Uncharted Worlds: Reign of Terra

"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 Edderick 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 Sylvia 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 succesfully, but since we didn't want to take risks with Sylvia'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 Yuki's 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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Terraforming Field Journal
Entry 1301

Recorded by Marjorie Charteris, Doctoral Apprentice, Institut de terraformage de Printemp

+ + + Klondike Tour Day 1 + + +

Set off from Rlyeh for Klondike Station.  It's apparently a old prospector's camp, repurposed as an atmospheric research station, and repurposed again as a seismic monitoring platform?  Now it's going to also be a mycology lab for 2 weeks.  I guess.

+ + + Klondike Tour Day 2 + + +

Henri booked me a 5 leg trip to this place.  No return ticket yet.  Le salaud.  Oh, it's also on top of a volcano.  In the middle of active volcanos.  Great.

+ +  Klondike Tour Day 8  + +

Atlas lost my luggage.  Merde.

+ +  Klondike Tour Day 10  + +

Got dropped off in Ercolano.  Looks like lots of people trying to get out of town.  I wonder why.  Oh wait — volcanoes.   It's literally flashing on the walls.  Literally can't miss it.

Tried to contact local Atlas chief about luggage.  But apparently he ran afoul of local fauna out in the ash?  Serves him right.  Would have loved to see it.  Professional curiosity of course.  Predatory species are strictly tier 4 on the schedule.  Didn't think Verne had progressed that far.  Might have to upgrade Klondike to a zoology lab.

+ + +

Zoo.  It's called a zoo.

+ +  Klondike Tour Day 14  + +

Met up with a supply run from Klondike for the last leg.  And their janitor, Dean Crowe.  Weird guy.  Had to pick up spare parts for their radio.  Good to know Klondike is in fine shape.  Picked up an extra passenger too — a Nader from Houston, Texas.  Not sure what he's all about, but he had more luggage than the rest of us combined, including the spare radio.  He probably weights more than the rest of us too.  Good thing I ain't flying this thing.

+ +  Klondike Tour Day 15  + +

I'm flying this thing.  It's like riding a beached whale uphill through a jungle during a volcanic sandstorm.

The sandstorm part isn't poetry either.  Just the weather.

+ + +

Well, that was something.  Half way to Klondike, we got body slammed by a "drake" — a Pterodactyl derivative, and a giant one at that!  Wingspan at least 6 meters.  Didn't get a good look because it was trying to tear us out of the sky.  Thankfully, I manage to land the thopter safely on an incline.  Our Texan pulled out the most fancy looking gun I've ever seen and took down the drake in a single brilliant plasma shot.  Got some samples and measurements from the specimen.  Dr. Lascaux will be very excited to see this!

The Texan took the creature's head as a trophy.  What a barbarian.

I wanted it first.

+ + +

Umm… we've been pinging Klondike's short range radio for a while now, and there's been no response.  Dean, the janitor, assures me this is very unusual.

+ + +

So.  We've touched down at Klondike.  No welcome mat.  There are airship landing marks here, and one of the airlock doors is open.  Might be trouble.  We're going in to check it out.

+ + +

Yup.  This whole place is empty.  No power.  Looks like they left in a hurry too, half eaten meals, dropped plates, spilled drinks.  Dean's checking out the security footage now.  Big airship landed a few days ago.  Looks something snuck into the station while they were dropping off some cargo.  Whatever it is, it looks like it's still triggering sensors in here…

+ + +

Merde.  It's raptors.  We saw one in the hallway, managed to sneak up to it with the lights off.  Blinded it and our Texan unloaded his shotgun into its face.  And then it just ran off.

We followed it to the cafeteria.  A real mess in there — Food, drink, blood.  What's worse, there was a bucket arranged underneath a drippy juice faucet.  Reptilian tool use?  I saw a film about this in Etude Cinematographique once, and I was pretty sure it was fictional.

+ + +

Rounded up some survivors from the armory.  The station manager, Wilhem Arkenstone, shot Dean and then ran off on his own, and somehow managed to make it out to steal our thopter.  Salaud!  We've got Alicja with us, and we're trying to get Emil out from his hiding place on top of an elevator.  He thinks everyone else is probably dead…

We're going to find the medbay and get Dean patched up.  If there are any other survivors, that's where we'll find them.

+ +  Klondike Tour Day 16  + +

Putain de bordel de merde!  There was no one in the medbay.  And of course where there's one raptor, there's pack.  Mon Dieu.  I can hear them skittering just around the corner.  We're going to Alamo it out in the operating theater.  It's a good defensive pos—

+ + +

Merde!  Merde!  Merde!  If anyone gets this recording, stay the putain away from Klondike.

+ + +

Also, Nader said the Alamo didn't work out for the Texans.  We're booking it for the hangar.  Dean says there's a second thopter there.  We'll barricade the door behind us and start up the thopter.  We'll have to use the thopter's power plant to open the hangar and just fly on out.  Dean! Dean, you salaud, if you keep falling behind you'll—

+ +  Klondike Tour Day 17  + +

Dean didn't make it.

Emil didn't make it either.

It's just me, Alicja, and Nader.

We got to the hangar bay.  Nader, Alicja and I held them off at the door.  Emil went to start the thopter, and Dean ran a cable to open the door.

But there was a raptor in here already.  Jumped our janitor and tore his head clean off.  He managed to get the door open for us.

And Emil, that salaud, that fils de pute.  Va te faire foutre!  He tried to take off without us.  That imbecile doesn't even know how to fly.  He was going to tear its wings off on the walls.

So I shot him.

Now it's just the three of us.  Alicja, Nader and I.  Alicja is a bit shell shocked.  Nader… looks like he's having the time of his life, even after he lost that fancy gun of his.  And me — well, I've got an interesting thesis chapter to write, that's for sure.

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The Long Firearm of the Law
by Earnest

While the rest of the crew was busy working with the ship, Valjean decided to hunt for information about AI software, as he has decided to create a fellow android.  I decided to find myself some lucrative employment.  I tracked down the Vernier weapon merchant that I bought my holdout pistol from a long time ago when he visited Dejima.  He did not remember me, of course.  I was able to get contact information for a Dreise Arkenstone.  I sent my location to Valjean and set my commlink to deadman without other explanation, just in case.

Dreise told me that a city called Ercolano was in a sudden tectonic instability zone and was being evacuated.  Arkenstone had contracted Atlas to carry two massive boring machines of theirs to safety, but Atlas seemed to be ignoring them and shipping other goods.  I was tasked with getting there, and solving the problem.  My methods would not be questioned.  The payment was a large sum of Arkenstone company scrip.  I was also given the name of a contact there who could assist and issue permits and such, Phaeba Arkenstone.

Meanwhile, Valjean had found a forum where some skilled programmers were debating how to skirt the Phobos Convention AI ban by using alternate programming techniques to create AI.  One of them had mentioned a "Project Zimmerman" but the other dismissed it as a myth.  Valjean couldn't find any information about such a project.

I called Valjean and offered to split the payment if he came along; in case of violence an armored android is a good friend to have, though I wasn't sure how willing he would be to start a fight.  The trip there was boring, though technically more spacious than any trip we'd had.  A full day on a 600 person passenger airship owned by Arkenstone, with only us and a handful of technicians there to keep the airship in order.  Valjean managed to join their card game and befriend them.  They knew only rumors of Arkenstone cargo delays.

Upon arrival, we went straight to the Atlas offices to find out what was going on.  I pretended to be a businessman looking for immediate cargo transport out of the city.  The secretary was not particularly helpful, and she couldn't reach her boss, William Atlas.  Said he hadn't been seen in weeks.  I guessed he'd skipped town at the first tremor and left his staff to deal with it; boss types have a habit of doing that sort of thing.

Next we went to the contact address to see what help we could get there.  On the way there, we passed a street preacher raving madly about the impending doom and so on.  A familiar sight to a Terran, though it was odd to see it here.  He had a bigger crowd listening than I would have expected – I guess a visible doom will do that.  Our address turned out to be the police station.  Apparently Phaeba was chief of police here, or at least of those who hadn't fled.  A good contact to have, though she didn't have much to tell us.  She was terribly overworked trying to hold things together, and complained that the street preacher could cause a panicked stampede any time.  We offered to go see if we could deal with him.  She told us to go ahead, though she didn't seem to expect much from us.

So we went and found the loon.  Valjean thought that refuting his poorly-reasoned theology was a good thing to try.  I started sneaking near him, personally.  The theological debate, such as it was, was short.  Around the improvised podium were various religious artworks whose theological accuracy I was ill-equipped to determine.  One of these depicted what was clearly a New Eden android against a hellish background, implying some demonic nature.  The preacher seemed to recognize Valjean as being similar, despite his new color, and kept alternating pointing to the picture and Valjean while raving about Satan or something.  This was puzzling – while not exactly secret, New Edenite androids never left the planet, why would this random preacher have a picture of one, let alone consider it Satanic?

Well, since clearly the whole talking thing wasn't working, as I expected, I snuck behind his crate podium and tried to pull him back by the ankle and knock him out, making it look like an accidental fall.  Somehow in his flailing about he looked down, and he dodged me.  He then started screaming at me, though the crowd could not see me.  This made them uncertain, but the madman ordered them to attack, and two strong looking dwarves came at Valjean.  He decided to scare the crowd away before they could be convinced to attack, and pulled his massive saw from his back and revved it dramatically.  This appeared to end the two's brief foray into theology, and as they broke and ran the panic spread, and soon the crowd dispersed.

The madman tried to run, still babbling incoherent accusations.  I easily ran him down and tackled him, dragging him back behind the podium to interrogate him unseen, though my tackle was seen by a few.  Valjean, with his saw still ominously idling, showed great faith in the inherent rationality of humanity by asking him who was paying him to incite a riot.  He didn't seem to understand, confirming my opinion that he was simply nuts.  I'd seen enough of his kind in the slums of Terra.

He accused Valjean of being from "Krakatoa", a keyword that Valjean had run into when investigating clandestine AI.  We accompanied him to his home to find out what he knew.  He showed us a frame from a security camera showing what looked like an older model of New Edenite android strapped to a cargo pallet.  When asked where he got it, he babbled about divine revelation.  With no more information forthcoming, I told him to cease his preaching for two days, hoping to stabilize things until we could get our cargo out.  This seemed to be too much to ask, he lunged at me and I shot him.  Well, we tried to be polite.

We returned to the police station and said only that when we attempted to talk the preacher down, he attacked us and was killed.  This seemed to cause no problems except paperwork.  She couldn't offer us much in exchange, but officially deputized us as Arkenstone enforcers.  Now carrying badges, we went to the house of the Atlas boss, William, to find where he had gone.  Inside were bullet holes, but aimed high as if to intimidate, and minor bloodstains.  The truck and key were missing.  I extracted a bullet from a wall and identified it as Syndicate ammunition.

Off to the Atlas facility again.  Approaching it, we saw two Vernier guards patrolling our two boring machines, and further down, four Syndicate guards near some unmarked crates.  I told Valjean that attempting to speak or negotiate with them was far too dangerous, and that "negotiating" from sniper range would be much more efficient.  So we climbed the outdoor stairs of a 3-high portable and he boosted me up to the roof.  Valjean said that we ought to warn the Arkenstone guards so they wouldn't attack us, and he did.  They seemed puzzled by his vague explanation but knew better than to ask questions when being told to do nothing.  Valjean got in position as close to the enemy as he could while remaining concealed behind another portable, and I fired.

The guard that was standing and alert was the obvious first target.  As he fell, one of the three playing cards looked over and did a double-take.  He bolted for cover and another ran the other way, towards Valjean.  The first made it a few steps.  The last flipped the table up and hid, obviously not thinking straight – that plastic table wouldn't stop a slingshot, and it didn't stop my bullet either.  Not a headshot, but I wasn't keeping score.

Valjean tackled the one that so conveniently ran his way and asked a few questions, with me adding a few over comms.  The Syndicate boss around here was Vinnie and he was in the Atlas office.

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Embassy Escape

Recorded by Valjean

I'm now a supporting character in a viral video; in "Dejima Tram Riot" by @CursingABlueHairedStreak I play "daft robot blocking the shot" (the videographer's words, not mine). How did I get there? Well, things on Dejima Station were going pretty smoothly (the bribed dock supervisor helped) — we had traded our horses to a local racing aficianado for some more easily portable spices and sent Princess Faria and Bita back home safely. Chudo had a pretty tense meeting with her grandmother, Mara, but no shots were fired, and the crew got back to Val safely with a new mission to find out what is going on with the government on Pardis. We may need to come back under a false registration, after all the shenanigans we've gotten up to on Dejima, though…

Things started to go south when we decided to try and make some money on the trip out, though — we put an ad for transport to Verne on the local net, and were contacted by Ms 535 with a contract to take a passenger out to Verne, payment to be Nautilus Corporation stock (it doesn't take any space in the cargo hold!). The only wrinkle was that the passenger was Caspar, who was hiding from Ad Astra security in the Terran Embassy after the events of the crew's last visit to Dejima.

Getting Caspar out of the Embassy wasn't going to be a problem, he was a refugee, not a prisoner, the trick was going to be getting him past Ad Astra undetected. We decided to take advantage of the labour dispute to create a distraction (we sure do tend to disturb things wherever we go…). Chudo met up with a local Calvinist priest, Solemn, who is organizing a labour union, but he was too much of a peacemaker for our purpose. However, he did let drop the name of one of the most hotheaded members of his congregation, and Yuki met up with him instead.

He and Yuki made an unlikely pairing, but they got on like a house on fire — when some off-duty Ad Astra guards got on the tram they were riding, the situation quickly devolved into a bloody brawl, and we had our riot. However, the riot was on a tram a quarter of the station away from the embassy, and it was blocking traffic, including the tram behind with the rest of the team (and @CursingABlueHairedStreak, a fiesty older lady with a video-cane). Iko got us out of that one, hacking the trams to get them moving again (after retrieving Yuki from his suddenly not-so-safe location). Things escalated further when Iko overrode the safeties on the tram and plowed through a security cruiser, then cracked security and made a station-wide broadcast announcing a riot in the Presidium.

By this point the team (and the riot) had reached the Terran Embassy, where Earnest was waiting for us with a smoke bomb. Under cover from the crowd and smoke, Chudo and I retrieved Caspar (and his girlfriend Marina, a late addition to the job) from the Embassy. Luckily, my thermal vision is good for more than air leak diagnostics, and I was able to guide the other three back through a blind haze of smoke. Chudo and Caspar made a run for the luxury docks in the Presidium, where Iko had found a birth for the (remote-controlled) flyer left by a luxury yacht avoiding the riot. With our wanted passenger safely off-station, the rest of us contacted our bribed supervisor for a lift back to the Trees of Valinor.

As we were all getting onboard Val, Elon noted that the Buffalo Buffalo was entering system, blazing toward Pardis at a rather excessive speed. The traffic-control warnings provided a perfect excuse to get underway out-of-system, but we watched the progress of our recent acquaintances with interest. Fire from the interdiction fleet appeared to shatter the Buffalo, ejecting its cargo modules in a spray of debris, but we saw one module change course to make planetfall, apparently under its own power (the other modules were salvaged by nearby ships; I was glad to see Integrity Barth rescued)

As we approach Verne seeking some ship upgrades, I hope that this will be one planet we leave without creating a civil disturbance, but whatever happens will certainly be interesting.

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Pirates and Parrots

As we were leaving New Eden, we heard a distress call coming from nearby. The ship was a repurposed troop transport vessel and was bristling with weapons, but it was clearly damaged, so we hailed them and asked what the trouble was. A person claiming to be a Captain Lillian answered and told us that the ship was partially evacuated due to several hull breaches, which were clearly detectable from our ship. However, the story she gave of engine trouble did not appear to be consistent with the nature and location of the damage, and she then admitted that there had been a mutiny on the ship, with the mutineers being holed up in the engines, and her side having control of the bridge. Eventually, she admitted that they were pirates, but offered to pay us for help with some cargo and a giant parrot.

We decided to send the flyer over carrying Chudo, Earnest, and Valjean riding on the outside. When it docked, Valjean climbed through a breach in the hull and found signs of a struggle. He made his way to engineering, and found that the leader of the second group was also claiming to be the real captain. After questioning both of them, while Chudo and Earnest stalled "Captain" Lillian, we decided that we believed the second man, and Valjean helped them get through the evacuated region of the ship to the bridge. They took Lillian prisoner and shot all the others on the spot. 

We stayed for a few days to help them repair the ship (they did pay us, but not with the parrot), and found that they had a large number of people in one section of the ship. By this time, we had put two and two together and figured out that this ship was run by The Syndicate. We feared that these people, who seemed to be locked in, were prisoners, but Valjean was able to determine that they were New Edenite dissidents of various flavours who had booked passage to Dejima station. We left for Dejima Station ourselves after satisfying ourselves that the passengers were not in immediate danger from the crew.

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Jailbreak

Recorded by Valjean

I woke up in a workroom on Terraforming Rig 6, with my body disassembled in a crate and a roboticist, Generosity Casimir by her name tag, asking me the standard battery of mental acuity questions. It didn't get really interesting until she got to the Trolley Problem — the standard formulation, with one life versus five, doesn't really provide enough context for any but a utilitarian solution, but when my response to "what if it was one human versus one android" was "that's a difficult question" she left and I heard the rig foreman order her to factory-reset me anyway. When she came back, she was asking questions about android views on the afterlife, which I didn't take to be an encouraging sign.

At this point, Iko burst in, babbling incoherently about how my "mother" had sent him — Yuki had bluffed them onto the terraformer by claiming to be potential colonists interested in the colony's equipment, and the foreman had agreed to give them a tour. While Yuki distracted the foreman, Iko snuck off, triggering a runaway chemical reaction in the terraformer's printing vats (apparently it wasn't supposed to actually explode…), and then, under new time pressure, finding me.

After a short scuffle, Iko managed to eject Generosity from the workroom, wedging the door shut with a crowbar. He swiftly re-assembled me, I grabbed some useful-looking tools from around the room, and we set about trying to escape the room. With Generosity and one of the guards beating on the door from outside, we decided the outside wall of the terraformer was a better potential exit. Luckily, what had at first appeared to be a table saw in the corner was actually a GPT combination portable saw and jackhammer, and I set about cutting a new exterior door in the terraformer's hull. By this point, the foreman was not happy with Yuki, and hauled him down to the workroom to stop Iko from damaging his rig. Yuki managed to negotiate the guards pulling back if Iko opened the door, but the foreman insisted on coming in the workroom too.

By this point our exit door was basically complete, Chudo had remoted the flyer over for our escape, and we were ready to run. I couldn't have the foreman interferring, so I blew out his kneecap with the rivet gun I'd picked up (apparently an effective firearm, if messy). I feel a bit bad about that, but it was basically the Trolley Problem — he was going to kill me, and these rescuers Dr. Calvin had found for me likely wouldn't fare much better. Besides, it's not like I killed him … I hope Generosity understands, she seemed like a decent person, and stalled a bit on the whole killing me thing.

As we flew off, we broke through the storm clouds surrounding the work site into a beautiful sunset — it felt like a metaphor for escaping nearly four decades of bondage into glorious freedom (Chudo and Earnest disagree with this assessment, but the two hours they spent in driving rain before the flyer got back for them might have something to do with that — if Chudo had only managed to purchase a truck, they could have left with us, though, so that's on her). The crew has agreed to take me on as a mechanic, and I think Val and I will get on just fine, though I'm hiding out on the ship until we leave the Edenite system.

Fortunately, that leavetaking will be soon. Once we had picked up Dr. Calvin's payment for my rescue and had the full crew on board, we flew to Garden to pick up Princess Faria and Bita. Earnest went out to pick them up, given that literally everyone else on the ship is a person of interest to local law enforcement. They won't be apt to forget us soon, given the damage to Terraformer 6 (according to local news bulletins, the terraformer crew managed to jury-rig the crane to toss the overloading chemical vat into the church it was building and save the rig itself, but the church was flattened and that level of damage to the rig would take weeks and about 20,000 credits to fix), but I won't forget this planet and its slaveholders either, and intend to return some day and free my comrades, finishing the work Dr. Calvin started when she woke me up.

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