Back at the hotel, Jacob, 10CH, and Khadim were quietly monitoring the droids – and were finding it utterly boring. The hotel droids simply didn’t seem to be up to anything at all. If someone was using them in some sort of revolutionary scheme, it apparently wasn’t in some way that they’d have an easy time spotting.
Meanwhile, over at the hospital with Ben, Kira, Lazlo, and Alys…
The “interrogation” of the bar patron that blew his hand off trying to kill me was not going well. He wasn’t cooperating since he was under the impression I was a Sith. I couldn’t dissuade him of that notion without completely blowing my cover in public. It’s dangerous enough dropping innuendos to see if anyone picks up on it, but I am also using an identity that isn’t going to hold up under any sort of scrutiny.
Soon enough my target went to sleep. Alys was checking the medication lists he was being given and seemed upset. Apparently the guy had been given a sedative despite the lack of need for one. Alys went to argue with the doctors and nurses over this, and Ben had disappeared sometime ago as well muttering something about droids. This left me alone with the unconscious patient for several minutes.
I knew the hospital staff wasn’t going to appreciate the gesture, but I took out a marker and wrote “A Sith wrote this” backwards on his forehead. Alys came back, saw my handiwork and was less than amused, but I ignored her hard stare. Her investigation revealed that the droids and/or the staff had “accidently” added a sedative to the man’s medicine and all were claiming ignorance on the matter.
Valerie called this sort of thing the passive-aggressive resistance.
Terrifying the staff into cooperating was going to be counterproductive, no matter how in character it might or might not be. I was getting ready to leave this as not worth it when Alys noted that Ben had been missing for some hours now.
Oh bloody hell.
Alys had, in fact, noted a number of things… The staff wasn’t being particularly helpful in her investigations, but it was pretty obvious – at least to her – that quite a lot of basic medical supplies were going missing. The obstructionism was subtle, but determined. A very few droids showed some odd symptoms – so whatever-it-was was both intentional and harmless. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been acceptable in a hospital. It was pretty obvious that the local “resistance” might not be too widely organized, but that a fair number of people were quietly resisting in their own way.
Ben, meanwhile, had found that the droid maintenance department – and its one technician-engineer on duty – was surprisingly busy, supposedly with routine lubrication, but in fact with some sort of modifications to their communications circuitry. He’d pressed the engineer hard – and the man had offered to show him what was going on with the high-pressure lubrication system.
Oh yes, he could see that trap. Inspect, get pushed in, get trapped until the guy came up with something that his armor and shield generator systems couldn’t handle. He made a show of taking a step or two in that direction to see what he could provoke – but didn’t realize that the engineer already had a scheme. Slow-moving objects could pass through his screen easily (otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to stand up) – so the man simply shorted out his armor with some heavy-duty power cables, had the porter-droids who helped move heavy patients pick him up, faked a few log entries to cover the droids absence and his own departure, and took him away.
Remembering that Ben muttered something about droids before departing, we asked for the location of the droid maintenance shop. That directed us to a now deserted work shop. Alys apparently was able to deduce from the contents of the room that some sort of a struggle occurred as she pointed to scuff marks on the floor and declared them recent. I took her word for it as she then grabbed a maintenance log and read through the records. I mainly stood ready for another ambush as she did her thing. Eventually she announced that several droids were used to haul another large droid off to the factory for repairs around the same time Ben went missing.
Getting the address of the factory was easy enough. We then got on our speeder bikes and headed to the factory while asking Khadim, 10CH and Jacob to see what they could find out over the network about droid malfunctions. Our arrival at the factory itself was met with a guard post manned by a droid. The droid requested our business and I stated we were investigating a rash of droid malfunctions across the area.
The droid gave Alys access to the maintenance records on refurbished droids and she began pouring over them. In the meantime, I was trying to get access to an actual person to talk to on the matter. It seemed this factory only had a living staff on site during the daytime. It was also clear that a droid from the hospital had not been delivered to this facility as the hospital records maintained. I was of the opinion the droid was misinformed or lying and wanted to head into the facility covertly to have a look. I was about to tell Alys to join 10CH, Khadim, and Jacob in tracking the delivery vehicle when the droid volunteered to put us in touch with the chief engineer.
Meanwhile Alys had been figuring out what was going on… The droids had their own network; they were constantly trading updates, system notices, and a thousand other bits of traffic in binary. No one could possibly monitor it all – and someone had been tinkering with the data filters. That meant that they could slip private messages into the babble and have a fair expectation that they’d never be spotted – and, even if they were, all you’d get would be weird code phrases with no observable source or destination. Not at all a bad idea, even if it did call for a lot of advance coordination to get your codes straight.
At first the droid wanted to just place a call for us, but I insisted on an address instead. Since “we” were part of the occupation, and the government was telling everyone to cooperate with the occupation, the droid readily agreed to giving us the address. Alys and I headed to the address immediately on our speeder bikes again. We soon found ourselves outside a large apartment complex several kilometers from the factory.
Buzzing the apartment door brought a droid asking our business. I informed the droid I wished to speak with the engineer regarding a rash of droid issues recently. The droid verified that I was part of the occupying Sith and immediately went to awaken it’s master at our behest after telling us to wait for several minutes. I figured the droid was merely stalling while it’s master took the time to escape. I decided to look like I was waiting patiently while scanning with Force to see if any life signs were making a hurried escape. Alys went around to the back of the building to head off any escape attempts.
Meanwhile, a cell of the resistance was interrogating Ben. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, however, Ben rapidly convinced them – both through sheer babble and under drugs (which just made him babble more) that he was not a Sith; he was an engineer obsessed with designing incredibly powerful weapons – something his notebook bore out. In fact, he was more than willing to help them build weapons to take out the Sith; he didn’t like Sith! He wanted to put Kira – who was only pretending to be a Sith – in charge of the resistance (which really did seem like it needed help).
They gave him a chance. After all, they badly needed some better weapons. He gave them some information on building hyperspace torpedoes – and then, surrounded by people who WANTED him to build experimental weapons, cheerfully got to work on doing so. His hypermine design was – at least in theory – supposed to hypertunnel into the engine rooms of arriving ships and detonate there where they would have no defenses. If it worked it would be sheer genius!
Well, OK, it would also put the entire system off-limits to star travel, but you couldn’t have EVERYTHING…
It was easy to feel the man gather his stuff and then rush out some back entrance. I informed Alys to expect him and proceeded to leap phase through the door as I gave chase. I soon reached the opposite outside wall and leapt down to the street level as I saw the man still in his pajamas banging on another door loudly. It was a simple matter to use hypertime so that I simply seemed to appear behind him. Right as I got behind him, the door to the other apartment opened to reveal another man who looked at his buddy, then me, and slammed the door shut again.
At which point the engineer left outside turned and saw me. Panicking, he pulled out a blaster and proceeded to fire several rounds at me. It was easy enough to dodge all those wild shots despite the close range. I don’t think I ever realized how far past a normal untrained person I am these days. As the engineer stopped firing as he stared at me in horror, his companion opened the door again and flung a duffle bag into my face.
I could think of only one thing someone would even bother throwing at a Sith and I wanted no part of the coming explosion. Dodging it meant leaving it here where it could hurt them or damage the nearby apartments. Flinging it to the side would protect them, me, but at the cost of the apartments again. No choice but to go up then. Grabbing ahold of the bag telekinetically, I flung it into the air as high as I could manage. Thankfully I managed to get it high above the nearby roofs as it went off with a bang.
Looking back down at the two engineers, I saw they had rushed into the apartment and blocked the door. No doubt rushing down the fire escape on the other side. While I gave a moments thought to cutting my way through the door, I remembered the far less damaging way to do things as I phased again and walked through it. Once I reached the fire escape, I found that Alys had tripped them into colliding with the opposite wall.
One of them got his wits back fast enough to fire at me again, which I readily dodged. Disarming him was ridiculously easy, but now they were both panicking badly. Reaching out with the Force, I calmed them both down substantially, at which point they began insisting they knew nothing I wanted to know. My insisting that they probably knew something I would like to know got them into an argument regarding teaching me suicide techniques.
Hearing sirens in the background, I really didn’t want to have to explain this to the authorities if I didn’t have. So I grabbed the two engineers by the ankles, phased, and dragged them through the wall and into the apartment again. Alys started doing an interrogation at that point. Where did she learn to do that anyway? I mainly took stock of the contents of the apartment looking for anything explosive or dangerous that we needed to be concerned about.
At which point one of the droids announced it had a message for one of the engineers. Telling him to answer it revealed one of the members of the presumed resistance wanting technical assistance on a new hyperspace mine design they had gotten.
Wait, a new hyperspace mine? How could this bunch have come up with something like that?
My unvoiced question was suddenly answered as Ben came on the call and began rattling off a list of technical details excitedly.
I should have known.
Alys was already demanding to know the location of the resistance and Ben before I really had a chance to begin. At first the two were hesitant to hand that information over until Alys really worked up the intimidation angle of things. Address in hand, I verified that Alys was going to be able to handle things here and then took off across town in hypertime.
Alys sighed. The idiots had Ben – and, knowing Ben, they would now be involved in building some sort of suicidal hyperspace weapon on the surface of the planet they were living on. She was willing to go all out (spending a force point) on the intimidation-and-interrogation if it meant getting some of Ben’s experiments AWAY from an inhabited planet! Besides… she could use the shock of letting them know that SHE knew about their droid-communications network to get them talking – and they might never notice when the subject slipped away from droid engineering.
It would have been faster to have taken the speeder bike in hypertime, but I was not certain of my ability to pilot it through traffic moving several hundred times slower than I was. Walking is still a much safer way of going hypertime in my opinion. That still meant I had to go over sixty kilometers on foot. I had to stop several times and raid convenience stores along the way for food and drink. I always left credits on the counter so I couldn’t be accused of theft.
I really wanted to fall asleep given the hour I felt it was, but remembering the Shar Research group, I felt it best not to do that while in hypertime. So I marched on across town in the dead of the night and willed myself to keep going. Finally I arrived at the warehouse specified. That trip took nearly seven hours of my time as I walked through roads in the dead of the night nearly eight hundred times normal speed. And according to the clocks, it only took me about thirty seconds real time to accomplish. I was exhausted, cranky and wanted to sleep, but first I had to smack Ben around for designing superweapons and building them on the same planet I was on.
There were two “guards” at the doorway, but it was a simple matter to just run by them and phase through the door before they even had time to react. I found Ben and several of the resistance members gathered around a table still talking with the engineers I had left back at the apartments. I immediately began to unload on Ben about teaching people how to build yet more superweapons. That startled everyone in the room except Ben as they suddenly became aware of my presence.
Almost all of them immediately pulled guns and began firing at me. Again it was a simple matter of watching the movements of the blasters and timing my movements to dodge at the last moment as I systematically took away their blasters. With that done in a matter of seconds, I returned my attention to Ben as I kept up the chastisement over this frustrating behavior. It was amusing to see the shock on the faces of the resistance as I proceeded to ignore them in my continuing argument with Ben. At which point Ben introduced me to his new “friends” as the Sith Lord cartoon character he wanted to put in charge of the resistance.
There are days I really hate what has become of my life.
Before I could even begin to explain that one to anyone, one of the resistance members grabbed a nearly assembled torpedo or mine that Ben had been working on and threatened to detonate it. I immediately pointed out that if the thing really was a superweapon, then it was very likely to destroy not just me, but him, the town and very likely the entire planet if set off. My own probability sense and precognition rated that as highly unlikely but Ben’s projects do have a nasty habit of destroying themselves.
This resulted in a short argument with me calling him an idiot for resorting to superweapons, him calling me an idiot for not backing down, and Ben admiring the technical challenges in the design. Finally I got distracted enough arguing with Ben that the man triggered the superweapon before I could react. The explosion went off with a quiet “poof” and the man was left holding the device while looking incredibly confused. Almost everyone in the room participated in knocking him unconscious while Ben exclaimed he could modify the design to produce a dramatic garbage disposal.
What is it with Ben and him wanting to turn every appliance into a superweapon or every superweapon into a kitchen appliance? The idea of a kitchen full of dual use technology really just does not appeal to me in the slightest.
Ben sighed. They were only supposed to TRAVEL though hyperspace, and packed less punch than a normal missile – and most of THAT had been dumped into hyperspace. Why was everything he built or designed labeled a superweapon?
I then began to imply that I did not want to lead a resistance band that resorted to superweapons at the first opportunity. Anyone that incompetent wasn’t worth rescuing in my opinion. They fired back that I had a superweapon designer at my disposal and several other insinuations about my general competency. At which point the debate over who was more incompetent began to escalate significantly until I finally asked how many Sith have they managed to kill. Comparing their nonexistent result with our own rather large kill count finally cemented the idea that we had a better idea of how to run things.
With that decided, and Alys arriving with the engineers some time later, I took the opportunity to find a quiet corner of the warehouse where the rest of the group could see me and caught some sleep.
When I awoke an indeterminate time later, I got a status update from Ben and Alys regarding the local situation. Even the locals were finding the government to be behaving unbelievably cowardly. The planetary shields were slowly being dismantled on the orders of the Sith too. We told them what we knew or understood about Zandaras’s ability to manipulate and control people. That seemed to align with what they had been seeing going on and that meant we had possible candidates here to inspect.
We then outlined a plan with three basic parts at this point in the game. First we needed access to a hyperdrive facility. That was mainly to help tide Ben over since he was away from his workshops, but he also might figure out how to get those Codex and Force boosting hyperfields duplicated. Second we needed to capture some government officials and see what we could learn regarding the nature of Zandaras’s control mechanism. Third and finally, we needed to find out what it would take to restore the planetary shields.
The hyperdrive facility was easy enough as there were plenty of repair shops no longer seeing any work due to the occupation. That made Ben happier, although he still mentioned he would have preferred if we could have brought the asteroids with their workshops instead. I wasn’t about to explain again why we couldn’t bring the asteroids initially when coming to this world.
The locals were agreeable regarding the shields, but didn’t seem to think it a priority as they felt that the Sith were unlikely to bomb the planet. The idea being that the Sith would find the planet too valuable to bomb into oblivion. That logic held so long as they proved valuable to the Sith. Once the Sith felt it too much bother to try to keep getting an investment from the planet, it was entirely possible that they would bombard it purely out of spite. To believe otherwise was to accuse the Sith of being sane as I pointed out. That got the attention of the resistance as they suddenly remembered why it was important to get the shields running again.
That left capturing one of the turncoat government officials. We had a good idea of several officials that had been turned based on our combined knowledge. Going after one of the top officials was likely to raise too many alarms though. It was smarter to go after one of the smaller ones to better simulate the resistance getting a little more daring and a little more organized. Although looking at the ragtag group around me eating fast food, that may be closer to the truth that I thought.
This bunch was a far cry from the soldiers and officers we worked with on Surkiant. Plus that world had a lot more resources to throw at the Sith. Now granted, it also had a lot more Sith to throw stuff at, but that is beside the point. It’s going to take some time before these people will make a respectable resistance.
We had three basic choices, first option was to attack during one of his public appearances, second option was to attack him at his office, and the final option was to try at his home. A public appearance was going to lead to too many witnesses and potential casualties. The office had similar although less pronounced issues with witnesses and bystanders. His home had the fewest people nearby and also had the benefit of his family being away on vacation at the moment. Scouting from the resistance showed the place to be guarded by four guards and eight droids.
Right, the resistance would work to seal off the area and work with Shipwreck to disrupt communications. Khadim and 10CH were sneak into the faculty, disrupt outbound communications, and do what they could to incapacitate the security droids. Lazlo and Handell were going to make a false food delivery to distract security towards the main gate. Alys, Ben and I were then to sneak in the back and prevent any escape attempts that were made. At first I figured that Ben go on the food delivery team, but he insisted that his sneaking abilities were quite good these days.
Fine, whatever then.
The villa itself was located on a hillside a good distance from town. It wasn’t especially large and the neighbors were closer than I would have liked, but I felt we could make this work with no fatalities. The resistance got into position around the place as Alys, Ben and I snuck around back. On cue, Lazlo made his delivery at the appointed time. That got about a third to half the security forces to focus their attention on the front gate like we planned.
Alys, Ben and I took the opportunity to hop the fence and start working our way across the grounds. Due to the lack of large cover, we had to split up a bit along the way as some of those shrubs wouldn’t hide three of us at once. About halfway to the villa, I heard the alarm go off and saw droids moving towards the direction I felt Ben. Alys was ahead of me and nearly at the villa. I was torn which to support. Ben was going to be in heavy combat soon, but Alys was going to be taking on the security contingent trying to evacuate the official.
Alys settled the issue when she told the resistance fighters around the villa to take out the security. As a maelstorm of blaster fire engulfed the place, I moved quickly to support Alys. I saw that she was shooting at a flit trying to take out the engine with moderate success. I guessed that the official must be on that flit, otherwise Alys wouldn’t be shooting at it.
Well nothing for it but to end this quickly before this escalates any further. Slipping into hypertime, I ran towards the flit and sunk my lightsaber deep into the engine block. The sounds of the engine trying to start stopped immediately as the two remaining security guards unloaded from the flit to engage me and Alys. We made quick work disarming and incapacitating them. Alys ran off to regain control of the resistance forces now shooting anything that moved. That left me to deal with the official hiding in the back of the flit.
It was a simple matter to drag him out, put him into stasis, and then carry him towards our ride out of here. After carefully stowing him, I made went around the villa to make sure we had everyone and that none of the security guards were going to die before medical help arrived. Satisfied that everyone would live, we loaded up and retreated back to our safehouse.
While Shipwreck, Ben and the doctors studied our captive in stasis, I took the opportunity to chastise the performance of the resistance. The fact that the majority of injuries on our side were due to friendly fire was unacceptable if we were going to repel the Sith occupation. A couple of them started looking embarrassed as the verbal lashing, but it needed to be said otherwise they wouldn’t learn. While I did mention the lack of fatalities as a good point, we needed to do better.
Alys and I then ran them through a series of tactical scenarios and managed to at least get them started on the basics. It would take months or even years before they could be considered good soldiers, but we didn’t have that kind of time. At this point mastering the extreme basics was going to have to be enough.
The doctors and Shipwreck had a report on what had been done to the official. Looked like explosive implants, electronics (which Shipwreck was jamming), strange enzymes, Force meddling (mostly to induce despair and a sense of helpless acceptance), and some sort of corrosive that would turn his nervous system to goo if not kept at bay with daily antidotes of various types. I could see how this made ensure cooperation with regards to the occupation, but I had a hard time seeing this working against anyone tasked with being a suicide bomber. There had to be another layer to this then.
Lazlo then probed the official’s mind. That revealed that a number of people in the government and in the shield systems had been taken to orbit after the invasion. Most of them had gotten treated like this official and then sent back, less than ten though were selected to be treated differently and shuffled off to another area.
It also showed that the man had sent away his family so that – if the Sith did blow him up – they wouldn’t be caught in the blast.
He hadn’t been able to come up with anything much else in the way of defiance, but that was a fair try at it given his circumstances.
That at least gave us a list of names and faces to keep an eye on. Those treated like this one we were going to have to put into stasis as well until Welhem could be brought in to help with treatment. That also narrowed down our hunt for someone conditioned like the suicide bombers to just eight or nine people.
Pulling up records on those people, I selected one of them with a recently divorced spouse in the entertainment production industry as our next target. I had a feeling that she would be sympathetic to our cause and willing to give us information regarding her former husband. The others agreed to the plan.
Requesting an appointment went over well enough given the fact that snubbing the Sith was seen as a sure path to death around here. I hate to have to use that clout, but as long as I need to maintain being a Sith in public, it is necessary. Arriving at the production studio, we were shown to a large office with an overly large table between us and her. I could only guess what sort of devices might be embedded underneath that table.
When asked our business with her, we proceeded to give the story of being here hunting Kira Keldav. With her ties to entertainment and cartoon making, we thought he might have contacted her and wanted to ask her some questions regarding that. As she promptly denied having any contact with Kira, we started filling our conversation with innuendo regarding our true identities for several minutes. When it finally seemed like she understood what was going on, Ben slid onto the desk between us and did something with his controls. Then he announced that it was now safe to talk freely as all sound was being blocked from the outside by his shield.
Personally, I rated the odds as significantly lowered but not zero. Of course, at times there isn’t much difference.
We then went into a full discussion of who we were, why we were here, and what we wanted to know from here. Biggest focuses on our end was to learn more about her impressions of her ex-husband after the occupation began, and any information about the residence and the guards she might have that would make a cleaner capture more likely.
The explanation of how we thought Zandaras was controlling people by implanting bio-goo in place of their brain went over better than I anticipated. Apparently the thought of him being killed by the Sith went over better than the idea of him turning traitor.
The others asked questions of their own of her. Once we left we would compare notes and formulate a plan for the capture. In the meantime, I was assembling a plan beyond that. First we would capture our next target and deduce what we could from him about how Zandaras controls people into doing suicidal actions. After that we would give the plans on how to assemble stasis systems to the local resistance so that they could work on capturing the others that had been converted by the Sith. Then we would need to find out what it takes to reactivate the planetary shields.
Once we had that figured out and being worked on, we send a message to the asteroids requesting their presence here so that we can hold the system after raising the shields. Then we find out what war materials are being shipped off world to supply the Sith war effort. Once we know that, we try to smuggle explosives into the cargo shipment. Then we try to time the cargo explosion, the raising of the shields, and the arrival of the asteroids for the same timeframe. As that is going on, the party will return to orbit and try to retrieve the Asrai and it’s supply of anti-capital ship missiles.
That will be difficult to time together, let alone pull off any one of the pieces. Indeed, the odds I am projecting for this working are not good, but it is the best plan and the best odds I can assemble. Maybe with further refinement of the individual pieces, we might be able to improve the overall odds some.
But something still bothers me, while the planet is firmly under Sith control, that control is incredibly fragile in the face of organized resistance. Zandaras did quite a bit to prevent such resistance from forming, but the rise of someone able to organize things or someone arriving that could is too likely to be ignored. After all, I am here right now aren’t I? That means there has to be covert teams here on the surface with the purpose of taking out anyone that proves a threat, or comes close to reactivating the shield system.
Hmm, while the others head to orbit to grab the Asrai, maybe I should remain behind to deal with this covert team that is likely to intervene. Sigh, we’ve too few resources spread too many places in this one. Unfortunately, I am once again the one most likely to survive against the Sith alone.
Damn the Jedi for making me responsible for the safety of an entire planet.
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 37 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 36 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 32 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 33 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 29 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)