ATOW Eighth Session

When last we left our intrepid adventurers: Davrik, Exetea, Bianca, Cynthia, the untrustworthy Nathan, and a whole slew of mercenaries were hurriedly preparing an abandoned Achilles DropShip for departure, hoping to get airborne before the Nova Cats or Smoke Jaguars collected themselves and tracked the refugees to the testbed spaceport.

Because Leaf (the missing Nova Cat tech from the Excellent Vision, now revealed to be the assassin who’s been hunting Davrik) and Nathan were using this DropShip as a hideout and as a part of their plans, the ship was already in good condition and only needed a little preparation to get off the ground. They soon fired up the engines and made for an asteroid belt not far from Schuyler.

Major Reinhardt reveals that this operation is going off earlier than the plan called for. When Davrik, Exetea, and Cynthia broke loose, the mercenaries – who had just been taken as bondsfolk earlier that day – were worried that security would increase as a result. They had originally intended to be good bondsfolk until their JumpShip, Snoopy, was nearly ready to return to the system, at which point they would begin a coordinated revolt against the Smoke Jaguars. Then the mercenaries held as bondsfolk by the Nova Cats would be released by Leaf, along with their vehicles and armor, and would move to rescue their compatriots in Creekshell before fleeing in the Achilles. When it was clear that the plan was in jeopardy, the mercenaries made the call to get while the getting was good. They caused as much mayhem as possible while escaping to hamper their pursuers.

(Leaf, via Nathan as his proxy, had hired the mercenaries specifically to get within the Smoke Jaguar compound and cause trouble while Leaf worked to increase resistance in Creekshell. Leaf didn’t just come to the Schuyler system to hunt Davrik. Leaf was a Clan Nova Cat Watch officer. His primary objective was to destabilize Smoke Jaguar control of Creekshell so that the Nova Cats could take over the entire east coast. That was why he took his sweet time setting up a two-pronged trap for Davrik. The weak point in Leaf’s plan for Davrik was Nathan, the Galileo Instruments employee he was grooming from afar as his on-planet proxy. Once Nathan realized he wasn’t going to get the recompense he was promised, he dropped Leaf’s plan like a bad habit.)

Now, the Major informed the non-mercenary passengers, the ship had to hide out in-system for several days while waiting for Snoopy to return. The mercenary JumpShip was equipped with a lithium-fusion battery, allowing it to make two jumps in a row. Snoopy was scheduled to come back with a full charge in the battery so that it could grab the mercenaries and bug out before the Smoke Jaguar WarShip, the Oklahoma, could make it from its position at the zenith of Schuyler’s star to the pirate point where Snoopy would return. There were still several days left before Snoopy would have enough charge to return, and the Jaguars would certainly send the Oklahoma out to find the mercenaries before then.

Luckily, the Achilles (now renamed Sally Brown) was able to avoid detection until it was time to start moving toward the jump point. Snoopy jumped in, the mercs hooked up, and the whole assembly jumped to Savinsville without incident.

On Savinsville, most of the mercenaries mustered out of service. Their machines – and thus their livelihood – had been destroyed or captured by the Clans on Schuyler. Many of them had families and couldn’t afford to wait on Major Reinhardt’s scheme to pay off. Reinhardt promised them that there would be a space open for them if they chose to return once the unit was back in the black. Nathan also stayed on Savinsville – though the Salamander armor was confiscated by Schalad GreenEyes, the leader of what had been the Li’l Folks’ Linus Company, First Platoon (Blockhead Group).

Bright Star AutoScout by Stephen Huda from XTRO: Boondoggles

Bright Star AutoScout by Stephen Huda from XTRO: Boondoggles

So what was Reinhardt’s scheme? He and the remaining mercenaries were tracking the Bright Star, an automated exploration JumpShip which had gone off its program on its first unescorted mission. They had done a contract on Murchison, the planet where the company which had produced the Bright Star was based centuries ago, and had discovered a computer core which contained some of the records from the project. After a lot of hard work, the mercenaries believed they had unlocked the quirks in the algorithm which dictated the JumpShip’s path. Finding the ship practically guaranteed them a fortune. The computer data alone, assuming it was intact, would be enormously valuable. And if they could manage to reprogram the ship and stow it someplace safe… well, the kind of money a Great House might pay for a ship like that would make an entire mercenary unit comfortably wealthy.

They decided the best place to intercept it was in the Periphery outside Kurita space. They had been taking contracts in the area while waiting for an opportunity to make contact with the Bright Star. After all, the promise of salvaged Clan technology – especially a crack at one of those imposing ‘mechs – was too good to pass up. (Remember, in our AU the Clans are the only ones to have developed Battlemech technology; everyone else uses powered armor and vehicles.) Now that their machines were all gone, along with both of their transport DropShips, they needed the money the Bright Star would bring more than ever.

The four Clanners (for Cynthia was still identifying as a Nova Cat bondsperson) decided to join the mercenaries on their quest. Having shares in a prize that big would be very useful indeed. They were placed into the duty roster: Davrik as the lead drive technician, Exetea as a sensor officer, Cynthia as a medtech, and Bianca as… well, whatever the OoD assigned her to at any given moment.

After a new set of calculations to compensate for the altered timetable, the mercs plotted a four-jump path to the Bright Star. Their first jump took them to a Smoke Jaguar system, but there were no WarShips in place, and the star was a four-day charger – by the time the Jags got their DropShip out to cause trouble, the mercs would have already been gone. The Jags radioed a brisk request for identity to the mercs. Davrik answered, and in a stroke of Peanuts-inspired greatness, he replied like an adult on the Charlie Brown holiday specials, imitating a trombone with a plunger mute. (My spouse got an immediate XP bonus for playing to theme. 😛 ) After he got tired of trolling the Jags, he informed them that they were welcome to waste their time launching a ship. The Jags decided to leave them alone.

The second jump was to a lone star. While the crew waited on the battery to charge, a fight broke out between a mercenary tech and Cynthia. He didn’t trust her because she was a Clanner, which she found ironic because of her bondsfolk status – though she didn’t argue that her status made her “not really Clan”. Tensions weren’t exactly high between the four Clanners and the mercenaries, but the incident did highlight potential issues.

The third jump was to an uninhabited system with an iceball planet in tidal lock with the star. While Snoopy hung over the zenith point, the DropShip detached and headed to the planet to retrieve ice. One day after the mercs jumped in, a pirate JumpShip appeared at the nadir point and sent its own DropShip hurtling toward the mercenaries. Apparently this was a base or supply cache for the pirate band. Snoopy didn’t see the pirates around the star until they were a day inbound. The merc JumpShip radioed a warning to their DropShip, still a couple days from planetfall. Naval combat was not an option, since Sally Brown had no weapons installed. Should the mercenaries hide on-planet, flee back to Snoopy, or land and prepare for a fight? In the end, everyone agreed to go ahead and mine the ice. Davrik sent a taunting and intimidating message to the pirates. Between the message and the obvious assault nature of the mercenary DropShip (the pirates weren’t close enough to see that it didn’t have any weapons), the pirates had second thoughts. They landed a hundred kilometers away to mine their own ice in peace. The mercs took two days to mine the ice and left without incident.

The final jump took the unit to a pulsar. The mercenaries’ calculations indicated that the Bright Star, if it was still operating, would appear at this location two days from Snoopy‘s arrival. The scout ship jumped in half a day early. Reinhardt selected a team, including Davrik and Cynthia, to head over to the Bright Star. They boarded the mercenaries’ ST-46 shuttle and crossed to their target.

The mercenaries tried to access the computers. They had a little trouble, so Davrik broke out his +5 Computers skill. Turned out that there was security to bypass. Cynthia came forward to help. Not only was she capable of overriding the security system, she also demonstrated a heretofore hidden Computers talent of her own. Davrik went down to the drive section to take a look – he was no jump drive mechanic, but he was the closest thing they had. When the memory core was downloaded, Cynthia reprogrammed the Bright Star to keep it from jumping out. Her success quickly soured as the programming rewrote itself. There was an AI aboard – a dynamic program meant to compensate for errors in the ship’s programming. She quickly called Davrik up from the drive. It took Cynthia and Davrik working together to defeat the ship’s programming, but in the end the mission was accomplished.

It was decided that the ship would remain parked in that system for safekeeping. The mercenaries began planning to make their way back to civilization. The session closed with them plotting the best way to make the most money off of their find.

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