Mission: Killing Usher Stoll under cover of Imperial supply contract… or is it?
Welcome back to the closing episode of Surplus Heroes! The Bad’n’Ruin has been tempted back, yet again, to Lewis, site of an ongoing invasion by Imperial and Junidi navies. Purely for self-defense the more murderous of the crew have decided to kill Usher Stoll, the instigator of the entire invasion, before his next attempt on their lives succeeds. The trail has led them to Lewis itself where Stoll is having himself be filmed by three major Junidi TV hosts.
The Bad’n’Ruin lands on Base 4 where they have no reason to suppose Stoll and his media stooges anywhere within 22 degrees’ latitude. But who should come shoving into the mess tent but Duncan Fats, one of the three.
So is the GM offering a chance to rewrite the future? Or just a good lead? Widow tells most of the story from here. Third-person narration is in blue.
Widow’s spelling: for Jundy read Junidi, for Krabby read Klackon and for Varag read Vargr. Other mis-spellings are accidental but represent common usage, not just Widow.
The ninety-degree turn
I ain’t come strapped so there ain’t no lupara to grab. Telepersonality Duncan Fats keeps rollin’ in and catches sight out us sinking bourbon and makes over to a nearby table, signaling for the same hooch.
Right behind Fats comes not security nor Stoll, but a couple TV types, a Jundy woman clutching an organizer, the other an ordinary looking Taran.
Duncan Fats [slams back first shot]: Damn! I can’t believe this life! Duncan Fats is the most important news personality in the sector and what, I ask, is Duncan Fats doing?
Junidi editor-producer Annie: Duncan…
DF [slams second shot down]: Duncan Fats is following Usher Stoll around, giving him face time on meaningless puff pieces! Base 5! Base 5! There was a news story! Was Duncan Fats in the front line showing the universe the face of war? No Duncan Fats was not! By the time he got to Base 5, Duncan Fats was in time to cover carcasses being bulldozed! Where’s the news angle on that!?!
Widow [leans in to other three at her table]: This our chance – we go to the real story, OK?
DF: And what is out itinerary for the next day??
Taran technician Targ: Err…
DF [sinks third shot]: Do you not do rhetorical in Nasemin? This is our itinerary! Duncan Fats is yet again covering Usher goddam’ Stoll at an event calculated to make Stoll look like the man most likely to get next birthright! There’s no story!
Widow: You want a story, we got a real story!
Targ [moving over, at Annie’s signal]: What’s the problem?
Widow: Was just hearing your Fats sayin he don’t got no story. Well we got a story is all
Targ: So what’s the story?
Widow: The story of what really happened on Lewis
Targ: Why would we want to listen?
Widow: This our third mission on Lewis, do the math
Well Targ is his handle and he does do math, looks right calculatin and asks us some questions about the trips and the second one especially, and the drone Stoll used. BJ answers that. Then Targ heads back over to Fats’ table. In a mite the Jundy producer woman heads over, her handle is Annie.
She wants to hear the real story from the get-go, no hintin and holdin’ out. I say to Pip, I do the lead on this you back me up about Rogers stuff.
I wrote this up a few minutes before half time Broncos vs Patriots, just in case the situation came up that we needed to have our story straight accusing Stoll (or his corpse) in front of everyone. The parts in this color are lies.
“Fetterman expedition discovered that Klackon got advance tech, including rays that disintegrate metal. One ship got clear and passed the information on via the Rogers family but the logs were corrupted to make it look like Krabbies are stone age.
“Stoll supervised the entire forging operation and knew all along about the real Krabbies.
“Since we got us a Rogers in our crew, we realized something was wrong. Back on our first trip to Lewis, Commander Tone paid some of us – but not Pip here – to help investigate the crashed ship Sharon Challenger. Later, once Pip recollected some Rogers family lore, we put two and two together and smelt a rat.
“We didn’t realize Stoll was behind the cover-up, until he tried to get us killed, on our second trip. If he’d just left us alone, we wouldn’t have cared!
“Stoll’s visit that time led directly to the Klackon assault. We need him dead – ehh – we need him exposed not just on our own behalf but in memory of all the Jundy U staff that died so he could steal a planet!”
[With Pip helping Widow scores +2 on persuasion in the Annie stage of the interviews.]
Annie got her a mile of questions, and she gets to hear BJ’s survival yarn out of Psyadi med wing. Could be she remembers some stories she heard along the way too, that fit with what we’re saying. When I invite them back to the Bad’n’Ruin she agrees and they all three come with us.
Back aboard we make them welcome in the rec room and they meet Ralph. Choi keeps shy, but Bex comes in during proceedings and gets to hear a mite more about Stoll than we rightly intended, only she don’t look surprised.
The hook is set
We go over the whole thing again with Duncan Fats listening and drinking Iceman’s coffee, the story stays solid – well it is 90% true – and Fats takes the hook. The clincher seems to be, can we get back to the drone Stoll used to tell us he screwed us over.
Duncan Fats: Duncan Fats will run with it. If there’s solid evidence. Duncan Fats is sure there’s time. Annie?
Annie: Yes you have DB5 Duncan, that’s locked, then in a day’s time it’s back to DB1, then the following day the commemorations begin.
DF: Duncan Fats is sure we can work with this. We’ll need plausible evidence, that’s your job… Widow was it
Widow: We’ll need a media pass
Annie: In fact though I’ll need to be at DB5 with Duncan, Targ need not be
Targ: You have a launch obviously
Targ: We’ll head over to beach zero, locate this drone you say is probably still there, it’ll all be booked as principle footage
Widow: You got a flak vest, kid?
Targ: Er, yes’m, they give us some armor with PRESS on it
Widow: Perfect, Pip here been dependin on that her whole life til just recent
Pip: The armor, not the PRESS bit
Widow: Haw, press she wishes
Pip: YOU wish you fill out a t-shirt
Bex [telepathically]: Feel your emotions, my young apprentice, let your anger build…
Beach zero and the bot
Targ has a word with Choi about how to find the drone, then leaves to ready his gear and Annie and Duncan leave to go about their normal business. Over the next couple of hours:
Widow and Pip trace a course to get to the DB1 area, and beach zero and the Sharon Challenger;
BJ and Iceman prep and stock the launch.
Then Targ returns and the five – Ralph is now included since he knows the sites and is deeply involved – board the launch with him and armor up.
Everyone is wearing heavy loadout, and BJ is even using his combat assault armor! We don’t bring every single Gauss weapon, because Widow needs to bring her med kit and the M41A is a better combination with it.
[Pip +2 small craft, Widow +9 on sensors. The launch has full military spec sensors, allowing Widow to tell giant marsupial from Klackon.]
We get to beach zero since Targ allows as how finding Stoll’s butler-bot is the main step. He allows, too, that we oughta get some kind of low-power battery signal out of even a smashed drone. It’s kind of a guess but no harm, I figure. I tell Pip land alongside the ruin at end of beach, so the launch can’t be picked out of the clutter.
BJ brung his laz-rifle so sits back atop the ruin covering the beach. Ralph goes point in his fancy new Varag armor. Targ’s covered amidst us, filming his shots. We head to the burnt-out air raft. It’s a mite buried, but we was above high water so only drifting sand to deal with. I’m using the locator to check for mines, Iceman being paranoid that way. But we get to the ‘raft and step out the showdown for Targ. A quarter-hour later we’re turning over bits of armor and using sensors to find electronic signals. Targ’s using his standard-issue carbine as probe, and bangs down on something sounds promising.
Half an hour of digging and me and Iceman haul the butler-bot out. Targ takes his shots and we take it to the launch and clear out.
While Pip’s looping back to the Challenger site, Iceman gets me to sift the bot for explosives. Then Targ pulls a solid state feed memory out, looks mighty pleased like he guessed the lottery.
Sharon Challenger and a scoop
The Challenger site got Jundy marines all over it, some digging or operating haulers. Looks like they aim to haul the ship out a mite, or level it.
Widow: OK, time to get the story straight. Targ here with PRESS on his chest? He’s press. Got it? Us, with the weapons and armor, we’re his guards, got that? And we’re all here doing, what is you call it Targ?
Targ: Principle shooting
These are Marines though Jundy types, and I get through the normal Marines bullshit to the site CO, a lieutenant, no problem. The story works fine.
[The GM does not require Widow to try any rolls, probably as the reward for getting a true story as cover for what we are doing.]
We walk Targ through the Sharon Challenger’s floors and BJ gives him the up close and personal about the disintegrated holes, all the way through to the bridge. I can tell Targ is a hundred percent more into this story than before. I take him to where Tone found the log book and talk a mite about the Commander’s death and the ‘ruin’ as we thought back then.
Targ’s keen to take him a look so we clear it with the LT and walk Targ over there with two marines escort. It’s still there! I guess no-one really figured to find it and Krabbies got no reason to salvage it.
Targ [tense]: This is a scoop, the way I see it. We can get footage here way ahead of the others. Say, guys [to the two marines, and peeling down to his money belt] here’s 500 each, how’s about you keep quiet about this and there’s another 500 after we broadcast in a couple days.
Marine: Thanks, uh, Taran Press guy, but we’re rostered off this duty tonight
Targ: Give me your unit and numbers, my station will get you the money
Widow: OK let’s head down, I can show you the lander bays easy
Marine [nervous]: Do we need to be down there?
Widow: No, you two stay up top and watch landside for anything. Smaller team the better in the tunnels
We take no more than four hours of Targ shooting then Pip heads us to DB4 in the launch. We rendezvous with Annie and she allows as how now we got real evidence they gonna put the story out. I allows as how it’s gotta be a real pitch so we know what we got and what to give, and they want the real diary so we gotta discuss that private. Once Annie and Targ gone I call bridge meeting.
There’s a lot to discuss but we have five heads of discussion, each needing a vote.
Preliminary vote: BJ identifies the primary topic which is, do we trust Annie and Targ? Overall, it’s a yes, whether because of their greed or because of Fats’ ego or whatever.
That being decided we can decide on the four elements:
- Our visibility
- Stoll’s survival
- Release of the original log book
- How we get out
The voting is:
- Yes, the members that were involved on Lewis expeditions can be filmed. The more visible we are in the story the less worthwhile it becomes for anyone to get rid of us
- Yes, Stoll will be neutered or disgraced and we will be gone, so there’s no need to risk assassinating him
- Provisionally Yes, given that we trust the media team we can get by with a copy, once we hear what they pitch us
- The Bad’n’Ruin is ready (Bex and Choi haven’t just waited around) and will leave directly the deal is made and all footage of us is taken, on a dry run to Patinir then to Natoko in Aramis Core, an ideal place to sell the ship and drift on with new IDs to the next sector. Bex will file a slightly bogus civilian flight plan.
There’s a few hours before we are meetin up with Fats so we get to the PX, copy the log and such, resupply with any spare ammo or odds and ends we ain’t got yet, and ready up.
[This allows us to agree that any minor stuff can be assumed to be aboard if we need it later.]
Aboard, we host Annie Fats and Targ in the rec room again. Duncan Fats seems to have a piece to say so I ask him to pitch it to us.
Duncan Fats: A remarkable story. Duncan Fats will run this as an ambush interview. Usher Stoll will be in frame as standard angle [he frames it with his hands] doing the ship decommissioning. Duncan Fats will segue to ‘there’s evidence of advanced weaponry’ then Stoll will stall, then Duncan Fats will show the log book! Then [he gestures dramatically to Targ]
Targ: I cleaned this and like I hoped…
[the ‘gloating vid’ plays, Usher Stoll incriminates himself]
Iceman [slaps Targ’s back]: You fucking genius!
Widow [checks around, gets nods] OK, we agree, you can interview us
Annie: We’ll get a live set here, it’s real background and we can work with the acoustics. We already have library footage of interviews on Psyadi, I did some digging before we got here and we can assemble it all as intense filler and evidence
Iceman: You gonna post that out early, right… don’t want to have Stoll’s goons lock you up
Annie: No problem, we’ll have most of it assembled tomorrow and the existing scoop will go out in advance. Heroes of Psyadi is already a thing, we just didn’t have faces and names – and now we do! Duncan’s shoot with Stoll will go in the can live and be posted up on site
BJ: Just remember Stoll is a slippery…
Pip: …Utter Stool
Widow: And his guys are hard. He got two, both real bad
Annie: Oh, no, he routinely travels with three men
Targ: And two police-spec drones
The interviews take all night. I hear Pip arranges originals to be returned to the Rogers family once the station done with them, it’s a good cover detail.
In between that and sleeping, me and Iceman and BJ and sometimes Pip and Ralph jaw about the idea of waiting off from ground zero about two klicks with the drones a-ready. BJ allows as how he could maybe go in as close protection for Fats, then knife Stoll. It gets serious enough I call another vote.
I get Iceman and BJ to explain to Bex and Choi, then we swing to a vote right smart. Pip and me, we say nay, BJ and Iceman say yay, Ralph says yay and Choi says nay, so Bex casts the decider and no surprise, she says nay.
[Awkward having the GM casting three of the seven votes, but we all agreed they were predictable so it went by smoothly enough.]
Bad’n’Ruin, vector out
It’s jump day and ground zero day, and Bex has filed her bullshit flight plan. Once we up, I run sensors in case the Quiet Hand is gunning for us again. Plenty of traffic but nothing bad.
Widow: All clear, looks like
BJ: Let’s stick around as long as we can, I got to get this recorded personal like
Iceman: I get the front seat
Pip: The broadcast is starting, I’m throwing feeds through, you coming? BJ and Iceman getting the good seats
Widow: Sure, be there soon
It’s a team thing so I don’t aim to be long. I just send me a direct cast to the Deacon Jones, personal to Hamish: the coordinates for a portside bar on Natoko and telling him to light a shuck. Then I head down to the rec room and the big screen.
With the Bad’n’Ruin cleared for vector out of system the crew gather to watch the live feed out of ground zero. It goes pretty much to Fats’ script. Stoll goes to the ‘wide-eyed conspiratorial wingnut’ explanation but the evidence keeps coming. Later when BJ plays the slomo he will see Stoll’s expression change each time Fats plays the next gotcha. On the third gotcha – the gloating – Stoll and his JTD heavies order the interview cut but by that time the other media faces are scenting blood and mobbing Stoll’s exit path.
With a closing huge Pilot and Engineer check, the campaign comes to a close, except for:
It’s two legs of training and a dry hump, so I put in plenty of time in the gym and I’m diamond hard by the time we make Natoko. I gonna be bouncing Hamish off the walls. BJ picks up computers fine too, and I guess Choi ready to take his engineer ticket as soon as he decides which ID he runnin as. Pip gets her witch on and can find out intention and other witches. Iceman the only one looks down about it – I guess. Ralph tells him to come drink it off and plan what skin color he getting.
[It’s a throwaway with no relevance unless we come back as NPCs, but yes, three of us roll extremely high. Widow ends up with Athletics 9, Pip gains her basic Psionics level, and BJ gains computer proficiency. To go with his new ID, Iceman will need that remedial skin treatment to regain pigmentation.]
And a footnote
About a week after our arrival as we ticking off the sale – 8M each though more to Bex and a fat bonus to Choi and Ralph – Pip shows me a small print column that reads:
Fociline personality Usher Stoll dies
The body of impresario and sometime investor Usher Stoll has been found in his [placename] address. Police are not seeking any other individual in connection with the death.
Thanks for reading and if you have stuck with it over the three seasons, you are awesome! It’s hard to follow any AP where you don’t know the rules intimately, and this is a homebrew.
The Caseless homebrew will no doubt be dusted off again, but for a different style of campaign I gather. These characters reflected the ex-military backgrounds the rules provide, the next lot may be all civilians.
Thanks to the highly esteemed SM for running this campaign and in particular GMing on the fly when the entire plan was thrown out as soon as Widow got a chance to speak!
Next our group moves to a darker future as we pick up our Dark Heresy characters for their third season in the Emperor’s service! That will be in about a fortnight. Until then, stay tuned!