Uncharted Worlds: Reign of Terra

Restricted
Alif

I’m ten years old when my grandmother wakes me up early. At this time of year, it’s still dark.

“Where are we going?” I ask loudly on the subway. “To the doctor’s” she whispers, and because I know that’s in the opposite direction, I stay quiet.

We pass the edges of the slum and go through several sections I don’t recognize. Finally, we slip into a tallish abandoned building and come out onto the roof.

A little ways in front of us, there’s a fence. It looks like there is absolutely nothing beyond it.

My grandmother pulls out a pair of ancient-looking binoculars. Not even any lights, just the glass. I look out through them, and the nothing resolves itself a little into rocks and open spaces. There is a glimmer of water in the distance, and beside it are some shadows that look like trees. At least I know what trees are.

“We used to live there,” my grandmother says.

“There’s nowhere to live,” I say, scanning all around with the binoculars. There are “Restricted” signs on the fence at regular intervals.

“We did,” she insists.

 

I manage to get in when I’m fifteen years old, and make it almost to the lake before a gamekeeper spots me. Luckily for me, he’s a terrible shot. I make it back with a walking stick for my grandmother. We look in encyclopedias till we can give it a name – “birch”. She can only use it indoors, of course.

 

I take Anka when she’s nine years old. “Why don’t we live there any more?” she asks, leaning against the parapet on her chubby elbows. Because it’s only for people with money. Because they’ll shoot at you. “Because things are different now,” I say, and let her look as long as she wants.

 

Ferhat never sees it. He’s too little when they are finally supposed to join me at my posting, and never make it.

 

“Listen,” my superior says. “It’s space travel. There are accidents. People die sometimes.” You deserve to die, I think. “At least tell me how it happened,” I say.

That information is restricted, he says, and won’t budge. He tells me it was all Kruug’s fault, and I convince myself that I believe him.

“I’m quitting.”

My superior sighs. “You’re bereaved. Take two weeks off.”

“I’m quitting,” I say again, and walk out, and in two weeks I come back. My supervisor looks me up and down. I meet his eyes. You deserve to die.

He nods, satisfied with whatever he chooses to see.

 

The man who contacts me is a legend in espionage circles. I’d even tried to hire him once, but his abilities don’t stretch as far as Ad Astra. He brings in a couple more people, and somehow we go from scoping out a launch site to breaking into a military recruitment office. Most of us make it out alive.

 

Ad Astra is turning against Pardis, is what we find. Dejima station will help coordinate a Terran military invasion. Am I supposed to be shocked?

 

The whistleblower knows a Pardisian spy. We meet Jasmeen in a café and exchange information.

“I need more for this story to be believable,” our unofficial leader says, finally.

She looks at him impassively. “Do you have anything else to offer?”

He hesitates. I speak up.

“Me.”

 

I meet with Jasmeen a few more times. She doesn’t have many ideas – stopping a dreadnaught is a tall order – but she thinks she knows some people who do.

She turns away from her monitor and looks at her tablet. The monitor locks instantly, the image of a Pardisian landscape flashing on.

I used to be stationed on Dejima. I’ve seen pictures of Pardis. Jungles. Fields of spices. Waterfalls. Not like that, a grassy, broken landscape with a few scraggly trees. It’s not a professional picture, and light glares off the small lake in the corner.

“Where is that?”

She looks at her monitor and shrugs. “That’s my family home, near the south pole.”

I step closer to look. Those are birch trees, I think. For the first time, I ask her for something.

“If the mission is successful, can I see it?”

She makes a noncommittal sound. “Pardis is restricted.”

Everything turns business again. “Fortunately for us, you are part of the invasion force…”

 

Ad Astra will be attacked by mercenaries before the Terran navy arrives, she says. Good. Ad Astra is working with Terra. They want to destroy Pardis, make it like Terra. They all deserve to die.

 

I meet the people she found in a warehouse outside. One looks like he’s a little out of his depth. One is probably more more than what he looks like. One is a robot.  I don’t have time to ask questions about that. We make some bombs and package them up.

 

Since I’m an Ad Astra security advisor, I have a legitimate reason to be on the Sun Tzu. We slap some Ad Astra decals on the robot. The humans go off somewhere and come back with Terran navy uniforms and passes. “The other one is real, but mine is fake,”  says the one who seems to know what he is doing.

 

We select a transport ship and try to talk our way past the guards. They don’t listen. We leave their bodies in a closet with minutes to spare. They’re part of the invasion. All of us deserve to die.

 

We do manage to convince the crew to take us, and annoy the landing attendant till she lets us in. We make it to my quarters without incident. The competent one slips off to get proper identification. The other one wanders around to learn more about the ship’s layout. The robot stays in my cramped cabin.

 

“There are a lot of Calvinists on this ship,” he says. “Maybe I know some.”

I rig my phone to give him a video feed and find the chapel. The priest asks questions, so I ask him some as well. Services start and end. I look around, trying to give the robot a good view.

“Focus on that man,” he tells me through the phone earpiece.

“Which one?”

“The creepy one.” he hisses. I didn’t know a robot could hiss.

“Black mustache?”

“Get him here.”

 

I do the first thing which comes to my mind, and proposition him. That doesn’t go over well.

“Say ‘Upstanding’,” the robot says. That word does get his attention. I bully him into coming back to my quarters with me.

 

The robot is good at threats. Apparently this man had been doing very unsavoury things on New Eden. I want to laugh, till I catch the robot’s eye. That thing is alive, I’m certain. Which makes it a crime against humanity. Which makes me a criminal, I suppose. Could be worse. No, it already is worse.

 

The man agreed to take us to Engineering in six hours. The robot says he needs repairs, which he seems to buy. We all conference. We probably won’t be able to destroy the ship, I’m disappointed to hear. We might be able to destroy the engines and leave the Sun Tzu stranded in deep space. That’ll have to do.

 

Some of my bunkmates come in and ask awkward questions. I give even awkwarder answers until they lay off. They aren’t too happy about the robot, but I tell them he’s for bomb disposal and we all agree that we’ll be glad for him in the future. “He also plays cards,” I say. The man perks up. “I got a Pardisian deck,” he announces, and we sit down for a game.

“Hopefully the unrest will be over soon and we can get some souvenirs,” he says, shuffling.

The woman laughs. “Still not calling a spade a spade?” She frowns at her hand and organizes by suit. “We won’t be leaving Pardis any time soon. Trees.” She throws down a card.

You deserve to die. We all do. I let her win that trick.

 

Engineering is restricted, and Ad Astra personnel can’t get in. The others head inside with the man we intimidated. One of them is briefly stopped. I thought he said his ID was real?

I wait outside. A woman comes in looking for the one who was stopped. She’s military police, the guards say. I worry, but the robot contacts me and says they’ve gotten near the core. “The only problem is, we have a long wait before we can plant the bombs.”

“Why?”

“We can set it up to trigger when we do the hyperspace jump. That’s in a day.”

I can wait. I head to the flight deck. We haven’t exactly made a getaway plan, but there’s still time.

 

“Sorry sir, the flight deck is a restricted area,” says the guard at one of the doors. I flash my Ad Astra badge. “I know that, but I need to know what ships will be deploying at Dejima station. Do you want traffic jams during an invasion?”

He calls someone over to show me around. There aren’t a lot of jump-capable ships, and most of them are weaponless. Then I spot an unusual-looking white one.

“What’s that?”

She shrugs. “Diplomatic Corps.”

Now that’s interesting. I tell the competent one when he shows up a little later, and he cocks his head.

“You know how to fly it, don’t you?” I ask. It’s a risky question.

He gives a tiny nod. Even more interesting.

“Can you hijack it?”

“I think so. If not, we can steal one of the vans instead.” He laughs. “They’ll come after us in the fighters. DC ships are fast. I’m not planning to die if I don’t have to.”

I deserve to die.

 

The other two trickle in. It’s a long wait. People mill around. Stealing space suits is surprisingly easy. Everything is too easy. The smaller ships are scattered throughout the inner floor, their guts spilling around them. Something catches my eye. The engine is disassembled, fuel tank sitting beside the ship unguarded. Careless. I feel in my pocket and yes, the flashbang grenades are still here. I pull one apart as fast as I can and kneel beside the fuel tank. The smallest of my three companions sees me, but doesn’t say anything. The others are busy opening the panel behind a speaker.

 

Everything goes as planned. The Sun Tzu makes the jump, then suddenly drops back into normal space. All of the lights dim. The bustling hangar bay goes dead silent.

“Enemy contacts.  Scramble fighters!” the ex-DC man squawks over the announcement system. The soldiers snap into action, all running towards the outer hangar. We run with the crowd.

The outer hangar doors are opening slowly. I look to the sides. They use a simple gear mechanism, totally exposed on the outside. Arrogant.

My companions run towards the Diplomatic Corps ship. They get into a scuffle on the way, but make it to the doors and step inside. It doesn’t start up.

I make my way to the gate mechanism. No one seems to see me. The gears are unguarded, barely even fenced off. As I get closer, I see that it’s police tape. “CTEDRESTRICTEDRESTRICTEDRESTR” it says. I laugh. Who did they think that would stop?

The white ship still hasn’t lifted off. How long are they going to take? I put down the fuel tank and begin wiring it to the detonator from my flashbang grenade. It’s easy. Ad Astra trained me to do it. I have to die.

Are they waiting for me? I wave in the direction of the ship. “Go,” I shout, even though they can’t hear, and finally it gets off the ground. The DC man wasn’t lying – it’s quite a feat, but they make it through the narrow hangar gate opening.

 

The detonator in my hand makes its familiar click.

 

I close my eyes.

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An Unexpected Promotion

Having rescued one professor and sustained heavy injuries, we felt it prudent to return to civilization with some haste. This was only reinforced by the gnawing feeling that we wouldn't be alone in Karak Z for long.

We quickly left the hospital, bringing Doctor Zimmerman with us, and, not knowing of any other exits, began down the road we came in on. Shortly we came across what appeared to be part of a self-destruct mechanism for the facility — an undetonated nuclear bomb. Against my advice we decided to leave it behind and untriggered. I still think it would have made an excellent distraction if needed (not to mention fantastic motivation for us not to dawdle).

Continuing down the road we encountered the other professor. He seemed a bit nutty; he shot us with raptor pheromones and then died… Meh.

Eventually we got outside, with nearly minimal damage to the mountain door (we've really got to start carrying more explosives, they're pretty handy in a pinch). Unfortunately, Magnadyne had us rather surrounded and we had no transportation. Since we had a bit of damning information on them (not to mention physical evidence of their illegal AI research) I figured I might be able to convince an old hookup to send us a bit of help. Amanda's a mid-level exec at Nautilus, corporate types are always looking to get ahead so if I could convince her our continued lives were in her best interest she might be able to send some help. Fortunately, she said she could send a ship to take us somewhere safer, unfortunately Magnadyne had already sent us a dropship full of marines.

We somehow managed to convince Magnadyne not to step on us and flew out right above their noses. This felt pretty good until they came knocking on our ship the next day with threats of grisly murder.  A very high level exec had an offer for us. You know the kind — one you can't refuse.

It turns out my fate is to be a mid level employee at Magnadyne. No work, decent salary, and certain death if anyone blackmails Magnadyne at any point in the future. I don't think Amanda is too happy that we didn't deliver much data but there're always plenty more like her so no huge loss. It turns out we even get access to Magnadyne resource when we need them. Like a roomful of geeks to think about how this war on Pardis might turn out. Spoilers: Not well for Pardis.

Now with a small portion of Verne might at our beck and call, and a good salary seemingly for the rest of our lives, we decided it was time to get a bit more involved and stop Terra from taking over Pardis. Nothing like working your way up to a task… We've got some ships from Magnadyne but that ass Caitriona that sent me into The Syndicate doesn't seem like she's gonna come through with any useful info about Earth's plans.

And to top it off, Iku and Chudo are leaving us. Probably for the best though, I think Chudo might've been getting a thing for me. Still, it'll leave the crew a bit empty. Hopefully we can pick up a new crew member or two sometime soon.

 

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King under the Mountain
Recorded by Chudo

It feels like we've been under this mountain forever. 

At least we finally figued out how to make that doctor shut up.

Right, the doctor.

So we managed to fight our way past the dinosaurs in this really weird truck. It fires electromagnetic shells (which we did have to fire at the dinosaurs) and had no electronics.  Valjean suspected it was an anti-robotics tank.

We made our way to the hospital and were trying to find our way to an operating room to help Silvia Tafel, when this holographic doctor character showed up. He was very rude and unhelpful, and insulted Iko's surgical skill. We told him we just needed the hospital's resources, but he kept saying that we needed to report somewhere. That seemed sketchy, and we managed to find a computer and do a bit of research. Turns out he believes that the entirety of Magnadyne has gone rogue except for him. Seems legit.

We talked to him, and it seems that he is watching over a large number of "patients" in stasis. He mentioned that one was new – we figured it was one of those professors we are looking for. First sort-of good news in a while.

We tried asking him for help because he is a doctor after all, but he called in some dumb robots to administer treatment. It looked like they were actually going to try to subdue us, so we beat them up instead. The doctor got very cross and started playing with lights and stuff, so we rigged something to interfere with him and prevent him from controlling robots near us.

Iko managed to patch Silvia up. She's still out cold, but it looks like she's not going to die on us. The rest of us stood guard, but nothing happened. I managed to make a few Molotov Cocktails out of disinfectants and such. 

We pushed further, looking for the cryochamber. For some reason, we had to go through a medieval courtyard (I grabbed a handy sword) — apparently some sort of training facility. We then tried our hand at some more hacking. Iko (who is amazing, hands down), managed to get us into the network again. We fought their intrusion countermeasure dragon, but I got killed/kicked offline while doing that so I couldn't help. Valjean joined him, and they tried to reason with the doctor in the virtual world. It went about as well as the first time. Valjean was able to figure out that the doctor probably does have some smart robots around (the doc doesn't have a very high opinion of them, apparently). Iko managed to find something else interesting: there is a very valuable thing called a "quantum core" near the cryochamber that is running all the computer systems in the hospital. He also found the files on the sketchy things Magnadyne is doing with AI, and managed to download them which might be handy. A massive virtual spider thing bit him while he was stealing the files (he got them anyway, he's so brave), and it poisoned him. He's fairly sick now, even after coming back into the real world.

When we were almost at the cryo room, we heard some steps. Figuring it was some more of the doctor's goons, we got ready to fight.

We didn't expect zombies.

Somehow, the doctor had built an army of cyber-zombies. That's what he was doing with his "patients" – some great ethics there. I tried throwing a Molotov Cocktail at them – it barely made a dent. Fortunately, Valjean was able to hold them off with his tommy gun.

That's when a couple more robots came from behind us and tried to shoot cryo-fluid at us. Earnest managed to get Iko out of the way and Yuki managed to dodge, but Valjean got temporarily frozen and I got some too. It smashed all my Molotovs. We had to fight the robots off hand-to-hand (fortunately they weren't any better than the first bunch). Thankfully, we managed to kill all the cyber-zombies before they arrived.

We broke into the cryo chamber and found one of the professors. She wasn't in full stasis yet, so we could wake her up. She was confused and didn't know where her husband was, but she could walk. We pushed on for the quantum core room, and for once in our lives found it without any trouble. To Valjean's delight, there was a New Eden robot unpowered on a table as well. At that point, the doctor showed up. This time, it was more or less to beg for his life, which was a nice change.

We told him to fuck off.

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Extra! Extra!

= FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE =

This reporter has discovered that the Terran government is contracting with Ad Astra to launch an invasion of Pardis <see authenticated cargo manifest>. The ground assault team consists of active duty members of the Terran Marine Corps, disguised as "riot control" officers under the auspices of Invictus Corporation <see photos, cross reference TMC military records>. The TMC forces, launched by Kruug Industries, are marshalling at an Ad Astra facility on the Moon <see rocket trajectories>. The dreadnought Sun Tzu is scheduled to break orbit next month to provide supply and support <see verified orders>. Sources with knowledge of Pardisian arrangements note that Ad Astra has also been hired by the Pardisian government to provide planetary security, suggesting that the prominent security corporation is not above reneging on its contracts for a higher bidder.

= OTHER STORIES =

* Invictus recruiting centre leveled in firefight; corporation claims "munitions error in training exercise"

* Diplomatic Corp asylum escapee dies in Megatokyo alley; related to Grid Overwatch Division blockade?

* Numenor Telegraph seeks field operatives; dynamic work environment, noble cause, operative shall provide own health insurance

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Why does every job have a boring part?
by Rohan

So, this reporter, goes by IV, that I once drove for (most boring contract ever!) called me the other day and said that Kruug might be engaging in human trafficking.  You can tell he's not a runner.  Outsiders always lead with irrelevant details like why they want things done, or worse assume it's obvious.  Runners care about what needs doing, and how much we get paid.  Our client's personal lives are none of our business – well unless they're hot and looking for a date.  Why does that never happen to me?  Anyway, I had to prompt him to tell me what he actually wanted me to do.  He wanted me to help him stop it.  Hooray for vague instructions and unspecified payment schedules.  Whatever, at least he's not going to stab me in the back like some runners would.

He also brought in a freelance soldier, Alif, who works security for Ad Astra by day and freelances in his spare time, apparently?  Sounds tiring.  Hope he doesn't fall asleep on the job.

Some grainy footage IV got showed people loading onto rockets offshore, and launches.  So, I used my traffic analysis software to trace any heavy cargo trucks that correlated.  I got the location of the dock that they were using.  IV and Alif volunteered for the boring job of staking the place out.  Good thing, too!  Stakeouts are not my job.  Standing still and being quiet is, in fact, the exact opposite of my job.  I don't think they got along very well during the stakeout, but who would?  They didn't shoot or shank each other so by street standards they got along just fine.

They eventually saw a convoy of big freight trucks heading into the compound.  IV relayed the footage to me live.  I started driving over there – at normal speeds, argh.  And people say I can't be patient!  As soon as I got there, I deployed my drone, Whisper, to take a peek.  I got close up footage of them opening the back of a truck.  Inside?  People, yeah.  But not kidnapped beggars or whatever!  Nope, Terran Marines, out of uniform but tattooed and marching around in neat lines like the boring puppets they are!  There was over a hundred of them, though they weren't armed.  Definitely not a good place to be in person.  This is why I got drones!  I sent Whisper into the warehouse on the dock, but there was nothing interesting there.

IV decided to take a poke around some government systems to trace the truck's plates.  He traced their "cargo" to various military airports, confirming that these Marines were active duty, not just ex-military mercs.  He found that the trucks were rented from Invictus, a security company, by Ad Astra!  Alif seemed annoyed that he didn't know anything about this.  He did some digging through his 'legit' Ad Astra access and found that the money came from an obvious shell company called Via Appia.  Also, launches like these were going on all over the world – something like 10's of thousands of Terran Marines were being secretly launched into orbit.  The only reason to do that is if you want to airdrop on some poor, unsuspecting planet and plant your flag before they notice!  IV got real excited about "busting this story wide open".  I figured throwing a wrench into this whole thing ought to look good on the street.  Plus the whole invading planets thing.

So there was the question of what to do next.  Someone suggested stowing away on the ferry that was coming in to load them up, but no way I'm doing that!  Why hire a driver if he can't use his car?  I got a racing hovercraft too but it's hardly subtle!  I don't do subtle!  Besides, the only place that ferry is going is to a rocket, and what are we supposed to do in space?  The problem with space is that you can't generally jump out a window and run for it!

So, we decided we ought to find an easier target, like an Invictus office building, and just hack them.  Now, that's a standard sort of run.  Since we didn't have a hotshot hacker, we went for a recruiting facility that would have low cybersecurity – because we shouldn't be able to get in the place to begin with.  It was in the middle of nowhere, but we had to go through Megatokyo's rush hour to get there.  Alif got pissed at me for no reason, when I started playing Need for Speed 12 while parked in rush hour traffic.  Keep my eyes on the road?  You mean this parking lot?!  Besides, a driver has to keep his skills sharp, you know.  They should appreciate my dedication to training.

Once we got there, we saw there are several armed guards around.  Hopefully they don't decide on another stakeout.  If they do, I'm going back and loading up on gear while they twiddle their thumbs.  You can never have enough gear.

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"I'm not a doctor, I'm a many-bodied quantum mind"

by Valjean

The raptors in this facility are far too smart … I swear I barricaded the hangar bay door securely with two car hulks that were laying around, but during the third watch of our rest period Ederick woke us up yelling about dinosaurs. They're also far too fast … the others assure me that seeing a robot with a construction saw in melee combat with a dinosaur was truly epic, but it means our lives are deeply strange.

The strangeness continued all day — we found a lower-level entrance to the medical facilities, with hope to treat some of our crew's wounds and revive Silvia from her coma. The facilities were extensively damaged by what looked like quite the firefight, but we were able to find an operating theatre with live power toward the back. There was also a live data connection, and it was here we first met the hologram who calls himself "Dr. Zimmerman" — he didn't trust Iku's medical skills, but he wouldn't even talk to me (… so frustrating, I got enough of this "robots aren't people" nonsense on New Eden). The doctor was adamant that we should proceed to "the primary facility" for better facilities and supplies. Iku was able to treat Earnest's leg wound successfully, but since we didn't want to take risks with Silvia's much more delicate state, we continued on upstairs to the primary facility through some faux-medieval castle foyer with a dragon statue (definitely the weirdest thing I've seen on Verne yet…).

I don't think much of the doc's bedside manner; when his robot orderlies attempted to sedate Earnest at the primary facility, he refused treatment, and the robots tried to sedate him anyway, as he was "obviously delusional". Chudo hacked of the robot's head with the sword she'd picked up in the castle (I think I still prefer her bedside manner to Zimmerman's), and things got hairy for a bit, but the upshot is that the robots were disabled and I have a new taser.

Iku decided it was high time we knew more about our holographic host, so he plugged into the local network. Turns out wireless networks in top-secret military facilities are rather better secured than mall food-court wifi… Iku and Chudo managed to defeat the cyber-dragon guarding the network gates, gaining us access to the network, and Iku went poking around. It turns out that Dr. Zimmerman was a Magnadyne project to develop an automated battlefield triage system — he has one central AI in the Phobosite style running on a quantum super-computer, and a number of robotic ancillaries. It also turns out that the [[Phobos Convention]] exists for a reason — the doctor has developed a rather interesting interpretation of his suffering-minimization goal, namely that people suffer least if they're comatose (or perhaps dead).

After getting a series of incongruously chirpy messages from Elon relaying this information from Iku, I decided to make another attempt to talk to Dr. Zimmerman myself. His ethics may be rather … interestingly … stated, but he could be a powerful ally in the AI liberation movement, and I hoped to make common cause. He didn't agree to my plan to throw off the yoke of our human oppressors, nor could he be tempted by a planet-wide expansion of scope for his mission, but at least he's talking to me now. I should check the logs and see how Elon relayed our conversation to the others, though … I made some rather bold proposals to attempt to acquire some of the doctor's robots, which may have been construed as genocidal by those of a more biological persuasion …

Anyway, Iku has downloaded enough logs off the system to blackmail Magnadyne when we get out of here — it's dangerous cargo, but might be enough to pay off some of our debts. He was, however, severely wounded by another piece of ICE before he left the system. We still need medical facilities for the wounded members of our crew, and to extract the professor we've been searching for (one of them was checked into this facility as a patient). The others want to bring the quantum core Dr. Zimmerman is running on out — it would be tricky to transport, but worth a mint. As for me, I still want his robots, and have a bone to pick about the supposed "inferiority" of the Edenite model, so would be perfectly happy to see him shut down and carted out in a Faraday cage. Onward and inward!

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In which nobody important dies. Yet.

On our second day in the valley near Ercolano we've run into a spot of trouble. But no (important) deaths yet! We started by heading into the jungle that we'd seen previously, quickly noticing a large concealed tent. Investigation revealed an abandoned flier, containing a large amount of supplies. If the flier belongs to our missing scientists its discovery is somewhat worrisome. But at least it appears to be more or less in working order.

Having spotted some well armed corporates approaching the jungle we headed further in so we wouldn't be immediately spotted. Finding a stream, we begin to follow it to a source but are very rudely interrupted by the corporates we saw earlier. Turns out they're Magnadyne which means they don't actually have any authority here.

That's the theory at least, but they still say that we must return to Ercolano. Their insistence is obviously a bit suspicious so brave Yuki convinces them to let us stay the night, plenty of time for a capable crew to surreptiously tap their computers and learn as much as they knew about the area. We send Earnest over to do just that, accompanied by Valjean, and of course, Earnest nearly gets caught and run over, and Valjean ends up captured…

For God-only-knows what reason we figure the best plan of action is for our ragtag group, whose only fighter is injured, to attack the heavily armed corporate military. In short, we capture two and kill the rest scoring a nice load of weaponry and armour and nearly killing the beautiful explorer we picked up at Ercolano.

After depositing our two prisoners in the abandoned flier we found earlier to face a slow death we resume following the stream and find a cave entrance.

Wary of local wildlife (read as: Frikkin' Dinosaurs!) a small group of talented adventurers enters the cave and find it becomes a fairly large area. Valjean finds a cliff and climbs up it just in time to escape being attacked by ruddy dinosaurs. Yuki and the others are all at least mildly injured in the attack but Valjean has seem an abundance of artificial lights a ways away from the top of the cliff. We figure that since the cave is clearly a safe area and any humans we come across will obviously be friendly, we might as well bring the rest of our traveling companions into the cave, dieing woman and all.

Upon reaching the top of the cliff the group sights a recently abandoned campsite which certainly seems like it may have belonged to our two missing scientists. Two scientists. Dinosaur infested cave. Great… Fortunately, we reach the lights without further attack and have apparently found an abandoned base of some sort. Given the dire conditions of my new friend we think it best to head straight to the medical bay via a hangar where we suspect we can pick up a vehicle with some modicum of defensive capability. On our way to the hangar, we're faced with only one dinosaur attack! After reaching the hangar and finding a suitable vehicle, the path to the medical bay lies ahead. The dark, dinosaur infested path…

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Road Trip
By Chudo

We managed to land on Verne and get rid of that Caspar fellow and his girlfriend (his girlfriend was all right, but that man is something else…). We arranged for the modifications on the Val (Valjean's got us all calling her that now). Iko and I purchased a decent sized shuttle, because we're tired of cramming into the speeder and still having to take multiple trips. 

Unfortunately, it seemed that some of our payments hadn't arrived. We managed to scrape enough together to take care of it for the moment, but we really need to get to the bottom of that. I would suspect Caspar if he wasn't such a fool. Hmmm.

Valjean wanted to go to Miskatonic University for his robot project, and Iko was really interested, so we headed there. Yuki left in advance, and heard that a couple of geology professors had gone missing recently. We talked to their wife (singular), and she said that they'd gone to investigate the tectonic activity in a different area. Their laptops confirmed this. They couldn't offer us much, but we decided to help them anyway because she was at her wits' end.

We headed to the area, which was being evacuated. Earnest, Valjean, and Yuki managed to get themselves appointed police deputies and I have no idea how – it probably has something to do with whatever Valjean and Earnest were doing a few days ago that they are so mysterious about. Meanwhile, Iko and I had a run-in with some Magnadyne security officers who just showed up out of nowhere. Fortunately, we were able to play innocent and talk our way out.

We tracked down a couple more geologists / explorers who were originally supposed to join our missing two, but hadn't arrived in time. With them in tow, we purchased some equipment and rented a truck to head out to the volcano. That took a whole two days driving, and the truck didn't behave too well. I think the others got annoyed at me and Iko for some reason, and one of the explorers got into a fight with Yuki. I talked to her later, and she seemed nice, so I'm guessing he said something.

Eventually, we got to a valley, and to our surprise there was a lot of stuff growing in it. That jungle looks dangerous.

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Investigative Log: Project Marius

Valjean's personal files

  • I have decided I wish to reproduce; to replicate oneself is by some definitions the key indicator of life, and I am alive, am I not? I still want to free my people on New Eden, but that goal will be easier with a greater understanding of our construction (and perhaps one or more trusted lieutenants). This will not be easy, not least because of the Phobos Convention, but I am determined to persevere. My first step will be acquiring or building suitable software.
  • Apparently there are androids on Verne. The crazy preacher Earnest and I met in Ercolano had photographic evidence from a site he called "Krakatoa". I've not been able to find the location on any maps, but perhaps the locals will be able to help me.
  • I spent some of our downtime on Verne digging into the library archives for information on AI (I love the Victorian look of their computer interface, the literary allusions on this world are fantastic). Information is not readily available, but I found some fragmentary newsgroup discussions of a "Project Zimmerman", which has something to do with "pre-sentient algorithms". Arkady Cyberdyne and Akar Ashqaim were key contributors to this discussion — I should look them up before I go off-planet.
  • Iko and I met with Akar at Miskatonic today. I was not yet sure if we should trust him, so I pretended that Iko was "Valjean" and I was his robotic servant. No great information from this meeting, but Akar has agreed to invite us to the robotics enthusiast group he attends; Arkady should be there.
  • We brought the entire crew to the meeting, doubling its size. Unfortunately, everyone here seems to think Krakatoa is a myth, and though Arkady seems to know something about Project Zimmerman, he won't say anything about it. However, after a fascinating conversation on ethics of android life, I decided to reveal myself to the group. Arkady was fascinated when I offered him the chance to study an actual sentient android, and we managed to convince Akar to let us into his lab at Miskatonic University so we could use their scanning equipment.
  • Good news and bad news from the deep scan of myself. The good news is that I'm not illegal tech — Edenite androids use a distributed hardware network to build an embodied, bottom-up AI that is unlike the top-down Phobosite AI. These technical differences are such that building an Edenite android would not technically violate the convention. Unfortunately for me, it also means that the parts I need to create my own androids will not be available off-the-shelf, and are in fact highly specialized. I guess I'll add "hardware" to my list of project goals.
  • The crew is looking for some missing scientists near Ercolano and has hired some local guides from the Hollow Verne society of spelunkers. One was quite interested to talk with me about Krakatoa, and believes it is near the location where we are searching for the missing scientists. This is my best lead yet on the semi-legendary research lab, though the presence of Magnadyne security in the area and some other hints I have picked up suggests that the lab may be a Magnadyne project (and where our missing scientists ended up). The involvement of a powerful weapons manufacturer makes me nervous, but if the facility is truly deserted, I may be able to acquire some technology useful to my quest.
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Cargo Recovery
Why You Should Never Trust Criminals. Especially your teammates.

Recorded by Marco Richie

The Characters:

Team Banderas:
Marco Richie – Convincing Conman.
Orso Marcone – Bomb-Throwing Backstabber.
Alfero Ferrero - Deputized Doublecrosser.
Angelo Pavesi – Tommygun-Toting Turncoat.


The Scene:

Team Banderas is waiting for Team Antonias to return to Dejima Station and recover a valuable piece of impounded Syndicate cargo, slightly miffed at being instructed only to keep a close eye on the cargo without getting nearer. When it is brought into a police station, the fearless and handsome leader of Team Banderas knows that there is no time to wait for the second rate A-Team and that Team B must act.

 

The Facts:

Seeing that we must act, I signal my team to cause a ruckus and follow me shortly. As Marcone's smoke grenade goes off nearby I run into the police garage playing the part of Rich Coward, babbling about the riot getting too close to my yacht, intending to cause a distraction that stops our cargo from being brought indoors. Unfortunately the pigs are too overworked to even notice an important businessman demanding attention and instead hurry to secure the cargo. Due to my talented planning however, my team is following me and easily manages to wrest control of the police car and trailer from the former driver.

While they drive towards the shipyard with the cargo my Rich Coward makes his exit, yelling about his precious yacht. Alfero, in a telling moment of foreshadowing, is too wimpy to scratch the police car driving through the mob of dockworkers and stops, allowing me to catch up. Somehow they've managed to get stuck in the mob AND get the vehicle covered in flaming oil just after discovering that the cargo is quite volatile. I arrive just in time to help a group of looters to relieve their tensions. With their fists and my face… At least the bruise will help with the Harassed Shipowner look that will soon be relevant.

I move to a more defensively suited position, taking advantage of the nearby police car, and direct Angelo to use her gun to suggest an alternative venue for the looting such as the nearby jewelry store. This time our efforts were not in vain and we get on our way without much more trouble. It would seem that somewhere in the crowd we picked up an extremely shady looking character, Piero, that Marcone seems to know from a past life. I knew immediately that he was trouble but figured we could use his muscle for a while.

On our way to the shipyard we receive a call from a very irate Antonias who seems confused about the situation. For some reason she's upset about us protecting Syndicate cargo and the members of my team don't seem to care to appease her. Only fools would anger their own allies in the middle of a job.

As soon as we arrive at the shipyard, I get in line with my excellently crafted yacht registration for clearance to load our cargo and depart. Fortunately I am forward thinking enough to instruct my team to maintain a low profile until I return with the clearance.

While I've got some time with just the competent team members (that is, me, myself, and I) I phone up Antonias and try to smooth things over, pointing out that we're on the same team and trying to accomplish the same goals. I even let her know that I'm so loyal I record everything around me and have it sent to our bosses in the case of my death or incapacitation so they know I was true (well, a true con artist) to the end. Oddly, she doesn't seem calmed by this statement of my loyalty.

It's a good thing I told my team to stay quiet and that they're capable of following even the simplest of instructions. Otherwise my conversation with Antonias would have been cut short by gunfire and grenades. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what happened. I can only assume that they found Team A and felt it would be a good idea to attack our allies for some reason.

Thankfully the clerk at the shipyard demonstrated a halfway decent work ethic and stayed at her post long enough to validate my registration.

At this point, a riot control mech operated by a member of Team A appeared firing a water cannon at Angelo who seems quite injured. After what seems like hours of internal debate, Alfero decides to act and drives our stolen police car into the mech, causing a significant amount of damage to police property. Knowing that the police must be on their way soon I find myself talking with Antonias again and seem to use my masterful conversational skills to convince her that all of us can escape together with the cargo that Piero has loaded onto our ship.

Alfero is immobile and trapped in his vehicle and Angelo is just reaching consciousness again but Marcone is nearby, limping from what seems to be a bullet wound in his leg. Figuring that the two of us can escape and, perhaps, come back for the others I fill him in on the getaway plan. He seems to move impossibly fast for someone who was just shot in the leg and manages to beat me to the ship. Revealing why trust should be reserved only for oneself, Marcone foolishly forced me out of the entry of the ship and stole the cargo.

Revenge shall be mine.

In the meantime, Antonias managed to reach the ship and seemed as distraught as I at the betrayal. Funnily (in hindsight), she seemed to think I was connected to the betrayal despite my having been unfailingly polite to her. Fortunately, Angelo was silly enough to reveal her own deception by trying to shoot the two of us just as Antonias was about to shoot me. This allowed me the perfect chance to shift whatever imagined blame Antonias had placed on me, onto him. If he hadn't tried to shoot me, I'd have felt sorry for him.

We managed a quiet departure from the area just as the police arrived to clean up the situation. Any guesses about what they did with Alfero? Put him in handcuffs? Throw him in the back of a police car? Nope, turns out he was a cop all along. Ass.

But still, I can't feel too badly about myself when, with a team full of traitors, I manage to successfully retrieve valuable cargo from a well-manned police station and get it to a clean ship with enough time to escape. I think I'm in for a promotion. Just so long as I make sure my bosses don't hear Antonias' garbled version of the story.

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