We began this week’s episode with the crew loitering on Sin, awaiting the arrival of Shylock’s mule and seeds. Wanting to make the best of the time, the crew went about various duties. The Capt spent her time shopping for comforts for the asteroid and playing with Ivy at the waterpark. Markus did some shopping for tools to help detect and disarm traps in the asteroid. Shylock did a little carousing but didn’t have much luck, and also got an implant from Hart. Mikki went out both nights to “play”, returning worse for wear each morning.
Eventually the seeds arrived safely, were stashed in their hidey hole, and the crew lifted off for Highgate.
The journey took eight days, and the crew filled the time with domestic duties, setting up educational activities for Ivy, since she wasn’t going to be attending school normally. Markus taught her electronics, Gale piloting basics and space, Shylock taught money, Brian taught math, Hart taught basic sciences, Butch taught physical education etc. Hart checked up on the horses daily and asked the crew to stay away from them to keep them from becoming spooked. Overall the journey was domestic and uneventful.
Arriving at Highgate, the planetary traffic was normal for an industrial planet. Highgate, the third most populous world around Blue Star, the most rimward part of the ‘Verse, was the home to the manufacturing facilities used to build agricultural, terraforming, and civil engineering projects around the star. Tractors, cranes, prefab buildings, all were made on Highgate and shipped to the other planets in the system. A lot of freight left the world, but not at any significant cost, as Blue Star was struggling for self-sufficiency.
The ship was not inspected as it came in and set down on the edge of the largest town, in a flat starport area. Shylock contacted the customer for the horses and was told it would be tomorrow before they could come get them. He also found someone shipping terraforming gear from Highgate to 7th Circle, to be picked up after the horses were unloaded and the hold cleaned out. Given a free day on the planet, the crew went out about their normal entertainments. Markus went gambling, Shylock (with Butch) went carousing, as did the Capt (with Gale). Mikki, Hart, Brian, and Ivy remained on board the ship.
The Capt was having an adequate time, dancing and partying but not seeing any worthwhile conquests. Shylock found himself with a rather energetic and enthusiastic young woman who suggested they head across the street to her apartment where they could be more comfortable.
Markus, after finding one spot a bit boring, settled into the back room of a pub, in a private game that was just to his liking, and had his comm off, so he did not hear Brian saying “guys, what does Landlocked mean?…” followed by static, indicating the signal was jammed.
Just as Shylock heard this, the barely-dressed young woman astride him produced a rather lethal-looking knife from somewhere and put it to his throat, saying in her own comm “I have the old one, boss.” At the same moment, Markus noticed the climate had changed and a voice said behind him, in a thick Russian accent, “Mr Jacoby, we meet again. No one cheats me and gets away with it. No one.” A man Markus had not seen for many years, Piotr Vanovich, stepped into the room, with a number of armed men (odd, because the planet’s laws forbade weaponry), and the middle aged “librarian” that Markus had played (and lost to) once before, who introduced herself as Vanessa Damascus. Piotr and Vanessa sat at the table, and everyone else left the room, leaving the dealer, the three players, and the armed guards, two at each door.
Piotr then said “We will play. If you win, you will live, and walk away, though with none of your winnings. If you lose, I will know you cheated me and we will break you, then turn you over to the Alliance, who are already aware of your presence.” Vanessa and Piotr sat down at the table, Vanessa giving Markus an apologetic shrug and smile, and they then proceeded to play cards.
In a nightclub across town, the Capt and Gale responded to Brian’s communication by running from the club and headed towards the docking ring. Blocks before they arrived, they found that the entire area was in a blackout. The closer they got to the docking area, the more lights were out, including stalled cars and things that ran off of their own power, all electronics were offline. By the time they reached the tarmac, the entire area was blacked out, as were many of the ships. Where the Left For Hire had been parked there were a number of men in body armor, but the ship itself was gone. Gale and the Capt continued on past, not wanting to look conspicuous, and Gale glanced about, hoping that he knew at least one of the other ships landed, but no such luck. They passed near the emergency vehicles, loading injured people into ambulances, and turned back towards town.
They paused at a coffee shop and pondered what to do, deciding to go hunt down Shylock
Making their way towards the club where the Capt had recommended Shylock carouse, they passed right by Butch, standing outside the apartment building Shylock was in, not seeing him. He called out to them and they jumped, surprised. They approached him and explained the situation. Butch told them to wait there and went into the building. Not bothering to knock, he crashed through the door, surprising the young woman who went diving for her bag, but Butch pounced on her, disarmed her, and threw her across the room, out the window, where she crashed down to the pavement, mere feet from Gale and the Capt. Butch quickly cut Shylock loose, gathered up his belongings (and the girl’s bag) and headed out, with Shylock quickly hopping into his pants. Once back in the street, after a quick discussion, they decided to make for Markus.
Gale hit the streets, asking around for good gambling spots, and the first place they tried was a bust, but the bartender did admit to seeing him earlier and gave ideas as to where Markus might have gone from there. As they approached the second bar, they noticed a squad car parked outside, with two cops eating donuts, drinking coffee, and lounging around. Upon entering the bar, Gale noticed the pair of armed body guards adjacent to a door going into the back room. The crew stepped outside and discussed options, with Shylock opting for a “soft” approach. The crew went around back and found the predictable pair of armed bodyguards at the back door as well. He approached them nonchalantly, with the Capt hanging on his arm and Gale and Butch assuming body guard positions, pulled out a large credit note and asked them to step aside. They indicated it was a private game and that he wasn’t on the list, but Shylock added another note and indicated he knew that. When it appeared the guards were not going to let them past, Butch stepped up and disabled one and, as the other turned to deal with Butch, Gale and the Capt disabled the other.
Shylock stepped over the bodies, opened the door as if he owned the place and rather sinisterly said “I do not allow guns in my club.” The two guards inside the door reached for their guns but Gale and Butch pointed the guns they’d liberated from the guards outside at them, stopping them.
Piotr looked up from the game very irritated and said “Your club? I made arrangements with the owner!”
Shylock replied, “Yes, but I have recently acquired it. If you’re looking for a big game, I’ll be hosting a tournament soon. Here’s my card, let me have yours and I’ll contact you with invitations.” Glancing over the table, Shylock took in the tableau. The trio had obviously been playing for awhile, since the problems started, and Markus had the majority of the chips on the table. The crew stood and watched as the final hand was played out. All three players were intensely focused, but when the final cards fell, Vanessa took the pot, cleaning out both Piotr and Markus. Vanessa smiled politely, pulled a card from her bodice and slid it to Markus, who irritatedly picked it up and tucked it into his pocket, grumbling quietly “great, a pair.”
Piotr stood up, gazed down on Markus and said “You lost. This is not over. We will meet again.” He gestured to his guards and they filed out the back door as a group, helping their friends in the alley up, while Gale and Butch covered them. Vanessa gathered up her winnings, glanced at Markus, smiled awkwardly, and went out the front door. The crew waited for Piotr to clear out, then left hurriedly out the back door and found a hotel to hide in, dumping the guns along the way.
Once in the room, they exchanged information and brought everyone up to date on what was happening, turning on the video to see what was on the news.
Good evening, this is Amanda Sellers of HighWatch News, your eye onto Highgate! We’re here at the starport where terrorists have launched an attack on the city itself. Local authorities are working close with Alliance military in the area in an attempt to ascertain the extent of the damages. Here with me is Commander Ichi Nisan of the Alliance cruiser Stalwart. Commander, what can you tell me about this incident?
Cmdr Nisan : Well Ms Sellers, normally we leave Highgate’s matters to the local constabulary, we were doing a routine patrol in the area, for pirates and such, when the starbase sent up an alert. Apparently a freighter fired off an EMP in the starport, taking out a large chunk of the city’s power, then blasted off into the black. We were in a poor position to intercept, but obviously it was our duty to do so.
We launched our interceptors and gave pursuit when the ship turned directly towards us, seemingly intent on ramming us. We hailed them several times but they did not reply, so the interceptors opened fire. The moment we fired, the freighter fired of what we thought was its EMP but it turned out is an overly powerful sensor array. At the nose of our cruiser, with no way to know what they were going to do, their sensor shut down the navigation, sensory, and communications systems of the cruiser, the missiles and all interceptors. Visual reports indicate that the freighter was hit at least once, but the freighter pulled away and vanished before systems could be brought online. We pursued but due to the damage to our sensor equipment we lost them. We’ve called in for reinforcements and are scanning the area, we will find them.
Ms Sellers: Well there you have it, Highgate, terrorists on our soil, a battle in space, and the Alliance to the rescue! We’ll have more for you as this breaking story develops.
In watching the report, the crew recognized the logo on the power armor of the marines in the report as being from Mitchell’s group.
They discussed various options of what to do when there was a knock on the door, who answered “Room Service” when asked. They cautiously opened the door and Javier stepped in. The subsequent discussion revealed that Javier had “followed” them to Highgate, albeit ahead of them. Once he realized they had a reader with them and he found they were going to Highgate, he hopped a ship headed that way so he could continue talking to Ivy. He’d pondered catching a ride with them, but that seemed like a really bad idea to him. However, when the crew arrived, Ivy was “hidden”, so he tried to follow the crew around to determine what was wrong when all hell broke loose. He told them he had been born on Meridian and been exploring the rim, moving coreward as he mustered the courage, and Ivy was the first other reader he’d met. The crew asked him to go take a look around and see what was up, so he bowed out.
The following day, Markus, Shylock, and Butch went out shopping for electronics, such as security equipment and comms gear to return functionality to their disabled comm implants. Returning to their room, Markus got comms back online and scanned the city, finding no sign of Ivy or anyone else on the crew. Javier returned that day with his recon report. Mitchell had taken the top three floors of a 5-star hotel downtown and his people were all over it. Mitchell along with someone who was obviously a reader (with odd hardware on his head), and two gentlemen in suits with bright blue gloves were with Mitchell, along with a dozen marines in varying degrees of combat armor. Many strategies were discussed but they all had one problem…Butch had no implant and was visible to the reader. Shylock scanned the local ‘tex and found a Chop-Doc who could do implants. Markus rigged up a comms implant and the three of them headed to the Doc. They found the Doc, Dubois, in a rundown part of town and, after some negotiation, Butch got an implant done. Not as efficiently as Hart’s work, but it got the job done.
Markus and Butch head out to the hotel for a recon in force, while the rest returned to the hotel. Shylock spent his time sending out emails to people like Burkholter (“Your enemy is in this hotel on Highgate”) and the Tongs (“This week only, discount sale on Shan Yu artifacts from his hidden sanctuary, here in this hotel on Highgate!”)
Markus and Butch entered the hotel casually, avoided Mitchell’s security, and rented a room. In the room, Markus tapped into the hotel’s security and found that Mitchell had cut the hard line on the top 3 floors. Scanning the local wireless frequencies, he tapped into the private security and gained access to the cameras without being noticed. After scanning the area, Butch came upon the idea of using cleaning chemicals to create a bomb. He then went floor-by-floor, stealing cleaning products and materials and assembled his device in his room. They carried it to the elevator, Markus overrode Mitchell’s lockout, the bomb rode up and, when the door opened, it spilled out.
Not a traditional explosive but a heavy chemical bomb, it spread out quickly along the floor (sending people scrambling for masks) and 10 seconds later Markus’ detonator sparked. The entire top floor caught fire, blowing out all of the windows and raining glass for a block in all directions. The lightflyer on the roof took off moments later as Butch and Markus fled the scene.
Amanda Sellers here again with a breaking report! The terrorists have struck again, taking out the top floor of the Highgate Towers Hotel, killing three diplomats and injuring many, both in and out of the hotel. Sources close to the incident say it was an assassination attempt by terrorists, disgruntled Independents seeking to lash out any way they can against the Alliance and its citizens.
Emergency crews have managed to contain the fire but we have yet to account for all the missing innocents who were surely injured in this flaming rain of broken glass and toxic chemicals as the terrorists rain death upon our homes. More on this story as it develops!
Back at the hotel, the crew watched the news, trying to get a clear picture of whether or not they were successful when Javier returned.
He was at the hotel when it blew up (and was still brushing glass out of his hair) and followed the injured as they were taken to the hospital. While many of Mitchell’s men were taken out, Mitchell himself was still alive, along with the reader and one of the blue- handed gentlemen, although all were injured. They were taken to Mercy Hospital where they were being treated for chemical burns and inhalation damage. Markus and Butch saddled up and headed back out to improvise something at the hospital. It being obvious that the crew would not be leaving soon, Shylock began looking for a place for them to stay, leasing a safehouse and backdating its lease, making it appear as if the crew had been living there for a while.
Markus and Butch infiltrated the hospital, acquired medical garb and Ids, and scouted out where Mitchell and his men were. They found them in a secured wing of the hospital. Markus tapped into the local security and found the precise room where Mitchell and his two remaining cronies were resting. Butch and Markus approached the first pair of guards, Markus produced his badge and indicated he needed to be let past. One of the guards took the badge and stepped into the room with Mitchell. Butch quickly dispatched the other, pulled grenades from the guard’s belt, and began throwing them down the hall, bouncing three into the room with Mitchell, and one down the hall towards the other guards. As the grenades detonated, Markus and Butch fled the scene again, melting into the panicked crowd.
Back at the hotel, Javier confirmed that the reader had been killed, but given he could not see the other two gentlemen, he was uncertain their status.
Amanda Sellers here at Mercy hospital where the third terrorist attack in as many days has struck. Two villains in combat armor charged into the hotel, disabled the hospital’s camera system, and used military ordinance inside the building, killing two for sure and injuring several in the process. Here to speak to us is Allen James Mitchell, Council Liaison to the Alliance Military and civilian ambassador to the rim worlds, out here on his tour to bring civilization to the Rim.
Mitchell (arm in a sling, bandage on his head, looking a bit worse for wear): Thank you, Ms Sellers. It is no accident that we seem to be the target of these terrorist attacks, we bring peace to the rim, medicine and education, which is exactly what the Independents don’t want. They want the rim to stay ignorant, because an ignorant rim is a frightened one, easily scared, easily driven by their mongering to destroy the very Alliance that’s here to help them. Obviously these are the last acts of desperation, because they know that a time is coming very soon where they won’t find anyone who believes their lies. Soon they will be alone, in the black, with no one to fight but themselves, while we on the Alliance worlds live in peace and harmony.
Amanda: Thank you Mr Mitchell. The police are actively looking for suspects for these crimes and have a number of leads. Pictures appear on the screen: Shylock (older photo, grainy, from video pickup, wanted for drug trafficking), the Capt (younger photo from her original ID, wanted for suspected terrorist activities), and Markus (older photo, wanted on multiple counts of murder). If you see any of these people, do not engage them, as they are armed and to be considered extremely dangerous. Contact the local constabulary immediately with information pertaining to them. There is a reward posted for any information leading to the capture and conviction of these felonious individuals.
There you have it Highgate, our once peaceful planet has become a hot bed of terrorism! Will Highgate become the new Hera? Will the Independents realize they’re beaten? Only time will tell. This has been Amanda Sellers for Highwatch News.
The crew gathered up their things and made their way to their new abode, settling into the house and continuing to plan.