We join our heroes as they are mopping up resistance at the loading bay of the Moon-Sheltered Research Manse. Mithril cuts a hole in the door and flies out as he has seen the ships leaving, rapidly followed by Olivia. Mithril sees that the Moral Ambiguity is already almost out of the fjord and picking up speed, and several mercenaries and guildsmen are on the decks, aiming its weaponry at him. He deploys his smokescreen to evade their attacks and also to disguise that he is leaving his eyeball drone (named iBot) on the ship. He then dives underwater and grabs a hold of the keel while he remotely controls iBot to crawl down into the hold and hide behind some plating. He can see a number of the thieves gathered around the teleportal disc, including the captain, but can’t really hear anything from his hiding place and decides it’s safer to keep his eye drone hidden so Mika can track it later.
Meanwhile, in the loading bay, one of the mercenaries has backed himself into a corner while two others are slowly regenerating behind Olivia’s force field. It flickers out as she leaves, but these two are rapidly surrounded and disarmed for questioning. Hunter also kills the other mercenary and the archers for essence before coming over to interrogate the two survivors, with a highly effective Investigation excellency that also includes removing one of their arms, ostensibly to see how it grows back. The two terrified mercenaries reveal that they had received orders to pack up and leave right before the party had even arrived, due to a tracking device having been planted on someone they refuse to name. They also indicate they don’t know where the artifacts will be taken to but they guess it is their mercenary camp. These are mercenaries of the East Valley Mercenary Company, and their base is in the mountains to the north. Also when asked about where their essence devices came from, as Kami had not performed surgery on these two, they respond that one of Kami’s assistants, Dr. Wiley, had performed it on them, since they were told Kami was too busy to do it himself.
Mithril has finished hiding iBot and fears getting too far separated from the group so he leaves the Moral Ambiguity and flies back. En route he passes the guild ship, which is bearing west instead of east. He yells out to Olivia asking where they’re going but Olivia is, um, “busy,” so he leaves her, figuring she is up to something. Olivia’s story will be posted separately soon. Mithril flies back in and gets rapidly updated on the mercenaries. Kami, Hunter, Mithril and Blade are soon done getting info from the two remaining mercenaries, and leave them under Blade’s guard. Now they turn their attention to Silken Cowl. Kami also checks on Jacob using his tracker ring, finding no stress. Good to know.
Mithril takes the lead with Silken Cowl, using his Motivational Vocoder to augment his demand that Silken Cowl cooperate, as returning the artifacts to Kamak will restore balance to the world, and building a better world can only be accomplished by peacefully restoring order. This has a strong effect on Silken Cowl, who succumbs to the motivational imposition (though Mithril can’t tell whether it’s permanent or not). After being disoriented for a bit at the magnitude of his new motivation, Silken Cowl panics. Apparently, M.I.R.I. is rebooting and when he is done, bad things are going to happen. Also, it’s not actually M.I.R.I., it’s the Auxilliary unit, M.A.I.R.I., which instills varying levels of terror in the party. Silken Cowl sprints up the stairs with Mithril and Kami in tow, while Hunter and Blade stay behind. Silken Cowl babbles about how Great Garm had told him how to reboot M.A.I.R.I. so he would try to kill everyone inside afterwards, but doesn’t have anything else coherent to say.
Halfway up the staircase, Silken Cowl accesses a hidden door that easily slides open to reveal a hallway with a computer room at the far end. The door to said computer room starts closing as they sprint towards it, and a booming mechanical voice reverberates through the entire base: “Access denied.” They fail to reach the door in time, which is another solid metal wall, so Mithril begins going to work on the door with his beamklave while Kami watches his back. Soon, at the end of the hall, Siren appears, still toting her moonsilver sledgehammer and hesitantly telling the duo they’re not allowed in there. She soon seems to pause and her demeanor changes, as her eyes become blank and cold, and she advances on the group with her sledgehammer held menacingly.
Hunter and Blade are not fans of the booming voice and sprint up to the stairs, where they see Siren advancing on Mithril, Kami and Silken Cowl. Before anyone can act, a massive wrecking ball slams through the side wall and while Kami and Silken Cowl manage to dodge, Mithril botches and gets pancaked against the far wall, taking severe damage. Kami grabs a hold of the beamklave and finishes the cutting job while Hunter and Blade try to take on Siren. Hunter attacks with his combo, but his first blow goes through Siren’s body like air, and she flickers slightly. Strange. He holds off and waits for her next move. Another wrecking ball blasts through the wall right by them but Hunter avoids it and it hits Siren, causing her to flicker out while her hammer slams to the ground. Blade tries to blast it, succeeding in knocking it through the floor, and Mithril finally comes out of his daze enough to shove his wrecking ball into the other one which then covers the hole Blade shot in the ground. Unfortunately, a moment later Siren regains control of her hammer and hits Blade through the floor, knocking her to the ceiling.
Kami has finally figured out how to work the computer and gone around the booby traps, thanks in part to the good ol’ Craft excellency, and finally shuts M.A.I.R.I. down. This also takes down the lights throughout the building, not that anyone notices right away since Mithril and Kami are both glowing like bonfires of lightning and sunlight, respectively. Siren pauses, confused, then apologizes for trying to kill everyone. Kami assesses how difficult it would be to reactivate M.I.R.I., who Silken Cowl claims was deactivated long before they even arrived. Kami eventually determines it would be prohibitively difficult to reactivate M.I.R.I. and settles for reactivating the lights by working around M.I.R.I.’s controls. As far as Kami can tell, M.A.I.R.I. was activated remotely some time before they had arrived in the first place, and Silken Cowl claims that he knew about this place because the group he works for, the Cold Winds Cabal, had purchased that knowledge from someone (presumably the same someone who had activated and/or reprogrammed M.A.I.R.I. in the first place).
Kami rechecks his remote sensor and finds Jacob is more stressed now, likely due to it having been dark. He asks Hunter to go find and check up on Kami. Hunter heads upstairs but can’t really find his way around until Kami finishes with the lights. He then finds Jacob in the medical lab where he had been left, and Jacob reports two things: 1) he is hungry, and 2) the two other men had left out the other door. Hunter tells him to stay, then goes after the other two men, hoping they have more answers. He botches his perception roll, however, and tracks the sound of voices to a deserted hallway with a stairwell leading down to a sealed door with a number of warning labels on it. He deigns not to open the door and instead retraces his steps.
Meanwhile, Mithril decides to head upstairs as well, while Blade goes back down to the bay to guard the two mercenaries who were in the process of discussing whether to flee. Mithril soon finds Jacob, who conveys the same information to Mithril, except he refers to Mithril solely as “lightning man” (Mithril’s anima banner is still raging). Mithril stays in the lab to figure out more about what had been taking place here.
Kami finally finishes up with the computer work for the time being and heads upstairs, finding Jacob and Mithril, and soon goes after Hunter. Blade tires of the two unreliable mercenary prisoners and executes them, then heads upstairs as well. Soon all four of them are gathered in the back half of the Moon-Sheltered Research Manse, searching for the two men who were in the medical lab before the fighting started. Finally, they trace them to the cafeteria, where they are clearly visible eating dinner. Blade covers the rear exit while Hunter, Kami and Mithril enter the front to question them. They keep on eating while they talk, and upon inspection it’s found they’re eating the same stuff they’ve had all this time: some kind of gruel with oats and water and smashed-up protein which occasionally has an insect leg or wing visible in it. Kami hadn’t even noticed this was what the food was while he’d been working since the sailors had been bringing him fresh fish most of the time, but this is apparently what everyone’s been eating, and the mercenary and doctor are calmly sitting and eating it now since they figure it’s the last chance they’ll get. Creepy.
They aren’t very forthcoming with answers until Hunter slams a fork through the mercenary’s only hand. The mercenary then explains that he is part of the East Valley Mercenary Company, and that they were promised power that would help them beat their rivals, the supernaturally powerful West Valley Mercenary Company. The doctor who is there has learned how to perform the implantation surgery, as has Dr. Wiley, and they have probably taken the artifact duplicator back to the base, which the mercenary reveals the location of while under torture.
Hunter soon dispatches the mercenary but keeps Dr. Farristus alive since he may be useful. The party examines the door that Hunter found earlier, and conclude it is probably important but not what they are after right now, so they rest and regroup before setting out to the East Valley Mercenary camp. Kami uses his super charm to heal Mithril and Blade, as they had been beaten up by M.A.I.R.I. and Siren, but then he botches his conviction roll on his overnight sleep THREE TIMES IN A ROW. Nightmare city! More details are available as a separate story under Kami’s page.
Kami learns more about the base, and rigs it so it will only open for them from now on. Mithril works on charms for himself and Blade, since they could use some upgrading. Fixing M.I.R.I. is beyond their ability for now, but Kami and Mithril resolve to do it when they get back, since their teamwork is awesome. By the fourth day Kami is having serious issues since he has been plagued by nightmares about his betrayal, made worse when the party awakens on the fourth day to find Silken Cowl and Dr. Farristus have disappeared. Hm.
Coming up next: the party is prepared to set out after the East Valley Mercenaries!
Most Badass Moment candidates:
- Mithril’s strategy of leaving iBot hidden on the Moral Ambiguity is a stealth candidate, as it is a loose thread that can now be kept in reserve.
- Hunter’s interrogation rolls which score huge successes (with some team work)
- Mithril’s social attack against Silken Cowl is a work of beauty and gets the party what it needs to avoid painful death
- Aside from the computer sequence this was a low-intensity session, with wacky hijinx as primary fare for the day, so everyone’s enjoyment is a moment of badassness in my book!
Funniest Moment candidates:
- DM: “Okay Kami and Mithril need to roll Wits + Dodge right now.” Taylor: “I botch!” DM: “… Well, as you’re standing there intently cutting through the door, a massive spherical wrecking ball slams through the wall next to you, and you get pancaked. Take *roll* five damage.”
- Jason: “Hm, okay I’m gonna just kill them.” DM: “Uh, can you roll your compassion?” Jason: “Damnit, a success. Does that mean I feel sorry for them?” DM: “Yes, but you can expend a willpower to ignore your feelings.” Jason: “Hmm…. nah….” Later: “Screw it, I’m blowing the willpower to kill them and go upstairs.” (No one is bothered by this)
- Eli: “Oh wait what language are the signs written in?” DM: “Ooh good point, they’re in Old Realm. You can’t read that can you.” Eli: “No not so much. I ask Jacob about the signs.” Jacob: “That one said ‘food’. I don’t know the other ones. Hunter? Can’t you read?” Hunter: “… No, I cannot.” *shame*
- Hunter: “Stay here, and I will retrieve you.” Jacob: “Hunter? Why are you a tree?” Hunter: “What?……. oh. ‘Retrieve’. I will come back for you.” Jacob: “Oh, okay.”
- Jacob: “Hello Lightning Man.”
- Jacob, while Mithril is working, repeatedly: “Lightning Man?”
- Eli: “Wait so they’re just sitting there chowing down on insect oatmeal even though we’re all standing here?” DM: “Yup.” Eli: “What the heck?”
- Debbie: “I’m going to try to examine them using Flawless Diagnosis Technique.” DM: “They’re clearly addicted to something, presumably the thing they’re eating, probably the locusts in the thing they’re eating. As to how, you’re not sure, could be a number of things.” Eli: “This is so not okay.”
- Debbie: “Ohhhhh.” DM: “You botched again?” Debbie: “That’s twice now.”
- Debbie: “AHHH!” DM: “Three in a row??” Debbie: “Yup…”
And some pics! L-R: DM at the computer (visible chat box on the side from abortive attempt to integrate Keith and his two children into the game), Kami’s sleepless nights, and Taylor’s epic hat.