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15: All Hell Breaks Loose/A Private Little War

[Run by Milliken]:

(Selene mentions to the crew that she got a royalty check from the shipyard that built the Bat -- someone else comissioned a Fledermaus class ship! Some digging ensues. Artemis Enterprises is the buyer. It's called Diana's Bow. It's black w/ the (< design on it in silver, w/ the cresent on the wings & the "arrow" on the body. It's gone out exploring, w/ an AI pilot: crew unknown, whereabouts unknown, duration unknown. Someone's stealing our ideas!)

(The stuff that we looked at from Artemis Enterprises (producer of smallish ship tech -- control systems for guns, but no guns, etc.) proves to be very similar to Selene's stuff, at least where it's something she could do -- there's a piloting & gunnery program in there. The crypto-gear is military grade, & Selene says that she couldn't break it in any finite time. The comm gear is somewhat smaller than standard gear, same range, & has mega-computer power for something that size to filter the stuff, etc. It also, though the customer manuels don't mention it, has crypto-gear built in... Their astrogation program has little bits of useless code in it that look like the remnants of Selene's back door.)

(Selene does some work -- she can't hack into Artemis Enterprises directly, since Sapient Gordan is the only linkage into the rest of the world. She does find, from governmental records, that there are only 3 full-time workers at Artemis Enterprises -- Artemis Hunter (51% of stock), James Occident (29%) & Sapient Gordon (20%) {Gordon used to be Artemis Hunter's AI, but she freed him so there could be the requisite 3 entities to form a company}. All the rest are part timers or consultant (one Kylaran, who doesn't know anything useful) programmer-sorts.)

We are called in by the New Garavaran Millitary Intelligence -- Selene, Nick, Celeste, & Larana go. They want to hire us to get some data on Artemis Enterprises. But we have to sign a non-dsclosure contract first, before we get any of their info on A.E. We sign.

Artemis used to be an astroid prospector & petty smuggler, but disappeared for several years. When she came back, she founded Artemis Enterprises. All those who had investigated her in the past died w/in the month of what looked to be pure accidents, save for the timing. Now Artemis has disappeared, keeping contact w/ her business contacts via comm relay. & hi-tech stuff has been showing up on Thral & Unar -- she's been smuggling TL 12-13 stuff to the Warring parties! Our mission: to find Hunter & bring her back (or at least tell New Garavar where she is).

We head out to where the comm relay was last seen, a bit below the nav beacon. (Selene has, BTW, invented the TL 13 long-range sensors -- 10 parsecs range & can see through TL 12 stealth-ing.) We find it right after it's jumped, go to it via jump drive, & debate about whether to bring it on board or not -- it could be rigged to drop its antimatter containment field if tampered w/. Selene sighs & volunteers to go & tap into its computer for which way the encrypted communications are going & to make sure it can't be booby-trapped, since if it blows up, she's got a fairly recent braintape. A construction robot tows her out to the relay, she takes off a panel & gets most of the way inside. We hear her say, "That's strange."

Us: "What's strange?!"
Selene: "It's got another hyperjump capacitor in here."
Us: "Oh -"
Selene: "& it's charged!"
Us: "-no!" As the relay jumps, taking Selene & her robot w/ it.

Well, at first we weren't too worried -- Selene would have a few days to disable the thing, she was in her biosuit, she'd be all right. Watson pointed out that in the millisecond or two before the thing jumped, he'd sensed a stunner blast. Oops. Maybe Selene wouldn't be able to fend for herself!

A couple of days later, the relay pops out again. (Hyperjump stuff has a minimum hour of "relaxation.") We jump-drive over there (the biologicals in the Bat, & Watson & Lucifer on the Hell), & wait tensely as Watson sends another construction robot to open the panel & rescue Selene. Bessie reports that the thing looks like it's preparing to make another skip -- & it does, w/ its OWN jump drive!!! It appears, we try to jump after it [risking damage -- only Larana failed the HT roll, though], but wind up two days in the future. The comm relay has stolen our Selene!

Moonfur gets in touch w/ Frank on the Argo, tells him what's going on (he's crew, so it's not really discosing anything, right?), & he gets the Argo to go screaming off after the partial trail that we're hopefully following (the jumps were all in a straight line)... They go roaring past Thral. (We're in the lead for a good ways, the Hell has been left behind.) The Hell reports that a pair of Unar ships went streaking by, following the Argo. A bit later, some hyper-jumping Thral ships show up, also following... We lead a fruitless parade, finally give up & turn around. The Artemis comm relay has appeared again. (We tell the Hell to jump close & see if Selene's in it, & if she's not, blow it up. They use the jump drive & aren't seen for several days.)

We wait a month, chewing our fingernails & keeping out of Moonfur's way (white furry version of the Hell -- the twins are due in about a week...). We spread a rumor that the "Bat" (Diana's Bow, the only other Fledermaus ship around) is carrying some really neat Unar tech that it stole, & Thral & Unar go on full alert, hunting down the ship before the other side can find it. We hang around, stealthed, near the Hell.

Finally, the NG Intelligence people call us back. General Ellie Trag says that something from Artemis arrived -- one of her encryption thingies. She wants to talk to the Hell crew. We tote the thing back to the Hell & turn it on. We get to see Artemis (heavy-boned, red hair, blaster scar on face, wearing light combat armor & toting a blaster).

Quoth Artemis: "If you want to see Ms. Holmes alive again, you'll do what I say."
Moonfur's brilliant response: "We don't need to see her alive. We just need to see her dead." (The AIs would't start a clone of her -- Moonfur figured that it was because there was no proof of death.)
Artemis: "..."
Moonfur: "But we'd rather have her back alive."

Artemis won't let us talk to Selene real-time, though we do get a vid of her, sans biosuit & sensor goggles, sitting in a cell & looking bored. Useless beration. Artemis sighs. "This is getting complicated." If we want to see Selene again, we have to download a hyperjump program to our computers... Grrrrrr. We decide this is okay -- we'll put it in Watson, let Lucifer monitor. Larana & Moonfur & Geoffry will do this skip on the Hell (the timing is such that it's likely that Moonfur will give birth en route), & the rest will follow in the stealthed Bat.

We arrive at Kintara (we did some scans & found out where the signal was coming from). (The Bat arrives first, gets spotted by a very lucky Unar scoutship, has to go away again. Unar troops are massing near Unar...) The Hell arrives just after the Bat leaves the area. We make contact w/ Artemis, & let her take control of the Hell so that it can be steered in to a nickle-iron astroid where she seems to be "landed." She says that she's doing scans to make sure that we weren't followed. (Who, us?) Moonfur manages a clandestine comm beam, telling the Bat that Artemis is looking for them, & is on that astroid.

But from empty space comes the communication to the Bat, "Going to join the party?" & Diana's Bow unstealths. There is much annoyance -- they've got Selene's TL13 stealth-ing tech!

Larana, Geoffry, Nick, Celeste, & Vasha go onboard Diana's Bow (free fall... what fun). Randy stays on the Bat, & Moonfur & her newborns (!) stay on the Hell, monitering the set up via comm-link. Moonfur makes a clandestine attempt to contact Selene via the Byten's implant comm, but gets a very vague response... Moonfur suspects drugs or worse.

Larana & co are met by Occident (armed w/ stunner & blaster) & disarmed of all powered weapons. Even her power-holster for a knife. Larana is getting ticked-er & ticked-er. They are brought in to talk to Artemis in a lounge. Artemis refuses to bring the real Selene in, saying that if we want her present, she'll provide a hologram, but Holmes is too dangerous wandering around loose on a ship, even under guard.

Artemis berates us for starting the rumors that got Thrals & Unars hounding her & ruining her business. Moonfur berates Hunter for stealing our tech & our friend.

Larana gets beligerent. Eventually, Artemis looks to the ceiling, saying, "This is getting too complicated."
Larana, growling, "What is?"
Artemis, in SELENE'S voice! "I hadn't wanted you to get involved, Larana."

This is the breaking point, & Larana moves to switch on her force screen & lunge for Occident's blaster -- & is stunned by a heavy-duty stunner that was concealed in the ceiling. (Since she was making a grab for Occident's weapon at the time, he gets caught in the stun-field as well.)

It turns out that Selene needed a way to sell her tech to the Thrals & Unars -- she's been (in the guise of someone the Hell dislikes, & the NG government isn't too fond of either) selling real cheap tech -- TL13 computers made of living metal. The catch is that the computers have been "replicating" & quietly taking over the tech systems of both planets, fusing together via comm to become an IQ18 TL13 AI.... About 30% of each planet is infected now, & this will be snowballing rapidly. When Selene gives the code sequence, Project Archemedes will change to Operation Sparticus, & the Thrals & Unars will have their entire military production line under the control of millitantly pacifistic AIs (Plato & Aristotle). The warships might last a bit longer, but the shipping AIs are quietly routing "infected" stuff onto them.

All the programs have back-doors in them (in fact, the astrogation & encryption stuff was Selene's! She couldn't break the encryption stuff, but she knew the keys...) -- & should a battle break out between the ships, the Thrals would soon find that all their communications will be in the Unar encryption & viceversa!

Selene says that she couldn't reveal her plans to the rest of the crew because there were people in it that she didn't trust.

Larana is really ticked, & wants to terrorize Selene a bit. Geffory isn't that annoyed, Nick seems happy that the War will probably be over soon, Moonfur is just very hurt that she wasn't told (& wants to pin Selene down by making her head babysitter so she can't leave w/out telling anyone), Randy is rather annoyed, not sure what Vasha & Celeste think. If Frank finds out, he's probably gonna be real ticked.

We haven't yet decided what to do... Do we tell the NG government all this & let them have the codes that turn off the military abilities of Thral & Unar? Do we try to say that we caught/lost/blew up Artemis Hunter? Or do we just disappear somehow? (Moonfur likes the latter.) Does Selene stay on the ship, or does she go off in Diana's Bow, alone, to explore interesting sensor readings?

& what should Moonfur name her kids?

[Selene was hiding out in Diana's Bow, on the HELL, while we were leading that fruitless parade past Unar... & probably laughing herself sick. But she's not telling anyone this. The vague responses were Sapient Gordon impersonating Selene to Moonfur.]

16: Imposter

[Run by Milliken to introduce Minerva as possible alternate character if Larana really wants to kill Selene; run by jfm thereafter]:

Whilst Selene is explaining everything aboard the Bow, we get scanned from the surface of Kintara. A bit later, a Brogers scoutship shows up, & Moonfur recieves the transmission from it. (Diana identifies it as the Nightflyer, privately owned.)

Hell is hailed. Moonfur: "Hello? Can I help you?"
Ship: "I want to talk to Luny."
Moonfur: "Who??"
Ship: "Luny, Selene. I need to talk to her."
Moonfur: "Okay, uh, she's a little busy now, may I ask who's calling?"
Ship: "Minerva."
Moonfur, to Selene: "Someone named Minerva wants to talk to you."
Selene, wincing: "Tell her to go away!"
Moonfur, to Minerva: "She's can't talk right now, could you try back later?"
Minerva: "Tell her that if she doesn't talk to me right now, I'll tell Mother who reprogrammed the household robot when she was six."
Moonfur: {pause} "Is that your mother, or her mother?"
Minerva: "Yes."
Moonfur, astonished: "You mean Selene has family?"
Moonfur, to Selene's implant comm: "She says she'll tell your mother something awful if you don't talk to her. You never said you had family!"
Selene, wincing, cringing, & looking displeased, to Moonfur over the implant comm: "There's a reason for that...."
Larana, seeing Selene unhappy: {ROFL} [Rolling On the Floor, Laughing]

Everyone docks in the Hell, & we all end up (save Randy, who is getting drunk) in Diana's Bow. Minerva is sporting a Kintaran Wing-wyrm [fire-lizard w/ serial numbers filed off] on one shoulder, which makes Selene about twice as nervous/unhappy as Moonfur's kids being on the Bow make her.

Conversation between Selene & Minerva: "You what?" "I don't believe this." "Put that civilization BACK!"

About now, New Garavar tries calling for a report on our status. Moonfur pleads a tense situation & hangs up on them. They call back. "We're in tense negotiations for Selene's life! We're busy!" & hangs up.

A bit later, we spot a minature Fledermaus going off towards Kuzbane from New Garavar. It's regestered to Artemis Hunter (???!???). It's called the Humperdink. A bit of discussion ensues. We hide the Hell (w/ the Nightflyer w/in it) up in sector 00A & head off for Kuzbane, (where Selene had told the living metal to infect the Humberdink). We get there, we look around, we get repulsed from the Humperdink by its AI, Buttercup. We find "Westley Roberts" aka Artemis Hunter (they have the same implant comm frenquency, & we can scan for that), & Larana coaxes him into Handy. From there, he goes to Diana's Bow (which has holographic walls [it's stealthed internally!] & such so that it looks like a normal ship). A ways in, Larana drops a bit behind & Moonfur steps through a "wall", stunner drawn. Westley is divested of his force sword & other weapons by Larana & we drag him to meet Selene & Occident. Westley turns out to have been a Byte physical security fellow who managed by some GOD-GIVEN FLUKE OF LUCK [GM idiocy] to crack both Byte's encryption & Selene's personal encryption on her files & get the secret of Artemis Enterprises, the Stealth tech, etc. He also knew way too much about living metal -- like, that it existed. So he escaped brain-wiping & stole money to get a ship & had been diverting cash from Artemis Enterprises' accounts to his own. Well, we're not having that...Selene goes through to his stuff, traces it, & zeros all his accounts.

Among other things, he tries telling Selene that she should be grateful that he's taking the heat off her, & he tries sitting on her desk. Which isn't there, mostly, so he almost falls on his .... Moonfur hauls him away from Selene.

"You don't need to protect me, Moonfur, I can protect myself," says Selene. Moonfur replies, "But I'm having fun protecting you!"

Westley tells Larana, "If you ever get tired of working for these people, contact me for a job. I like your style." He nearly gets his head knocked off for that one (implying that a Kylaran would cut & run from her friends/employers), but Moonfur intervenes w/ a body-block.

Westley says he's got clones & braintapes, so he doesn't much care what we do to him. So we fast-penta him (after checking to make sure that he's not conditioned to die if that happens), & get the locations of two of the clones & tapes. Buttercup is the only one who knows the location of the others. Buttercup (who, being built from Artemis specs, has a hardware backdoor to shut it off!) eventually gets infected w/ the living metal & we get a core dump of all its files, including the other clone & braintape. We leave the Humperdink drifting, w/ the stealth/sensor suite scrambled by living metal, as well as the jump drive & anything else that looked like our tech.

Randy has a fit about us kidnapping someone & holding him against his will. He quits & leaves for the orbiting station around Kuzbane, intending to work his way home.

We go back to Byte first, & drop off Westley for Byte to handle. Our story -- we chased Diana's Bow out of the sector (& the sensor range of the Argo), caught up to it, damaged it slightly, Artemis Hunter panicked & tried to escape in a Garoo shuttle which we blew up, & then we caught this fellow who was also selling stuff to the Thrals & Unars, so the whole Artemis Enterprises mess is wrapped up fairly neatly. (Gordon & Occident were dupes, or something; probably were surrendering when Hunter left, that sort of thing.) We even get paid. Selene claims Diana's Bow as "salvage" & takes over the payments on it.

Selene is thinking of doing "The War: The Movie." (Or, "War is Hell." Or, "A Private Little War.") Once enough ships are infected, she could film a fake battle, where each fleet thinks that it's losing & runs away to defend the home planet. Except the home planet has had this broadcast to them live, & knows it's bogus & has seen how stupid the military can be. They've also gotten an instant tax rebate, since the War is now over... Selene would give the secret of the TL13 stealth/sensor stuff to the Kylarans if they'd help out, snagging up people who went outside the ships to repair non-existant damage (even the windows would be covered w/ the phasar array -- she demonstrates what that can do by turning the Bow invisible), or herding ships away who had managed to figure it all out. Nick doesn't like it & doesn't want to be involved. Moonfur thinks it's the most unique way to wage a war she can think of.

17: Sector 0A0 (Don't buy a planet named "Florida")

[Run by DDumont]:

Selene & Larana are off at Kylar in Diana's Bow (Selene to hire the Kylaran fleet as lot security for The War: The Movie, Larana probably to report on the whole incident in person.) Nick & Vasha are vacationing on Kestral. We're hiring a new mechanic/engineer for the powerplant & engines. The choices are boggling -- Zif the Godling; a giant human named Brace {sp? Brais?} who is too clean, who comes from a company that's too clean, & where they all have an interest in numerology & a book, The Hunting of the Para-Badger that's a cross between "Jabberwocky" & Watership Down; or we go ask Frank to come back....

W/ much discussion, we take the probable spy, & have our suspicions confirmed when he brings aboard listening devices, electronic lockpicks, & a chameleon suit...Selene infects his computer w/ living metal, making it Selene's AI #25,386 (we'll probably have an idea what his code is soon -- [numerological signifigance of first words of sentences = page number of Para-Badger]), & instructs the AIs to scramble his out-going comm stuff to be the same meaning, but w/ word order altered. Aside from the AIs all watching him, we don't do anything else.

Moonfur gets an implant comm.

We get offered a job by a Kestralian -- come & teach this lower-tech Allience they found in Sector 0A0, & get in on the ground floor of trading.... Having nothing better to do, we accept. (The Kestralian captain wants to bring 6 people over & negotiate -- Moonfur, aware that that would mean we'd be outnumbered, improvs some life support problem, asking if they'd only bring 4. [If we'd had Zif, he would have been whining, "But Moonfur, that's not true! The life support isn't broken!" to which the reply, "Yes, it is. It's about to have a Godling stuck in it!" would have been made... *sigh*])

We get tacit approval from New Garavar, so long as we make lots & lots of scans... We need someone to do astrogation & such, so we call up Minerva....

Moonfur: "We're a little underhanded right now."
Minerva: "Underhanded -- yeah, that sounds like my sister."

It is explained that Moonfur means understaffed/shorthanded.... We hire Minerva, also explaining that we need someone we can trust since the new engineer is a spy.... She's less than thrilled.

We get into the other sector, spot a star-gate thing, finally arrive at the planet, & are going to be meeting w/ the head of the Allience council. Except there's been a bomb... (Moonfur has had her Yaan Qui-bought translator pick up the dominent language, & is getting quiet translations via her implant comm, & has not mentioned this is happening.) The bombs are explained, w/ Moonfur playing dumb. Minerva scans the room that we are going to be in (after the first room had been blown up), & finds several more bombs, which are pointed out & we finally find a room that isn't bombed at all.

This Allience is mostly operating under the assumption that a prophecy, "Something from Outside [the sector] will destroy life as we know it." This makes them timid about outsiders, but eager to learn tech that might enable them to keep their hides intact.

While we're finding this out (& Moonfur is being puzzled about why anyone would believe a prophecy for so long when so many other people also believed), the engineer is choking on his tongue in disbelief, & Minerva is advising that they never buy any planets named Florida, the PA system erupts into speech -- Moonfur's translator renders this as, "This is the Purity League! The Outsiders must leave now or there will be more bombs which will not be found!"

Moonfur snickers & tells Minerva, via implant comm, what she finds so funny. (Moonfur has great faith in sensors.) We finally pull the translation out of the Kestralian, various apologies are tendered; Moonfur has to have "lunatic fringe" explained to her, & still doesn't understand. Moonfur offers to take a look at their comm system & see if she can make it break-in-proof [crit success!], & rattles off a set of ideas, circuitry, etc.

Eventually, we work out agreements to transport diplomatic parties to New Garavar, that sort of thing, & leave to pick up Nick & Vasha from the chaos that The War: The Movie has started...

18: The War: The Movie, The Media Circus, The Migraines...

[My very first bout w/ live GMing. Phoo.]:

Selene had no idea exactly what the Media is capable of. (That's what comes of growing up in a "fishbowl." No reporters coming to bug you, since if anybody wants info on you, they'll get it from the computer.) The initial cries of "Alien Invaders" have died down, & the most popular rumors are now, "The New Garavaran government did it!" & "Byte did it!" & a few persistant "Selene Holmes did it!" The Kintaran Liberation Front also took responsibility for it, but most people think that it's unlikely he did it. He's still good news, though, so he gets an occasional interview printed.

[Larana is informed, around the time that she got back, that a Kylaran-human half-breed (it's a secret that there are "native" humans on Kylar) has "gone rogue" -- stole a captured Unar spy ship, a Unar engineer, & vanished! They're cracking his encrypted files now, & will inform whoever necessary as they get more info.]

[Crazy half-Kylaran trying to improve race -- got a genetic-only crush on Selene, tried to kidnap her for long enough to get a gene-sample. It didn't work (she wouldn't get off the &^%*&%& ship!), but he underestimated our sensors, & Larana caught up w/ him...]

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