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Old 05-29-2013, 11:01 AM   #31
Phil Masters
 
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: U.K.
Default Re: After Action Report: the Eggshell Campaign

Quote:
Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
Wasn't half of Europe On Mars about diplomatic bureaucracy?
It was about diplomacy, but at the sharp end. The sort of diplomacy that involved people getting shot at remarkably often.

I don't recall any contract negotiations, but I suspect that a scene like that would have consisted of something like "Roll against Law (International Contract) ... Made it? Okay, there's some dodgy conditional stuff in there ... Right, roll against Merchant... Sorry, they won the quick contest; you're stuck with a penalty clause."
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Old 06-10-2013, 03:45 PM   #32
Clancy
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 4a: Amanda La Shen

Session 4a: Amanda La Shen


The rest of the discussion was moved to background VR as the team switched to other preparations. Cherry noted that Frolov & Co. went completely off the radar for some about three years, showing up about six months ago.

Caine was more concerned that the DRM on the shells’ OSes was set in such a way, that the team had strict limits on the number of teleoperator-shell pairs - unless they bought more licenses, that is. He informed the team.

“That’s expensive!” protested Daiki.

“Replace it with a free beta, or trial . . . or even pirate,” offered the Russian. The last bit caused some ambiguous reactions.

“You know, I can write a teleop program,” suddenly said the Duncanite.

Richard put a fist in front of his nose in a typical Tengu/braggart gesture, barely hiding his smile, and looking at Cherry to see her reaction outside VR. She was quite unsure whether she should be amused or shocked. Meanwhile, Daiki’s expression seemed unperturbed.

Ultimately, the teleop issue was solved by juggling some adapter tricks between different shell-side and operator-side software packages, and the adapters between them.

There were some ideas expressed regarding the possible courses of action, order of objectives and the like, but ultimately nothing was considered a plan with a chance of surviving the contact with the mission. The team was getting tired of talking and looking for action. And yet they had one final conversation immediately in front of them: confirming their agreement with the client and handling their departure.

But not with Frolov. By the time of the second meeting with the client side, it was known that Frolov was no more.

Amanda couldn’t believe it. Frolov’s ‘frozen’ head was still kept in stasis, and the doctors - due to whom the team was quickly running out of funds - claimed that it is still possible to perform a proper ghosting. But disbelief - unlike faith - couldn’t change much.

She was holding the ‘Shadow’s hand, and carefully studying the contractors. A quiet but persistent mistrust of Igor - she wasn’t planning to give up her hunches; jealousy towards Cain’s secretary. Care about ‘the boys’ - actually, considering the price of the issue, and the number of times the group tried to reach the heart of Y-56 (first voluntarily, then deliberately, and finally desperately); and no less than that - about what these attempts have lead to in the end... With an inner smile, Amanda La Shen accepted, that this is the last chance, and there won’t be another one. And it is absolutely unclear, who will have to take care of whom in the end.

Well, possibly there will be no ‘end’ as such.

Because here comes the last chance to cheat death.

Once again they were in the hangar. The team was met by a visibly ancient Tennin lady, with an attentive and gripping look in her eyes. While she was clearly unarmed and not tense, she nonetheless left the impression not unlike that of being watched by a constrictor snake. Not the largest kind of snake, nor a poisonous one, but still a dangerous carnivore. It would merely find the viewers inconvenient as food.

Next to her, on the AR layer, there was an image of Frolov, who greeted the team with a sad smile. His image was covered in a web of cracks and fractures, meant to signify the imperfection of a Shadow.

Both Daiki and his AI’s dragon-avatar bowed to the clients. Igor was about to follow suit, but ended up merely nodding. Everyone exchanged verbal greetings.

Alex officially informed the team about delegating the whole affair to Amanda, who will be the official signatory of the agreement, due to predictions indicating she has the longest remaining lifespan.

So, the most straightforward method. Strictly by the book: enumerate the objectives, maintain eye contact, control the forehead muscles, keep the pupils focused - and they will obey. Cannot disobey.

Ten years ago she was younger. More attractive. Perhaps even smarter. Ten years ago, when out of five members of the Team fifteen were alive, and the Team didn’t even recognize itself as a distinct group, merely accepting the decisions of the captain (as should any good - not perfect - crew) - that was when this stare preemptively ended a drunken brawl on their way to Saturn.

Well, perhaps not just the stare, but also the heavy wrench in her hand. Alright, massive wrench. Amanda almost felt Mark’s smile - ‘Imprecise people are so imprecise’. Good thing Mark wasn’t here - he went to watch the tournament. He would’ve ruined everything with his jokes.

It worked back then, it’ll work now. Right?

As the team went through the final checks of hardware before the confirmation, Kitsos and Caine voiced some concerns about the availability of the shuttle throughout the whole mission and the somewhat jury-rigged-looking repair shell, respectively.

The lady replied, “Yes, the shuttle will be fully at your disposal, and will ultimately belong to you. Take care of it, for it holds the keys required for accessing your other reward,” she turned to Caine, indicating that she also addressed his concern too, “as does this, which is also one of the keys.”

Richard was very slightly annoyed at what he perceived as yet another unneeded mystery. “Perhaps we won’t play any more games, and will communicate directly? Last time when I mentioned the option, Mr. Frolov was in complete agreement with me,” he nodded at Alex’s image.

“For the Y-56?” asked Daiki suddenly.

She looked at the Duncanite. “No. This for our home. Our new home.” She then turned back to Caine, with a grumpy and predatory look. “Perhaps the young man will stop ruining one of the last pleasures I can afford?” She initiated a staredown, but almost immediately backed out of it of her own accord. “This shell contains the necessities for unlocking the weapon systems of our orbital complex.”

Young man was certainly something out of place. Richard was aware just how deceiving appearances could be. Yes, she looked like an ancient granny. But being a full-fledged Tennin, she could at most be a decade older than him, and even that was extremely unlikely. And as far as he knew, none of the many Tennin models had issues with aging. He wondered if her looks were a reason of some sort of attack in the past - biological weaponry? Weird nano? He had no way to tell. Nor did he have any idea what ‘orbital complex’ she was talking about, but it was clearly something else.

Cherry spoke up, carefully and politely. “RCI would like to know what you were doing between February 2100 and August 2002.”

But Amanda quietly ignored the question, and moved on to rather obscure warnings regarding the space, rivals, Song Li, everything, and even the team itself. Half of it was clearly a reference to people changing their minds, while the other seemed tainted by incoherent mystification of the deep beyond. Then she proceeded to single out Igor. He nodded and took a step forward, listening what she had to say: “The most important thing. This concerns everyone, but particularly you. Whatever happens, do not harm any one of the inhabitants of Y-56, under any circumstances. Period. Now, do your job.”

“Aren’t you overplaying the pathos a bit? Your opinion is heard and understood, of course.”

She glared in reply, as if continuing her demand. It was overwhelming, almost physically crushing. The effect was unlike anything experienced by the teammates ever before. And yet, it seemed that none of them suffered anything more than the psychological equivalent of light bruising. Cherry seemed unmoved at all.

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 06-10-2013, 03:46 PM   #33
Clancy
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 4b: Awakening

Session 4b: Awakening


Desperation and fear. Hopelessness and loneliness - deep inside, under the skin. Solitude kills.

They’re getting off the hook! They don’t believe and don’t obey. This is impossible.

...Amanda woke up. As if someone blew the dust off an old window. Four surprised, detached, defiant looks. Whom do they see?

That is, really. An old crone, useless and helpless, lacking the status and the right to make demands. Pitiful in her overconfidence.

Something moved, changed inside. Something.

Solitude remained. As did the creeping death.

The people person - skilled in working with people, and not manipulating them through mythical, almost magical effects - took a step out of the shadow and joined the company. Not the best and not the strongest of the three. But definitely not the worst.

Besides, there was a fifth look - understanding and interested.

Amanda suddenly changed her attitude to a more gentle and friendly one. “This world has too much evil, too much destruction of that which is merely unknown.”

Caine was puzzled at the whole exchange, but patiently waiting for it to resolve, she wasn’t talking to him before the crushing glare. Daiki seemed to be in agreement with the idea of not harming the dragons from the very beginning, and so wasn’t concerned about the escalation of demands. Kitsos tried not to take the situation personally - it reminded him too much of his old boss, whose bullying he had to endure.



Amanda shifted to a more open posture. “All right, relax, I will not do it again. After all it doesn’t come without a cost. I just needed to test you, make sure. Ask any remaining questions before you go.”

Kitsos volunteered, “Tell us what you know that we didn’t figure we should ask. After all, our success is in your interest.”

Amanda told the team about the previous attempt to get aboard the base, mentioning driving off some TSA partisans from the station, but failing to settle on the base. Back then, they were bound by a contract to Xiao Chu. The station indeed currently lacks an external communication system, because the Tennin group had to sabotage it as they were fighting the TSA people. And then suddenly she once again voiced concern about the team falling victim to a memetic attack, particularly the ‘poison of Batkhan’. And a hope that the team would eventually find some clues about the destruction of her old home. And that they keep her informed, and that she’ll be able to live long enough to read all of it and perhaps even participate in the debriefing. Or at least be able to upload a low-res Shadow to do it.

She was also concerned that some TSA people might become a threat in the future, despite the current peace. Finally, she apologized for not being able to provide better support for the mission, but also explicitly didn’t apologize for the strange psychological attack closer to the beginning of the final briefing, justifying it by needing mentally robust employees.

Then there was some minor discussion about what to do with the dragons (relocating them to Mars seemed viable), the current environment on Y-56 (freefall and a Martian atmosphere).

All being done, the agreement was finalized. The split of rewards and liabilities was unequal, with the largest chunk of both going to RC Interfaces. If all went well, Richard would end up the richest of the bunch, but if they screwed up enough to need paying restitution, his business would take the biggest financial hit.

Spoiler:  

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 06-10-2013, 03:47 PM   #34
Clancy
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 5: Arrival

Session 5: Arrival


Preparations for the departure were at its end. Daiki finished buying the miscellanea required for the first phases of the repairs. Caine already contacted some of the old friends who would help out in case of certain emergencies, such as a sudden repeal of the station’s legal neutrality.

Right before shuttle was due to depart, Caine addressed Amanda again. “I suppose you were afraid we wouldn’t agree to sign if we knew the answer, but now that the deed is done - what did happen in those years?”

She was visibly tired. “Stupid book. Look, I know it wasn’t a good idea. In truth, we were building a little sanctuary, and fighting a little personal war.”

“Also . . . your troubles are not really from radiation? At least, not just radiation, yes?” ...oh yes, it is definitely not just radiation...

“It doesn’t matter. But you are right.”

Right now it’s not too important. But on our further path it might become important. If not now, then with a slight delay, please do inform us. And I will be sure to write you letters, just like you wanted. And I will try to round up the job and return in time.”

“You will receive a letter with details this evening,” she nodded. Definitely in the evening. Together, with Mark’s help, I will try to dodge the blocks, figure out what I can say, and what has to be left unsaid. Being an artificial creature sets some limits. A Non-Disclosure Agreement signed in the neurons of the brain - a crude but effective thing. Still... smile, nod... before today, I never felt the importance of dodging those barriers.

Everyone else said their farewells - everyone except Richard.

The shuttle’s computer contained a NAI pilot, as well as a multitude of orbital transfer courses, including one from Batkhan-II to Y-56 and, for some unknown reason, to Scotland. The optimal course required some waiting, but allowed to perform the whole trip in less than three hours, with peak accelerations of 0.5G at the start and end. Unpleasant for the poor Tennin, but not something he would die from. Though it certainly was ironic that the joy at seeing the high-performance shuttle returned to bite him in the backside as soon as it was time to actually use it.

During the flight, the mood was slightly tense, everybody unsure what to expect in addition to the things they knew. Along the way, Daiki noticed several other ships on similar courses; ultimately, the team decided to document the observation and send a report to the clients, but otherwise not do anything unusual.

Y-56 looked the same as on the video - except even more ‘dead’. An abandoned bunch of repurposed fuel tanks, with a semi-attached EM turret. The radiators seemed damaged and unable to extend more than a little.

Igor guided the nav computer to perform a docking procedure, carefully flying into the station’s open hangar. There was no radio contact, no lights, nothing. And yet the entered the hangar smoothly.

“Time to knock on the door,” said the Russian. Even now, there was no sign of any activity in the hangar - the doors stayed as-is. The terminals in the hangar were dead. It took a manual, purely mechanical override to close the outer doors and initiate the equalisation of pressure.

The pressure stabilised at slightly above 0.3 bar, temperature at about +15°C, and atmosphere content reminiscent of Mars.

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 04:03 PM.
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Old 06-10-2013, 03:51 PM   #35
Clancy
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 6a: Step Inside

Session 6a: Step Inside


The men suited up and started walking, one by one, through the shuttle’s airlock and into the hangar.

The hangar was dark. It would’ve been silent, if not for Igor trying to talk to the locals in the ancient Morse code, knocking on the metal wall with some bulky power tool in hand. Somehow, the whole scene looked appropriately archaic.

Daiki had a different concern: there were man-, perhaps even RATS-sized holes a different section of the wall leading deeper into the station. And yet the atmosphere in the hangar was intact once the hangar doors closed. That meant that someone or something sealed the adjacent section while the hangar was open, and then let air back in once the doors were closed. This damage was old, and there were marks of welding - or perhaps it was molten metal? - on the perimeter. Either way, he was already considering what it would take to seal the holes.

Kitsos took a small camera on a rod, and took a look inside. The next section seemed like a habitat of sorts: bunk-like zero-G ‘beds’, personal lockers, and a free-hanging chaotic heap of assorted clothes and other stuff. He turned the camera around, and saw an active terminal in a corner . . . and five little winged lizards clustered around it. He turned the camera once again to get a glance of the penetrated wall, and found that the door between the the habitat and the next section was welded shut with two crossed metal bars.

“So, gentlemen, are we planning to explore first, or explore and perform repairs as we go?” asked Komatsu. “Because it’s already clear that radiators are in need of some work. External exploration would be nice too.” He already started preparations for sealing the holes - nobody likes losing even a little bit of atmosphere.

After some prodding by Caine, Prime Minister informed the team that the heat signatures in the base are asymmetric, the middle being warmer.

Kitsos put the camera away, and took a look into the hole, carefully, but making sure that he was seen by the little dragons.

Richard was the last to exit the shuttle, leaving Cherry to stay put in it. Somewhat surprising for the team, she decided to turn on the shuttle’s loudspeakers, and initiated an attempt at communication in an unfamiliar language, vaguely resembling the sounds produced by dragons. They all simultaneously turned around and looked at the Greek, wide-eyed. “I think we should get closer to the terminal. Or at least take a look at its screen,” he commented on the radio link, and took a few steps towards the door of the control room, while Richard carefully took his place by the hole. At about this point, the lizards stopped paying attention to either of them - they suddenly seemed preoccupied, replying to the sounds coming from the loudspeakers in the hangar.

“Bioroids, all of them,” commented the Duncanite.

Richard moved through the hole and took a step closer to Laskaris. Suddenly, the dragons snapped to attention, and one of them flew through the air and carefully inspected the door.

“Do they bite?” asked Daiki.

“Not yet,” answered Laskaris. “But if you start welding right now, they might not appreciate becoming trapped.”

“Do they have doors on the other side?”

Meanwhile, Igor was trying to identify the code employed by the lizards. The audio-ID software failed to find a workable match, and it didn’t sound like any language he knew about either, and yet Cherry clearly started communicating with them.

“Why don’t we ask Cherry what language is that?” asked Daiki.

“No language, so far,” interjected Richard with a slight hint of an enigma, but immediately added: “I suppose you can say they’re building a pidgin.”

“We should formalize it into a software module for personal AIs.”

After some help from the owner, Igor’s AI started picking up about twenty words as having distinct meaning, and a vaguely identifiable etymological roots somewhere in Africa . . .

“Mr. Komatsu, do you really believe that it is possible to train a LAI, or even a NAI, to handle an unknown, likely not-quite-formal language in less than a month, and have its efficiency even remotely comparable to a fully sapient person? This isn’t a rhetorical question.”

“Sure, write a modular program with language comprehension.”

“Do you also want my answer to that?” asked Igor. Those twenty words were occupying almost half of the whole communication content as the lizards spoke.

“Yes. A modular software set. First of all, it will have trouble working in real time. Secondly, just how doable is the idea of writing one so fast? Because if you and Cherry will spend more time and effort making it than you would save from using it, it won’t be much of a benefit.” Richard went silent for a few seconds. “They will let us take a look at the terminal.”

“We’ll see if there’s sense in writing one. But they’re usually good enough under normal circumstances. It’s better to have some way of communicating than none at all. If the dragons are to continue their stay here, it would be nice to communicate directly.”

“Is that what Cherry said? What else do we know about them?” asked Kitsos.

Cane nodded. “We’re in possession of a fine linguist. Whose proficiency comrade client doubted - which he apparently shouldn’t have.” His tone came more as amused than as snarky.

“Yeah, if we can teach them one of the Romance languages, I might come in handy too.”

“Anyway, so far there’s not much to tell about them. It will take time to figure them out. Let’s take a look at the terminal in the meantime.” He walked slowly towards the terminal, and addressed Daiki: “As for direct communication: if we fail to get the base up and running under a month, it might be utterly irrelevant.”

“Maybe the dragons will help us if we can negotiate things. Right?”

As Caine stepped towards the terminal, the place lit up. Nothing unusual - yellowish automated lighting panels activated after detecting a person nearby. And yet the dragons rapidly darted through the hole and into the hangar, almost hitting Kitsos along the way.

“I suspect they won’t be able to handle a Terran atmosphere either,” commented Daiki. “I’ll try to take a look at the control panels and check the routing of power throughout the station. And whether it is at any risk of running out. And whether repairing the radiators is a high-priority job. And I don’t think we should touch the environment configuration until we can figure whether we can supply a Martian environment in parallel.”

As the team took a closer look around the terminal, they saw two small technical cybershells in the corner, as well as a mummified, almost skeletal corpse in another. Assistant-AIs commented that complete decompression was a likely cause of death; there was no spacesuit.

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 06-10-2013, 03:53 PM   #36
Clancy
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 6b: Inhabitants

Session 6b: Inhabitants


“Cherry, could you ask them whether somebody else alive is left on the station?” asked Daiki.

But she was already busy talking to them, and occasionally sent reports over the radio link: “It wasn’t panic. It was a planned evacuation from unfavourable conditions. Yes, there is someone. CSAF. They say it like an abbreviation, adjusted for the accent. It took me some time to explain what an alphabet is.”

“What, Americans? Here? Please tell me it means something else,” said Caine.

“Well, ‘here be dragons’, so it might as well be almost anything. Like kami. Or elves,” replied Daiki, at which point Richard shivered. The Duncanite was surprised, but continued: “It would be nice to see what’s up with the control systems of this place. Cherry, did the dragons talk to this CSAF from the terminal, or were they doing something else? What do the do here, anyway?”

“No, they didn’t talk to CSAF. It isn’t interesting,” she replied.

“Okay, so whom did they talk to?” he asked again, but for a while no reply came.

Meanwhile Richard, being the one closest to the terminal, looked at the screen.

Сr :/ СС :/ Cop;.............................................. ...........

“I say we should look out for logs. Video, comms, notes, anything. Anyone familiar with this brand of OS?” asked Kitsos.

Beregovoy walked up to the terminal, and started familiarising himself with the foreign OS.

“All right, what about the body?” asked Kitsos.

Richard took another look at the mummy. “I think Frolov will be grateful for its delivery.”

Daiki looked at the shells. Magnetic tracks, camera, antenna, four manipulator arms with special slots for various accessory tools. TSA emblems. “Somebody kept them in good shape, recharged them and all. They’re active. Some of those might even be armed. I suspect the control centre is alive and well, and is someone is there.”

“Um, guys. There was a powerful decompression here just about two weeks ago. Explosive, once might say. Interesting logs,” informed Igor.

“And nobody noticed? Was the habitat affected?”

“No, just this room over here. Everything else was fine. Look, I don’t know how you bourgeoises call it, but we call it murder. Or maybe I’m just so confused,” snarked Igor.

Caine smiled. “Well, maybe he wanted to eat them, and they decided to take countermeasures.”

“Was he a martian?” asked Daiki. “The atmosphere seems fitting for walking around without a suit.”

Igor examined the interface. There was an open access to the configuration of the life support systems. Including the ability to initiate decompression. “Hmmm. And he was trying to cancel the last command. It was still half-way there when I took a closer look.”

“So the Martian atmosphere was okay for him? And do we know where the lizards were during the event? Because if they survived the decompression, they sure might come in handy.”

Alas, according to instruction #16-23, all video data was moved to the central archive, and thus inaccessible. But the logs of this terminal were open. And the emergency decompression was in fact initiated from this very terminal. Manually.

“So where is this central archive?”

Igor tried to find an answer, but it seemed that the logs were simply manually copied to an external mass storage device, and shredded on the local Winchester.

“Let’s try to find the disk,” said Daiki, and started his search around the corpse. “I wonder how Frolov never noticed him lying here.” It was an early Tennin, but the face was unrecognizable. There was an old camera nearby, hibernating.

All this time, Cherry was trying to talk to the dragons. Apparently, the rate of success slowed to a crawl. Eventually, she decided she’d rather try to relay the team’s questions to them.

“Why did this comrade at the terminal die? Was he an enemy?” asked Richard.

“He tried to take away the logs, but he could not take away the logs, so he didn’t manage to take away the logs, and he will no longer want to take away the logs. We are sorry.” She seemed confused by her own translation too. “They’re like a hive of sort. Together, as a committee, they are almost as smart as an unmodified human. Also, their voice boxes are simply not very suitable for European languages.”

“Cherry, do they have identities? Names?” Kitsos took his turn.

“Yes, but they forget names when they are away from each other.”

“Mr. Caine, don’t you think the computer might’ve contained a memetic bomb? Maybe he wanted to take the logs, but ended up decompressing the compartment.”

Richard raised an eyebrow at the notion. “I don’t see a reason to imagine such a thing.”

“Either that, or we have a hard time understanding those kids. I think we should be very careful when viewing the contents of that camera.”

“As far as I understand,” said Igor, “the meant that he wanted to take the logs, but was not allowed to do it, so they killed him, so he doesn’t want the logs anymore. That would be my version of a humanese translation.”

After a few chirps between the loudspeakers and the dragons, Cherry firmly replies: “Yes.”

“Maybe this is wrong.”

“So can they answer why it wasn’t allowed?” asked Richard, “Or is this too complicated?”

“The logs belong to CSAF.”

“Where is CSAF?”

“Here.”

“Cherry, I’m guessing there are several ‘heres’ in . . . these languages. Which one did they use?”

“Here as in here and now, as opposed to there and then.”

“Is this a ‘here’ that needs being taken to? Is it more like ここ or そこ?” he was almost sure that he messed up something in his question, but still hoped to she would figure out what sort of distinction he was trying to make. He was also half-expecting Komatsu to correct him.

“そこで.”

“Is it alive, or is it in the terminal?” asked Daiki.

“Daiki, ‘in the terminal’ and ‘alive’ are one and the same. The shells, the stations - they’re all alive. Don’t discriminate like that!”

“It seems they don’t differentiate between bionics and iron,” concluded Daiki. Which wasn’t exactly surprising, as some of their implants were quite clearly visible externally.

Richard held back a laugh. “It would be weird for them to do that. I don’t think they’ve ever been bitten by the biochauvinistic memeplex.”

“All right, but anyway, if this man got onto the station somehow, there should be a transport and a spacesuit around here somewhere.”

“Either that, or he came from a shuttle. Anyone got a reason to support or deny my hypothesis: that this is Frolov?”

“If it’s one of Frolov’s men, he should be somewhat irradiated.”

“Actually, that is not necessarily so. We don’t even know what really happened to them.”

“Well, if not, it’s a contractor, or even an independent explorer.”

“And if he is Alex’ brother, maybe, were apart before the incident. I still think this is Frolov. Not sure, but I think he is.”

Daiki took out a Geiger. The signature was there - weaker than in case of Alex and Amanda, but still the same sort. Richard silently looked at Daiki.

“If this is the case - which it seems to be - did Alex know that he was left here? Or maybe the recording before the decompression was sent by somebody else? Or maybe Alex didn’t think we needed to know.”

“The recording didn’t show the body, and the shell seems unsuitable for working with the terminal,” commented Daiki.

“I’d say that he made it quite clear that something happened to Frolov,” said Richard. “As for shells. Why not? Failed comm systems? Sabotage? Shells communicated by voice too.”

“Well, we can try to identify the deceased,” started Daiki, but it turned out harder than he thought. The face was too damaged. The tags, if any, were dead too. And it just so happened that appropriate biometric scanners were not among the list of the team’s equipment. But the body type did seem close.

“I suppose we could try identifying the camera,” offered Richard.

“Wait, does the camera belong to CSAF too? Maybe we shouldn’t touch it without permission,” warned Kitsos.

Cherry relayed the question to the hive, who proceeded to immediately plunge into a long conference on the issue.

“Since we can’t download the files without disturbing the camera, maybe we should talk to CSAF and ask the owner for permission?” asked Daiki.

Igor suddenly spoke up: “Hey guys, why don’t you step back while I’ll try to perform the download anyway.”

Daiki was nervous. So far he saw two shells in the nearest vicinity, and who knows what else. “This could be deadly.”

“We have shells of our own,” noted Caine, “So maybe someone is willing to assign a volunteer-shell?”

“Our shells are meant for space.”

Cain feigned confusion. “They get sick in atmosphere?”

“They’re intended for use and movement in space. The reaction engine shouldn’t be used indoors. Oh, by the way, we have a fraction of a swarm. Might be nice to sent it exploring the exterior.”

“They’ve got manipulators. And legs.”

Suddenly, Igor hurriedly connected to the camera and downloaded its contents to his computer. It was a noted fact that nobody died.

“Did the dragons bluescreen or something?”

“Seems so,” replied Cherry.

“So, the camera isn’t CSAF’s property,” said Daiki. “Or perhaps CSAF can no longer organize a resistance.”

“I’ve got it,” said Igor and disconnected the camera.

“And maybe we should quickly make it appear that we didn’t touch anything,” recommended Kitsos.

“Well, time to take a look what we found.”

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:22 AM   #37
Clancy
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 7a: Second Contact, CSAF's Move

Session 7a: Second Contact, CSAF's Move


“Here goes nothing. Now all we need to do is split up, and get ourselves dragged into the monsters’ lairs one by one,” commented Caine.

Cherry laughed. “Yes, that would be canonical.”

“Okay, what about, seriously?”

“Seriously, the shells are fully operation. Someone’s servicing them,” noted Daiki.

“I would rather go into a safe place to watch the records,” said Laskaris.

“Yes, let’s leave and take a look,” agreed Igor.

Caine nodded. “Also, I recommend that everyone constantly record what they’re seeing, and send it over an encrypted channel to the shuttle.” He looked at all the teammates, awaiting confirmation.

Kitsos waved his old PDA - the one he’s been carrying ever since examining the hole in the wall.

“No, not a handheld. You could drop that, you know. Upslink your eyes and ears.”

All of a sudden, the door to section #6 began to open.

Igor calmly turned to take a look. Daiki took a step behind the Russian. Richard started moving back to the shuttle, but rather unhurriedly.

The door slowly opened, revealing two threaded cybershells holding a metal plate in their arms. They slowly drove forward, then stopped. There were silver letters on the dark plate:

For the purpose of cooperation and good relations, as an act of good will, I request being given:
  • A collection of A. Dumas’ works on any worthy medium, in English.
  • Metal drill bits no larger than 1”, with a step equalling 1/10”.
  • Two PC CPUs made by Intell.
  • An ultra-short-wave transceiver.
  • At least three metres worth of magnetic tracks for cybershells.
  • Space Navigation for Dummies.
  • A set of chess fit for use in freefall.
  • Distilled water, 50L.
  • A canister of ethanol.
  • A textbook on International Laws.
  • At least 34 nuts sized 8×12.
  • A Bible

Respectfully, CSAF.


“Cherry, could you please check the habitat side too,” asked Komatsu. She complied. Everything was still and quiet.

Igor whistled. “Interesting. Anything of that already on our hands?”

“Nav skill set. Which is likely bundled with a basic dummy-book, but I haven’t checked yet,” answered Caine.

“Interesting. This plate sure isn’t a good medium for writing an answer,” commented Lascaris, and checked on the little dragons. Maybe the host didn’t want any answers before the delivery of goods.

“There’s some doubt about CPUs,” continued Caine. He was curious about the subtle request of cheap Chinese knockoff CPUs. At least he was pretty sure that Intell was a Chinese company. “Guess we’ll need to make a return trip after all. The question is whether we need to do it on the shuttle, or would the broom suffice.”

“What, all in one go?” asked Komatsu.

“Yes,” agreed the Russian, “And we need to somehow explain, that we are willing to provide all that, but we don’t have it with us yet.”

The committee snapped to attention and started talking and clicking. “Under those condition, yes, the camera belongs to CSAF,” said Cherry after some consideration. Otherwise, the dragons seemed oblivious to all the events around them before that point.

Caine nodded. “Thanks for the translation. Could you try to convey that idea to them somehow? Maybe they have an easier way of talking with CSAF of some sort.”

Cherry sighed. “It will be difficult. I don’t have the words for 95% of the stuff in that list. Or do you just want me to convey that we agree? I’m not sure this is even necessary.”

“Hmm. I’m not even sure telling it to the lizards is necessary, but it was an idea worth considering. All right, that means it’s time to start thinking about the flight. Who’s going, who’s staying? If it’s a broomflight, then things are kind of obvious. If it’s the shuttle, then I’m the prime candidate for being left behind.”

Daiki took a look into the newly opened section. The room was a comms centre. Or, more precisely, what was left of it. There were many cut cables, with some places obviously lacking terminals. There was a schedule on the wall, indicating that there were three people assigned to the post, with 24-hour shifts and 48-hour breaks. The dates belonged to the early ‘90s. “Guess CSAF lives somewhere deeper.”

“Hey people, maybe someone could make me an interface here? Especially Daiki,” called out Beregovoy, pointing at the wires. High above them, some sort of turret was mounted. Disabled and folded.

“I’m more concerned about a transceiver. We do need to send a signal from here,” reminded Kitsos.

“Yes, a powerful one,” agreed Daiki.

Richard pondered a bit. “Obviously we aren’t going to be leaving ours here. Gonna bring in a new one.”

“Yeah, the bad thing is that there isn’t one around here. I was hoping to find a damaged one still lying around. Who would need to take away a transceiver?”

“It could be lying around in one of the sections,” noted Laskaris. “Unlikely, but who knows. Such as if someone wanted to cut down the comms, not steal the transceiver.”

“And in that case, it’s been taken deeper inside. I’d take a look, but I’m nervous about those shells. A total of four by now. Everyone sure there’s no better way to talk to CSAF from here?”

The whole team felt being watched, perhaps even heard. This totally irrational feeling seemed even more jarring due to all communications going over the encrypted channel. And yet CSAF picked the right language for the negotiation. Not implausible, but still a little bit eerie.

“If you’re nervous about CSAF, how about this whole goodwill thing? If we’re on it, it’s time to pick the good things and bring them to this here good station. Opinions?”

“Obviously we don’t need any warring with CSAF. But this whole things looks too much like a demand.”

“Goodwill, one piece at a time. Will CSAF accept that?” asked Daiki. “It sees us, and knows English. Maybe try to contact it over radio?” On one hand, this sounded like one of those ‘Captain Obvious’ ideas. On the other, radio contacts proved ineffective before, and that was why nobody kept trying. “Also, a delay might be seen as a lack of goodwill.” As he spoke, Komatsu opened a locker in the sixth section and tried to look inside.

“I’m very concerned about this whole ‘property’ issue,” said Richard, then imitated Alex’ manner: “Any sort of combat is highly unlikely.

“Who’s seeing any combat? Nobody’s shooting anyone. Just asking to share some stuff from a weird list, in the name of friendship. Though we can’t even talk to him.”

Caine shrugged. For all intents and purposes, it was not implausible to imagine someone activating that turret in self-defence, seeing the team as intruders on his private property (whether rightly or not).

As Daiki examined the locker, it turned out to be an entrance to a rapid transit channel. Small - suitable for a dragon or one of the shells, but not for a human.

“We should be careful with this weird list,” said Kitsos. “Maybe a simultaneous purchase of Dumas and a Bible is a secret sign.”

Cherry was unsure whether the Greek was joking.

“Speaking of secret signs, I’d say that two knockoff CPUs are a funnier choice.”

Last edited by Clancy; 06-24-2013 at 09:27 AM.
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:23 AM   #38
Clancy
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 7b: Going further

Session 7b: Going further


Upon further examination, the rapid transit system was fully operational, and just large enough for the plate carried by the shells (but not for CSAF’s shells, which were larger than the team’s nanosats). Its default path lead to section #8, ‘☣ Biological Experiments Zone ☣’. One of the doors had some writing in Vietnamese, written with a pencil on metal. It said something about the food being rather bad.

“I wonder if CSAF looks like Godzilla, or just a large dragon,” wondered Daiki.

“Or maybe Gamera. So who stays, huh?”

“There are no dragons in this world,” said the Russian. The room was visibly filled with silent irony at his comment, but he continued. “I don’t like it here. I wouldn’t want to be left behind, but if the people demand...”

“If the people demand, I’ll be the one to stay, first and foremost.”

“You know there are (small) dragons in this world, and you’ve seen five of them chatting next to our shuttle,” said the Duncanite.

“They’re only pretending to be dragons,” said the Russian.

“I’d rather go with the others and split up only while already on Batkhan - to speed up the purchases.”

Richard smiled. “Okay, I knew I’ll be the only one sitting in the dark, hiding from the space Heffalumps.” All of a sudden, he launched a non-encoded broadcast over multiple frequencies, as well as set his AI to translate it into Morse and signal with the suit’s lights: “CSAF, are you perceiving this?”

Igor did the same thing. There was no reply.

Caine switched back to the encrypted channel. “Okay, if it does not perceive English as she is spoke, let’s keep going.”

“Maybe it’s just shy,” said Daiki.

“Maybe. If anything, you should know. You’re the tech. And speaking of techs, I think it would be wise to set up a couple shells to watch the retreat path from the station, and to launch the swarm to map out the externals of the station. Check the security situation of the local network. Check all the internal comms lines. See if any logs are lying around. Check radio reception in various rooms and sections.”

“We haven’t even checked out all the rooms,” interrupted Daiki. “Finding a common language with CSAF would be good. After all, it would be sad to be shot by it, indeed.”

“Exactly. Also, keep recording everything that happens - from the eyes, not from something you can drop. Ideally we should have a close look at the life support systems. And . . . finding any info on the dragons would be . . . nice.” He looked over the whole team. “Cherry, could you please ask the little dragons, is there some better way to contact CSAF? Please.”

“I wonder what exactly happened to the external antenna. Why were the comms so thoroughly cut off on both sides?” asked Kitsos.

“Terminals. And speech,” said Cherry. She looked surprised.

“What, in their language? All right, please translate my broadcast question, if possible, and reroute it through my suit. Maybe through the shuttle’s loudspeakers too.”

“I’ll try.” The waves and air became filled with almost alien sounds.

“Meanwhile, since this section is a dead end for us, I’d rather go take a look around the other side of the station,” said the Duncanite.

“Right. Let’s go back.”

Around section #3, the dragons stopped Caine midway, slowly explaining something. Cherry clarified, that their words stood for “Can not hear you here, it is on the other side. Climb in.” The dragons were pointing at the locker with the rapid transit channel. 50cm×50cm was too small for a human, but they didn’t seem to care.

“Here goes nothing.” Richard connected to one of the nanosats, teleoperating it all the way from the shuttle to the locker, while his primary shell stood motionless. As the sat was entering the tube, he checked whether it carried a microphone in its cargo. Luckily, it did. Not having an integrated mike was slightly annoying, but totally logical for a space technical shell.

Ten-yard narrow corridor, no lights, no surprises. Somewhat poor radio reception, but dropping an extra relay beacon halfway through solved the issue.

Everyone watched the video feed from the sat. The biological section looked quite disorderly. Some semi-assembled creatures in containment. Funny faces drawn on pieces of paper lying around. A door to section #5. A couple of threaded shells parked by the door, motionless. Chairs carefully clamped to tables. No signs of evacuation - as if people just quietly went to #7 and locked the door. Also, the place looked somewhat halfway between a lab and a kitchen.

Interestingly, absolutely everything was made to work on clamps and magnets, making it visually resemble a normal-gravity room when left alone.

The dragons followed the nanosat. Cherry explained once again. “They’re saying: CSAF is in #5, but you shouldn’t go there without a reason. No business that is needed there. We don’t go there.” The dragons were indeed pointing at the door.

“What precisely do they mean by ‘no reason’?”

“It finds no interest in talking to us; we find no interest in talking to it. So only business. No business is needed there. So not going there. The door is closed, not locked.”

“Well, we do have an interest. We will give first things CSAF wanted us to give CSAF.”

“I’d rather follow their advice,” warned Igor. “Though I suppose coming in with some of the stuff might be more acceptable.”

The nanosat indicated that the local wireless network was fully operational.

“Comrade Beregovoy, would you like to bridge the connections and take a closer look at the net?” After a dozen seconds of waiting, Richard’s primary, biological shell turned to Igor’s body, awaiting an answer. He switched back to the sat’s video feed without restoring control. Turning a lab into a kitchen. Like turning a microscope into a hammer. “Remember the hypothesis about self-defence? Maybe they wanted to eat him,” he smiled.

Igor got busy with the computers.

“Maybe ask them whether this is where they eat?” wondered Kitsos.

Daiki started moving towards section #4.

“Sure, but be careful,” Richard noticed Komatsu’s intention. “Guys, don’t split up. Go check together.” He then switched back to the nanosat.

“Right.”

Section #4 was completely burned out. Almost as if a very light micronuke blew up there. All the walls were somewhat melted, to the point of being covered by uneven, somewhat reflective surfaces. The armour was slightly bent outwards, but at least it stayed sealed.

Meanwhile, Igor encountered some security barring his way into the net’s interesting stuff. Passwords, biometrics. The passwords were ridiculously low-security, and Igor easily found all the vulnerabilities in minutes. “Guys? The security is lax; I think someone was treating this place as his home computer.” As he reached the biometric test, the access-denied message looked unusual: “Nationality invalid”.

“And it noticed that through the spacesuit?” smiled Richard. Well, tried to smile. The nanosat didn’t do anything. Getting back to his plan, he teleoperated the nanosat towards the door, grabbed one of the handles nearby, and tried to open the door. CSAF’s shells did not interfere.

Behind was a factory. Array of 3D printers and assembly lines for their output, occupying most of the section. Still possible to pass through, but it was quite cramped. A part of the room was blocked off by metal plates with a radiation symbol, but the Geiger indicated that there was no threat whatsoever. In one of the corners, there was an empty chair and a terminal. Richard tried all the methods of contacting CSAF once again, but didn’t touch the terminal.

There was no reply, but he noticed another important detail. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve found the reason behind the energy deficit. The printers aren’t just standing there all week.”

“So CSAF is still building more of those tracked shells,” noted Daiki.
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Old 09-01-2013, 10:09 PM   #39
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Location: Los Angeles County
Default Re: After Action Report: the Eggshell Campaign

I want to say how good it is to see how ThS is in action! Thanks!

Definitely one or two things I would have handled differently but that's the nature of role playing, not a criticism. :)
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:09 AM   #40
Clancy
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 8a: Diaries, Sanity and Good Will

Session 8a: Diaries, Sanity and Good Will


“So . . . gentlemen, why don’t we ask ourselves: what items on the list CSAF actually needs? And what for. We see he’s replacing worn-out components of those shells. What else? We know there’s already a Bible on this station, in one of the tablets lying around. Weird list.”
“These are simple, human requests,” noted Kitsos. “As long as we disregard the coded-message hypothesis. Maybe it lacks access to the tablet for some reason?”
“Call me paranoid, but . . . both a Bible and Dumas’ collection can be found among the scattered media. Maybe IT is trying to find out whether we have the tablets,” said Igor.
“A sapience test? Suitability for performing simple requests?”
“Yeah, maybe it wants to see us crawl over the whole station in search of its stuff,” added Richard.
“Anyway,” said Igor, unlocking a tablet, “we have a very exciting opportunity - to read somebody else’s mail!”
The tablets found by Kitsos were made by Fujitsu a long, long time ago - in 2052! English, Russian and Japanese interfaces with full voice support, but no NAIs to speak of. Contents didn’t seem too personalised - libraries of adventure fiction, Bible, a couple of adult games . . . one collection of answers to a physics exam. Saved logins for four email addresses, but only one had a saved password (and apparently belonged to some Chinese bio-company). The devices were all spouting rants about not being able to figure out their locations due to a lack of signal.

Among the devices found, there was also an e-journal, belonging to one of the crewmembers, Wei Li. Dates ranged from 2085 to 2092. He considered himself one of the last survivors of the resistance after the lost war. He played chess with CSAF, made some adjustments to life support (ultimately optimising it for the little dragons), tried (unsuccessfully) to contact the remaining allies. Although he seemed to be doing okay, near the end it became clear that he was getting crazier as time goes by after all. His last plan involved jumping out of the airlock along the lines of a course towards Mars and injecting himself with stasis nano. The only coherent entry after that plan was a mention of a final attempt to contact his allies. ‘Solitude kills’ indeed.

The team made some checks about restoring communications from local resources, but ultimately bringing in a transceiver was just a better idea. Cherry was busy talking to the little dragons.

“Speaking of his tinkering with life support,” said Richard, “Is it actually configured as their native environment, or is it simply in a mode as economic as they can survive?”
Kitsos replied: “Well, the wording in the journal is unclear - either he changed it, or he didn’t. But if he wanted to change it, that means it was human-oriented before. And thus the dragons weren’t around yet. Hmm. Or maybe they were sealed elsewhere.”
“I suspect they’re more flexible than that in terms of environments, but have their preferences. We need logs from the life support systems.”
“I’d invite them to the shuttle to check their reaction to our air, but I’m afraid this can result in misunderstandings and perhaps even other consequences. So, actually, forget that idea.” Kitsos fell silent for a moment. “Getting back to the list, the 50 litres of water are probably the easiest thing to find. Or maybe just share the shuttle’s reserves.”
“If it’s actually needed. Ethanol is probably more important; it can even be used as fuel,” noted Komatsu.
“I would rather not tell CSAF that he doesn’t need the water. Kinda ruins this whole Gesture Of Goodwill thing.”
“Actually, there’s a lot of stuff there that isn’t actually needed, and it’s also a test to see if we figure out the situation.”
“Yeah, I think we should make an act of goodwill all right,” Igor snarked, flipping the bird. “Just let him have the damn stuff without any fuss or stupid questions.”

Cherry pinged Caine, and he relayed her opinion: “By the way, the dragons wouldn’t mind leaving this place.”
“Won’t they die in a human-breathable atmosphere?”
“Earthlike one is definitely unsuitable. Oh, and just in case anyone of you finds two lost or even dead dragons, don’t freak out.”
“What, there were more of them?” asked Daiki.
“Can’t explicitly confirm that yet, but one of them is named Seven.”
“Flew away with the Chinese guy?”
“You’ll make a fine psychic,” smiled Richard.
Daiki looked rather puzzled by the statement. “As far as I know, I do not have any extrasensory abilities.”
Caine shrugged. The gesture ended up looking clumsy and ‘blurred’ due to the vacc suit.
“They don’t seem to like splitting up, eh?” asked Kitsos.
“Something like that, yes,” nodded Caine. “All right, we still need to launch our swarm, check for longs on the life support and the dragons. And of course arrange for the departure of the shuttle.”
“And send a signal confirming that we’re here and taking salvaging this object.”
“And check the two remaining unexplored sections,” added Daiki.
“And there’s a terminal in the factory section that we could examine closer,” said Igor.
Caine nodded. “We should prioritise the exploration of the whole base before sending any signals, just in case there’s something that’ll need handling first. Besides,” he smiled, “According to the tropes of horror InVids, a transceiver never turns on until at least the middle of the story.”
“Right. So I’ll just go and check that terminal.”
“Don’t walk alone,” smiled Richard once again.
“Who’s coming with me?”
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