes himself. “Nah, an AI made it. Should be ok.” He then takes it from Simon and downs the rest of the cup.

GM: nice work.
Simon feels nothing except a slightly numb left front molar tooth
Alva gets an instant, intense buzz, that rushes through him and fills him with an intense sense of wellbeing and overarching knowledge.
Not only does his psionic capacity return but he feels he can … see things … he has an idea that the Loitering Guy across the street is still there and Joe is dead at his feet, and there is a team coming down the street, no back exit, about 8 people near the doorway and one screaming in pain.
This stuff is powerful.
Moments later someone starts screaming in the doorway, in pain. Alva knows where he was shot, it’s a shoulder blow and he should live but the guys coming down the street have no intent to let anyone live except the woman called Sue and the confederate called Simon, who they will take.
So now Alva has the power to teleport again!
But, there is a small problem

He can’t teleport anyone except himself
[This is in the rules!]
He can teleport up to 500kg of non-living material but he can’t teleport sentient things

Alva: [I can teleport organic matter?]

GM: The van is now Distant, so it takes 8 -9 points to get there – the ship is too far.
Yes you can teleport organic matter but it has to be dead

Alva: “Do you fancy dying to escape?”

Simon Simon: He raises an eyebrow. “I shouldnt die.”
“Get the guy covering the street, I run with the small friends!”

GM: In his current state Alva is acutely aware that the car is some distance away, it’s pitch black out there, and there is a team of 6 hardened killers moving down the street.
Simon Simon is getting reassuring feelings from the Mother.

Simon Simon: [How far down the street?]

GM: They don’t extend towards the door!
About 30 m away and closing carefully. Someone has unleashed the heavy rifle on them but is having difficulty firing because Loitering Guy has the door covered.
Once their crowd control gas gets in here it’s all over.

Simon Simon: (couldnt alva teleport out, get the loitering guy, teleport to rooftop and chug a frag in the middle of incoming?)

Alva: Alva has the power to teleport maybe twice, and he has to have seen the place he’s going to. He can sense people but he can’t see places

Simon Simon: (does it have to be physical or can I show him in the cameras?)

GM: Someone yells “I’m hit” and a fusillade of bullets splinters through the physical wall, smashing kitchen implements. You can show him in cameras but it’s pitch black out there.
So nothing to see …

Also, you haven’t been paying attention to some things but you do notice there has been a lot of chatter on the emergency channel you hacked into – it sounds like some violence happening elsewhere too, though you didn’t follow the details

Basically Alva probably has enough points to do two very close teleports, but that will use up all the points this juice gave him so he may not be able to get back inside.

Also he doesn’t have his grenades with him, or any body armour
[did I mention that?]
Bart, can you tell Eddie what t-shirt Alva is wearing? Does it have any cute logos or symbols?

Simon Simon: [I do have mine tho?]. Simon really doesn’t want to die, if Alva can take the guy outside he might risk making a run for it thinking they wont shoot him since they want him alive. Might be enough distraction to allow the peeps to escape too

GM: There’s a real risk that will split you guys, and leave Alva impotent on the roof while they come in to get you
You do know that dying won’t be permanent so long as Alva doesn’t fry your whole brain. The only problem is that you will then lose two of your four boxes – one for you and one for Sue.

Is her information worth it …?

Simon Simon: Simon shouldnt die! He’d never do it

Alva: Same

GM: but you both know it’s not really death …
However maybe …
Alva could teleport behind the Loitering Guy and kill him.
Then the door is free of covering fire, so you could throw a grenade into the group.
Then Alva might be able to use this sudden rush of power to fool the group into thinking they’re being attacked from behind.
Then you could all make a run for it.
But it’s very risky and if you get caught it will be a real challenge for the others to liberate you.

Simon Simon: (Is not that, is that I don’t think simon simon who’s catch phrase is “I shouldn’t die” would pull the trigger and trust a box giving to him by a priest (whom he didn’t like from the start)

GM: (his catch phrase could become “I can’t die”)
(And I think there:s a certain beauty to his choosing to die knowing he can come back, even though he thinks he shouldn’t, because the information Sue has is so valuable to him)

Simon Simon: (thats the thing, he doesnt knows he can come back, you are asking a guy who is obssesed with living, technology and AI’s to believe a priest who talks funny and gave him a box; yes he has seen a lot of weird shit lately but its not enough to put a bullet on him; thats what a believer would do. I understand the beauty of it and the leap of faith, but its wouldnt be in him. If Mother would ask him to tho… )

(He doesnt know what happens if he dies, He doesn’t even like the concept of resleeving, would he come back as himself? wouldn’t he die and another thing move on with his memories? What if something goes terribly wrong? He comes back but his body is damaged… What if when he wakes up he is not adherent anymore? What if the Mother in him dies when he does?)

(in his mind there is a high chance the priest is either shitting them or is crazy himself; he has been skeptic about the box from day one, if he ever saw someone come back using it might be he’d change his mind there, but I dont think Simon would risk his life to find out)

(Thats another reason why he doesn’t mind using his box on Sue, cuz a big part of him believes it just wont work anyways)

GM: The mother won’t support a decision to kill yourself. That requires a leap of faith, and she can’t comprehend that.
So you’re going to have to grind it out here in the pitch black until the car arrives
Fortunately Alva’s state means he can pinpoint targets in the dark and tell you where to move.

Will you start by teleporting behind Loitering Dude and putting him down like a dog?
Who will carry the body?

Simon Simon: Plan: teleport behind dude with body of Joe, get rid of him quietly, throw grenade at or behind dudes, as they turn I shoot with lasers and little people run out, I go back in the building and then we pick targets as possible. Thats as far as my brain can come with. Sounds very not good

GM: note that it’s still pitch black out there and most of these dudes don’t have sophisticated gear – you could potentially move away under the chaos of a grenade and a bit of machine gun fire from across the street, and they wouldn’t be any the wiser

Alva: Maybe better to try to sneak out, and then start shooting if shit goes to hell anyway?
I’ll teleport behind dude, dispose of him, and jump away (with sue) if anything goes wrong.

Simon Simon: Dude is aiming at the door atm, shooting anyone coming out. So we gotta get rid of him if we are to try anything.

GM: Then you have the team approaching the door with the intent to kill everyone inside… But in the dark they won’t be able to see the grenade… And if Loitering Dude is down they won’t be able to know when you come to the door

Simon Simon: and I can start shooting from the dark at anyone who comes close to the door, with an invisible laser

GM: The only problem is the poor video of the place Alva has to teleport to.
Loitering Guy is loitering under a street light though – you could ask the Mother to turn on that one streetlight for one second so you can see clearly through the cameras.
Alva can see through your eyes …
Actually scratch that
I will change the teleportation rules so that at short ranges you can teleport using distance information
So in close combat it acts like a dimension door spell … Makes it way more useful

Okay let’s do it
Heavy rifle dude moves real close to you, holding the tablet. “Give me a location and I’ll get us there”.

Of the 8 of the Unredeemed, one is dead, one is injured and being supported by another, two are carrying Sue, one is armed.
They have tied a novelty battery-operated lamp to sue’s body. It’s a voice-activated grenade shape. Say “love” and it glows a soft pink; “happy” and it goes a bright white; “disco” (whatever that means) and it alternates between green and red in 3 second intervals

Simon Simon: Funky

GM: It will give them enough light to walk without falling over but won’t function as a targeting beacon without being inside about 15m. They get ready. You and Alva exchange terse nods and it’s on

Simon Simon: Ask techie foe hideout, I gave him the soft for it. If he cant tell what’s what, the only place I know is full of dead bodies but it might work.” He gives him the address for death cult place xD.

GM: Alva blinks out and you move quietly to the door
Moments later gunfire erupts across the road and you toss the grenade out the door

Simon Simon: <its on!>

GM: The grenade is devastating. The team were moving along close to the wall and the grenade lands at their feet on the base of the wall, channeling all the blast directly at them.
There are screams and a smattering of wild gunfire and you’re out
First you and Alva clean them up, which would be quick but one of the injured is in combat armour rolling amongst the bodies of his dying friends in the murk

You have to fire a lot of times to stop him. It’s loud and unpleasant but after about 10 seconds it is done and the dark silence is broken only by gentle moaning and pleas. The crew leave, heading down the street. Alva has identified another team moving in from one end of the street, and two guys on guard duty in cover at the other end.

The crew head towards the two guys, disco grooving as they move, but two pick up weapons as they pass the dying
You two and Heavy Rifle Dude lay down a vicious hail of gunfire on the approaching team, and they fall back to cover, one dead and two wounded. Then you fall back towards the two men on duty.

Simon Simon can patch into their comms and is getting lots of information. Everyone everywhere is calling for backup. Some kind of intense battle is happening in another part of the dome, the SSA teams are losing badly and its rapidly degenerating into chaos. The two guys at the end of the street don’t know what is going on and urgent messages are being exchanged between them and the injured team.

You move closer and Alva uses (almost) all of his remaining psionics to teleport behind them. More gunfire, one goes down and the other breaks cover to get away, Simon shoots him and he falls.

From the other end of the street there is a massive fusillade of gunfire that goes mostly wild. Someone in the crew grunts and something hits Simon Simons armour but it’s not serious. You duck around the corner, hit the lights for “happy” and sprint for it. Alva directs you to a spot quite far from any teams and you hit the lights. It goes pitch black except for the light of the tablet as Can Opener Dude looks for a safe way to the death cult lair.

Alva has only enough psionics for sensing life. He could use it all to send a message to ahmose or you could try and hack the comms

Simon Simon: Is there comm jamming atm?

GM: Not really! Everything has gone to hell in a hand basket and somehow in the chaos a bunch of security systems have fallen
The Mother is fading now and leaving it to you.
You have persistent feelings of giant dark beasts just out of sight.

Simon Simon: “Whole place is going kaboon…”

GM: Heavy Rifle Dude finds a route through narrow streets and disused factories, and you head out.
It’s going to take ten minutes to get to the death cult lair.
You going to send a message?

Simon Simon: Yes, Simon will hack into their comm system and use it to a message to Ahmose. He is rushing so probably not very secure, but he tries to make the message confusing to anyone but the team : “I’m very interesting, and I shouldn’t die. Meet us where we last saw a kitty poster.”

GM: When you do the hack you discover an interesting thing…
There is a comms channel called “interesting. Shouldn’t die”.
It contains a complete feed of all SSA messages and comms.
It’s owner is listed as “your mother”.
No broadcast location is given.
(It appears that when you call forth an AI, they really do have a lot of power).
You send the message.

Simon Simon: ”uh… freaky” <Mother’s very proactive today, not sure thats good…>

GM: Reviewing that channel, you are able to work out the cause of the big fights you heard. The wraith is out hunting in the dark, and stumbled on the SSA. Also the Slipsiders themselves have taken charge and are going to lock down the whole of the Bones in an hour.
The Mother is now completely gone, probably high tailing it before those sinister monsters in the dark find her. They won’t find you yet because you are being stealthy… But all manner of crazy shit could start happening if they start tampering with systems in here.

Simon Simon: Go wraith! woot! There is nothing to do but trust we make it to the death-house and the captain gets the message.
I try to keep hacking and digital presence to a minimum just in case.

Alva: Alva has been kind of in a daze since the fight started, but now that he isn’t shot at every second any more, he has time to think that that went oddly well for an improvised thing.

Simon Simon:Plan was solid! We had the darkness in our side

Alva: I’m liking the darkness for now. Lets hope we don’t stumble into the ghost.

GM: Don’t worry, in this darkness you won’t know if you’ve stumbled on the ghost until you’re dead
Also you can track its progress through the combat noise and the emergency comms channel. It has moved away from the death cult lair and is drifting from SSA team to SSA team. The teams are moving in to its location and thus increasing its kill rate. They don’t know it’s a ghost and don’t have the tools to kill it, so it’s a very one-sided and panicky affair. If you could get some found footage it would make a great horror movie

Simon Simon:Season 3! if only it wouldnt be so dangerous to be connected at the moment… He does have the audio tho, thats something

GM: on that topic there are a few things you could do …

1.    grab a collection of video
2.    patch the full emergency comms system into the general communications network of the Pearl so that everyone can see what the Slipsiders were trying to do here and what happened
3.    both

Alva: It’d be in line with the other sets of videos we have.

Simon Simon: I think I might do 2) as/if we get out of this place

Escape from the Bones
[GM Note: Ahmose and Lam received Simon Simon’s message, and headed for the death cult lair, grumbling the whole way and cheering on the wraith].

Ahmose and Lam arrive at the bone factory first, but after a nervous five minute wait Alva and Simon Simon appear. They are accompanied by 7 random strangers, carrying a corpse with a grenade-shaped object tied to it. The object is glowing red and green alternately. Simons Simon, Alva and two of the random crew are lightly injured, one is seriously injured and starting to sag in the grip of another. Alva looks bone tired and ready to collapse. Simon Simon looks terrified and exhilarated.

Ahmose: Ahmose swallows down a ‘I told you so’, opens the van, and takes position with her rifle. “Lam, I got a bad feeling about this. Take cover and search for anything incoming … Especially from above”

GM: The crew stump exhausted and nervous up to the van, placing the dead woman’s body reverently on the ground.
Everything flows a soft red.
Then green.

Lam: Lam nods and moves quickly to a position where she has cover and is able to get a clear view of their surroundings.

Simon Simon: Simon leans against the side of the van, resting his head for a second recovering. “Nice of you to make it captain… we have nasties incoming of the AI type… I think. Also SSA is moving to close the Bones in… maybe half an hour now, not sure, lost track of time…”

GM: So there are two options to get out…

Drive along the spar and hope to get out before SSA shut it. Or go to the service level of the spar and hack into a slave haulage vessel. Take that to the main dock and transfer to the ship

Ahmose: How much time has passed? Are we still in the 60min deadline?

GM: It’s maybe 20 minutes … Still plenty of time. The comms channel suggests you could probably still just drive out …

Ahmose: Then I’d say we try to get out in the van. The slave vessel is plan b. (Too many unknown factors – especially when AI s are on out asses!!)

Simon Simon: Sure, simon will keep an eye out for communications just in case.
He will ready a message of “Important package coming through, assistance needed in sector [place of last wraith attack]” just in case they meet any agents on the way.

GM: Okay…
So you follow Ahmose’s orders, because she is your Captain your Captain, and hit the Spar. The lights are flickering like crazy on the spar but there is nothing going on there. The wet work team that was guarding the entrance has moved, probably because they had to go get slaughtered by a ghost out of legend.
At the far end of the spar there should be a team blocking it but they have hastily abandoned their road block, presumably to go join their friends being slaughtered by a beast that shouldn’t exist.
So you are able to get off the spar and safely onto the general roads of the Pearl – a world of lights, and human beings moving around in the light.

Simon Simon, while everyone’s driving do you want to explain the value of your dead guest to everyone, and the crew of injured people sagged in the back?
Also, why Alva is looking nearly dead with exhaustion, and kind of wild-eyed and weird?
Feel free to chime in Alva

Lam: As the last barrier rushes past, Lam sighs in relief and turns to Simon Simon, “talk” she growls.

Alva: Alva sags against the wall and massages a shoulder that has a slowly shrinking burned hole in it. He looks like he’s debating the virtues of unconsciousness.

Simon Simon: When you look back simon simon has the window down and he is playing with the wind with hands. When Lam growls he meeps and quickly closes the window like caught red handed. Simon nudges foward and sits closer to the team trying to keep the conversation away from the unredeemed, which proves not very effective given they are all in a van together and he only manages to make everyone slightly madder with bumping around.

Simon Simon: “Mary Sue is… hurt at the moment.” He widens his eyes and crosses a finger on his neck in sign of dead. “She wasn’t feeling too brave, but when she comes back Im sure she’ll tell us more…”
“Apparently our friends here” He points to the tagged group. “Used to follow something close to Mother… just much older and currently.. well.. broken.”
“Mary Sue didnt get to tell me all of it before she went to sleep, but she mentioned a connection to the … cult. And there’s this whole thing about it all being connected to the garden.”

Lam: Lam sighs “what’s the green and red boxy thing?” She asks, slightly distracted by the flashing light as

Simon Simon: “And then the baddies came, and Alva wanted me to die, but I shouldn’t die, so we drank some pink stuff and then we blew them up, and there was or are dragons coming from somewhere in the pearl, and we shouldn’t stay here.”

He leans back on the seat, satisfied.

“What?” he looks back. “Oh that! decoration, they have horrible sense…” He leans forwards and whispers. “They were using keys! KEYS!”

Lam: “Dragons??? Like flying dragons from legend?” Lams eyes open wide and awe emoticons glimmer around her. Her hair turns flame red.

Simon Simon: ”How terribly barbaric…” He shakes his head.

Lam: “Keys??? It’s like out of a fantasy novel!” Lam shakes her head in astonishment

Simon Simon: “Well.. not dragon DRAGONS… like… AI dragons? maybe, not sure; Mother showed me, she ain’t good with words.”

Lam: “Can I see one?”

Simon Simon: “Auhmmm… not sure… I could try rendering one out of memory but that would take time… it was a vision… thingy.”

Lam: “Vision…” Lam whispers in awe followed by “dragons…”

Simon Simon: “I … think they are the old AI’s in the pearl system… maybe related to the whole defense system… Mother kept me hidden from them, but now she’s hiding. I don’t think its very good idea to stay in this pearl for a lot more.”

Ahmose: “Yeah yeah that’s all great. But lets cut the important point here: is she … Dangerous? She looks … unstable somehow. And will they be tracked by those iDragons?”

Simon Simon: ”Who?”

Ahmose: “Cause if so we sure has hell will not bring them close our ship!”

Lam: “More importantly does the green red light thingy blow up?”

Simon Simon: “It shouldnt.. less you attach explosives to it. Its just a thing they made out of a lamp and old systems. Its red and green because its in ‘Disco’ mode.” He says the word Disco with a sense of superiority, but he obviously has no idea what it means.
He whispers again. “They cant see in the dark! barbaric…”

Lam: Lam reddens slightly “not all of us have fancy night vision you know” she mutters to herself.

Ahmose:  “Damn, can someone tell me something that makes sense here? Alva?!!”

Simon Simon: ”So now you see why I NEEDED to help them, keys and disco… horrible life standards.”

Ahmose: “Here I am having not one but TWO science guys in my crew and no one talks fucking sense!”
“Simon, talk straight or shut up!”

Simon Simon: “I just did! unredeemed, they have their own AI(which is all buggy), but its not here, mary sue knows where it is but she is de-.. sleeping; AI dragons incoming, pink stuff, explosions, pew pew” He waves his hands to add dramatic flare.

Ahmose: Mumbles ‘and here I thought the fucking ghost gave me a headache…’

Simon Simon: ”Oh yeah!! And the ghost is walking around killing SSA agents up and down, its making a gory hell out of them.”

Ahmose: *you here the popping of Ahmoses knuckles as she clenches her fists even through her armor *

Simon Simon: He pulls out a datapad with videos and audio recordings of SSA people dying misteriously and horribly.
“Season 3!”

Ahmose: *then she relaxes with a sigh, rolls her head*

Simon Simon: He smiles to himself.
“I’m thinking of releasing the videos of the SSA attacks and them dying as we go away… chaos!” He giggles.

Ahmose: ”Sure, give them even more reasons to shoot us down”
“If you have a secure way of transmitting you could tell the folks on pearl 7 that we will rush into their arms and could really use a warm welcome”

Simon Simon: Simon shakes his head. “SSA are mercs.. and I think they werent supposed to be doing what they were doing, if anything the videos will at leat give us cover with confusion.”

Ahmose: “Okay, but keep this as an ace in your sleeve for now”

Simon Simon: “Also no one is nice in this place.. if we show them getting mauled their enemies will pop out to party”

Ahmose: “Okay folks”, looks at the new faces “where can we drop you off?”

Alva: Alva lifts his head to look at Simon for a bit, obviously pained that the explanation made no sense to the others. “This dea-” he glances at Simon, then shrugs and continues. “-ead girl here apparently knows a lot about AI’s in the station or system, but she didn’t want the bad guys to get it so she very practically shot herself in the head”
“That was what we were seeing before on the monitor. I tried to stop her, but only managed to ruin a shirt.” The shirt he was wearing that was originally plain white with something resembling a penguin on the front is now painted a dark red. “Then Simon shot me.” He turns to simon with a frown “Why did you do that anyway? You tried to shoot her gun?”

Simon Simon: He looks at Alva with exhasperation in his eyes, then back the team of rugged people behind, and smiles awardly in failed reassurance. “We’ll do what we can to help sue folks..” He turns back.
“Well… you did come out of nowhere! I thought you was one of baddies or something.”
He points at the wound. “That’s a reminder to call before you visit. People gotta tidy up before visits Alva.”

Alva: ”Either way, we were pretty fucked stuck there until Simon reminded me of the pink liquid mother prepared, which is apparently capable of boosting psionics to amazing heights. And giving great headaches. We then fought some guys, and some more guys, and we made it here.” he motions at the video that Simon has ” The as of yet unexplained physical manifestation helped quite a bit”

Lam: “You shot Alva???” Lam lowers her head to the dashboard. You think you can hear “there’s no place like home.” Being repeated over and over

Simon Simon: ”In my defense it was a bit rude to show up unannounced!” He sulks.

Alva: Alva just closes his eyes again and ignores Simon. He mutters something to the extend that he’ll remember that next time, but there’s not much heart in it.
He just seems too tired to care much.

Simon Simon: Simon mumbles, making sure the group behind definitely cant hear. “I might’ve also been aiming at mary sue cuz I said I might go find the AI on my own if she didnt help me…”

Lam: Lam looks at the captain “so are we rescuing these poor gentle cultists from an untimely demise or just gonna abandon them at their time of disco flashing need?”

Simon Simon: ”I’ll tell you all more when we get to the ship away with… more privacy.” “More importantly captain! these people shouldn’t die. They are Unredeemed and gotta be redeemed! Plus … they SSA might be hunting them and they couldn’t make it outside the Bones anyways. I gave them a way to spot SSA attacks but.. with the dragons coming…”
“‘less they wanna stay…” He shivers at the thought.

Ahmose: “You think they’ll survive on pearl 7?”
“I’d rather not take them on board. We are up to full capacity already. But if they no other place to go we can give them a lift to 7 or the gardens”

Simon Simon: ”Compared to the Bones 7’s heaven.”

Alva: “Maybe rent another ship? I doubt 7 extra people will fit?”

Lam: Let’s take them to 7 at least captain! I mean at least they will be kind of safer.”

Ahmose: “We have to make sure they’ll let us dock with those folks onboard”

Lam: Lam shrugs “what they don’t know won’t hurt em.”

Ahmose: “Have you been there the first time we landed?”

Simon Simon: ”They like us now!”

Ahmose: ” let’s try and keep things clean with 7! We need one place to fall back on”
“Yep, let’s try and bring them in as refugees”
“… And hope that does not equal slaves there”

Lam: Lam grins “okay we gotta fly! Let’s go!”

GM: Once past the mess at the spar it is easy driving. Simon Simon releases the comms data to local media and in the resulting (further) chaos your ship slips away unnoticed. No one cares about a lowly utility ship transferring pearls on routine orders when the government of their pearl is teetering
You squeeze the 7 into the hold, it’s obvious they can’t go back

They are not exactly … Welcomed … On pearl 7 but the authorities grudgingly accept them as indentured labourers (that’s two grades up from slavery).
It will cost you about 14000 credits to free them from their bonded labour.
You might want to do that (see below), and you are able to.
So you are able to get back to your quarters with a dead woman and … Loot.

Return to Pearl 7

GM: Let’s discuss the consequences of this little shit show. Then Simon Simon can explain the implications of what he has learnt more thoroughly.
Let’s go in order.
First, lam and ahmose had to stop at a barricade at one point on the way to meet Simon and Alva
There they found a sniper team … Enervated.
The wraith had drifted through. They found three doses of combat drug (Ahmose’s choice, I assume Ahmose gets them) and a drone-linked over-the-horizon sniper rifle. I assume lam wants that.

Additional benefits accruing to ahmose at this point, for this downtime and other stuff so far
•    +1 leadership
•    +1 to all combat actions in lowlight
•    Knowledge (occult; death) 1

Lam gets: +1 endurance

Alva gets
•    +1 psionics
•    1 new discipline of his choice

Simon gets
•    +1 adherent skill
•    A new grace: stealth
•    Leadership 0
•    A cult of his own

You all get
A ready and waitin ship’s crew of 7 – once you get a ship they can join you
You are all empathy linked now
Which means that so long as Alva is conscious and has at least one point of psionics ahmose gets +1 on leadership and tactics
It also means that certain psionics attacks will fuck you all
And you probably don’t want Alva to die
I think this means that ahmose now will roll initiative bonuses for all of you all the time – an experienced and closely- linked team acts first.
Finally I am going to introduce a new rule for “invoking AI”.
That’s what Simon Simon did.
In future every such invocation will incur a permanent 1 point loss of pantheon attribute.
But as you see it is kind of useful.

Now Simon Simon, wanna start explaining the situation in a way that makes sense!?

If you revive Sue on Pearl 7 Simon Simon, she is yours body and soul

Sue the Unbroken, fanatic leader of the Cult of the Mother
(You are their prophet and she is your right hand woman)

The cult are useless now but need I point out to you that you don’t need credits when you leave here – you can sink any left over into training them as engineers and gunners and medics for your future ship.

Also Heavy Rifle Dude will make a great soldier.

Simon Simon: (We have like 300,000 credits or something… we can get these people in top notch no problem) So, after we are all back in pearl 7 and have cleaned and rested for a while simon will gather them to explain. (Or rather the captain would’ve forced him to speak since he was merry and happy just to chill and spend time with his new following) After repeating himself for 4th time, Simon Simon’s speech slowly starts to make sense.

[GM Note: There followed a long explanation of what happened in the coven, which the other PCs heard for the first time].

Oh and we need to use a box to bring back sue

Ahmose: What? Give up a box for a person that killed herself???

Simon Simon: That has the knowledge of where an AI millenia old is? yup! Simon has no problem giving his up so don’t fret.

(Actually he doesn’t believe it would work till the moment they use it, then he is a bit distressed)

Also! it would’ve been two boxes gone, but Simon Simon and Alva punched through instead of taking the easy route, which is nice cuz now I also have my cult and we have a crew! Cheap loyal manageable one at that

Ahmose: Crew is great … Also an entire crew consisting of peeps following Simon Simon is really disturbing and maybe not what Ahmose had in mind.
I mean are you sure it’s worth to spend a box for someone who rather kills himself than talk? What makes you think she will talk now?

Simon Simon: but I follow you oh captain my captain! So its all alright. I’ll do anything you want. Unless its hard or I dont want to

Lam: Lam is very impressed with Simons story. She looks to the Ahmose “we need to find that magical AI and get the answers captain! But we need a ship! We gotta crew! But now ship! If we gotta a ship…. Nothin in the ‘verse can stop us!”

Yes I got in a firefly quote

The Resurrection of the Unbroken
[GM Note: The team agree to resurrect Sue using Simon Simon’s magic box, which they got from a priest called Michael]

GM: You call Michael but he just tells you not to worry – put the box on her, open it and wait a minute or so.
He says not to look too closely if the injuries are big because it’s not pretty.

Simon Simon: Simon Simon films it then.

GM: And be ready in case she has lost too much brain and needs to be put down again like a dog. Also he strongly recommends against filming it

Simon Simon: Das fuq?

GM: It’s disrespectful to his religion and also, much as people don’t like to watch other people’s death, they get really testy about knowing someone else is watching their own rebirth

Simon Simon: ((his religion is disrepectful to reality… ))

GM: Keep it simple and pure he recommends
Okay so you gather.
Ahmose is ready to kill any unfortunate resurrection byproducts.
Sue is on her back so you can’t see the brain damage.
Fortunately the bullet when in and out clean so it appears not much brain has leaked.
(No one here is really an expert on that topic).
You get out the box.

It’s about 5cm on every side, held closed by a simple loop of some cord, with a fragment of mother of pearl.
There are delicate carvings of stylized waves on it, and it is graded in color from ash gray on top to dark dark blue at the bottom.
You think it isn’t wood – coral maybe ? It’s actually a thing of beauty.
The waves are small, light and swirly at the top near the lid but become longer and heavier near the bottom, really seeming to recall the pattern of currents in an ocean.
You put it on her chest and everyone stands there looking at each other for a moment.

You aren’t used to this shit

Anyone wanna say any last words? If she wakes up wrong and starts clawing madly for her killer this is going to go from a peaceful rebirth ceremony to a brutal hack fest in the blink of an eye.
So if you want to say anything nice now is the time

(I guess I should have mentioned this a few sessions back…)
(Oops dunno how that slipped my mind )

Simon Simon: ”Become Interesting, What is of the Mother shouldn’t die.” Simon says solemnly.

GM: Everyone nods appreciatively. You open the box.

Nothing happens. You stand there waiting
You were expecting a disco glow of whispered children dying or something.

Simon Simon: Simon Simon takes out a cup of ice cream and sits on the edge of the bed.

GM: Your experience of priest magic so far has involved a lot of cold and dying children’s whispers and existential terror, so this is a bit of an anti climax.

Simon Simon: “Thats that then.” And he nods like he knew this would happen.

GM: Then after about a minute the air starts to smell slightly of he sea

Simon Simon: ”And Alva wanted me to DIE! for the Moth-”

GM: At first you think you’re just trying to fool your own senses. Like after you snort cocaine and you keep thinking the effect has started but it’s just your imagination. But it grows until it’s unmistakable.
Then you start to get this unsteady feeling, like the whole earth is moving gently in some way, rhythmically. Except it obviously isn’t.
And you can faintly hear the sea and feel the sun on your skin, real sun, the sun of two bright stars in a different sky, sunlight that sparkles on the waves and the distant white tiled roofs of the coral village, and dazzles you as you scan the horizon for the spout of the onrushing leviathan, spear ready.

Not this pathetic red mockery of a star.

These feelings take about another minute or two to grow, and you are so engrossed in the obvious strangeness and … Rightness … Of it all that you don’t notice time passing.

Then the sounds and smells recede and you do notice sue’s body twitching and then suddenly she gasps a huge breath of air and sits up mouth agape and her head is completely healed.

Ahmose’s hand twitches, ready, but she looks at you all with obvious comprehension

You just witnessed a resurrection.

“Simon Simon?! Jeremy!? We escaped?!”

Then she sinks back on the pillow

“My head really hurts …”

Simon Simon: Simon Simon just sits there with mouth wide open.

GM: (I guess now you all know the difference between black magic and white magic)

Simon Simon: Ice cream melting on his hand.

GM: When Sue sat up the box fell off her chest. It shatters when it hits the floor, suddenly strangely brittle.

Sue looks at everyone staring at her
“I dreamt I was swimming In a deep ocean, in a cathedral of sunbeams. It was so beautiful”
She sighs.

Simon Simon: Simon moves closer, his face very close to her trying to look for the wound on her back.

GM: It’s gone. Just a small scar. She looks really tired though.

Simon Simon: “… incredible…” He says and looks at her smiling. “You are back Mary Sue!”

GM: “Was I injured ? Sorry for my stupidity back there, I just didn’t think we could escape. Where are we? Where are the rest?”

Simon Simon: He looks at the techie. “See? told you. Shouldnt die” He nods af it all makes any sense.
“You acted silly Sue! But now you are back, you are Unbroken! Unbroken Sue.”
“We are safe now, I told you I would help you all, and I did. Your friends are waiting. Techie is here, and the rest wait outside.” He goes to the door and opens it. “She is back! Easy now crew, no big sounds.” He herds everyone in slowly so they can see.
She greets everyone, shaking hands and hugging carefully. Somewhere in all the confusion the fragments of the box get scattered around the room so that even if you tried you couldn’t rebuild it
Everyone is very happy. It’s not clear she knows she was dead.
You leave her to rest for a while.

After a few hours, you can ask questions …

Simon Simon: (I guess we can wait a day or so before interrogations..)
I do sit down with her and explain to her what happened at the bones, I take my time at it too, make sure its none too rushed

GM: She seems to handle it okay

Simon Simon: At some point I ask her if she wants to see the videos, in case its all hard to believe.
Now that you’re out and she’s safe on Pearl 7 a light comes back into her eyes.
It dies a little after she sees the videos.
But she gets busy with her group and it becomes obvious that they are reorienting as a cult based around the Mother.
They are happy to have an AI back and she has changed her mind about visiting the Starred One.

Simon Simon: How does the Mother react to them?

GM: She hasn’t noticed them. There are more humans than stars in the galaxy.She only cares about one. Why waste processor time on the rest?

Simon Simon: Simon Simon still adds their data to the system so she at least knows of them
After a few days, when he sees she is recovered, he’ll pull her aside to ask her some stuff

1.    She mentioned the death cult was related to them somehow before the incident, was there something there she didnt told simon before?
2.    Who are/were the Elders she tried to contact? And if they are still alive, where are they?
3.    Will she tell me where the Starred One is? What else can she tell me about it? What are her plans now for it?
4.    What is the cult going to do now? Anything they want from the Mother? Are you still “Unredeemed”?
5.    Could they work for their stay here until we find a new ship? Do they agree to join us as crew? Would they be willing to take on training if we paid for it?
6.    Any idea why the SSA was hunting them?

1.    she guessed that on the basis of what you told her
2.    there are two other Elders, she can give you their names and try and find them, but chances are they’re dead
3.    The Starred One is on an observation station called Rocannon’s World, a couple of jumps distant from here. She will give you detailed information so you can go there.
4.    follow you, into hell if necessary
5.    Yes to anything you say, boss
6.    No, but as she realized, it only started a few weeks ago, about the time you say the death cult came to the Reach, and she doesn’t know more than that. But it seems like a mighty coincidence that they are being hunted by people who were willing to let a death priest into the gardens, and their own foundation story is centred on the gardens …

Her best guess is that the cult’s leader and the Starred One learnt something important in the Gardens, and fled the Reach with the information

GM: Well if that’s all, I think our downtime is finished …

you all get 2xp for a) cool stuff and b) burning one of your boxes and c) uncovering some information that may or may not lead to something …

[GM Note: And thus ends this downtime, after about a week of intermittent adventuring]

Last stand at the Okay Cryotank

Last stand at the Okay Cryotank

[Editor note: This is the second Cyberpunk Facebook downtime, cleaned up and stripped of faffing. It describes what happened after we finally decided what to do with the loot we scored after killing Lima, and shows the dangers of hanging around to debate logistics in a world where the biggest guns rule. Fortunately in this case we had the biggest guns and the best cyberware … but it still came very close at the end …

For this part of the Downtime Ghost was not present – he had taken the whaler down the deep shaft into the water beneath District 70. We would later find out his escape was almost hairier than ours …

Because this happened on Facebook it was entirely narrative. No dice were rolled. It took several hours interspersed with changing locations, travelling, working, meeting friends etc.]

GM: The three of you head up, senses on full alert. As you climb up the stairs you hear the sounds of some shouting. The top floor is clear, but it seems a group of ragged men and women are coming in and are close to the same entrance you guys used to walk in. The goldfishnator stands in the middle of the surgery room, prepped and heavily loaded with guns and cyberparts. The rain is raging and nightfall is close. Afternoon sun is orange in the distance. The blood of all the guys you killed is being washed out and is falling off the edges of the bridge, and through the fallen walls. Coyote’s magnifying cybereye detects 5 or 6 guys taking cover in the broken building in the distance. Behind them three other guys are jeering at each other, one of then seems to be arguing while the other two are laughing or screaming happily, a lot of them are carrying SMGs in bad condition or rifles. They are all dirty, young and most seem twitchy even from this distance. Only a few seem to be wearing any armor or cybernetics, but something tells you there are more of them somewhere.

[Coyote, Drew, Hartigan ask some questions about fighting, dropping dynamite.]

GM: The three behind are not fighting each other per se but they are being loud and a bit violent. Hard to know what really is going on. The 6 in front are quietly moving forward, crouched and taking cover on broken building parts.

A TNT drop might be hard, you are expecting Coyote to fly over them, fully loaded and slow, and drop from the window a TNT with a fuse. Doesnt sound very solid. The way to the vehicle and the entrance are free so far, you can either take cover in around the surgery room in front of the vehicle, or in the vat rooms (where rapey dude was), protected from the rain but giving the assailants more ground to walk into the building.

Coyote: Coyote will take off and we will find cover to keep the miscreants away long enough for him to get out.

Drew: Drew will look at Pops and gesture to the south room, with a questioning look

Hartigan: Hartigan nods and they both move towards the south room.

Drew: We will start picking off people as they are moving forward. Coyote can get the ship out once they are forced to take cover.

GM: The three of you rush out of the stairs, pass the north wing and cross the gap between the two wings. Coyote quickly jumps into the back of the Goldfishnator, picks two M16s and a few magazines and throws them out of the vehicle. He jumps over the driver seat and starts take off routine on it.

At the same time Hartigan and Drew close in and surround the goldfishantor, moving towards the entrance of the complex and taking cover. You sight on the goons and get ready to shoot, then at that moment the goldfishnator comes to life, its thrusters roaring, the sound alerts the approaching goons who start to shout in alarm, their screams get drowned by the sound of Hartigan and Drew opening fire on them, the surprise killing two of them out of hand. The rest take cover, and you notice the three on the distance shouting torwards something behind them and then moving forward and taking cover as well. Soon bullets are answering your attack, but the van seems safe so far, but you know the moment the van breaks upward and into the sky its bound to get shot at.

Drew: [OOC, as I realize just how deep we are submerged in shit] oh well, this is as good a day to die as any other … Anyone who pokes their head up to take a shot at the vehicle gets iced.

Hartigan: [also OOC] Same with me. I think Hartigan and Drew would be quite at home in this atmosphere by now!

GM: Equipment and skill wise you clearly have the advantage, a few moments in and another guy is down. You do realize that, any shot that hits is probably going to drop them. The problem is that the battle has become an interchange of suppressive fire and people taking cover. You could quickly end this if they were less people, but the sheer amount of them makes there counter attack a cloud of bullets that force you to keep your head down. They are slowly creeping in, not much strategy to it; the ones closer shoot randomly trying to evaporate the general area were you are, as the ones further away creep in closer running from cover to cover. They are screaming like madmen and laughing, until the point Hartigan drops another of them. They get a bit mad then and answer, the volley of bullets blowing a hole were hartigan was a moment before. Hartigan gets a bit closer to cover and reloads. Drew you notice one of the bullets have grazed his neck and there is some blood coming down. It doesnt seems very serious though.

The goldfishnator starts with a small blast that raises it off the ground, Coyote spins it a bit so the front (and not the back where the kids are) is facing the goons as they take off, and with the background sound of bullets and goons screaming the goldfishnator starts taking off slowly, crossing the ceiling mark.

Drew: We will lay down some suppressive fire while he rises. Then I think we should move back to the stairwell entrance. They will be funneled into our field of fire on the bridge across the two rooms, and we can take them down as they cross.

GM: Excellent, Hartigan takes a slightly more solid position and you both get ready to retreat as the ship takes to air. Unfortunately at that moment Drew notices the goons at the back yelling and pointing at the ship, you quickly realize they are about to open fire on her, at the same time the ones in the front bring up aim and open suppressive fire again. You have a moment for yourself, you can face the new supressive wave and shoot at the ones in the back, hopefully making most of the them take cover before they can open on the ship. Or you can let then waste bullets and hit them when they are reloading, safe from the bullet storm but risking a volley hitting the ship.

Drew: Drew will take the high risk option, assuming that Hartigan is going to cut down some of hte suppressor dudes…

Hartigan: Hartigan will hit the guys trying suppressing fire whilst Drew takes out those at the back.

GM: Got it, you both only need a nod to understand each other and you bring barrels forward. The ship breaks the ceiling line and is floating, nose front to the fight and coyote flipping off the goons.

Drew sees the guys aiming at the ship, in the open and she bathes them in bullets, most of them get caught off guard and only a few bursts make it to the ship. You see the ship’s windows crack, but coyote seems unharmed. Drew’s horizontal burst of lead brings down two more of the guys, and the rest curse, taking cover. At the same moment Hartigan opens on the closer goons laying down suppressive fire, but both fire volleys come at the same time, there is an eerie instant where time seems to slow down and both volleys of fire intersect each other, then continue their travel torwards each other’s target. Hartigan sees it and turns his head, bullets hit all over him, his ears ringing. He yells at Drew to get her head down but it’s too late. A burst of bullets decorates the area around drew, as she coldly and steadily drops off goons in the distance. Most of them miss, but Hartigan heart skips a beat when a burst explodes next to drews face, blowing up the wall close to it. Debris blows up, as tiny pebbles scar drew’s right side.

Drew you are blind for an instant, and you feel warm liquid all over your cheeks. Hartigan you notice that drew right eye is busted, a chunk of concrete inside it. It enrages you, but then you remember Drew has cybereyes. It appears most of the damage was luckily on the eye, otherwise Drew would be rolling for death, she is stunned for a second, but her body reacts for her and Drew drops down and takes cover behind a more solid wall. Her left cybereye gives a screech and comes back online after a split second of interference.

Oh drew.. they done ruined your make up.

GM: Drew is not thinking about her make-up, she is back against the wall, reloading and muttering “Too fast, too fast, it’s all too fast.” Then she motions to Pops to indicate she will cover him as he retreats inward. [OOC: (He is further from the entrance in my imagination, so needs to leave first – if the opposite is the case, seh will leave first)]. Drew’s cool is 9, it takes more than a chunk of concrete taking out half her face to faze her!
GM: Fortunally the ship has a good window of non-bulletness. You hear Coyote’s cheer of joy on the intercom and the ship flies over the goons, cripping real close. The goons scream scared its going to crash on them, at the last moment coyote pulls up, the bottom of the ship actually hits one of the goons, smashing his head into a cloud of red mist, and the ship darts up first, then down into the abyss. You see it come back up again farther away, flying back into D68.

Drew: [OOC] I don’t know anything about military tactics but I’m thinking Drew should take a position at one of the rooms around the cryotanks, while Pops drops into the stairwell. Then we will establish a crossfire zone at the entry to the second room and they won’t be able to take cover from both of us at once – but it will mean Drew has to run across to the stairwell if we need to retreat again.

[Editor note: at this point there is a separate Facebook chat going on between me and the GM, in which I am told that Drew’s dodgy Russian boosterware is starting to come onto the scene. I initially decided Drew would fight it off, because now is no time for heroics, as I wrote the above out of character comment; but then I realized that this would be terrible role-playing, and Drew would have to take the high risk path. Below is what happened then].

Drew: [OOC] actually that’s not what happens at all

[The following is what actually happens, GM can change details as needed]

Drew crouches down for a moment reloading, muttering “too fast, too fast!” to herself. There is a thread of blood and cybergoo coming out from under her helmet. Pops is taking a breather and gesturing back to the inner room when he notices that Drew has stopped moving. She goes very still, looking down, as if she has briefly fainted. Then she starts twitching, shifting the gun to her left hand and her right arm moving aggressively in jerks. The rippers in her arm come out and back in a few times in rapid succession. She looks up as if recovering consciousness, looks around, then suddenly leaps to her feet and goes charging out of the doorway towards the Gangers. You can’t see or understand what she’s thinking because you can’t see her face through the goldfish-patterned helmet.

She leaves a blood-curdling scream in her wake and surges across the gap to the first line of gangers at incredible speed, firing at an insane rate from her left hand, her rippers out.

The outside area is streaked with lights from the vehicles and some distant half-repaired streetlights, and sleek with rain and mud; Drew flits through this like a shadow, almost too fast to follow and speeding up. The gangers have time to stand up and look at her for a moment but they are still swinging their guns up when she hits them and full combat is joined. As soon as she hits the group her rifle drops and she starts laying into them with her rippers, screaming in this weird, thin, keen wail that you can’t hear physically but distorted through your helmet headphones. Then you can’t really see her; a guy is slumped on a wall, bleeding and grunting; there is a cloud of blood behind her and some fast movements, and a guy staggers away from the circle, his arm ripped with what looks like four or five blows of the rippers.

The fight lasts for a few seconds at most, you’re dizzied by the speed of it, and then you can see Drew on your side of the wall the gangers were using for cover, on one knee, rifle back in hand, slicked with bood and gore.

She looks like she’s about to faint.

GM: [ hell yeah. ]

Drew: In the aftermath of her little killing spree the whole battle zone has sunk into a kind of shocked silence. But Drew has left her helmet mic on so you can hear her whispering to herself in her native inuit, which you have never heard before. Whatever she is saying is soft and mellifluous, but reverential. It sounds like an invocation or a prayer.

GM: Everyone is blinking. The back row of goons has its guns up but they are frozen in shock as the the front row disappears in a matter of seconds. The only sound is the screams and curses of one guy in the back, eyes away from the battlefield, who was actual still popping random shots at the disappearing goldfishnator.

Hartigan sees the guy slowly turn his eyes back torwards the frontline and his eyes going over the scene, he cocks his head, looks at his fellow mates, then back at Drew standing alone. The goon grins and starts to slowly rise his rifle and train it on Drew.

Hartigan: Hartigan moves without thought, his sole purpose to make sure that he doesn’t lose his little girl…. again. He sprints, head down across the open space, pausing to take a knee and put two quick successive shots through the head of the grinning goon, a faint sense of satisfaction as they hit home and then he is running again. He grabs Drew around the waist, turning the run into a roll to the right as bullets begin to pepper the ground around them. He gets Drew behind the cover and then turns.

There is no expression on his face and he snaps up the rifle, moving forward again. He snaps of shots at the nearest of the interlopers, pausing to grunt as a stray round goes through his left arm. Every three feet he drops to one knee and snaps off a killing shot before methodically moving forward again. In contrast to Drews berserk fury, his advance is cold and calculated, each shot counting.

Drew: Pops hitting her in the belly and rolling her over will bring Drew back to somewhere near reality. As he moves forward she will rise up behind him from cover, and offer covering fire where she can. By now though her vision is beginning to blur from the damage to her eye, so she can’t offer much support.

GM: Hartigan walks through hell, but he is hotter than anything the devil can bring against him. His mind is in thorough and ultimate focus, with one thought: defend my little girl. The goons have no chance, after Hartigan walks through them granting them the gift of lead bullets, they quickly change their mind and run for the hills.

As Hartigan does his highway to hell thing, Drew tries to shakes off her rage, and rises up to defend Pops. Fight is not over she thinks, but her body has other ideas. Her vision blurs completely before she gets a shot out, she feels a shriek of pain on the side of her head and her body shakes, and she feels a wave of bile rising up from inside her. Her body curves, and she pukes over the side. Its weird, it feels cold. So damn cold.

You have an instant of peace as the looters run away, but from far away you hear the screams and more shots being fired. Something tells you this firefight will only attract a new wave of assholes.
Drew: Well Drew isn’t going anywhere quickly. She is sweating and shaking and cold. She will wait for Pops to help her back to cover.

Hartigan: Once Hartigan sees the goons turn tail and run he will return to Drew. Checking her optics he gives a grimace and studies the damage. “Eye is busted and will need to be replaced. You’ve lost a lot of blood too… I think it might have hit some tissue in there as well.” He staunches the wound as best he can before wrapping it in a makeshift bandage. “He quickly checks her over for any other wounds “You can’t keep going, we’re going to move back and get to better cover.” You can see that he is clearly distraught at Drew but his combat instincts are keeping him in the now. Hartigan checks the area and finds a high ground with a vantage that looks over the area. With the time they have bought themselves, it will be a good place to hold up. He points it out to Drew “There, we can set up and keep anyone who comes near at bay until Alt’s people arrive.”

Drew: So we will stagger up to the high point and take prone positions with cover. Drew will be very frustrated at her sudden weakness. At one point she grabs Pops by the collar, weakly, and says “She came back Pops, she came back! The ghost in my shell, she came back to me. How many did I kill? Did you see??!” When she isn’t shaking and wheezing she is wearing an expression of ecstasy, and has a faraway look in her eyes.

GM: You gather up, Hartigan pointing to the fallen building that has a look of the “courtyard”, you won’t be between the bad guys and the building anymore, but there’s nothing to guard anymore. You also have a clear view of anyone coming in and a few moments of much needed rest.

[We chill for about 15 minutes]

Then you hear it, the hoots and screams of another wave of loonies. You see them coming, crawling out of the ducts west of your position. They are oblivious to your presence, and seem very excited about the dead bodies in front of them. They seem slightly better armed, some of them even wearing armor. They are all smiles and raving mad. One of them seems to be giving orders, screaming at them to check for enemies, they nod and smile, but they seem more interested in looting the bodies than anything else.

Hartigan: Hartigan pats Drews shoulder “I saw it kid, you did great. I’m proud of you.” He then settles in for the long wait, his rifle perched and trained on the entrance.

Hartigan watches and carefully lines up his rifle on the leader. “Goodnight” and pulls the trigger.

OOC: I am hoping for an awesome shock and awe moment when the leaders head explodes and they all shit themselves.

GM: Time stops, the bullet flies out of the barrell, your intent is meaningless to its path of destruction, but luck has it, today your intent and the bullet’s destiny seem to match nicely.

Drew: Drew will wait for the bullet to hit the hapless leader and blow his face off, give the bad guys a moment to take in the demise of their boss, and then let rip on them, blowing them away as quick as she can, in the hope of instilling maximum panic. She won’t aim for anything specific because she’s woozy.

Hartigan: Hartigan follows suit, starting a more controlled picking off of enemies, using the chaos created by Drew to draw a bead on anyone who sticks their head out. Hartigan and Drew will keep them there until there is enough organised resistance to be a problem and then systematically retreat to a new position and start again.

GM: Time bends back to “normal” the bullet finishes its short travel towards ultimate bliss and you are presented with a satisfactory *thunk* followed by mushy sounds, and moaning as the leader finds himself without half of his brain mid-sentence. The leader plops to the ground, the rest stop laughing, they take a split second to figure out what is happening.

Fortunately a split second is all Drew needs as she whales on them with a new shower of lead. Now their screams are not as merry, they scatter and jump for cover. And the game starts again.

This is getting a bit old, both of you have had fights like this too many times to record the little details of who died/how/when/why. Doesn’t really matter, bullets are given and bullets are received. You continue your little game for a few minutes.

It’s been three times already that you change position, pushing upwards in the abandoned building, and getting closer to the middle (where it is broken apart and you can see the ceiling of the hospital.)

This is the last stop, and you are running out of lead presents to give back to your new friends.

Hartigan helps Drew get into position, and she doesnt waste a second and goes back to firing. Now she has reduced her ROF from MACHINE GUN OF HELL to “careful aim and shoot, one baddie at a time”-mode.

Hartigan leans against the wall next to drew, and Drew notices something odd from the bad guys. There is one coming with what looks like a heavy assault rifle, and he puts down goggles that shine in a reddish tone. The goon grins a wild smile and rises the rifle. Drew is confused, her mind slower than usual, “where the fuck is he aiming at?” you ask yourself, then you notice the barrel is pointed directly at Hartigan, THE GOON CAN SEE THROUGH THE COVER!!!

You want to scream, you want to push Hartigan off the way, you want to do so many things, but your body is in fuck off mode.

The goon mercilessly pulls the trigger and you see a wave of retribution fall on Hartigan. The bullets cut through the cement like butter.

Hartigan you see get to see Drew’s worried eyes before the pain explodes. The wall blows up under you and bullets cover you all around. The vast majority are stopped by your skinweave and armor, but you feel a few cut deep into your leg. Your body takes a moment to tally up your pain debt, then gives it to you full on. Your leg is on fire, it buckles and bends funny-like under you and you fall, hitting your shoulder against the wall. You slide towards the corner where the wall is thicker and that saves you from getting wounded further.

Drew answers the goons by the same token, blasting bullets down, but her clip gives out and she kneels down next to Hartigan, reloading. Last clip.

Drew: Drew now starts trying actively to wake herself up again. She is reloading even as she checks Pops. Is he alive? Also where is our fucking team? [Drew of course doesn’t swear]

GM: Pops: You dropped the gun. That’s bad. Knee is gone, that’s worse. Bleeding all over, that’s the worst. You hear guns blasting away at the wall next to you, they are getting excited now that there’s no one shooting back at them. You hear them mocking and cursing.

“C’mon white devils!! Lets play motherfuckers!!!”

The eerie sounds of boots closing in on the building follow the insults.

Hartigan: Hartigan is on the ground. He feels the agony of his leg coursing through him. He knows it’s bad. His rifle is on the floor and he can’t seem to reach towards it. He draws out his pistol and aims through the hole that the goon has created. He needs to buy them some time, enough to give Drew a chance to escape. He looks towards her “I can cover you. Get back and head through the hole in the wall. I will keep them busy and you find some more ammunition or weapons. I can’t move and you know the first rule, don’t hold the other back.”

He fires six shots, careful counting them off against his limited pistol ammunition. Hoping to take down the goon and force the others to pause.

GM: Hartigan shots make them think twice. They scramble again. You dropped a few of them, but the bastards are laughing. Crazy sods are probably so gone into drugs and misery, death is just a joke for them. Well you give them the punchline of their lives a few times, the old gun answering to your commands. Still… they have the numbers on you two. There’s not enough bullets to stop all of them.

Drew: Drew slides her makeup case to hartigan. “Superglue’s in there pops. Patch up quick, we aren’t dying here.” Quickly assess the situation, is there a leader whose death would change the flow of battle, or are they a rabble?

Hartigan: Hartigan takes the glue and quickly assesses the damage. He applies the glue and grimaces as he pulls the hole together. Keep it together old man. Just hold out a bit longer. She’s depending on you.

When it sets he growls and ties it tight. “You know who I am?” He roars out towards the goons “I am Hartigan! You better remember that name! I’m coming you hear! And Hell’s coming with me!”

He takes down another ganger for effect.

GM: The glue work is messy, it mixes with the blood. The blood flow you gotta stop it. The “leader” tactic didn’t quite work, you did that from the beginning but the fuckers just got bloodlusty.

There’s still a few out there, but you just don’t have enough bullets. You hold for while, but you run out of lead. There’s still five of them out there, these guys have got to be high as fuck to keep on going even with 2/3 of their group flatlined.

Drew: Drew is wondering if she can move from here to get to the big gun that the dead arsehole was carrying, or to the M16s that Coyote left in the hovercar room?

GM: [I was already counting M16 bullets]. Anyway; things boil down to Drew jumping on them, Drew waiting for them to crawl up the building or Drew escaping through the back of the building with some climbing.

Fortunately for you the sound of AV thrusters in the distance take this difficult moral/tactical/funsical decision away from you.

The remaining goons look up and around, thinking more loot has come. You see them grinning.

A black, smooth surfaced and quite shining medium-sized AV (twice the Goldfishnator) cuts into the scene. It stops suddenly on top of the hospital, rotating sharply to its side to counter its inertia.

Drew’s infrared allows her to see it is emitting thousands of infrared laser beams in what you recognize as surface scanning. It otherwise remains immobile floating on place.

The goons are all grinning and raising their guns to aim at it. You guys see 4 of the goons keep aim on the ship, as one stands on a elevated vent and hails it, swinging his arms around smiling.

Drew you see the ship lasers focus on the group for a moment, then move around the general area. There is an eerie moment where the lasers lock on your and Hartigan’s position.

The ship shudders a bit, and moves on to float above the courtyard where the goons are. The ship is now vertically at your same level. You can see inside the cockpit, there is three guys. The pilot seems non-plussed, checking equipment. One guy is looking at a set of monitors, hands on the control panel leaning slightly forward. Another has an assault rifle aimed directly at you from inside the cockpit.

They are close enough that you can see their equipment, they are all cybered up, the pilot’s head is almost like a hub, lots of cables coming in and out of his head and neck and connecting to the ship. The one aiming at you seems to have really thick greyish tone skin, you notice he has small horns coming out of his forehead.

The one leaning checking on the monitors looks like the leader, you actually recognize him as the guy that was right next to Alt in the meeting. Metalman. The guys body is fully covered in exoskeletal metal plates, he looks like a strange form of an FBR.

Mana from heaven

Mana from heaven

Drew: Drew stands up. She takes off her helmet.

Give a girly wave.

Then point at the dudes on the ground and do a big expressive thumbs down.

GM: You see the metalman stand and look in your direction, having no face it is hard to detect his emotions. He doesn’t move, but you figure he must be saying something because horny man loses the rifle and walks out of the cockpit into the back of the vehicle. You see metalman nod at you and put his hand forward, signing you to keep your head down. He then walks into the back of the AV as well.

Drew: Head down, helmet on!!

GM: The ship starts emitting a very high pitched sound that get higher and higher, and louder and louder. Soon the sound is so high frequency you can’t detect it.

For a very brief moment you are deaf and your eardrums hurt. Then there is a loud, dry and implosion-like sounding *THUMPH* that pops your ears back into normal and the ground shudders a bit. There is a visible shockwave that pushes dust and pebbles, and the wall you are taking cover at vibrates. Rubble falls from the roof near you. Then you hear the sound of a heavy object hitting the ground on the courtyard, followed by five gunshots.

When you look Metal man is standing on top of a small crater done on the roof, all goons are dead. There is around 10 more guys, armored, coming down from the AV using ziplines. They quickly spread bringing up SMGs and rifles, you see metalman point at your location and four of the guys rush into the building you are taking cover at.

You hear the boots coming up the stairs, the 4 troops make their way quickly, checking corners in silence. They walk into the area were you are, all pointing arms at you. They stand like that for moment, and you get a sense that there’s information being transferred from someone without the need of actually speaking.

“ID confirmed.” One of them says, probably more to you than because he needs to. The rest lower their guns but remain in position. One of them moves forward, and takes off his helmet. His face is tattooed, and he has big protruding cybereyes. He takes a kit out of his backpack and starts treating Hartigan.

Hartigan you see him rip your pants around the wound, spray some sort of disinfectant that stings a bit. He takes out a metal band that claps around your thigh, stopping the blood flow. He then sprays another thing, and you see a thin layer of thick white liquid around the wound. The liquid solidifies suddenly, taking a skin colour, sealing the wound. He injects you something, and you feel the pain subside.

He takes out a very sophisticated-looking syringe, filled with a metallic liquid, when you look at it carefully it appears to move on its own.

“You will be okey for a while, but we cant promise anything. Alt says she can offer nanobots, faster healing. Take money off the top of the deal. Might allow you to keep the leg, or not. In any case with the bots you will be back in action a lot faster.”

He speaks clearly but fast, no emotion behind his words. He looks at you patiently.

“Where’s the rest of your team? has the area been cleared?” asks the leader of the four, without taking his helmet off. He is looking at Drew, examining her wounds, but it looks like he decides they are not urgent.

Hartigan: Hartigan grimaces but shakes his head “I will heal, don’t worry. The rest of the team are transporting our salvage from this site. We stayed behind to ensure that Lima’s body and system would be available for you when you arrived. We unfortunately seemed to run out of bullets before we ran out of guys to shoot.” He slowly pulls himself up, testing the injury gingerly. “Lima and the system are downstairs. We have not attempted to access it as per our deal.”

GM: [Pops, you can’t stand. It’s bad.][Your leg is pretty much busted, the guy has sealed up the wounds, but the knee is literally blown to pieces.]

Drew: Drew will add, “Pops, perhaps we should take the money for the nanobots? Nobody likes a cripple.”

Hartigan: Hartigan scowls and then nods “Fine.” He motions to the guy to inject him.

GM: The man nods and injects Hartigan with the bots. Hartigan you feel the cold liquid spread around your wound, you have an eerie sensation of millions of tiny bugs crawling under your skin, but it fades after a moment. Whatever he put into you, had both painkillers and boost, you feel the pain fade to the background and your mind grow a bit sharper. The medic then stands, looks at Drew. “We treat you downstairs.” You see two of the troops move towards Hartigan to help him stand.

Drew: “I think Pops can stay here. By the way, we’re expecting one of our team to come back for us. He’ll be in a different hovercar to the one from the club, so please ID before shooting. It’s a big black thing with a badly painted mutant goldfish on the side.”

GM: He remains silent for a moment. “Got it. We won’t knock it down.” Leader looks at Hartigan. “Anyway, we have to move him to the flat area for AV pick up, we could load him through the breach in the wall here, but you’d be risking him falling. Anyway, he stays here until your AV returns. Would you follow me miss? We got some questions and once we ID the target and confirm the mission is done.” You see he thinks, looks at you and Hartigan, then nods. “Yes, we have to do it quickly. That way boss can call off the other teams, that way we will have clearer skies.” You feel he added this either in respect, awe or pity for your situation.

Drew: Drew will crouch next to Pops, putting her helmet next to him, and next to that her bags. “Superglue’s in here, Pops” she says, opening one bag just enough to show him her fully loaded automatic pistol next to her make up case.

“Let’s go!” she says airily

GM: Leader nods, medic and one of the other troops stay with Hartigan as you walk down into the building. You see metalman standing in still in the same place, in the middle of the small crater. The rest of the troops are spread around, you see two of them in the ceiling aiming down.

The leader nods to metalman and stands to the side. You see metalman look at you up and down. Then he says in a metallic deep voice.

“Did you hold down? Is there anyone else left inside? Is there anything we need to know before we proceed?”

“Did you hold the line and didnt let anyone else inside?”

Drew: “We held the line, we cleared everyone out, and these gangers were too busy with us to go in.”

GM: Metalman nods. “Alright, lets go inside then.” You see the team move in ahead of you, checking everything. You move in through the complex, when you get close to the vats/resting room area. Metalman stands a moment to look at the dead bodies in a pile. He looks at you, then at the pile.

Drew: Drew puts her head to one side like a little girl, one finger on her lips, looks back at him.

GM: Expressionless face is expressionless. He points at the vats and the rooms. “What happened here? the vats are on.”

Drew: Innocent face is innocent. “One of them was healing. Or something. We stopped the process.”

GM: “Hmmm..” you see him examine the rooms and the vats, but there seem to be no more questions. You head towards the midfloor, dining area and supply room are passed quickly. Metalman takes a look around, and moves on without comment. Then you get to the place where the mainframe is. Here you see a bunch of guys already dealing with the equipment. Metalman looks at the dead kids in the beds. “What about that?”

Drew: “I dunno man, I just work here. We came in and they were dead. I think Ghost, our hacker, he maybe knew. They had a few captive kids, but they were dead.”

[Editor’s note: at this point Drew is trying to make it seem as if we didn’t take any kids or any weird maps, without actually lying]

GM: “Captured kids?” He looks at you straight on. He stays quiet for a long time, you dont know what is going on his mind.

“… no.” He says after a moment, you don’t know what he is talking about, metalman shakes his head comes back to his senses. Without any orders being said you see two of the troops split from the group and start unloading the kids from the cyberdecks chairs.

He turns back to you and seems to read you. “None of them alive?” His voice has a slightly different tone, if anything can be said about digital voices, but this time is not as cold as a moment ago.

Drew:  “Not that I saw. But I guess we could have killed these or the ones upstairs in the gunfight? I dunno. It was dark and nasty in here man.” Plays the bimbo …

GM: You are not that good at lying, more used to simple pulling the trigger or making people scream, but metalman says nothing else. He either bought it or isn’t showing it. “Hmmm..” he says and you move on. Leaving a part of the troops behind dismantling everything. Metalman walks straight through the explosion zone, without any comment. But you hear one of the troops say “wooow…..”

Drew: Give that troop a winning smile.

Not very winning, considering they’ve just seen my dark side, and I’m covered in blood.

GM: You move on, metalman walks straight down the stairs. Looks at the bodies and spots Lima’s body, he moves towards it, and stops in front of him. He takes a moment then kneels in front of him. What follows is a bit wierd, metalman gently takes limas head on his hands and turns it around checking it. He seems to stay there looking at the man for a long time.

Metalman says something leans forward and seems to say something on lima’s ear. He then takes the head and presses on it, it cracks then bursts in a spray on blood that covers all of metalman, he stands and says still looking down at the body. “Target has been ID’ed, job has been completed. We will transfer the money once the netrunner checks for no manipulation.”

After a moment you see one of the troopers notice the lima room. The group of men all lift their eyes to it in unison, so does metalman but slower than the rest. Metalman walks in, alone.

Drew: Go watch from the door …

GM: You see the troopers a bit nervous, but they keep their distance as you walk torwards the room.

From the door you see metalman staring at the video of the looping girl. “Samantha…” He says in a very small whisper, you barely catch it, your battle senses helping you. The voice its not his own, is weird, feminine and oddly familiar. He suddenly jerks and notices you, he turns around and looks straight at you. He looks at the wall and the table then he speaks, His voice back to normal digital, male and deep. “Did you took anything from this room?”

Drew: “Yeah, I think we took some stuff from the walls.”

“Papers, weird shit like that.”

Act all unconcerned like. “Who’s the chick?”

GM: “The.. diaries, Sacarias kept diaries. Where are they?” [This guy calls Lima “Sacarias”]

Drew: “Diaries? We didn’t touch his cyberstuff, I don’t know anything about diaries.” [OOC: Here Drew tries to act ignorant by assuming a diary must be kept in a cyber form]

GM: You see metalman man step in closer, closing the gap between you . “Books Drew… the fucking books. You took them or not?”

Drew: “Books? What are you talking about? We just took some stuff off of the walls, like weird pictures and stuff. Look man, Alt said we can take anything we want but don’t interfere with the cyberjunk. That there is a video so we left it. We took what was ours by rights. You want books, I don’t know how to help you.”

GM: Metalman doesnt answer for a long time. He stays as he is, very close to you and cold. Then suddenly he jerks a bit. “If… it so happens you find that you took the books without noticing, you will inform Alt… yes? She is very interested in them. Willing to pay for them even… but they are delicate things, yes? Real old. Dont go around opening them or anything stupid.”

Drew: Drew will take a step back, go a little cool. “Sure, I’ll mention it to the others and we’ll dig through what we found. But you should maybe look down the other room, maybe the equipment room and the tunnels have stuff in them – we didn’t even explore the shaft.” She waves her arm down towards the other exit. “Are we done here man, I’m beat?”

GM: He again, takes a moment. Then nods and goes back to the console, and looking at the video.

Drew: Drew will take that as her sign to leave. “Nice doing business with you, man. Give my regards to Alt, and tell Alt that we would be more than happy to work for your group again.” Constructs a clumsy sentence trying to not give Alt a gender.

GM: “I will pass down your message. I’m sure Alt will contact you further on. You have proven to be very… effective.”

Okay so after that is pretty smooth sailing, two troops walk along Drew as she walks out of the building again, and you guys gather up again in the roof. I will continue with Coyote and Ghost’s stuff tomorrow and hopefully give you guys time to set up looting talks.

[Editor’s note: and with that a fairly epic Downtime battle ended, with Hartigan only losing one leg and needing three weeks of very expensive intensive care, and me only losing one eye and needing a week of intensive care. We also managed to escape retribution for stealing some old books, and got a few hints that Alt’s animus against Lima was personal. This was all necessary background for our next actual physical session. So there you have it … you can get severely messed up in Downtime!]









Sometimes my regular RPG group runs a thing called “downtime,” which I think might be a well-established concept in role-playing methods, though I’d never encountered it before. Basically this is meant to be in-between time, where you interact with the GM electronically and handle irrelevant stuff like shopping, sorting out a few personal plans etc. Unfortunately our downtimes tend to be potentially fatal, high risk adventures in their own right. They happen on facebook and I really don’t know where our GM finds the time for them – he runs downtimes for 4 or 5 players, and sometimes they come together to form a group downtime with several solo downtimes intersecting. Up until now my most memorable downtime was a sudden explosion of chaos, in which we were all attacked by assassination squads simultaneously, and the first I knew of it was a text from another player (arriving in my facebook chat while I was at work): “Been shot, bleeding out, they’re coming for all of us, get out now”. This situation is tough because you’re on your own, so when they come for you you can’t consult and you suddenly realize how much role-playing depends on consultation with your colleagues. That downtime lasted 3 hours (broken up by work – I had to rush home and come up with a plan, then spend an hour or two getting out of the assassination situation). It’s really gripping, tense stuff.

That downtime was surpassed by an epic effort this week, a downtime so stunning it took role-playing to a new level.

Our group had just killed a vampire, who we knew was a Nazi in world war 2, and we had a couple of days’ grace before the next stage in the adventure. We’d secured a funky loft apartment in Berlin, we thought we’d escaped the attention of most of our enemies, we knew roughly what we were aiming at, though a lot was still shrouded in mystery, we had money and time. Great opportunity to consolidate! So we all did our downtimes with quiet confidence. My character, John Micksen, called on some political allies to investigate the associates of the vampire he killed. He figured that a WW2 Nazi would be using modern neo-nazis as muscle, but neo-nazis being dumber than a bag of hammers, they might by their activities give away some information. He soon discovered that the neo-Nazis had been active in violent street activities, including abducting children, and had contacts with companies and politicians that were … dodgy … to say the least. He decided to use some magic to hack their communications, but he could not speak German. So he set up a ritual, bought a parrot, and imprinted the comms on the parrot so that it could repeat all the conversations for someone else in the party (Helga) who speaks German. Feeling super clever, and looking forward to stunning everyone with his cunning parrot idea, he returned to the apartment.

All this is happening in Facebook chat.

He returned to the apartment, and was just relaxing and getting ready to reveal his super clever parrot trick to the amazement of his colleagues, when everyone smelt burning and hurt strange noises from Jade’s room. He came charging out a moment later, and chaos started.

The characters are:

  • John Micksen (me)
  • Jade, I’m not sure what he is, a Brazilian dude who can’t die, but who had to give up his child to the Faerie because some arsehole stole his memories and the faerie could give them back but it was me who gave away his child
  • Helga, a violinist. No, I don’t know why we’re adventuring with a violinist either
  • Jason, a werewolf. Useful. Not yet clued up to the full enormity of the trouble we’re in
  • Andrew, a mage, who works for the company we thought was trying to kill us (but apparently isn’t)

This motley crew was all we had when this happened (all of it in Facebook chat):


Jade comes into view, walking slowly into the room. He is talking nonsense to himself, in a language you don’t understand and giggling like a little girl. He shakes his head and rolls his eyes.[Like saying “ah, kids today, eh?”]. He steps into the common room, and stops. He notices you all gathered, looking at him. He cocks his head to the side with questioning eyes, then is like he realized something and he smiles broadly. He starts laughing, LOUD “HAHAHAHAHAHA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HAHAHA” pointing at you. You feel like you are the butt of some psychotic inner joke. He doubles up roaring in laugher, holding his stomach, his eyes going wide and tear coming down his cheeks. His head goes down, he bangs the side of the doorway with his fist laughing. You swear.. you swear his skin color changes a bit, but it’s too quick for your eyes. Then you notice something behind him. Ambers…. fire… the smell of smoke, coming from the hallway. Jade laughs a bit, coughs and lets out a breath. “Ha…Aah…”. Suddenly he grows very quite. He trembles a bit and raises his head in quick jerk. He looks up at you, his face the mask of absolute fear. “RUN!” he says.
Jason comes in, with one hand holding a deep, brutal looking wound in his chest and in the other a bag full of bananas
“you GOT to be kidding me”
Actually jades room is on fire primarily and part of the hallway as it is spreading
i run outside
John Micksen
“Andrew, can you do something about that?” says John, as he steps out to the stairwell to get a fire extinguisher.
He is very calm.
“Helga, can you pick up the box on the table? We may want it.”
In that case, Andrew is not following Jade entirely to the room, but he indeed tries to put out the fire. Though he’ll keep an eye on what’s happening in the room.
John Micksen    
He walks back into the room with a fire extinguisher. “Andrew, are you dealing with this or are we doing it the old-fashioned way?”
jason rushes in again, obviously really angry
John Micksen 
“Jason, grab a blanket and get it wet. We need this out before the fire brigade get here.”
Andrew is looking at the flames quite intensely.
John Micksen   
“Go check in the stairwell for a fire blanket”
“I’m working on it”
“what paranoid asshole did this!” he shouts more to himself than you
John Micksen      
John decides this is no time for patience, and lets rip with the extinguisher as well
and looks for someway to help you
John Micksen    
John Micksen  
Helga has and she screams “forget the fire! GET OUT NOW!”
Okay please everyone tell me what you are doing.
Jade looks at them, he steps towards john slapping the fire extinguisher off his hands. “They are here. RUN.” He runs for the door.
John Micksen
I am helping Andrew with the fire, and telling Helga to get the box down to the street and ordering Jason to get a fire blanket
Helga has the box and she is RUNNING.
John Micksen    
oh ffs
John Micksen
John joins the panic. He thinks to grab any bags of documents that are close by.
Andrew looks slightly frightened “John, this is supernatural shit. I can’t put them out…”
John Micksen
Jason takes a few deep breaths, sings a silent song,
John Micksen
ooc  why the fucking fuck do our downtimes do this?
graps the extiguisher and some blankets
and goes near the flames
Slightly confused, Andrew moves away from the flames, back to the common room where the others are. On the way he tries to stop Jason.
Jade goes through the door. Bursting it to pieces, laughing.
John Micksen 
John gives Helga a brief, cold, hard look
When they first touch he screams in pain and rushes back, obviously surprised and angry
John Micksen  
Then he grabs the nearest laptop (his, probably) in one hand and Jason’s shoulder in the other,
Out of the doorway you see a figure coming out. It seems to be the warped shape of a girl, her hair flowing around her, blood streaming down her face while her tattered wings fold to fit through the door. Her eyes are the darkest black, and the flames emanate from her. As she sees you all she smiles, her teeth sharp like needles.
John Micksen  
ooc  Oh FFS
Her eyes are the darkest black
John Micksen      
John is now running
Jason follows
“Look john!! Is my only pride! Hahaha” He is crying, running.
John Micksen   
Hurtle down the stairs, yelling
jumps into his car, starting engine
John Micksen 
Helga thinks, Oh Jade…
Jumps in.
John Micksen    
Jump in the car as soon as I am out the door
She is followed by another, who seems to bring a searing light into the room. It’s skin is almost translucent and it’s face holds no features except for the hollow eyes that follow you as you run. It’s fingers end in long narrow needles and it’s feet are claws that grip the ground. It’s wings of serrated blades wrap around it as it walks through the door

So you’re trying to work, and suddenly you’re being attacked by two angels. Your apartment is being burnt down and everyone is in a state of panic. We managed to get out of this situation, but we had nowhere to go. John made some phone calls, burnt some more political favours, and found a dodgy warehouse squat in a dodgy part of town. They drove there in Jason’s dodgy car, not being followed yet. The squat was dodgy – home to the black bloc, and a bunch of radical vegan activists, the people who met them were unwelcoming and rough looking, there was no running water and they were given just one night in a dodgy room. But still, it was something. A new chat opened: “At the vegans.”

At the vegans

Make yourself at home ...

Make yourself at home …

They now started talking about what to do next. During this conversation John’s patron – the Faerie Queen of Winter – came up a lot, and not all positively. John had mistakenly given away Jade’s child to the faerie and Jade wanted that child back. He had essential information about how the angels had exploded into our apartment, but he dug his heels in: he wouldn’t tell anyone anything until John could secure Jade’s child, and in order to get that child back John could make no bargains involving Jade. Any sacrifices would have to be made by John. John agreed. Furthermore, John was getting really sick of the way all the greater powers in their world would appear, insult them, give them no information, but then expect them to do something to prevent these great and mighty powers from destroying the universe.

As if by coincidence, the Faerie Queen appeared in the room. Of course she knows just when to arrive, but did she arrive when they were being attacked by two angels? No. Yet she wants our help!

John decided to rebel. And this is how it played out:

The temperature in the room drops noticeably. “MY Knight is correct and has made me curious. Why is the man of sand a catalyst for such destruction?” She is standing in a corner, her clothing closely resembling that of the others around, yet she stands out from them in such an alien way, whilst fitting in almost perfectly. Her eyes stare at you all, draining the colour from your cheeks and fingertips.
John Miksen
“My Queen. Well met!”
She inclines her head briefly, letting John know he has been acknowledged. “My knight, it bodes ill that you are hiding in such a place unfitting of your status.” She looks back at Jade “However the man of sand is yet to answer my question.”
John Miksen
“My Queen, I feel I’ve been reduced to a vagabond. And the man of sand has been reduced to silence”
She turns her gaze to Helga “You are here? Why? You put much at risk and risk bringing the wrought of those who wish to destroy upon these people.”
John Miksen
Jade turns slowly to meet to eye to eye with Andrew. He looks at him intensely for a second. He shakes his head from side to side(only by a small fraction) a few times very slowly. Then Jade turns to face the Queen again, rising his chin and striking the same pose.
ooc: you can see like his eyes are saying SHUT . THE . HELL . UP xD
Andrew frowns, but his eyes widen slightly as he meets Jade’s gaze. You see a minimal apologetic shrug, then he turns back to look at Helga, who currently seems to have her attention.
The winter queens gaze is quite piercing. She waits patiently for Helga to show the appropriate manners and respond.
Helga is looking at the Queen wondering, but Jade hasn’t answered her question! does that mean I can ignore her too? But she says, “Azazel had asked me to assist them.”
The winter queen turns her head slightly studying you. “So you follow the fallen one along with the man of sand? You are interesting…. But the man of sand is yet to answer my question.”
Her gaze is incredibly unnerving.
John Miksen
The man of sand is oathbound to silence
You see Andrew start to speak, but he closes his mouth again.
John Miksen
He has reached that place from which mortals fix to make their last stand
Is this passion not the reason you are drawn to us?
ooc: i have sinister music playing in the background right now
Jade steps towards John and places a hand on his shoulder. He nods and looks at the queen. He starts speaking in tongues, a language noone understands.
She watches him impassively waiting for his reply.
“Ich nack dook al matih. Isnastella arkik.” He goes on speaking some language you don’t understand.
She nods in understanding and replys in a similar manner.
John Miksen
To secure a word from the man of sand, you will have to make an oath with me
The room drops several degrees. She shifts her gaze directly to her Knight. “Explain.” Is all she says.
John Miksen
Our man of sand is at his limit
He lost his child to a deal he believes breaks the laws of contract
She raises an eyebrow “Explain”
Andrew is following this exchange with clear interest.
John Miksen
He had no memories. He was offered a bargain for his nemories.
She raises an eyebrow “His memories have returned.”
John Miksen
But how can a man with no past make a contract
Twere as if you bargained with a slave for his freedom? He has nothing to give.
The man of sand believes he was robbed, not traded with
Ooc: john pauses
ooc: is he now saying that giving a slave freedom with nothing in return is a bad thing? I don’t understand?
“The contract is made and the words were spoken. They are binding. It is binding.”
John Miksen
Says:i agree with him
ooc: bart I think it means, you asked a slave to give you his freedom, when he had none to give you
ooc; good point! got it 🙂
“That is irrelevant. The words were spoken and the contract was made.”
Jason comes into the room.
John Miksen
Now the man of sand will not give any further succour to our mission while you stand on a bargain made in bad faith

[at this point the werewolf returns from outside, just walking through the window]
Jason steps in and has no idea what’s going on. He comes in dangling a pair of keys in is fingers “Got us a new ride boys, better not mess this one up as well” than notice the hot chic in the corner, looks at her, lights his cigarette, smiles at her and says “wow, and who might you be?”
John Miksen
ooc: awesomeness
ooc: win ^^
he notice the icy silens
looks at you all
“What …?”
The temperature drops again. “Then the life is forfeit.”
Andrew is actually trying to stifle a laugh now.
John Miksen
John has a hint of a smile
” guys whats going on?”
She turns to John “do you concur?”
ooc: are we all like hypothermic by now?
Jason starts to grasp the weight of this conversation turns to Andrew and whispers “wait, dont tell me thats …”
It is visibly cold. The walls and floor have turn white with frost and ice.
whispers “oh shit!”
Jade sighs. He takes a long breath like deciding something then looks at the queen again. And speaks in tongues.
“I , I am sorry. I wasn told of your coming … your highness?! . I m not used to the presence of royalty”
” I , I will shut up now!”
She points to Jason and he freezes.
arkwardly by trying to make a bow he holds in a weird position
ooc: damn
Helga’s eyes are darting around among each person in the room, but the rest of her face is unreadable.
Andrew moves towards Jason to see whether anything can be done.
ooc: about unfreezing him, I don’t think he’s frozen solid?
He is literally frozen solid.
ooc: never felt cooler 😉
The Queen responds to Jade in a language you are not familiar with.
Jade is unconcerned with the wolf, full attention on the queen.
Andrew is staring daggers at the queen.
ooc: I’m tough. All focus on queen!!
ooc: so THIS is a fairy
ooc: wait for it…
ooc: shitting bricks here…
Helga watches the queen and Jade, concentrating on memorizing what they are saying. She burns the sounds onto her mind though she has no idea of the meaning.
They stop talking and Jade takes a step back.
John Miksen
John Micksen ignores the frozen werewolf
Jade steps back doing a very slight nod of recognition. Then looks at john and shakes his head negatively. [at this point Jade and I had a conversation in which he advised me against further negotiation]

John Micksen
John gets off of one knee and walks over to the window of the squat
As he does so he is slowly unbuttoning his shirt
oblivious to the cold
“You know, we had quite a party here,”
he says
“Organic vegan beer, vegan punk chicks, furries …”
“It was all happening.”
He pulls his shirt off, revealing a huge tattoo on his back
it’s some kind of snowflake, constructed out of a fine filigree of pale blue that stretches across his whole back
Jade raises an eyebrow.
John Miksen
if you look closer in the half light you can see it isn’t so much a tattoo as a network of veins and capillaries, filled with some sort of icy blue fluid
Helga takes one step back, ready to bolt in any direction
John Miksen
He turns back from the window
“Unfortunately, you turned up.”
He looks at the queen
“Fashionably late, of course, but making threats and demands like you always do”
Andrew looks at John
John Miksen
“I offer you advice, freely given.”
“You should get an MBA at one of the better institutions”
“Because your management style sucks”
He reaches behind him and touches his neck, just above the shoulders, where the network of snowflake pattenrs converges
Helga closes her eyes and sighs. Then she immediately reopens them
John Miksen
Slowly he draws his hand away and the tattoo comes with it, drawn slowly out of the skin. He hisses in pain as he does it, and you can see it takes all his effort to draw it out
After an excruciating couple of seconds the whole thing is out, hanging like a limp sack of anti-freeze from his frozen fingers.
“That’s going to be trouble…”
John Miksen
He throws it on the floor in front of the queen, where it shatters into a million pieces of ice that start to steam
“You are lost and confused, up against a god you don’t understand.”
“we are your only hope but you lie and trick us, rob us when we are desperate, cheat us.”
“You won’t tell us anything, you abandon us to the enemy you depend on us to fight.”
“You are senile, useless, empty, and now you have no winter knight.”
“go find someone who enjoys pointless service to the demented.”
“I’m off to find a beer.”
ooc: awesome!
John Miksen
“Made with meat”
And with that he walks out of the door
ooc: BAMM
John Miksen
ooc: if you want servants, don’t employ washed up anarchists
Andrew glances at Jason, then mutters under his breath “Not having a knight must be utterly horrible to her…”
Jade shakes his head slowly, sad look on his face. He nods to the Queen, and starts sinking in the ground.
Helga follows John out the door but once outside she goes off in a different direction from him
John Miksen
ooc: wise move!
ooc: sooo, is there gonna be a next session? Lol
ooc: it’s dark now right? believe it was night
The Queen laughs as John attempts to walk away to find himself caught in the doorway. The rooms temperature has dropped below zero. She ignores Jade as he sinks into the ground but turns towards Helga as she tries to move away, trapping her where she stands. She looks upon the werewolf and simply blows upon him and watches him fade out of sight. The she lifts John by the back of the neck and casts him back into the room.
Andrew tries to catch Jason, which obviously fails.
ooc: I’ve got the best instincts and I didn’t run lol. … Well couldn’t
John Miksen
ooc: I feel now is the time to observe that I am an ex anarchist with a composure of 4, who has watched everything he believes in dissolve into ruin, and child-fucking.
ooc: not the kind of person with much to lose, or much fear
ooc: sigh it’s hard when your allies have no survival instinct
ooc: wait, aren’t anarchists the people who like to have no rules?
Andrew fades out of view, appearing beside Jason
ooc: i m a freacking wolf and actually have a score for instinct 🙂 didn t help much 😉
Can jason move?
ooc: our scene goes on somewhere else
ooc: the afterlife 😛
John Miksen
ooc: this is seventy seven shades of fucked up
ooc: always was 😛
ooc: don’t try to deal with gods, they’ll always bite you in your ass
John Miksen
ooc: she’s not a god
ooc: possibly not, but as close to one as Andrew saw so far
John Miksen
ooc: well hang around for just a few more seconds …

[there follows a separate scene in another room, in which John is thrown around a lot and argues a lot; meanwhile Jade is outside running from angels. Wolf and mage are also transported somwhere else by the Queen, and have their own confrontation]
John reappears in the room
he is bleeding from several deep cuts, and looks haggard and drawn
He is also obviously using some kind of magic to warm the room
He yells “Where is the CHILD!?” as he does this
Helga yells, “Jason! Andrew!”
John Miksen
ooc: I should say “try and warm the room”
and in a softer tone, “…Jade!”
John Miksen
“Where is the CHILD!?”
John is looking around the room in a measured but angry way
His entire upper body is covered with goose pimples nad he is shivering
The room remains empty, but it is warming up considerably.
John Miksen
but he looks ferocious and full of joy
ooc: Jason and Andrew not here yet right?
John Miksen
ooc: furry stupid has come back insde [I am referring to my cat here, but at this point …]
You see a giant wolf smash through the window, tumbling along the ground.
ooc: hahahahaha
John Miksen
ooc: well that’s alright then
ooc: best timing ever
John Miksen
ooc: win!
ooc: Bart… this is your cue!
a big redbrown wolf
turns around and growls in ferious rage at the entrance door
you know something terrible must be outside this doors
John Miksen
ooc: I think a lot of punks must be dead
ooc: though the remaining punks probably will rally and attack
ooc: but it’s a shame the black bloc are out of town …
“Jason. What is outside?”
John Miksen
“where is the CHILD!?”
You see a blur in the air suddenly hurtling through the same window that was just broken by the wolf.
As the blur comes to rest, it seems to stabilize and fade into the background. You hear Andrew from there though “Fucking Angels again!”
John Miksen
“Where is the CHILD!?”
You hear a door smashing nearby followed by a sweltering heat that rushes down the corridor
John Miksen
John is on his knees in the middle of the room, tears running down his face
ooc: great… it’s extreme temperature day
ooc: any other escape routes other than the door that now is hot and the window?
John Miksen
“I WILL join the god machine!”
John Miksen
“I swear I will you wear you as a WATCH if you cheat me now ice queen!”
You all receive a text message. “Angels. I have the child.”
None of you have ever heard her speak so sharply
John Miksen
John stands up
fuck this: the wolf starts to grow
There are screams that turns quickly to gurgling sounds of pure agony. People run past you screaming and the room warms up more and more.
“Jason — the car?”
” No fucking shit. Which way did you have in mind?”
John Miksen
“We have done all we can”
jason is now in shape of a huge direwolf
“Fight through the angel with blade wings outside, or the fiery one inside?”
“The same ones? Sariel and the other one?”
“The same”
“Is anyone here able to open a portal to another plane or something???
Andrew moves towards the window. Still an angel standing outside?
John Miksen
John steps up to a space in the wall
It holds an ancient, grimy picture
the “belle dame sans merci” by waterhouse
or whatever
he pulls the picture back, there is a brief shimmer
and a hole opens in the wall
beyond it you see a land of ice and snow
“The fuck?”
John Miksen
it looks cold, windy, frozen
“Go now.”
“um… don’t tell me that’s the winter queen’s realm”
the wolf jumps in
John Miksen
“Do you care? Just get the fuck out of here, violinist”
She stares at you
Looking very reluctant
John Miksen
“I can’t hold this open forever you know”
He is visibly wilting in front of you
Andrew jumps through the portal “We’re going to have words about this… A great many.”
John Miksen
also, he is distracted becaues he is texting Jade
“Jade would never come again to Faerie would he”
ooc: again?
John Miksen
ooc: i really really really don’t want to but Helga mutters something under her breath and finally jumps in.
John Miksen
ooc: is that everyone?
ooc: yeah except jade
John Miksen
ooc: ’cause my precious little toosh is getting warm
OOC: Yep The angels hand reaches around the frame and it pulls itself through, its sightless sockets turning towards you. It hisses, the razors that comprise of its teeth glint in the light, its wings unfurl….
John Miksen
I’m out
I jump through and close the hedge behind me
if i can make the barbs of the hedge score that angels face I will consider myself to be a winner
It gives a roar and dives at the entrance as it closes behind John. The door slams shut and you find yourselves in a deep freezing snow, the wind howls and the snow comes down heavily. John stands before you, armoured in beautifully wrought plates of pure white, his appearance having changed considerably.
“John. you’re still the Winter Knight? HER Winter Knight?”
John Miksen
John looks at you all with frozen eyes
“We are in her realm. Do not stray from the path I cut for you.” [at this point I received a separate message from the GM: “You are now in faerie, you are changed. You will abandon anyone who cannot keep up. They are nothing to you]
“Then again, she did call you “my knight” as she disappeared… even though you had pulled out the mark from your body..”
John Miksen
“Speak to no one.”
“Give nothing, take nothing.”
He turns and begins to walk away
After a few steps he turns back to look at you
“This realm saps the will of the living. Too long here and you will… dissipate”
“We must leave as soon as we can. I know a way”
Andrew is visible again, apparently comfortable despite the cold. “I guess I should’ve taken my chances with the angels…”
John Miksen
John gives Andrew a look cold enough to freeze gin.
John Miksen [At this point I got word from the GM that in the land of faerie I am cruel, hard and cold – alien]
He turns away and walks through the snow
You notice that he does not struggle with the snow
He is cutting a wake
now he is ignoring you
the huge direwolf is following him
John Miksen
the wake closes behind him quite quickly
Shadows are gathering in the trees
the shadows move
“Well, there’s little more to it but to follow no?”
ooc: if i change im barefeet and shirtless, so ill be a doggie as long as we re in the cold

We emerged from Winter at Berlin station, on the platform for the train to Dachau, to find Jade standing on the platform with this son. Success! We had escaped the Angels and won an argument with the faerie queen … now we just had to work out what to do next …

All in one Thursday night on Facebook …

What shall we do with the drunken prisoner, what shall we do ...

What shall we do with the drunken prisoner, what shall we do …

My current role-playing group hold minor adventures away from gaming sessions using Facebook. After our first Iron Kingdoms session ended with the war-caster killing captain Mayhorn in cold blood, one of the players opened a whole new chat session in Facebook to discuss the implications. This led to a long debate, mostly in character, about the implications of slaughtering this upstanding man and what to do about it. After much debate, we finally decided that the PC in question would be whipped 40 times – 10 times by each other member of the group – in front of all our crew, to ensure that everyone knew that we only kill people in battle, and only the people the captain decides to kill.

One of the great things about these (often impromptu) Facebook sessions is that they give all the players a chance to craft what their PCs say, rather than just blurting it out. It turns out that Captain Breaker’s player is excellent at writing a pirate, and did a great job throughout the downtime of producing piratical theatre. Here, then, is his final speech in front of the gathered crew:

Men and women of the seas!! Stamp yer feet and cry to the skies for today you have all proven yourselves as deserving sea wolves!! It is because of your bravery and strength that we have triumphed against an enemy twice our size and might.

Sea Dogs and scum we might all be, but no man here can deny that we have left our bite in the arse of those that believe themselves better than us! Remember the dead me hearties! They reach to us from Urcaen, their eyes demand that we continue to amass riches enough to slake their thirst, so that on the day of our judgement we shall have hands of gold to share with them in the afterlife.

Aye, but there is reason to mourn on this day as well, for our victory is not without stain. Mourn?! you say, aye says your captain, for today an act of vile thuggery has robbed us of both further glory and respect as sailors. I speak of the murder in cold blood of former Captain Mayhorn. Officer Carmichael!!! STEP FORWARD!

I accuse you of murdering Captain Mayhorn right after he had given up arms and begged for quarter. An act that not only is dishonorable, but more importantly robs this company of possible ransom money. Know man, that the actions of one man could brand your captain and this crew as pirates if it is not duly punished!! This act of impiety breaks the rules of conduct of the sea and carries the penalty of death by hanging. Carmichael! Do you deny these charges?!! Explain yourself in front of all and God!

There followed an extended section where we all indicated how our characters responded, and how Carmichael bore it all. I think most of us would have been too shy to work through all this stuff in so much detail and dramatic style in person, so it was a really refreshing and interesting way to run group interaction.

This was also the first time I’ve been a member of a group that actually took a cold-blooded execution seriously. We were generally concerned about both the fact that it was done at all, and its implications for our future as Privateers. And without the GM having to enforce any penalties in-game for the act!

This isn’t the only good thing about running downtimes by Facebook – I’ll try and say more about that in the new year!—

picture credit: Captain Breaker’s player was responsible for the picture of Breaker (Left) and Hrif the Younger (right) discussing what to do with a prisoner.