Friday, 10 November 2017

Jovian Chronicles Odyssey SEED - Part 3

Friday, November 10, 2017

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Jovian Chronicles Jovian vivarium style colony by Dream Pod 9
Jovian vivarium style colony.
Time for part three of our space adventure saga! No cheesey drama this time around, just the cold hard facts. While fun to write now and then it makes an event that took 45 minutes to play take up an entire post.

Following from part two, let's see what happened next. As always SPOILERS for Odyssey SEED below.

Our three JAF pilots stayed with the now pacified Nighthawk freighter and her deadly cargo. Well, Swede had become Jupiter's latest artificial satellite and had to be collected several hours later by the escort when it arrived as command didn't allow Dutronc or Sturmer to leave the Nighthawk. The Thunderbolt-class cruiser JSS Brave soon arrived and a squad of marines outfitted in Decker suits proceeded to, more or less peacefully, secure the Nighthawk and her crew.

Instead of going back to their regular base of operations, in the Agrippa colony cylinder, JSS Brave laid in a course to a small, torus style space station that none of the pilots had been to before. Entering through the airlock they were immediately met by a young woman with asian features and a large bearded man, neither wearing regular uniforms but identifying themselves as Lisa Takeshi and Reginald Thomson of Nornor, the investigative branch of the Jovian Intelligence Service. Thomson, who seemed to do most of the talking, explained that things would soon be cleared up as he led them through the corridors to an anonymous looking briefing room.

Inside were their commanding officer, Noelle Bright, together with some unknown staffers and in the corner stood - holy shit - Admiral Avram Thorsen, commander of the entire Jovian Armed Forces! Not a man you meet very often as a lowly flyboy. During the following debriefing Dutronc spoke for the group with some additions or clarifications here and there from Sturmer and Swede. Commander Bright kept the pace brisk and when Dutronc had finished she nodded to Thomson to explain the situation.

The big and bearded, but soft spoken man, told the pilots about the ongoing investigation into a
Jovian Chronicles Thunderbolt class cruiser by Dream Pod 9
Thunderbolt class cruiser JSS Brave.
possible espionage threat against the Jovian States. JIS had been tracking a small group based on Joshua Station who at times relayed odd information requests to coordinates in low Jupiter orbit. They were able to intercept and, through a man-in-the-middle attack, relay different requests meaning they were actually waiting for the Nighthawk to turn up. They couldn't be sure on the exact time it would arrive, which is why the same squadron kept patrolling the same orbit. Basically the player characters were used as guinea pigs to verify that the ruse worked and to see if the freighter actually contained contraband or compromising information. As it turned out the Nighthawk was up to its ears in both.

Thomson went on to explain that this was an extremely sensitive investigation as there were signs that the group on Joshua Station might have had inside help from a person or persons within the JAF command structure. Swede noticed how Admiral Thorsen's frown grew even more grim at this point of the briefing. In fact, he seemed very different from his official persona. Using this low key space station and only handpicked personel was an effort to avoid having the operation compromised as it moved into a more tactical phase.

[Here we took a break to talk about how to proceed. As I mentioned in part one we had discussed the possibility of each player having two characters - one pilot and one agent/journo/PI - to, in a more "realistic" way combine the different play styles of the campaign. My idea was to basically have all the characters represent one large group but have them be active at different times and different locations, as needed. While I think this would have been cool in many ways we also felt that it could detract from the character driven play that is needed to bring a bare bones plot like this to life.

Mobile Suits Gundam Amuro Ray punching
Sometimes even Amuro Ray has to get his (non-mecha) hands dirty!
In the end we decided against it for those reasons, but also for reasons of verisimilitude to the source material. Look at Mobile Suits Gundam, or pretty much any other show in the genre, and the pilots are never only pilots, but fulfill all kinds of roles as required by the plot. Which, while not as "realistic", just seemed like more fun in a cinematic kind of way! So to not make them completely useless outside of mecha fighting I gave them a few extra skill points to spend on things like Investigation, Interrigation and Stealth. We simply retconned this as these particular pilots having had some cross-training and that was why they were handpicked for this mission in the first place. Anyway, back to the story!]

Still being in a delicate phase of the operation Thomson asked the three pilots of Angel Flight to travel with him and Agent Takeshi to Joshua Station where they would need assistance taking out the covert group directing the freighters into Jovian orbit. This was meant as a purely undercover op so a low key approach was needed rather than the mechanized boot of a marine assault squad.

After an uneventful trip to Joshua Station, together with Thomson and Takeshi, all five of them holed up in a small apartment located in in the central ares of The Cluster. If Joshua Station is the most lawless and cutthroat colony in the Jovian Federation (and it is!) then The Cluster is the most lawless and cutthroat area in Joshua Station. Wildly overbuilt and violating all kinds of safety codes The Cluster is a sprawl of urban development that seems to have grown organically over decades. The fringes are still fairly well lit with decent upkeep but the central parts are shrouded in a constant twilight as buildings and support structures block the light.

In the apartment on the sixth floor they were surveilling a small warehouse across the alleyway and a couple of stories down. The JIS would be able to delay the news of the captured freighter for another few of days, but time was of the essence and if it seemed like infiltration wouldn't be possible force might be the only option. The warehouse was the official locale of a small freight business, mainly doing business on Joshua Station and with private traders in the Belt and Venus.

The Cluster on Joshua Station (art by Chrislazzer on Deviant Art)
After two days, splitting the surveillance into shifts, the group had only ever seen three people come and go - two younger men and an older woman. There was always at least one person in the locale at any time and it seemed like the two men might actually live there. None of them were the actual owner of the company, a Venusian named Volondrius Ash, who even JIS hadn't been able to track down. It seemed apparent that a quiet infiltration to just get information was out of the question and plans to go in, guns drawn, were made.

They decided to go in when only the two men were inside and pick up the woman separately. It was all over in a matter of seconds as Thomson and Takeshi covered the back door, one storey down, while Swede put his considerable weight and muscle power into a kick that almost tore the door off its hinges. Swede was first through the door with his JAF issued laser pistol covering the to the right while Sturmer was behind him covering left. They found one of the men in front of a terminal, staring at them, mouth agape and hands in the air. Just as Sturmer went in to clear the kitchen there was a loud pop and he fell sideways into the doorframe. His laser pistol hummed and there was a shout and the clatter of dropped hardware. The other man had hid himself behind a refrigerator and managed to squeeze off a shot, but they were obviously taken by surprise.

Jovian Chronicles Decker suit by Dream Pod 9
A parked Decker suit.
Sturmer suffered a chest wound that would take a couple of weeks to heal properly. They picked up the woman the same day and all three were whisked away to the JSS Brave that had been assigned as a JIS and JAF joint base of operation during the investiagtion. Violent confrontations happens every day in The Cluster so even if there were witnesses it had seemed more like a "hostile takeover" than an actual police operation. Some things found in the warehouse proved disconcerting; the most apparent were the two military grade Decker suits located one storey down. They had evidently been served on a regular basis and were in good working order. Had any of the men had a little forewarning and reached one of the suits it would have been a very different ending to the assault.

The other thing, that would put a knot in the pit of the stomach on any JAF or JIS operative, was discovered when going through the computers and comlogs. The actual destination of The Nighthawk was a secret space station in an extremely tight orbit around Jupiter called the Slumbering Eidolon! Smuggled CEGA exo armours was bad, but this was starting to spin into a major solar crisis! The information on the station was very limited - it was a  Pleiades class research station and it got supply runs roughly every two or three weeks.

The time for subterfuge and sting operations was now over and Takeshi was discussing with commander Bright about how a full military assault on the station could look like. Sure, it might not be necessary, but when you have a secred research station to which a number of top-tier exo armours had been shipped to during the past year you didn't want to take any chances...

And it will be fun to read about how that turned out in part four! This session mostly revolved around cleaning up the fallout from the battle and hooking the player characters into the larger events that are starting to unfold in the solar system. It's not exactly logical to have some pilots join in as backup SWAT unit, but from a fun (and trope!) standpoint it simply felt like the best way to move forward. In part four we're back in space again!

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