Scum & Villainy Warstory #7: Operation Watermelon Banana Hammock
With a name like that, I think we can probably dispense with the typical pre-Warstory palaver, don’t you? I’m taking a break from working on the content that I’m going to be doling out through the week, so forgive me if I just do what Scum & Villainy does best and smash to the action.
When Last We Left Our Heroes (?)
The crew of the Alleged Ship, currently hastily renamed “The Schmebulock” in the wake of a run in with the 51st Legion during an illegal Echo Wave Rider demolition derby-style space-race to win a pirate treasure stolen from Intergalactic MI-6, is celebrating their latest victory and cogitating on where they might be able to find some heavy artillery to purchase with their ill-gotten winnings. They’ve got some cred for the first time since the beginning of the game that isn’t ear-marked for bribes, medical treatment, or the mending of burnt bridges. So, of course, we’ve got a shopping episode ahead of us.
They do shopping trips a little differently in Scum & Villainy than in, say, Dungeons & Dragons. Instead of proceeding to the conveniently located village blacksmith to acquire better weaponry, or more likely, looting it off of a convenient monster, they’ve got to do an Acquire Asset roll to secure a new weapon-system. The bad news is that the Acquire Asset roll, by the book, does not grant them permanent access to that weapon-system. It’s actually pretty hazy on how you go about just paying for a piece of equipment, so I decided that if they wanted a big shiny gun, they were going to have to work for it.
The crew turns to their list of crew contacts, and find an arms-dealer (convenient) named Ishi. Together the crew decides that Ishi is a Sc’Ree –of course, the hypercapitalist Shrew people–and that they’ve worked with him before. His prices are high, but if there’s anything you need, he’s got it or knows where to get it. He stays mostly on Aketi, a jungle world out in the Brekk system that is popular with big-game hunters, outlaws, and people who have something to hide. There’s also a corporate presence, mostly research and development, so an enterprising Sc’Ree who deals in the latest in greatest of technological hurt can make himself a lot of cred. Of course, Ishi is there, right?
There’s a wrinkle with the meet though. Ishi usually surrounds himself with Yaru clones courtesy of the Maker’s Guild, but he’s got a new face hanging around moving boxes. He’s a long-haired hippie-looking human wearing a pair of simple breeches and hard-wearing sandals. He’s got an armlet set with stones that glints just like the Precursor crystals that the crew encountered on Sonhandra in the Precursor refinery. Ishi is apparently trying to tire him out, ordering him to move crates from one side of the jungle compound’s courtyard to the other and back again throughout the conversation.
This is Swade, our crew’s new Mystic/Muscle. He’s apparently a problem of Ishi’s that came in, stowed away really, on the last shipment the arms dealer received. He’s pretty chilled out by day, thanks to happily hoovering up whatever kind of inebriants he can get his hands on, but by night he’s completely upset the dynamic of Ishi’s fighting ring. No one’s betting anymore, so he’ll let us know where we can find some particle cannons if we agree to take Swade somewhere that is away.
Easy enough. Our previous bounty hunting muscle had a fight with his girlfriend and the scheduling goblin and lost. He wasn’t coming back. So, we traded in our Mandalorian and got a shirtless hippie in outdated Way-mystic trappings with a four-alarm hangover and a voice like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. What was left but to find some military grade weapons for the Alleged Ship and take him for a tour of the Sector?
Code Words and Consummate Deception
Ishi points our crew to two possibilities for picking up some more dakka. Possibility the first is a weapons depot run by our good friends the Janus Syndicate who you may recall from our run-in on the dreadnaught in Aketi’s orbit yea all of two weeks ago. They are not our biggest fans. Possibility the second is a weapons research and development lab that is run by the Starsmiths’ Guild, the folks responsible for most of the glitter-tech and inter-system transit in the Procyon Sector. They do not hate us yet, but they are a bigger organization with bigger teeth.
My crew is not the sort to balk at insurmountable odds and so they enthusiastically start to gather information. They get a location and a bunch of strange message traffic that seems like comparative trade values of produce: watermelons, bananas, etc. Mink runs it through her computer brain and begins to break out coded messages. They home in on the traffic and consider how best to pass themselves off as high-security weapons couriers.
This is Scum & Villainy. Planning is a secondary consideration. They decide to go for a deception-style plan with forged documents as their way in. We smash to the action and end up in a risky position.
Tycho does what he does, spewing a verbal salad of mixed metaphors, glib remarks, and canny circumlocutions. The thrust is that they are there to receive the parcel, but the guardian at the front of the hardened bunker — which might as well have signs posted reading “Secret Weapons Laboratory: Shhh”– is having none of it. The next courier is supposed to be delivering a parcel, not picking up. The argument that ensues is going nowhere fast when Swade walks down the landing strip in his mystic’s robes with a sneer that could strip paint at twenty paces.
“What is the meaning of this interruption?” he asks, all traces of beach-bum burnout replaced with a haughty and imperious bark. “We have a schedule to keep.” He actually pronounces it “sheh-dyool,” so his transformation is essentially from 70’s stoner caricature to Bond villain in the span of twenty minutes. But it does the trick as he burns some stress and a gambit to roll a bunch of dice on a Sway roll. The guard apologizes profusely and says that the Church representative wasn’t expected until after sunset, and if you’d just be so good as to step this way, Prelate, we can get you down to your meeting with the Preceptor.
The tension defused for the moment, Swade and Kronico ( putting some of that ex-military iron in his back and stepping carefully into the role of Prelate’s bodyguard) are ushered into the laboratory for a meeting with whatever a Preceptor is. Mink and Tycho remain, staying with the ship and doing their best to allay any suspicions out there. They notice that the Alleged Ship, the Schmebulock, has a grav-boot that’s been engaged. Standard protocol for visitors in research blacksites, but bad for a quick getaway. Mink shoots Tycho a look and he launches into a distraction routine that succeeds in getting the gateguard to turn and start tearing into him. He was waiting for a Prelate, and if Tycho had just fessed up rather than getting all uppity, they wouldn’t have both flashed their collective asses to the Church of the mother-loving Stellar Flame. Tycho gives Mink a covert “ok, I got this” signal as he stands impassive in front of the gate-guard’s radioactive anger.
Mink scurries to find a terminal to hack. We didn’t have Bastien with us this week, so she’s the closest thing we have to a hacker. By which I mean, she’s a computer who idolizes our mechanic. Despite the fact that she’s a “Doctor Not a Bruteforce Decryption Algorithm,” she manages to force the grav-boot and also forges a transfer order for a weapon system from the armory. It’s marked under the reporting name “Banana Hammock.” She flashes Tycho a signal and he yawns at the guard, indicating that he’s done taking abuse for now but they should do it again never. He moves to the aft of the Alleged Ship and waits for the transfer techs.
Things Rapidly Go Wrong
Meanwhile, inside the facility, Swade and Kronico are led to a meeting room with a robed hierophant that couldn’t scream bad-news any more loudly if he had a chamber orchestra and Gregorian choir chanting the Imperial March. The meeting is brief, because Swade notices the Waystone periapt the Preceptor wears, and can’t seem to concentrate on any further lies. The Preceptor rapidly moves from why the normal Prelate is not there to carry out the inspection, who he is, and what he’s doing. Swade doesn’t have a convincing lie, Kronico doesn’t love his odds against the six armed guards outside if he draws his blaster, and so Swade tries to use the Way to bring down the Preceptor quietly. It doesn’t work so well, and Swade’s Way-boosting armlet has the unintended side effect of waking up some kind of Precursor tech buried under the bunker. The fight that breaks out is furious, brutal, and prolonged enough that bad news begins to accumulate.
While Mink and Tycho see to the transfer of a Banana Hammock and six Bananas, Kronico and Swade’s scrap is interrupted by the arrival of a biomechanical spider-monster. Swade burns an unhealthy amount of stress to beat the snot out of the Preceptor and hurl him bodily into the jaws of the beast. Kronico flashes back to turning on his signal jammer so that the Preceptor’s guards can’t call back up. In minutes, it doesn’t even matter. The scuttling horror is tearing through the guards and they don’t have time to try and stop Swade and Kronico. As they scramble to the surface, we get flashing vignettes from laboratory rooms to their left and right where scientists are fighting against their Precursor-tech experiments that have come suddenly and horribly to life.
They don’t have a lot of time to worry about it. Our heroes are low on stress from the fight, Swade is wounded, and the first blushing kiss of all Hell is breaking loose behind them. The doors to the facility are huge blast-doors that take moments to open. They are running jammer, which means they have to choose between getting those doors open ahead of them or risking the security forces calling in some additional guns. They choose discretion as the better part of valor. That’s about the time the heavy weapon emplacements on the walls open up.
The crew wait, staring at me and wondering if I’ve just let the pintle-mounted weapons that I described up on the compound’s curtain wall swing around and turn them into goo. I gleefully describe the chatter of high-caliber slugthrowers and the sound of high explosive ammunition. But I assure them that it’s outgoing, not incoming.
As the crew reunites in the courtyard, they lift off just as the jungle seems to come alive with chittering horrors, intent on breaking down the walls of the compound and overwhelming the Starsmiths’ Guild security forces. The security forces are firing back with all the high-tech hurt they have available. But the savage jungle world is intent on reclaiming the territory and the biomechanical creatures pouring out of the tree-line are showing no sign of exhausting their numbers. The walls begin to crack under their numbers, and crews sprint for waiting transports. The Alleged Ship takes off, shields flickering as claws and chitinous bodies impact the ship. With some lucky piloting and some covering fire from the cargo-bay, they come away clear and Operation Watermelon Banana Hammock is a rousing success.
A Given Quantity of Success
Swade didn’t make it out of the fight without some hurt. Scrapes and bruises notwithstanding, Swade’s brain is not yet used to turning the Way into a weapon. He just wrangled an extravagant amount of Way energy to throw at that Preceptor and it left him with a bad case of Wayshock. His connection to the energy field that surrounds, penetrates, and binds the universe together is tenuous right now, and it requires a goodly bit of patching from our resident manufactured medico.
Bastien and Kronico busy themselves with their score and are delighted to find that a “banana hammock” is a 30mm rapid fire, radial offset kinetic autocannon. A Banana is apparently a 20,000 round disintegrating link belt of 30mm depleted uranium high-explosive incendiary ammunition. This is not second-rate pew-pew we are dealing with. While particle cannons might put on a cooler laser-light show, the “Hammock” chews armor like potato chips, and withers shields like underwatered orchids.
We’re feeling pretty good, as we play out our closing scene. Sure we didn’t make any money per se, but we got a shiny weapon-system for cheap as free, made friends with a stoner fist-wizard, and anyone who could ID us either got ate by biomech predators or else has bigger problems than tracking down a big friendly gun. Right? Right.
Kronico slots a chain into the Hammock and goes to kick the case out of the way. It’s lighter now that it’s empty, and it slides across the decking, but the noise it makes isn’t right. It doesn’t skid quite right, and it’s making a hissing sound. Kronico reaches for his blaster and covers the box. He pulls the cover aside and puzzles to find it empty but for a slagged and sloughing hole in bottom corner. That’s odd. His eyes go wide as he figures it out all in a rush.
Mink and Swade are in the galley corner that serves as the medical bay. She’s patching some cracked ribs while Swade grits his teeth. She reminds him that his meat-mech is more fragile than most biological organisms are willing to accept and that unless he desires to make special friends with a number of advanced medical apparatuses, he should not tax himself. Swade isn’t sure if she’s coming onto him or not.
“Guys,” crackles Kronico over the ship comm, “we picked up a stray.”
Something skitters in the atmo-duct above, and we crash to credits.