Campaign of the Month: January 2011

Honour Among Thieves

Nine Tenths of the Law Session Seven
Wherein Captain Johnson gets a building dropped on him.

The Mantis class ship hovered over the taller of the two hotel towers, dipping its nose down as if sniffing for prey amid the piles of rubble scattered across the courtyard. Over the drone of its engine pods, which were sending heat distortion waves down that blurred the lines of the hotel structure beneath them, Jonah, YJ and Worth could hear a high-pitched whine starting up. Their attention was drawn to the two chin-mounted autocannons slightly off set from the centre of the ship’s nose. It was the larger of the two that had begun to spin.

There was a sound like the tearing of fabric as the autocannon split the air between the ship and the ground. The Mantis was rocked back on its center of gravity as a tongue of yellow fire like dragon’s breath shot out from the spinning Gatling gun. The effect was instantaneous. Concrete was pulverized into dust that leaped into the air in a billowing cloud as round after round gouged bowling ball sized holes in the buildings adjacent to the hotel complex. Edifices and support pillars were stripped bare, revealing the rusted rebar within, and sparks began to fly as metal struck metal.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Six
Violence Ensues!

It was a short hop from Osiris to Branson’s Mark, a detour that took them out of the Core and into the region of space known as Georgia. Strategic territory for both sides during the Unification War, the planets of Georgia were no stranger to the horrors of war: the Battle for Serenity Valley took place on Hera, and Shadow, the seat of Independent resistance, had been bombed back into a pre-terraformed state by the Alliance.

That spherical, cratered and scarred monument to the folly of war hung imposingly in the distance as Shenmue approached the first of its moons, Branson’s Mark. In contrast to the dead husk it orbited, Branson’s Mark was bright and colourful, its azure oceans wrapped with brilliant white clouds.

That was on a good day. On a bad day, none of the blue showed through, and instead the moon was blanketed by thick layers of chaotic cloud cover, giving it the appearance of an ice-planet confection one might purchase in a skyplex food court.

There were few breaks in the cloud cover, and it soon became apparent to everyone on the bridge that those breaks were actually the eyes of a number of swirling hurricanes blowing across the moon’s surface.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Five
It's the crew's first time in the Core, and it goes about as well as you'd expect.

Several hours passed as Shenmue made its way towards Osiris. The members of the crew did what they normally did on long trips – YJ stayed on the bridge, Jonah sat at the galley table working with his counterfeiting kit, Worth puttered around the engine room, and the Doc self-medicated in his quarters.

The quiet of the voyage was suddenly interrupted by the blaring of Shenmue’s proximity alarm. YJ snapped to attention on the bridge. Checking his instruments, he peered out the viewports and paled as he saw what had caused the proximity alarm to go off.

“What do you see, YJ?” Jonah called up to the bridge.

“Your tax dollars at work,” YJ sighed.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Four
The trap is sprung, the journey continues, and secrets are revealed

“So I say we give Worth the Buhnder,” Jonah said. “And take out their vehicle first thing.”

“Sounds good to me,” Worth said.

Jonah hauled the anti-materiel rifle out of the hover mule’s bed and handed it and a bandolier of oversized shells to the mechanic.

“Now, the question is, do we kill them?” YJ said.

“Your call,” Worth shrugged.

“I say we shoot the vehicle, drive away and let Duster and his boys walk out. See how they like dodging the UR patrols.” Jonah said, a grin spreading across his face. “I’m thinking we don’t want to bother with the parts they’re bringing either. We wait until the exchange is done, and we’ll just take the money off them.”

“Okay.” YJ said. “Sounds less complicated.”

Jonah was warming to the subject. “If it looks like they’re going to leave at the same time, we pop a round in their vehicle, tell the customers to get lost, this is between us and Duster.”

“Ideally we’d wait until the customers have left, but it might not work out that way.” YJ said. He turned to the mechanic. “You’ve only got a split second to make that shot, Worth,” continued YJ. “Before they leave, that is.”

“You just say when and I’ll do my thing,” Worth said, testing the Buhnder’s heft.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Three
Wherein a trap is set

Meanwhile, Worth busied himself with replacing the shattered compression stabilizer. Disconnecting the broken components was a delicate task, and despite the cold of the cryogenic fuel tank that loomed above the stabilizer deep in Shenmue’s guts, he worked up quite a sweat.

“You know, I never did think the name Shenmue suited you,” Worth said to the ship’s engine core as he worked. “You always looked like a Darla to me.”

He got no response from the Firefly transport’s complicated inner workings. Worth sighed as he knocked out the last bent fragment of stabilizing honeycomb. Then he climbed back down the maintenance ladder, added the piece to a large pile of debris that had grown near the infirmary, and collected the new compression stabilizer unit.

“Okay Darla, let’s work together,” growled Worth as he got down to business. “I know I’ve neglected you.”

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Two
Engine trouble puts the crew on a collision course with old acquaintances

Shenmue was rattled from stem to stern, bucking as if it was a seagoing vessel in the roughest of seas. The crew had to fight to maintain their footing, and Quinn lost that particular battle, finding himself thrown to the deckplates. Fortunately he was alone in his quarters so nobody saw his embarrassing tumble.

Inside his quarters, the Doc held on for dear life, hoping against hope that this was merely an unpleasant side effect of his latest round of medication.

By happenstance, Worth had been rearranging his tools in the engine compartment when Shenmue shook violently from side to side. He cursed as his toolbox upended and scattered its contents across the floor. A terribly loud groaning, straining, and otherwise worrisome sound emanating from parts aft and above blasted his ears.

Worth checked the diagnostic console in the engine room and quickly surmised that Shenmue’s fuel compression stabilizer had gravely malfunctioned. Worth gulped; this was bad news. Shenmue’s liquid hydrogen fuel was stored under pressure at -423 degrees Fahrenheit by a complex cryogenic control system, of which the compression stabilizer was the linchpin. Any significant disruption in the compression system could result in a fuel leak as the compressed hydrogen began to expand out of control, which in turn could lead to the flash freezing of vital internal components, or worse yet, an explosion. Worth had to fight the sudden instinct to flee, and judging by the rattling of the deck plating beneath his feet, he wasn’t the only one on board struggling to stand his ground.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session One
Shenmue makes the crew sick, and jobs fall like rain.

The Doc wheeled the stretcher containing Whitaker into the portable fold-out surgery module that served as Shenmue’s infirmary. His patient was bleeding quite heavily from a pair of deep wounds given to him by the late Mr. Chen. Tulsa scrubbed up and prepared his instruments for the task at hand. Picking up a scalpel, he expertly sliced away the bloody remains of Whitaker’s shirt, letting it fall to the floor in a sodden heap. Whitaker was drifting in and out of consciousness, moaning while face-down on the operating table. Doc Tulsa quickly ran an IV and inspected the stab wounds. He then rearranged the overhead surgical lighting to get a better view of his patient. As the lamp swung to its new position, the doctor’s keen eye caught a flicker across Whitaker’s exposed back.

Tulsa frowned. The skin on Whitaker’s back and arms seemed to have been treated at some point in the recent past. The doctor could trace the faintest of lines, almost like spiderwebs, beneath the outer layer of the man’s skin. He could discern no logical pattern to them, but they definitely reacted to the shifting light. Strange, the Doc thought to himself. Then he remembered that Whitaker was bleeding to death on his watch, and threw himself into his lifesaving work.

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Freedom Train Session Three
The Doc gets high, literally this time. Worth puts the boot to his foes.

A pleasant chiming sound emitted from hidden speakers and a familiar voice spoke over the train’s public address system.

“If I may have your attention please, this is Chief Steward Carswell speaking. I do hope you are all enjoying your journey so far on the Beaumonde Ocean Limited. I am excited to inform you that Miss Calliope Grant will now be performing in the Casino car an hour ahead of schedule. Parental discretion is of course, advised. Miss Grant’s performance begins in five minutes. Thank you, and thank you for choosing to travel on the Oceanic. Wan shung hao.” The chimes repeated.

At the mention of Calliope Grant’s performance, the door to Ivan Matthews’ first class cabin opened, and he rushed out in the direction of the casino, Samara Salisbury and their bodyguard, Stig, hot on his heels.

Worth heard Whitaker disengage the lock on his door and nodded to Jonah, who took a step back, stun gun at the ready. Worth shouldered his way through the narrow door and immediately regretted it, as he heard the zipping sound of a firearm going off. He flinched as he felt the sharp bite of a small calibre bullet striking home.

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Freedom Train Session Two
The crew finds out how quickly a train job can go off the rails, even if there aren't any rails to begin with.

In the dining car, Quinn and Jonah continued their exquisite meal, savouring every bite, while they compared notes.

“So, since we’ve got access to First Class, what are we going to do about it?” Quinn asked Jonah around a forkful of salad.

“So I’m thinking, we go in there in the evening, do a super candid, friendly interview, and maybe I can get Matthews a little snoggered, and keep on going to do the thing,” Jonah replied.

“So once we’re back there, how do we make contact with the target?” Quinn asked.

“Quinn, I’m not much of a planner.” Jonah said, digging into his side order of salmon. “I figure I’d just knock on the door, and let him know that, uh…” he thought for a few seconds. “Wait, that sounds like a plan. I regret it instantly.”

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Freedom Train Session One
Three lowlifes board a high-class tourist train. Against all odds, hilarity ensues.

Back on Shenmue, the crew pored over the intelligence given to them by Fanty and Mingo, consisting of a mug shot of their target, Eric Whitaker, blueprints for the Oceanic Limited’s floating stock, and the name of their contact on the train, a porter named Devlin, who would be able to get them into the private first class car where Whitaker was ensconced.

It was decided that YJ and the Doc would remain on Shenmue, with YJ flying the ship and the Doc lowering himself on the cargo bay winch with harnesses for the rest of the crew and their quarry. Worth, Jonah and Quinn would board the train, locate and secure Whitaker, and find a way to get on the roof of the train, either by gimmicking an emergency exit, using a service hatch, or cutting their way out of the observation deck on the first class section.

With the train set to leave the following morning, only one obstacle remained – how to get three lowlifes to look like bona fide luxury train passengers. The clothes Quinn had on his back were suitable enough, if a little rumpled, but the gambler knew he would be able to get by on his smile and confident demeanor.

That left the hulking Worth, who was most comfortable in a pair of coveralls with a plate vest strapped on, and Jonah, who had never worn anything more formal than a prison uniform.

“Where are we gonna find some fancy duds before tomorrow?” Worth grumbled.

Jonah smirked. “Obviously you’ve never burglarized with me before, have you.” He led Worth into the Atoll Plaza’s garment district, aiming to rip off a local business small enough not to invest in the best security systems.

Worth frowned when he heard Jonah’s plan. “Don’t know how I feel about ripping off the little guy.”

Jonah rolled his eyes, then looked across the street and identified an upmarket Reuben, Rosen & Wong’s clothing shop. “That big enough for you?”

Worth grunted.

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