Sunday, July 16, 2017

宁静的龙 - Session 2 - Cortical Bombs non grata


The Níngjìng de lóng (Serene Dragon) is a Mudlark-class Utility Space Vehicle (USV) registered in Duncan Silas as an independent tramp freighter. It picked up a cargo of ZR-3 bioroids that the Xiao chu seemed all too eager to get away from the highport. They are on their way, pushing slowly toward Ceres in hope to peddle the 'roids for a large profit margin.

宁静的龙, or Níngjìng de lóng. Bursting with ZR-3 bioroids.

y2100m2d10 - Janie's got a gun

The pileup of 11 ZR-3 boiroids into the Ning felt like a smelly game of tetris. All of them short stature female dressed in plain clothes. They obeyed the commands of the crew without questions nor hesitations. The Ning had begun a 60h burn to acquire a 20mps vector to Ceres. John pushed one of the ZR-3 out of the way as Takeda went about writing a number from 1 to 11 on each of them.

A diagnostic scan revealed that #7 had an add-on to her virtual interface implant (VII). A small antenna was running underneath the skin over the skull, and ran down the spine, connecting 4 large capsules. A 3D Web search returned as best match a cortical bomb implant coupled to the VII. The crew panicked when they realized there there was enough stabilized hydrogen-metal material to punch a hole through the Ning. 8 of the 23 bioroids turned out to be walking bombs. They rearranged the cargo bay full of reclaimed titanium ingots and turned the room into a blast-proof area where any explosion would destroy the cargo bay door and minimize structural damage.

Pradeep found a way to break into the VII of one of the non-bomb ZR-3. He then used this knowledge to carefully break into the VII of one of the bomb-laden 'roid. He identified one process running on the VII that looked like a remote controller, and terminated it. He then replicated the procedure on all other bomb bioroids. They rigged the radiation shielding in the cargo bay to prevent radio access to the bomb via the subcutaneous antenna.

With the VII controller disabled, the bioroids couldn't be detonated from Internet requests. With the radiation shielding, even a direct peer-to-peer connection was blocked. The crew felt a bit better, although piling the bomb-laden roids into the improvised blast-shelters felt a bit cruel.

y2100m3d25 - Let sleeping vargr lie 

When Pradeep polled the sensors, a blip showed up on the display some 5 LS away. John hauled his sickly carcass to the control room: the surpopulation had taxed life support. He was having none of it.

The blip turned into a Mudlark-class ship on a parallel vector as theirs, but a bit slower. The navigation display showed a nearest points to be only 1700 miles apart. The broadcast UID matched an old EU/UK ship called the Vargr. The ship, however, was not broadcasting nor responding to requests. 

They considered closing in and investigate. However, the Ning was on its last 10mps margin and had very little room to maneuver. The Ning trained its nose laser onto the Vargr until out of range. 

y2100m4d14 - No doesn't mean no, this time.

A ping from Ceres' deep space control came before anything human-made registered on the sensors. The Ning transmitted its ship's manifest, omitting the ZR-3s, let along the bombs. Still at 60 LS, the lag was about 2 minutes. A denial to dock came back shortly later, citing dangerous cargo. John got into an argument, suggesting that the bad guy was the Vargr coming into their range soon. This seemed to do the trick and the Ning got cleared to enter orbital space. Everyone on board couldn't believe that this trick worked (God bless critical successes on Fast-talk). 

y2100m4d15 - Yo-yo to the hardware store

The 'Ning slowed on the approach almost perfectly and parked itself in a low orbit to Ceres. Given the illegality of the cargo, they decided to dock only after the buyer of the ZR-3 would make a sign. Unfortunately, this sign didn't come. Horatio placed an order for material to fix the punctured water tank and started to get going on repairs. John and Takeda called an unmanned shuttle to descend to the base since web searching yielded no results. John paid a shady character at the pub to locate anyone interested in a shipment extracted from Deimos, but the man took the money and would never be heard of again. 

y2100m4d17 - Fender bender no-nos.

Two days of wait and there was nothing to show but a mounting tab of drinks at the pub. The 'Ning fumbled in port and tore its cargo bay door, along with the port's docking gate when a glitch in the attitude thrusters couldn't be compensated for. The port's insurance immediately lodged a claim to the 'Ning's insurance, a couple AI/cybershells adjusters inspected the site and within 10 minutes the claim was settled to $12K in favour of the port. In the explosive decompression, 7 dT of titatium was lost to space and salvaging tags attached to the containers. 

The security contractors were cued in to the 'Ning and warned of a cargo inspection within the next 10 minutes. The crew decided to push away from the docks, citing mechanical issues, so as to avoid the discovery of the contraband ZR-3s. John remembered of a small staging warehouse some 10K miles away from Ceres. The station was called Soulfall. They decided to bunk the ZR-3s there and reattempt the deliver with a clean cargo.

The trip to Soulfall was only a few hours with minimal delta-V thrown into it. They paid $1.4K for 14 days for a discreet lodging of the ZR-3s. The operator in Soulfall made clear that if payment weren't made in 14 days, the ZR-3s would be sold or liquidated. No mention was made of the fact that there was enough stabilized hydrogen-metal embedded in some of them to blow a hole in the station.

They returned to Ceres, cleared the cargo from the titanium just to see half of their proceeds evaporate to settle the lawsuit that they had just lost.

y2100m4d19 - Blind date, all dressed up.

At long last, the message from the one way channel came to John. The message read: Dock ADA-11, a timestamp for later in the day, and the mention of a 2% commission. John realized that the negotiation for a better payment wouldn't be easy, but necessary. They picked up the ZR-3s in Soulfall and returned to Ceres. 

Takeda and John suited up for negotiation. They packed the ZR-3's into Bay 3 and docked with Bay 2. Takeda, in his battlesuits and sporting a police armgun was woefully aware that being caught with this on would cost him his pension cheque for the month. John slipped into his nanoweave suits.  Pradeep teleoperated into his tech-spider and positionned just outside of Bay 3. 

Feeling bulletproof,  they docked. The bulkhead opened, a seal was made and the iris door opened into a pitch black bay... 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

宁静的龙 (Níngjìng de lóng) - Session 1 - Microgravity caper


The Níngjìng de lóng (Serene Dragon) is a Mudlark-class Utility Space Vehicle (USV) registered in Duncan Silas as an independent tramp freighter. It is a really just a tube: the seams on the hull are rough and unfinished, a smell of faux-flesh vats never quite washed off from the cargo hold. The deceleration push stutters every now and then and sends a rattle along its spine. The moisture level is a bit high and it mainly bothers Pradesh's pride as a life support engineer. Pradesh scours the ship as a Tech-spider but has more or less given up on fixing the moisture problem. The Ningjing is in need of maintenance but the crew has had a laisser-faire since they have learned that a gearhead was joining them upon their arrival on Deimos.

宁静的龙, or Níngjìng de lóng. A no-frill general purpose USV.

Horatio's life in the last two years

After the adventures in New-Shangai two years ago, Horatio escaped the clutches of the martian triad and was repurposed to a system engineer's position in a German/EU colony some 6 hours away from the metropolis. During this time, he was treated with deference. Eventually, the Germans packed him into a cooler and sent him up the martian elevators. He never really had a chance to bid the Germans goodbye. 

After three days of captivity in the cargo hold of an elevator's car, Horatio was pushed to a small hotel room on Deimos. The room was themed to cater to megastructure geeks. He spent the best of that time trying to get in touch with the Triad again. Unsuccessful, he ended up taking the guided tour of the elevator's control area four times in the next five days. 

While killing time sightseeing, the hotel's steward sent him a message via the Internet. It sent a picture of an asian-descent Olympian looking for him at the spaceport's pub. Upon entering the place, the Augmented Reality layer added metadata to all of the people inside. There were a quartet of probable boiroid's rights activists and an Olympian. Takeda was highlighted as the most important person in the room. 

Deimos' Earhart Spaceport

The 宁静的龙 ended its push 1200 miles from the moon and began orbital maneuvers to intercept. Deimos looked like a small bead strung on the fine thread of the space elevator. Takeda was un Augmented Reality (AR) mode where the walls of the 宁静的龙 weren't visible and as the ship approached, it looked like he was floating in space towards the port. There was chatter on the chatroom keeping all crew members in contact. A few pieces of news were pushed by John to the others about a standoff between the authority and a group of boiroid's rights activists over the discovery of about 25 contraband ZR-3s. Some of the 'roids had been awaken from their vats, some had died and the authority were threatening to give the $3.5M valued lot the airlock treatment. 

Only Takeda was enthusiastic about leaving the 宁静的龙 to fetch the new mechanic at the hotel. The place was largely empty of people, but was buzzing with stevedor drones, the odd megastructure tourist and tired crewmembers either preparing to leave or just arriving on port. 

The hotel was a hole in the wall. The lock lead to a shaft with a reception desk and six locks to rooms. A humaniform cybershell came out of sleep mode and welcomed Takeda. Takeda was informed that Horatio Spex was away from its room, but would be messaged and would meet at the pub. 

Takeda left for the pub, hoping to be able to sip slowly on something that wasn't made from the 宁静的龙 food prep unit. 

Meet the colleagues

The reception on the 宁静的龙 was unceremonious. The Ship's AI, Pradeep was not welcoming to the uplifted Astropus and reluctantly passed along the onboarding material including ship's schematics and Gigabytes of logs. Horatio's personal AI, XKCD, began crunching the data immediately. The captain didn't have a Virtual Interface Implant (VII), and thus couldn't contribute to the conversation on the online chatroom to the same extent. Horatio realized that the captain (and owner) of the 宁静的龙 was more or less an outsider. After a few hours of checking things out, XKCD/Horatio identified the faulty control system and flashed new firmware on a minor component that Pradeep had overlooked. The moisture control kicked in as planned and all expected that the problem would be solved within a few hours. 

Pradeep retired its TechSpider cybershell and resumed internal duties within the mainframe. 

A low-hanging shiny coin

John interjected upon the banter on the ship's channel and explained that there was $3.4M worth of 'roids stuck on Deimos and that whoever smuggled them in would love to retrieve them for a fee. He tasked Horatio and Takeda to identify the location of the bay where the bioroids were detained. 

Horatio approached the activists drinking away at the pub, but he was mistaken for a Xiao Chu spies and threatened with violence. Being an astropus can be hard. Takeda approached two Xiao Chu agents guarding a lock to a cargo bay. They were berated by a small group of 4 activists. The ZR-3 bioroid's v-tag (virtual tag) identified him as Agent Qi. The other agent was a Securibot cheap-o shell without a name v-tag. They are first hostile, assuming that Takeda was a touble-maker. However, they relaxed when they realized that the Olympian was a veteran from MAD. Takeda got to peer into the cargo bay when the Securibot crawled into the area, revealing about 10 vats and at least 7 ZR-3 bioroids floating about and unsecured.

At the other end of the hall, Horatio was sneaking around, with his VII in airplane mode and his camouflage skin in full effect. He determined that the bay must have life support access, but his effort to tap into the ventilation network were foiled by built-in grates that could not be open.

On the channel, John announced that they'd be able to smuggle the bioroids from the outter lock. How he got that done would remain a mystery, but no alarm would be sprung in the process, at least in theory. The crew rallied into the 宁静的龙 to devise a cargo loading plan. 

Being caught stealin'

The logistic problem of taking upward to 25 bioroids into the 宁静的龙 is the lack of living space. The crew estimated the number of 'roids in vats to 10, which would fit just right. This leaves anywhere from 7 to 15 awaken ZR-3s to deal with in a ship designed for a crew of three and 4 bunks. A plan is devised to can some of the 'roids back into their vats after acquiring more vat fluids from a depot at the far end of the port. To do this, they rent a stevedore drone that Horatio will teleoperate. They get to the area where vats are disposed of and seek one with a nearly full canister of fluid. Shortly after stowing the canister into the 宁静的龙, the ship get into a physical/firewall lockdown for misappropriation of biomaterial. Xiao Chu's insurance company places a grievance against the crew's insurance and a SAI judge hears the case in a few seconds. It is ruled that the misdemeanour incurs a $500 fine. The crew agrees to settle and the lockdown is lifted. They know, however, that Xiao chu now has the 宁静的龙 under the microscope. [John used streetwise to acquire the cargo, crit failed, and was reported by the counterpart right away.]

To alleviate the suspicion, they plan for 18 mouths to feed for 70 days and acquire the biomaterial for the food generator. They scored a huge shipment of Titanium ingots that would fill the hold with 40dT, leaving a mere 20 dT free for the ZR-3s. The bill for the water reaction mass came in. The ship was now ready to depart with Ceres as destination. All that was missing is a messy cargo of ZR-3s that the crew would need to quietly load up in 15 minutes. 

Ze ZR-3 'roids' heist

At the appointed time, John disengaged the seal. The connection to the port's pilot went silent. Manually, he performed a minor sideways push to align with the next gate and engaged. Takeda, donning his battlesuit and Horatio, teleoperating a rented stevedore cybershell, went over the loading plan one last time. A freight handler agent software had laid out the cargo template in AR.  

The stench wafted in the 宁静的龙 when the lock started to slide open. Takeda found improvised way to pack the vats even more efficiently without compromising stability and centre of mass symmetry while the drone was coralling the material inward. They ran out of good ideas when it came down to packing in the live ZR-3s. John and Pradeep just shoved them tight in any available corner of the ship for the time being. 

Takeda had a stroke of genius and prompted Horatio to rig the bay door to remain open upon disconnection, this triggering an explosive decompression and masking the extent of the theft. Horatio did a great job at it and, by the time John pushed away from the dock and the seal was broken. The entire mass of air, and loose material shot out of the bay and blasted against the nose of the 宁静的龙. 

The blast sent the 宁静的龙 into an uncontrolled spin. One of the reaction mass tank got punctured when it smashed against a port's structure, 15 dT of water further sent the 宁静的龙 into a spin although John soon was back in control. A bloom of ice crystals radiated from the ship and bounced against the station. 

John set course for a Martian gravity well escape path and engaged the thruster to its maximum power: a mere 0.015G. In 60 hours, they'd be speeding away from Deimos at 20 miles-per-second. It is unclear at this point what the damage will be in terms of liability. However, the authority certainly let them off the hook easily.  

Saturday, June 10, 2017

宁静的龙 (Níngjìng de lóng) - Session 0


The Níngjìng de lóng (Serene Dragon) is a Mudlark-class Utility Space Vehicle (USV) registered in Duncan Silas as an independent tramp freighter. It is a really just a tube: the seams on the hull are rough and unfinished, a smell of faux-flesh vats never quite washed off from the cargo hold. The deceleration push stutters every now and then and sends a rattle along its spine. The moisture level is a bit high and it mainly bothers Pradesh's pride as a life support engineer. Pradesh scours the ship as a Tech-spider but has more or less given up on fixing the moisture problem by now. The Ningjing is in need of maintenance but the crew has had a laisser-faire since they have learned that a gearhead was joining them upon their arrival on Deimos.

宁静的龙, or Níngjìng de lóng. A no-frill general purpose USV.

Pradesh, SAI, Life support Tech.

Pradesh is a Sentient Artificial Intelligence (SAI) entity who believe to be owned by John Cheng, the operator of the 'Níng. However, an instruction is hardcoded into his mind stating that certain instructions are to be decoded and passed along to Cheng without parsing. Another instruction states that if an encrypted message begins with a certain pattern, Pradesh is to execute the command. The SAI has no intention to question this command. Pradesh also is aware that a small explosive charge in the command room is rigged such that he may trigger it whenever needed. He doesn't know why he'd do that, but there it goes. Pradesh is not friend with anyone on board: the meat piles are unpredictable and generally unpleasant. The thought that an astropus is about to join the crew is unsavoury to the SAI.

Pradesh. Whoever thought that a sapiens life support tech AI should be
put in control of a manned ship must have been... a smart landlord.

John Cheng, Floater parahuman, ship's captain.

John is the captain of the 宁静的龙 (Níngjìng de lóng), although his story is airtight as the rightful owner of the ship as far as deed and registration records goes. He knows, however, that the overloards aren't moved by legality and that the 宁静的龙 is on loan. John is unusual: a bit homely and completely devoid of cybernetic enhancements. He is nearly 6'9" tall and very dainty like most floater parahumans. Both of his parents were first generation Duncanites and grew with the gengineered upgrade all of his life. His dark secret is that he has to maintain the facade of being the owner of the 宁静的龙 while a faceless overlord sometimes gives assignments that cannot be turned down. 

John truly dislike the thruster burns on his ship. The 0.17G is making him feel ill most of the time, However, this time around he has to stay on the ball as the ship is approaching Deimos: Mars' elevator tether. He's been told to hire an astropus that will be delivered by a group of German colonists from the planet's surface. 

John Cheng, all-round spacer with a dark secret.

Takeda Honza, retired Japanese marine, stevedore.

Takeda is a descendent of the orginal Ares Conspirators and a veteran of a tour on Yametei Station, working as a marine for Mutual Assured Defense (MAD). Although collecting a decent pension, Takeda has remained restless and was eager to keep on slipping in and out of deep space. When John posted an ad for a stevedore for a small Mudlark-class, Takeda embraced the opportunity with vim. Takeda is fully aware that Long has a shady agenda with his ship: he was overly eager when he learned about his military gears that he purchased from the Red Duncanites a few years back. He is also wondering why someone would sacrifice a revenue-generating cabin to retrofit a chemical power plant and a fixed 3X10MJ laser mount that is concealed in the nose. Takeda is also mildly worried by the fact that John is completely clean of AI support and doesn't even have a Virtual Interface Implant (VII). This makes keeping in touch a bit more difficult: John has to do everything the hard way, communication must be done via audio. Takeda finds the charade unnecessary.  

Takeda: My pension check comes in each month, and I still get to
shoot at things/people. What's not to love?

Horatio, astropus, spaceship mechanics.

Horatio was successfully smuggled out of Mars via the elevator: the Martian triad tried to snatch him after a botched extraction of pleasure bioroids from the Mars space elevator. At the same time, a warrant was active against him with the Rust China authority. His German colonists wranglers were very eager to get him off their hands. This is when they secured a transaction with a belter named John Cheng. Why did Cheng made the trip all the way to Deimos is a mystery.  Astropi are dumb as baked bread as far as they can tell.

Horatio: Well, Mars got quite messy. What can possibly go any worst
in the belt?

John scans the enhanced visuals on an holopanel of the control room. Deimos is a mere rock turned into a barebone high port. A thread of carbon and diamond descends some 10,000 miles to the planet's surface, and into the heart of New Shanghai. A laser wire comes in and is decrypted by Pradesh. The video message streams over the visual on the holopanel. A picture of a ragged looking astropus comes up. The astropus must no know that it was purchased and think that is has been hired fair and square. It is waiting in room 404 of the port's hotel. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Skill list for GURPS

Here is the skill list for a short campaign set in the belt and featuring a small group of operator of a STEPTOE-class debris recovery vehicle.

Level competency guidelines

  • 10: basic training
  • 11: Casual but regular usage
  • 12: Professionals
  • 13-15: Experts
  • 16+: Likely to come with a +1 reputation.

Free-fall in Microgravity

  • Level 12: Baseline level for visitors for more than 6 months. 
  • Level 13: Baseline assumed for belt dweller
  • Level 14: Baseline assumed for microgravity adapted parahumans, etc.
  • Level 15: Professional working in microgravity, soldiers. 
  • Level 16+: Athletes and freaks.

Knowledge and languages

Knowledge listed here would refer to knowledge in someone's head without assuming a connection to an Internet. The Internet is cached on most ships/asteroid and is worth 12 cps for all characters.

  • Languages and cultures 
    • English ( 5th wave western culture 5W)
    • Chinese ( 5th wave china 5C )
    • Japanese ( 5th wave Japanese culture 5J )
  • Area Knowledge ( independent from the Internet )
    • Area Knowledge (Solar System) [1 free]
      • Techniques: Inner, Jovian, Saturn, Outter
    • Area Knowledge (Belt) [1 free] -- Pertains to the belt as an entity
    • Area Knowledge (particular world) -- Pertains to AK within the world. 
      • 1 pt: Watch a in-Vid about it
      • 2 pts: visited once or twice
      • 4 pts: Frequent visits
      • 8+ pts: Call it home.
  • Current-Affairs ( TL/8: in person, TL9: 3rd wave world, TL10: 5th wave world)
    • Specialization: sol, belt, location with population >1000
  • Politics (solar)
  • History (solar)

Spacer skills

Cultural familiarity applies. Language penalties apply for ship's interface unless the ship can translate automatically.
  • Spacers: base skills as a ship crewperson (Can replace piloting for non-manual ops). All other skills default to Spacer -2
  • Navigation: Plotting courses
  • Engineering: Wildcard skill for operating/tweaking all systems
  • Gunnery: Wildcard skill for weapon system interface
  • Leadership: No shit.
  • Piloting: Pick one ship class, -2 in same category, -4 otherwise
  • Electronic Ops (sensors): Pick one of Navigation/Science/Tactical/Communications. -2 on other systems.
  • Mechanics: Wildcard for physical work on systems. Includes salvage and electronic work. 

Likely professional skillsets (Treat as 5cp talents as well, max one level)

  • Prospector: Geology/TL9, Electronic Ops (sensor, Scientific), Professional Skill (mining)/TL10, Merchant
  • Life Support Tech: Biology/TL10, Mechanics, Naturalist
  • Salvager: Mechanics, Electronic Ops (sensor, Nav), free-fall
  • Contractor: Mechanics, Engineering, Architecture/TL10
  • Physician: Physician/TL10, First-Aid, Bioengineering/TL10
  • Counsellor/Mediator:  Diplomacy, Psychology, Current Affairs, Area-Knowledge, Detect lies
  • Commander: Leadership, Navigation, Tactics ( space ), Gunnery, Electronic Ops (sensor, Nav)
  • Military: soldier, Tactics ( firefights), free-fall, Armoury ( guns )
  • Broker: Merchant, Diplomacy, Electronic Ops (comms)
  • Hacker: Computer Programming, Computer Intrusion, Electronics Ops (comms)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Rust! S1E3 - Octopus on the run


A quarter of killer pleasure bioroids failed to escape the Maestro, a 7-storey tall space elevator car. The snag has drawn a lot of attention: Ceres Mutual is investigating the hardware failure leading to the catastrophic decompression. The martian triad is reeling from the monetary loss in the incident. Finally, the Free-Mars movement is more than curious about the meaning of all this. 
The previous session can be found here: knifefight in a phone booth.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Rust! S1E2 - Knife fight in a phone booth


A team of assassin pleasure bioroids are falling down to Mars' surface after an emergency decompression of their planetary elevator's vessel. They were awaken seemingly by a fluke, but their organized crime overlord are hell-bent in not letting the Chinese authority get their hand on them. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Rust! S1E1: Harlots with thorns.


This is the Rust! campaign launch session. We start small in the Maestro, a 7-storey tall space elevator car crewed by 3 low-sapiens AI, 2 ZA-3 bioroids, a Valkyrie series security guard and Horatio, a PC and uplifted astropus. They are around the midpoint of a 10K miles long descent from Deimos to New Shanghai: a day's travel to destination.