DM5: Sensations of Bliss

The nerfherders for this session

The Hacker: Dantas
The Face: Aethelair
The Muscle: Kincade

Time has gone by, and the scruffy ones are level five! As to their rewards from last mission: Aethelair has the bracer (STR19) and Kincade the Grandblade.

The Infinity Order delivers them a new mission. Unrisen Angel, or Arisa Angel to use her real name, has reached out for the Order’s help. Baludan is back! They are to agree to work for her and report on what new danger Baludan threatens and put a stop to it.

The mission: get next to Bliss Larkam

They meet Arisa at a shady joint known as the Fire Cat. Dantas and Aethelair dress down appropriately.

“Wearing my full armor is appropriate dress” – Kincade

This is their first time meeting Arisa in the flesh. She is of the race famed as Space Pirates, but in her case her skin is bluish, not sandy brown or sap green.

Weequay in Star Wars terms

She tells the characters their mission is to find out how the SIMreal entertainer Bliss Larkam is helping Baludan.

This is what she knows:

  • Bliss Larkam is attending a launch party for a new SIM interface product at a club called the Dream Extension.
  • The club is in the Rubicon Spiral, the entertainment tower. Bliss will have at least her manager Merrick, and probably a security team.
  • Zephyr Corporation gave away thousands of free SIM devices to key personalities. Thousands more are being sold at a low cost among the populace. So it’s something that could happen in SIMreal.
  • Zephyr Corp, or at least Baludan, has some type of deal with Altai Media, which owns, or owned, the proprietary design for the new SIM device.

To properly come over as a free agent, Dantas attempts to bargain for a higher payoff than the modest sum she offers. But it is three times the peanuts-plus-50% he got last time, and Arisa stands firm, she is not in a position to gain funds any time soon.

As to the how, well, the should try to infiltrate the Dream Extension party. She has managed to get a genuine Press Pass they can doctor. She hands it over, Dantas looks pleased:

“Guess I’m the camera crew then” – Dantas

Before they leave, she lets them know that perforce, she and Abraxas have made nice, since Zephyr Corp is hunting both of them.

Why, Infiltrator is my middle name!

The job of getting Kincade in proves 75% of the infil job. While Aethelair gets the pass doctored to fit him and Dantas flits through half a dozen carelessly tossed-out ideas, Kincade patiently reiterates that swapping out his armor for a waiter’s uniform – or anything really, he loves his armor – is against his religion.

Eventually the big guy himself wonders if he can’t just put word out quietly through the matokai network to see if there’s any way he can get a job at the club that allows him to keep the armor on.

Why yes, he can intern as bouncer, matokai do play that role. Apparently there’s going to be extra hands needed at the door for the launch party.

Dantas has done some casual research, discovering that there is a connection between Merrick, Bliss’ manager, and Calet, Selexi Sunfire’s manager. They both work for a giant media corporate, Altai Media. He decides to pretend to have a message from Calet to Merrick, urgent enough to need to get into a party.

At the Dream Extension

Party night sees Kincade installed handling the media queue and Aethelair in the queue. Dantas is at a loose end, his default position on anything. He takes a walk along the Spiral level:

At the entrance to the club there is an extremely long line. Some of the press are even being turned away. The doormen or bouncers are matokai, and look serious. On closer inspection, there appears to be two lines – one for the guests trying to get into the club, and another for the press. Dantas can also see some VIP guests that are probably celebrities and wealthy people that are checked off a list and then let in.

The people in the guest line are dressed for a party. There are a lot of scantily clad bodies, and they all look like they are trying to outdo each other in their efforts to seduce, bribe or impress the doorman. The people in the press line are more conservative in their dress, but only by a bit. The one obvious thing is, no one appears to be armed or armored. Dantas has already worked this detail out, and the only one of the three that has any weapon is Kincade.

Further down the exterior wall of the club he sees some people scanning cards and entering through a side door. Most of them are either dressed like workers or dressed modestly. That’s for him! He sidles to the swipe-reader and hacks it easily. He’s in!

Aethelair has a tedious wait as the queue shortens, then a nasty moment as his pass is scanned. But Kincade jostles the reader and he moves in, safe.

Her clique is armed

The area inside the club is crowded with press and guests. It is crowded and loud, and the dim lighting and some type of mild intoxicant vapor in the air makes it hard to move about.

By the time they have all made it in and Kincade is allowed a break, the initial launch presentation is over and the after-party has begun. The place is crowded with people partying and dancing. The ring of armed guards that surrounds her marks Bliss’ location. They are keeping the crowds away, but let a select few in to mingle with her and her chosen guests.

Bliss is followed around by a middle-aged human who hovers over her like an overprotective father. That has to be Merrick. He does seem to give her some slack when she mingles with the other special guests within the circle. The special guests inside the armed ring have the option to come and go in and out of the ring as they please.

Schmoozing for the win!

Dantas sets up a type-in comms with the other two on his personal data pad, so they can be more or less discreet while giving one another a heads-up.

Between scanning streams and general knowledge they identify four possible candidates for schmoozing. But first of course they have to get into the circle, they can’t rely on those just happening to spin out for a dance.

Aethelair is the first success, he waves his pass energetically and sneaks past the armed guards. Kincade plays distraction for Dantas, by fronting up to the guards – who nervously jerk their weapon muzzles up at him – and demanding:

“HEY! ANY YOUSE NEED TO GO TO TH’ JOHN? I’LL SPELL YA!”

Dantas slips in, and stops pretending to have a message for Merrick. But the manager is a suspicious type and has a half-eye on the villain.

The candidates:
  1. Sina (See-nah) Valna. Sina is an athlete who has also become a socialite. She loves to talk sports and be the center of attention.
  2. Vesio Savhel (Ves-ee-o Sav-hel). Vesio Savhel is an Enhanced who has made a name for himself by designing a personal luxury spacecraft. The ship is equipped with technology far beyond normal craft currently in production, and many celebrities are courting him for a special pre-launch ship. Vesio is Arrogant and thinks all others are beneath him with respect to intelligence. Feeding his ego is a sure way to become his friend.
  3. Neri (Ner-ree). Neri is Bliss’ best friend. He is a friendly sort and very Naïve. He is a bit envious of Bliss and looking for his own chance at stardom.
  4. Sanara Rhen (Sa-nar-a Ren) Human. Sanara is a Stream actor like Bliss. She has lost a couple of roles to Bliss and plays the friend on the outside while secretly wishing her ill. Sanara will entertain anyone who has gossip on Bliss.

Aethelair swipes a couple of drinks for he and Neri and tries to learn as much as he can about Bliss. But it turns out he is out of the loop on her SIMReal deal and doesn’t wave her over to speak. Eventually Aethelair works on Vesio and with an arm about the flattering reporter’s shoulder Vesio moves to Bliss herself.

Sure enough Vesio had a lot to do with the design of the Hyperlance!

Bliss Larkam is no villainess

She is scheduled to make a SIM appearance after the party to demonstrate the new interface, Aethelair learns. While she speaks to him, he has the impression she is paying full attention to him and he is the most important person in the universe! He learns:

  • Her manager currently has possession of the interface.
  • Her manager is the reason she has been so successful.

    As Dantas is distracting Merrick to some degree Aethelair is able to also learn:
  • Yes, she does feel she owes her manager everything, but he is very possessive.
  • She believes his ability to get her such great gigs comes from Merrick’s relationship with a human named Baludan, whom she has never met in person.
  • The new interface helps her SIM experience seem more real and lifelike with every use. It’s almost as if she is becoming part of it.

It’s clear to the lads that Bliss is a pawn and not knowingly helping Baludan.

The dice finally began warming up for the team, and we get a solid result!

I know which elevator they will be leaving by

Flushed with success it only remains to find out exactly what the SIM device is actually going to do. Dantas has swiped one of the celebrity samples long since but it has not given him any lead. Nor has the SIM displays running around the club. No, the answer must lie with an after-party, meaning they have to follow Bliss herself.

“I been talking to th’ staff, I can tell you which elevator they’ll be leaving by,” Kincade affirms. “But it goes up and down, so no point guessing.”

Dantas sets about getting a tracer on one of the guards, but Kincade then suggests something simpler.

“If you hack the elevator you will know what floor they select.”

Altai Media foreshadowing

Merrick and Bliss make their exit via the back door of the club. An armed escort goes with them.

“Level ten, let’s get down there,” Dantas snaps. The team rush to another elevator.

The chase leads them to the front doors of Altai Media. The doors are open, but the place is empty.

As they scan for security cameras, they see two hulking guards, one as heavily armored as Kincade, sauntering towards them from the right, where a stair leads up.

As the guards attempt to delay them, and knowing every second may count, it’s combat time! Kincade pops his heavy blaster, Aethelair catches it with something of a fumble, and Dantas attempts to lift the heavy blaster from the guard who has gotten into his face!

It’s a draw, Dantas needs to brute force the gun, and unlikely as it seems he wins!

It’s my afterparty and I’ll glow if I want to

The combat is intense, both guards have little hesitation on spray-and-pray and the last man standing drops a grenade as he retreats. But he is too late, the trio avoid much damage and fell him, and sprint up over his body to find double doors reading “Bliss Larkam”.

Had they been a little quicker they would have overheard Merrick’s voice:

“You destroy anyone that comes through that door!”

And a reply comes a metallic robotic voice that says:

“I will comply.”

Inits: Merrick, Kincade, Dantas, Aethelair, Big Dog

Round 2: With a mighty kick from Kincade (after a false start and a Help from Aethelair, losing a round) they have breached the locked doors. The room beyond is an opulent studio. Standing between them and Bliss is Merrick and a large canine-like mech.

It’s going to be a fight.

Behind Merrick, they see Bliss lying on a recliner wearing the new interface on her head. She’s not moving, but her eyes are open and glowing with a silver radiance. It doesn’t look like they have much time!

Kincade: Impact Grandblade (+1 Laser Sword, Versatile)
Dantas: Stolen heavy hand-blaster
Aethelair: Kincade’s heavy hand-blaster

COVID-19 INTERLUDE

Break the Slave-Stream!

Round 2 cont’d: The action picks up with Kincade racing into the room, selling the dummy to the mecharoid, and swinging his blade at Merrick, who screams:

“I’m an executive at Altai Media! You can’t do this to me!”

Dantas uses his full speed and agility to run the opposite way, around the fight, reaching Bliss on her Streaming couch. Thanks to his inordinately high Passive Wisdom, and his previous examination of the giveaway SIM sets, and his previous work on Selexi Sunfire, and a DC15 WIS interface, he can tell:

  • The SIM device that Bliss is wearing is not exactly the same as the others
  • A variant of the same virus he extracted from Selexi is “infecting” the paired Zephyr Corp-built SIM devices
  • It is also rewriting Bliss’ brain, so just ripping the set off her head will wipe her brain

Aethelair moves back from where his impetus took him, and uses the doorframe for cover. This will prove vital! He aims at Merrick, seeing that the big guy has already got a piece of the boss and figuring take the boss down, the doggie can follow later!

Big Dog swings on Kincade and with a short charge (not enough to allow its full rampage effect) slams the matokai down. It also sends an electrical field out, and under both effects Kincade is out! A tail unit swings independently and fires at Aethelair: but he uses his gunslinger grit and the doorframe to avoid the damage!

Round 3: Merrick opens his hands in a theatrical gesture and a shimmering effect, somewhat like a Geodesic Field, surrounds… Dantas! The hacker discovers that his induction to electronics beyond the field is blocked, and he can no longer attempt to free Bliss!

Kincade, making a nat20 on his Death Roll, grasps his blade and not bothering to get up (and risk any attack from the looming Big Dog) swings at Merrick’s ankles. It’s a great theory but does not work, the adept leaps nimbly over the blazing blade. Dantas decides to take advantage of the distraction and vaults over to backstab the exec, who screams horribly as he takes a deep wound through his protective suit – but makes his SV. Aethelair shoots Merrick again, and this time the field drops. Then Aethelair dodges once more as the Big Dog shoots another heavy round from its tail! Big Dog chows down on Kincade, but ineffectively, the matokai armor doing its job.

Round 4: Merrick fishes a jewelled rod out of a pocket and a dazzling field surrounds Kincade who stops moving, numbed! He does take his Second Wind though. Dantas vaults away and returns to attempting to breach Bliss’ interface, while hiding. Aethelair’s shots continue rattling Merrick. Big Dog shoots at but misses Aethelair and absolutely towels Kincade: he is out again.

Round 5: Merrick has little time to protest or attack Dantas as despite seeking a target, he drops to a final round of accurate blaster-fire. Seeing what is likely to happen, Aethelair taunts and flees! Big Dog launches itself out the doors and down the stair – Aethelair makes his DEX SV and allows it to keep rolling over him! It regains its four paws, below.

Round 6: Dantas finishes disconnecting Bliss with a Medicine check. Has it been in time? He vaults back and dashes to the stair safety balustrade, picking up the relative positions. Below him, Aethelair pours fire into Big Dog. Big Dog leaps up and chomps on the gunslinger, knocking him down with heavy damage.

Round 7: Dantas hacks Big Dog and the mighty jaws freeze!

Victory!

Loot

Aside from Bliss, who is not brain-dead, and Merrick himself, who is secured by the now-conscious Kincade, the operatives secure:

Cred sticks/Creds: Merrick has a non-corporate cred stick for off-books payments, with 200cr left. The two heavies had 300cr between them.

Arisa Angel’s reward: 1800cr.

Wand of hypnotic pattern: Requires attunement. (appx 8″) jeweled rod that delivers a reduced version of Hypnotic Pattern as an action. Range 60′, effect 10′ cube, DC13 WIS SV to resist.

Defensive Ward: Requires attunement. Gold trinket (pendant or medallion) that gives +1 AC and +1 to SV.

Fame

This incident has made the nerfherders very visible to the celebrities and wanna-be’s that received the Zephyr Corp devices. They are recognized as Heroes of Bastion.

Bliss Larkam joins Selexi among their highly positive contacts. She is not able to resume her streaming career for now, but may do after a period of rehab. Apart from personal favors like face-time, she will grant them access (backstage pass or audience) to any one celebrity, one time.

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