Background blog entries:
Story March/April 2016
This is a solo story-telling game using the tools contained in ‘Five Parsecs from Home’, the ‘Mythic GM Emulator’, and a variety of tools that I have developed over the years.
The setting is a far future science fiction with models such as ‘Dune’, Fading Suns’, and ‘WH40k’, however even though these models are used and similar names and concepts will be pilfered, this is not specifically set in any of those individual settings and I am free to pick and choose and elaborate at will without fearing breaking canon.
Once upon a time there was a deep space trading vessel from a culture very like that found in WH40k (Gothic fantasy; superstitious; militaristic; tech indistinguishable from magic) that suffered a warp accident and was lost in space. Warp travel is moderated by mutant ‘navigators’ that live a half-life in material space and in the treacherous warp. An accident happened and the navigator was killed and the ship plunged ahead until it eventually appeared in some distant part of the universe. This place uses the Fading Suns map, and the planets and conditions found there roughly conform to that story. Gates separate these worlds. The ship, the Typhoon Maiden, now continues to operate as a trader in these alien (though human) environments, utilising the gates and generally being a floating city. The characters in this story are a (randomly determined from Five Parsecs) group that have elected to explore.
Let’s start at the beginning Who are these people?
- Locum was orphaned during the catastrophe of the ‘accident’. In the years it took to recover control of the ship he learnt to survive in the rubble with little oversight, direction or education. Picked up and integrated back into society in his teenage years, Locum revealed his keen observation skills but this has not managed to land him any jobs other than watchman. Name: Locum; Origin: Orphan Utility Program; Motivation: Fame; Class: Primitive; Special circumstances: Gadgets (stabiliser); Talents: Sentry; Flaw: Sticky (will not leave a friend).
- Lantedo was born into the slums of the lower decks of the ship where he learnt that life was tough and you had to rely on yourself. Recognising that control of information is a key to power he has focussed on understanding communications systems. Despite his rough upbringing, Lantedo is well-liked but lacks the authority to lead. Name: Lantedo; Origin: Overcrowded urban; Motivation: Wealth; Class: Hacker; Special circumstances: Gadget (hand gun and power claw); Talents: Inspiring; Flaw: Unwilling to kill.
- Gnosticos is a bewilderingly sophisticated robot of the type that people have come to suspect may be conscious. Gnosticos herself offers no opinion on this matter, instead focussing on living a productive life. She was a military grade robot that specialised in communications. It seems likely that she ‘feels’ a strong affinity with Pårole, them both being of a military mindset. She is refurbishing a shuttle without oversight or ownership, presumably for years. This indicates that things are way beyond any control on board the Typhoon Maiden. No one thought it their business to ask her what the hell was going on. Name: Gnosticos; Origin: Comfortable urban class; Motivation: Fame; Class: Negotiator; Special circumstances: War bot; Talent: Guts; Flaw: Weak throw (there’s a story here about a damaged arm).
- Phesigns grew up in wealth and comfort in one of the upper spaces on the ship. But this wealth was bought with the family’s association with organised crime and the ideas of business including bribery and force are ingrained. Phesigns was brought up to be religious and morally conservative, part of a system that probably has expectations of him joining at least as an enforcer and possibly as a Boss in the making. He is currently in his ‘wild’ years, exploring the opportunities that are available. He is the leader of the group. Name: Phesigns; Origin: Comfortable urban class; Motivation: Faith; Class: Gangster; Special circumstances: Lucky; Talent: rallying cry; Flaw: Poor coordination (looks great, commanding presence, but ain’t no combat jock).
- Pårole is military trained belonging to a unit that is uncounted light years away. He was in cold-sleep during the catastrophe as a passenger and missed the collapse and subsequent recovery. As a recent defrostee he is trying to find a new place for himself in these strange and altered circumstances, but his natural instincts for exploration put him in a good place to join crews daring this new system. One suspects that there is more to Pårole than meets the eye. He and Gnosticos are natural allies. Name: Pårole; Origin: Recent defrostee; Motivation: Glory; Class: Traveller; Special circumstances: Former military (for the Special Circumstances division? Why not?); Talent: Intrusion; Flaw: Poor marksman (we know for certain that he is not a sniper/assassin).
What is their ship? An upgraded shuttle, one of the many hundreds that tender inside the bowels of the gigantic (kilometres long) Typhoon Maiden.
How did they meet? In trouble with the authorities. They had all been detained by the law. Which law (KriPo, SePo, RePo)? They had been detained for questioned by the Security Police (SePo). How come? “butterfly”. They had each flippantly said things at one time or another that might imply they were a threat to the ship’s security. However, there was nothing to indicate that they were part of anything particularly subversive. Phesigns was obviously part of one of the ship’s mafia but so what? In the end there was nothing to hold the group and so they were released with the advice to ‘watch themselves’. While in clink they met and talked and agreed that it would be fun and profitable to take a shuttle that Gnosticos had been refurbishing and go down to the local planet.
The local planet is Cadiz.
Patrons: Mercenary outfit will pay group to explore a location on Cadiz.
Are they from the ship (50/50)? Yes, but. Yes they are, but they have already made some strong connections with people on Cadiz. They have formed some kind of alliance. Presumably the people on Cadiz require outsiders to do a job so that they can not be implicated in some wider plot. The sub contracting to the protagonist team is a further way of distancing themselves from responsibility.
Where does the deal setup take place? Using my Where? Deck: A mountain top. A mountain on Cadiz (Likely)? No, but there are representatives of the Gaditanos (natives of Cadiz) present on the Typhoon Maiden. This ‘mountain top’ must just be one of the hills on the park deck. Let’s assume there is some kind of fair/event going on and visitors from the planet have ben invited up to listen to the music and have a nice picnic. There will be speeches from the Voidboss and officers welcoming the visitors. There will be representatives of trade delegations pressing flesh and so on.
What the delegation consisted of, and how the exact negotiations proceeded I choose not to explore now. Perhaps it will be important later. Suffice to say that the alien (human) Gaditanos hired the local Typhoon Maiden mercenaries to do a recce job and they then subbed it out to the party.
What is to be investigated? Seedy Bar and Famous Monument. What is the famous monument? The bar is on Threadneedle Street, a financial district that was at the heart of Cadiz. It still is but not with the same gravity as of old. Imagine Wall Street after the world economy moved away. The original negotiations occurred here with the Vau, and as a result of what happened here the final talks bypassed Cadiz and left it in the backwater it is today. The original treaty was not a literal parchment stuck in a frame that can be removed or destroyed. It was a complex digital recording that encodes a lot of encrypted data.
To record this treaty the entire building must have been decked out with an impressive array of recording and encoding devices. The exact scene must be reproducible in full three dimensions. This event, with the layers of sub-visible and sub-audible content is on record at the Imperial capitol and with the Decados House capitol as the original negotiators were Decados. Could it be then that the version of the treaty has been altered by someone, and that the building itself may have traces of these devices that still could hold the true version? Rhetorical. A high tech version of whiteout on some crucial section. This is not answerable now, and may not be at all: but who would benefit from altering the treaty with the Vau (I’ve decided). After all, lots of houses spent a lot to build out Cadiz in preparation, but the final negotiations never occurred. Clearly the prelims that this recording record buggered it all up. Sounds as though someone wanted to hurt House Decados so much they were prepared to put the whole empire at risk.
Regardless, we now know that the job for the team is to go to this place that is now no more than a seedy bar in the midst of a once mighty financial district and interrogate the building to find traces of an event that happened (centuries?) ago. The building was fitted out by the authorities to capture the scene and contain all the other encoding materials and additional exchange information. Once the negotiations were complete and the Vau departed, the special equipment was taken away. However, it was forgotten that the original building itself had security monitoring, and it is now thought that the official record had been altered and that the building’s native system may have recorded the missing pieces. It’s as though the street was fitted out with elaborate CCTV, but it’s the amateur bird-watchers’ shots of night owls that hold the key.
Enough background. On with the story!
The boys (and robot girl) dropped out of hanger bay 124 in lucky #7 shuttle and fell towards Cadiz with reckless speed. Their target was the city of Phoenix Park, a half-built ruin that was to be the capitol of the planet and focus of the Vau conference that never occurred hundreds of years ago. Mega blocks with smashed windows and crumbling concrete towered over slums piled up on each other, congealed amidst drifts of refuse and pools of filth.
As the shuttle banked hard over the mess and allowed the on board robot navigator to identify the specific building they were after, Lantedo commented how familiar it all looked, though on a much grander scale. Locum sat tuning his Stabiliser (what is this device?).
Phesigns asked Pårole why he wasn’t cleaning a gun or something.
“My gun was clean enough before we set out,” he said without taking his eyes off the juddering shuttle roof.
“What kind of grunt are you?” Phesigns’ voice cracked with fear as they were thrown up in the harnesses as Gnosticos did a hard bank and drop.
The intercom crackled into life.
“Sorry team,” said Gnosticos, “little bit of ground fire there. Nothing serious, I think. Just the locals having a pot-shot at something new.” Her voice was as smooth as rum with a modulation that made it sound as if she was faintly amused.
“Well take more fucking care!” said Phesigns.
Pårole rolled his head to look at Phesigns. The kid’s a total fucking amateur, he thought. Just another rich bullyboy.
There was a short loud spank-spank-spank along the hull of the shuttle and again their harnesses creaked with first negative, then positive G’s. Locum lost the grip of his chirruping device and only just managed to grab it in mid air before it got away. A gun leapt out of Phesigns’ shoulder holster and fell to the deck. Retrieving it, he checked the magazine – which promptly popped out and clunked to the deck. Straining to pick it up again he caught Parole’s stare.
“The fuck you looking at?”
Before Pårole could go to the trouble to answer, Gnosticos’ voice crackled again.
“Here we go. Landing in ten. We have cover from the main corridors of fire. Should be a good place to park. Hold on.”
There was a sudden hard braking, mashing everyone into their seats, then a heavy thump as #7 hit the deck. The vehicle seemed to groan with relief, creaking with the easing of pressure. Locum and Lantedo puffed their cheeks and let out simultaneous puffs of breath.
“Is it always like that?” Locum asked.
Phesigns snorted with derision, “Idiot. Get your shit together.” But despite his attempt at command, Pårole noticed the well-dressed younger man’s hands were shaking as he fumbled with his buckles.
Overhead, the flight hatch swung open and Gnosticos backed out and slid down the ladder.
“All ready?” she said.
“I’ll say if we’re ready, tin-tart!” Phesigns finally managed to unbuckle himself and lurched to his feet. He reached out and steadied himself with a chipped crossbar.
Gnosticos’ face could show no emotion and so she stood waiting with her permanent vague smile. The seconds drew out in silence.
Eventually, Lantedo could not stand it any more and pushed the hatch release lever.
“Here’s an adventure, eh?” He said. “A new planet and all.”
The air of Phoenix Park was ripe with rot and stagnant water. A wave of tropical foetid air engulfed them.
“I’ve smelled worse,” said Lantedo as he climbed down the short ladder. “Did I ever tell you about the time I got stuck in SoyLent solvent fabrifactors? Whew,” he whistled, “that was rank.”
The spell of fear and waiting was broken by his flippant comments and the rest followed him, focussing on the job to be done. Even Phesigns pulled himself together.
Phoenix Park was a city 3 million strong that filled what was once a river basin between two low heights euphemistically called Eagles’ Aerie and God’s View. Between these peaks several dozen mega structures had been built, the tallest of which was close to a kilometre. When the talks with the alien Vau fell through work stopped on the uncompleted buildings leaving partial cladding and ad-hoc services. Elevators were still part of the scaffolding rather than integrated into a finished product, and connecting walkways used to allow construction access were left in place. Beneath these towering monsters, the low rise tenements built for the workers suddenly acquired a permanent status. Abandoned workers suddenly found that the luxury apartments they have been promised would never materialise and the shit-hole they had endured for the five years while working was now as good as it was ever going to get. Between these buildings tent and corrugated iron cities spread like lichen, filling in the gaps with a sprawl of salvaged material and amateurish cabling. Gantries and walkways connected buildings. Roads formed out of the bridges. The ten thousand cooking fires, because essential services had not been completely delivered, filled the air with smoke and oil. Sewage and other waste water services worked only partially, or not at all. And waste disposal was not tackled in any systematic way.
They had landed on the roof of a building that appeared to be no more than a couple of stories tall, though it was impossible to tell where the true ground lay under all the layers of lean-tos and shacks.
Gnosticos pointed with her hand as if it were a cleaver, “Roughly 300 metres, that way.”
“Yes. That’s right,” said Phesigns. “Follow me.” He headed towards a gantry that connected the rooftop to the next building.
“Don’t worry, Lokes,” Lantedo said to Locum, “Pigskins’ got it all sorted out.” He hefted his heavy blaster and followed the leader.
And now we go to the war-game table:
And the wrap-up: Loose ends