Scum & Villainy Warstory #5: Mink’s Best Day Ever

Little late this week, I realize, but I got these next four weeks all formatted and codified, and if you’ve never tried to compress down five hours of game-time into a coherent narrative you probably know that there are a lot of words that need to be set down. Actually, even if you haven’t and you’ve only read through the Warstory back-catalogue, you probably realize that there are a lot of words to get through. That’s kind of the nature of the game. Lots of things happen. I’m certain a boring game would be a lot easier to write every week. I don’t have that luxury, and you wouldn’t want to read it anyway.

Anyway, there’ve been a bunch of interesting developments behind the scenes at Drake & Dice, to include being included in Feedspot’s Top 100 RPG Blogs of 2020 and joining the Of Dice and Dragons RPG Blog Carnival, but you’re not here for news of how we’re growing. You’re here to hear about some thrilling heroics, and boy do I have a story for you.

When Last We Left Our Heroes(?)

The crew of the Alleged Ship, now called the Qurious Quark, is able to pay for refit and repairs and some much needed downtime after tracking down the wayward Angela Barris on behalf of the Concordiat Knights. They didn’t hand her over to the zany Hegemo-Knight Sir Cyril as they agreed, and so they know that they’ve got an enemy with a flair for the dramatic and a weakness for settling his grudges with swords and bounty hunters, but they also can count Angela Barris and her fledgling organization, the Barris Concord, as a contact and potential source of jobs, information, and probably danger. Our heroes don’t have long to catch their breath, though, because they’ve gotten an emergency wave from their pals, the Wreckers.

Despite their name, the Wreckers have done a good turn for the crew in the past. Sure, they are a group of black-market scavengers that pick the bones of wrecks out here in the hungry black of the Procyon sector, and they sometimes arrange the clashes and accidents that cause those wrecks, but they’ve also helped the crew scrounge parts for the creature comforts that they enjoy on the Qurious Quark, like beds and a place to keep fresh food. The crew selected them as one of the factions that they started the game with warm and fuzzies for, so they take the wave immediately–and then sort of frown at it.

It comes through fuzzy and broken. Their Comms are on the blink thanks to a bad entanglements roll. A connection has worked its way loose and they’ll need some time before it’s properly fixed. What they get is basically thus:

“Hey guys, got a situation here…–ob gone south–Dreadnaught out in the Brekk. Floatin’ Geosynch…kinda hanging out behind…bad jungle. Janus bastards…one…couldn’t get ‘im off…still probably there. Janus CANNOT GET HIM. –Get Ratchet and–all debts off–pgrades for that dingy, too. Best of luck!

The crew demand a typed out transcript without all of my mouth-static and they pore over it a while before they start to get the gist. The Wreckers found a nice score out in the Brekk System, but the Janus Syndicate came and did what black-market arms dealers in search of capital-class weaponry do. They came in and rousted the buzzards that were picking over the derelict. But the Wreckers didn’t get all of their folks off. Ratchet, whoever that is, got left behind. And the Wreckers are willing to forgive the Crew’s debt if they can get Ratchet off the derelict before the Janus Syndicate can capture him.

The crew starts burning for Brekk.

Zero-G Heroics

As they arrive in Brekk, it doesn’t take long to find their quarry. The crew accurately surmised that the “bad jungle” was Aketi, and as we rolled for the engagement–starting in a Desperate Position–they find their quarry behind one of Aketi’s moons. Three Janus Syndicate corvettes are attached to the broken hulk of a derelict Hegemonic dreadnaught with massive towing cables. The dreadnaught doesn’t look like it can move under its own power, the thrusters long since out of commission, but these Janus corvettes are dragging it closer to the moon where they’ve probably got a staging base where they can get the bristling beam-turrets and flak cannons and such off of the massive ship.

Now, recall that the Alleged Ship is a little patrol craft. Three corvettes could easily blast the Qurious Quark to space-debris, so the crew has a challenge to contend with. We open up on the meat of the episode with Kronico at the controls of the Quark. He stabs his finger down on the comm button as the corvettes hail him and the incoming transmission light goes dead. “Leave a message.” He’s lit by the glow of the console as he grits his teeth and dives in close to the hulk at blistering speed. “Get ready, guys. We’re only gonna get one shot at this.”

The cargo-bay door is open and Mink, Tycho, and Bastien (my three players this week) are suited up in their vac-suits and hanging onto a steel cable. Their plan: jump across twenty meters of void to an exposed airlock door as Kronico peels away at speed to lead off any pursuit. What could go wrong? Mink bounces with excitement. This is proper space-heroism.

We get a little drama as Mink and Tycho make the jump, but it looks for a moment like Bastien is about to spiral off into the void. Tycho grabs the tether and gives him a hard yank back on course, but it’s almost doubly bad as Mink cycles the airlock. A blast of atmosphere nearly rockets them off of their unsteady perch. Tycho reels not one but two of his crewmates beck into the airlock door.

One of the Corvettes disengages its tow cable and turns to pursue Kronico. Their ride is currently unavailable if all goes wrong. With the outgoing comm on the blink, when and if they find Ratchet, they’ll have to key up their communicator, call for evac, and hope that Kronico hasn’t been vaporized. There’s a little tension there…

But we’ve got a job to do, and there’s no point dwelling on the bad news out there when there’s plenty of bad news in here. The life-form scanner that Mink thoughtfully brought aboard is showing that there are more than a few life-signs on board, most moving in groups. That’s probably not Ratchet. Bastien pulls down his Fine Hacking Rig and starts interrogating systems on the hulk. It’s a long-shot, but we’ve got artificial grav and some lights working inside, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Apparently, the Janus guys only want the front half of the derelict, and in less than an hour, it’s going to shear away from the stern Titanic style. Bastien also finds that he can access internal security cameras. Some of them still are up and functional, but it’s the internal diagnostics that tell the crew where they can find their quarry.

Ratchet’s in one of the maintenance access hatches, pulling grav-boot coils and ducking patrols. They start shaking a leg in that direction. It’s not smooth sailing. They duck patrols of their own and have to deal with some antique security systems and temperamental doors. In the course of that, Tycho’s suit is compromised by a near miss with a blast-door. Bastien’s able to fix is and so long as they don’t decide to stay too long, it should hold.

Mink has the idea that while they’re in this old Hegemonic dreadnaught, it’s a perfect time to raid a well-stocked medical bay for drugs, medicines, and small, unsecured pieces of medical booty. She trusts the guys to find Ratchet without her and tells them that it will only take a minute. She gets some skeptical eyebrows through the polarized faceplates, but she assures them that while she is being idiomatic, she does not intend to wait long enough for the ship to split and for all of the organics onboard to perish. That’s against her programming. Off she goes while the guys pursue Ratchet.

Ratchet turns out to be R4T-CH3T, a Wrecker Ur-bot (a sentient Android with a Precursor-tech processor) who, like Mink pursues his primary function despite the fact that the ship is decompressed, about to split in half, and crawling with hostile syndicate goons. He is however, not oblivious, and so when the guys find him, he’s holding a built-in forearm blaster at the ready. Tycho flaps his gums at the half-pint Ur-bot, having forgotten that there’s no sound in space and the Ur-bot is not on their comm-net. They have to find another way to communicate. Bastien thinks quickly and programs his fine drone to communicate through flashing lights. Throughout the exchange, R4T-CH3T is still menacing the guys with his cannon.

There’s a moment straight out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind where lights are flashed and information is shared. R4T-CH3T greets the drone as “Comrade” and asks if it too “is desiring of passage to Conclave 01.” That’s weird, but they really don’t have time for it. The ship gives an unhealthy groan beneath them. Bits are already starting to fall away. The drone relays the need for speed and R4T-CH3T indicates that he will follow.

Meanwhile, Mink gets to the medbay and finds that it’s a ruin. Just getting the doors open is a challenge, and as soon as she pries it open, it’s clear that it was held shut by a foot thick layer of frost, like a malfunctioning freezer. Inside, stasis pods, most of them failing and venting coolant, lay in racks and rows. Sixty wounded soldiers from an engagement fought over eighty years ago lay in stasis, shoved into containment units until the battle was won and they could be treated for their life-threatening injuries. With a quick scan, Mink decides that only one might be salvageable.

Mink’s player asked, that is. I didn’t prompt her, I didn’t ask her how she felt. I just presented these sixty drifting shaveheads and she, being the doctor, asked which of the organics were salvageable. There wasn’t hesitation, she walked over to the stasis bed and read the chart. He had a case of decompression sickness, hardly immediately fatal. She readies some gear from her fine medkit and cracks the freshness seal.

Things Escalate Quickly

Corporal Hix of the Hegemonic Marines, 3rd Detachment HSS Kilkenny wakes up eighty years later without a moment of intervening memory. He was gasping as his body tried to come to grips with being exposed to hard vacuum, he was stimmed, slammed into a coffin and then…then the coffin opened and a pink-haired medic is stimming him again in a frigid medical bay. And the artificial gravity is starting to go.

Back with R4T-CH3T, the lights have gone off, which isn’t a big deal since their void-suits all include flashlights, but now anyone can see them coming clear as day. That ratchets up the tension as the ship starts to break apart and everyone is going to try and get to safety, right? Now they’ll see them coming. R4T-CH3T leads the way toward the hangar-bay. This was a Dreadnaught, so it comes complete with a Battlestar Galactica-style hangar deck where all of the ships are waiting to fight a battle that was over almost a century ago. Maybe one of them is gassed up and ready to go, right? Well…maybe.

At this point, I’m bouncing back and forth between Mink and her soldier and Tycho and Bastien and R4T-CH3T pretty quick, trying to keep the momentum going forward. They say never split the party, but when you do, if you cut on a cliffhanger every three minutes or so, you will get audible groans of “dude, why would you leave it there?” every time you swing the camera. It’s awesome. We’re approaching the climax of the episode here.

Mink gets Hix, her new soldier buddy up and ambulatory, but assures him that there is precious little time to explain. He is not dead. They lost the battle. It’s been a long time. The ship is about to be destroyed. How do we leave? Hix leads the way, unsteadily down a corridor toward the lifeboats. It’s a good-news bad-news kind of day. They’ve got a straight-shot to the hangar bay, but there’s a big intervening section of corridor that falls away as they open a door, leaving a yawning expanse of empty space between themselves and the next compartment’s door. Mink does the math, grabs the good Corporal, and hurls them both through space. The ship is not their friend as its front section rotates slightly and sends them one deck off course, directly into a compartment filled with venting oxygen and gouts of zero-g flame. Mink is badly wounded, but she shields Hix from further harm. Her left arm chars down to endoskeleton and she has to wrench it off to clear the malfunction. Hix is agog, but she slings his arm over her shoulder and they struggle onward toward the hangar.

Tycho and Bastien run afoul of a detachment of Janus goons, and engage in a running gunfight. R4T-CH3T rolls on like R2-D2 crossing blaster fire, letting his new ablative meat-mechs handle the danger while he plots his course to the hangar bay. Tycho manages to get a lucky shot in that destroys a conduit and floods some kind of super-cooled gas into the intervening area and cuts off the goons while Bastien rigs a handy door to open for them and then shut permanently behind them. Again, good-news bad-news. They’ve got a way ahead, but the entirety of this room is engulfed in that weird, spreading, zero-g fire.

But Mink and Hix come in through the opposite entrance and our team is back together. It’s just a quick jog down the rapidly deconstructing corridors to the hangar bay. They consider the ships, but realize that it’s going to take a while to disengage all of the safeties, rig the ships for pressure, and then take off. Hix says that he isn’t a pilot, but he can give it hell. Mink tries to raise Kronico on the comm for extraction, but there’s no reply. Broken comms…right.

Bastien tries a hail-mary and taps into the Way, attuning to the strange forces that are lodged in his brain from that fateful Precursor-tech mining accident. He appears to Kronico as a nebulous phantom, telling him that he has to turn around and take position in front of the starboard hangar, or all of his friends will die. Kronico doesn’t even have time to ask if it’s a hallucination. He trusts his gut, it’s the only reason he’s still alive in this business.

So the away-team gets the hangar doors open and are greeted with a sea of stars and a view of corvettes disengaging from the doomed hulk. For a moment, it feels like they’re going to be on the junkship as it comes apart all around them. But before they can end up as so much space-garbage, Kronico swing the Quark into position and opens the back hatch. They hurl themselves across the intervening void, dragging the space-marine out of time and the oblivious robot scavenger across the expanse just as a missile impacts the aft of the Qurious Quark.

The chase scene is quick and brutal thanks to some lucky rolls. Bastien doesn’t even have time to get his helmet off as he dashes toward the engine room. He puts out fires, and tells Kronico to get them all out of there before the Janus nuggets slag his ship. Mink and Hix get to the grappling-turrets and hook a handy piece of debris to sling into the path of another missile that was destined to ruin their day. We make a fortune roll for the emergency jump away, and it’s enough for them to get clear.

Minimal Rest For the Wicked

The Wreckers are true to their word. They scrub the debt the crew owes them as soon as R4T-CH3T comes off the boat. And since the Quark took some serious damage running from those corvettes, the Wreckers patch the ship’s systems and gloss the plating for free. They even throw in a new paintjob.

The crew gets to select an upgrade for the Alleged Ship, now called the Shmebulock to throw off pursuit, and since they just got shot at a lot, they decide to go for a shield system. Nothing quite like being shot at to make you value a one-time “let’s not get blown up and suck void today” button per session. They take some well-deserved downtime with the Wreckers and get to licking their wounds.

By which I mean their comm starts flashing again. Ain’t no rest for the wicked, after all. The Vorex, their information broker contact, is calling. The Vorex is actually a high-tier ally and they are calling because they need a favor. Apparently, to hear them tell it Echo Wave Riders are hosting a high-stakes space-race with a piece of bleeding edge ship-tech as the grand prize. It’s been stolen from Hegemonic Military Intelligence, the Starless Veil, and the Vorex is scrambling to be owed a favor by the Space CIA, so he is reaching out to his very favorite crew of extraction specialists to go deep cover among the pirates of The Cove, enter the race, and win the tech. Easy enough, right?

Tune in next time, travelers.

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