Hugo Rossi – Head Mechanic for Collace Down's racing team.
Mr. Anderson – Local Vandars amateur racer.
Yang – Just another local Vandars tough who hangs out with Mr. Anderson.
Saar – Omni Security-Vandars contract worker and computer hack.
Clug – a bodyguard who works for Collace Down
Collace Down: Rich citizen of Kazawan City.
Paulo Song – Omni Sun CEO
Cisero – Headman of the Krunner Farm. They manufacture high end finishes from Hellboria Wood.
New Lanark Apartments, Owens Block, Vandars
Krunner Farm, colonists who are growers of Hellboria Wood.
Harean Station, a grotto where colonists harvest Harean slugs. The slugs are an important source of protein for the planets food supply.
Horsail, a colonist hydrogen fracking operation.
This is tricky, running a sci-fi game like a West Marches campaign. But a very worthy Game Master challenge. My new experience in GM art is these ad-hoc sessions with different PC's but using the same starting location. In this case Vandars Colony Dome #1. On the surface of Skalvil.
Today's group makes for the fourth different mix of PC's while all the players have played in this campaign world before, albeit only one other session. I picked one of the players (fuckin'Hobbs) to be the keystone for the session. That is he was going to use his original character from a year ago and the rest of the players would need new PC's who would have some tangential relationship to (fuckin'Hobbs) so they would be in the same room. This being his pumped cube at the New Lanark Apartments, Owens Block. He is called Saar, an Omni Security-Vanders contract worker and computer hack. After his first session he split from his party members to spend time cracking the data dump he took from the Omni Horron Research Facility (Oh-Rif) and suck on his electrocuted fingers. He was leaking from a few combat wounds as well. He looked like shit the last time we left him and now he has hanger-ons in his pumped cube at the New Lanark Apartments, Owens Block and in no mood for company.
PC #2 and #3 are Anderson and Yang. Both are Vanders' locals. Mr. Andeson likes to think of himself as kind of a hot-shot on the amateur race circuit while Yang usually has nothing to do but hang out with Anderson. Saar was modifying Anderson's power converters and he is here to pick them up.
“Wait out side. I'll get 'em for you.” Saar then plugs in the data chip and begins cracking. There are 8 files. All of various degrees of complexity, therefore various degrees of time to crack. Saar goes to work on the easiest. Time stamped photos of a corporate party in Kazawan City. The photos seem to focus on one individual in particular. It will take running a facial recognition app to try and figure out who he is. Fifteen minutes tops. While the comp runs the program Saar looks up at the wal-vid broadcasting the latest scream sheet.
“Gang violence breaks out at the Synapsis club between off-duty Omni Security and the Binary Dogs. No information yet on why these off-duty officers were at the club or why they engaged gang members, but Omni Security has requested anyone with any information on the whereabouts of Officer Jones [Picture of Jose looking up from a bowl of cereal] or Omni Contractor Hernandez [Picture of Paul riding an electronic bull] please contact Omni Security immediately. They should be considered armed and dangerous. A series of video camera footage just outside the entrance of the club in the top floor of a high-rise is being looped showing Jones and Hernandez entering the club with two other men. Quick head shots of the deceased Binary Dogs are displayed, then the usual quick reactionary crowd shots of the average Vanders citizen at the scene complaining about police corruption, the drug-trade and the poor colonists stuck in the middle trying to earn a living.
“What the frak?!” When Saar left Jones and Hernandez they were heading to the Below Zero to collect the cash Bargar Vas promised them for getting the water turned back on out at Oh-Rif. What were they doing hours later at the Synapsis in a gunfight? And where is Schmidt? Sergeant Schmidt ran the mission out at Oh-Rif. Last he knew he had just got done debriefing the chief and collecting credits. Well it sure as purple-acid-rain did not concern Saar at the time. “My fraking fingers hurt.” He winced as he stabbed his deck for the readout.
Paulo Song, Omni Sun, COO Omni Horron Research Facility, responsible for the agra-augmentation program being conducted there.
“Hey Saar”, this was Mr. Anderson punching his apartments com. “Someone is here to see you.”
“Tell him I'm not here.”
Saar bends back over his comp and begins and extraction program on the next most easily hacked piece of data. Six hours. “Run it.”
“He says he can't really leave until he sees you.” the apartment's com crackles again. Aw hell, Saar punches the door access code. Anderson and Yang come back in with a well dressed man. Obviously Kazawan City, not a colonist. Anderson introduces him as his boy Hugo Rossi. Both Rossi and Saar look at each other trying to figure out why in the hell either one them would be talking to each other. Rossi trimmed out, good job obviously, standing in a pumped cube in the dome talking to cut up, electrocuted, dying computer hack. Saar was concluding once again he was shit at choosing friends.
“My employer, Mr. Down, would like to talk to you if you wouldn't mind?”
“Can he patch me up?”
“I hope so, or I've taken a two hour tube ride for nothing.”
“Who's your boss?”
“Collace Down. His son just returned from Xxcarvis. He is concerned about his son, the condition of his return, and for some reason now he wants to talk to you. He also advises that we try and leave the dome as soon as possible.”
“Down is big in the professional circuit,” Anderson beams, “his son, Flare is probably the top celebrity sports star on Skalvil. I've raced against him before, he's totally cool.”
Saar accepts he will not be having a quite night at home but says he can't leave until he makes a few files. He wants forty minutes. Rossi doesn't see any problem with that and shortly thereafter the group hits the concourse and grab a tube to Kazawan City. Down lives in a plush high-rise and they are escorted into what can only be the suite's lounge. Rossi fixes everyone drinks while a house attendant treats Saar with stimpacks and NueSkin patches.
Heavy set with a face sandpaper-washed from time spent outside the environmental domes of Skalvil. Sharp dressed. Long time local who made it good some how.
“Thank you for coming. I see you have met my mechanic Hugo Rossi. He has a lot to do with keeping this family in the winner's circle and a truly capable hand. I myself as you can see am quite capable, but I have some current issues I am having some trouble wrapping my head around and I believe you may be helpful. It is my understanding you were recently out at Oh-Rif. Specifically you were on the ground dealing with the seizure of the facility by terrorists. Is that right?”
“Yes. Sergeant Schmidt, Omni Security. He hired me along with some other of his contract help to go out and see what the problem was.”
“What did you find?”
“What was reported. Some unknown armed group had taken over the facility, disrupted the water flow. Don't know why. Attracted a whole bunch of attention. How could it not. Angry colonists were outside ready to force their way in if the water didn't get turned back on. My group secured the facility, engaged the terrorists. We killed some. Some got away. Looks like they killed the whole staff their too. Didn't make much sense. Still doesn't. But it paid. Once we contacted Omni with a sit-rep the salaried boys rolled in and told us to go home.”
Down drains his glass and sits on the couch. Arms spread, his prodigious stomach sticking out form his jacket. “My son got into trouble on an expedition on Xxcarvis. Championship grav-skiing on those tremendous ice peaks. Film crew, the whole works. Going to set a new frontier record no doubt. Now it is a four week journey one way so I don't expect up to the minute briefings, but that I was almost able to keep up daily with the expedition group. They would tight-beam their daily logs from the range to the Omni-Sun drilling facility. There they would be loaded onto the next transport out. There is enough regular commercial traffic out of Xxcarvis that every other day I had footage. He must of got into some trouble out their because the daily tight-beam stopped. I paid the Scouts to get out there and look for them. The Baudy Beth I think it was. 200T free-trader, 2 jump capability. Four weeks out, four weeks back minimum. A crew of four. They returned two weeks ahead of schedule with my son, the body of one of the scouts and the sole survivor of the trek. I still have not got any information on the whereabouts of the other two crew members.
“The official report is they came across Flare in life-pod orbiting the gas giant at 0304. Still 2 parsecs out from Xxcarvis. Word is he was never on Xxcarvis. No trace of his ship, his crew. He is not okay. Something happened to him. The surviving scout from the mission I have been unable to find out who or were he is. Probably under lock and key at their base here in the city. I was able to find out the body of the dead scout had been transferred to Oh-Rif. So I want to ask you again: What did you find?”
Saar let the stimpacks take him far away from his singed skin and lacerated torso. “They had some EMP device. Detonated in the power room. Brought the whole facility down. No power, no communication. They killed all the staff and took a body. They fled on boat out into the Skalvil Sea. We found it beached on the north shore. Original crew bound and executed. Most likely killed before the terrorists used the boat to enter Oh-Rif. They fled into the wastes on a four-wheeled ATV. The frequent acid-rain storms had quickly made their trail impossible to follow. Schmidt returned to the Omni tower to debrief and collect pay. I came home to find, well all of you.”
Saar looked at the rest of the PC's. They all seemed happy with their drinks. “All I can say it didn't make any sense.”
“I want to take a look at that body. Do you think you can find it for me?”
“Sure, were do you think we should look?”
“There isn't much north of the Skalvil.” Downs picks up a remote from the table and turns on the his holo-vid. A three dimensional image of the rain scarred wastes of Skalvil in brilliant display. The Skalvil Sea was prominent then the display zoomed into the terrain north. Three colonies were identified; Krunner Farm, Harean Station and Horsail.
“Harean Station is a slug farm, protein bases for you poor colonists food supplies out there on the plains and you poor dome'ers living on subsidy. Krunner Farm harvests Hellboria Wood. Very hard, very colorful when back lit and very expesive. My bar top here is a nice specimen. Horsail is a fracking operation. Anyone heading north via ATV's cannot get very far without living, knowing or being supplied by one of these colonies. Someone is going to know who they are and where they are. I suggest you start out immediately. Omni knows as much as this too. If they are hot to track down the terrorists they will be heading there soon. But then again, now the facility is back up maybe not so soon. Hugo here has tuned up the Trell III, a capable back country air raft. Enclosed of course. He has agreed to accompany you all. As a top mechanic you shouldn't have to worry about breakdown.”
Navigating the Skalvil wastes it was apparent to all but Anderson that he drives way too fast. He calmly whistled some inane tune as he carved the grav-powered hover jeep through the tortuous terrain racked by sudden purple sheets of rain and deep defiles. They were heading to Krunner. The closest colony to the sea and the hardest to reach. The PC's expected signal contact soon.
“Uh oh.” Anderson stopped whistling.
“Uh oh.” Anderson stopped whistling.
“What?” asked Yang. He was white-knuckling it shotgun.
“I think we're going to hit a Wempir swarm.” Everyone starts yelling for him to turn around it.
“I'm going too fast. You better break out the guns.” Aggressive little five kilogram grey-mottled blimps, Flying Wempirs attack anything flying along close to the ground. Their massive swarms will envelope suspected prey with viscous barbed mouths. For the Trell III it would be like hitting a brick wall at this speed. “Start blasting and I'll try and spin us out!” Anderson was yelling now.
The crew lowered their wind screens and squirted their rifles and sub machine guns on full auto. The wind and the rain screamed along with the furious shriek of the swarm, black against the now obliterated purple sky. The jeep was buffeted by hundreds of splatting flyers, made a sickening barrel roll and slid out of the swarm down a slot canyon.
“Whooee!” Anderson and Yang were pounding the dashboard delighted to not be dead. It was hard to tell what the rest of the crew was thinking all rain and Wempir gore sprayed.
“Bogey One this Krunner Farm please identify.” crackled the dash-com. (to be continued)