Lazlo’s “Speaking with the Dead” (or “tap damaged minds in stasis”) discipline proved capable of working on Gnoush. Ben and Jacob were both fascinated with the creature… the silicon-based crystalline-computer seemed to be mostly running old droid programs (even if it was a lot of them on massively-parallel systems) – but the communications and implementation ran through the living silicon-carboon quasi-organic goo, which was in stasis. There were local communications – but the interstellar identity-link seemed to rely purely on the force. That made sense; there was no way to put enough power into links like that from a droid to make them work without a relay system – and you couldn’t usually access one on an infiltration mission.
Still… Any kind of a living mind capable of running droid-programs had a massive advantage. Those programs had been refined across millennia. It was only the fact that no programmer could give them the flexibility and adaptability that the force gave a living mind that kept people from turning over most of the decisions to droids…
Fortunately, getting the stuff out of Gnoush’s skull, and refilling with bacta, was fairly straightforward, even if the local doctors did have to work through waldos to do it (and REALLY wanted access to whatever gadget the group was using on their patient; it would make working on vital organs a LOT easier if the patient could be effectively put into suspension so easily!).
With the analysis of Gnoush complete, the debate on what to do next started. We quickly agreed that it was important that the Republic get the information we had already collected. Also the Asrai and the Dusk Gryphon were going to be rather conspicuous once any real investigation of us began. Ergo, it was decided that we would contact Handell and ask him to take the Asrai and Dusk Gryphon to go warn the Republic and the Jedi Council. We also gave him directions to retrieve the asteroids and bring them to the local Oort Cloud should we need them. I also wanted him to find a drill sergeant to help us get this resistance into shape.
It took some finagling to get the message to him securely, but we did finally manage via messages on the Codex channel Ben had set up. This led to the annoying problem of us having only one living pilot up there and two ships needing to be moved. This was an annoying situation as we either had to leave one of the ships here or potentially lose one in hyperspace. Docking the two together or even taping them together wasn’t going to work given the time frame we had available.
Then someone reminded us of the furipedes and the fact that they could fly one of the ships. The furipedes moved over to the Dusk Gryphon and made preparations to launch as Handell plotted a course aboard the Asrai. The two ships then proceeded to depart the system leaving the bounty hunter ship Jacob and Telera had arrived on. That one couldn’t be readily traced back to being owned by the party and so was safe to leave behind in case we needed to depart the system. Hopefully Handell would be able to get the warning out while it could still make a difference, but in the meantime, we needed to do what we could to disrupt Zandaras’s war effort.
Handell made a very fast trip to the Jedi and Republic Security Councils: the information on just how Zandaras was producing the traitors who brought the shields down would be priceless; a detailed brain scan of incoming offworlders would reveal Zandaras’s suicide-agents. That alone would help tremendously in stopping his advances. Getting the asteroids and the rest of their little fleet back would take a little longer…
I found Jacob hammering one of the fighter engines we stole onto a repulsor car in a most non-technical way. The proficiency this nutjob has for destroying our equipment put our own enemies to shame. Nevermind the fact that this stuff is rather hard to come by at the moment. Yelling at Jacob wasn’t proving very productive as he just went on cheerily with his hammering the screws into place. If he destroys much more of our equipment, I am seriously going to consider leaving him behind.
Jacob didn’t see a problem; sure, fighter engines were mildly hard to come by right now – but fighters were even harder, they really didn’t have any other use for the things, the mounting brackets could easily be replaced if they did come up with another use for the engines somewhere else – and a really fast getaway or diversion might well come in handy!
Meanwhile the others had gotten more information from the skull-full of bioweapon goo that we got out of Gnoush. Looked like the rational decision making was almost completely due to the droid tactical and strategic program loaded on the system. It also looked like the goo we collected had a complete copy of the program loaded as well. Well that would be useful if we could get our hands on a copy of it. No such system was perfect and I imagine we could find a set of tactics the program wouldn’t be able to cope against very well if we looked hard enough.
We also gained information about the ships in orbit and why each of them were here. It looked like the two Zandaras ships were here because Zandaras had precognitively determined that trouble was about to start here – and didn’t trust the other Sith factions as far as he could throw a planet unaided and unenhanced. That was probably us he felt. The Baramour were here on the suggestion of a new faction member of theirs that our asteroid was soon to be in the system and was full of data on bioweapons. The other ship was belonging to one of the more neutral Sith factions that hadn’t been participating in the war thus far, but there wasn’t much detail on that. Best guess we had was that they were of the personal enhancement bunch and that they were here to prevent the Baramour from joining Zandaras and for their own personal gain.
Discussion turned back on what to do next. Ben wanted to evacuate the population of the planet to the Oort Cloud once the asteroids arrived out there. This was unworkable given the sheer size of the population. With our resources we couldn’t even make a dent against the birth rate. He proposal of moving the planet was also unworkable given our lack of a black hole to use. Nor could we use a full stasis field to mimic a black hole, at least according to Ben and assorted weird mathematics. Super charging the blasters using the stasis field effect to blow up the ships in orbit was potentially workable but I was not keen on testing that on a planet surface when we knew so little about how big a bang it made.
Alys’s suggestion of surrendering to one of the other Sith factions really didn’t strike me as something I wanted to try. Maybe if we were about to be caught by one of the factions we really pissed off, sure, but not under the current circumstances.
Jacob wanted to build stasis mines to attack the ships with. How he came up with that idea concerns me, but it wasn’t particularly workable anyway. Any such mine coming from the planet was going to be immediately obvious and we didn’t have the resources to build them in deep space until the asteroids arrived. There just wasn’t anyway to make the idea work while we were stuck planetside.
Jacob wasn’t so sure; why couldn’t they try to tunnel them into orbit? All they needed to do was get close… Ben pointed out that they’d orbit past, but then got lost in calculations as to whether or not they’d orbit normally in stasis. What would that time mismatch do with a stasis generator in a different orbit from some of the items it was affecting?
Lazlo advocated joining Zandaras or feeding Zandaras enough souls to make him completely incoherent. Why in the galaxy he thought these were good ideas was beyond me. Joining Zandaras didn’t appeal to me in the slightest and trying to infiltrate wasn’t going to work given our past history with the nut. Feeding him souls in an effort to overload the computer driving it was unlikely to work either. If that could work, it would have by now with all the different Sith, Jedi and who knows what else is in that thing. Besides, I was not going to sacrifice more people to be eaten by this damned thing.
Lazlo wasn’t so sure there either; yes, they’d created Zandaras by chasing a vortex of dark power into embodying itself in a bioweapon – but it wasn’t like the thing had ever actually seen any of them or met them in person; it had just woken up and headed for whatever spot it considered to be it’s base. Was there really any reason to assume that it would know them? He thought that Kira was just getting paranoid.
OK, that might not be such a bad idea during a Sith War, but it was still going a bit overboard.
About the only suggestion worth trying at the moment from any of them was the idea to implant the concepts of the Codex into the bio-weapon sample we had collected. Lazlo could put the information into the system readily enough and it was entirely possible that the information would transfer to the main body once the stasis was turned off. The theory then indicated that Zandaras possibly had someone inside him with potential Codex talent and that potential combined with the Codex knowledge could cause the entire mess to disintegrate. After all, it was the force that was holding the monstrosity together.
That could work, but I had serious reservations about the intelligence of it. While it was unlikely the entire conglomeration could become a hybrid, it was possible one or two souls remaining might, and could then take more direct control of the “ship”. Or there might not be any Codex potential in there and we will have just given up all the information on one of our biggest advantages at the moment.
Still, they went ahead and loaded the knowledge into the Zandaras fragment, but chose to keep it in stasis until we desperately needed some sort of an ace. If it was already a disaster, it might or might not make it worse to hit that button.
Lazlo’s deep probe brought them some additional information… The bioweapon goo was definitely at least somewhat alive, and had it’s own force presence. The original force ghost was still present, but in a deep coma due to the lack of neural tissue to work through (that had to suck). Zandramas was busy because his fleet was massing for an attack on several major republic industrial worlds. The ships were being escorted in because he didn’t trust the other Sith factions – and one was very definitely the Barramor (their new member wanted “his” asteroid back) while the other was apparently representing a coalition from across the galaxy who wanted some technologies or to observe something here; they hadn’t been entirely clear about it. Zandramas didn’t like the Barramour – but wanted the Artificers, who were part of the other coalition.
Dammit, was half of this mess another self-fulfilling precognitive loop again?
Well, hopefully the information they’d already sent would help blunt that attack. Still, with all their plans either unworkable or on hold until the asteroids came, it was time to outline my own plan.
We were going to fake a plague being unleashed onto the planet by the Baramour. A quick neuro-degenerative disease could readily be faked, especially with the use of stasis belts to produce piles of “corpses” for broadcasts sent out by droids. Once investigators arrived, all they would find would be droids burning piles of organic materials. Zandaras didn’t trust the Baramour at all and was likely to believe the idea given the circumstances. Hell, we could even use Jacob – or at least the blank clone currently in the armor he was using as a body – as an example of a survivor of the plague found by the droids to really stir things up.
The others weren’t especially keen on the idea, but were unable to come up with anything better to try. So we proceeded with the plan. It was a simple matter to train the resistance to use the stasis belts and the larger stasis generators. Once they understood the plan, they began quietly arranging for small towns in the countryside to cooperate with us in faking a plagued massacare. The addition of gray paint to mimic skin lesions was also a nice touch I thought.
As we started with the first town, I was struck by the enthusiasm everyone in the town and the resistance was showing for the plan. The soldiers we worked with on Surkiant were a lot better trained and more professional than this bunch, but they lacked the enthusiasm in resisting the Sith that this bunch certainly has. Maybe all they really needed this whole time was a plan to follow and a small push to get them started.
First town was a smashing success, as was 10CH’s performance at delivering Jacob for discussion. Once the townsfolk were brought out of stasis and taught how to use the systems themselves, they too began participating in getting other towns to play along. Soon enough an “epidemic” was sweeping the planet as small towns and villages would disappear overnight with naught but droids burning large pyres the next morning.
Medical teams sent to investigate would either catch on and cooperate with us in faking the plague or would catch the “plague” themselves if they were particularly obstinate. Same thing occurred with military units trying to enforce a quarantine, as those willing to assist would join us, and those that wouldn’t caught the “plague” too. We even started systematically capturing the other resistance groups in this fashion as we worked to consolidate control of the resistance under our banner. Shipwreck would scan everyone captured for Zandaras control mechansisms, Lazlo would check to see how cooperative they were, and those that would cooperate would be let out of stasis while those not so cooperative would remain in stasis.
I promised to let them all out once we broke the occupation and liberated the planet. That would help the reputation of myself and the resistance if we can show that no one died from the plague after all.
As things started rolling on a global basis, we could pick up heated communications from the ships in orbit. It looked like the commander of the ships belonging to Zandaras was accusing the Baramour of starting the plague, which the Baramour denied. Discussions between them got more and more heated as time went on. Teams of heavily armed and armored Sith soldiers and droids came planetside and took direct control of the planetary shield generators. I figured there were two options there: either the Sith were wanting to ensure the shields remained down in case they needed to sterilize the place, or they were prepping to reactivate the shields in case the dispute in orbit turned hostile.
When the demand came out later that day for the government to get things under control in two months or face bombardment, I felt it was the latter case. Discussions in orbit eventually settled on letting a few Baramour down to the surface to investigate the plague. The Baramour immediately insisted the practice of burning “corpses” stop, so we set up a scene full of volunteers in stasis. Once the Baramour got close enough to the scene to detect something amiss, we would activate a larger stasis system and trap them as well. So too would the Baramour catch our deadly “plague”.
The precognition of the Baramour caught on though before they even entered the area. They promptly left and announced that the plague was either exceedingly dangerous to Force users as well or the resistance was likely to get them as they investigated. The Zandaras ships called shenanigans on this and the arguments began escalating.
The resistance asked me what to do since we didn’t capture the Baramour like we had hoped. I told them to take a wait and see approach as I wanted to see how the arguments played out.
The order came from orbit for the government to get the situation under control immediately or else the bombardment was likely to begin. The government predictably mobilized almost everything they had at that point to counter the so-called plague and I ordered the resistance to back off on “infections”. I had been hoping to push just a little further so that I could grab some more of Zandaras’s agents and get some more in the government to cooperate with me on resisting the Sith. Oh well, not much point in pushing if we all are blasted to atoms.
Unexpectedly, this result in an even larger escalation of the arguments in orbit as the Zandaras ships accused the Baramour of lying since the government was apparently gaining control of the situation below – and so it couldn’t be THAT dangerous. We immediately got the resistance to assist in making it look like the latest government push was making progress in stamping out the disease.
Still playing out….
At that point the battle broke out in orbit as the two Zandaran ships started shooting at the Baramour ship. The fourth ship joined in on the Zandaran side of things with a smug “I told you so” to the Zandarans. They couldn’t possibly be as smug about the situation as I was. Several missiles were fired at the planet by the Baramour as they were run out of the system, but as I predicted, the shields came up and intercepted the missiles. Zandaras can’t be losing a valuable manufacturing resource now can he? I was a bit surprised when the occupation sacrificed some of the mines to intercept the missiles. That earned them some favors with the locals that were going to be hard to counter, but letting my enemies do the hard work of defending the planet was a nice consolation prize.
Heh, Leondegrace is really going to have it in for me whenever he finds out what happened here. Maybe I should send him a thank you card for helping me take out some of the mines once this is all done.
News started coming in from the front lines once the Baramour and the other ship left the system and the Sith soldiers started mingling with the locals in the bars. It was felt that the fourth ship had retreated to the outskirts of the system. I figured it likely they were hunting the Zomogoostar now after suspecting our presence on this world. Well, if they did find it, they were in for a big surprise as three additional ships were now supporting it. That was probably enough fire power to keep the fourth ship at bay readily enough.
News also came in that Zandaras’s latest advance into Republic territory had fizzled and was repulsed by the Republic Navy. Apparently not nearly as many shield bases and military installations had been preemptively bombed as Zandramas had expected. That sounded like the warning to the Republic we sent arrived in time to make a difference. Hopefully the Republic could keep that up while we dismantled the rear line.
The planetary government was also given an extension of four months to recover from the plague or face bombardment. This was a good sign, as that indicated the setback on the front lines made future production from this world much more valuable. Zandaras was now less likely to bomb it into submission now than before.
Sadly the Sith soldiers were retaining complete control of the shield systems. They threatened to destroy the systems completely should any attempt be made to overwhelm the defenses. Heh, that would be simple enough to overcome with a dozen stasis vans to capture them with. That still left the problem of the two ships in orbit and the mine field, but I am sure I can think of something to deal with those.
About this time, Alys and Ben noted additional subtitles on the Codex channel that weren’t there before:
“Lost in the really big trees. Need a survival guide. Unable to locate trail.”
Well that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I was certain it was the Zomogoostar trying to send us a message, but that mess could have been interpreted any number of ways. I suspected they were wanting to open a hypertunnel to us with our group anchoring this end. That was certainly workable, but I figured that was likely to reveal our hand too soon. We debated methods of communicating back with the Zomogoostar for some time before I asked if Ben had set up forums for the Codex channel as well. Turns out he had.
Although there weren’t that many users on the forums, it took some digging to find the user we wanted. That got us back in communications again with the Zomogoostar. They had apparently arrived in the Oort Cloud after Handell found them. They were wanting to know if we wanted a hypertunnel, which we declined for the moment. Ben did send over some plans for a stasis mine and stasis shield. We also got a report that the two Zandaran ships in orbit had left to go elsewhere and had been replaced with several minor ships.
Well so much for the hope of capturing a few capital ships. Oh well, this will make it easier to bust the occupation anyway. It just won’t be nearly as dramatic.
Both Lazlo and Jacob excused themselves at this time to go bar-hopping. If that is what they want to do, I am not going to tell them not to so long as they don’t stir up too much trouble.
Lazlo did indeed go bar-crawling – with Sith troopers. He first brawled with them – (and was cleanly knocked out by an exceptional shot from a sergeant), then made good connections with them… He started bar-crawling with them on a regular basis. Their gossip actually seemed to be a decent source of information. They didn’t seem particularly “Sithy” really. They were just troops – a lot like every other bunch of troops he’d ever seen.
Jacob also went out to harass the troops – and wound up first showing his face, than creating a secondary plague scare, and then provoking the Sith into offering a reward on him. He then took his clone out of the armor and turned it in for the reward – claiming to have captured himself. That bought him a substantial reward and a chance to meet another one of Zandramas’s agents – whom he promptly put into stasis, stuffed inside himself, and walked out with.
Ben meanwhile was scrapping the hypermine system (it was too easily adapted to spreading bioweapons) and learning about the other users on the Codex forums. Most of them were mainly of the opinion that if this actually worked, then why hadn’t anyone heard about it in the last 21,000 years? I had to admit that question has kept me concerned more often than not, but I wasn’t about to share my concerns about the possible answers right now. It did however look like we had three possible candidates for people with Codex abilities: a kid now using hypertime to pass tests faster, a paranoid conspiracy theorist of the opinion that this proved nothing existed, and another being confined for psychiatric evaluation as he was now setting fires to things – or at least being found in the immediate vicinity of mysterious fires – on a frequent basis.
The first and the third both sounded like hypertime users to me. As to whether they were monotalented or full Codex users remained to be seen. The second one in my opinion was well on his way to becoming Faded unless he got serious counseling. Sigh, I imagine we may have to take all three of them in for a time now that Ben has broadcast how to tap into their powers without giving them a chance for training. What was particularly frustrating about it all was how disappointed Ben seemed regarding how few there were. Just how many lives was he wanting to ruin just to try out some new ideas he has?
Jacob suddenly returned with another one of Zandaras’s agents stuffed inside him in stasis. I really didn’t want to ask how he managed to do that or why, but we added Mr…. Recoud to the pile of captured agents. The medical droids began an examination of Recoud and even took out the parasite from his skull. Keeping the sample in stasis, we then took precautions to keep the entire room in stasis as Ben went to work on extracting the program from the crystals inside.
Then we had to wipe the medical droids memories. They were too insistent on research, and access to the stasis technology.
Copy of the program in hand, and the two-thousand-year-old original from the galactic archives to compare against, we set droids to begin comparing the two programs in hopes of finding crucial differences we could exploit for our purposes. There are several shutdown codes still in there and probably built into the hardware itself as opposed to software. The civilized warfare restraints were removed, or more likely just bypassed. Methods for updating the program were also available if we could find a way to interface with it.
I doubt our ability to hook up a computer connector to Zandaras under anything remotely resembling combat, but Ben started whipping up a system update to upload should we get the opportunity to. We still didn’t know where Zandaras even was if we wanted to face him.
At which point Lazlo came in and announced that the Sith soldiers were under the impression that Zandaras was now on his way here.
Oh bloody hell.
I was really hoping to break the occupation here and get a few systems and some more ships under our control before he showed up. And maybe I was being a bit ambitious, but I was hoping to take out some of those HoloSith allied to Zandaras before things escalated too. Well it is not like everything goes according to plan and I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to this point. Maybe this is just my luck running out.
- Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 39 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- 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 31 from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)