Today was the second time running The Expanse role-playing game with Irfan playing former-Martian Congressional Republic soldier Kazuo Khan, now a police detective on the asteroid 643 Scheherezade also known locally as “Zadi”. Looks like it is becoming a campaign after all…
02 Nine Lives More or Less
Scheherezade Safety and Security Concern (S3C) detectives Kazuo Khan and Margarid Bohn followed up on a lead that suggested a bomb threat on the Gertak Lembu township’s water tanks. Later, they got into a firefight with Outer Planet Alliance operatives. After dispatching of all but one opponent, Margarid went to get backup because of jammed communications. Despite weakened from being exposed to vacuum, Kazuo climbed into an empty water tank. Inside, he found a recently-opened hole in the ceiling that led into old mining tunnels. He discovered an ancient ship stuck deep in a tunnel, a ship that should be even now patrolling Scheherezade space. It was then that he saw a human figure who appeared to be glowing and surrounded by hundreds of blue fireflies. Surprised, Kazuo jumped back into the water tank…
The spacious tank was one of dozens buried in the rock above and serving the township of Gertak Lembu.
Thanks to the 0.4g gravity, it was easy for Kazuo to make the 10 meter leap onto its now-dry floor (succeeding a Dexterity check with a result of 10 with a Target Number of 7; somewhat easy). He then noticed there were two other figures in the tank with him. They were not wearing hodgepodge OPA threads, but instead wore sleek, bleeding edge form-fitting dark camo and helmets. They neither looked like United Nations nor Martian Congressional Republic military black ops uniforms, so who were they?
The two figures were already rushing out of the tank through the opening. He also noticed a small stray kitten, a fluffy ball of orange fur, also excitedly follow two figures out the opening. There were many such strays on Zadi that some of them were known to have found their way into various nooks and crannies of the asteroid colony.
Kazuo was about to chase after them when he noticed something: There were state-of-the-art explosives with timed detonators strapped to each of the four huge pump assemblies on the tank walls. (He rolled a total of 12 with a 7 Target Number.) It was counting down from 30 seconds.
Being tech savvy, he assessed immediately that the detonators were not networked together. He would have to disable every bomb separately but each would need at least 10 seconds of work. He realised (with an Intelligence (Engineering) roll of 16/11) that he had no time. There were 25 seconds left.
So he fled, mildly aware of the blue glow that began to emanate from the hole that he just fell through.
As he was bounding out of the opening, the orange kitty darted back in, still wired and excited. With 20 seconds left, Kazuo turned and went back for the kitty. It was fast and Kazuo was unable to grab it as it sped into a corner. In a flash, it disappeared into thin air. Another 15 minutes and the explosives would detonate.
Kazuo spotted the deep alcove among the greeblies on the wall. Inside, he spotted the cat. Immediately, he reached for it but was unable to grasp the little critter with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Then he looked around and (with a Perception success of 17/9) saw an old airtight maintenance hatch on the wall beside him. From the looks of it, it had not been open in a hundred years. Looking back up the hole in the ceiling, he noticed that glowing blue fireflies were starting to descend down from the opening. Was there five seconds left?
He strained to unlock the latch and succeeded (thanks to the Lucky Break Stunt he bought with the Stunt Points he obtained with a Strength success of 23/13, and rolling fives on all three D6s), immediately finding a way to easily grab the kitten. He then reached for it (with a Dexterity roll result of 14/11) and a second later he had a kitten in his hand.
Then he thought he might have one second left.
With his engineering knowledge, he knew that he could hide between large cooling baffles of the tank, made of heat conductive, stress-resistant composite material. He crouched and cradled the cat in his arms.
Wait, was that blue light trying to get in?
For a moment, he thought that the explosives did not go off. Then there was a hellishly loud staccato of light, flame and smoke. The world imploded and there might have been pain. But he knew not as the force of the blast extinguished Kazuo’s consciousness.
Kazuo came to on a hospital bed, sore but alive. A screen displaying a news video feed flashed silently on the wall.
He realised that he had three visitors, namely his immediate S3C superior Director Rasheed Grumman – an Earther, his friend the Belter Captain Furaha Ding and Margarid, with her back turned towards him. They were glad Kazuo survived and informed him that he had been in a coma for two weeks. From the view outside, Kazuo knew he was at the Gertak Lembu General Hospital.
Security drones were flying back and forth in the air through the plexiglass windowpane.
“You’re lucky,” said Margarid turning towards Kazuo to reveal a kitten in her arms, “that the rescue personnel heard the kitten meowing! They did not think they would find you, but this cat saved your life. You should name it.”
Before that could happen, Director Grumman asked the detective to describe the last thing he remembered. He remembered quite a bit, but when he got to the glowing blue light, Grumman asked him, “Wow. The blast must have injured your head more seriously than they thought. We had people digging through the debris down there. No one’s reported any blue lights in the caves.”
Because of that, Kazuo decided not to mention beholding the ancient carcass of Captain Ding’s ship Keris Gangsa in the tunnel. How can an operational Keris Gangsa and an antediluvian version of the same ship exist simultaneously?
The Bad News
Director Grumman told Kazuo that the hospital will discharge him in a couple of days time and he should just rest for the time being. “Come back to work when you’re ready in a couple of days.”
After Grumman left, Captain Ding told Kazuo with a visible expression of regret, “Sorry, Kazuo. I guess you can’t come out with me on a run this time. The Keris Gangsa needs to head out within the hour. Maybe next time.”
Margarid pointed at the newsfeed on the wall. The news report indicated that Mao-Kwikowski Mercantile had bought over another megacorp, Archean Biotechnology. It looks as if Mao-Kwik will be absorbing some of the important businesses of Archean, but selling off most of the company.
Bad news: Archean was financing a lot of organisational entities on Zadi, like the hospital, transportation, the shipyards and S3C. This was because they owned thousands of acres of subterranean farms and orchards in the asteroid. Not just the easily-grown edible fungus farms too, but actual genetically engineered grain, vegetables and fruits. Because Archean needed the farms to also run agrotechnological research, they financed the initial import of soil, developed the irrigation system and installed hundreds of thousands of LED lamps in over a hundred different farm complexes to ensure continued photosynthesis.
Margarid handed over the kitten to Kazuo on the bed. She said, “If Archean is dead, and if Mao-Kwik guts it to pieces, we might be out of a job. Do you have family close by?”
“I have a sister – Jirou – on Mars,” Kazuo told her.
“I am thinking about moving to Ceres. You should figure an exit strategy as well.” With that, Margarid left Kazuo alone with his thoughts… and the little kitten.
Kazuo was discharged two days later, but no one came to greet him. He left the hospital with his personal effects and a catbox with the orange kitty within that he had named Aki.
He headed home using a short cut through an alley between two monolithic industrial buildings.
That was when he heard voices up ahead. In an open space that was a junction between four alleyways, Kazuo saw a two men: one looked like a nervous librarian and the other was person a bulked up by heavy duty cybernetics. Both were arguing about who would be taking over water distribution in Gertak Lembu. The nervous man insisted that this was his territory and suggested that the cyborg’s work should remain in Aberdeen Baru.
The cyborg said, “With the explosion in the Zadi water tanks, our own ice hauler late, buyout of Archean and not to mention the destruction of the Canterbury, thing will get worse before it will get better soon. We to work together, seize this opportunity so that the owkwa will flow to the houses.”
Kazuo thought, Small time crime gangs! All Kazuo wanted to do was to go home and rest. So he stepped out into the open, greeting the two criminals. He told them, “Let me pass. I’m a cop and I just got out of the hospital. All I want to do is to go home and rest.”
Two human-sized mechs with gun mounts appeared from another alley, followed by two tattooed gang members with automatic pistols. All their weapons were trained on Kazuo and they were not budging.
“To a cop and no going to rat on us, inyalowda,” said the cyborg who signalled the mechs to roll forward.
The man clutching the book smiled and said, “To coming wit milowda, kopeng!”
Kazuo went with them.
To be continued.
- The Churn only went up to 4 this session.
- Irfan has his own customised Kazuo character sheet instead of using the Casey Khatri pregenerated sheet.
- Before we began, Kazuo increased his Fortune by +3, Intelligence by +1, then bought a Deception Focus and a Quick Reflexes Talent. We figured Kazuo advanced when he was recovering at the hospital.
- Of course Irfan chose the paper miniature that looks like Detective Miller from The Expanse.