Uncharted Worlds: Faraday’s Folly: Episode 3   Leave a comment

New Neptune (c/o nationstates.net)

New Neptune (c/o nationstates.net)

The Folly landed on New Neptune, a once thriving industrial world, covered from pole to pole in automated manufactories, that was now sparsely populated. Returning to civilized space, the Folly received a bunch of backlogged messages from the Flotilla, since they were about six weeks behind schedule. The final message came from a new contact, Saihong Oo, not the person who’d hired them. Doc Kovacs sent his apologies and asked for delivery coordinates.

Cpl. Cho looked for a place to stow the “Chosen” evacuees from Sirrus. An old buddy, Asaf Biton, said that he needed some unskilled labor to reactivate an abandoned manufactory – but a shipful of Carnac’s Corsairs were squatting there. Cho volunteered to clear the place out. Elsewhere, Doc Kovacs traded in the server carts from Sirrus for some high-quality maintenance drones.

Kovacs brewed a low-density neurotoxin that they could pump into the manufactory’s air vents to knock the Corsairs out. They went to the manufactory and climbed up forty flights of stairs to where the Corsairs had docked their ship. Kovacs triggered a fire alarm to distract a hovering security drone, then loaded the toxin to take out the Corsairs one story up.

Kovacs and Cho loaded the unconscious Corsairs into an abandoned office, pausing only to round up a last few Corsairs who hadn’t been around at the time. They balked at the idea of murdering the Corsairs en masse, so they made a call to the Ariel Mutual Prosperity Sphere. Ariel was more than willing to send a local factotum – Charvin Kised, economic enforcement officer – to pick up the wanted pirates.

While he had the crew handy, Kised grilled Kovacs on their wild jump from Carthage. Kovacs admitted to firing on the Dusters but denied any involvement with the tank theft. This satisfied Kised, especially when Kovacs agreed to take on a job for Ariel: transporting a prisoner, Mason Brooks, to Persephone. Mason Brooks was the Flotilla resident whose whereabouts were being tracked heavily by the last occupant of the tank Kovacs had just stolen, but Kovacs didn’t mention having heard the name before.

Having taken two irreconcilable jobs – deliver a tank to the Flotilla, keep Mason Brooks away from the Flotilla – the party split up. Cho and Brooks chartered a flight to Argus Station, an asteroid mining station. They stayed over for a couple of days, with Cho begrudgingly paying off some AFFM thugs in an extortion racket.

Meanwhile, Kovacs rendesvouzed with the Flotilla itself in the Hieronymus system. He met his new contact, Saihong Oo, aboard the Arc of Descent. While they inspected the tank, Oo offered him another job – retrieving a ship that had been separated from the Flotilla on a prior jump, the Instant Gratification. Kovacs accepted. His attempt to sell the maintenance droids from New Neptune fell through, though – there was a tempting new cargo to trade, but it was on the other side of the Flotilla, and Kovacs didn’t have the two days to wait.

Persephone (c/o starwars.wikia.com)

Persephone (c/o starwars.wikia.com)

Kovacs picked Cho and Brooks up at Argus and continued on to Persephone, a water-covered planet known for manufacturing pharmaceuticals. The starport was jammed with people trying to evacuate: news had broken that Carnac’s Corsairs were one jump out of system. Brooks spotted some Flotilla heavies tailing them from the airport. The crew reached their destination, but got pinned down on a skybridge by automatic weapons fire. Both Kovacs and Cho took severe wounds, but got Brooks to safety and dispersed the goons chasing them.

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Posted October 8, 2016 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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Uncharted Worlds: Faraday’s Folly: Episode 2   Leave a comment

EPISODE 02

The Folly docked at a mining camp on the stripmined world of Carthage, in search of Chobara Entresi and her impervious survey tank*. The crew split up to gather information in various ways: Corporal Cho checking in with a mining recruitment officer, Dr. Kovacs scanning SectorNet for logs of mining crew activity, and Zeke jury-rigging a surveillance drone to hover through the camp and eavesdrop.

They uncovered the following:

  • Carthage was divvied up almost entirely between member worlds of the Ariel Mutual Prosperity Sphere: Persephone, Ariadne, and others.
  • However, there was a sizable patch at the south pole that no one had laid claim to yet, occupied by wildcat miners. Entresi and her crew were last logged as exploring a claim there.
  • To disperse the miners, Ariel had called in Captain Reynolds and the Dusters**, a cold-blooded crew of mercenaries. They were loading up for the south pole.
carthage

Carthage

The crew promptly returned to orbit and relocated the Folly to the south pole. They fast-talked their way past Ariel Orbital Control, claiming they’d suffered a major hull breach. Orbital Control graciously offered to send some techs to help them fix it, forcing Zeke to create an actual hull breach after they landed.

They snuck up on Entresi’s crew at the base of a massive strip mine crater. Zeke rigged an explosive and snuck it next to some industrial waste stored at the far edge of camp. Dr. Kovacs hacked into the survey tank using the computer in his suit and climbed inside. The industrial waste exploded, causing a distraction, and Kovacs drove the tank off, ignoring the miners’ small arms fire.

Unfortunately, the Dusters were inbound to scatter Entresi’s camp. Zeke opened fire on them from his spider-tank, drawing the attention of a few tanks and APCs. Kovacs charged them in his invulnerable tank, opening a wedge for Zeke (with Cho riding on the back) to follow behind.

The crew made it back to the Folly and sped through the repairs, which Ariel’s techs hadn’t been able to finish. While Zeke patched the ship, Kovacs cracked the encrypted datastore within the tank. Someone had recently used the tank to surveill Mason Brooks, a ranking Flotilla arbiter, on the industrial planet Hephaestus. As the Dusters appeared on the horizon, the crew quickly lifted off.

Orbital Control was waiting to intercept them, given their unauthorized landing at the south pole. Unwilling to wait for a customs team to inspect their ship, Cho punched in a wild jump. The Folly fell out of the galactic disc, spiraling into a realm of impossible perspective, before slamming back into real space at unknown coordinates. Some diligent searching of star charts revealed the nearest known system – Sirrus 2160-A20, populated only by a research station around a gas giant that had been abandoned over a century earlier.

Exploring the research station for some needed deuterium fuel, the crew found the feral descendents of the station’s last inhabitants. Cho got shot with a nailgun trying to parlay with them. He retreated to the ship and studied a fragment of their recorded warnings, deducing the ancient language it had derived from. Returning to the station, he worked out a trade: the Folly could take as much deuterium as they needed, but they’d have to bring six “Chosen” members of the tribe with them. Six volunteers were escorted aboard, while Zeke left them a laser-light show “Captivator.”

* which I stole from a G+ thread; wink wink.
** I watched Firefly once, over a decade ago, but this didn’t click with me until after we’d cemented it into the setting. Ah, well.

Posted September 19, 2016 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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Uncharted Worlds: Faraday’s Folly: Episode 1   Leave a comment

Dr. Kovacs was waiting in a boarding queue at the Symbaroum* starport, a vial of smuggled mutagen tucked inside his coat. Security guards conducted spot checks along the line. Kovacs tucked the vial into the bag of the woman ahead of him, foiling the guards. The woman sat in first class on the shuttle from the starport to the docking satellite, but Kovacs managed to “stumble” into her later and retrieve the vial.

Aboard the satellite, Zeke Pendergast was attempting to load the legit cargo – three giant stone tablets of dubious cultural relevance – onto the Faraday’s Folly. A steward representing the AFMM hit him up for a bribe. The guileless Pendergast fetched his remote-controlled spidertank to load the tablets himself. In retaliation, the Movers suited up into half a dozen heavy loaders (think Aliens) and flanked the Folly.

In the city, Jason Cho bailed out a former comrade, Specialist Yamato, from a night in the drunk tank. Leaving the Hall of Justice, they were surrounded by the thugs Yamato had offended the night before. Cho made short work of a couple, but the remainder ganged up on Yamato and beat him down pretty hard. Cho hustled Yamato to the starport and fast-talked him aboard the shuttle to avoid further complications with law enforcement.

Aboard the satellite, Cho spotted an old friend among the Movers, and sweet-talked her into letting the crew bribe their way off-system at a reasonable price. The Folly debarked to meet their buyer.

On Caliban Station, Kovacs handed off the vial to Mirada Kith, an arbitrator with the Flotilla. Impressed by his capability, Kith asked a favor of Kovacs: retrieving a highly secure exploratory land vehicle from Chobara Entresi, who’d borrowed it from the Flotilla and run off. So long as the tank was retrieved intact, Kith didn’t care whether subterfuge, persuasion, or force were used. Kovacs agreed.

Pendergast’s attempts to unload the tablets were not as successful. His local buyer pretended to offer him some assets of similar quality, but secretly went to call Tomahna Tomar, a ranking lieutenant in Carnak’s Corsairs who specialized in fine art. When her goons took the tablets without paying, Pendergast attempted to bluff a trade, then tried pulling the pins on two goons’ flash-bang grenades. The net result: Pendergast waking up, concussed, in Tomar’s shuttle.

After Pendergast wrecked Tomar’s shuttle in the process of trying to escape – rigging his pocket torch with a plasma battery – she ordered her goons to drag him off to some alley and execute him. Dr. Kovacs, thankfully, spotted Pendergast and ambushed the goons. The doctor got gutshot in the ensuing firefight, but Pendergast tripped an old fire suppression vent to give them some cover to escape. Cho covered their retreat to the ship with his heavy breaching armor, and the crew made it to the Folly safe, if not intact.

* no relation to the Swedish fantasy RPG of the same name. I knew I was stealing this from somewhere, but couldn’t recall where.

Posted September 13, 2016 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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Uncharted Worlds: Faraday’s Folly: Episode 0   Leave a comment

This is a recap for our Uncharted Worlds series. It follows the crew of the Faraday’s Folly, a light unsanctioned freighter, as it trades cargo and favors between all corners of the civilized galaxy.

The Folly is crewed by:

  • Zeke Pendergast (Colonial Industrial Explorer): an ambitious engineer who dreams of uncovering the secrets of the cosmos;
  • Dr. Lukas Kovacs (Advanced Clandestine Academic): a “special investigator” who’s retired or fled from the covert service;
  • Cpl. Jason Cho (Crowded Military Starfarer): a veteran space marine, specialized in retrieving spacecraft and the persons on them

They do their best to survive in a galaxy dominated by the following factions:

  • The Ariel Mutual Prosperity Sphere (Popular Political Network): a loose alliance of worlds bound by treaties enforcing their joint economic interests;
  • The Flotilla (Brutal Anarchist Society): a lashed-together mass of ships, drifting from system to system, where the strongest hold sway;
  • Carnac’s Korsairs (Violent Starfaring Fleet): the most feared pirate fleet, operating with no code of ethics, ruled with an iron fist by Victor Carnac;
  • Alliance for the Free Movement of Materials (Controlling Criminal Society): a/k/a “the Movers”, a star-spanning union of teamsters who’ve insinuated their influence into countless governments.

Posted September 10, 2016 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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Chapter Fifteen: Cities Under Siege   Leave a comment

The Straylight landed at the Isfahan spaceport on Criticorum. They were greeted by an armed escort and Amir-Ali Cadizza, a local customs official. While Captain Manx met with TK in his office, two of the armed guards prowled through the ship!

Fannagus fenced off the guards by locking off certain bulkheads, pretending a computer malfunction had messed with the doors. Meanwhile, Cadizza made clear his (regretted but necessary) plans to seize the ship to ferry off VIPs from the troubled planet. Manx tried to counter with cajoling, blandishments, and veiled threats, but settled for punching Cadizza in the throat and yelling at him.

Freed of their entanglements, Manx, Avracek, Fannagus, and Ferizio set off into the city. Manx and Avracek got some more details on the guild summit happening in the coastal city of Ostgard. Manx’s former mentor, the “Old Man”, was in attendance, as was Lt. (once Maj.) Lexa Cassardi. Yori Jaehar, whom the pilgrims had ridden with to Kish, was representing the Scravers.

Fannagus and Ferizio found a pilot willing to take them to Achaeon. Since they were low on firebirds, they worked out a trade that required them to reactivate an AI-capable think machine for some home rule revolutionaries. Fannagus did so, but introduced a bug that would reboot the system every 37 minutes, making it useless.

Arriving in Ostgard, Manx and Avracek split up: Avracek to check out the Muster contingent, Manx to reintroduce himself to Captain Jaehar. He found the captain at a flashy nightclub that the Scravers had taken over. While exchanging insults and banter with the Scraver, Manx noticed a ring on the man’s hand, bearing the same device he’d found on Brother Sand’s ring!

The Engineers arrived at Achaeon, now a vast and lightless cityscape, at night. They crept through an abandoned shopping arcade, decorated with four-color revolutionary posters of Ibrahim Amarjah, Sir Victor (!), and other heroes of home rule. After several hours, they came to an open-air plaza at the crossroads of two skyways. They started across the plaza before noticing the approach of others: a party of Istakhr loyalists approaching the plaza from one direction, with a party of home rule revolutionaries lying in ambush!

Manx produced his own copy of the ring, prompting Jaehar to dismiss his entourage and produce a blaster. Despite the apparent weakness of his position, Manx bluffed Jaehar into letting him go, and dropping a few unsubtle clues as to the nature of the mysterious organization that employed Sand and Jaehar, in exchange for the ring and Brother Sand’s message strip. Manx slipped away to his rendezvous with Avracek, only to be ambushed by a party of armed goons! They dropped a hood over his head, whisked him through a series of blind turns, and loaded him into a flitcar for Yintrai.

Fannagus and Ferizio took cover behind some outdoor furniture while the ambush kicked off, then exploited or created a few distractions—including a rigged machine pistol to simulate a second ambuscade, and hacking the assailants’ think machines to get them to overheat—to get past them. In the confusion, Ferizio took a bullet to the gut. Fannagus dragged him to safety, sterilized the wound with some scavenged liquor, then stole some first aid supplies from the abandoned corpse of one of the ambush party. Though he wanted to bring Ferizio with him, the plucky apprentice insisted that Fannagus continue on alone.

Manx woke in an opulent study in Yintrai, an abandoned, plague-ridden city on the southern coast of the continent. He was interrogated by the Iconoclast from behind, who pretended or claimed not to recognize him. Manx caught only a glimpse of his son’s face—burned in some accident, his right eye replaced by a cybernetic—during the conversation. However, before he was hooded again and dragged off, he caught a glimpse of something on the study desk that could provide an insight into his son’s crusade.

Posted May 6, 2015 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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Chapter Fourteen: Undeclared Cargo   Leave a comment

Captain Manx, still wounded from his encounter with the Black Service, tracked down Rathko, an information broker of his acquaintance who hung out in the krill fighting pits beneath Kesparate. With some reluctance, Rathko coughed up a hot rumor: the Guilds were convening on Criticorum to aid in the rebuilding efforts, and that sort of turnout was bound to draw the Iconoclast’s attention. Manx then realized that Rathko was stalling him so two goons could circle around and snatch him up!

Aboard the Straylight, Fannagus set to work encoding a new algorithm to make Arcos capable of questioning itself. After countless hours, he came up with a solution he was happy with. Now, to implement it!

Manx tried to evade the two goons, but ended up starting a firefight, shooting them dead, and fleeing in the chaos. In the dock at Kesperate Orbital Control, he found two “allies” waiting for him: Mohaim Avracek, the Muster functionary he’d impressed into his cause upon first arriving on Leagueheim, and Alok Tmnegar, burned-out Charioteer.

Mohaim Avracek and Alok Tmnegar

Mohaim Avracek and Alok Tmnegar

Reunited on the Straylight, Manx learned that Sir Victor Swindon had departed in the night, returning to Ravenna to save Lady Maryam. The pilgrims also realized that Ferizio had not yet returned, so Manx dispatched Avracek to go fetch him. In discussing what to do with Arcos, the pilgrims learned that Arcos had “partitioned” the humans like Fannagus had “partitioned” it, by releasing the dormant Symbiots to roam free through certain sections of the ship.

Fannagus uploaded his new specs to Arcos. After a prolonged round of programming and interrogation, Arcos accepted its new framework. It admitted that it might be able to find a new solution on Criticorum. Shortly after this, Avracek returned with Ferizio in tow, and the crew made ready to depart.

Having learned that the Straylight could make the jump from Leagueheim to Criticorum directly, the pilgrims filed a false flight plan to Madoc. Manx used the ship’s automated medic to tend to his injury, then rigged the ship’s fire suppression system to spray the free-roaming Symbiots with the solution that put them in stasis. Fannagus made up with Ferizio, apologizing for having ignored his friend’s concerns, and the two came to a truce.

The Straylight made the jump to Criticorum and was greeted by two ships, apparently from rival factions. Manx tried to pit the two of them against each other, but couldn’t prevent one of the ships from grappling on and sending a boarding party. The pilgrims repelled the boarders by trapping them in a killing jar and getting some help from Arcos. The enemy ships withdrew, leaving the pilgrims to proceed to Criticorum.

Posted March 20, 2015 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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Chapter Thirteen: Who Will Serve and Who Will Eat   Leave a comment

As the pilgrims approached the unknown planet, a series of unknown vessels appeared, bombarding the Straylight with unidentified energy. Quick diagnosis on Engineer Fannagus’s part revealed that it was radio waves—too analog for the Second Republic vessel to recognize as communication. Fannagus jury-rigged a radio transceiver and Manx replied to their hails. They identified themselves as Charioteers and escorted the starliner to Leagueheim.

leagueheim

Leagueheim (c/o deviantart)

Manx and Swindon dressed up Brother Sand’s corpse in a steward’s uniform and passed him off as their dead Charioteer pilot. However, their itinerary still had enough gaps in it—there is no known jumproute between Nowhere and Leagueheim—that the Straylight was remanded to a council of Guild functionaries for potential salvage. Manx and Fannagus talked down the Scraver and Muster representatives with little difficulty. The Engineers proved amenable to sharing the credit for any findings aboard the Second Republic vessel; the Charioteers ceded their claim once Manx convinced them the Straylight wasn’t a threat to their monopoly; and the Reeves settled for a bribe – thirty “contracts” for skilled ship’s stewards (the Symbiotes in stasis in the pool).

In the course of their negotiations, the pilgrims learned that they had been “out” for thirteen months.

Fannagus went to the Engineers’ library to begin work on the new AI logic that would stop Criticorum from being culled. When Ferizio nearly spilled the details on what Fannagus was working on to other engineers, Fannagus blew up at his young friend. The two went their separate ways in anger.

While tracking down a bent Charioteer to “pilot” the Straylight, Manx was found by some Scraver flunkies. They escorted him to Dean Toth, who furiously demanded where Manx’s son was. Manx insisted he didn’t know—that he’d been hoping to get that tidbit from the Scravers, in fact—and a few hours of heavy interrogation by some Scraver heavies convinced Toth that Manx was telling the truth.

Fannagus passed Sir Swindon while returning to the Straylight. Swindon bid his good-byes, insisting that he had to get to Ravenna to save Lady Maryam from the mental alterations that Countess Adorna had put on her. Fannagus saw him off, then powered up the bridge to continue researching the AI he carried with him. However, when he drew the familiar transparent cube from his robes, it was already glowing brilliant white. The Second Republic quantum core was communicating aerially with the Second Republic starliner and had already begun taking over its systems.

Toth brought Manx up to speed on the last year: a person or persons known as “the Iconoclast” had been striking at Guild centers throughout the Known Worlds. He believed that the Iconoclast was Manx’s son, and that Manx’s son knew the whereabouts of Caspar Chauki. That knowledge gave the Iconoclast leverage which hindered Toth’s efforts to move against him, and so he asked Manx to bring his son in. Toth was just about to offer some aid when the sound of blaster fire interrupted them.

Fannagus partitioned the database that “Arcos” was studying, trapping it. Arcos retaliated by shutting off the oxygen scrubbers. In exploring the database, Arcos had found a whole new list of worlds in need of the same “optimization” that it had started on Criticorum. Fannagus convinced the AI that it would have better luck with his help than without it, and Arcos eventually turned the air back on.

Manx recognized the commandos attacking the Scraver headquarters as the Black Service, the Muster’s off-books elite unit. He fled out the side of the building and hijacked a magnetic maintenance lifter, riding it down the outside of the two-mile skyscraper like a sled. Re-entering the building a hundred stories later, he fled through a security office, blending with the crowd until guards could engage one of the pursuing soldiers. The last soldier, Manx overpowered and drowned in an office fountain, though not before suffering a severe blaster burn.

black-service

The Black Service (c/o deviantart)

Posted February 27, 2015 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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