The tunnel through to central is low-vis steamy and dripping and still smells bad. A raggedy man, armoured and with some kind of half-arsed hideout gun, offers to guide us. I say OK and he tells us his handle is Derns. He offers to guide us to the Grand Trading Roadhouse, which sounds less fun but more like to get us with Tils or Wells, our two possible contacts here on Pavanne out-station. Tils is official Obelinda, Wells is a general agent.
[Pip’s 19 on Interaction tells her Derns is shifty (quelle surprise) and my 17 on Alertness tells me we are not being set up right now. Not at this instant.]
As we wait for the elevator Derns fills in a little more detail about the lifers, the Natty Chipper mercs (who control the station guns among other things) and the Turkeras. Those guys are off the three live ships and hang out on the cargo docks, which sounds bad for us. Our mission is to move cargo, in opposition to the Turkeras. Yeah, that should go smooth.
Surplus heroes walk into a bar…
Exiting the elevator many levels above the dock level, we’re now in a better-lit, populated area. Folks eye us but don’t get in our face. Which is maybe natural. Though plenty of these folk wear some kind of armour, Giant and me are wearing light combat armour. And then there’s the longarm that Jim, Giant and Pip are toting.
The autodoors haven’t worked in a long long time and most quarters are screened by fabric or bead curtains. Grand Trading Roadhouse is behind a bead curtain. I stop in the entrance and scan the place, as it goes quiet. The central area is taken up by small tables, where folks are eating. The bar’s on the right, not crowded. Beyond the food area, card tables are busy. A couple of heavies are watching the games. A closer look [good Interaction check] tells me a Varag wandering around there is a pit boss.
I head to the bar with Derns, buy him a drink. Beer-and-chaser. It looks good! I buy the same for me. Then push over 40 creds. Looking around, it looks to me that this is what Derns promised. I ask the barkeep which is the penny-ante table, and I head over there, staking Derns 20. I sling down my tools and med-kit and get ready to lose some creds!
The other three act as though they have never actually been to a bar. Jim has one quick drink of the local flavoured alcohol, then heads over to a standing position from where he can watch Widow’s table and the room. He learns that the bar is working as advertised, and nothing more. Pip kind of does her best by nursing the local drink sitting up at the bar as though she wants some guy to chat her up, and is immediately undermined by Giant. Giant also has one drink, then declares that he is glaring hostilely at anyone making a move on Pip. He buys a couple more drinks, presumably holding his carbine in the other hand. Pip chats to the barkeep for a while, getting a repeat version of the faction intel we got from the outer guard then gives up, and drifts over to Widow’s table. She is welcomed by one and all, because Widow has been losing freely.
By this time I’ve heard the Obelindas are maybe a lost cause, though they might be hiding out somewhere, since the Turkeras took them down. The Black Daggers, the ones I thought might be fun to find, shank folks in the corridors. Derns might be hooked up with them – or maybe he laid a killing off on them. As Pip cleans up maybe a hundred creds – and most of them mine but Derns loses the last of his pile – we learn that the guvnor, the Lifers boss, is turning a blind eye to Turkera doings. That’s why Obelindas were put down, even though on the face of it the guvnor would be wanting ships trading.
Jim’s Alertness is tested during this three-hour card-table stint. Unfortunately he misses it, so can’t be sure that Derns didn’t duck out or meet someone in the facilities.
Even knowing Derns might sell us out, I figure it’s better to keep him in sight so agree he can guide us to the cargo decks. But we don’t hardly get far when we are ambushed! I hear Jim yell there’s someone on our four, same time as some cara steps out, lifts a blade at me, says ‘you got new crew, mina, Black Daggers are signing on with you-all.’
Derns gives us a shit-eating grin and allows as how he gotta go and drifts away, and I can see a needle-gun-muzzle at the next outer bay, where it looks like there’s some tables. Glancing back I see a bitch with two guns has stepped out of the doorway we just passed, and she has a gun on Jim. I wait for shit to get real. It’s gonna happen. I know who I’m crewing with.
Corridors are curving, the party walking counter-clockwise towards an area where an old food-hall opens out on the right, or outer side. Their course takes them through a 4-way junction. On the left or inner side, two open doorways offer concealment or cover. The light is adequate.
Pip, Derns and Widow are in the lead with Jim following within a couple of metres while Giant has decided to follow at a distance, so he is some metres back from the junction after they have all passed it.
Ahead of the party, a needler and an unknown are hiding in the food bay while a laser-carbine approaches along the corridor. On the party’s left flank a blade and a 2-gun are hiding in the chambers accessed through the open doorways. And finally behind the party (except Giant) but along the outer branch of the 4-way junction, an SMG is fast approaching. This is the noise Jim hears with a fair Alertness roll, and he alerts the others, including Giant.
The blade dude and the 2-gun woman have edge, but since they are waiting for someone to bargain, they hand it over. Jim declares that he will pop his blade and slash the 2-gun woman. Giant declares he will shoot the SMG-armed man that Jim heard running up to the 4-way junction (behind Jim, in front of Giant). They therefore have edge which counts as a surprise round.
Surprise round: Jim’s close combat attack succeeds, button (the effect die) drops to 2. Armour is penetrated (the GM tests this with a defence roll) and the 2-gun woman is ‘floored.’ Giant opens up with a 3-shot burst on the SMG, missing but causing enough uncertainty that the SMG also misses. No Fort check on either side is required.
Round 1: The edge stays with the party, because one person has been put down using an unexpected attack, and because Giant’s fire is unexpected.
Widow steps right back out of close range, drawing her autopistol, and shoots the blade right in centre-mass. He is ‘out.’ Pip draws her concealable pistol and fires at the needler, but he is well in cover; she also steps back and right, hugging the wall. Jim spins and runs at the SMG, but he is on his toes and drops back (simultaneous action based on Athletics contests) so Jim leaps back into the partial cover of the corner between them. Giant scuttles into the junction to line the SMG up again and fires another burst. This time armour is penetrated and SMG is hurt. Ahead of the party, the needler sprays a volley at Pip and Widow but the shots go wild. He drops back while the laser-carbine armed man rushes into line of sight and blazes away so poorly that again it has no effect. Derns ducks away to the doorway the blade emerged from.
Round 2: Two opponents down and no wounds at all on the party means they still have the edge.
Widow calls a fall-back move: basically drop back to Giant using cover where possible. She covers Pip who scuttles back, firing across at the SMG without effect. Widow drops across to the doorway that the 2-gun came from, giving her plenty of cover. She makes a good Alertness roll to make sure she is not stepping into danger. All clear. Giant does not need to move and his third burst again hits and again the SMG is hurt. Jim tries an extended manoeuvre: he wants to unlimber his shotgun and fire at SMG while running across the junction to cover. This calls for an Athletics roll and Jim like Widow has a -2 penalty owing to gear loaded. He makes a ‘partial’ so retracts his blade, does fire (missing) but does not reach cover. The SMG runs, applying pressure to his wounds as best he can. The laser-carbine advances firing at Jim but misses, then they all flee. Except Derns and the two prone wounded.
Giant wastes another three rounds at their heels, while Derns surrenders and claims he was on the party’s side all along. Widow and Pip both have their medi-kits and check the two down. The man Widow shot centre-mass is bleeding out and can’t be saved without starship-quality surgery, but the woman injured by Jim’s blade has a quite survivable wound, with care. Her guns were an autopistol and a wheel-gun.
Picking up strays
We’re struggling back to the Bad’n’Ruin – I’ve left Derns in care of that guard – when Bex comms in.
Bex: who’s that with you?
Widow: this bitch? We agreed she can ride out. She can cook and knows computers. What’s your name?
Rhonda (muttering): Rhonda…
Widow: bitch called Wanda
Turns out her name ain’t Wanda it’s Rhonda. I take her aboard since she allows she can handle computers and cook. Especially, cook. We ain’t got no steward and Giant’s frycooking gets old.
Wanda tells us a mile of facts and talk. Her crew was the Black Daggers. They are all gagging to get off the station.
Jack jack jack
Now we’re back on the ship and Rhonda (not Wanda) is tucked away, it’s time to make a plan. It seems like Tils might still be alive, or leastways some of the Obelindas could be. It takes only a little while. The guys, specially Jim, know the kind of layout this out-station should have. I leave my med-kit, and draw out some more creds. Bex is kinda antsy about that but I jack three loose rounds back into my autopistol and allow as how we might need extra, things can be pricey.
[It’s not overt intimidation, more like an atmosphere of intimidation, thus skirting the ‘brooding psycho’ rule. The GM rolls some sort of check for Bex and says she is unmoved. Naturally, I reply: she worked in a bank.]
Derns rides again
We pick up Derns and I pay the guard another 50 creds for keeping him in one place. Once we’re away from the guard Jim asks Derns to guide us to the engineering elevator. We ride it up to the solid-state batteries deck. The plan is to get enough heat to get plant operational and comms through to engineering deck, where Rhonda has told us the Obelinda survivors are holed up.
This works like a charm [Pip Jim and I all make great rolls, them on engineering and me on sensors/comms] and I am patched through to Tils who is still alive. I allow as how if they got a hatch letting outside, we’ll be banging on it in the next hour or two.
Derns is pleading and begging to head out on the Bad’n’Ruin, he allows as how if we leave him he’s dead. I can’t say as how I care much but I give in and allow as how he can cold sleep back to Nazmin.
We suit up. Now we’re really sorry the laser-carbine guy got away, because of all of us, only Giant has a weapon useful on the outside and it’s a piddling hand-needler. Still and all Turkera ain’t likely staking out the outside. That’s what our plan is relying on anyhow!
Jim’s expert and Pip is OK, but me and Giant, vac suits are something Navy gets paid for. We work our way around the landing deck and jump down planet-ward, aiming for the engineering deck, mainly following Jim who knows where he’s going. Our first hop is into a wrecked area, and I spot a couple of tiny specks roped to it and moving out – Turkera is guarding the outside after all!
[In terms of manoeuvre the general skill that applies to a vac suit is Space Tech. Jim alone has advanced EVA, which means he knows how to really handle the process. He also has an advanced vac suit with decent armour capability (and a valve for his prosthetic arm blade). Pip makes a poor roll and Giant misses by 2 (judged another partial) but Widow makes a great roll, four above her poor Space Tech of 13.]
The Turkera crew have the edge: they already saw the party and are ready to fire.
Round 1: T1 shoots Jim with a needler but Jim’s EVA success allows his hi-tech vac suit to avoid the darts. Giant attempts to manoeuvre to the deck to brace his standard carbine. Pip decides to close fast and turns her air-jets on high making a perfect roll (double-10s) and zips towards T1. Jim tries to bounce back from where his avoidance left him, but does not make the kind of check that would indicate a quick bounce. Widow drifts in, but spins (another partial).
Round 2: T1 shoots Pip and though he does not actually score, she is ‘cowed’ – unable to do more than hunker down. However as she is already moving extremely fast, the GM agrees that in zero-G this means she lands squarely on T1. T2 has no range weapon and cannot help. Jim now closes but T1 has already been caromed off the deck and away, so Jim’s blade attack is wasted. Widow lands clumsily grabbing hand-holds. Giant destroys a good carbine by shooting T1. T1 fails his Fort and he and his needler go spinning into orbit around Pavanne. Apparently the safety line he had was not secured, or perhaps Jim did manage to cut it as he originally wanted to.
Round 3: we subdue T2.
Giant pounds on a hatch, and we watch the light nervously. It goes green. Well, beyond that hatch is an airlock that’s either going to set us in a trap, or let us through to the Obelindas. I nod to Giant and turn the wheel. It’s a mid-size lock, maybe four could squeeze at a pinch but not five. I signal Giant and me first, leaving Pip and Jim holding the Turkera, and we drop in.
We’ll leave it there for now, with our heroes dropping into either a terrible trap or a meeting that brings their objective much closer.
This was a particularly good session for me for rolls. I didn’t care about gambling rolls, since I set up for the penny-ante game. I made a couple of middling-poor rolls and a couple of miss-by-two which became ‘partials.’ (More of that below.) All other rolls were really good. Since most of the others were making fair to good rolls at about the same time, things really came together. Best roll of the night was of course Pip’s natural 20 on vac-suit manoeuvre.
Rules-wise, I’d like to see a more definite ‘partial success’ rule rather than leave it entirely to the GM. If we look at Dungeon World for example the partial is a known band, and becomes something that helps the action. In Caseless there are some areas where there’s no such thing as a partial success, such as a knife-stab or an armour check. That’s fine. But there are several areas, such as Interaction, where partial success must be the norm.