Star*Drive 2525: Hunting for Fun and Profit

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.
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
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
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…
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
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.