Monday, June 28, 2021

Hercules Beta-37 Strange Dark Black Hole James Kirsch Reeves Memorial Research Station

After his violent murders, Rodney decided it was time to speak to his deity, and got super drunk. Like, super drunk. His drunk was drunk. He managed to hallucinate a vision of Whoopi, who told him to ease off on the splattering of people - his duty to her was to clean, not make bigger messes, even though her oxygen-infused cleaning supplies would power through blood and gore. He may or may not have been assisted to his godmeet by Lins, who may or may not have projected some images and ideas at him while he was drunk as the proverbial skunk.

Once Rodney sobered up, the next location, it was decided, was the unknown coordinates they picked up from the weird guy in the alley. They made the jump, though had to correct a couple times because of interference from a huge black hole. They finally made it to the Hercules Beta-37 Strange Dark Black Hole James Kirsch Reeves Memorial Research Station - generally called the Hercules Research station.

As they entered the station, it looked like all the lights were on, but nobody was home - though, they did see a lone figure somewhere near the other side of the station.

They broke through the door towards the science labs, and started poking around. The color-coded rooms hold few personal belongings, at least at first, but they did find some odd equations - something wasn't quite right about the gravitic anomalies surrounding the black hole.

Rodney, meanwhile, somehow hacked through a security door... but, lightning didn't strike twice, so he smashed the next one to bits. As they explored, they started to piece together some of the lives that were on the station. And then, see some of the lives! As they opened one door, a scientist was sitting there! After some conversation, where Rodney intimidated him (of course), he pushed past them to the hallway, and... vanished.

The next "ghost" they saw didn't seem to see them - he died to a gunshot wound to the chest, and vanished as well... and when his body vanished, it revealed an old, old bloodstain beneath it. 

They found a few names; Mark, a lab tech; Jose Vaega, the security lead; Richard Doyal, one of the lead scientists; Al Burque, the scientist who first found the gravitic anomalies; George Durst, head scientist, and possibly a little paranoid - he destroyed his own computer, and set a charge to blow up his desk; and finally Fred Reives, the scientist who spoke with them.

They learned that the science station was once in orbit around a black hole in the Tallus Nebula. There were some strange readings, which seem to be related to the black hole; somehow, the station - as well as the black hole - was transported to this in-between area, possibly the first thing to make the trip. However, time is certainly not working right here. By their internal time clocks, today's date is July 12th, 2801. By the system reckoning, it is roughly 4800 - nearly 2000 years later, judging by the timeline the ship Middle Son laid out. The actual events of people getting teleported far, far away happened about 20 years ago, starting around 2780 or thereabouts. However, judging by the state of the station (and the clocks on the computers), only about 200 years have passed here. So which is it? 29 years since being teleported, or 200, or 2000?

About that time, as Rodney and the others headed towards the security area, Elise pushed into the storage area, and looked across the station... at herself. She and the others had just gotten off their ship, and were looking around the little waiting room. She lifted a hand to wave, and with a little wobble, she was looking across at an empty room.

That was about the time Rodney caught sight of a strange, ugly creature, just lounging in the hallway - it looked like the insides of a somewhat larger creature, but only these bits were in their reality. It looked up as they approached...

Built This Station on Rockhatch and Roll

The first order of business aboard the Rockhatch was to find Lins's contacts. The traveled through the ship, starting at the upper halls - magnificent, open spaces, perhaps not quite as nice as Earth, but certainly nice enough to feel more like home, and open enough to stave off claustrophobia. There are shops and pedestrians that make it seem a little more civilized than the drab corridors and tired colonists of the previous station. However, Lins' contact was not on the upper levels. He was down in the lower levels, which are filthy, packed with people, and badly in need of repairs. The people are malnourished and overworked - and stuck behind a forcefield barrier, guarded by some rather well-armed soldiers.

The contact, Helm Murkhousen, is a jumpy paranoid fellow with ties to the Flip - a group of revolutionaries who want to "flip" the station, putting the lazy rich under the hardworking masses. After convincing him they weren't there to kill, maim, or otherwise injure him, and managing not to anger any of the highly militarized police force, Lins convinced him to take the group to the Flip.

The Flip consists of four leaders:

  • Stevie, a one-eyed, edgy punk who wants to "space the lot of 'em and let the plebs do what they want afterwards," and has ties to some pirates, though the two big guns that protect the station would make short work of them.
  • Ri-esh, a charismatic tough-guy who downplays his brains, but thinks if the corrupt legal system were removed and people had a chance to own their own shelter, people would have a chance to grow without a full-on murder spree - he knows some guys in the lower levels of the police who could get info or render assistance.
  • The deeply southern Jim-Jack Junior, one of the nobles who wants to create a "house of commoners" with equal power to the "house of lords", and solve it politically, letting the good grace of the people win out; he has plenty of contacts amongst the lords and ladies, of course.
  • Beth O'Malley, a fiery insurrectionist, believes the best way is to straight-up cut off access to the upper levels, and use the resources of the poor for the poor, not sending anything over to the rich and effectively starving them out. "They're a lot less used to starvation than we are!" - she also has some out-of-system contacts willing to send support, if it were safe.

While the four argue a lot, they all agree that the lords and ladies are the problem. Most urgent, however, is the whacking huge guns on the ship, capable of blowing holes through the Shifting Horizon, let alone anything in these systems. With those guns, the lords and ladies keep the poor oppressed, living off the cheap labor. The Flip can't get support from outside if the big guns can blow away anyone who approaches the station.

After some discussion, it was decided to go with Jim-Jack, Jr., and talk with some of the Lords and Ladies. They spoke with Ms. Johnston, who they convinced utterly, and who was willing to render support with her shipping contacts; Mr. Wardstromm, a hearty gambler who was so pleased he finally met his match in cards (Reggie did spectacularly well), that he offered support through his banking and lending. The other two lords they spoke with also were happy to help, as long as there would be little violence.

Finally, they went to speak with Lady Vestridge, a haughty, effusive, overweight woman, whose taste leans towards "Pink" and "Expensive." Her clothing is made of the finest synth-silk, and as far as anyone could tell, she wore the real deal when it comes to gems and precious metals. She is snobby, haughty, and full of self-importance. And fat. Lots and lots of fat. She spoke down to them all, but made an offer - quash the silly rebellion, and she would make sure the next transport ship had a shiny new level six mass driver for their ship.

After much deliberation, the crew decided to help the Flip enact the following plan:

Ri-esh was to pull out all his contacts, as much as possible, so they would have fewer guards to deal with, and help a few key Flip freedom fighters get into areas where they could do the most good. At a signal, Beth's freedom fighters would simultaneously block the choke point between the two halves of the station, and storm the lower gun with Stevie's force. While they hit the lower level, the crew would assault the upper gun. Once the guns are taken (or taken offline, at least), the word would go out to the lords and ladies (via Jim-Jack, Jr.) that the commoners want a new government, run under a Prime Minister, and with a House of Commons to balance the House of Lords.

The first stop, however, was to get some doctored pictures of the Flip, making it seem obvious that they had been killed, and visit Lady Vestridge again. Stevie got zapped; Ri-esh was chopped in half by Reggie, with his new sword; Beth was nearly obliterated with Elise's disintegration rifle; and Jim-Jack Jr. was splattered by Rodney's hammer. However, Lady Vestridge reneged on her deal - she was only going to order a gun half the size she had promised. Reggie slashed her throat with his sword; the other three took on her bodyguard - who turned out to be a battle droid with a smaller droid inside. It was a rough battle, but eventually, the machines were destroyed. Elise pelted into the security room and hacked the computer, managing to upgrade the purchase of the gun and order some snacks for the road just to show off. She made it halfway out of the building, with Nix just ahead of her, before everything went BOOM.

You see, the security room, as well as most of the rest of the house, was wired with explosives: three different rounds, of sonic, EMP, and conventional explosives, designed to go off when the Lady died. Reggie and Rodney had booked it out the front door, and were enjoying an ice cream from a nearby shop; though Nix managed to escape the blast mostly unscathed, Elise wasn't so lucky. The EMP killed her implants, leaving her blind and unable to move - and terrified of the dark. Nix quickly dug through the rubble and pulled her out, managing to get her eyes and one arm working well enough she could enact repairs on herself.

Once cleaned up, it was time to assault the upper gun. Once they got the signal, they charged the front door, blasting through guards as they did so. The surprise attach, along with the light contingent of guards, was enough to buy them enough time to burn through the forcefield, which took a while, and only resulted in disrupting it enough they could slowly squeeze through. The hallway leading up to the gun was quickly filled with guards, some with stun batons, others with various weapons, including grenade launchers... and at one end of the hall, a tripod with a light auto-cannon, and at the other a mech!

Charging the big gun, and leaving Elise and Rodney to fight the mech, Nix and Reggie managed to stop them just as they finished setting up. Rodney and Elise blasted at the mech, eventually wearing it down enough that it collapsed. Its reactor blew, but the two got out of the way soon enough to avoid the blast.

In the command room, they mopped up the guards... then Rodney murdered two of the gun attendants. And, as it turned out, one of the men he murdered was actually on their side.

Nevertheless, they managed to free the station from the tyranny of the lords and ladies; judging by the shift in government, it looks like the right palms had been greased, and the transition to a more democratic style of government was largely non-violent. The gun was installed, along with a food processor - once stocked with protein and "All-Natural Gro-Goo", it's enough to make enough food to support five people, or twice that if given a full day to "recharge" afterwards. It provides such delicious foods as "Hearty Soup" (a thick, brownish goo that tastes like cheap hamburger meat), "Breakfast" (a slightly-too-eggy scramble), "Orange" (an orange slurry that tastes like anything but the fruit), and "Kay-so Burrito" (a trademarked bread-wrapped tube of a hot, rubbery substance). Overall, not top-tier food, but it's edible... as long as you don't look inside.