RSU Roleplaying Game v2

Season 2 Episode 13
The Kra call for help

The day dawns with news of Huug probably surviving. Although he is presently still unconscious, there does not seem to be irreversible damage and the medical teams are hopeful. Other than that, Black Nebula personnel work overtime in securing the spaceport, and fixing their equipment. Orders coma soon afterwards and do not change the situation – the players are supposed to dig in and wait for reinforcements, the first of which come in the form of two infantry platoons early next morning.

While the platoons are getting to work in taking over spaceport operations, Meek-Ria keeps relying information from ILLI to the players. While they did well, others did not. The northern city of Vainerva, which was besieged on by the Kra clan, Shadow Flare and Weiss&Son, is holding the attack and has halted the progress of the invasion therein. The players are not ordered to reinforce, though, as Terniss spaceport is too important and opening it up for an attack is considered too much of a risk.

The day is uneventful, but as night falls, a sandstorm builds up in the badlands north of the spaceport. On its own, this wouldn't be too bad, but the players receive an S.O.S. from a Kra clan dropship that has been shot down while bringing reinforcements to the Kerva front. An accompanying encrypted transmission informs the players that a single surviving mech is seeking help while being pursued by enemy hovertanks and light mechs. Eurich and Alexander make an immediate call to take off and head north, flying as low as possible to avoid anti-air fire and plan to drop straight on the pursuers. Pilots are to field mechs with jumpjets and hot-drop to the zone.

The fear of anti-air was probably quite unfounded, as visibility is essentially zero and any air defense tower can't possibly hit them with this much particles in the way. However, they still have a pilot to save, and Alexander does his best to swoop in just as the pilot is cornered by Teask-Dumar assets.

As the pursuers do not have a sufficiently large force to resist a Black Nebula hot drop, they immediately retreat. Unsurprisingly, this isn't the end of the operation, as the remaining forces on Terniss spaceport report incoming forces on radar. Alexander knows they aren't going to make it, but hopefully the tanks and infantry present in the spaceport can make a difference while they are on the way. Such ends up being the case, as the tanks, now manned by ILLI troops, make a brave stand against higly mobile enemy mechs and vehicles, and delay them just enough for Entropy to fly overhead and deliver more friendlies to the battle.

When the battle is clearing up, a devastating explosion shakes the ground  and demolishes the northern hangar. Apparently Teask-Dumar's plan was to use an IED truck to topple the air defense tower, but this was foiled by one of the Devastator tanks which disabled the truck before it got close enough. Although immensely powerful, the explosion is not too close for comfort, and while it manages to disable Heem-Lyeh's mech, his augmented body protects him sufficiently to avoid serious injuries.

The battle ends with almost all enemy forces retreating, but Eurich manages to disable a Shadow Hawk that couldn't quite get away fast enough.

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Season 2 Episode 12
Outlier invasion begins

Atmosphere on the asteroid was tight. The players received word that Meek-Ria was returning and the original contract of Black Nebula was about to expire. This gave Alexander the opporturnity to vie for better pay and one could say that their negotiations were successful. Unfortunately, as a safeguard, ILLI demanded that Meek-Ria would step up from being a liaison officer to having the strategic command, which greatly aggravated Eurich.

The decision was almost a breaking point for him and the colonel threatened to ditch Black Nebula altogether, but after her return, Gunther managed to secretly convince Meek-Ria to issue a statement of complete trust and continue to defer full tactical command to him, for as long as ILLI's wishes were followed to the letter. Regardless of this, our german officer was deeply insulted, and demanded for Meek-Ria to accompany the players to the battlefield onboard his Battlemaster. As a response for this, however, Meek-Ria demanded that the mercenaries would accommodate and train her liaison-officer-in-traing, Tumak-Niva, who she had recently bought from the Karamat-Via. Alexander readily accepted, especially after hearing that Tumak was a pilot and they were already short of those. In the process, he ended up finalizing this web of demands and mistrust necessiated by the contract he had just signed. As always, Alexander was quite happy with the end result.

While this all was going on, Gunther was acting as the resident alien resources manager and interviewing one of Shadow Flare's previous support staff they chose to let go. Jiira, a weleka specialized in salvage and repair operations and rather desperate work, accepted.

After the last redistribution of resources, the flotilla was ready to go. Another briefing ensued and the mercenaries learned that ILLI had been placed on the forefront of the ground invasion, and given important targets. Black Nebula would capture Terniss, a medium-sized city famous for its orchards and seasonal underground water reservoir, while Shadow Flare and the Kra sisterhood, who had recently been placed uner Fuub's command, would assault a military base on the north, residing close to the city of Meak and its spaceport.

The travel itself was uneventful, but at the end of the counterburn, TDHI revealed an ace, as one of the Nea-Heer orbital installations was hiding a PPC destroyer quite like the one our mercenaries had seen on the military base archive footage. Immediately, it opened fire, and while the beam wasn't aimed at them, even the diffraction was bright enough to blind Alexander's sensors. What followed was the as-of-yet biggest and most important space battle of the corporate war, but Black Nebula wouldn't be there to witness it.

Meek-Ria's orders were simple: dive down and carry on with the mission, and so they did. While descending, more recent satellite data came available and Eurich made the bold call of assaulting the Terniss spaceport directly, being aware that it should have the same kind of defense emplacement as the one in Mirika, which would make combat operations extremely lopsided in the long run. Dry canyons would provide the perfect cover for an approach, and while they couldn't stay undetected, a surgical strike was still deemed to be the best approach.

The full force of Black Nebula was in play. Alexander and Tumak were flying Samurai medium fighters, while Heem-Lyeh was piloting a Corsair. Eurich had dragged Meek-Ria to his Battlemaster, while Gunther, Josef, and Ivan piloted their signature mechs. Huug-Gun chose to field Juho's King Crab and Jiira drove his very own Thunderbolt. What they ended up facing was a wing of enemy aircraft, a battallion of tanks and two elite pilots on high-end mechs. It was to became both the most difficult and most costly fight Black Nebula had yet to encounter, as the enemy were holding a defensive position and their fighting was more coordinated than of the units they had faced before.

An enemy bomber opened with two successful runs on Huug's King Crab, and the tanks also concentrated fire on him, giving the old biotechnician a hard time. Meanwhile, Josef was losing an one-on-one fight against an enemy Black Knight, which left him behind with two engine criticals and virtually disabled. Meanwhile, an Annihilator, a cheap but effective long-range weapons platform, focused fire on the targets that suited it best.

The turning point of the fight was that despite the covering fire of the laser defense platform, Black Nebula pilots won the air battle and forced the enemy interceptors to retreat, while taking down the enemy bomber. Eurich held the line, fighting almost carelessly, as if to impress and intimidate Meek-Ria. Indeed, LBX shrapnel pierced the cockpit and the spy was visibly distressed, but way too proud enough back down. This drove Eurich to an even riskier move, as he charged behind enemy lines in order to deliver spotting data for their dropship, which was delivering cruise missiles from beyond the horizon. This bombardment indeed did take down the enemy LRM carriers and together with Ivan, the colonel eventually faced the Annihilator, which couldn't fight against their combined close-range firepower.

Unfortunately, while this was going on, Heem-Lyeh took a direct hit to his left wing from the defense laser. Even though the fighter barely survived the blast, Heem-Lyeh was unable to retain control and was forced to eject, forced to watch as the brand-new corsair streaked down against the southern canyon walls. Also, Huug-Gun was trying to fend off the tanks while stubbornly refusing to eject. He almost managed to retreat into safety, but with armor breached on multiple locations, surviving the last salvo from the Annihilator was a hopeless prospect. An ammunition explosion shattered the King Crab like porcelain doll, and everybody feared for the worst. This almost wasn't the last loss either, as the Black Knight was just about to execute both Gunther and Jiira. Fortunately, Tumak managed to strafe it from behind, landing a critical engine hit and forcing a shutdown. Cooling off in his immobilized mech and staring down the barrel of Gunther's pulse blaster, the pilot chose to eject.

When the dust cleared, the tank crews saw that they were surrounded and without air support, being forced to surrender. Furthermore, Huug-Gun's transponder was still beeping with life signs, so there was hope, but the mercenaries would have to capitalize on their position quickly.

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Season 2 Episode 11
Neutrino detector capture attempt

Meanwhile, ILLI forces were gathering at TDHI-R-397. The situation was dense, since a retake effort of the asteroid was expected. Shadow Flare had lost a significant amount of their forces, being even more strained as a fighting force that it already was, and there was not much for the players to salvage, making them appear rather under-equipped.

Reinforcing the base defenses and fixing the gauss towers was ongoing, and our mercenaries themselves were cannibalizing the Killer Whale launcher of the tower for their own use. As usual for their trade and accustomed to corporate squabbling (though perhaps not on this scale), the extraplanetary workers present weren't particularly loyal to anyone and were happy to accept pay from BHI, which certainly made the restoration operations work smoother than expected.

It's said that time crawls when you wait, and while Black Nebula had waited quite a bit recently, the standstill was still quite excruciating. The end result was as unsatisfactory as previously, though, as the attack never came. Under the prying eyes of the defenders, a small approached from the inner system and rendervouzed with the local garrison, but insted of making a move for their position, the combined force headed back towards the inner system, abandoning the garrison.

This made Fuub curse his luck, as for him, this meant that TDHI was playing it extra safe and ILLI wasn't ready. The BHI main flotilla was still being prepared and the players were forced to wait yet more. In the meantime, however, Fuub received Meek-Ria's word about the missing warheads from a courier pod, and sat down with Black Nebula to consider their options. What was important to know right now was whether the weapons had already been used, and if so, how recently and where. The best way to know would be to possess a neutrino detector and hope to catch a trace of the explosion. However, BHI had none, and the only existing ones in the system belonged either to the government or, possibly, to the public universities down on the Outlier. The latter was a much easier target, but far out of reach for now, as ILLI couldn't afford to send Black Nebula operatives deep into TDHI space so close to their planned invasion. However, Fuub knew that the government detectors were orbiting the star just inside the perimeter of the asteroid belt and the closest of them was easily reachable in a few days.

A plan was set in motion. Black Nebula would board the detector, get the data, and get out. Analysis would follow later. Heem-Lyeh was chosen to fly the Aquila left behind by Juho and the rest would suit up in power armor in wait in cargo capsules. The remaining air assets of Shadow Flare would assist the operation and fly escort to them. Herein Fuub gambled heavily on the assumption that the detectors would be relatively lightly defended. Despite their possible value in a wartime situation to detect powerful nuclear reactors such as those in capital ships, due to their status as government property and primarily scientific devices, they would likely be considered stricly out-of-bounds in the current corporate conflict. However, for this very reason, secrecy was paramount, and no traces of the raid would be acceptable. Everybody would fly IFF off and any logos and distinctive markings would be painted over.

The plan was superficially sound, but in the end, things did not go smoothly. Having decided to also take part in the away team and directing the operation from inside the cargo capsule, Gaussburg's situational awareness was compromised. Combined with a passing government patrol ship making an almost clairvoyant call of their intentions, the players quickly found themselves being intercepted by a fighter wing. Despite trying his very best, Gunther couldn't couldn't come up with an excuse good enough, and the choises were clear – fight or run.

Disppointed with his earlier calls, Gaussburg deferred the ultimate decision to Heem-Lyeh, who highly suspected Shadow Flare's ability to defend them against a trio of heavily armed medium fighters. Even calling off the raid turned out to be a close call, as the required delta-velocity was great and Heem-Lyeh had to do his very best to avoid giving the fighters a lethal firing solution. Fortunately he was able to reach the relative safety of the Shadow Flare support ship, degenerating the situation to another standstill and allowing for a controlled retreat.

Unfortunatly, with the patrol ship reaching the detector and their plan clearly visible, the window of opportunity had clearly vanished. ILLI officials quickly recalled the force to TDHI-R-397 and continued the preparations for invasion.

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Season 2 Episode 10
The mafia is no match for a squad of pioneers

The players waste no time in contacting Lidia and Joe and telling them of the situation. The orbital investigation is scrapped and the two are scheduled to head down immediately, with the orders to act as the ears and eyes of the squad in-city, while the rest continue with the operation.

Marianne assumes that Mr. Xu's immediate target would be the very place he invited the actors to, and this is to be their target too. Immediately, during the same night, the players hijack one of the local touring helicopters and its pilot, heading west towards the forest compound. Setting down in a meadow in the dead of night, the pioneers soon reach the estate, which seems to be a hefty-sized forest retreat with a well-kept english garden. Surprisingly, it is not particularly well defended, and after a short but efficient infilitration scene, the pioneers found neither the police nor Mr. Xu himself.

Interrogation of the present waiting staff, prostitutes and the living guards revealed that Mr. Xu took a detour to the hospital and was expected to return shortly. With this information in hand, it was decided that Lidia and Joe were to follow his whereabouts in town, while the rest of the squad set on doing what they do best – combat engineering. A crafty and improvised tactical barrier was prepared on the yard, while waiting for the gangsters to return.

Lidia and Joe attempt to infiltrate the hospital to some extent, but it was crawling with police and Xu's own men. Posing as a nurse, Lidia answered a job advert and got toured around a bit, albeit failing to find out anything too conclusive about their opponents. A much more substantial bit of information was the amount of men Xu had with him, when his convoy eventually started heading back to the compound. Apparently due to being quite a bit above the law and luckily for the players, the police made no attempt to follow him or approach the compound theirselves.

Apart from a brief encounter with preteen awese youngsters herding conifer parasites for fun and profit, the actual building of the tactical barrier was uneventful. Its abilities came to test perhaps a bit too early, when McGibbs mis-times the detonation and failed to properly catch any of the arriving three vehicles. What ensued was a long and bloody firefight, as Xu's numerous mooks and personal bodyguards defended themselves furiously. McGibbs got to know true fear when one of the bodyguards, a huge man in full body armor wielding a handheld blaster cannon, barely missed his hiding spot in the balcony. The resulting shockwave completely demolishing the room and left his ears ringing. At the same time, Yao Zi, Xu's nephew, prepared to make short work of Joe after seriously wounding Lidia. The lives of the squad were mere inches away, but Jean eventually managed to take down the enemy heavyweight and Marianne fended off Xu's remaining men, saving McGibbs and forcing the gangster to surrender.

The situation was quickly disarmed, and Mr. Xu, as a reasonable man, gave Meek-Ria the information she wanted. The extent of this information was not that great, however, as the only things Xu truly confirmed was the already present suspicion that Ivispe was indeed the buyer of the weapons. An interesting detail, however, was that Ivispe demanded the weapons, or hollowing charges, as they actually were, to be left in their initial condition without the warheads extracted for easier use or transportation. This suggested that their intended use was not warfare after all.

Hearing this and considering the mission a success, Meek-Ria ordered most of the pioneers to return to Diave B immediately. For Marianne, Jean and the two pilots, however, she has other plans.

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Season 2 Episode 09
BlackOps is what BlackOps does

After confirming where the theathre troupe was headed, our BlackOps team headed to the surface of Diave Prime. Marianne, Jean, Hune-Boo, BB and McGibbs were chosen to descend while Jim and Lidia remained to sort things out in VGT.

Due to dangerous substances and equipment embargos, transporting weaponry was technically illegal, but Meek-Ria arranged personal weapons to arrive in the next shipment. This meant, however, that the heavy equipment they were fielding would not get to the surface and our soldiers would have to do without powersuits and other force multipliers.

The descent itself was uneventful, with the exception that Marianne got to witness anxiousness from Meek-Ria. The former spy just siad that she doesn't trust the space hook containers and other unpowered methods of travel. It wasn't as if their cabin couldn't fall from the sky at any moment, or wasn't technically already doing it.

Diave Prime, the capital world of the system itself, was a cool planet being terraformed from an ice ball state. With toxic, cyanobacteria-ridden seas and too high atmospheric carbon dioxide content, it was just becoming habitable, but not quite there yet. What was most interesting about it, however, was the focus on very ambitious civil engineering projects, the most importantof which was the equatorial railway. Of course, tourism was low priority, so they waited for their munitions shipment and set on their way west, towards Kukawa – The City of Expressive Art.

Various strategies were discussed and some of the team members even suggested assaulting the train Du'an would board, but this was deemed too risky. In the end, Marianne still opted for efficiency and immediate action, planning to hit the very first performance of Ms. Lynn's troupe. BB was chosen to deliver a fake secret message from Sheryl to Mr. Xu and get him to head backstage after the play, while the rest would ambush him and his bodyguards on the spot. McGibbs would be the getaway driver waiting on the street.

The first part of the plan went admirably and Du'an swallowed the bait whole. However, everything else did not. Not only did Mr. Xu choose to shock the audience by inviting the entire troupe to his mansion in the countryside, but this caused enough of an uproad that the backstage became filled with fans and press immediately afterwards. However, when given the choice of pulling out or going forward, Marianne hesitated only for a split second, giving the order and kicking the rear doors of the theathre wide open.

Mr. Xu had the pleaure to see Lynn smash the door on his face mere seconds before the players pounced on his bodyguards, eliminating them all in the matter of seconds. Rambeau got a bit excited about the situation and let loose, wounding a bystander, but hopefully not fatally.

The chinese gangster, however, was not fazed by the situation, having encountered numerous assassination and usurpation attempts over the years. He simply kicked the door in and ran through the dressing rooms, finding a back door that lead into the wardrobe and storage. The players gave chase, and onlookers got to witness a truly epic escape scene, while Marianne and Jean were forced to admit that they had seriously underestimated the physical fitness of their middle-aged target. It didn't help that Hune-Boo was completely inexperienced with firearms and BB, in her vanity, had chosen a ridiculously elaborate and impractical dress for the occassion. At first, both foreign legionnaires were reluctant to shoot towards Mr. Xu, but when it became evident that they couldn't catch him otherwise, Marianne gave the order to shoot him in the legs. This final decision, however, came too late, as even if Jean managed to impair him, Xu's hecnhmen arrived with their own car to pick their boss up in the nick of time, forcing the players to retreat.

Before this open display of firepower, Kukawa had been one of the least violent cities in Diave, so understandably tensions were high and the players tuned in to listen to special broadcasts of their exploits. McGibbs drove like mad to find a reclusive location while Marianne phoned Meek-Ria for further orders. Such followed promptly – the players were to find a motorboat in the docks and head north to a riverside camping ground, where they would stage the next part of the operation. The mission was still active, and operational time would be very limited – the city grounds were swarming with police and more were expected to arrive from nearby cities.

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Season 2 Episode 08
Spacedock assault conclusion

The players had limited amount of time, due to the vicinity of the military base. While Heem-Lyeh and Ivan scouted the asteroid, even the damaged sensors of the craft alerted Alexander of an incoming enemy dropship. They had very little time to make their move.

Soon the scouting party returned and reported that the other of the enemy fighters was still operational and patrolling the area, while the base itself seemed to be protected by dual gauss turret emplacements and the mechs that had retreated earlier. Pondering their options, Alexander ordered an assault and accepted the russians' plan to infiltrate the base in power armor and disable the power generator. The operation was planned to be simultaneous, and the assault itself would provide cover to the infiltration operation.

The makeup of the players' force changed. Both Heem-Lyeh's Crab and Josef's Thanatos were heavily damaged and Eurich was sceptical that Juho could beat the air superiority fighter in his Aquila, instead ordering the pilot to field the Striga heavy fighter they had originally captured along with the dropship. The wisdom of this choice was to be debated later, as the heavy fighter, while very powerful, was slower than the enemy Rusalka and did not have the range advantage the Aquila had. The air battle ended up being too close to comfort while the gauss turrets almost made short work of Bjornlöf's Marauder.

The russians, however, managed to infiltrate and capture the fusion generator and coerce the engineers to cut power to the guns. It turns out they were only partially powered by this generator, but the move nonetheless succeeds in greatly reducing their firepower. This allowed Eurich to pick his targets and go toe to toe with the guns, while the rest of the players concentrated on eliminating the defending mechs. The battle was close, but eventually successful, and everybody's eyes turned to the skies and on Juho, who had spent the whole time dogfighting with the enemy Rusalka.

This fight had not gone too well, as the Rusalka has managed to outmanouver Juho on multiple occasions, and even force him on the defensive. The finnish pilot was almost finished by a crafty move by his opponent but managed to tail him in turn and even the fight out. Both pilots entered the final stages of the fight extremely damaged and too proud to quit, which ultimately means that their final head-on assault and mutual alpha strike resulted in the utter destruction of both fighters. To the players' dismay, neither of the pilots were seen ejecting and Juho was pronounced KIA.

Hardly anyone had time to think about this, though, as they were forced to assault the control tower of the dock. The tower complex itself was light on manpower and the russians quickly managed to take control of the killer whale launcher. Eurich then did his best to lure the incoming dropship close enough to prevent it from escaping and only started firing when the ship was well into their trap. Seeing that the launcher is possessed by the enemy, the dropship tried to turn tail, but was ultimately shot down.

While Alexander was transmitting the debriefing to ILLI, it became evident that the dock has been constructing a scouting vessel with advanced sensors and stealth capabilities. How convenient. The players were ordered to stay put and hold the installation as ILLI moved its resources towards them. However, the scout ship was ordered to depart towards Kersia immediately and to be escorted by Shadow Flare aerospace assets which were returning from their own assignments.

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Season 2 Episode 07
Spacedock assault begins

Meanwhile, in Diave B, Teask-Dumar's military power was still formidable and the collapse of its mercenary allies had proven lesser than expected. Even though Sybaris had largely scattered, it seemed as if they were a sacrifice TD had been willing to make.

More importantly, ILLI had received information that a large attack was being planned against the orbital docks above Kersia. Even though Fuub-Ark did not have direct authority on the docs nor permission to station his own troops there, it was decided that the players' forces and Shadow Flare would take a higher orbit and wait for further orders, being on immediate standby at all times. This meant extended weightlessness and time in-orbit, which was taxing for everybody involved, especially as the situation was very static.

The standoff continued for approximately three weeks and tensions dissipated, giving way to boredom and idleness. At this point, both mercenary companies were recalled. Everybody assumed that Teask-Dumar had pulled off a successful feint and fed ILLI and possibly other parts of BHI with incorrect information in order to buy precious moments of time for preparation. This was in line with Fuub's orders, as he planned an assault on TDHI-R-397, a former mining asteroid which now housed a minor space dock.

Shadow Flare was to assault a neighboring TDHI military position as the players were ordered to make asteroidfall and capture the dock. Both missions were risky, but as Shadow Flare had more assets, it was ordered to perform the more risky manoeuvre. Preparations were tight, and after the players again refitted their mechs for zero-G operations, they were on their way.

The approach was not particularly safe, as the dock housed a Killer Whale launcher. A capital missile platform far exceeding their range and capabilities. While Juho made a flyby and photographed the relevant regions of the dock, Alexander performed a tight counterburn to spend as little time as possible within the field of view of the dock. Despite this, the players' dropship took two direct hits from the missiles, losing their sensors and rendering the dropship useless for actual battle.

After landing, they immediately started a march towards the dock, but having had time to prepare, the defenders were expecting them. A mix of light and medium mechs with good mobility attacked the advancing forces while two heavier missile-equipped units bombarded them from behind. Juho acted as air support, but was heavily disadvantaged against a duo of enemy air superiority fighters, and couldn't keep them occupied. The situation looked dire, until one of the fighters made the mistake of strafing the battlefield and ending up on the wrong side of Huug's aim. Despite getting pummeled by the full firepower of the fighter, a clean hit to the cocpit of the disabled the pilot and brought it down. Meanwhile, Eurich's Marauder refitted with a loadout more suited for medium mechs disabled the harassing mechs and the artillery was forced to withdraw.

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Season 2 Episode 06
BlackOps' turn to take an information stop at the VGT

After Finding out the next assignment, our BlackOps team decided to head out for VGT again, which, at this point, was stationed in the orbit of Diave Prime. In addition to the task of finding Du'an Xu, Meek-Ria gave the team the additional task of hiring two pilots capable of operating a dropship-class vessel. The purpose of this hire was unknown for now.

After reaching the vessel, Lidia went straight into investigations, while Marianne spent some energy (and bribe money) to smuggle in some personal weapons. After this, she immediately started the recruitment process, and what caught her eye first (and last), were net two hard-boiled American transport pilots called Joe Texas and Barbarella Bardot (or BB for short), who seemed promising prospects both due to affordability and skill. A meeting was set up in the same sleazy dock bar which had already been used by the russians to conduct their business.

The job interview was promising, as the pilots indeed seemed competent. Especially Joe Texas seemed like a good hire, as he also had insider information about the criminal underground of VGT, and offered good suggestions about investigative options. More imporantly, it became apparent that he had an argumentative financial history with the Pandemonium conglomerate, which consisted of the least law-abiding examples of the local suvak and baseline awese. More specifically, Joe had certain financial difficulties toward a fight betting entrepreneur christened "The Bullfinch" by the locals. Marianne decided to head to him in order to find some answers.

Finding Bullfinch was not difficult, but getting to talk with him was, as Marianne was almost adamantly refusing to give up her personal weapons. She eventually had to budge, because the booker unconditionally refused to see anyone otherwise and getting too argumentative with the extremely well-built awese on the foyer didn't seem smart. Fortunately for her and Joe, Bullfinch, whose most striking features were his reddish feather coat and obesity (which is very rare among Awese), had no intention of getting violent, though Joe didn't seem to have a good enough standing with him to really make his case.

Surprisingly, when the name of Du'an Xu and his possible involvement in weapons deals was mentioned, Bullfinch became a lot more cooperative. Due to various reasons apparently related to unrestrained ambition and disregard for conglomerate rules (though jealousy was likely closer to the truth), the booker was highly antagonistic to him and simply pointed out that the players should visit the opera tomorrow night to find out more. The event also made him forgot to rough up Joe about more or less imaginary debts and the players swiftly made their exit.

Meanwhile, Lidia had contacted The Cacophony, which was another more or less criminal organization operating in the VGT. Having substantially more human members, this organization was more subject to her agent background and Lidia had surprisingly little trouble in contacting the local middle management. However, this lead turned cold, as the clearly serbian representatives, who never gave any names, did not have or were not willing to share any meaningful information about mr. Xu. However, Lidia did get into negotiations about smuggling their heavier armament inside and got quoted with a sum and contact information for this purpose.

The next day was spent in preparation of the opera night, which involved a ridiculous shopping spree, wherein Hune proved to be especially proficient – given the opportunity to do so and being presently employed with the longest and most lucrative contract of her short life, she behaved as frivolously as sailors on a port, albeit with more refined consumer habits (oh, this type of winglets are now in fashion, see that they have real feathers – not synthetic!). The rest of the crew focused more on preparing for the worst and Marianne repeatedly displayed her skills in concealing small arms, which hopefully would not have to be used.

The opera itself was a very traditional and classic awese tale about an usurped princess, whose loyal and admiring knight sets out to right any wrongs that befell her. As customary, the knight was ineffably selfless and his relationship to the princess beyond platonic and perfectly subservient. What was interesting was that the theathre troupe performing the story was all-human and that its execution through modern dance and allegorical costuming was widely considered world-class. Even more importantly, the head diva, Sheryl Lynn, was held in extremely high regard.

For most of the mercenaries, the story of the play flows way too ponderously. McGibbs and Jean soon grow tired and fail to reappear to the second act, but Marianne, diligent as always notices that Du'an Xu, who follows the play from his own loge, seems to have an argument with his lady friend, who ends up storming out. While Lidia and Hune remain in the hall to watch Mr. Xu, she orders Joe tail the woman and orders McGibbs and Jean to aid if necessary. This turns out to be unnecessary, as the handsome pilot has little trouble in initiating a conversation. Simple acts of sympathy are sufficient to find out that Xu's escort is simply irritated about being neglected to the point that her presence seemed completely superfluous. The reason, too, is all too clear, as the escort is quick to point out that the weapons dealer is hopelessly infatuated with Ms. Lynn. Following up on this, minimal information gathering is required to find out that mr. Xu seems to attend almost all the troupe's performances, and that the next viewing will be on the surface of Diave Prime, in one of its main cultural centers.

Both Meek-Ria and the players feel that this information might bring them a crucial edge, and hopefully be one that would avoid the use of extreme violence. As the play closes, they head back to their lodging and start considering their future options.

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Season 2 Episode 05
BlackOps team is formed, assignment on a jungle planet

Meek-Ria's troupe of agents mostly consists of the inehmo pioneer squad responsible for mining the bay door at The Horn of Plenty. Without further ado, the personnel on board are:

1. Lidia Kusnetsova, Eurich's sister and a master of industrial espionage. She is in command of the field team and directly responsible to Meek-Ria.
2. Lt. Marianne Delacroix, formerly of the French Foreign Legion. A reputable person and experienced soldier, who now serves as the squad leader and tactician.
3. Donald McShane, former civilian doctor, now a field medic and VTOL pilot. Discharged from numerous earlier positions due to morphine addiction.
4. Agnus "XD" MacGibbs, formerly of the british space marines. Old and tired, but very competent with explosives.
5. Jean Rambeau, also of the French Foreign Legion and Marianne's squadmate since time immemorial. A big, strong and scarred man who both resembles the iconic action movie hero and thinks he is one.

Because the inehmo squad didn't have enough volunteers, Meek-Ria picked one of the awese pioneers:

6. Heer-Vig, formerly of The Outlier Military Hazardous Environments Unit. An expert on chemical and viral warfare and decontamination, with a psyche that narrowly balances on the useful side between competence and paranoia.

and:

7. Hune-Boo, who has no idea why she is there. The young awese feels extremely out of place and threatened.

Meek-Ria uses the BHI information network to dig up as much of the situation as possible en-route and handles the pesky matters of smuggling the military gear down. When the squad eventually lands, she sets off to gather the final clues while the others take A Prionio Wildlife Course for Tourists in order to earn a Prionio Outdoor Pass for Tourists.

The course consists mainly of a young and spiffy teacher listing all the items what could get you killed outside. As Prionio is a primitive world with a genuinely unique biosphere, this ends up being pretty much everything due to all the potential infection vectors either by virii, bacteria or prions. In addition to this, the geography, storms, nightstalkers, carnivorous sponges and various insects are a serious threat.

The teacher is quick to point out that in the guided tours, it is practically impossible to fall down from the constructed path and that the infections are not dangerous, given immediate treatment. Regardless of her assurances, Hune has an anxiety attack and flunks the test. MacGibbs also flunks it, though mainly due to simply not caring enough. Despite knowing that the pass is likely to be completely irrelevant, Marianne bribes the teacher, hoping that this would give the new recruit some confidence. She also orders everyone to sleep as much as possible, which ends up being prudent as Meek-Ria wakes them up at around 4:30 the following morning. Two hours later, the poor pioneers are standing outside a research station airlock, couple of hundred kilometers to the east.

From her informants, Meek-Ria has found out that Coconna and her friends are likely stationed or about to be stationed around the volcanic caldera lake to the east, which is rumored to be an excellent hunting ground. Meek-Ria's instructions are simple – find Coconna and either get her to talk or bring her back.

Marianne takes the lead and starts walking even further east, embarking the squad on a trek through the periouls envionment of the jungle world. The landscape of Prionio is dominated by shallow seas completely overgrown with trees resembling a cross between ferns, horsetails and palms. They grow a segmented body with numerous radial branches every couple of meters, with the lower branches largely being discarded as the topmost compete for light. In effect, the world is much akin to a poisonous bayou with a solid roof, as the light-collecting layer on the very top is very dense and offers the main avenue of travel. Falling down is risky due to the immense height of the trees, which typically tower beyond a hundred meters, and even more so because the shallow water is both extremely virulent and riddled with sharp corals and other filter feeders.

Progress is slow and the squad only manages a couple of kilometers a day. The travel is further slowed because the inehmo pioneers all choose to use heavy armor, which further increases the risk of falling down. Hune-Boo and Lidia balance the risk differently, only using skinsuits, and Heer-Vig is clad in lighter armor. On the other hand, he carries a large amount of supplies that he deems absolutely essential.

As Prionio is tidally locked to the gas giant and has an 11-day day/night cycle, it's a bit misleading to talk about travel days, but on the first evening, MacGibbs notices a dark cloud on the horizon in the northeast. Wondering what it is, the players set up camp and are awoken by the motion sensor beeping. Marianne is on guard and investigates, but only finds a very large pack of ferret-like animals travelling east. The animals are timid and do not seem to be aggressive, so she leaves them be.

On the next day the squad find out what the cloud actually was. Everything they see on the horizon, from one end to the other, is completely covered by insects about the size of a man's thumb. Being perhaps the best student of the lot, Jean remembers that the teacher warned about the huge migrating aphid swarms that occasionally migrated and demolished the forest. While not particularly dangerous, it is impossible to travel without crushing the aphids and making the branches and leaves way too slippery. Furthermore, it seems possible that the aphids could also bite, and both Hune-Boo and Lidia fear that their skinsuits are not thick enough to protect them. The squad sets up camp to think about this, but Jean soon remembers that the ferret-like animals are the natural predators of the aphids and further postulates that they could have aphid-repellent properties. Encouraged by this, MacGibbs captures some of the beasts and soon the squad travels on, protected by the vile stench emanating from numerous ferret anal glands. The consumed treetops still offer less footholds and MacGibbs almost falls, but thanks to the low gravity, is able to catch a branch below. His suit gets a bit bruised, but Heer-Vig skillfully fixes it and the pioneer avoids infection.

The third day is rather uneventful until it terminates with the setting sun. On a world with such long day/night periods, this always means a large gradient in air pressure, and sure enough, the pioneers are soon beset by a storm unlike they have ever seen. They are forced to set up camp far below the treetops to weather the worst, and still fear for their lives as the wind buffets the tent. Furthermore, when the storm finally ends, they are beset by the apex predators of the forest – nightstalkers.

Nightstalkers are dog-sized, almost blind pack predators living in the darkness below the treetops and relying on echolocation. They operate solely at night, and while the moon's night is never too dark, especially on the side facing the gas giant, the lower levels of the forest still receive very little illumination. What makes the stalkers dangerous is that they have nothing to challenge them, and since hunting isn't technically allowed, nothing has taught them to fear guns. As a result, their aggressive and territorial instincts are entirely unimpeded.

As the pack surrounds the tent, Marianne finds herself on guard again. As she inspects the beasts eating the insects buzzing around the squad's lights, they grow suspicious. When she raises her shotgun and readies it, they pounce.

Due to Marianne's heavy armor, the fight is very one-sided. The beasts claw and bite, but she blasts them one by one. Jean is soon out to help, and before long the remains of the pack scatter to the night. The french are a bit careless when re-entering the tent and Heer-Vig is convinced about contamination, but rummages around and soon produces strong enough chemicals to denaturate almost anything.

After resting, the squad wakes up to a sight of rather extreme devastation. Further east, where they were supposed to cross, the lighter forest has been demolished by the storm, which was indeed of extraordinary severity. While everybody ponders their options, MacGibbs offers to make a canoe out of their extra tent and some branches. As hazardous as this may sound, the operation is successful and soon the squad is paddling the shallow sea, circling and going under the felled horsetail trees. Miraculously they avoid the underwater hazards and arrive at the base of the volcanic region. Seeing dry land for the first time after leaving the research station, they set up camp again and resolve to continue in the morning.

Travelling on land is technically easier, but McShane is starting to get too inconvenienced by his armour. He was already fatigued, but now he is losing the strength to carry on, Not knowing where Coconna is, they cannot afford to lose any more time, so Delacroix makes the call of forcing him to leave the armor and to continue in a skinsuit. The jungle is still dense and while the trees are not quite as tall, the ground level is dominated by a thicket of various parasitic plants which crawl up their trunks. Hacking and slashing enddlesly, the squad makes progress, and by the end of the fifth day, they reach the top of the caldera wall. Looking down into the inner lake, they see the a faint glimmer of light, and for the first time, completing the mission seems feasible. Afraid to give away their position, Lidia orders everyone to avoid using any lights or making noise, which may be a correct choice, but ends up being fatal for one of them.

On McShane's watch, the motion sensor beeps again. He is ready for the beasts, but the darkness only allows him to get one grenade off before they overwhelm him. Without his armor, McShane is unable to fight off the nightstalkers successfully. His bad luck is further compounded by the size of the pack and the fact that everybody else fumbling a bit trying to get into their suits. When the smoke clears, it becomes apparent that the medic is extremely dead and the tent is riddled with bullet holes. Furthermore, the squad has produced a thundering lightshow that is surely visible to the hunters below.

Lidia and Marianne think fast, coming to the conclusion that it's best to use this accident to everyone's advantage by pretending to be in just the kind of trouble they actually are. As it is extremely doubtful that the other entourage expects to be hunted at this moment, it would be best to fire up an emergency flare and ambush them as they come to help. Everybody springs into action, as Jean climbs the closest tree to observe their adversaries, while Heer-Vig and McGibbs hide in the woods. Marianne, Hune-Boo and Lidia pose as the survivors. Especially Hune makes a very convincing damsel in distress – she doesn't have to 'play' the part.

The plan does indeed work. Jean reports a boat leaving the caldera island and making a landfall close to them somewhat later. Soon, a dark-skinned man in light combat armor approaches the tent and is greeted by the three. As they explain their predicament, the man, identifying as Vanilla, starts talking about gamekeepers and how they all should be careful to not get caught. After discussing with his friends through the radio, he tells Lidia and Hune that they can come to their camp for shelter while they sort this out. Appearing grateful, the group follows him and observes as the rest of the squad shadow them.

In the shore, the group meets Coconna, a middle-aged silver-haired woman with a very determined and cautious air about her. She is accompanied by a large man with a sniper rifle and an awese sword. While Vanilla and the woman start talking, the large man spots the silhouette of Heer-Vig in the dark forest and instinctively knows something is wrong. A short and ultimately very futile firefight ensues, as Marianne reveals the pistol she had taped behind her back Die Hard -style and simply shoots the large man to the head. After Vanilla is seriously wounded by Heer-Vig, Coconna surrenders and glares at the players with resentment. They immediately call Meek-Ria to pick them up.

While waiting for the vtol to arrive, the squad destroys any evidence it can find. Boats are sunk, tents are burned and weapons are buried, while corpses are simply left for the insects.

Meek-Ria almost cannot contain her satisfaction on the course of events, and as always, is responsible for the interrogation. It is evident that Coconna is loyal to her men, but as she sees no alternatives, still willing to make deals. She tells Meek-Ria that the nuclear devices were ordered by a wealthy fence called Du'an Xu, and that her responsibility over them ended with the VGT harbormaster. Either true to her word or conscious of the fact that she worked with too many externals during the operation, Meek-Ria sets Coconna free. However, before leaving, the mercenary captain catches up with Marianne and Lidia. She assures them that Silverbridge's reputation and employability are heavily endangered. Should Du'an be pursued, it is imperative that they finish him off and leave no witnesses, as otherwise it is too easy to find out that she sold him off (it is unclear whether or not Coconna has figured out Black Nebula was behind this 'Black Ops' capture). After digesting this ultimatum, the squad and Meek-Ria start planning their next move.

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Season 2 Episode 04
An information stop at VGT

There is a brief pause dedicated to fixing equipment, but very soon the players take off towards the VGT, hoping to either intercept Silverbridge there or find out their present whereabouts. The trip to the system vehivle is surprisingly short, as VGT is leaving the system and accelerating outwards from The Outlier.

Upon arriving at VGT, the mercenaries find out that, to their surprise, it is engulfed in a religious festival related to the Continuity and other fertility cults. Phallic imaginery and more open than usual prostituion litter the streets in one grotesque and colorful display, as the players, rather predictably, succumb to overuse of whores and narcotics. Especially Juho, Huug and Heem-Lyeh use the company visa extremely liberally and vanish for a few days. Meanwhile, everyone else is content with considerably less entertainment and soon return to service. Alexander goes to the Gentlemen's Club and digs around with the higher society, while the russians take the most obvious route and head for the dock.

While Alexander is unsuccessful in unearthing anything substantial, Eurich gets a sudden call from a person he suspected he wouldn't meet anytime soon – her sister Lidia Kusnetsova – who apparently has spent her last years on industrial espionage and landed on the system a year before him. Unfortunately, Hewlett-Kone's cells in-system had apparently been largely abandoned as support from out-system waned after entering the nebula, and Lidia considers her contract void. Black Nebula's leaders are quite willing to take her under their wing after Eurich assures them of her competence. Internally Eurich, Huug and Alexander suspect that having an insider who would have a better idea of Meek-Ria's plans would be highly preferrable.

With respect to actual investigations, the russians hit gold. They meet the harbormaster who also happens to be russian, and form a brief, vodka-fuelled friendship culminating into a hefty bribe. The harbormaster checks his system logs and sees that the Silverbridge carrier arrived seven days ago and left three days ago, while some of its cargo was transferred to a vessel called "Viscosity of Pleasant Tactility", which left the day before yesterday. The transferred cargo was reported to contain tools, dryfood and other insignificant items, but this is already suspicious enough.

Of the heavy partiers, Heem-Lyeh is the one to get bored first, both due to his physical ability and unfortunate, recent disability. Despite getting information from Eurich and Alexander that the Silverbridge execs have already left, he starts pondering whether it would be possible to hack the hotel networks to see if any personnel were still present. While he does not manage to do this himself, the systems are no match for CheekyChic69's supernatural hacking skills (i.e. calling the hotel and asking somebody for the password). After going through the records, our hackers find out that two Silverbridge grunts are indeed staying in one of the hotels and could perhaps be coerced to reveal somethig important.

Bjornlöf takes the initiative, and using the classical move of posing as the room service, he drugs the grunts and brings them to a shady bar in the underlevels, where all of Black Nebula are waiting. Being simple technicians, the unfortunate victims do not really think twice of spilling their beans in the face of violence, and blurt out everything they know. This "everything" is not particularly much, as the techies are too low in the command hierarchy to know who the higher ups mingle with, and even less where assets such as nukes(really?!) are sold. However, the players are able to figure out that basically all of Silverbridge are now on leave after a successful mission. Coconna, who is indeed the field commander, is an avid fan of extreme sports and a hunter, and the techies suspect that she has travelled to Prionio to hunt for local wildlife.

This is enough of a clue, and the players choose to let the techies go. Ivan is against this, but Bjornlöf assures him that he can cook up a cocktail that makes everything the techies experienced seem like a bad trip, should they remember it at all.

Alexander is ready to travel to Prionio and is already setting course for Diave A, but Meek-Ria interrupts him. Fuub-Ark recalls the players to Vetakai because he suspects that something is up, and it seems that a distraction of this magnitude is out of the question. However, Meek-Ria herself suggests that she could take one of the recently battle-decorated pioneer squads and head for Prionio herself, confident on her ability to handle the situation and capture Coconna. Alexander quickly agrees, and as the players fire their engines towards Kersia-Vetakai, the agent departs to Diave A onboard the next charter transport, accompanied only by a handful of men a crate of weapons. Lidia is sent along to prove herself on a real mission, but of the more permanent personnel, only Hune-Boo is with her. Nobody really even knows why.

En-route, Huug contacts Voronoi about "Viscosity of Pleasant Tactility". The old Suvak suspects that the naming convention to points towards an old Suvak mercenary company called Ivispe, who has always been famous for very intelligent committment of resources and defending large areas with limited means. However, to the best of his knowledge, Ivispe has no presence at all in Diave.

PS: Bjornlöf informs Heem-Lyeh that he has just heard of a group of veteran cybernetics experts capable of building the radist a new penis. Where he obtained this information is apparently a secret.

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