Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chapter 18 - Navy Problems

“Captain, we have a problem.”

That was an understatement. Sure, I just shot up half the Ring, and blew the doors off the place, literally. But you’d think people would have more of a sense of humor about such things. But no, there were a lot of calls for me to return to the hangar, and a Navy destroyer was trying to intercept me. How was a destroyer here so fast? They wouldn’t do an in-system jump just for blowing the doors… Aw, fuck.

It was my own fault, I guess. I blasted out of the spaceport on Luna, and there were legal records naming the ship. It wouldn’t take too much to figure the direction we went. And I already knew that they had Lord Kickass, which would connect the Major, and therefore me, to this ship. Add in the Princess, and factor in the time for a run from wherever their patrol route was, and them showing up now, after we’d spent hours on the station, made a ton of sense.

Damnit.

Of course, that wasn’t the problem Raven was talking about. No, that would be the flight of two fighters that got launched from the station, and were coming in hot. Seems they were quite upset with us. Don’t know why.

I threw the throttle all the way forward, buying a little more time as I rocketed towards the edge of the system. “Carissa, get started on those jump calculations. Set the exit point for the edge of the system, on the other side of one of the suns from the Fleet base.” She nodded from the navigator’s position, and I got on the comms. “Fighters incoming. Cali, Jaynie, feel free to splash them if they fire on us.”

I took a breath, and said, “Now, I just have to deal with that destroyer.”

Carissa looked up from her seat. “Why? Can’t we just go to hyperspeed as soon as the calculations are done?”

I shook my head. “I’m not a navy man, but even if they don’t have some way to track and follow us while we’re FTL, the fact is that they have access to the Hypercom network, so if they get a read on our last known course and vector, they can have someone sitting there, waiting for us, when we come out in Alpha Centauri.”

The woman frowned, and said, “So, what do we do?”

“That’s where things get tricky. The Raven can maybe take that destroyer in a straight fight, if we get lucky, but we’d be hurting at the end of it, maybe dead. They’ve simply got better guns than we do. We certainly can’t deal with them while we have fighters on our tail. The longer we keep in system, the more ships will try and catch us. So we gotta find a good place to mask our trail…”

I trailed off, looking at the plot. Using the keyboard, I sent a query to Raven, who simply said it was possible, but we would have to be fast. With that in mind, I turned sharply, heading straight for the most massive object in the system aside from the sun itself.

There’s an art to flying through a storm. When said storm is so big that it covers a significant part of the planet’s surface, that art gets raised to whole new levels. The fighters, resilient as they were, weren’t designed for this. Sure, they could hang for a little while, but we hit atmosphere just at the time they were in weapons range, and they followed us in, hoping to damage us enough to force us out of the clouds. Unfortunately for them, the atmosphere robbed them of their greatest advantage, speed and maneuverability. Cheers from the turrets greeted me as I saw the fighters disappear from the plot. “Good work, ladies! I’m confirming you each earned your first fighter kill.”

The destroyer, unwilling to simply let us get away, followed us in, as we went into the heart of the red spot, the largest and longest-lasting storm in the solar system. The destroyer was tough, but it wasn’t as agile as the Raven. I was counting on that to get a bit of separation.

Because I really didn’t want to be close by with what was going to happen next.


(INS Nightingale)
Captain Ellair Coineagan watched the screens from his chair on the bridge of the Nightingale. The Griffon-class destroyer was old, from the last war twenty years ago, but she was a sturdy craft, designed for anti-piracy work. Taking out a small freighter should be no problem for a ship of her class.

Unfortunately, the captain of the freighter they had been ordered to capture knew, or guessed, as much, since they immediately turned and fled, waiting until the fighters foolishly followed them into the atmosphere to take them out. That much was within expectations, given the obvious difference in size and weapons between the two ships.

That captain was either a cunning bastard, or a madman, it seemed. As they chased the ship into the atmosphere of the gas giant, Lieutenant Ellery on comms had managed to get an update on the crew’s actions. Apparently, when they had been accosted by one of the local syndicates, they engaged in a running gun battle through the station to get to their ship, before blasting the doors off the hangar bay in order to get free.

That spoke of a certain animal cunning, and a ruthlessness to pull through no matter the costs. More importantly, it told him that the captain knew enough about combat to understand that getting bogged down on the station would make his position extremely untenable. So he knew a bit about strategy, at least.

But why would he then go and dive into the middle of a gas giant? Sure, the clouds would shorten the range of his sensors, but the Nightingale’s military shields and armor would protect it against the pressures of the atmosphere longer than the freighter’s civilian models. Flying into a storm wouldn’t protect them that much. They made a large wake that his sensors were able to track.

It would be so much easier if he could just destroy the freighter, like the pirate scum it probably was. Looking over the acceleration profile, it was clear that the engines had been modified. Clearly, this was either a pirate or a smuggler. Both were scum, in the captain’s mind. Scum that disrupted the natural order of things, and made it impossible to keep systems safe and secure for the human citizens the Fleet protected.

Lieutenant Simonov looked up from the sensor station. “Captain, I think the target is doing something.”

Coineagan looked over to the young lieutenant. “You think?”

Simonov had the decency to be properly abashed for his choice of words. “Sorry, Captain, but the interference from the clouds makes it difficult to be sure. The target looks like it is slowing down. There are some energy readings that look like they may be experiencing engine trouble.”

“Hmm. The reports say there was a firefight in the hangar bay shortly before they blasted out of the station. Could be they received some damage that wasn’t immediately apparent.” The captain considered for a moment, and then said, “Helm, bring us in.”

Ellery looked up. “Captain, we have an incoming message from Earth. Priority One.”

Nodding, Coineagan said, “On screen.” It took all his skill and experience to keep from expressing his shock at the person on the screen, however. Instead of Admiral Morrison, who ordered him to pursue this freighter, it was Prince Travis himself! “Your Highness!”

The prince waved his hand. “As you were, Captain. I understand you’ve caught up with the freighter my sister’s using to hide out?”

“Yes, your Highness. We are currently tracking them through the storms in Jupiter’s atmosphere. According to our readings, they may be attempting to hide in the storms while they conduct repairs of some kind.”

“Very good. You and your men have my utmost confidence. Do your duty and secure the Princess before this ruffian can steal her away somewhere. We must resolve the succession crisis quickly, if we are to preserve our strength for the coming days.”

“Understood, your Highness. We won’t—“

He was cut off by Simonov’s yell. “VAMPIRE! VAMPIRE! VAMPIRE! Missile launch detected from the target! Multiple missiles inbound!”

It may be rude to the Prince, but Coineagan’s first duty was to the ship. “Shields to full! All power to forward weapons! Prepare point defense! Helm, get us within weapons range. Weapons, lock on to the freighter’s engines and disable them! No one fires on the Imperial Navy and gets away with it!”

This was completely against his expectations. The freighter had launched four missiles at him. Even if they were modern shipkiller missiles, which was doubtful, four missiles would not be nearly enough to take out the Nightingale. Not with their point defense active and ready. The missiles were too easy to track in the atmosphere for his point defense to not take out at least two or three of the missiles. And while two shipkillers that size might be able to cripple his ship, they wouldn’t sink her, and then she would turn the freighter into so much floating gas.

Wait. Gas? When he was a boy in what used to be Scotland, back before the planetary government formed, he had witnessed an explosion of flammable gas once, in a kitchen that had been damaged by local criminals. Quickly, he looked at the sensor scans, and bit back a curse. “EVASIVE MANEUVERS! GET US OUT OF THE ATMOSPHERE! ALL HANDS BRACE FOR IMPACT!”

Four missiles may not be able to kill the Nightingale, but that is only if they were actually targeting her.

This captain was far too clever by half. If only his ship survived so he could take revenge for it.


(Jupiter’s atmosphere)
Jupiter’s atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium, in concentrations that aren’t unlike what you see in stars themselves. Of course, Jupiter lacks the overwhelming mass required to start nuclear fusion and become a second sun. But that doesn’t mean it is particularly safe to go launching missiles into areas with particularly high concentrations of hydrogen gas.

Unfortunately for the Nightingale and her crew, her captain hadn’t realized the danger until it was far too late to get clear. The force of the four explosions in close proximity caused a chain reaction going through the cloud, battering the destroyer with incredible force. Following the captain’s orders, the helmsman had pulled the ship up and to starboard, a quick turn that the internal gravity couldn’t quite counter, sending some members of the crew to greet the nearest bulkhead with their faces, but that left the ship taking the brunt of the wave across its broadside.

Even so, for a second, it looked as though the ship would pull through, but the blast wave damaged the reactor. The power hiccupped for only a fraction of a second, but in that time, containment was lost, and the Nightingale gained the ignominious distinction of being the first Imperial Navy vessel to be destroyed by a Nomad.


(Starlight Raven)
For defeating two fighters and a destroyer in ship-to-ship combat, you gain 46000 XP.
+4000 XP for fighting alongside your Crew in ship-to-ship combat.
+4000 XP for fighting alongside your Corporation members in ship-to-ship combat.
+2000 XP for fighting alongside your Slaves in ship-to-ship combat.

You are now Level 18.
You have 24 points to distribute.


Your actions have defied the Empire! The Starlight Raven is now classified as a pirate vessel by the Imperial Navy!


You have new active bounties on your head!
Current Bounties:
Red Orchid Clan – 350000 Alive, 100000 Dead
Choson Ring Militia – 25000 Alive, 10000 Dead
Imperial Navy – 50000 Alive, 50000 Dead
Prince Travis – 600000 Alive, 200000 Dead


Small Ship Pilot has improved to 6/100.
+1 WIS

You have unlocked the Gunnery skill. Gunnery determines your accuracy with vehicle-mounted weaponry.
Gunnery has improved to 2/100.
+1 DEX


You have gained over 1 Million credits in active bounties on your head! Because of this, you have been awarded a title based on your play style:

Legendary Outlaw
Some people take ‘laws’ as more like ‘suggestions’ or even ‘hey, I haven’t done that yet’. Then there’s you. Your actions are quickly becoming the stuff of legends. Everyone knows your name, and that name brings both respect and fear. But it also brings attention from higher powers, and people who want to see if they can take the legend down.
+20 CHA, +20 Luck
+2000 Fame

I chuckled as I read that, dismissing the notifications. Well, I guess I kindof suck at the whole ‘laying low’ thing. I’ll have to do better about that. Once I drop off the princess, I ought to switch to another face for a while. Anyways, the nearest Navy ship is way too far away to get a lock on us, much less track us now that we’ve shaken our pursuit.

It doesn’t take long before we’re clear of Jupiter’s gravity well. Following the instructions Raven put on my HUD, I activate the hyperdrive, and the gravitic bubble forms around us, cutting us off from normal space-time. Four days until we reach Alpha Centauri.

I handed the controls over to Raven’s autopilot, and used the ID spoofer to rename the Starlight Raven as Azarath’s Call. A little joke of my own.



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Chapter 79 - Trolling the Trolls

Trolls are known for a few basic things.

First, they are, almost universally, big, strong, and dumber than a sack of hammers. Second, they heal really fast, and are resistant to physical damage. Third, the only way to kill the fuckers is with fire, as that stops their regeneration. Except for fire trolls. Those beasties need ice. But they didn’t show up except in volcanoes and deserts and the like.

Most importantly to most people, however, was the fact that trolls had a very nasty habit of catching and eating people. However, not all the people they captured ended up on the menu. Not at first, anyways. See, Trolls were almost exclusively male. Kindof like Smurfs, if smurfs were hulking eight-foot-tall idiots who lived for the purpose of eating, fighting, and fucking.

Oh yeah. Since trolls were almost exclusively male, the only way they could reproduce was by catching females, and raping them to produce their broods. Needless to say, few women who survived such an ordeal, and the subsequent pregnancy, were ever the same again.

Since the only way to ‘negotiate’ with trolls was to cow them with a display of power, and the brutes were too stupid to remember the lesson if it wasn’t regularly reapplied, this meant that trolls were, understandably, not welcome in most places. In fact, it was only here in the Tribeslands, where there was no unifying authority, that they could even begin to do something like building their own settlement. Anywhere else and they would have been killed or dispersed long ago.

But that only lasted for so long. Eventually, the trolls forgot their ‘lessons’, and started attacking travelers cutting across the tribeslands. This caused a series fo small battles, but none of the tribes had the manpower to take out the trolls without opening themselves to an attack from one of their rivals. So someone contacted the Adventurer’s Guild, put up a request, and now I was on my way to kill some trolls.

Finding the trolls was easy. Their village was marked on my map, and there was a distinct lack of wildlife around, with so many hungry monsters all in one place. Oh, and there was the remains of a caravan on the road, destroyed by the trolls, with all the bodies of people and animals missing. Most of the goods on the wagons were either ruined or useless to me, but I found a lockbox containing a good amount of coins and jewelry, along with a few other small bits of loot.

Oh, and a really nice tent.

Charbek’s Movable Mansion
Type
Tool
Rank
Rare
From the outside, this object is nothing more than a traveler’s tent. Nicer than the simple tent a common traveler may use, but easily what a noble or wealthy merchant might use while on the road. Inside, however, is an extradimensional space that can change between one of five settings chosen by the creator during the item’s creation.
Current setting: Sultan’s Palace

Provides comfortable shelter for up to 20 people. The space provides basic food and drink according to the setting, but anything more complicated must be brought in from the outside.
Settings – Can be changed to one of the following five settings: Island Villa, Sultan’s Palace, King’s Castle, Elven mansion, Dungeon complex
Indestructible – Exterior item is immune to damage. Interior space repairs itself when changed to a new setting.
Quick-set – Command word causes the tent to set itself or collapse ready for transport.

WARNING: Individuals who remain in the space when the command to collapse the tent is given may be trapped in the extradimensional space until the tent is set up again.

Anyways, now that ‘roughing it’ while we were traveling was a thing of the past, we followed the trail the trolls had left. They had some captives, and they were dragging bodies, so it would have been easy to track them, even if trolls weren’t about as subtle as a South American soccer riot.

The troll ‘village’ of Trollmoore was really nothing but a few VERY rough huts made of logs and piled stone, set against a cave entrance. The only defenses in place were the trolls themselves, and even then, most of the trolls were engaged in their three favorite pasttimes, and not paying a bit of attention to the rest of the world.

While killing humans and the like was easy for my group, we were really lacking in the ‘fire’ department. A couple of us had weapons that did fire damage, but otherwise, the majority of the fire damage we had available to us was through me, or Kylana, and our hellfire attacks. That meant we needed a plan to chop these brutes into bite sized pieces so we didn’t get overrun.

Aya Bitar
High Human Female
Level 40 Humanoid Monster Tamer (Tamer) / Ranger
Titles: Taboo Tamer

Troll Warrior
Troll Male
Level 60 Barbarian
Titles: Human Bane, Violator

I put together a wonderful plan, really, involving me, Severa, and Kamla stealthing through the village laying down trails of oil that we’d use to create fires that would divide the village into sections, making it easy to conquer. Then I threw out that plan as a very pretty (and very naked) human woman came running around a corner, and nearly lept into my arms, followed by a very large (and also very naked) troll. Given that the ‘weapon’ dangling between the troll’s legs made the outrageous thing I had look small, I didn’t blame her for running.

Unfortunately, there was no way to do this quietly, so we’d have to settle for quick and brutal. I used one hand to pull the naked woman up against me, where she would be out of the line of fire, and then it was on. Della’s ice spell locked the troll in place, and the rest went to town, swarming and overwhelming the troll, who began yelling once the shock of our attack wore off. Fortunately, Kylana and I unleashed hellfire blasts at the same time, silencing the creature.

With the fight done, we paused, ready and listening for any sounds of further trouble. Fortunately, it sounded like a big fight had broken out between a couple trolls, so the one troll’s noise didn’t seem to raise the alarm. I hoped that anyone that heard it figured it was just the troll enjoying a ‘victory’ over the attempted runaway.

Turning to said runaway, who was almost certainly in shock, and was trying very hard not to break down as she leaned against my chest, I said, “Now, sweety, as much as I love having a pretty lady cuddle up against me like that, why don’t you tell us if there is anyone else left alive. That’ll change how we go about doing this.”

The woman suddenly realized I was talking apparently, and shook her head. When she spoke, she was all business, on the face of things. I figured she was blocking everything out until we finished this. “The rest of my party is still back there! There’s only four of us left. The two guys died defending the caravan, along with the NPC guards.” Ah, so she was a Traveler. That explained a few things. “Essie and Canki were still chained in the cage. They’d almost run through the rest of the women, so when they tried to grab me, Dae made a play, and I was able to run. Are you here to kill these monsters?”

“Yeah, got a quest to kill off this entire village. Guess we’ll have to do this the hard way now that we have people to rescue.” I considered the options, and pulled out the tent. When I gave the command, it opened up and set itself into the ground. Very convenient. Looking at our naked damsel, I said, “Get in. We’ll close the dimension up, and you’ll be safe until we can finish this.” She didn’t look happy, but when the alternative was running around the country naked with horny trolls after her, she did what she was told. Once she was in, I closed up the tent.

Looking to the others, I said, “Kamla, Severa, stealth and scout. Find that cage and free the women. This area will be home base. Try to bring them back this way, if you can. The rest of you, we don’t have time to make this simple. So Kylana, forget about the divide and conquer strategy. I need a wall of flame to keep the trolls from escaping. Make it so their only retreat is into that cave. The rest of you, protect her. I’ll supply the diversion.”

We broke up into our groups, and I shifted into my drake form. Now that we were fighting in open terrain more often, this form was seeing a lot more use than I’d been giving it before. Flying up above the village, I saw the main gathering area of the trolls. It was little more than a wide open space, where about 40 of the 50 or so trolls reported to be in the village were gathered, eating what were clearly the remains of the men from the caravan. There was a cage to the side, with two women in it, an elf with an ethereal look about her, and a gnome. They huddled against the back of the cage, both just as naked as the first girl.

Essaerae Reystina
Feytouched Elf Female
Level 40 Wildshaper (Druid) / Ranger
Titles: Friend of the Wild, Faekissed

Canki Fizzlebottom
High Gnome Female
Level 40 Flameblast Artificer (Artificer) / Rogue
Titles: Genius, Insane Genius, Pyromaniac

Around the clearing, there were screams and cries. Maybe ten other women had been captured, it seemed, and had already been passed around to the trolls. I figured killing those women would be a mercy. Well, I’d try to keep them alive, but I wasn’t going to risk my neck over it. Then I saw Kylana signaling. She was ready on her end.

As I began my dive, a bolt of magic came flying past me. Instantly I saw the culprit. A female troll! Trolls were almost exclusively male. About one in fifty trolls was female. The downside of that is that the females were always far more intelligent, and were able to use magic. I needed to eliminate her, fast.

I unleashed my hellfire breath, strafing the trolls as I flew over their heads, making sure to wash the breath over the female’s position. She was unharmed, thanks to a barrier she put up, but the flames did a number on the trolls around her. I rose, avoiding another blast of magic. As I turned, I saw a wall of hellfire spring up from the oil Kylana had conjured. The trolls, except for the female, were panicking now.

Nithroel and Kylana joined me in the air, while Yukiko, Della, and Hrozne patrolled the edge of the fire, ensuring no escapes. Nithroel dove, and smashed the female troll with her warhammer, breaking her concentration, and doing a fair bit of damage, as well. Kylana followed it up with blasts of hellfire. Not as strong as mine, even in incubus form, but hers was a racial ability, while in incubus form it was based on my class. But against trolls, it was more than enough. The female fell down, dead, just as I finished strafing the last of the trolls outside.

And that’s when the first roars of challenge came from the cave.

Daemira Ravenhair
Greater Succubus Female
Level 40 Mindtwister (Enchantress) / Earth Sorceress
Titles: Human Bane, Goblin Bane, Broken One

Chief Bigstaff
Demontroll Male
Level 80 Battle Raper (Barbarian) / Wrathlord (Barbarian)
Titles: Troll Bane, Violator, Human Bane, Elf Bane, Dwarf Bane, Orc Bane, Goblin Bane

At the head of the ten remaining trolls, all of whom were wearing armor and had actual weapons, was the biggest troll I’d ever seen. Demontrolls are, as one might expect, trolls from the Abyss or Hells. They were very powerful, and, like Fire Trolls, traded their weakness against Fire for one against Ice. This group of demontrolls were probably the elite of the village, and had taken the time to gear up before coming out to challenge us. Oh, and the leader was still ‘wearing’ a succubus on his cock, which was probably painful as hell for her, since I could see the tip coming out of her mouth. But her regen must be enough to keep her alive… for the moment. Della would need to see to her soon, though.

I landed in the clearing, the rest of the girls joining me. I looked to Severa when she and Kamla appeared next to me, and she simply said, “In the tent.” I nodded. So the only member of the party left was the succubus. I could work with that.

“Ladies, and Hrozne, if you would be so kind as to eliminate the Chief’s followers? I’m going to separate him from his hood ornament.” Drawing my blades, I pointed at the chief with Munsuraisa, and then walked to a clear area, kicking the smoldering corpse of the female troll as I did so. The troll took it for the challenge it was, and charged my way, just getting out of the range of the ice storm that came down on his men as Della began her assault. Another spell coated our weapons with an icy edge, allowing them to do additional cold damage. It was a mana intensive spell for the person we relied on as our healer, but for this fight, it would make all the difference.


The troll may have almost thirty levels on me, but he had clearly neglected any of his stats besides STR and CON. I dodged out of the way of his first swing with his massive greatsword, and slashed out with my blades as I circled around him. The tendons in his ankles were cut, crippling him for a moment, dropping the troll to his knees. Another slice had the troll roaring in pain as the succubus fell to the ground, the troll’s severed ‘sword’ still sheathed inside her. That roar ended soon after, when I relieved him of his head.



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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Chapter 17 - Getting Out of Dodge

“STOP!” I threw my arm out to catch Shearah as she was about to run past me, and right into a hail of blaster fire. I sighed. “Well, they definitely know who we’ve got with us, and where we’ve parked. We need to get off this station, fast!”

It had been only fifteen minutes since we’d first run into the Red Orchid guys. Basically, they were a Yakuza clan that worked all across Sol system. They ran all the usual rackets, including drugs, vice, and extortion. Now, they were looking to make a big score by delivering the Princess to someone, probably her brother. That was a problem for me, because I had taken a job to deliver her to someone else, and I didn’t want to give up those credits. Oh, and the fact that having a beautiful princess depending on me appealed to that part of every guy that watches Conan the Barbarian, and wants to be just like that.

What? You thought women were the only ones who had unrealistic gender stereotypes shoved down their throats since birth? Get real. Have you seen He-Man? The man’s muscles have muscles on their muscles!

*ahem*

Anyways, now we were engaged in what was basically a running battle, trying to break through the reinforcements that were coming to try and kill us. They had been having people come out of side passages and hiding behind cover taking potshots at us the whole way, and we were nowhere near as uninjured as we had been before now. But we could still move. For bonus points, guess what Station Security is doing during all of this? If you guessed ‘trying to capture the crew that sprayed down a marketplace with bullets in a stupidly wanton display of destruction’, then you are 100% correct!

I didn’t have the PP to do the whole constantly hosing bullets thing, so I switched to my energy blade in my main hand, and the psyber pistol in my off hand. Using my grav-belt, I was able to do some pretty cool things, including a wall run that ended up on the ceiling, surprising the Yak in front of us until I put my sword in his eye.

I know we didn’t kill everyone in our way, but we didn’t bother to stop, not even to do more than the bare minimum of looting, taking bracers and obvious weapons if we had the chance. Now, we were just outside the hatch looking into the hangar bay, and I saw a problem. More like thirty problems. A whole bunch of pissed off Asian syndicate goons between me and my ship, behind hastily made defensive positions. And we didn’t have too long to deal with them before their buddies or Security caught up to us from behind.

A straight charge would be suicide, and we didn’t have time to get bogged down. I needed to pull a trick out of my hat that I’d seen in an old movie once. Tapping my bracer, I said, “Raven! You got the ship ready to rock yet?”

“Yes, Captain! The cargo has been loaded, including that last-minute item, and I’ve finished with the upgrades we could accomplish on this short time frame.”

“Good. I know you were hoping for more, but we’ll do that when we’ve got a chance for some yard time. You’ve been following our progress, right?”

“Yes, sir. What would you like me to do about the interlopers in the hangar bay?”

“Use the lower turret, if you please, and blast those defensive positions. I don’t care if you kill them or not, I just want a bit of shock and awe.”

“Understood, Captain! Firing in ten seconds.”

----------------------------------------

Amaya Hideo was nervous. This was only his second week on the station, having been sent up from Neo-Chiba on Earth because the local Group needed someone with his technical expertise. Unfortunately, the job they were supposed to do fell through because of the fallout of the Emperor’s assassination and some Nomad buying the slave that was central to the plan. It was only after the auction that someone considered that the Nomad may have used Mental Psy Powers to convince the Red Orchid’s leader to bid on a combat slave instead.

Such a dishonor could not be simply passed over! But then, as they were checking the recordings of their own spy cameras in Section 16, they caught the face of the woman who had come with him. Hideo himself had done the facial recognition queries, and was shocked to find that this was the missing Third Princess that the would-be Emperor was desperately trying to find.

So the oyabun had sent Kano-sama and his team to ‘persuade’ the Nomad to give up the Princess. Of course, they were going to kill him anyways, but they didn’t need to know that. No one was allowed to cross the Red Orchid and live.

But the unthinkable happened. This brazen gaijin Nomad and the girls with him opened fire, without regard to civilians or anyone around, and the gods-forsaken Nomad used what must be a considerable amount of PP to keep reloading his SMG each time it ran out, allowing him to literally blanket the corridor in shots. None of Kano’s team survived. Members who were out on ‘business’ quickly took up actions to delay the man, and this group was hastily assembled with everyone in headquarters that could hold a gun to ambush him in his hangar bay.

Oyabun Imari Shunsho was leading this group personally, he and his elite guards waiting behind the hastily moved cargo boxes that the group had arranged to offer them cover in the ambush. The man wouldn’t risk simply spraying bullets at his own ship, so there was no need to worry about that kind of insane tactic again.

Unfortunately for the gaijin, the Red Orchid members’ only concern was to make sure that the Princess and the slavegirl the Oyabun wanted were still alive at the end of this. So their guns were loaded with stunshots, including the (very illegal on a station) assault rifles Imari’s guards were leveling at the door. The idiot wouldn’t have a chance!

A whirring sound behind him caught Hideo’s attention, causing him to turn just in time to see the ship’s underside turret turn to face him. He started to scream, but was cut off when a flash of light ended his concerns most permanently.

----------------------------------------

Smiling at Raven’s last communication, I turned, and pulled Shearah into an embrace, before kissing her deeply on the lips. When I broke the kiss, I winked at her starstruck face, and said, “For luck.” The Knelfi girl just nodded dumbly, as the first blasts echoed through the hallway, and the screaming began.

Jaynie looked at me, squinting slightly. “Not doubting your style, Cap’n, but if your kisses cause things to go boom, I’m going to ask you to keep over there.” That got us all laughing.

As the blasts stopped, I put my head around the corner. The remaining Yaks were all in disarray, most of them dead or wounded. On my signal, we charged through the doorway, firing on anyone between us and the ship that wasn’t kissing the deck. We didn’t have time to properly strip the bodies, since station security would DEFINITELY be after us by this point. But as we ran by a group of mostly dead Yaks who had better armor than the rest, I made sure to scoop up their weapons and bracers. After shooting them in the head, to make sure they were all dead, instead of mostly dead. We’d sort out the loot when we were out of the system.

For defeating forty-one enemies of similar or higher levels than you, you gain 46000 XP.
+4000 XP for fighting alongside your Crew in battle against higher-leveled enemies.
+4000 XP for fighting alongside your Corporation members in battle against higher-leveled enemies.
+2000 XP for fighting alongside your Slaves in battle against higher-leveled enemies.

You are now Level 14.
You have 18 points to distribute.


Your actions have crippled the Red Orchid Clan’s activities on Choson Ring. Their Oyabun is dead at your hands!
You gain +1000 Fame.
Your status with the Red Orchid Clan is now Hatred (At War!).

You have killed individuals with active bounties on their heads. Total bounty: 230450 Credits. Bounty will be distributed according to your corporate settings.

You have a new active bounty on your head!
Current Bounties:
Red Orchid Clan – 350000 Alive, 100000 Dead

Automatics has improved to 6/100.
+3 DEX

Blades has improved to 5/100.
+2 DEX, +1 STR

Pistols has improved to 5/100.
+4 DEX

Due to your in character actions, you have gained the following:
+3 WIS, +2 CHA, +2 DEX

Now that we were out of combat, the screen popped up showing our rewards. Not even counting the stuff we took. Of course, having a crime syndicate place a bounty like that on my head was going to be even more trouble.

As I ran onto the ship, I sighed, “So much for keeping a low profile, huh, Raven?”

The air shimmered next to me, and a hologram of a woman with pale skin and raven-colored hair appeared, dressed in a long, flowing black dress. Two black-feathered wings sprang from her back, like those of a raven. So this is what Raven had decided on for her avatar?

“Nice look, Raven. What made you pick this?”

“Well, I’m called Raven, and my settings are female, so an image search brought up a picture of the old Celtic goddess, the Morrigan. It seemed fitting that I based my image off that.”

“Not a bad idea, Raven. I’m glad you picked something you liked. For now, is the ship ready to go?” By this point, I was sitting in the pilot’s chair on the bridge. I turned, to see everyone behind me. “Shearah, engine room. Cali, Jaynie, man the guns. Carissa, warm up the navcomputer, and start making calculations for the jump to Alpha Centauri. Princess, find someplace to sit and strap in. This could get bumpy.” As everyone turned to their tasks, I said, “Sorry, Raven. We ready to go?”

“Yes, Captain. But there is a problem with the hangar bay doors. The station has put them on lockdown due to the fighting.”

“Can you subvert control of the doors?”

“I am sorry, Captain, but I am not programmed for ‘hacking’.”

“Put that on the list of upgrades, then.” I would have to exit the ship to access the manual controls, which would be a bad thing if the station security came in while we were getting ready to leave. Fuck it, they shouldn’t have locked us in. “Raven, will our weapons take out those doors?”

----------------------------------------

Sgt. Miguel Madrid led his group of station security officers down the trail of destruction that had started less than half an hour ago here in Section 16. According to the eyewitness reports, the Red Orchids had decided to accost the captain of one of the freighters docked here. The Captain and crew opened fire, mowing down the Orchids with surprising brutality, and a definite disregard for bystanders. That was what pissed Miguel off most. Killing Yakuza? Give the man a medal. But such disregard for civilians needed to be stopped!

Following where the group went after that was easy, as there had been apparently a running gun battle all the way to the docks, with plenty of damage being done to both the surroundings and the civilians. Oh, and a few of the Red Orchids, too.

Finally, they made it to the hangar the crew was heading towards. Miguel checked around the side of the open hatch, and was floored by what he saw. Bodies were everywhere, over thirty of the Red Orchids were dead or dying. Miguel was about to order his men forward to search the ship, when he heard a high-pitched whine. The sound of a particle cannon being warmed up.

“Get back!” Even as he yelled the command, the ship unleashed its twin particle cannons, blasting the hangar doors. There was a moment of wind whipping past his face before the hatch in front of him sealed itself shut, the decompression alarms going off throughout the Section.

For the first time, Sgt. Madrid hoped that those Orchids were already dead. Being sucked out into space is no way to go.

“Who the hell were those people?”




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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Chapter 78 - Trade Chat IV

MightKord, Dread_Doom, Scholar, Might_Makes_Right, l44tPally, Darkmore, Darkmore’s Knight, Darkmore’s Bitch, Daywalker, Balderdash, Chamber, Sexy_Lady, DoorKicker, Gobby, Anonymous3, Anonymous5, RighteousAmazon, and Crackle are in the chat.

<LivingDeadDrow has joined the chat.>
<Lexichan has joined the chat.>
<Killjoy has joined the chat.>
<Bercilac has joined the chat.>
<Raunaeril has joined the chat.>

Lexichan: ZAYN! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO THIS TIME?????
Crackle: Uh-oh! Someone’s in trouble! Lol!
Gobby: Damnit, I just had a whole bunch of quests canceled on me!
Dread_Doom: What happened, Gobby?
Gobby: I started as a Goblin, so I’ve been running around the Tribeslands, right? But I was on my way back to Gogruk Hold, where I started, to turn in some quests, and they’ve all been canceled!
MightKord: Ouch!
Scholar: Sounds like something happened to the NPC questgivers.
Doorkicker: What did Zayn do this time?
Daywalker: Heh. Well, it is a funny story, actually…
Darkmore’s Bitch: Ugh. What did he do now?
Lexichan: DAMNIT ZAYN! ANSWER ME RIGHT NOW!!!
Darkmore: Chill out, Lexichan. This time it wasn’t my fault.
Raunaeril: Right.
Bercilac: Suuure.
Darkmore’s Knight: *side-eyes Darkmore*
LivingDeadDrow: *chuckles* That’s how you’re playing it?
Lexichan: Zaaaayn!
Darkmore: What? The stupid goblins declared war on me. So I discussed my displeasure with their chieftain. That discussion led to another discussion with the rest of the Hold, and the result of that discussion was me meeting my Familiar’s father.
Lexichan: What. Did. You. DO??
Darkmore: *sigh* I laid an ambush for the war band at a river crossing. The first fighters across the bridge got a bad case of ‘catching on fire’, followed by acute ‘arrow to the face’ poisoning. Then I may or may not have dropped the chieftain on his head from 300 feet up. There were a few other things, as well.
Raunaeril: And what happened at the Hold?
Darkmore: Oh, I just had my girls and some new companions raid the village, capture the remaining goblins, and gather them for a bit of ritual magic.
Gobby: Wait, what?
Darkmore: Long story short, I have access to a lot of books. Some of those books have rituals. I used one of those rituals to create a portal between this plane, and the plane where Hellions live. I might have put the other side of the door right outside their city, which caused the captain of their City Watch to come try and yell at me.
Daywalker: Which is when his familiar stepped in, and smacked the both of them for embarrassing her. Turns out the captain is her father.
Lexichan: Damnit, Zayn!
Gobby: What about the people in the hold?
LivingDeadDrow: The goblins? Material components for the ritual. You can’t create permanent gateways without a lot of power, after all, and it is much easier to use sacrifices than to use other means.
Gobby: DAMNIT! I just raised my rep with them to Respected! I was going to buy that cute half-goblin to be my personal slave!
Lexichan: Oh, Zaaayn! Would you care to explain why a bunch of fragging wolves came out of a portal, escorting ten very sick and very NAKED female slaves into our castle?
Darkmore: Oh, yeah. So some of those were the Chief’s personal slaves, and some were slaves of the tribe. They’re all my slaves now, as is the alpha of those wolves.
Darkmore: Actually, they’re wargs, and the alpha is a werewarg. Oh, and the reason the slaves are sick is because I had the alpha bite them.
Gobby: NO! Poor Hiqea!
Bercilac: So let me get this straight. A random tribe of goblins declares war on you. Why would they do that again?
Darkmore: Oh, I enslaved their high shaman, who was descended from one of the four families that captured Mirelth, and summoned a dragon to deliver her to the Goddess.
Bercilac: Of course you did. So this random tribe of goblins declares war on you, for perfectly understandable reasons. You lay an ambush for their war band, and go through them like a hot knife through butter.
Darkmore: And capture most of their wargs, including the werewarg the chief used as a mount.
Bercilac: And then you go to the goblin hold, round up the goblins, and use ritual magic to sacrifice them all and kick open a permanent gate to another plane?
Doorkicker: When you put it like that, you gotta admire his style.
Darkmore: Yep!
Bercilac: Only you, Zayn. Only you.
Lexichan: And WHY did you have the alpha bite the slaves?
Darkmore: C’mon, Lexi! How many guilds can say they have a pack of werewolves guarding their lands?
Sexy_Lady: So, um, did you do it with the werewarg?
Daywalker: *spitsoutdrink*
Lexichan: *facepalms*
Might_Makes_Right: HAH!
Darkmore: Heh. Damn right I did.
Doorkicker: I hesitate to ask, but which form?
Darkmore: Oh, she was in her wolf form. I was in my drake form.
l44tPally: *DIES*
Lexichan: DAMNIT, ZAYN!
Darkmore’s Knight: He also used that spell he got from following Sharess, the one guaranteed to knock someone up.
Darkmore’s Bitch: So, what, she’s going to have dragon-pups?
Darkmore: Who knows? It’ll be fun to see!
Lexichan: Ugh. Why do I even try to make you see common sense?
Gobby: So, um, is there any chance you could sell Hiqea to me? I was seeing her pretty regularly, before the hold was destroyed…
Darkmore: I’m not unreasonable. If she survives the change into a lycanthrope, I’ll consider a trade.
Gobby: What kind of trade?
Darkmore: Slave for slave. Bring me something exotic, that you think worthy of your girl, and I’ll trade you. Impress me, and I may even pay you something extra on the side.
Darkmore’s Knight: For the record, he already has elves, humans, half-celestials, drow, an angel, a nine-tailed fox, dwarves, an orc, and a werewarg.
MightKord: Damn, that’s impressive.
Darkmore: Anyways, Gobby, I promise that, if your girl survives, she will remain untouched by me for four months, in game. You have that long to find me an exotic slave to take her place.
Gobby: *sigh* Any preferences?
Darkmore: If you find a Succubus with the ‘Pure One’ title, I will not only free your girl, but give you 1000 PP from my own purse in exchange.
l44tPally: 1000 PP? You could buy a set of level 50 armor for that!
Darkmore: And it would be money well spent.
Gobby: I… I’ll see what I can do.

<Gobby has left the chat.>

Lexichan: So, now that you’ve broken the poor kid’s heart, what THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING OPENING A DOOR TO HELL?
Darkmore: It isn’t actually hell, you know. The Abyss and Hell are two different things, apparently. Anyways, you’re thinking about this all wrong! I opened up a whole new zone for exploration, a new player race, and a crap ton of trading opportunities.
Lexichan: I’m going to throw my dagger at you.
Darkmore’s Knight: Get in line. He already got attacked by one of the mage trainers back in Fathon.
Chamber: I heard about that! That pregnant rabbitkin threw ice at this incubus. That was you?
Darkmore: *shrugs* She might be a little upset that I haven’t called.
Balderdash: You’re horrible.
Darkmore: Thank you very much!
Balderdash: That wasn’t a compliment!
Darkmore: Anyways, I still have a couple quests going on in the Tribeslands, and then I’ll be moving on.
Bercilac: Can we expect any other groups to declare war on you?
Darkmore: Dunno. One of the quests is to kill some trolls. Then I need to see the orcs about a couple things. Probably going to go see the dwarves after that.
Crackle: Hey, since you’re in the tribeslands, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about that disturbance near Fort Bilman?
RighteousAmazon: YOU BASTARD!
Darkmore: Are you talking about the new art piece by the road?
RighteousAmazon: I’m going to find you and OOOH kill you, asshole!
Scholar: What happened?
Darkmore’s Knight: This Amazon started preaching feminazi crap at Master. That went about as well as you’d expect.
l44tPally: Details plz!
RighteousAmazon: OOF Shut AAHH! Up!
Daywalker: He used some kind of tentacle spell to immobilize her, and while we took out her backup, he made two Golems, and commanded them to fuck her until they were destroyed. Then he and his familiar used magic to mount four of the five minions on stone pillars and fused them there, watching their leader’s disgrace. It counts as combat, so if she couldn’t break free, she’d have been stuck there until force-logout.
Crackle: Damn!
Sexy_Lady: Sounds exciting!
Scholar: …
MightKord: …
Might_Makes_Right: …
Doorkicker: *sends Sexy a party invite*
Darkmore: HA!
RighteousAmazon: Oh god, just make it stop! Yes, I UGH was forced to wait until the force logoff. But when I logged back in, the golems caught me before I could run, and did it again!
Darkmore: And what have we learned about being an insufferable bitch?
RighteousAmazon: I’M GOING TO TEAR YOUR DICK OFF AND MAKE YOU EAT THE DAMN THING YOU BASTARD!
Darkmore’s Bitch: And they say I was a slow learner.
Crackle: What happened to the fifth survivor?
Daywalker: Oh, she’s my vampire servant now. There’s a mine that was formerly full of undead that we’ll be using as a base of operations.
Scholar: So you have elves, lycans, and now vampires helping to protect your castle?
Lexichan: And we’ve got a dwarf craftsman working the forge, and a gnome artificer helping come up with ‘improvements’. Oh, and a bunch of drow, and a dragon. Few others.
Scholar: What’s keeping you from taking over Wyrmwood?
Darkmore: Meh. I could probably manage something, but why would I want to do that? Running a guild and a castle are enough hassle already. Running an entire country? No thanks!
RighteousAmazon: AND NONE OF IT WILL SAVE YOU WHEN I GET FREE!
Darkmore: Sexy_Lady, if you put a slave collar on RighteousAmazon here and ‘free’ her from her golem playmates, I’ll give you a ride you’ll never forget.
Sexy_Lady: DONE!
RighteousAmazon: What, NO! DON’T LISTEN TO HIM!
Sexy_Lady: Stupid whore. Some of us LIKE the patriarchy!
Raunaeril: Just when I think I’ve seen everything…

<Sexy_Lady has left the chat.>
<RighteuosAmazon has left the chat.>

Crackle: So, the new zone is supposed to be level 80+, right?
Darkmore: Yeah, but the gate is close enough to the city that you can get from it to the safe zone, no problem. Don’t start shit in the city, or you’ll get ganked, obviously.
Crackle: Hmm. This will drive down the cost of demonsteel, won’t it?
Darkmore: Yep. With easier access, it should become a lot more common.
Crackle: Eeexcelent!
Scholar: What about angelsteel?
Darkmore: Well, if I thought I could do it without calling down some righteous whoopass on my own head, I’d open a gate to the celestial planes, as well, but I’m pretty sure they don’t approve of me, or my methods.
MightKord: Sacrificing an entire village does seem just a bit over the top evil, yeah.
Might_Makes_Right: So, which Orc clan are you visiting after the trolls?
Darkmore: Don’t see why it matters, but Black Rock Hold.
Lexichan: You do know that there’s a bounty on your head, right?
Darkmore: Really? Awesome!
Lexichan: What?
Darkmore: Seriously, bring it on! I’ll crush them, take a couple trophies, and it’ll be fine.
Scholar: Trophies?
Darkmore: Oh, yeah. Way back after I first got to Wyrmwood, and was made a Knight and all, I met some idiots from the Sons. Cut the wings off a half-celestial elf, and gave me the Trophy Hunter title. If I take a trophy from someone I kill, then it doesn’t disappear. Better yet, if I take a trophy from a Traveler I kill, then they respawn still missing that part. Well, unless it was something critical, like their head. In that case, they respawn as an undead.
MightKord: Damn, that’s cold.
Darkmore’s Bitch: Oh, that isn’t the worst he can do.
l44tPally: What?!?
Darkmore’s Bitch: After he ‘acquired’ me, he spitted me, like with a steel spit and everything, and roasted me alive! And the bastard had the spit enchanted so that it healed me the same as the DoT from the spit and the fire! I was still alive while they carved me!
Darkmore: But you tasted excellent, you must admit.
MightKord: You didn’t…
Darkmore’s Bitch: He did. He made me eat my own tits! He kept having his other slaves heal me enough to keep me conscious while they ate.
Dread_Doom: *is going to be sick*
Might_Makes_Right: Umm. I think I’ll skip meeting you for now.
MightKord: That sounds like a good plan.
Lexichan: Damnit, Zayn.
Raunaeril: Told you that story would get out.
Brecilac: *pays the 10 GP*
Lexichan: You two were betting on this?
Raunaeril: Naturally!
Brecilac: Of course!

Darkmore: HAHAHAHA!




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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chapter 16 - Dark Net Connection

The Encyclopedia Galactica says the following about Hundeherstellar III:

A Type M planet in the Hundeherstellar System, known for its remarkably Earth-like atmosphere and similarly-sized land masses. The planet is governed by the Hundeherstellar Corporation, which was founded in 1983 on Earth, but then moved its operations to the Hundeherstellar system when it paid for a colony ship to take them there. Hundeherstellar III Is known for its fiercely patriarchal society, in which females are referred to as ‘domestic animals’ and are not considered citizens. Once a female reaches the age of majority, they are injected with mind and body altering nanites, turning them into obedient pets for their owners. Because of this, and other practices, trade with the Hundeherstellar system faces heavy sanctions, and many exports are illegal in most polities.

Basically, some jackasses from Earth decided the whole ‘equal rights’ thing wasn’t for them, and paid for a colony ship to take them somewhere that they could create their ideal society. And from all accounts, it is a pretty sick society, but it has been going on for so long that no one questions it. I don’t know where the idiots got these nanites, but they were contraband that made the nastiest street drugs look like toys in comparison.

And I didn’t want them in my possession for a second longer than I needed to. However, that left me with a couple problems. First, I couldn’t go to the authorities, for a ton of obvious reasons. Second, as a gamer simply throwing the stuff away was unthinkable. Which meant I needed to find someone to sell this shit to. Fortunately, we had just gotten off the tram in the seedy section of the station.

It only took a couple questions (and a bit of Mindread) to find a shop where we could sell off the trash gear and shit we didn’t want on the boat, and maybe find some cool additions to our current gear. That shop was located in a back alley in a run-down section of a deck that mostly seemed to house squatters and vagrants. But none of them troubled us as we entered the store.

The store was called Dark Net Connection. They offered a lot of legal, quasi-legal, illegal, and ‘oh fuck I can’t believe you did that’ items and services. Well, not them, exactly. From what I’d been able to gather, they were basically a front that provided people an introduction to the Dark Net, for a fee. Basically, all the same kinds of things you could find in the real world Dark Net, you could find here, if you knew where to look.

Selling the gear, drugs, and nanites cleared us a healthy 52000 credits, mainly from the nanites. Don’t know who the thugs killed to get their hands on them, but according to what I saw, those things sold at 100K, this far from the Hundeherstellar system. Getting 45K for them wasn’t bad, considering. After the split, the ship got 13K, Jaynie got 11700 (after the guild tax), and I got 23400 (again, after the tax). Not bad for short bit of work.

With a pile of coin in our pockets, metaphorically speaking, we looked at the items available, and considered what was both in our price range, and would actually be useful to us. I didn’t look over Jaynie’s shoulder to see what she was doing, instead concentrating on things that would be useful to myself, or my slaves. The first thing I came across was pretty cool.

Mental Amplifier
Type
Cyberware Implant
Rank
Uncommon
This implant, inserted at the base of the skull and attached to the brain stem, allows for increased mental throughput and gives a decent boost to intellect. However, the primary effect is that you gain impressive abilities with Mental Powers, both in Affinity and Resistance.

+25% Affinity to Mental Powers
+25% Resistance to Mental Powers
+20 INT

WARNING: Due to your unique nature, most cyberware or bioware implants will not be accepted by your system when you change shape, causing damage to your body as the implants are moved to new locations. The amount of damage depends on the extent of the changes to the implant site.

That warning, as you might figure, came as something of a downer for me. Another one of those hidden costs of going for the highest difficulty level. Some of the enhancements available to other players were basically no-go for me. Especially an implant inside my skull. I hated to think what that might do to me if I changed shape. Still, there were other useful things.

Power Infusion Pill
Type
Skill
Rank
Common
This pill contains the knowledge of a single Psy Power. Consuming the pill allows the user to learn the contained power.

Power Development Guide
Type
Manual
Rank
Rare
This guidebook describes the process of creating new and unique Powers designed by users. While the process of creating new powers is not easy, the results of creating a Unique Power can be substantial. Consuming this book unlocks the Power Creation Menu.

PsyInk Tattoo
Type
Psy Augment
Rank
Super-Rare
This tattoo uses nanocytes to create a tattoo made of psychoactive inks that enhance the user’s defense against certain Psy Powers. The design of the tattoo is set by the user and cannot be changed after use.

+100% Resistance to one type of Power
+20% Resistance to all other Powers
Tattoo’s Nature – Because of the psychoactive properties of the tattoo, a buff and debuff will be randomly selected based upon the tattoo design and your playstyle


WARNING: While this tattoo is compatible with your unique nature, the tattoo will become a permanent marker, appearing in roughly the same space on your body, no matter what form you take.

Psybreaker Pistol
Type
Pistol
Rank
Uncommon
Damage
10 – 20 (Stun)
Damage Type
Psychic
This weapon deals low Stun damage, but is a welcome partner to any who have to deal with troublesome Psy Power users. This single-shot pistol deals little damage, but has a high stun rate, and can short out a target’s ability to use Psy Powers temporarily. Duration of Stun depends on user’s Sp. Attack and target’s Energy Armor. Duration of Power loss depends on the user’s Sp. Attack and target’s Sp. Defense.
Durability 30/30

Stun – Stun target for up to 30 seconds.
Stun Shots – Deals Stun damage. If Stun damage equals current HP, target becomes unconscious. Stun damage heals at a rate of (CON/10) per minute.
Psyblock – Block access to target’s Powers for up to 5 minutes. Deactivate all currently active powers.
1 shot clip. (20 PP to reload)

Power Booster
Type
Psy Augment
Rank
Super-Rare
A highly illegal substance created by means most would not care to know about. Using a power booster grants the user an increase to their abilities, but such benefits are not without a cost.

+20 to all Mental Stats
+200 PP
+20 PP Regen rate
Lose a random number of skill levels.
Random Buff based on playstyle
Random Debuff based on source

Now we were getting into some serious shit. These were the kind of things that could make or break a character, especially if you got them early on. Of course, they weren’t cheap either. The Power Pills were 200 credits each, the Guide was a cool 2K each, the tattoos were 1K each, the Pistols cost 500 for a single one, and that booster cost a whopping 100K credits! Still, I was investing in my team’s future. I bought four of everything (well, five of the pills), except the Booster. Only got one of those, for myself. Cost me 80K after I finished negotiating, since I was dropping a shit-ton of credits on the man. Well, that, and I needed to get a shipment of ‘machine parts’ to a contact in Alpha Centauri for him. Another five thousand credits netted me a code key, allowing me to access the Dark Net myself, so I could browse and see what was available.

Negotiation increased to 10/100.
+2 CHA

Anyways, I let the girls pick which powers they wanted. Shearah picked up the Technopathy power, which apparently let her ‘communicate’ with machines. Damn useful for a mechanic, I guess. Carissa picked Empathic Projection, allowing her to influence people’s emotions. Cali picked something called Mindvault, which was a passive/sustained power that increased her resistance to Mental Powers. I guess the experience with the Stepford collar made her leery of mind control.

Me? I picked Charm Person, which basically allowed me to turn someone into a temporary ally, clouding their mind and making them very suggestible. Fortunately, that also meant their memories were pretty hazy afterwards. The second power was Alter Memory, which did exactly as it sounded, overwrite real memories with false ones. Of course, the bigger the change, the more likely it was that some disconnect would happen and risk letting them know they’d been played. I was planning on using these as a jumping off point for my Unique Power.

Tattoo of the Black Dragon

+100% Mental Resistance
+20% to all other Resistances
Draconic Presence – All Social skills treated as 10 ranks higher. +20% Mental Affinity.
Hoarder – While you are not keen on letting anything you get your hands on escape your grasp, this is especially true with certain things. Based on your playstyle, you hoard the following: Weapons and Slaves. You become extremely unwilling to part with either of them, and covetous of particularly striking examples of either you come across that do not belong to you.

Power Booster

Lose 1 Rank in the following Skills:
Heavy Weapons
Demolitions
Aeronautics Mechanic
Automotive Mechanic
Industrial Mechanic
Nautical Mechanic

Euphoric Fluids – Your body chemistry is addictive, literally. Those who come in contact with your bodily fluids (including sweat, saliva, blood, and other fluids) have a euphoric reaction. This acts as a drug, with an addiction rating of 8/10.
Empathic Unbalance – Your brain chemistry is out of balance. While there is no known cure (and it will continue, regardless of the form you take), the condition can be suppressed by intimate contact with another sentient creature, their empathic state helping to balance your own. The duration of suppression can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 48 hours, depending on the extent of the activity. After that time, suffer a -50% penalty on all mental stats, -50% on all skills, and +100% PP cost on all Powers.

Well, that was… interesting. The loss in skill levels was disappointing, but it could have been worse. Those buffs and debuffs, though, were going to make things weird, fast. Especially since I saw a countdown timer pop up in the corner of my HUD. Looks like the game wasn’t going to start the debuff off immediately. I had two hours to get things ‘in hand’, or I’d be in big trouble.

I saw that Jaynie had finished her purchases, as well. Looking to everyone, I said, “All right, let’s get to the ship, and get out of here.” Everyone nodded, eager to be up in the ‘air’ again.

Unfortunately, things weren’t going to be that easy, it seemed. While Raven had told me that all our cargo was loaded, and the ship was ready to depart, it seemed like someone had decided they didn’t want us leaving just quite yet. How could I tell that? Well, the eleven Asian men dressed in matching black suits, each carrying katanas made that a pretty safe bet, especially when they were blocking the main route back to the hangar.

As we walked forward, one of the men, who looked to be the leader, stepped forward, and said, “That is far enough! You have cheated our master in taking the Nomad at the auction, but he is merciful, and will give you one chance to make amends before your life becomes forfeit. Give us the Princess, and you may leave.”

Oh, good. I hadn’t had a villain monologue at me in a while. Unfortunately for him, I read a wonderful document called the ‘Evil Overlord List’. Monologuing was very much on the list as something to ‘not do’. Fighting fair was also on that list of things not to do. So I cheated.

In my hand appeared the SMG I’d kept hidden in my bracer. The leader’s eyes just had time to go wide as I pulled the trigger, unleashing a stream of energy bullets at the man. His armor stood up to three hits, but by the fourth, he was taking some good damage. And so were the guys around him. I heard the others firing, as well, but I just kept the trigger pulled, using my PP to refill the clip as soon as it was empty again and again, until the last enemy fell down. Surprisingly, they weren’t all dead, because the leader managed to choke out, “You have made an enemy of the Red Orchid Clan this day! You will all die a thousand deaths!”

I’m sure he had other, very important things to say, but I shot him in the head to keep him quiet while we looted their bracers and weapons. That was all we had time for now, as alarms were starting to sound. Looking around, I saw that the scenery was pretty torn up. I just might have gone a bit overboard.




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