Star*Drive 2525: Hunting for Fun and Profit

Session 1 -- A Mexican Standoff...in Spaaace
Or "But we were here first!"

We still have a few days to burn so we continue to question Holo-chai about his past and available memories. He begins talking to us about how one of his crewmen was killed by a brainbug and be began hunting down the supplier, eventually locating a group referring to itself as “the Underworld.” As it turns out they’re a pretty large organization. Holo-chai eventually killed some more lieutenants and was able to figure out that there’s just one person at the head of the organization, Eribos the Head of the Underworld. At that point the organization attacked him and killed most of his remaining crew, at which point he went to hire us. Much of our first assignments were while he was gathering information about the Underworld and its dealings. It was that trail that Holo-chai recounts until it brings us up to events shortly before Hawke’s death.

Holo-chai indicates that it doesn’t sound like we’re on the “bad list” of the underworld, more that it was just him. However it sounds like the Underworld knows about our ship.

Hawke indicates that it could be a service to the Rim and the Concord for us to work against the Underworld, not to mention a number of their figures would be worth very large bounties, so it may be in our best interests to help take them down.

As we approach the planet we’re directed to a docking/parking orbit. Sinon sits on the bridge and focuses intently, spending about half an hour concentrating. He’s able to tell with his psionic abilities that the target person is nowhere on the planet.

We complete docking at Nectara station and consider our next move. It’s possible that he’s headed to Thorn Shipyards, the company he allegedly sold the secrets to. Aiden manages not to break the computer as he attempts to use it, beginning to look for whether there were any recent postings to charter a ship to Thorn. He hunts and pecks away over an extended period.

Blake, Gargoyle and Seamus go out to carouse in a local bar while we wait on Aiden’s hunting and pecking. He finds the station to be rather tightly controlled, without many opportunities to really get into trouble. In any case the bar at this space station is still a rather large and nice one with a semi-circular room, dance floor, restaurant and other things you’d expect in a dance bar. To Blake’s trained eye he notes a number of security guards who are trying to blend into the crowd but not doing a good enough job of it. He gets the feeling that the bar is fairly heavily secured.

While they’re drinking and dancing Aiden accidentally presses a sequence of buttons and manages to turn up some useful information. He locates a flight plan filed by a ship called the Star Mule headed for the McCoa star system, which happens to be en-route to Talbot where Thorn is located. Only one passenger, using a male name, was onboard. Very little traffic goes in that direction normally so he feels that it’s likely a significant lead. Additionally it’s of interest that there’s a small Borealan research station on that planet. The Star Mule made starrise three days ago. The ship is a bit older with about a 5.7 Ly range so we anticipate it will take them two jumps to arrive. Conversely we would arrive in just one jump so we would expect that we could arrive ahead of him if we leave within about a day.

Sinon notes the pseudonym we’re assuming this passenger used to book passage to Talbot and is able to confirm that it was the same one that was present on the ship that brought our target here.

Given that we have no further work to do on this planet and we have about a day until our stardrive has recharged we elect to go down to the beach and drink cocktails for the day. Aiden realizes, while on the planet, that we didn’t have too hard of a time picking up the trail of this guy and likely there are a number of other bounty hunters probably after the guy.

Afterwards we shake the sand out of our shorts and return to our ship and depart. A few days after we make starfall to McCoa. During the interval in drivespace Holo-chai offers to be a teacher to us on some of his areas of expertise. Some of us elect to learn Law skill while others choose to learn Research. We each spend about 20 hours a day as there’s nothing else to do while in drivespace.

A short time prior to starrise Holo-chai calls us back to the bridge. Shortly thereafter in a burst of red light we emerge from drivespace. Thanks to Blake’s expert navigation we emerge only .1 au from the planet. Talbot is a dusty world with ammonia lakes and an inert, non-breathable atmosphere of argon and lots of CO2. Sokara station is a domed research station about 15 years old and funded by the Borealans. Only about 200 people are present in the system. As we begin moving towards the planet (about an 11hr journey) we get in touch with the local communications net. A few other ships are present in-system; we don’t locate the Star Mule yet so likely we’ve beat them here. We do locate another ship inbound, several days away; likely they made starrise very far from the planet. We know that our target was bringing supplies to the planet so we anticipate landing there to pick the guy up upon his arrival.

As we near the planet a pale-faced and nervous scientist gets on the com to us by the name of McDermott. He wants to know why we’re visiting the system. We explain we’re bounty hunters, which doesn’t really calm his nerves. We explain the situation and ask to land to apprehend the criminal when he arrives. The scientist becomes extremely concerned that we’re somehow going to disrupt the peace of his station with our activities. We reason with him as to the problems that might be caused by letting the guy not land. The guy goes off-camera to talk with his security chief; they speak off-camera. The boffin comes back and indicates that we would be allowed to apprehend the guy if we can do it without using weapons that might damage the dome and without using any excessive violence. We explain that some other bounty hunters might not be quite as nice as us and try to argue that their own security arrangements will not be sufficient against a single group of bounty hunters, much less the multiple groups that will be coming, not to mention the criminal that is heading this way. He doesn’t like the sound of that and hangs up on us.

Shortly thereafter the guy calls us back and says he may have been a bit too hasty. They’ve decided that standard personal arms should not damage their dome. We take a look at the layout of the spaceport from our position in space and begin to formulate a plan to land ahead of time and wait at the spaceport for his transport to land.

During our planning Holo-chai informs us that about an hour and a half ago he detected a starrise of an unknown craft. It’s too early to be the Star Mule so we must assume it’s more bounty hunters. We revise our plans a bit, especially considering the volume of ships that will likely be arriving. We check in on the other two ships in the area; one of them, the No Equal, are rather arrogant and don’t often follow the conventions of other bounty hunters. The other ship, the Red Hook, isn’t one that’s known to us.

We elect to head down to the planet to prepare for their arrival and talk with the staff on-planet, electing to take a number of stutter weapons with us as well as bladed weapons. We land and mate airlocks with the station, although the airlock doesn’t immediately open. The security officer for the station greets us, requesting us to transmit our bounty hunter licenses to him, which we do. He questions us as to whether we have any heavy weapons on us. Gargoyle tries to be diplomatic and does a reasonable job of convincing him that we wouldn’t dream of bringing dangerous weapons inside. The airlock opens finally and welcomes us to the station. He indicates that we’ll need to stay on our ship as they don’t have guest accommodations. We proceed down the jetway towards the dome, walking through (and setting off) a single security checkpoint. We head to a tram that takes us a few kilometers from the spaceport to the dome – a large, transparent structure that appears to be quite solidly built. Inside is a single large building with what looks like a verdant park area surrounding it.

The security guy explains that they generally will not prevent those who can do damage to the dome from landing, mainly because they have no capacity to stop them. That’s of course not good news to us. They apparently have all of four security officers. We get some information about the docking area and the lower cargo delivery area that the freighter would likely use.

While looking over the place Hole-chai buzzes us that the No Equal wants to talk with us; he forwards us the call so we can all listen in but Gargoyle ends up speaking for us by default because he’s the only one who can be diplomatic (or at least he thinks he can). A face appears from the incoming call – a Solar wearing a fedora and sporting large wire-frame spectacles. He introduces himself as captain Thaddeus Burns introduces himself and indicates he’d like to speak with Mordecai; Gargoyle indicates that he’s indisposed. Burns states that he wants to negotiate with us to leave the bounty to him. He offers 25% of the bounty in exchange for our cooperation. We politely indicate we’ll bring the offer to him and end the conversation. None of us think that offer is worth a second thought.

The Red Hook then comms us; Gargoyle again takes the call. A scarred, grizzled guy named Captain Rackam comes on the line. He indicates that that the No Equal has offered them 25% to displace us; he instead offers to split the bounty to turn on the No Equal. We say we’ll think about it and end the conversation. We have about the same interest in their offer as the other.

Burns from the No Equal calls us back; Gargoyle takes the call. Gargoyle again tells him that we’ll consider it and signs off.

We consider the situation as a group and decide not to ally with either group, not wanting to split the bounty. We offer to give $10k to Rackham upon capture of the bounty to thank him for giving us the info about Burns. After a couple of hours no further contact is received. Both ships continue their courses towards the planet.

With that we end for the night. We all receive two character points.

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Session .5--A New Start
Which Might Be Hopeful!

(This was a half session, at best. We started only after the players finished building PCs and equipping them.)

We pick up where the prologue ends. We’ve been making jumps through drivespace for a few weeks now on our way to Aegis. It’s June 2nd, 2525. We’ve just made starrise in the Aegis system; our navigator Blake has not failed his astrogation roll we come out a reasonable distance from the colony. He also fails to fail his navigation roll and manages to locate the colony, about three days out from the planet. However now that we’re at Aegis we begin to consider what we’re supposed to be doing here or who we should try and locate. Taking the logical course we begin moving towards the planet. We realize that with a vague idea of the ship’s cost for basic operations we’ll need to raise some money to continue operations. We decide to look on the local grid for records of Mordechai’s last visit or perhaps any holdings on the planet.

About an hour into our trip to the planet all power suddenly goes out in the ship; we’re coasting along completely blindly – no lights or anything else. We shout for Peter Benton, the doctor/engineer/computer hacker, to find out what happened. Unfortunately Peter can’t immediately see the cause; he begins investigating. As soon as he begins checking into it however the reactor spontaneously starts up and power begins to restore to the ship. Blake is able to quickly find that the ship’s mass transceiver just downloaded a packet of information of unusual size; a big file structure of some kind. Then something actually unusual (hah) happens. Next to Aiden’s captain’s chair a piece of flooring begins retracting and a small pedestal rises with a holoprojector attached. It hums to life, displaying a small image of Mordechai.

Holo-Mordechai looks around and states that he must be dead. He asks for the entire crew to be assembled, which we do. The projection states that he’s a recording of the personality matrix of the original Mordechai, updated every time he visits Aegis. He states that the ship now belongs to all of us, each with a 1/6 ownership stake, and that he requests his death be avenged, that we must “set things right.” Holo-chai states that he’ll record voice authorization codes for each of us and that a majority of the crew must authorize for the stardrive to be activated on the ship. He expresses various confidences in all of our various abilities to successfully “set things right.” We ask how he’d like his body disposed of; Holo-chai indicates that he’d prefer that his body be shot into drivespace, with his armor. He states that he’s currently looking for good bounty hunting jobs within the system for us to pick up. Gargoyle asks what he knows about Airibos, the lord of the underdark or whatever. Holo-chai is only willing to state that we’re not nearly ready to take him on at this point. Blake also asks whether we have any resources available for maintenance/refueling of the ship. Holo-chai states that he has an account on-planet that we can use to refuel the ship.

Holo-chai turns on a display console on the ship, bringing up the image of a caucasian male, Tag Morris. He’s a former engineer at Ion Productions, who apparently stole IP and sold them to a competing shipyard, Thorn shipyards. There’s a 100,000 bounty on his head, placed by Scott Williamson. Williamson wants Morris brought back alive. Holo-chai reminds us that Williamson has also applied criminal charges in the Alundral system, which should give us the go-ahead. He fled Aulandril via a liner as soon as he realized they were after him and should have arrived on Aegis about seven days ago. How convenient! We happen to have 2.8 days of transit time until we arrive.

With that we end for the night.

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The Beginning
A Prologue

(GM Note: Keane’s PC is in here as just (Keane)…once I get a name, I’ll fix it, but I wanted to post this bastard finally!)

From the personal journal of Talon’s tech-medic, former Concord Marine Lt. Peter Benton—

Date: March 14, 2524

Location: A spacer’s bar inside the massive station, Regent’s Pride, orbiting Bluefall, capital planet of the Regency of Bluefall.
Bluefall.jpg
I think I’ve made it—working for a famous hunter, finally! After months and years of working on my own, for low-class hunters, or in “private security,” I’ve been hired on as part of the crew of the Talon, apprenticed, more or less, to one of the Ring’s more famous hunters—Mordechai Hawke. Hawke is my kind of hunter. He’s ruthlessly efficient, extremely skilled, and deadly when he needs to be. But Hawke is no murderer, he’s no sadist. He lives by a code and expects the same from his crew. He’s willing to teach and I’m more than willing to listen, same seems to be true of the rest of the new guys too.

Mordechai hasn’t said exactly why he needs a new crew. I’ve asked, and he’s said they’ve moved on, even admitted that some died on a recent hunt. He doesn’t talk more about it. If it’s a little odd that Hawke has started hiring more experienced professionals such as me and the rest, well, I don’t dwell on it. I’m sure he has his reasons. The way I see it, we’ve earned a chance to try out for the big leagues and working with a man like Hawke is one way to build up our reputation. He pays well—$6,000 per month!— and I expect we’ll earn every Concord dollar of it.

Gotta admit though, as I look around at my fellow crew members, it’s hard not to think of a clichéd Grid holo: there’s Gargoyle, an obviously ex-Voidcorp sesheyan—probably an assassin—(Amorphous Dude), a lackadaisical Starmech pilot, complete with hedonistic obsession, Seamus Something, a Thuldan mutant who does a good impression of a weren, Sinon Andalar, a fraal mindwalker scout, which I admit is a little unusual, and finally Aidan Kane an Austrin ex-officer, about as action hero-y as it gets. Everyone brings something to the table, of course—Hawke wouldn’t have bothered if that wasn’t the case. Me, I’m a technician and the medic—I did some digging, Hawke didn’t used to hire trained medics, which makes me proud and perhaps a bit curious as to his change in heart. Haven’t mentioned that to the others yet, I doubt they would care—automeds are fine, but stuck in one place, after all.

Anyway, Hawke told us all to meet at this bar for some reason, so there we went. He shows up and says how pleased he is to finally assemble such a good crew. It’s true, too. It’s taken a while to assemble everyone, but now that we’ve gotten to know each other, I figure we can handle anything the Verge, the Ring or any other area of space can throw at us. Maybe we’ll even get involved in events of galactic proportions, just like those guys who supposedly saved the universe from destruction at the hands of some ancient alien gods (who believes that crap anyway?). Hawke says the first task as a whole crew is a fairly straightforward hunt—a small group of criminal gridrunners hacked a government database on Alaundril and the ruling council hired Hawke (and therefore us) to bring them to justice. The group was traced to Acheron (talk about your quick transition from backwater to boomtown!) and we cornered them hiding in some abandoned buildings in an old, original settlement. On the way in, you can STILL see damage from the massive battle that occurred here 20 years ago. And while no one really believes the final battle for the fate of the universe took place here, there’s no question that the Externals caused a lot of damage here and elsewhere in the Verge. Things are looking up though, and I think we’ve all moved forward from those dark days. Amazingly, the actual capture went by the book, too, and was kind of a letdown. Fortunately, the glint in Mordechai’s eyes makes me wonder what’s coming next. With a satisfied grin on our faces, we finished up on Acheron and left for Aegis to get more contracts. The next few years should be quite the adventure…

[Many Skipped Entries]

Date: December 19, 2524

Location: A Loud Damn Nightclub, Port Royal, Lucullus system
Penates.jpg
Forget the next few years, the last 9 months alone have been insane! Working with Hawke has been everything I’d hoped—fast-paced, action-packed, dangerous as hell and very, very educational! Hawke hasn’t been crystal clear with what’s been happening, but everyone seems to think we’re on to something big—huge, even. It’s been months since the Talon has gone after any kind of common, posted bounty. It’s not even clear that Hawke’s been getting paid for these last few marks, but the salary hasn’t stopped and the ship still has supplies, though they do seem to be running low. Hawke asked us all to stay here and then ran off, not sure where. I was hoping he’d take his time too…the scenery in the club was excellent and we had Concord dollars to burn.

It wasn’t to be though, Hawke returned in about an hour, only enough time for some drinking and general carousing. He said he’s got something and that we needed to follow it up as quickly as possible. “Everyone back to the ship, we leave this shithole of a planet in 3 hours,” he ordered in his typical to-the-point tone. That’s fine though, this place still bears the scars of External occupation, all that creepy biotech shit those bugs used can still be seen in certain sectors of the city and frankly, I don’t need to dwell on it. Lucullans paid a high price for betraying humanity and everyone seems content to let what happened here be the only punishment they get—it’s probably worse than what the Verge Alliance would have done anyway. It’s still the same old wretched hive of scum and villainy, but you gotta give ’em credit—they never surrendered, even after the double-cross from their supposed new allies—but I suppose when you are a double-crossers, you ought to expect getting backstabbed yourself!

Liftoff proved to be a bit more exciting than we were expecting. On the way back to Talon, we get ambushed by these guys, all hyped up on some of those crazy new brainbugs that are so popular right now. Whoever makes those things is raking in the cash, that’s for sure. I’ve looked at a few samples, can’t make heads or tails of them. Real advanced shit though. The bug addicts weren’t a real threat, but they slowed us down and we’re pretty sure that was the whole point because we soon walked into a much more lethal ambush. We made it out but Aidan was hit while in a pretty brave rear-guard action…I got him patched up though. Hawke isn’t talking about what happened either, says it was a random assault, but I don’t buy it. Neither does Seamus… says he can smell when something is wrong—I believe him too, those Thuldan Chronos parahumans have a sixth sense, I swear!

[Brief Entries follow on the following dates and locations:
February 6, 2525 — Bluefall, Aegis System
(caught a ride on a big liner)
February 11, 2525 — Spes, Hammer’s Star System
March 21, 2525 — Grith, Corrivale System

Date: April 8, 2525

Location: Duma, Phorcys, Thalassa System
Thalassa.jpg
We are definitely onto something big. Hawke hasn’t said exactly who we are after, but now we’re sure this is some kind of long term project of his. So far, we’ve captured and interrogated a customs official on Bluefall who Hawke told us was corrupt. That certainly wasn’t legal, and as much as some didn’t like it at first, once we got the guy to a dark place and Sinon got into his head, it was clear Hawke was right—the guy had been accepting money for years to not ask questions of certain shipments. Hawke says the guy was helping ship brainbugs around the Verge and even back into the Ring. The really weird thing was what happened right after Sinon got him talking a bit after threatening more deep probes—the guy starts choking and then keels over, dead. I didn’t bother with an autopsy, but he clearly had some kind of suicide programming and didn’t even know it—Sinon said it was probably telepathic suggestion and was triggered by his own probing. Hawke just frowned and we left.

Next thing we know, we’re on Spes, a planet still heavily scarred from the External War, and the site of the first major battles between Starforce and the klicks better than 20 years ago. Spes is a pretty nice place though, even with the damage. One of the few worlds where you can actually go out in some real wilderness (and good for the Borealins for heading off the climate change too!). Anyway, we tromp through said wilderness for a day or two and ambush some sesheyans from Grith loading, yep, more brainbugs, into some cargo pallets for distribution to who knows where. They didn’t want to surrender either, fighting back ferociously, almost possessed. We had to kill them all. Gargoyle didn’t much like that—tried to talk to them, but they wouldn’t listen—apparently he’s dead to them or something, nobody but sesheyans understands sesheyan culture…
HammersStar.jpg
So, off to Grith we went, of course, and had an audience with some Aanghel Empire leaders. They don’t deal in brainbugs, but said that some of their population has gotten horribly addicted to those things (I find this odd—a drug that can affect multiple species is waaaay beyond me). He was willing to identify the bodies as members of the Aanghel Empire that deserted some months back. That was good, actually, they’d been looking for those guys and they even paid us a small bounty for each of them—Hawke thanked them and we left. One of the sesheyans had a nanocomputer implant—normally that’s something that only Voidcorp slaves get, as the AE can’t really afford it. This thing was non-standard design though, some kind of biotech equivalent. I wasn’t sure if it needed a hacker or a doctor, but we hoped Hawke’s mechalus friend, Si Lotus, could help us out. We met him here and he did his tentacle-y thing and interfaced with the bionanocomputer. There was some heavy duty encryption, but he got through it. There was only one data file, and it contained coordinates in the Coulomb system.

Date: May 16, 2525

Location: Drivespace, just out of the Coulomb System
Couloumb.jpg
Shit, Hawke’s dead! Aidan blames himself, but that’s insane, nobody could have stopped…whatever the hell it was! What the fuck are we supposed to do now?

We gotta think this through, what happened, how did it get this bad? We obviously went to the Coulomb system to check out those coordinates. I think we all wish we hadn’t. On the way here, Hawke lays it on us that he’s got us tracking this mega crime lord known as “Erebos, Lord of the Underworld.” Seems a little over-the-top if you ask me, but Hawke says that’s what others call him, and I don’t think this Erebos guy seems like the type to put out press releases. Hawke thinks…shit… thought …that Erebos is behind the brainbug business and was determined to make the capture and cement his reputation as the best hunter in the Verge…that’s not going to happen now, of course.

Nobody else is talking much yet, but I gotta get this down—it was balmy for Ohmel, mid-summer, which meant it couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 degrees out. Nonetheless, this meant that areas that were often inaccessible to life were accessible for the short summer. That’s how we found ourselves out in the frozen wastes, approximately a thousand miles from anywhere, surrounding a small ceramacrete structure that had clearly been through a few Ohmel 3-year long winters. None of us have any idea why that place was built—it’d be nearly impossible to get to when the atmosphere literally falls out of the sky and sits on the ground! Anyway, there were no signs of anyone being there recently, so Hawke deployed us around the structure to watch for anyone trying to leave as he checked things out—all we had were the coordinates from the dead sesheyan’s creepy nanocomputer, but Hawke assumed this place was connected to the Lord of the Underworld anyway. He bypassed the outer locking mechanism on one of the airlock doors and in he went. The radio worked for a while, but it turns out the structure was just the top of a much larger underground building. Hawke called for backup, so Aidan and I went in, leaving the others to watch the other exits and to keep an eye out for approaching hostiles.

We found what we were looking for down two levels from the top—a microframe computer with a few terminals sitting in an empty room. The whole thing was odd, but in retrospect, that’s because it was a trap, pure and simple. Sensors picked up some air movement down the hall, so Aidan went to check it out…Hawke told me to back him up, so I left too. Next thing I know, Hawke triggers his comm, but he’s not speaking to us. I don’t think any of us will forget that gravelly voice, “You are meddling in affairs you don’t understand. We do not tolerate interference.” Hawke shot back with a, “Hey man, nothing personal” then sounds of Hawke diving away towards cover. Aidan and I started rushing back, Hawke started firing, but then we heard three sharp weapon discharges—sounded like some kind of quantum weapon. Aidan and I were just meters from the door. Peaking in, we can see Hawke slumped against an equipment crate for the computer systems. He waved us back just as three quantum discharges poured through the doorway, causing us to take cover quickly. Aidan threw caution to the wind and combat rolled inside, I quickly followed and tried to get to Hawke.

Except for Hawke, the room was empty! Somehow the guy who shot Hawke had gotten out—(Keane) checked every square centimeter of that room later and couldn’t find anything. Someone speculated that he must have been a mindwalker or something to get away like that. No matter, Hawke has hurt bad, he needed surgery and I couldn’t do it there. The shooter was deadly precise and using a very powerful weapon—we tried to move Hawke but he refused, said it wouldn’t be long.

By this time, the rest of the crew had charged in, weapons ready. Hawke wheezed for everyone to get close and gave his final orders—“Don’t stop the hunt. Get the ship…to…Aegis.” Then he died. That’s all he had time to say. Get to Aegis. We were all too shocked to speak, so we solemnly carried Hawke up to the Talon and laid him to rest in a cryochamber.

Now we have no captain, no leader, and the Talon seemed to know…I swear that machine sounded…mournful…when we ordered a jump to Aegis as Hawke’s last order. We followed our captain’s last order, so we’re on the way to Aegis. There’s discussion of what to do, but it’s clear nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Computer estimates starrise near Bluefall around the beginning of June…guess we’ll find out then.

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