Black Space: Lost Guardian 4. Monsters

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  • Smitty. (Brian) Captain. A focused spacer with a remote built in so he could control drones, gifted with sharp senses. He had a salvage kit and a drone named Jethro.
  • Gasper. (Jesse) Disfigured ship’s medic.
  • Jan Klaya. (Jeremy) Charismatic sword mystic.

Clyde Bruskin was so skilled with tech that he could put in twice the effective tech hours, better than other spacers, so they left him to get the parts put in. It would take the tireless spacer 13 hours to install the burner and the scrubber, so they were on the clock to get the administrative permission to take off.

They asked Jack who else could grant permission to take off, and he told them Lt. Commander 1st Class Anna Graymalkin could do it. She was logged in to the Belarra Preserve.

Three spacers armored up and headed through the Fringe all over Telmar Bay to go check out the entrance.

They found the entry, but it had a “stay out” pole with various heads and masks on it, and a rusted bulkhead that Smitty’s drone buzzed to find out the other side was a deep pit, and beyond that a door guarded by the purple tough guys.

Reexamining their map, they saw the Tarmaxians were adjacent, and connected; maybe they would help.

Doctor Duke

They approached the Tarmaxian entrance, a spare staircase leading up to a bulkhead, flanked by autogun turrets tuned to a sensor fence. Smitty stepped out to parlay, and a Tarmaxian came down the stairs to chat with him.

He explained the Tarmaxians were mercenary bounty hunter doctors with high tech, distant from various factions in an attempt to stay neutral. Their connection to the Belarra Preserve (or The Garden as the Gardeners call it) was sealed by mutual agreement, except in case of emergency.

Rather than offering errands, Duke discouraged them from working with him, as it carried a price too high because he had to assure their trustworthiness. On the other hand, he encouraged them to escape Telmar Bay, so he told them about how the Gardeners had their own Garden of Eden and would see spacers as “Softies” who were mythical deity figures to them. Smitty thanked Doctor Duke for his time, and they headed back to the Garden.

The Garden

They asked nicely, and the Gardner guard extended the ramp and ushered them into the Garden, taking them to meet the Floating King on the Drifting Throne. In a hollow flanked by cliffs, they saw the King, on a throne flanked by seats and supplies, mounted on the stripped foundation of a hover bus, a meter above the ground. His throne had a killer bird skull on a stick to control its drift, which was slowly to starboard most of the time. King Driftsless welcomed them as Softies and ordered a Righteous Party, where they arranged boulders for the Softies to sit on, and entertained them with various meat and plants. Klaya sat on the Drifting Throne by the King.

Gasper was impressing the Gardeners with his ability to eat anything, and he got chummy with Shaman Nobelt (who had a pot belly.) He casually asked after Graymalkin’s login, and Nobelt freaked out and accused them of being monsters. It was up to the spacers to prove they were Softies, not monsters, or they faced death!

Klaya appealed to the King that surely they were not monsters, calming things down some. The King set a challenge that only Softies (not monsters) could do; fix the drift of his throne. They lacked the proper tools to do so, but he pointed out there were tools in a nearby cave, only a family of 3 deathbirds were living there. They had an egg, though, and if they were defeated there would be another Righteous Party and this time they’d eat the deathbird egg too. They had one hour.

Deathbirds

The shaman led them to the cave; it was a garage. Smitty and Gasper took cover, and Klaya climbed up on top of the entry. Smitty shot at the birds, and they came out in a rush of fury; Klaya leaped down to ride one, missed, and ended up flat on her back with a deathbird stamping on her. It managed to wipe out her belt shield as she cut it badly.

The birds were gunned down by the spacers, and they checked out the garage, finding the big egg and also a back room with the necessary tools.

The Righteous Party

Returning to the King, Klaya took time to wash up while Smitty and Gasper worked on the throne; it was a puzzling design, and they were having trouble until they realized the stabilizing matrices were based on theremin technology, and they had to put their hands into the fields and do it manually. They fixed the throne.

The King declared himself anointed by the Softies as King Nodrift, and they had a righteous party that outshone the previous party. The spacers and the King also partook of the hardboiled deathbird egg, which was like rock candy mixed with teriyaki jerky (as close as their senses could interpret the new flavor and texture.) It was oddly affecting.

Shaman Nobelt took them to the Glowing Altar, hidden in a cliff. Graymalkin had been logged in for 425 years, and the Gardners prevented linguistic drift by watching her entertainment list, which included a lot of surfer shows and movies.

Feeling a strange reverence, the spacers enlisted Jack’s help to use Graymalkin’s credentials to authorize their escape. Then they looked deeper into the history of the ship.

Lost Guardian

The ship launched about 825 years ago, sister to the Colony Ship, aimed at a colony 2,000 years away. About 200 years out, they were hit by a cosmic mutagenic wave that killed or changed most of those on board; some made it to vaults built into the superstructure. Some engines exploded. Some engines ran on dimensional folding technology, so some parts of the ship were moved beyond detection or communication with the rest of the ship. Survivors mutated.

That was 625 years ago now. The vast self-replenishing ship could perhaps go on forever. It was over 100 miles long, some of that now in other dimensions. It was a mass of life and death dragged through the void that rivaled the density of some colonies on planets.

Downloading as much as they could into a data cube that they would have to build new technology to read, the spacers took what records they could and left the Glowing Altar as they found it. As the shaman said, push no red Xs, never turn it off. A snapshot to an ancient past.

Exodus

King Nodrift was so impressed with them he let them ride his giant red triceratops back to their ship. They were mounted on a howdah on its back, and they saw some of the chasekin who were after them run afoul of some of the teksuppar who were after them. But they made it back safe, boarding the ship, putting in the last few hours of work, and blasting out into space.

As they parted ways, they saw the ship from space. In the void, its viewports and energy leaks and damage and displays formed their own constellations against the cosmic background. Then the spacers turned their backs on the spectacle and resumed their journey in Medusa’s Scow, back to the world they knew.

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Blades in the Dark: Clockworkers. Shaver’s Row

BitD Title_01 by James Dudli

  • Pledge. (Elizabeth) An Akorosizan Slide.
  • Deadlock. (Shaun) A Dagger Islander Lurk.
  • Echo. (Iris) An Akorosian Whisper.
  • Needles. (Matthew) An Iruvian Cutter.
  • Zero. (Simon) An Iruvian Hound.

Ashes was out, but Echo, Needles, and Zero came back. Zero was musing about getting in to the goat trading industry, possibly stealing Sparticus, a handsome stud goat who was well protected and valuable.

Needles countered with a proposal to start aggression against the cult of the Dreaming God; her family had been burning tentacles for religious reasons, hoping to sour the dreams of cultists, and the crew could steal gems and pressed gold and other valuables from the cult.

Ultimately they decided they wanted to get some more turf. They evaluated two options.

Feathers and Lies is a group of runners and information brokers, young people generally, often connected to Strathmill’s orphan work mill. They could look into taking over management of that network.

Instead they targeted Shaver’s Row, the outdoor bazaar of booths and tents wrapped around the flank of the hagfish arena. Its transient low-paperwork environment made it ideal for fencing goods at a healthy profit, and the Clockworkers wanted to control it.

Scoping Out Shaver’s Row

They discovered that Captain Dimsworth was the bluecoat assigned to Shaver’s Row. He had a watch tower at the end of the Row, but also spent quite a bit of time in the Redbud, a tea house with a brothel as an open secret. The attractive building rising above the tents and shoddy booths was crowned with a radiant redbud growing on a glass dome on the roof, so it was very fancy. However, his investigations of the place got Zero banned.

On the Crow’s side, Marsden was the leader of the Crowfeathers, a big and violent gang that kept the crime in Shaver’s Row organized. Marsden had a rep for being volatile and unpredictable; he might laugh off bad news, or kill the messenger. His people were paranoid and alert. They also wore black and gray serapes and puttees on the legs, usually fighting with long paired knives tucked out of sight until it was killing time.

There were rumors that Marsden might be blackmailing Lyssa, the leader of the Crows, and that’s how he kept his spot in spite of being erratic and arrogant. Pledge checked with Baz to see if there was any secret dirt. Turns out Roric, the previous leader of the Crows, was safe from murder because his mother was a witch who swore to take revenge on the murderer.

But Lyssa may have worked something out to capture Roric’s spirit in a spirit jar of some kind, so his mother could have him with her all the time, and Lyssa could get away with murder. Still, the mother witch died a few months later, and then Marsden rose to power; Baz suspects Marsden has Roric’s spirit and is blackmailing Lyssa, threatening to have the dead leader identify her as his killer, putting her in a very difficult position.

Deadlock worked with Petra, the city clerk with access to restricted building permits. She knew that the plans to the tunnels under Shaver’s Row were risky to share, so she asked Deadlock to kill someone for her. He agreed he would, and she showed him the plans from before the new plumbing went in 30 years ago. The old ineffecient drains for emptying the hagfish arena and dealing with heavy rains were under the Redbud and parts of Shaver’s Row, providing the secret bases the Crowfeathers needed.

Infiltration

They decided to sneak into the secured Crowfeathers underground beneath the Redbud to steal Roric’s spirit jar. As they started up the tunnel, dozens of bluecoats assembled outside, shouting that the place was surrounded; they even brought an electroplasmic light and shined it up the big drain, almost catching the crew before they ducked around the corner.

In ducking around the corner, they came face to face with two Crowfeather guards. While some of the crew swooned and faked surprise and babbling explanations, that was a cover as the others jumped and slew one guard. The other tried to get away, but didn’t get far before hurled weapons and needles from a trick cane killed him. The crew finished lowering the gate into Crowfeather territory, and hid the bodies while Pledge dressed up like a Crowfeather in case further deception was needed.

Echo had difficulty locking on to the signal of a spirit jar, with the death all around and the black emptiness of hagfish nearby. They continued to explore, hearing sounds of battle upstairs, noting that the Crowfeathers had an “all hands on deck” situation upstairs.

They found two more doorguards, a clear sign they were close to something important. They faked the “guard and prisoner” act and got close enough to murder both guards, then they opened the door and found themselves face to face with a hull guarding the hallway.

The crew convinced the hull that it had forgotten the password, and they had said the password and it was right but the hull forgot, and that there was a new password anyway so the old one didn’t matter; the brow-beaten and confused hull let them through.

They found an underground lounge. It had a heavily protected double door, a well protected door with the Crowfeather sigil on it, and a relatively unprotected locked door. They used Deadlock’s expertise to break into the Crowfeather’s vault room.

All the Loot

They found piles of treasure, and chose to take a selection.

  • A skull with crystal lenses over the eye holes that held Roric’s furious spirit. 1 load.
  • 2 big ledger books with coded entries. 1 load each.
  • Small ingots of Skovlander silver with the Skov mint printed on them; 6 bricks, 1 load/Coin each.
  • A lockbox. 3 loads.
  • The Mantle of Feathers, a rare treasure made of Deathseeker Crow feathers and parts (2 loads)

Loaded down some, but not too much, they crossed the lounge to the poorly protected door. The north-facing arches under this area all had a star, to help navigate; Deadlock discovered that much in his work with Petra. And to the south there were sluiceways in parallel, with too many entries to be guarded or sealed, so if they could go south they’d get out.

As they retreated, they heard exasperated Crowfeathers yelling the password “brisket” to the hull, who furiously insisted it had been changed, and was bawling them out and angry all around.

On the way out they passed a vampire in a Crowfeather outfit just laying on the ground out beyond the secured tunnels, so they yelled that the way was open if he wanted to go in, and kept running, hoping he wasn’t interested in them. (Turns out he wasn’t.)

They made a clean getaway.

Fallout

They found out a whisper named Eightydeath stormed the Redbud and slew a number of Crowfeathers over some personal issue, that’s why the bluecoats were trying to isolate the establishment.

In digging around the clocktower lair, they found an old lockbox area for valuables and tools, and converted it seamlessly to serve them as a vault.

Petra was swept up by the bluecoats for questioning, as there were irregularities in the records of who accessed the tunnel schematics. Deadlock worked through his bluecoat friend Darmot to pay off the right people and get her released before there was any real pressure.

They set up backchannel diplomacy to arrange a meeting with Lyssa, in the hagfish arena. There they gave her the Mantle of Feathers and Roric’s skull, and in exchange she gave them stewardship over Shaver’s Row on behalf of the Crows. (More or less.) They parted ways amicably.

For the rest of the downtime they dealt with stress issues, cleared off the substantial heat from the operation, and started breaking the code on the ledger books. They also started striking up a relationship with Madame Phylo, the madame of Redbud, to get her as an NPC contact. Meanwhile Zero was caught padding around underground, and that’s his second strike; the Redbud staff will want to kill him next time he’s caught on their property (though the change in circumstances may change that result.)

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Black Space: Guardian Ship 3. Permissions

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There is our new logo by Vandel Arden! Back to the adventure in progress:

  • Smitty. (Brian) Captain. A focused spacer with a remote built in so he could control drones, gifted with sharp senses. He had a salvage kit and a drone named Jethro.
  • Clyde Bruskin. (Mr. S) Tech and all around tough guy.
  • Jan Klaya. (Jeremy) Charismatic sword mystic.

Smitty released the drone to inform the Bounders that they had Scratched Skull’s cybernetic skull to trade, and they headed back to the safety of the ship. They took Dollface, the tall and muscular teenage mutant, and the small mushroom creature, Gnobbly. They got back to their crashed ship, Medusa’s Scow, and found that the archaic work of the repair drones on the hull damaged some internal systems. Gasper would need to stay behind and monitor the life support systems to make sure everything remained stable.

Waiting to Trade

They offered Dollface some food, and she rejected their processed space rations and took a stick out to hunt for local plants and animals. She told them about the Fringe, genetically altered bioweaponry that they encountered before; dangerous plants that threatened the Garden where she lived. She brought back food that looked unappetizing (to the point where Smitty ate space rations, thank you very much) but everyone else tried the local food.

Gnobbly wanted to talk to Klaya, and spritzed her with telepathic spores, so they entered the same consciousness and Gnobbly told her a little about his people, and how they lived under the deck plating of Telmar Bay (as well as many other places) and lived in circles that were telepathically tight with each other. She learned about their antipathy with the Teksuppar, who were apparently people where when the Event happened and everyone was dying, the Simulated Intelligence forcibly took over a medical ship and forced it to try and save the dying even without the guidance of doctors. A series of regrettable decisions led to these insane screaming hive mind cannibal cyborgs. Teksuppar and shroomvolk kill each other on sight. (Klaya and Gnobbly got quite chummy.)

Bruskin tried to log in to the Simulated Intelligence system and use the bracelet they acquired from the corpse of Captain Joseph to grant permission for Medusa’s Scow to take off whenever they were ready. That way they could carry the bracelet around to deal with local permissions as needed, and still have a safe take-off arranged. An unexpected surge of security invalidated the bracelet. Now they would have to find another way to get permission to leave the Guardian Ship.

Eventually the bounders showed up, and transmitted to Jack’s datapad where they hid the scrubber, then they took the skull and left. The crew retrieved the scrubber and took it back to the ship to be installed.

Two Components Left

They needed to get a multiphasic burner catalyst, and it was mounted at the top of the shaft by the Teksuppar base in Lift Control Substation 86. And, they also needed to get permission from the Simulated Intelligence for take-off, since the Captain’s authorization credentials were scrubbed.

The Ambush

They decided to lure some teksuppar in for an ambush, to look over their cybers and corpses to make convincing disguises so they could infiltrate the base with a minimum of violence. They had Jack put in a tech support ticket, then they picked a spot between the Teksuppar base and their ship. They tore up some deck plating and rearranged the greenery to make an arc of pit trap, then set up the ambush.

Klaya’s danger sense sent them scurrying; she hid in the door of the hull of a hill/ship, and Smitty took up a sniping position on top. Clyde was going to head to a shooting position, but Dollface slowed him down, flirting with him, until it was too late. (Her affection for his sturdy, fuzzy frame was growing at an alarming rate.)

The teksuppar agents included a gimp hound in the lead, followed by a deer/centaur lightning-armed leader, flanked by cyber-minotaur muscle agents. The scout was shot immediately, and one of the minotaurs chased Klaya into the ship, blasting steam and slinging an axe, until they made it to the bridge area which was overrun with Fringe growths. Klaya put him down, but it was a terrifying solo battle in close quarters.

Outside, the other minotaur charged Dollface and Bruskin, and fell through the deck plating trap, never to be heard from again. Bruskin leaped over the gap with an assist from Dollface, charging into hand to hand with the centaur deer borg as Smitty kept his guns firing; together they brought it down.

The Other Ambush

They retreated with the needed parts, components, and outfits of the fallen teksuppar to make their disguises. Dollface was finally so enamored of Bruskin that she tried to have her way with him, and he rebuffed her and held her off at gunpoint; sullen and angry, she ran off.

Gnobbly showed up with grav belts to help them with their venture, and wished them luck (though there was no way he’d go on such a dangerous mission.) Klaya expressed their thanks by giving Gnobbly a psychic impression of meditation in the deep void of space, for him to share with this circle.

Klaya’s “allclear trigger” was calibrated to teksuppar communications frequencies, apologetically reporting to the hive mind that they were rebooting their drivers and would be available for wireless connection shortly. It would have to do. They dressed as industrial-techno-goth as they could, and headed for the ship elevator.

Infiltration

They passed the spider-like teksuppar guarding the elevator and service shafts, and reactivated a guide chain so they could connect to it and be slowly dragged to the top of the shaft. The allclear responded to a number of queries, its battery starting to go.

They reached the top of the shaft and saw a massive area full of ruined trash, biological and technical. Then they reached the multiphasic burner catalyst at the top of the shaft. They climbed out, disconnecting it, just as the last allclear trigger activated; they were on the edge of being discovered, when catastrophic bad luck bent one of the housings holding the burner, and it tilted over, peeling metal as it began falling down the shaft, banging so both Klaya and Bruskin fell off.

Smitty managed to throw them a gravity belt, and they caught it to slow their fall. He also managed to pivot the burner so it pointed up; a dozen teksuppar leaped down the shaft to kill them, but were microwave burned to the point of disintegration. The hurtling burner caught all 3 of the spacers, and they managed to turn the unmoored engine of destruction and fire it to slow their descent. At the bottom of the shaft, they fired it again so it went out, and then used it as a wingless rocket to escape the converging mass of teksuppar. A short distance away, after landing, they redistributed the grav belts and quickly dragged the burner home to the ship.

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Black Space Interview on the Gauntlet!

http://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/the-gauntlet-podcast/episode-114-black-space-with-andrew-shieds

I was invited to be interviewed on the Gauntlet with Jason Cordova for Black Space!

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Black Space: Guardian Ship 2. Exchanges

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  • Smitty. (Brian) Captain. A focused spacer with a remote built in so he could control drones, gifted with sharp senses. He had a salvage kit and a drone named Jethro.
  • Gasper. (Jesse) Disfigured ship’s medic.
  • Clyde Bruskin. (Mr. S) Tech and all around tough guy.
  • Jan Klaya. (Jeremy) Charismatic sword mystic.

Wake Up, Sleepyhead

Klaya was thawed out on the ship; the bridge officer had been gone more than 4 hours, so protocol woke up someone else. Suffering from hibernation sickness, she was spotted through the cockpit window by a droid on the ship, and it scanned her; she used her allclear trigger so it registered her as authorized.

She got to a com unit and put in a call to the crew, who were drinking with the chasekin. They promised to return immediately. Gnawdit would escort them. The next day they would come by at the beginning of the sunup cycle to pick up Rabadab, then they’d take him to the exchange point and get 600 feet of coaxial cable in exchange.

Using their bracelets, they bypassed the robots that Jack had called up to guard their ship. (They gave Klaya a bracelet.) After Gasper checked Klaya over somewhat brusquely and determined she was okay, Bruskin went into the ship software and disabled the “wake up other passenger” protocols (somewhat optimistically.) The captain broke out some liquor to give everyone but Gasper a pleasant buzz, and they passed the night in relative peace.

Climbing to the Exchange

The next morning they reviewed the security footage of what the bots shot at in the night; an emu like bird, some chasekin, whatever. They asked Jack of the bots could stand guard and repair the hull breaches, and Jack agreeably issued new orders.

They met up with Gnawdit, who was annoyed that he had to pull back. They pretended to try to get the bots to not shoot the chasekin, but without ident badges it wasn’t possible (fortunately.)

Klaya used her image enhancer to look bigger and stronger, to intimidate the chasekin (who really liked the effect.) They continued on to the base of the service lift up to the chasekin lair, and picked up Rabadab, who was in bad shape; dehydrated with blood loss, broken leg, cuts all over. Gasper patched him up and gave him some painkillers, and they hauled the battered rabbitman with them. Jack marked the rendezvous point on their datapad maps. The chasekin stayed behind to await their return.

They headed to the elevator leading up, finding it overgrown. Clyde used his energy prybar to cut the greenery off the door, but when they opened it there was a pulsing heart-like meat/plant wad suspended by vine cables. They shot it to pieces, then pulled back as the walls trembled with the thrashing of vines and branches grown up behind them.

They decided to take the stairs.

Up and up and up, finally they were lit up by little laser sight dots, and they spotted the rabbitish snipers with cyber-limbs and platforms. They reached the rendezvous spot to parley with an armored rabbit cyborg, who claimed Rabadab and hooked him to a crawler bot that carried him up the wall (but not before Smitty flicked a tracer onto the bot.)

The attached office had the 600 feet of coaxial cable, draped over Clyde and Smitty.

The rabbit person in armor told them the bounders put a tracer in Scratched Skull’s head cyber, and if he ever got in an exposed position, they’d be ready with sniper rifles. Now he hides in his office, out of range. The spacers asked about the supplies they need, and the armored bouncer offered them an atmospheric scrubber if they brought Scratched Skull’s head on a plate. The armored bounder put a mod in Smitty’s drone, and said they could use the drone to notify the bounders if they wanted to take them up on the deal.

Back Down to the Chasekin

As they headed down the branching gantries and stairs, they disrupted a massive wasp nest infestation. Klaya leaped off the stairs onto the vines, sliding down out of range and swinging back onto the stairs, as Gasper sprinted down the stairs. Smitty and Clyde couldn’t move fast enough. As they fended off the mass of huge stinging wasps, Smitty got out his sticky demolition charge and was smearing it around the wasp nests when he fell off, banging his knees and head and jerked to a halt by the coaxial cable connecting him to Clyde (who took a beating, dragged to the railing and covered in wasps.)

Clyde swung Smitty back onto the steps, cut the cable, and raced down the stairs. They outran the wasps, and headed to the bottom of the stairs, on the ground, where they rested and regained their breath (and hit points.)

Walking back to the chasekin territory, they had earnest conversation about what to do. They also passed some repair bots cutting plants back and fixing a ship that was well beyond repair. They didn’t interfere.

Victory

They headed up the slow lift, and Scratched Skull was delighted to see them. As the chasekin pulled out a drink for everyone to share, Jan distracted them with a show of martial prowess of the Grass Mantis type, sparring with Gnawdit. Gaspar measured out a huge dose of sedatives, and Smitty tipped it into the drink without the chasekin noticing.

Relaxed and safe at home, the chasekin drank to their success. About the time everyone got woozy, the spacers shot the runt of the chasekin (who didn’t get a drink) and Klaya struck Gnawdit’s head from his shoulders with her vibroblade.

Moving fast, the spacers stuffed Scratched Skull’s severed head in a bag, slew the drugged chasekin, retrieved Captain Josephe’s identity bracelet from the mummy hanging on the wall, and freed the little mushroom person and buxom mutant teenager from the chasekin cages.

The freed prisoners asked for asylum before making their way home, and the spacers agreed. No one wanted to use the slow lift, so they used a ladder arrangement instead. It still took a while to get all the way down to the bottom, but they faced no guards, and made a clean getaway back to the ship.

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Blades in the Dark: Clockworkers

BitD Title_01 by James Dudli

  • Pledge. (Elizabeth) An Akorosizan Slide, bffs with Baz (leader of the Lampblacks) and frenemy with Nyrx (a prostitute.)
  • Deadlock. (Shaun) A Dagger Islander Lurk, bffs with Darmot (a bluecoat) and frenemy with Frake (a locksmith.)
  • Ashes. (Kristy) An Akorosian Spider, bffs with Salia (an information broker) and frenemy with Jerren (a bluecoat archivist.)

While Pledge and Deadlock were passing the time in the snug of the public house built into the base of their secret clocktower hideout, a woman came to hire them (asking after the Clockworkers, so now they have a name). Her name was Ellsfielder, and she wanted them to steal a big two-handed goblet from Master Slen Dallicore, the Guildmaster for the Docker’s Guild. She offered them 6 Coin if they handed over the item, and 2 more if they did so with no casualties and they were not connected to the job.

Preparing the Goblet Heist

They had a month to check it out, so they took their time. Deadlock worked with his beggar friend to case the joint, and found that the ancestral home used to be the tower overlooking dockside operations. Over the generations each new head of the household built more around the central spire, so the house was something of an uninspired pile. It only had a third as much staff as expected. The problem couldn’t be money, so what’s up with that? They discovered the butler for the place, Ebenet, as old money frustrated as a servant to new money.

Pledge cozied up to him while he was dockside, hunting through the “gray market” for vintage wines to build up his master’s collection. She leaned on her noble background, and found Ebenet fascinating, so the young butler confided in her his frustrations. It was difficult to manage a household when there were so many spring traps, even though they were identified by a small red triangle. And the central showcase, the cruelty of defending it with caul piercers; thorns that could rupture the spirit’s “skin” so life energy leaked from people, making it very dangerous to go to–and he shut up.

So the inner vault would be at the top of the tower, or under it. Deadlock got some help getting city blueprints, and discovered that the top of the tower was protected as a historic site, and could not be substantively renovated. Below the tower, then. The clerk who helped Deadlock was named Petra, and she had an “admirer” stalking her that she wanted Deadlock to discourage. He agreed.

Ashes wandered back from her opium safari, and combined those plans with some of her own blueprints from when the tower got permits for building off and on. She checked into this goblet, and its title was the Goblet of Eletrachtian; studded with obsidian stones, it allowed an adept to use some demon blood for a ritual to see what the demon remote viewed for a week or so. Also, the city council tasked the Dallicore family with protecting it on behalf of the city. Salia, an information broker, helped her get this information but wanted a smuggler’s tally book in return.

They also discovered from Ebenet (who developed an infatuation with Pledge) that the defenses were managed primarily by Three Sheets, a Whisper who lived out in Tangletown. Posing as buyers for security, they got in to see Three Sheets, who fell asleep with boredom. Talking to his rep, they found that the he specialized in spirits in crystals, and was tremendously expensive even for a basic system.

Infiltrating the Dallicore Tower

Equipped with old blueprints and knowledge of some of the dangers inside, the crew picked a rainy night and broke in to the grating that let some of the runoff from the many roofs down to the street level. They had to hurry to get in before a parade passed by the location, and Pledge was badly chilled clambering up the runoff pipe in the gush of cold water. They made it up into an old expansion, and Deadlock scouted enough to help Ashes read the floor plans so they found their way to a doorway leading to the central shaft.

Deadlock picked the lock, avoiding the trap on it, and they made it in to the central exhibition hall. There were masks and artwork from all over the Empire on display, but that distinctive loot was not what brought the rogues. They headed down the stairs, and Deadlock barely leaped back before spikes popping out through the stair rise took his feet off. Careful, they proceeded to the floor, where the center of the room was dominated by a dormant fountain.

The Vault

They realized there was a collapsing spiral staircase built around the fountain, and studied possible triggers, determining some of them were caul piercers. With Pledge’s help, Deadlock discovered the right trigger. As the spiral staircase dropped, it also played a dirge-like fanfare, which was sure to bring guards to the chamber–time to hurry.

They hustled down the stairs, skipping the traps now that they knew what to look for, and got to a chamber with more esoteric artwork and a locked double door. With the clock ticking, Deadlock defeated that lock as well, and they entered a room lined with lances that carried battle pennants from different branches of the Dallicore family tree. In the center of the room, a twice-too-big suit of armor with a huge sword. As they investigated the room, the armor animated, and came at them with vast sweeps of its blade, glowing from inside. They displaced a number of lances trying to search the room while guards were coming and the construct was lashing out at them, but could not find the goblet, so they beat a hasty retreat back up the stairs.

They barely made it up the stairs and into shadows before Dallicore showed up in his nightgown, with six armored plumed guards. He whispered an incantation to a crystal he clutched in his fist, presumably to power down the defenses, and sent the guards downstairs.

Rather than engaging, the crew stealthed around back up to the stairs and escaped the way they came in.

Downtime

Ellsfielder was grimly disappointed at their failure, but Pledge persuaded her to pay them 2 Coin for all the information they acquired on traps and the potential location of the goblet. They pointed out they didn’t have their whisper and were not prepared to tackle supernatural threats. Ellsfielder paid them on the condition that they would undertake another mission for her (and her mysterious employer) but this time they would succeed. After all, the Clockerworkers were savvy (as their rep attested), and they all came back without leaving any clues as to their identity, so it wasn’t a complete failure.

Ashes’ supplier, Sarong Scaler, was swept up by the bluecoats for questioning. Rather than risk any sort of blowback, Ashes bribed the bluecoats with 1 Coin to get her supplier back on the street, no harm done.

Ashes also seduced a smuggler, cozying up to him for a round of enjoyment so she could incapacitate him and steal his ledger book, squaring her account with Salia.

The crew shed some stress in their various vices. Pledge chose to take their shaky doctor, Feelgood, to the theater. While they were touring backstage, he wandered off and fell down a trapdoor, breaking his arm and witnessing a clandestine deal between Kaneldor (a Hive negotiator) and some actor. Pledge had to intervene to save his life, and the crew took a hit on their reputation from bowing to a little Hive abuse to protect Feelgood. (Pledge overdid her vice and risked a cohort.)

Pledge also worked with her new friend Booker to prepare some buyers for her genealogy book. Deadlock took over, involving his noble friend Kellis, and got a tea party set up where they could manage some potential buyers. Pledge spent a Coin for 1 more down time action to seal the deal, and they got paid 6 Coin for the musty old records.

Deadlock also crept into the house where Petra’s admirer was sleeping with his wife, and woke him with some choice words murmured in his ear (and a razor near his anatomy). He agreed his days of admiring Petra were over.

Preparing the Kryvanntic Heist

Ellsfielder came back to the Clocktower to recruit them for the mission they promised. This one shouldn’t need a whisper. They were to get to Dr. Kryvanntic, a Severosi scholar engaged in unsavory research with radiant materials in humans and animals. He fled his home country, but found powerful patrons among Doskvol’s aristocracy, so he could continue his work here unchecked.

He recently came into possession of two stout handsomely bound volumes, Naladicha’s Cartography. The books were supposed to contain esoteric maps of the Ghost Field; the details are not important. His house was over in Brightstone, far from their usual field of operations, but at least they didn’t have any enemies there.

Deadlock and his beggar friend Telda scouted the place, finding a 20 foot wall with broken glass on top surrounding the triangular shaped site, and all nearby trees cut down. The place was plenty secluded.

Booker once again assisted Pledge in asking around more rarefied circles about the good Doctor, collecting a few horror stories about his experiments but more usefully finding out that he would see patients who suffered from maladies of the mismatch of spirit and flesh, like radiant dosing or hollowing.

A Mysterious Malady

They found a wicker wheeled bath chair in their endless piles of junk in the tower, and disguised Ashes as Pledge’s ill aunt. Deadlock dressed the part of a servant, and pushed the chair, while Pledge covered them with the umbrella as best she could.

As they approached the house, two saggy fist-sized mushrooms screamed, alerting the house to their arrival. In the narrow alleyway leading to the door, twenty foot walls on both sides, they were alarmed to see a 70 lbs. panther like creature on the roof of the house, prowling down to pounce, its eyes glowing with weird light.

Dr. Kryvanntic poked his head out the window at the last minute and blew on a whistle he kept around his neck, silencing the screaming mushrooms. The great cat backed off, and Pledge convinced the doctor to look at her aunt. The doctor let them in, and they entered the stink of a place more laboratory than living space. Engaging in some slap-stick shenanigans, Pledge and Deadlock bumbled at the doctor so while she distracted him Deadlock could retrieve the whistle from around his neck without him noticing. He went to “get a glass of water” for the ailing aunt, disappearing up the stairs.

Time ran short as the doctor prepared a series of truly horrifying syringes for injections to test Ashes’ condition, and upstairs Deadlock blew a low steady whistle as he desperately tossed the place. He saw a reading room with two shiny black-bound volumes, quickly checked that’s what he was after, and he slid them into pocket harnesses he had prepared ahead of time for his outfit. He also saw a window out to a nice bench under a willow tree that twitched its whips with mad violence, and its base was decorated with bones. Better not to try and leave that way.

Deadlock returned downstairs just as the doctor prepared to inject Ashes, who screamed and had a seizure, falling off the table. Before they could restrain her, and after Deadlock replaced the whistle on the doctor’s person, Ashes sprang to her feet. She ran off, to the consternation of her minders, and while the doctor blew the whistle so they wouldn’t be ambushed, they sprinted away from the house, risking a dash through traffic that startled some goats. They hopped on to a gondola and vanished into the city traffic before the doctor realized he had been robbed.

Downtime

Ellsfielder was quite happy with the outcome, and paid the agreed 8 Coin, bolstering the crew’s fledgeling rep. On a less happy note, the Brightstone bluecoats swept up Telda, a beggar spotted around the now angry doctor’s residence. Through ways and means the crew spent a Coin to retrieve Telda before any harm was done.

Pledge cleared off the crew’s minimal Heat, then did some training, as did the others after taking care of stress as needed.

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Guardian Ship 1: Crash

Black Space Hack Banner

The salvage ship Medusa’s Scow was headed to the Bray Reach to salvage a failed colony. Contractually, most of the crew were sleeping in cryo for the 8 month trip. Three of the crew were awake for the journey.

  • Smitty. (Brian) Captain. A focused spacer with a remote built in so he could control drones, gifted with sharp senses. He had a salvage kit and a drone named Jethro.
  • Gasper. (Jesse) Disfigured ship’s medic.
  • Clyde Bruskin. (Mr. S) Tech and all around tough guy.

They ran across a massive ship in space, over 50 kilometers long, and its archaic (and since outlawed) weapons sheared through their defenses. They were pulled in, battering through the hull of the craft and rolling over a couple times in the jungle of its interior before the crash halted.

What’s Going On?

They made sure the cryo tubes were alright, but didn’t wake the rest of the crew. The atmosphere in the jungle outside was breathable, but they still opted to wear space suits. They saw that a force field held the breach, and the metal would eventually be repaired. They headed out to scout their strange surroundings, heading for a massive beam of light a couple kilometers away in the vast open space.

Then wavering howls split the air, and they were attacked by wolf-men. They shot up the pack hunters, and retreated as the pack gathered and pressed their advantage. Clyde got to the gun control, but only could get the flak and main cannon online, not as useful as could be hoped. The other two fought off hunters until they fell back into the airlock, escaping into the ship. Clyde played painfully loud music on the PA to chase the hunters off. Smitty had intimidated them, but it was not enough to chase them off for good. He got his drone ready for some further reconnaissance, and they got the computer damage reports back.

Damage Reports

They needed a few things to escape back into space.

  • Atmospheric micro-scrubber unit. Otherwise life support wouldn’t hold. About the size of a cooler chest, installation is 10 technician hours.
  • Multi-phasic burner catalyst. Manages energy flow. Otherwise, won’t have enough to get where we’re going. About 300 lbs, 15 feet across. 20 technician hours to install.
  • Administrative access. Otherwise the ship will just collect them back in again.
  • 10 technician hours to get the hull fixed enough.

They noticed a figure approaching the ship, undisturbed by the hunters. It turned out to be Jack, a humanoid interface of the Simulated Intelligence, Guardian Ship (or Sigs.) Jack brought them a tablet with maps, and a yellow clearance bracelet. Jack’s job was to make their stay comfortable and help them with anything they needed while in Telmar Bay.

He told them the multi-phasic burner catalyst was in Alta Durel. He also told them that Commander Josephe could alter their clearance, and when pressed, admitted he had not been available for an appointment in over 400 years. He was in the Sorrel Control Station. They decided to head that way, and they figured the beam of light (a spaceship elevator) was their best bet.

They also complained to Jack of being attacked, so Jack put in a ticket with tech support to address the issue.

Teksuppar

They traveled through the twisting jungle floor, and interrupted some men who were raiding the interior of a ship for supplies. (Turns out all the hills around them were overgrown ships.) They warily let each other pass. The captain did ask Jack to assign extra security to their ship, until it could leave; it cued to their bracelets to allow them to come and go uninterrupted.

They reached a burned off area with poles sporting dead wolf creatures, and there they were confronted with the Teksuppar, miserable cyborgs consumed with pain and hate. Two of the Teksuppar attacked, one with an energy flail and the other a retractable cyber machete. The crew managed to put them down, though Clyde took a hit. (He was able to walk off the damage.)

More Teksuppar were coming, so Smitty managed to run forward and put in a bulk sealant collapsable patch to trap the Teksuppar in the administrative building at the base of the ship elevator long enough for them to escape.

Into the Fire

Returned to the road through the woods, they were confronted by the reddish hunt leader of the wolf creatures, Gnawdit. They talked briefly of a possible alliance, then Gnawdit led them through the jungle to a hidden freight elevator, and they rode it up for 40 minutes to get up near the roof of the Bay. They entered the hunters’ lair, the Sorrel Control Station.

There they met Scratched Skull, a cyborg hunter. They also saw a wall of trophies, with Captain Josephe as its centerpiece, a mummy with a red wristband. They saw cages of prisoners, including a rabbit that looked almost dead from beating, and a mushroom person, and a mutant teenage girl.

Seeing that they could maybe do a deal, Scratched Skull tasked the visitors with managing a prisoner exchange; the half-dead rabbit thing named Rabbadab back to the Bounders, his people, in exchange for 600 feet of coaxial cable. Smitty wanted the bracelet in exchange, but Scratched Skull was too canny, and instead counteroffered with security for his ship until he could leave.

They drank to their new partnership.

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