Red Claw Nexus

The Marquis pilots the Salamander to Iderati, jumping through empty space, with no incident. They contact the Baron, who asks them not to talk, but sends a team to receive the Scout ship.

We are met by Captain Johnson, part of the Baron’s special team. Armitage asks “403?” Johnson replies so deadpan that Armitage almost doesn’t catch the slight tension in the eye…

Johnson asks the Marquis to sign with his full and lengthy title in the small space provided, and just include an “R” rather than explicitly stating “retired” at the end. Such administrative oversights happens everyday (7% active duty salvage rather than 5% civilian). He is somewhat alarmed by the biohazard, but eased when we provide samples of the biohazard material and the anti viral Dr N’tesh brewed up.

The officers take Grav bikes for all, and head for an ancillary Imperial building that deals with catering and facilities, where A’vorta’s offices are on the top floor.

He is delighted to see the Marquis, and pounces on his news. The Marquis tells him everything (barring Wiffa), including the Kask, Djil/Jil situation, planet cleansing/seeding theory, possible wormhole, alien black ship, zombie spore virus, survey records on the scout ship, Blackburn Halo - the works (apart from the bit about the 4 armed immortal super intelligent ape who’s species we promised to bring back from the dead). The Baron is going to put a team together including anthropologist and work it, using all the data we’ve provided, to see what he can come up with. He’s not hopeful on decoding the scout ship logs after so long, but will give it a try.

Armitage volunteers that the nukes used on Andor were delivered by a Red Claw ship, the same as seen in the Arch Star Gazer battle. The Baron is interested, but says it’s not worth much without backup. Armitage gives details on the ship, captain and crew; on questioned on the provenance, he simply explains he is a criminal. He also opines that these guys are not behaving like a normal criminal gang, despite what they claim to be - in his opinion they are potentially more politically motivated than normal.

A’vorata says that there is lots of traffic ships at the moment, as Ducote is sending in ships, claiming they are pirates and privateers. Half are being disputed already as normal trade, so lots of activity in the sector

There is a somewhat delicate pause, whilst Armitage whispers his paranoia in the Marquis’s ear. The Marquis does enquire as to what exactly the aim of the current ops are, and the Baron explains that there is a cluster of activities of profiteering and imperial bureaucracy, that implies more than just profit. There are a nexus of indicators flashing big red lights. What we are now doing, and you are part of, is finding more data about what is going on. What are the components on the strategy, tipping points, what are they trying to achieve. He doesn’t want to be dramatic, but it is dangerous, affecting more than 1 sub sector.

The crew discuss the possibility Ducote was somehow involved with the bugs on Raweh. He was there at the same time, and there were some unexplained coincidences and people floating around. The timings would theoretically allow his crew to have been the ones who approached the research station claiming to be in trouble. But again, what would the aim be? The bugs had handlers - are they testing out an army of some sort?

Morle makes contact with a reputable art dealer on iderati while the Marquis, Sir Arthur and Armitage are hobnobbing with the Baron A’Vorta. He says of your three paintings, two are considered ancient wallpaper and of nominal interest (still 1,750 CR each), but one is clearly some kind of lesser master and he’d buy it for 80 000 CR, alternatively, he’s happy to send it to auction for a 10% fee and a 60k reserve and thinks you might get 100k +, but warns it’s always a bit of a gamble…..

And whilst the landed gentry are meeting with Baron AVorta, the rest of you take some time to search the bulletin boards for upcoming ship sales. Where you see a slightly smaller dropship, less autonomy and practicality in space, but cheaper and a bit more tooled up for combat.

vtoldropship

Estimated sale price 10 million CR, one pulse laser, two missile racks and two sandcaster/defensive measure pods (integral). Pilot and co-pilot, can take 10 people or 5 tons cargo.

After discussions, the Marquis and his crew decide that the lighter “Assault Ship” is a better choice at the moment that the heavier “Drop Ship”. In addition to the lower cost to purchase, monthly payments will be lower and the craft can be piggybacked on the Salamander without affecting handling or fuel efficiency. They also purchase 2 grav bikes that can be carried in it’s cargo area. After excellent negotiations by the Marquis and Sir Arthur, the final price is 7.8m credits, 10% down now and monthly payments of 32k. Unlike the Salamander, these are loan repayments to purchase (eventually - in 240 months, or 20 years). The cost is born equally by the 5 shareholders (non salaried crew, i.e. officers + Armitage), so ownership is each 20%. The airraft is also sold to facilitate the purchase.

In addition, the fuel bladder is upgraded from 44 tons unrefined to 54 tons refined fuel. This plus the 88 tons in the ship’s tanks totals of 142 tonnes of fuel. We now need 51 tons of fuel per jump (240 tonne Salamander + 15 tonne Gecko ⇒ 255*0.2 = 51), so this gives 2 jumps (102 tonnes) and 4 weeks running fuel (Ship needs 40 tons for 4 weeks of operation).

We also purchase a shipping crate and some flat packs cages, to fit in the 6m * 3m space in the vehicle hangar vacated by the Air-raft, and install a docking system on the Salamander’s rear hatch to the “Geckos” belly hatch, allowing in vac transfer between the 2 craft. A suitable paint job is commissioned so that the Gecko adds an air of menace to the Salamander. Baron A’Vorta says that the woman in Lomax’s picture’s name is Desiree Sparam. She is deceased, 25 years ago on Raweh, Cause of death: “Unnatural” no other details in Iderati files.

Bart can handle the “Gecko”, though probably not in stressful situations like combat. Corto can just about keep it flying, and is probably less bothered about combat, but neither are really up to actual combat ops.

Armitage goes asking for the space station they heard about where cybernetic upgrades are possible. He finds a stevedore, called Vance Yueh, who tells him about a crew that came through 3 weeks ago from the place - called variously “Paradise Lost”, “Just Paradise”, “The Dream”, “Prospero’s Dream”, or “The Hell Hole”. It’s supposedly the most dangerous place on Earth, but the most full of opportunity; and it is the Imperium’s worst nightmare for illicit cybernetic enhancements, direct software augmentation - you can get tooled up to download skills.

Armitage ask “How does one find it?” The Docker says “He didn’t believe it, but they say it’s just outside the Urnian sector. They didn’t know exactly where, but they’d heard there were people at the frontier who if you paid enough would cough the info” He also says that “For people of opportunity, a weeks work for the bosses will make you millionaires; or dead”

The Marquis talks to the AFZEB foundation, and shows footage of the catastrophe on Yellan. Amouk is astounded, and wants to mount a major effort to uncover more details. The Marquis explains the delicate situation, and negotiates an additional 6 months stipend, Dr N’tesh for another 6 months and specialised remote sensing equipment to probe the planet’s weird crust.

Whilst waiting the 3-5 days for the special modifications to the Salamander, Sir Arthur shops for battle dress and Armitage looks for info on the Shadowless Man and to recruit a local informant.

The plan thereafter is to head back to Karin to check on Baron Beren, Hukat and the Bat Cave on Moonbase Alpha, before heading back into the Urnian sector. On behalf of our Patrons, we are looking for:

Sir Arthur finds a lovely Battle Dress he wants to buy, and asks his uncle for an allowance. Morle also buys a suit. As neither of them can use it, the trip to Paradise seems to be becoming more interesting by the day. We also stock up on some Advanced Combat Rifles, and some more high resistance shields.

Armitage chats to his friendly stevedore again. He puts Vance Yueh on a stipend to look out for anomalies in comings and goings - anyone breaking their usual patterns. He agrees 1,000 CR per month, plus 3k discretionary fund, paying 6k now. In particular, he asks him to look out for names such as:

Afterwards, he starts asking the wrong questions in the wrong bars about the Shadowless Man…and it all goes very wrong for him….

Whilst chatting to another low life, the guy’s eyes go wide and he scarpers. Turning, Armitage is surrounded by 4 gorillas, who inform him that he has to go with them. They march him out to a transport, and take him off to a warehouse.

He’s frisked, and caught trying to palm the communicator. The thug tells him that wasn’t very smart. He’s led through to a top floor office, amidst seemingly normal bureaucracy, to…a man

mob_boss

“Ah, Mr Armitage. You’ve been asking the wrong questions. Why?”

Armitage explains obliquely about his encounter with the Shadowless Man, and the Man tells him he’s being too vague.

“Now, I have to make this go away. Convince me not to make you go away”

And he starts a 15 second timer on his desk…

Armitage blusters, and tries to talk his way out of it. The Man explains this is not going to work, nor is killing the people he’s talked to. He needs something valuable for his time and trouble to make this go away without passing it on to the Shadowless Man. Armitage tries to hint at stuff, but he’s not going for it, and with seconds to spare, Armitage spills on the Blakburn Halo mineand the Keysks operation for Adamantium out there. The Man accepts this, along with Armitage’s caution it’s not easy to just walk in and pick it up.

The Man waves him off, and a flunky takes down details. Armitage gives location and names of companies involved, and explains the Beasties. He doesn’t talk about the glacier at all, nor the suspected seasonal aspect of the monsters. Whilst this is going on, Armitage manages to catch a reflection of the letter head on the memo the flunky is writing - the “Copper Bat Company”.

He is eventually kicked out, with his empty revolver and box of bullets and his comm unit. He destroys the comm unit, melts it, and dumps it, and when back on the Salamander, hard resets the whole system and sets new frequencies and code words for everything and everyone.

As he returns to the Salamander, 4 religious looking types with shaved heads are approaching, led by a conveniently dressed tall guy with Sandy blond hair

“Mr Armitage, I hope you had a good time? My name is Ilmas, and I was hoping to have a word with The Marquis. It’s an urgent matter regarding the Arch Stargazer”

They are the Priests of Parallex, and he is the Assistant of Head of the Order in the Brotherhood of Declination. After considerable back and forth, Armitage call the Marquis who agrees to meet them in half an hour.

Llmas starts by thanking his Excellency for his time and explaining that he is hoping, given the Marquis and his team were in the Capital city at the time of the riot and the somewhat confused apparent abdication of the old Arch-Stargazer, that they could help clear up some of the open questions that have unfortunately occupied the minds of some (he empahsises) of the faithful about the legitmacy of the transition to the current Arch-Stargazer (may the heavens protect him). He assures the Marquis everyone is quite happy of course with current Arch-Stargazer, but they are concerned that the transition of power has left too many unawswered questions and they wish to avoid a schism in the church and rival factions degenertating into worse than theological discussions about the legality of the transition. Clearly, the faithful would suffer form such a set of circumstances. Ilmas (The Priests of Parallax and ther brethern in the Brotherhood of Declination) would thereofre like to know as much as possible about the rather curious coincidental riot that destroyed a quarter of the city at the same time of the Arch-Stargazers disapprearance/abdication, how might the Arch-Stargazer have left the city (did you see anything at starport?), does the Marquis know anything of the motivations of the Arch-Stargazer for this sudden abdication? Does he know anything about the stories of fake Endoguard’s roaming the city as the riot broke out, could they be linked to past Arch-Stargazer? Were they fifth columnists? Then finally, he leans in and in a hushed tone that somehow only reaches as far as the Marquis (even his associate seems to do a double take) asks “and finally, would the Marquis happen to know the current whereabouts of the old Arch_stargazer, given much of this could be sorted out much more quickly and thoroughly if only they could speak to him in person”…..