Eclipse Phase: Clouds of a Morning Star continued from the previous session at Wira Games and Hobbies.
Location: Aphrodite Prime, about 50 km above Venus’ surface.
Active Gamera Security (GamSec) Personnel: Badal Jones – Lunar Lagrange Alliance (LLA) envoy in the splicer morph, Boris Ivanov Rasputin the Second – a neo-hominid lawyer in the shaper morph, William Cable Jr. – paranoid terrorist in a neotenic pod morph and Hokusai Tarnungshaut – neo-octopus artist in a slitheroid morph.
Inactive Personnel: DANAI and Wandering Ina.
Mission: To provide security and investigative services to Badal’s superior the LLA’s ambassador during an art show at the Cumulus Hotel, where reclusive posthuman artist Marquis d’Homem-Christos would be showcasing alien sculptures he collected from the extraterrestrial Factors. LLA had intercepted vague communique about a terrorist attack during the event and would like the attack thwarted. Their secondary mission was help Gretchen Ambelina of Pax Familae by covertly disrupting the Marquis’ event which will deal a blow to the terraforming efforts of Venus, something the Solid Ground Initiaive (SGI) was a proponent of, and what Venusian terrorist groups like the Free Fall Network (FFN) were against.
A New Arrival
After being briefed by GamSec office administrator The Wandering Kid on Gerlach station, newly-employed lawyer Boris, wearing a shaper morph skinned as a male splicer, arrived at Aphrodite Prime to rendezvous with the team and brought up to speed on the mission. His job would be to use local law to their advantage and to take down enemies. Boris was more of an intellectual property specialist than an Inner System Law specialist but he would have to do. (His Thrown Weapons skill was 40% so perhaps he could throw the book at enemies.)
A Convention Grounded Solid
The SGI was hosting a convention to lobby for terraforming on Venus at the Cumulus Hotel to the Morningstar Constellation, the political cooperative governing Venus. A minor ballroom was re-skinned in AR to look like a lush, green tropical paradise with palm trees, sand and the sea. Waiters served pina coladas. People from near and far came in attendance to hear what SGI was offering. Socialites, politicians, businessmen.
Badal entered the ballroom, under his official LLA envoy capacity. His bodyguard was Hokusai, in his “Heinrich Ausfahrt Plissken” cover ID for GamSec and an official security contractor for the LLA. Boris also arrived to schmooze with those in attendance, attempting to obtain intel and if possible discover and ferret out names of possible terrorist agents. Cable sat outside in the hotel reception area, connected to everyone else via GamSec’s secure mesh network.
SGI was pushing for healthy place to live and wellness on Venus. 160 years of investment is nothing for a green Venus for the children’s children to live on.
A Great White Hunter
Boris saw a familiar face, a Lunar banker named Karamojo Bell from the Mare Imbrium Credit Union. Bell was looking to see how his organisation’s investments were being developed at Aphrodite Prime, especially the Aviary. The Aviary was where genetically engineered flying lifeforms were being created for release into the Venus atmosphere to establish a new airborne ecology. Bell also recognised Badal whom he knew on Luna.
A conversation revealed that Bell yearned for the old days on Earth where it was possible to hunt large creatures out in the wild, like elephants in the savannah. But now such beasts were rare and safely guarded in offworld habitats and Earth was now a forbidden planet. He hoped that this Aviary investment would create new wild animals for him to hunt when the new Venusian ecology was implemented.
A Dolphin Artist with a Fricking Laser Beam Attached to Her Head
Also present among the guests was the famous Mercurial neo-dolphin artist Koko Pelli. Miss Pelli’s forte was to carve artistic expressions on surface of astronomical bodies that can only be viewed in its entirety from orbit or high altitude, like the Nazca Lines in what used to be Peru on Earth. Huzzah for Mesoamerica! Her last work was to control orbital lasers via mesh on Mercury to create a gigantic troll face with the words “U MAD BRO?” under it
Her next art project would be a planetary-scale Venusian scrimshaw. She would carve it using orbital lasers onto the dry ice used to terraform the surface of Venus. Clearly she was for turning Venus green, so Hokusai tried to troll her by asking her about the Obloquy mesh site, where Hokusai under his “Pickman Algol” nom de plume had uploaded paintings that were thematically against the Venus terraforming drive.
However, such mesh sites were apparently unworthy of the neo-dolphin’s attention. So she brushed Hokusai off. (SAVx2 roll – only 30% – resulted in 71 so failure!)
A Ghost in the Augmented Reality
Meanwhile, as Cable was monitoring his teammates’ activities from the hotel lobby, an unknown person entered his view and sat beside him. The male biomorph asked if the plans that Cable spoke of before were still on track. From his speech patterns and body language, Cable recognized the ego in the morph as Saladin Pelita, the possible FFN agent he had talked to in a secure VR environment some days ago. Cable gestured at the partial AR tropical motif around them that leaked out from the ballroom, “Disgusting isn’t it? I assure you there will be an amazing act of cyberactivism here soon.”
When Saladin asked whether Cable’s conscience would be able to handle the upcoming terrorist act, the neotenic said, “Remember Dame Miley Cyrus. As a young lady, the public once thought her F-Rep was tainted by her twerking antics, but by age 40 she had won a Nobel Peace Prize. By 80 she was the Queen of Uranus. Well, a sovereign colony off Uranus, at least. My conscience is clear.”
Cable asked how Saladin was going to implement his plans. (Persuasion roll: 60, spend a Moxie point to flip the digits to 06 for a success.) The man alluded to an unfortunate incident at the Aviary, which might even lead to loss of life support in the section.
Saladin Pelita looked satisfied, picked up a pina colada from somewhere and left. Cable decided to shadow him out of the hotel but when he reached the street outside there was no sign of Saladin. Cable reviewed the vid from his recent conversation (Investigation roll: 11 – critical success.) and discovered some discrepancies: Saladin Pelita might have been an AR projection! Cable’s AI muse Ted performed a diagnostic and found nothing wrong with his internal systems. Cable called Wandering Ina (currently an NPC because of its absent player) in its egg-shaped sheldon morph back at the airship. Ina’s digital skills revealed that Saladin had somehow and skilfully hacked into the hotel’s AR systems for only Cable to perceive.
Meanwhile, SGI’s presentation and dinner was over and everyone made their way back to the airship.
A Return to the Airship
Back at the airship, Boris suggested they short the system to make some money out of the probable upcoming destruction of the Aviary.
Everyone agreed that it was time to inform their patron Kage Musha. However, Cable was unable to persuade Kage that the Aviary construction site they had infiltrated the previous day, Ikea Tata Constructions Inc. was an immediate threat to Aphrodite Prime and Morningstar Constellation (Persuasion roll of 89 – unable to Moxie – at a 44% skill).
A new plan was formulated. Karamojo Bell would be concerned if something threatened his investment, namely the Aviary. So Badal persuaded the banker – who was already drunk out of his Lunar mind when they met him – (He rolled a 12 on Persuasion) to use his authority as an investor to allow the GamSec team entry into the Aviary.
As a bonus, Boris mentioned that there might be something worth hunting right then in the Aviary, within the section open to atmosphere, and it was legal to shoot and kill it.
Bell was beside himself with joy and quickly retrieved his licensed high-powered hunting rifle that he always brought with him on his travels from his hotel room.
Everyone geared up with weapons and suited up in vacsuits (except for the synthmorphed Hokusai) for a hunting trip into the jungle.
A Return to the Construction Site
Of course the jungle had not been finished yet. Scaffolding criss-crossed this section of the Aviary which was exposed to the unbreathable atmosphere of Venus. Through transparent plates, they could see trees and flying creatures in secured sections of the structure. Bell, as an investor, had the authority to allow entry for everyone.
Kage chose to call them at that moment. He saw their mesh feed and asked dryly, “Why the hell is everyone suited up for some sort of elephant hunt?”
Cable grinned and answered, “Because a terrorist hunt is the most dangerous game!”
Kage rolled his eyes, muttered an “Uh-huh.” and cut the comms line.
Strangely, there was no construction personnel present. The site was empty although work should be work done around the clock. The drunken Bell took point and dangerously pointed his hunting rifle about looking for some feral beast. Hokusai tapped the datafeed from his speck bot that was left behind in the storage container where they discovered the robot parts in. The audio/video feed showed that the container was inactive. Cable also reported all-quiet from the ultralights they deployed one after another, flying on autopilot from the airship.
Badal and Boris persuaded Bell to stand down and wait for the “creature” at a tactically advantageous location above the suspicious storage container. After some minutes, the sound of snoring came from under Bell’s Pith helmet and within his vacsuit. Cable might have observed some boozy bubblings under Bell’s nose.
After six hours of waiting, the vacsuits’ O2 canisters were replaced without incident.
After nine hours, Cable’s dredged some information up from his online investigations. (Investigation roll 11 – critical success) The Ikea-Tata hypercorp had investing entities that were connected to an old clique of Venusian cloud divers. A nasty transport aircraft accident during one of their dives killed them all. There was no cortical stack retrieval as their bodies plunged to Venus’ surface. Their ego copies were resleeved as per their insurance coverage. However, the event caused the clique to disband. Somehow, years later the clique’s members had somehow the controlling shares in Ikea-Tata.
Before they could mull on this, there was movement in the speck video feed. Then the feed was disconnected.
A Battle With The Beast
(By rolling a 03 for interface) Hokusai reestablished contact with the speck. There was sporadic electromagnetic activity and sounds of metal click-clacking in the darkness. Cable slid down from their hiding spot with his agoniser brandished, looking very much like a prepubescent boy wearing a vacsuit and a pickelhaube helmet carrying a toy gun. Ted reported that there was an extra data feed pointed at the container, transmitted from far below the aerostat. Cable opened the container door and saw a writhing mass of flexbots transforming and combining.
The whole group received the mesh vid feed and jumped to their feet. Boris shook Bell awake who springed into full attention, looking for his beast to hunt. For some reason he was still somewhat drunk or hung over or both. At the same time, Hokusai slid down the surface toward Cable and the container.
Cable switched the agoniser to full laser mode and fired at the click-clacking frenzy. The laser merely peeled off a spot of paint. Panicking seemed to be a good option.
The robot burst out of the container. It was obviously a combination of six flexbots that locked into a configuration of a walking, quadrupedal tank. Its head bore a pair of automatic cannons, which turned toward Cable. Hokusai fired his laser pulser as he closed in on it but missed. Badal, Boris and Bell moved in to flank it from another direction, taking position near some construction vehicles close to a scaffolding precipice. A slip up and one would find oneself falling fifty kilometres down into sulphuric acid clouds and onto destructive 740 degrees Kelvin and 93 bar surface conditions.
Boris pointed Bell toward the flexbot combiner. He eagerly aimed his high-powered, large-calibre hunting rifle and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He had forgotten to load it.
The flexbot’s cannon fired at Cable. Rounds clipped his side and he tumbled off the scaffolding in pain. But he quickly held onto a railing for dear life.
Hokusai aimed and fired again. The energy beam struck the flexbot. But it was barely scratched. Hokusai wished he brought his automatic rail rifle instead.
As Badal considered using a construction vehicle to ram the flexbot, it chose to fire at the person with the biggest weapon: which was Karamojo Bell. A burst of AP rounds shredded Bell’s body into a smoking bloody mess. His cortical stack flew off his upper spine and rolled for the edge of the scaffolding. Boris reached out with inhuman neo-hominid reflexes and grabbed the stack before it was lost.
Badal jumped for Bell’s bloodied rifle and found it still functional. He accessed the weapon’s smartlink and continued to reload it. Boris muttered while pocketing Bell’s cortical stack, “Smartlink? He was cheating?”
Cable, still hanging on to the scaffolding railing, decided to call Aphrodite’s official security forces (with a botched Protocol roll) but reached automated messages instead.
Unable to find a wireless hack, Hokusai decided to sprint for the flexbot, leap onto its back and shut it off from there. (It would take two rounds to reach it because of a lousy Freerunning roll at 98.)
Badal fired the hunting rifle (with a critical success at 22) and the bullet pierced the flexbot’s armour, badly damaging its innards. It screamed with rage and swung its cannons at Badal.
Cable was still unable to reach aerostat security. Hokusai slammed into the flexbot and decided to push it off the container landing. The flexbot resisted and swung an arm which Hokusai dodged. Another shot from Badal smashed into it (causing 28 armour piercing damage) and it reeled. It started to sway and sparks flowered out from under its armoured plating. Badal closed in on it and delivered the killing shot. Lights went dim and the flexbot went limp, belching sparks and smoke.
A Resurrection of the Great White Hunter
GamSec had gained favourable reputation with Morningstar Constellation and the Lunar Lagrange Alliance. Whatever entity behind the flexbot – Free Fall Network perhaps – would now be aware of GamSec’s fight against them. Kage appeared to be pleased with their achievement that day.
The cortical stack that Boris retrieved was re-implanted into a new cloned Karamojo Bell biomorph. When Bell was revived, Boris (who rolled a 11 for Deception – critical success) regaled him with a tale of the unbelievably skilled hunter that went head-to-head with a lethal flexbot combiner and used his powerful weapon to disable it. Unfortunately the brave hunter was torn apart by a lucky burst of gunfire. This allowed the hunter’s companions to ultimately eliminate the flexbot.
Karamojo Bell was not able to remember his last day thanks to a night of boozing and enthusiastically accepted the tale as their wonderful night out to remember.
And now it was the day of the Marquis’ event.