Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Entity 1

The party decided the best course of action was to first see if the Entity was still in its cage. Using the map, they traveled through jumpspace and into the center of the Black Zone, where they found a tiny red dwarf and a barely-habitable planet. On the surface, little existed but hardy weeds and a single life sign. They set down on the surface, hoping to gain more information on this creature.

Caution won out; they were far enough away that when the enormous creature burst out that it was too far away to do much. It hurled rocks at them, but didn't manage to ever get within punching range (sadly, because it hit like a tank). Though everyone fired all manner of weapons at it, it shrugged off the damage (toughness 25 will do that!). It glanced a rock off one of the robots, but took a boomer round to the face from Gus. The next round, the bomber carrying Nae and Lt. Vance was in position; its forward guns did little to hurt the monster, but the large bomb they dropped did some damage. A well-aimed Gatling Laser through its face ended the battle as abruptly as it started; the creature crumbled to dust, as the party reacted with no little surprise. Gus suggested that, perhaps, Not-Grainer was actually the Entity, and this was the only creature that could have killed him. Man, I should have thought of that!

But no, the creature was dead, and Not-Grainer is actually one of the good guys - he's just super busy trying to keep the rest of his race from deciding to end the universe, or something. Anyway, a careful investigation of the cave the creature lived in revealed very little (a stone chair, a basin with water, some weeds that seemed to be what it ate). The jump pod just outside that proved most useful. It seems that the Entity was not this beast after all; somehow, the Entity had managed to escape, and left the creature behind as a decoy, likely to fool any investigators. The Entity had escaped almost 27 years before - just before the original Shifting Horizon had launched, in fact, which Gus was quick to point out.

They tested the crowbar, and found it worked surprisingly well; jumpspace exclusion zones were completely ignored. They traveled on to Pi Solaria to investigate the serial number from the pod, and got the name of the company that purchased it; they also took the time to make a hefty profit. With the jumpspace map, they were able to secure an awesome deal - 2 billion credits, in hand, and stock options worth 2 million a year! A lot of money for them, but barely a drop in the bucket for Solaria Corp. Solaria Corp will likely sell upgrades for a million or more, though it amounts to little more than a software upgrade. With hundreds of millions of ships in the galaxy, they stand to make considerable profit. They only need to sell 2,000 upgrades to cover their costs, as it is. The party left soon after, slowed only a few minutes by a riot outside, which they neatly sidestepped. Their presence scared away the protesters, but did not calm anyone down... hopefully, that won't come back to haunt them.

The company that bought the jump drive was a shell company, though they did find the name of a scientist, who just so happened to be part of a symposium on nearby Nahundi; but first, a stop by L20 industries! With their next-generation jump drive, they made the trip in half the time, and were able to sell the map a second time, for another 2 billion credits, before news of the first sale arrived. Having a fast ship is nice that way - being able to travel faster than information is a good skill to have. They put in an order for a fleet of ships, power armor, and some mechs, then left to investigate Nahundi.

They were welcomed with open arms, and even invited to speak - as it turns out, the symposium was about the jump space barrier, and how to get through or around it. Most of the scientists didn't even know about the barrier. The party set up a recruitment table, where Eliza attracted quite a few scientists who likely didn't understand that they were signing up to be soldiers, and probably won't care as long as they can stand next to Eliza.

Meanwhile, the party found where the scientist was staying, and when no one came to answer their knock, Gus scanned the room - and found a fairly cool corpse. Oh dear. Julian ordered the door knocked down; Gus managed to... barely scratched the surface. Nae, sighing and rolling her eyes, planted a firm kick and popped the door open. It was only after they splintered the door jam that the two androids remembered they had lockpicking skills...

Inside, the cause of death was fairly obvious - a sniper round through the chest, via the window, likely from the hotel across the courtyard. The scientist died the previous day. For once, the party decided to actually involve the authorities; the man behind the desk paled when the death was mentioned, and broke down under (gentle, because Kiri wasn't there) questioning. The symposium had gotten death threats from JiC, but the hotel failed to report them. If that new ever got out, the hotel would have quite a bit of trouble. And not just the assassination, either, because...

Screaming erupted outside. Gus scanned the area, and detected a large number of people running away from a person in the center of the square, who looked like he was wearing the usual vest full of explosives. Julian ordered Eliza and the security officers at the recruitment desk to see what was going on. As the guards pushed their way through the crowd, Eliza leaped onto the side of the hotel and skittered upwards until she could see the bomber. The terrorist seemed to be reading some sort of manifesto, with a dead man's switch held out. Eliza carefully took aim with the laser gun mounted in her arm, then shot the wire in half, making the switch useless. Nearby, Gadget, flying above the crowd with his new flight abilities, took careful aim as well, this time on the terrorist's leg. As he drew a bead, the terrorist released the switch, then stared at it in confusion when the bomb didn't go off.

A slight intermission here for two notes. First, Eliza is not a gentle android. She has modified herself over the years far beyond her original specs. Unlike her lifelike skin indicates, she is a fighting machine. Her stats are as follows: Robot (Wildcard); Agility d10, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6; Fighting d10, Shooting d10, Notice d6, Knowledge: Electronics d8, Stealth d10; Parry 7, Toughness 5, Pace 6, running die d10; arm-mounted Laser rifle; arm-mounted sword (str+d6); Android, Wall-Walker, Data Jack; First Strike, Jack-of-all-Trades, Marksman.
Second, the switch was a "poor man's dead man switch" - that is, a "normally closed" switch, held open by holding the button down; releasing the button would cause the circuit to close, thus activating the bomb. A much better design is to have the switch close when it is pressed, activating an internal circuit; thus, the wires are active, and releasing the button or severing the wires would set off the bomb. JiC, however, is not a smart group, or well-funded.

Gadget took his time to get a bead, then fired, neatly severing the terrorist's leg at the knee. Nae was at his side in an instant, stopping the bleeding, though not reattaching the leg. Security finally reached the scene, and tried to get everyone to clear the area, but were effectively laughed off by the crew. Gus's repair droid hauled the terrorist to a safe location and removed the vest, then sent the man to the Shifting Horizon for questioning. As it turns out, if you think someone is going to be dead soon anyway, you aren't as careful with information; the man not only knew the ringleader, but various other information about his group as well. He gave it all up after a quiet chat with Alexy, who absolutely loves his job, especially with the newfound freedom of expression granted him by no longer working for the UEA.

The next morning, the party was given the presentation time slot of the dead scientist, and Julian filled the time with a very exciting presentation; between the music, the fancy multi-media presentation, and the introduction of the jumpspace map and the crowbar, they were a huge hit. Afterwards, a Kchk'Trrs asked Nae to take a look at their data-sharing system; she was having some problems with it, and thought a science super-star could figure it out. That, and she could sell the keyboard for a hefty profit, since it was touched by none other than the legendary Nae of the starship Shifting Horizon. Nae took a look, and realized that someone was siphoning data from the system; a joint effort between Nae, Gus, and Gadget revealed a ship had hacked into the data stream and was stealing quite a bit of information. Quickly, the Oncoming Storm moved into position next to the ship, but it jumped to the edge of the system, then to the Bardron system; it followed, only to see it dump its data and blow itself up. They returned to Nahundi to pick up the crew.

As they were away, another 105 scientists joined up, including 12 Kchk'Trrs. Captain Julian decided to wait until they had their fleet of ships ready before attacking, instead keeping the area under surveillance.

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