Hedion 01

Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-04 23:31:05
2 months ago


Personal Log of Samal Elvis Kahanamoku, Todaki Colony

The latest modifications to the atmosphere humidificators are working well, reducing the size and frequency of severe thunderstorms exponentially without impairing their ability to produce rainfall. Work on the 20th Parallel Viaduct is commencing with little issue as farms near Kaanapali and Napili begin to plant for the next season.

In the main starport of Vegas-Kahului, violence continues to escalate as more and more traders and entrepreneurs attract their brand of scum and villainy. Several requests, this being the seventh to date, for more funding for law enforcement have been made to the powers above to no avail. It is just myself and my two Turai to police the entirety of this dusty colony. It is a wonder how other small colonies can continue to exist without the necessary manpower and infrastructure. Fortunately, among my other strokes of brilliance, I have managed to keep everything running with the highest amount of automation and efficiency.

On a personal note, the hotel/casino has been making a profit for the last three months. If the population boom continues at the pace it's currently on, I will have to either look into expanding the current offerings or simply look into larger facilities. Again, this begs the question of being able to procure reliable security for the endeavor. It may come down to hiring mercenaries for the job. This is all assuming that I can somehow keep the Imperium from taking too much of an interest in this colony.

In other news, word around the Cortex is that the planet Whiirr has been attacked and Imperial authority usurped by "homeworlders" from Narsai. No names were mentioned, but if I knew any better I'm guessing certain people had at least a small, if not large part in that. I should find out more from Neemala when her transport arrives later this week. The fact that Narsai has gained a foothold in Imperial space does beg the question of just how long it will take for my inevitable fall from Paradise (as it were) and word of my continued existence makes it to the them.

Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-05 03:29:40
"We're not going to risk lives to rescue Imperial citizens who possess no intel and who are in no real danger."

"There's no strategic advantage gained from your proposed operation."

"We appreciate what PFC Quis has done, both her personal sacrifices to join our cause as well as her service to her new home, but at this time we can't authorize any additional resources for this mission."

"This ain't Savin' Private Ryan. Get the fuck out of my office."

Davis replays the meetings and conferences and proposals over and over again in his head. He had tried for four days, had taken the meager information Arketta had provided him and worked up what he thought was a reasonable plan, but nobody - not GRHDI, not the Army, not the CIA - would sign off on it. As part of the GRHDI council, Davis had a hand on the steering wheel but the GRHDI still needed resources from its member factions, resources those factions weren't ready to risk ("throw away", Bob called it with a jealous glint in his eyes) on such a low-reward mission. The GRHDI was the driver, but it didn't own the car. And so Task Force 815 found its way to the rebel worldship Atea and into the war room of Brinai, the wizened old Bashakran rebel. Bello, the tall, lanky, bald man the team met on Aikoro, is there as well, tapping away at his vox's holographic feeds.

"We looked into Arketta's family as best we could. We have some contacts on Hedion, but it's hard for them to get out to the solar farms and beacon tenders." Brinai motions for Bello, who brings up a glittering cerulean map of the Imperial world's northeast quadrant. Hedion was dotted with massive arcologies and city-sprawls, but was far from a "city planet". Vast fields of crops, farmed by agricultural monotask drones overseen from small satellite villages, occupied the arable land between the giant spires and bloated metal domes. Where the land wasn't workable, the Hedians planted fields of a different sort; endless fields of solar cells soaked up as much sun as they could, while expansive solar collection satellites called "Mariposas" devoured the incoming sunshine with greater efficiency from orbit. Shining beams, power beacons broadcasting immense energy, lanced from Hedion to the system's outer worlds and stations or was exported to other Imperial worlds that lacked the hab-world's abundance of energy. Hedion did very little manufacturing of its own; the goods produced by its arcologies were cutting-edge fashion, luxury goods desired across hundreds of worlds, but its basic needs had to be imported to keep up with its vast population.

The team looks over Bello's holographic dossier while Brinai continues. "Arketta's parents Arlana and Ody live and work on the planet's surface, in one of the solar farms near Akis, this arcology here." A bulbous urban growth marred the planet's tan surface on the map. "Arlana gets by on her stipend from her military service, while Ody maintains the farm's microwave beacon. There's a small settlement there, some commute to Akis, some live in the farm colony, some are mariposa techs and rotate every other month in orbit. Fairly standard... standard stuff." Brinai's briefing slows down as she produces a shallow bowl and wafts fumes from it towards her. Brinai breathes in the drug mixture and the pregnant pause seems as good a place as any for you to begin your questions.
Community Lotion 2010-08-05 04:07:05
Robin sits in the back, taking notes on her laptop. She notices the characteristic coldness, the guarded social distancing, that is a trademark of those not from Earth. Of course, she expected to find it, but to see it in person, outside the classroom, was quite exciting. She put those thoughts to the wayside and focused on the task at hand.

"You say the two of them spend virtually all of their time within that one acrcology. Do we have any data that shows their regular schedule? When and where they might go recreationally, where they stop to obtain household necessities - that sort of thing? There may be an ideal point to pick them up while they are in transit to such a location, or at one of those locations. If such a location is a public space that might be easier, because it gives us the option of blending in."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-05 04:36:42
"Not in Akis arcology itself, but the solar 'farm' closest to it," Bello corrects. "But your points are valid regardless of their domicile. The solar field and transmitter settlement stocks basic necessities, but for things like real food or time off, simple outings like that, they would certainly travel to Akis. Our intel is basic, unfortunately; the solar techs haven't had as much turnaround as we'd like to put a dedicated tail in play, and we've had to track them sporadically and only when our agents' timelines would allow for it. I'm sure there would be a suitable location to make contact, however."

Arketta speaks up now. "Yes, we've agreed on a code word, something from my childhood so they know whoever makes contact can be trusted."
punkey 2010-08-05 04:57:48
Davis had taken a seat at the table early on, and takes a drink from his glass of sour-apple/pear-tasting synthetic beverage, while he takes notes on his vox. "What about Kansat and Turai presence? Not the hidden watchers, but just your standard patrols? What's the distance between the solar farm and the nearest spaceport or gateway?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-05 05:53:34
Bello points out Akis' Gateport as well as its spaceport. "There are several arcologies with Gateports on Hedion; Akis is one of them. And, of course, where there's a Gateport, you have a spaceport. Travel shouldn't be an issue - you can rent or buy skimmers or gravsleds to get out to the farm. You'll be entering Hedion through the Gateway, though-"

You can't help but think isn't that up to us?, but at this point Brinai's energized enough to interrupt. "Ahh, my friends, we are willing to help you, but you didn't think we would put our agents in peril and offer this assistance for nothing? After all, Garrett here has made you available to us, and we would have you take care of some things since you will be in the area." The old woman smiles and taps at her own feeds. "The first part is simple, and concerns your infiltration onto Hedion. You'll need to transfer through Todaki" - the team remembers the brief but costly firefight on that dusty planet - "and make contact with a corrupt Samal there, Elvis Kahanamoku."


"Elvis is sympathetic to our cause, and has no small skill with cogitators and computer systems. He has sleazed his way into a comfortable lifestyle on a backwards one-Gate planet, and now he is looking for somewhere else to hide now that the Imperium is taking a greater interest in his colony's success. Meet him on Todaki and from there, use the normal Imperial gate schedule to transfer to Hedion."

Brinai takes another waft of her drug bowl and rasps out a nasty cough. "The second favor should be just as easy. We simply need you to sabotage the solar farm. Destroy the microwave transmitter, cut the conduits, blow up the collector fields, it matters not. I do not know the intricacies of such things anyway. What does matter is that you brownout or blackout Akis so we may insert more of our agents during the confusion. We have a chance to infiltrate noble houses as well as lower-level maintenance crews. Plus, it disrupts the Imperial economy. It wastes their resources - the local mariposas will sit idle with nowhere to beam their collected energies. It wastes time and manpower to repair the damage, and it shakes the peoples' faith in their government's supposed ordered infrastructure."
punkey 2010-08-05 09:28:01
Davis dutifully...wiggles his fingers in the airspace above the table where his vox's virtual keyboard is as Bello and Brinai continue the briefing. He simply nods his head when Brinai mentions the favors they require for the mission, but when she gets to sabotaging the solar farm, he pauses and listens. When she mentions the effect that the sabotage will have on Akis, he smiles and nods, then a surprised look of realization flashes on his face. Leaning back in his chair and taking a long drink from his beverage, which he's mostly sure has some kind of drug in it by this point, Davis thinks for a moment, then leans back forward through the holodisplay above his vox.

"Oh, I don't think damaging the power grid will be a problem," he says in a devious tone of voice, a big grin on his face.
Gatac 2010-08-05 09:38:05
"You gonna talk it to death?" Hugh offers with a smile.
punkey 2010-08-05 11:25:53
"Nah," Davis says, and takes another drink. Whatever they made this out of, it's good stuff, he thinks. "This is less like Whiirr, and a lot more like Napai," he says, and bounces his eyebrows up and down in Brinai's direction in a "right? right?" hinting kind of way. "Breaking the Imperium's toys, eh?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-05 16:04:02
Brinai nods tentatively. "I doubt that there will be hordes of warpainted alien beasts on Hedion, so yes, I suppose it will be more like Napai," she agrees. "Destroying the solar farm seems to be the best way to accomplish what we want while not unduly inconveniencing your rescue attempt."
Community Lotion 2010-08-05 22:39:57
"The more I think about it, the more I like it" Robin adds. "I haven't had the chance to blow anything up in a while, so there that, but the politics of it are pretty notable. Those saber-rattling, hard-liners in the Imperium will want to make an example of Heidon; they'll have visions of Bashakra in their heads. Once they tighten things up, it will push the local administration and the populace towards our way of seeing things."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-06 04:22:46
"Good, good," Brinai says in a mannerism that reminds everyone of the Emperor from Star Wars. "I'm sure you'll need time to work out a plan, so unless you need me for questions...?" It's clear the old rebel is not well, and Bello takes over, adding, "It's all right. Get some rest-"

"Rest?" Brinai scolds the much taller man. "I will have rest aplenty soon enough. No, I must tend to other matters, other teams."

There's not enough intel, and the plan hasn't coalesced enough for there to be too many questions. Brinai excuses herself from the group and Bello sees you all safely back to Diego Garcia.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-09 04:15:19
Diego Garcia
Later that night

Davis walks into the small two-bedroom cabin Ngawai and he share, his white undershirt moist with sweat, not only from the humidity of the tropical island, but from his weight lifting routine. He had started before Whiirr, and since the return from there, it had finally been starting to pay dividends.

Ngawai sits on the couch, supporting herself with cushions. Instead of the stereotypical household magazines or a romance novel, she's reading intel files and field reports on Hedion. Davis wipes himself with his workout towel and takes a seat next to her, kissing her on the cheek. "Hey, babe, you like what you see?"

Ngawai doesn't look up. "Yeah, there's a security hole a mile wide at the skimmer entrance here." Davis bumps shoulders with Ngawai and flexes a bit, and she looks up at him with a grin on her face. "Yes, I love your newfound muscles, Garrett. Maybe you'll finally be able to keep up with me, once Naloni is with us."

"Oh-ho, a challenge!" Davis says. "We'll see about that."

"Yes, we will," Ngawai says, flexing back and managing to show off more tone than Davis, despite her pregnant state. "Now, put those things away, we've got guests coming soon and we don't have enough time for you to polish the table with me."

"Yes, ma'am," Davis says and smiles. He walks back into their bedroom. "The meeting went well with Brinai. I left my vox on the table, take a look at my notes," he shouts. "I also picked up something on Atea while I was there."

Ngawai looks up through the vox's holodisplay to see Davis walk out of the bedroom, wearing a loose-fitting lightweight spun nanofiber Imperial tunic. "It breathes so much better than the stuff you find on Narsai," he says. Ngawai purses her lips and furrows her brow as Davis walks towards her and spins around. "So, what do you think? I bought twelve of them, I'm thinking I'll toss out most of my t-shirts and wear these instead."

Ngawai smirks at her husband's latest acquisitions. "You saw the latest Project Runway challenge? I'm sorry, they're just... " she trails off as she stands up and looks Davis in the eyes. "Garrett, say 'wear' for me."

"Wear," Davis says.

"No, in English. 'Wear'."

"'Wear'," he says again. The "w" carries the same distinct gutteral sound as when Ngawai just said it.

"Say 'talon'."

"'Talon'" The word comes out with the Imperial t-to-c-shift. Davis adds, "What's wrong? Is that really what's bothering you?"

Ngawai doesn't exactly nod yes or no, she just powers through with a furrowed brow. "I'm worried about you, Garrett. These shirts, you hanging out with Brinai like you have been... You don't even talk like a Narsai'i anymore, you sound more like -"

"More like you? Is that so bad?"

"No, it's just that...that..."

"That what? You love me no matter what my accent is like, yes?"

"Yes, of course." A hint of exasperation at Davis' low-blow defense.

"Then what's the problem if my English is accented like yours? I'm speaking Imperial more than I am English these days, it's not surprising. And I love the way your accent sounds. I love everything about it."

"But you don't have to become like me, Garrett."

"But what if I want to?" Davis walks up and wraps his arms around Ngawai. "What if I feel more in tune with the Bashakrans and the other rebels than I do with the stuffed shirts here on Narsai? They've certainly been more receptive. What took more than two weeks of wrangling here, to get recognition for our team, took five minutes with the Bashakrans. Narsai turns down our plans for rescuing Arketta's family, Brinai and Bello say yes, they just want two small favors done. I'm not pissed at the Narsai brass, but I'm definitely liking Atea more than McLean at this point."

Ngawai winces, and pushes Davis back a bit. "That's...that's what I'm worried about, Garrett. Atea isn't a place to raise a child, and the Imperium isn't safe."

Davis' jaw drops. "Is that - I mean, I..." He drifts off for a moment, speechless. "I would never say we should move off-world. Narsai is safe, it's my home, and I know how much you love it here, being on solid ground with clean water and air. I'd never take you and Naloni away from that. I'm just not seeing eye-to-eye with the Narsai leadership, not looking to take you away from a place that you and I both love and see as home."

Ngawai, satisfied with Davis' explanation, adds, "But the clothes, and the accent... you have to know it's not going to help you with the stuffy bastards." She sits back down on the couch and puts her feet on the coffee table, idly knocking a few unread birthing class newsletters and baby magazines to the floor.

"Hey, I saw Samantha wearing a full Imperial dress the other day, outside a meeting, even," Davis says, joining her on the couch. "I think we're all just going native at GRHDI."

"Just watch out," Ngawai says. "I know you will, but I'm telling you anyway."

"And I love that about you," Davis says.

A knock at the door interrupts the conversation. Davis gets up to answer the door while Ngawai notices she's knocked the coffee table debris to the floor. She considers bending over to get them but leaves the silly matronly publications where they are.

Muffled greetings echo through to the living room from the door, then Luis and Swims-the-Black come in with Davis at their heels.

"Okay, beer's in the fridge, and Hugh has the meat on the way," Davis says.

Swims opens the refridgerator door and pulls out a bottle of the local yellow piss-water for Luis and a big bottle of Stone Arrogant Bastard for himself. He pops the bottle cap off with a claw hooked underneath the cap and a deft twist of his hand, takes a big drink from the bottle, then looks at the Hedion intel scattered across the table and the issue of "Baby" on the floor.

"This dinner is going to be full of tactical holograms, isn't it?" the wherren says.

"That and tenderloin," Hugh says by way of greeting. He's wearing an apron reading 'Grill Instructor' and hefting two shopping bags as he steps inside. "Davis, you better have a fire going."

"Charcoal briquettes with mesquite chunks, as ordered, Captain Verrill," Davis says in a overly-official tone.

Zaef walks in in Narsai'i sweats and a couple knives, one of which he uses to pop open a beer. He just shrugs when he notices the looks he's getting. "I really hope that this is one of the few business meetings I've had that doesn't end in a brawl or gunfight." He takes a deep swig. "Couple dates ended that way too. Either way, I'd like to be prepared."

With that, the combination planning/BBQ gets underway.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-09 04:55:58
1030 hours Diego Garcia time

"You think you can brown out the entire planet?" Brinai is incredulous. Incredulous, but not skeptical. After all, you snuck into the Imperial Palace and stole the Repository of Benevolent Secrets. You escaped Aikoro after it was placed on full lockdown. You survived the Black Gate. She interlaces her wrinkled fingers in an expectant gesture while Davis explains the plan the team roughed out the previous night over charred meat and copious alcohol (Ngawai hates ginger ale now). The worldship's air is no less stale than yesterday, but it's opened shutters and piped in more sunlight as it approaches the ragged star holding together the wasteland of a solar system Atea inhabits. The briefing room table flickers as the massive vessel's Gateway activates somewhere in its bowels; the thrum of redirected energy softly vibrates up through the decks until you feel it in your chest. Davis pauses, halfway through the part where Luis bugs Hedion's mariposas, then starts again.

The plan, as it turns out, sounds more like a con job than a military operation. The team agrees on fabricated Expansion credentials as the primary cover. Expansion is the branch of the Imperium that deals with colonizing and cataloging new worlds. The popular perception of Expansion is that of a square-jawed, loyal bastion of Imperial order, protecting the Imperium's people from bizarre and deadly aliens. Most of the team's only experience with Expansion took a different form; Lady Talia het Malenko was a deviant cannibal who plied shadowports for her vices and used her rank as an excuse to indulge herself and her crew.

Since the team is transferring to Hedion via the colony world Todaki, with their rebel contact Elvis Kahanamoku in tow, the Expansion cover gets embellished with a shady plot about searching for a good site for an Arena expansion. All the team has to do is find the right greedy noble or Pan-Industrium to back their play - offer a cut of the profits if the mark handles the construction.

Layer upon layer dazzles Brinai and even gets Bello smiling. The Arena's just a cover, an excuse to build a massive solar energy array and muscle out the smaller local receiver farms. The cherry on top? Luis bugs the mariposa solar satellite broadcasters and sets them to redirect their solar energy to the same receivers in case of failure. Then, all they have to do is get the mark to trigger a failure in the main solar array and the mariposas will simply fry each of Hedion's power grid receivers, one after the other.

"...And if all goes to plan, the Imperials will take the blame and we'll extract the Quises during the brownout," Davis finishes at last.

Bello sits back and nods slowly. Brinai golf claps, grinning from ear to ear. "You do not think small, which is why your people and mine make a good match," Brinai adds. "I will have to contact more recruits if we are to take full advantage of this larger brownout. With luck, we can place agents throughout the entire planet. You can work on your Expansion credentials here, and beam them with you through to Todaki. From there, they'll be in the Cortex and should follow you through to Hedion. You mentioned going through to gather more direct intelligence, yes? I realize it's not what you want to hear, but you might consider traveling unarmed to Hedion. You can get weapons there; there's a hive-gang in the Akis arcology called the 'Tubespinks' that have supplied our people in the past. Of course, you probably do not need my advice for such a simple task. Bello, what did our agent say about Akis' security?"

The lanky bald rebel sits forward again after sipping at his Aquafina bottle. Clean water was a simple thing to bring the worldship, and always appreciated. "It's fairly typical. There is a heavy Kansatai presence - " at this, Arketta whispers to Robin that the Kansat, or Kansatai, are the Imperial police-equivalents, while Turai are their military arm - "and as always, drone surveillance is heavy. However, your defense here is anonymity as well as the sheer weight of information drowning the various surveillance centers. In some ways it is far less dangerous than Aikoro. It's possible some surveillance drones have never had a maintenance inspection since their installation. The Kansatai are overworked, and in many cases, subject to the corruption that runs rampant through Hedion's noble houses and industriums. Those same qualities make them less predictable, however." Bello purses his lips in thought. "Just be careful when gathering intel. It would be extremely costly for us to attempt a rescue should you be discovered before you begin the actual mission."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-10 23:13:08
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The Cortex message would look like spam to anyone except Arketta's parents; their shared cue of "Lali Luleelo" would tip them off that there's something more to this particular message. With the Quis family (hopefully) alerted to impending shenanigans, the team goes over their temporary covers and disguises in preparation for the recon mission. Davis is one of the first people ready to go, and while Atea's Gateroom beckons, Hedion isn't currently foremost in his mind. Brinai has been hovering around during the team's planning, and it is clear that whatever ailment she has is neither fleeting nor weak. When the old woman excuses herself, Davis follows soon after and is told the elder Bashakran leader is in her quarters. The door is closed, so Davis knocks.

There's a longer pause than Davis expects, then the door dilates to reveal Brinai in her ubiquitous long robes (kind of a shawl, if one were to think of the rebel as 'grandmotherly', which would be a mistake). The room smells like the drug bowls Brinai's been wafting frequently as of late. "You are ready to go, Garrett?" she asks.

"Almost," Davis says. "I'm here to...well, can I come in?" He enters after Brinai waves him inside and, seeing the concern on Davis' face, contracts the door.

Davis waits for Brinai to sit down again, and then takes a seat at the table in Brinai's luxurious-for-Atea quarters. "So, how are you doing these days, Brinai?"

"What a silly question," the old woman creaks. "You know full well I do not suck down these fumes for my amusement. I am old, Garrett. My mind is not as sharp as it was. My bones hate this ship's cold decks. My lungs hate its stale air. And my body is finally protesting it with enough force to give me pause."

Davis smiles. "I just thought I'd be polite, but I see now that is something that neither of us has much patience for. Do you know what specifically ails you? Maybe there's something that we could do for you on Narsai -"

Brinai waves Davis off. "I am needed here. Am needed here even if it kills me. As for my illness, well, the Black Cough is not something one admits to nearly being felled by. I know enough of your Earthbound diseases... it would be like... Noomoniya?"

Davis jumps to his feet. "Well, there's drugs, and treatments, and places that can help with that, Brinai. We can treat you."

Brinai nods. "I am undergoing treatments, and have drugs enough. I... I cannot give up the fight. Not now. I cannot languish on the Homeworld while my brothers and sisters fight without me. And if it's not the Black Cough, it will be some other thing soon enough. I feel like I can do the most good with the time I have here."

Davis starts to speak, but he recognizes that look on Brinai's face, that set brow that says that the stubborn old rebel has made up her mind. "I see I'd have an easier job stealing a meal from an akwhela than convincing you otherwise. But promise me that when you are too weak to be running around this ship all day, even to keep an eye on my troublesome ass, you will come to Narsai. Someone as dedicated as you deserves to spend their last weeks somewhere warm and beautiful."

"I would like to see Florida," Brinai says. "And thank you for understanding. I can no more rest now than you could."

Davis nods with a slight smile on his face. "Of course. We're too much alike for me not to." He sits back down. "So, who will I be talking to here when you're retired to...Florida?" The coincidence almost makes him laugh. "Will I be talking to Bello, Onas, or someone else while you relax on South Beach? How much thought have you given to who is going to replace - well, who will supplant you." He does grin at the correction.

Brinai rolls Davis' question around a bit before answering. "I plan on achieving victory before I retire to Miami," she says, "but I do admit I have considered the alternative. Either of them would be a fine replacement... perhaps even yourself, although my... job... involves less running around, draped with weaponry, and more looking at intel feeds."

Davis cocks an eyebrow at the mention of him possibly taking Brinai's spot. "Ah, well...that certainly would be interesting. Although, I think I've managed to do both of those at the same time fairly well." He laughs. "Don't you have to be, well, not from Narsai, or some other thing? Is there some kind of formal status I have to have, some declaration or other?"

"That's your culture talking," Brinai pokes. "I lead because I was there when the rocks fell, I survived countless retaliatory strikes on both sides, and I was cunning enough to ensure any would-be usurpers met untimely ends before they could do the same. I have no rank and no formal military training, just... I would like to think respect and wisdom. People will follow those attributes regardless of title."

Davis nods. "You're right. And I would gladly accept your offer, if you decide to choose me. It would be an honor, and a challenge, to follow in your footsteps. Hopefully, this is a decision you won't have to make." He stands up. "I think I would like to see Bashakra with Ngawai and Naloni one of these days. It'd be a shame if we had to make the trip without you."

"I think Disneyworld would be more to the little one's liking," Brinai replies.

"Probably," Davis says. "Well, I'm off to prepare to lead a rebel team to brown out an entire Imperial planet, opening the door for probably the largest infiltration of a planet in the resistance's history! Hopefully this will reflect positively on my abilities to run around, draped in weaponry and lead my people. If you know what I mean," he says, a big grin on his face. "Shall we, my dear?"

"It sounds like I'd better..." Brinai groans as she gets to her feet and takes Davis' hand. "... start watching my back."

Davis plays at a shocked expression as he assists Brinai out the door and towards the Gateroom. "Why, I would never dream of such underhanded tactics," he says. "I'm much better at other, more subtle dirty tricks." Their laughter echoes down the hallway.


Akis Gateport, Hedion
Mission time 00:00:01

Arketta visibly relaxes as she steps across the great void and into the bustling, cacophonous Akis Gateport. She's here. The mission's begun. Her family will be safe soon. You all give quiet nods and meld into the crowds in ones and twos.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-12 20:33:59
The sheer auditory and visual noise of Akis' Gateport punches you in the face as you split off, putting distance between yourself and your teammates. Ever-shifting floor markings direct you away from the portal, walls writhe with propaganda messages, and the sky... You're not sure if it's a holographic projection or just a transparent ceiling, but the starcrapers and spires of Akis arcology stretch skyward like a forest of black fingers. Light pollution from countless sources makes it impossible to tell day from night.

Then there are the people. Hedion is one of the more progressive planets when it comes to genegineering and bodymods, and many of its denizens have the wealth to modify their bodies with each year's cutting edge fashions. You feel rather plain in amongst the whirling circus inside the Gateport, and then outside, either skulking your way through back alleys or waiting for rent-a-skimmers. Plain is good. Plain blends in, and the team scatters to their tasks.


Angel and Hugh

They actually have a human administering the skimmer and gravsled rental, and she is not immune to the charms of two simple but rugged humidificator techs from Todaki. At least that's Angel and Hugh's cover. They're going out to solar farms (the rectenna guts in a solar transmitter and a humidificator's guts share some basic components, claimed some rebels in the know), and their colonist-bred distrust of municipal broadcast power means they just have to have a sled with a hefty backup power supply. And it needs room to carry their crew and their gear, of course. The gravsled doesn't come cheap and Hugh bristles about the price, acting like it's his hard-earned lats and not some bizarre maze of financial trickery that shifts it all onto taxpayers back home.

The "drive" (you can't help but think of the hovering vehicle as a stretched-out van) out to the solar array leaves you with one word, blazed into your thoughts like the retinal afterimage every time you look outside without your sunglasses. Golden. Akis itself shrinks slightly behind you, but the arcology is a black boil, a sunspot against Hedion's rolling fields of golden plants that soak up the everpresent sunlight screaming down from cloudless lemon skies. The tan rocky mesas that jut up from the fields and agro-drones grow closer, and Hugh pilots the sled with some difficulty up a switchback and into the solar farm's territory. The solar panels stretch out like an army of mirrors, with equally-spaced conduits and access trails parting them every couple hundred meters. They provide easy cover to ditch the gravsled and sneak in on foot. The rectenna, the array's receiver (and the thing Davis intends to expand and conceal within an Arena expansion), reaches up to the sky, a titan offering a bowl of gleaming steel. Hedion's perfectly habitable, but the workers and techs milling around in the rectenna's shade are all wearing environmental gear and big reflective hats, like Chinese jing-sa. It must get hot out in the fields with sunlight gleaming off nearly every surface. No wonder they have climate suits.

The farm itself is more of a village. A gaggle of small, round, white habs cluster up to the base of the rectenna. A few more satellite buildings poke up from the mesa rock. A supply building, its purpose marked by the transport skimmer that lifts off from its roof, heading back to Akis. The local Kansat's easy to spot as well. Sufficient space around it to park three or four of their black and orange skimmers. A surveillance antenna, similar in style to the one topping the dome back on Whiirr. Of course the Kansatai themselves are easily spotted in their plumed and sloped helmets. It's a heavy presence for a small settlement, Angel thinks, but they would likely know that the Quises had ties to Narsai. They don't seem particularly standoffish - here and there a couple of Kansatai chat with the techs on break. Angel and Hugh hunker down in the solar fields and watch. As the hours pass and Hedion's sun floats higher, and then lower, they spot three Turai going about a patrol route in one of the Kansat skimmers. They confirm Arlana and Ody Quis at long last. Arlana's much plumper than her daughter, but still moves with a military woman's precision. Her husband is wiry, leathery, and doesn't bother with the complex suits some of the other techs use. He just has a wide hat and a hydration pack across one shoulder. Angel marks their hab as they return their riding drone to the farm's motor pool and head inside.

Any maintenance and non-critical repairs appear to be made once Hedion's harsh sun sinks below the horizon. The solartechs start spreading through the fields with pack-drones carrying replacement components and tools. Angel and Hugh determine that the farm's population is too small and too familar for them to pass as new hands, and they don't know enough about Todaki, humidificators, or rectennas to maintain their cover under scrutiny. They pull back to the gravsled and quietly coast down the mesa on minimal impellers.


Davis glides past one of the luxury hab's actual servants and brings the impatient woman another drink of something green and bubbling. The libation makes the black-clad noblewoman look like a wicked witch toying with an evil potion. Her whiplike aftermarket tail twitches in time with her fingers as she taps on the glass, releasing the ravedrug mixture in the bubbles into the fluid. Davis filed the woman's name - Lonia - away for later as another partygoer called to the noble. The party drags on and Davis keeps bringing drinks and keeps his ears open. As inhibitions melt away and the partygoers mingle, Davis starts getting context for the conversations he overhears and matches it up with the Cortex overviews he researched in the hours before he intercepted the household's manservant. The gossip paints a picture of Akis' upper crust in vibrant detail.

Lonia, for example, is an arm-candy mistress for one of the Iyuzo clan nobles. The Iyuzo have a stranglehold on Akis' shipping and are, from what Davis can tell, devout and loyal to the Emperor, no matter who sits in the throne. They are rife with internal politics, however, foremost among them a dilemma; three of the possible heirs are triplets, they hate each other, and constantly skirmish both in the backstreets and at parties such as this. To more easily maintain their shipping contracts, the Iyuzo keep a stable of corrupt Kansatai and other minor bureaucrats in their pocket.

The Iyuzo are not the only noble family in Akis, of course. Reno Kesh's clan lacks the infighting of the Iyuzo but in turn has only a fraction of their influence. Kesh has a brother in Faxom-Io, the largest pan-industrium on Hedion, a sister in Expansion, and Reno himself is on some kind of council of lords, possibly the speaker or head of it. Davis isn't entirely sure it's a government organization, or just a term for an alliance of powerful men and women. It seems that on Hedion the lines blur.

The Quorona family is next, a crumbling monolith of organized crime and industrium abuse (specifically Faxom-Io, Hedion's premier pan-industrium). Quon Quorona, the silver-haired, square-jawed, pig-eyed patriarch, is never seen without his wife Tealni. She has Yaris' and Jonnoperest's golden eyes, and Davis catches the glint of a skullplug as she tuns to run interference on a pesky ravilar. Industriums do give some credit to merit and skill, unlike purely noble houses. Quon likes to talk about how to crawled up from nothing, and it's clearly one of many stories the partygoers have heard before. His ambition makes his eyes gleam as much as his wife's mirrored irises, and Davis hears rumor that the Quoronas' ambition may overwhelm their loyalty from time to time.

Abe Saloma is Akis' Steward - the title is the same as the head of a planetary Stewardship, but given Hedion's population each arcology and immediate territory has its own. Saloma's actually at the party for about 15 minutes before excusing himself. Davis can't help but think he looks like George Hamilton. He's unsure how one gets a fake tan on Hedion of all places, but Saloma's skin looks like its tone is as false as his smile. Davis watches him talk to quite a few disparate nobles and industrium heads. He can't tell whether the Steward is the puppet or the puppet master, which probably means it's a web of blackmail and favors rather than simple Imperial authority.

As the party winds down, Davis gets a sense that while there's clearly more than one industrium, two noble houses, and certainly more than one Imperial official, the people here were a good start.

Davis slips out the back, shadows a refuse drone, and makes his way for the rendezvous.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-13 05:14:13
Robin and Zaef

The thug talks in quick, pained bursts. Robin keeps the thug's head pressed against the square edge of the protruding vent-shaft. The first six had either seen through or had ignored Robin and Zaef's covers as Apprehenders and attacked Zaef first, figuring that Robin was the brains of the operation and wouldn't put up much of a fight. The four who came at Robin while Zaef was fighting discovered that it wasn't a brains kind of operation at all. More like a "threaten to crack your skull against a wall until you talk" operation. The unconscious and dying men on the alley floor behind her belong to the hive-gang the "Tubespinks", apparently. From the Tubespinks, Robin follows the trail of power and fear to Maq (or Mac, or Mak), an old fixer that Zaef vouches for. The grizzled man knows a few Narsai insults in broken English, but after you get past the babbling he's all business. A bit of trade, a bit of intimidation, and the dynamic duo learn that down in the hive at least, it's no secret the Faxom-Io pan-industrium contracts out messy work to gangs sometimes. Faxom-Io is untouchable from where they are, so Robin and Zaef leave that to Davis and move sideways. Shadowing Maq to a meeting proves fruitful - Zaef hides in the back of Maq's contact's skimmer and learns real quick that he's a sort of low-level warlord for the Quorona family. The Quoronas are at sometimes-war with the Iyuzo family. The Iyuzos are factionalized, almost multiple corporations unto themselves. An attempt to engage one Iyuzo noble with a tempting offer would no doubt degenerate into squabbling within days, if not hours. Conversely, the Quoronas (and Faxom-Io) are ambitious, always looking for a leg up, and if what Robin is hearing is right, have no qualms about getting rid of you after you're no more use, especially when it comes to offworld nobodies. The only problem there (besides eventual treachery) is that on paper the Quoronas aren't as obviously gung-ho for the Emperor. The Iyuzo are very supportive whenever anything big, bureaucratic, and official comes drifting by Hedion.

It's harder to get consistent info on the Steward, Abe Saloma, or the elusive Reno Kesh. Kesh is small-time as far as the streets are concerned, but if you combine that with Davis' intel it means he's more cautious about dipping his feet directly into criminal activities. He has familial ties to Faxom-Io, and a sister in Expansion. That could be an easy way into Kesh's inner circle, or it could blow their cover depending on how far she strays from her fellow operatives. Robin and Zaef can't get any info on the sister, other than she's not currently in Akis. Although Kesh is tempting, Robin doesn't like taking the chance that the guy's sister could walk in the door and completely blow their covers. As for the Steward, old Abe governs Akis with a light, almost neglectful, touch. If it's not a disaster, Abe Saloma doesn't really give a damn what his subjects do. He just wants his cut. It explains a lot of the corruption, actually. He doesn't dictate, he makes deals. It might be prudent to go straight for the top, although just because Saloma doesn't normally exercise his power doesn't mean he can't. He has the power to put real scrutiny to any covers they might use, but he also has the resources to put their plan into motion. Even if Abe finds out the team aren't who they say they are, it may not matter. He makes deals, and perhaps - if they play him right - the plan to black out Hedion and pin it on Akis' Steward could be a deal he can't refuse.


Normally Ody Quis was far too senior a technician to handle a maintenance call, but Arketta's codephrase in the spoofed work order set his hands shaking with a combination of fear, anticipation, and hope. He and Arlana hopped the tiny wheeled pack drone and took it out to the coordinates in the work order. Arlana spotted the vox first, and ripped the duct tape off of the underside of the collector panel. She activated it tentatively and the precoded handheld pinged Luis at his comfortable but cramped and dingy quarters at the rendezvous. It was important to make initial contact with the Quises and get a handle on their feelings regarding defection. If they were adamantly against it, if they believed the Imperial ravilars' lies about their daughter and about the Homeworlders, better to know now than after the team was in too deep.

Through the hologram, Arlana's face is a ghostly, plumper hint of Arketta. Ody, the father, looks gaunt in the hologram. Luis brings Arketta into the transmission volume and the three Quises unburden themselves for several minutes. Davis watches the parents' faces intently. He sees a mixture of compassion, hope, relief, fear, and concern. He doesn't see secrets or lies, and as Arketta and Luis offer a new life to the elder Quises, he sees their acceptance as genuine.

Their time is brief - the spoofed work order Luis sent Ody wouldn't take long for a skilled technician to handle - but Arlana tries her best to fill in what you already know from Hugh and Angel's recon. They know they're being watched. After all, their child is one of the Talons of the Tainted Mother, the gaudy and excessively flowery name with which the Imperium has graced your team. They pay proper lip service to the Emperor and live by the book, but they love their daughter and knew that once the ravilars lied about her, everything else their government said was suspect. Arlana also explains the odd relationship the pair of them have with their Kansat watchdogs. They know the extra security is onsite to watch them, and they know that as long as they're not being dissidents or speaking out or trying to contact Arketta or Narsai, the Kansat have a pretty easy job up on the mesa. Everybody wins as long as nobody rocks the boat. They of course lay out how many skimmers (four) the locals have and their numbers and general patrol routes match up with Angel and Hugh's.

Arketta is tense as she says her goodbyes; her hand digs into Luis' shoulder. Her parents are almost within reach and they're leaving them there. Luis takes Arketta's hand, reassures her, and gets back to mapping Akis' Cortex landscape. His first tentative intrusive forays are into the dataspace surrounding the vox call they just made to Arketta's family. Luis suppresses a touch of panic; Arlana and Ody are being watched like the proverbial hawk. He backtraces the carrier but the vox call wasn't noticed. Using the drop-vox gave Arlana and Ody an encrypted channel direct to the team, and the solar arrays' interference seemed to mask it from prying tracer programs. That same interference might be something they could use to their advantage later on, but right now it's making it maddeningly hard to pinpoint where the Quises' secret Cortex voyeur is located. Easy money's on the Kansat station's surveillance antenna, but Luis feels like it's not actually Kansat who's watching the Quises from the Cortex. After all, they have a bunch of officers on the ground to deal with any trouble. Luis leaves the secret watcher alone for now. No sense tipping them off, whoever or whatever it is is the only real Cortex-based threat around the solar farm, and when they return for the actual extraction Luis should have a little more official access to the Cortex if they're still going with Expansion covers.

Luis turns his attention to the various movers and shakers as Robin, Zaef, and Davis discover them. The Iyuzo clan has a butcher working on their Cortex records, that much is certain. Luis spots mismatched timestamps, missing sectors, the Cortex equivalent of scar tissue. There's nothing on record indicating the Iyuzo are anything but influential and loyal Imperial nobles, but it's completely obvious that someone mangled their records. They did a good job of leaving no actual data, however.

The Quorona family shows a little more tact. They seem to use face-to-face meetings and trusted couriers rather than Cortex traffic. Even their official Faxon-Io missives are sparse; no doubt the industrium in Akis knows how cavalier its Steward is, and takes appropriate precautions. Luis doesn't find anything of import, but then what he doesn't find is still information after a fashion.

Luis almost stumbles into Reno Kesh's Cortex honeypot trap. From inside the Cortex, the data looks like an obsidian vault left with the combination, but Luis spots the pressure plate before he simply takes the vault to decrypt locally. Someone who didn't know what they were doing might have taken the data, hoping for a quick payoff on the otherwise fairly clean Kesh. Meanwhile, the honeypot would alert Kesh's people, who would no doubt offer an entirely different kind of reward to the hapless data-bandit. Luis doesn't discover too much except that 1) Reno is a shifty bastard and 2) according to Luis' data, Reno's sister Tora is in Akis. Something about shifting assignments to Whiirr after Vilos Arpana's demise... then a back-and-forth about the futility of being assigned to an enemy-controlled planet, then no pending assignments.

Luis throws out a few probing strikes at the mariposa systems, but their security is a wall of chainsaws. Luis' attempts are rebuked with extreme prejudice - and that's when he spots his tail. He backtraces and sure enough, someone - someone skilled - was on his trail since the Quorona dataspace. Luis decides discretion is the better part of valor and, after checking as best he can that the team's location hasn't been traced, he kills his Cortex access and starts taking down the office, so to speak.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-08-13 23:20:25
Mission Time 19:22:00

The trip back to Atea is uneventful once you get off Hedion. Luis' Cortex tail might have cut their trip a little short, but as you compare notes on your copious amounts of intel, you realize that there's enough here to put together some workable dossiers on the major players in Akis. Cross-checking your intel against what you were able to pull from the Repository of Benevolent Spirits will take time, so you'll have to move fast. Some of the intel you gathered is like milk; it has a short shelf life.

There's an Earthling in Atea's Gateway pit whose face is passingly familiar to most of the team. Short-cropped curly brown hair, a slight Southern drawl, and a shark's smile. Agent Walter Simmons leans on a console, blue ballcap in hand, making small talk with Bello. The tall rebel looks like he'd rather be roasting on that rectenna back on Hedion.

It's hard not to inwardly grimace as you see Simmons. Arketta outwardly grimaces. The agent turns after the Gateflash fades and takes a few steps towards the team. Davis expects Simmons' attention but the Agency spook's eyes turn to Hugh.

"Captain!" he says, louder than needed. "Glad you're back. I know you're busy and all, but I need to go over some administrative issues with ya. Won't take long." Simmons glances at Davis. "I'll get 'im right back to ya."
punkey 2010-08-14 02:09:54
Davis nods. He tries to make as little eye contact with Simmons as possible. "Yeah, no problem -" Davis catches himself speaking Imperial to the CIA officer and changes to English, "No problem, Simmons. We've got a lot of work to do, regardless. See you later, Hugh." He can tell his Imperial accent grates on Simmons' ears, but doesn't give a shit. It does explain his attitude towards Davis, as of late. He probably noticed the accent before Davis did.

"Come on, Bello. We've got a lot of intel to go over, and drinks to buy," Davis says, switching back to Imperial. He puts his arm around the lanky rebel's shoulder. "You look like you could use a drink, I'll buy."
Gatac 2010-08-14 10:22:11
Hugh almost - almost - corrects Davis with a sharp "Captain Verrill", but after a second of contemplating it, it just seems - well, it's not the right thing to do.

"Huh," Hugh mumbles, mostly to himself. He turns to Simmons and greets him like the base dentist. "And a good day to you, Agent Simmons. I've got some crash space nearby, we can talk there."