Friday, December 30, 2016

Aftermath and Begining

"Mr. Xibalboa ... we have a problem," Ranna Morrigen said. She had just administered the antidote to the medical Slow the doctors had used on the Inerzan. She repeated it as the tall man came to his senses and realized she was no longer a statue from his point of view.

"I .. don't understand ... I was shot," Xibalboa murmured from under an oxygen tent. He ribbed his face and and realized the surgical scarf he wore like most of his hygiene obsessed culture was gone. He also needed a shave and a toothbrush.

"That was a month ago your time. You're fine ... for now. We know what you did ... staging that swell dinner so that those mercs could kill us all," Ranna explained. She doffer her trenchcoat and was wearing a pistol in a shoulder holster under it. She drew a revolver from her coat pocket, checked the cylinder and laid it on a table. Then she pushed the table near where he could grab it and tore down the oxygen tent with a quick angry motion.

"We have a wire tap on the phone lines to the Subsector Savings and Loan President's house and office. I guess you didn't know we could do that. We traced the calls back to the drugstore you phoned from. A private investigator photographed you making them. I could show them to you. You're accessory to murder and attempted murder. People died last night. This bank is responsible for the attack on Jorge Gutman and myself. This bank is doubtless responsible for the invasion of Nuzon now. You bastard."

"Mr. Prigo had no part in this," Xibalboa said finally.

"Good for him. Now you've got a pistol right there. You can take it and we can shoot it out. I give you that courtesy."

"No," Xibalboa said edging a little away from the gun. He looked into Ranna's dark eyes and saw only death there.

"Okay. Then you can put the gun to your head and cure all your ills."

"No."

"Ah don't want to save us the price of a hangman? We can do 'shot trying to escape. ' she reached for her automatic.

In the end Xibalboa went for the gun. She was glad for that. She felt less of a barbarian.

***

"Give me back that cigar gadammit! What? What light? Oh we're live!

"People of Zaonia, this is Mayor Louie Burns. We are under attack. A cowardly assault has begun on our leaders and representatives ... and has failed. These are people who will stoop to anything to win but they will find out the more they stoop the harder they'll get kicked in the teeth.

"Our thanks go out to the brave men and women who defended against this attack, police, Squires ... the Elevator Gang.

"All armed forces and police are to report to duty immediately. All civilians are to gather supplies for three days and report to their assigned defense shelters or otherwise comply with the evacuation plans Martial law is in effect. We don't know if there's anymore of these goons out there so keep your peepers open for any suspicious activity. Stay tuned for more newscasts and be prepared to give them the works!"

***

"Basement! Put down that girl! Do we need to have THE talk?!" Elevator yelled.

"This ain't no girl. It's Mezzanine!" Basement said juggling the blonde in his arms a little awkwardly.

"Hi Boss," Mezzanine was wrapped like a burrito in a tablecloth and poked a hand out to wave embarrassedly.

Professor Elevator goggled a little and regained his composure. "What happened? Are you hurt?"

"Hurt nothin'! I took out three of them goons ... I lost my pumps in the fracas and there's brass and broken glass all over the street," she said.

"But ... the tablecloth?"

"Oh ... twinkletoes here had his foot on the hem  'a my gown when one of Mort's hot brass shells ejects and goes down the small 'a my back. I jump up ..."

Mezzanine glared at Lobby and Professor Elevator as they closed their eyes a moment and stifled small laughs. 

"... get to the safe house with her, Basement and get her out of that .... swaddling and suited up! This may be Zaonia's darkest hour. We will do our best!" Professor Elevator snapped.

"Looks like it's your night, noodlehead," Lobby said.

"I'm telling ya!" Basement nodded. "Must be the clean living." He broke into a trot away from the restaurant, police, gang, and captives.

"I'm really sorry about that gown. I'll get you a new one," he told Mezzanine.

"Yeah? What are you going to buy it with?" she asked snuggling a little further into the tablecloth and a little closer to him.

"I lifted about six wallets from them swells we were eating with. I figured the Boss was going to take 'em all anyway."

"... And we call you the stupid one."

***



It seems hokey, right? The bad guys suddenly find a noble streak, doing good, waving the flag, and stepping up. I don't know the whole finding a noble streak theme but historically as late ad the Second World War organized crime worked with the American military. Their reasons were not so noble. Benito Mussolini was the only man in history to put the brakes on the mob. It was pretty easy when you just jailed people without trials, employed torture and denied basic human rights. Of course if you were innocent and fingered for revenge or similar motives it wasn't such a good solution.

Naturally the organized crime families in America still had ties to their relatives in Italy, some personal some business. So the mob went to war. crime is way easier in a democracy than a fascist nation. Deals were cut. Lucky Luciano was merely deported, not put away for life for his efforts in developing underground information networks and spreading instructions to Allied operatives. Legend has it when the Allies invaded Sicily the word went out to the Italian soldiers that they should take a dive and deistance themselves from the Third Reich.

Some convicted gangsters did a form of community service instructing special forces in the art of drive bys and whacking people in a dramatic manner to send a clear message.

In New York City the mob went after saboteurs setting fires in construction facilities. You get the idea. Whatever the reason crooks, revolutionaries and similar disenfranchised or outlawed individuals may put their legal problems aside and use their talents and support for their government.

Any resemblance to your typical adventurers is purely intentional. Pirates, smugglers and such are pure lanthanum in war based adventures and campaigns. If this isn't a Polity vs. Polity conflict 'merely' planet vs. planet they have even more importance. They can be a game changer.

Story wise they are also an opportunity for bad guys to do good things be it for atonement, patriotism, or just making a buck. Amnesties might be cheerfully given out or at least haven granted. Some people are just suckers for the badguys saving the day (I confess I'm a fan of Suicide Squad and Secret Six.) In the real world it is seldom as romantic. Remember Churchill and Roosevelt threw in with Stalin, a man who killed more of his own people than the Third Reich did.

It can go the other way too. A government may not want to accept help from some people; at least not publicly. A criminal might not want any witnesses to altruistic actions.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Professor Elevator and the Terror on the Thirteenth Floor!

Steen Prigo, widower, restauranteur, and middle aged, ducked behind the brick wall as chips flew and the assassins' guns chuffed again. Silencers were creepy.

"Steen, help me up," XIbalboa growled trying to get his feet under him. The tall offworlder's face was masked with a surgical scarf shielding him from stray germs of the ill bred.

"Don't worry 'Bo. I'll let you know when I need help," Prigo said snapping off a shot from his revolver that was answered by a stream of bullets. "How many bullets do those guns hold?"

"Lots more than your six. Help me up!"

"Stay down."

"The Hell with that. This pavement is filthy!" The Inerzan got to his knees gasping and held out his laser pistol for the local.

"Oh yeah. I forgot you pack a ray gun. Thanks!" Prigo handed the Inerzan his revolver and a box of shells from his coat pocket. Then he snapped a shot with the laser. The beam went through the side of the car the killers were hiding behind and judging from their yells exited the far side as well.

"Let's see how you like doing the dying, rats!" Prigo yelled hoping his voice didn't shake.

***

The Inerzan Restaurant (Fine Erzali Cuisine!) was lit up. Strains of the local Jazzao music wafted out into the street. The squad of mercenaries jumped out of the open topped ATV. Their squad leader made several sharp gestures and they got into a skirmish formation, one fire team going to ground to provide cover fire. Then several were promptly shot in the back gunfire exploded behind them. they turned shocked to find a gaggle of delivery men shooting at them and pulling submachine guns from bouquets of flowers. 

Professor Elevator laughed maniacally and managed to tag an offworlder with his laser pistol. The man went down screaming. "This time ... tonight , we're on the side of the  angels. What can you do, eh?" Lobby nodded and face planted as a stream of bullets took off his cap.

"I'd like to point out two things, sir, if I may? Okay -look out #4! they got armor and we don't and they got assault rifles and we got short ranged guns won't poke holes in 'em very good. On the other hand we got numbers -look out! Okay not sure about the numbers being telling. Short bursts you apes. Maybe you should toss the super weapon? Now?!"

The Professor nodded and worked at the device then flung it from behind a mailbox with all his might. It hit the street by the mercenaries squirted a small amount of blue goo and lay still. 

Professor Elevator shrugged and laughed. "It's just one of those nights, eh?" he said.

Lobby nodded and shot again.

***

Several shots from the street shattered a window in the restaurant. People screamed. Officer Twoomey, dressed as a busboy dropped the tray laden with glasses of ice water, most of which cascaded down Rondella Cox Swinton's bare back. There were screams and curses, mostly from Rondella. Twoomey drew his revolver and pulled a badge on a lanyard from his pocket. 

"Steigen, Metzer, Gao Du, get the civilians to the kitchen and out the back the rest a you flank me and stay low!"

At their section the Tech Knights upended their tables to provide cover. Ranna drew her auto pistol and waved at an armored squire to aid the police men. The squire saluted and crept forward. Ranna Caught a glimpse of a mercenary and fired with no effect she could see. Sir Bert had drawn his ancient and enormous service revolver and was carefully picking his shot. A grim smile played across his face.

"Where did he get all these guys?"

"Them ain't his guys," a squire said pulling his visor back.

"Mort! Seize this man!" Sir Bert yelled snapping another shot off.

"Seriously? It looks like you need every man you can get. Them's offworlder muscle Sir Bert. It's a hit, looks like! ... they mean to whack ya? Do you speak the language? Them's my gang behind them raising holy hell!"

"Your boss is trying to save us?"

"Looks that way. He must be mad as hell. They're trying t' muscle in," Mort answered. A bullet sent wood splinters flying and he put the helmet back on.

"That's my dad," Ranna said nodding. She snapped a shot off and was rewarded with an offworlder going down. .

***

"Brother I knew these times were hard ... but look 'a all these cops moonlighting by bussing tables," Basement said from the floor. 

" ... did your mom smoke much or eat paint when she was having you?" Mezzanine asked hitting the floor. She pulled a gun from her purse and then another which she handed to Basement. A bullet whipped through her hair and her look turned to one promising death.

"Dunno, I was kinda young to remember. Anyway this ain't the time for my biography! What's the plan?"

"We shoot at the offworlders. We're throwing in with the flatfoots like the boss. Follow me!" 

Basement crawled behind  her as people trampled them slightly making for the exits. He had a nice view at least.

***

Nuzon's chief administrator was called Governor. Not that it mattered to Leogain.  The mercenary pointed to the space port landing area where a full blown cruiser had touched down. Soldiers were pilling out of it and the two freighters that had followed it.

"You and your people are not our target. We are beginning an operation against Zaonia and will end their oppression of your people. You will be reimbursed for fuel, services and supplies. My personnel will not harm any of you if you allow us to proceed with this operation. Be aware any  attacks on us or our property will be met with deadly force. If there are any Zaonians here I suggest you turn them over now. Do you understand?"

The Governor looked at the Colonel and nodded once slowly. Then she spat at his feet. The Colonel's aide knocked her to the ground while a squad covered the other locals watching.

"Barbarians ... " The Colonel muttered.

***

"Can't help but notice three of ours are down and the other guys lost but one," Lobby said. 

The Professor nodded and smiled a little, giving the minion a wink.

"What are you ... oh. Oh! I love ya, Professor!"

The Professor smiled and worked a dial on a small control box. 

***

Sandoval the navigator yipped and started clutching at the Captain's sleeve. The Vulgar Argot was making a low pass around Nuzon to discharge some static charge she'd picked up. She was just coming into sunlight and the space port was coming into view on the horizon when the bridge crew caught sight of the flashes signaling ships transitioning to normal space. Lots of flashes.

"The Hell ... " He began and turned on the comm speakers. He was rewarded with the growl and hiss of radio jammers.

"Sandoval ... how quick can you plot us  a course out of here to Zaonia?"

"Doing it sir!"

"Good woman. As soon as we clear the jamming effect and are out of weapons range radio Z-Port and tell them this whole system is about to get screwed over."

***

The Blue Spire, the major government building of Zao City was nearly deserted at this time of night but a light still burned in the Mayor's office, where hizzoner was being poked and prodded into finishing the yearly budget by Sissy Bobeck. Mayor Louie was beginning to suspect Sissy Bobeck was the one who really was in charge. 

The two regarded a lifter full of Inerzans, their faces masked by their ubiquitous surgical scarves. Their long orange hair was whipped in the wind as they came around to the Mayor's terrace when one man's wig blew off revealing a head of dark hair. The man grabbed for his wig but was too late.

"Cheezit!" the Mayor yelled. He and Sissy ran for the door. He knew the building was tough, built with old tech but was it bulletproof? Bullets began cratering the window which barely held. Cracks between the craters began to form as the fire continued. Louie decided he wasn't staying to see how long the window stayed up and ran for the door as a bullet hit his desk scattering his budget sheets.

"Sonuva ... I gotta go back!"

"I got the carbon copies yer honor!" Sissy yelled from the elevator.

"Bless you my lamb! I'm sending you a muffin basket in the morning!"

"How about that raise you promised?"

"Later later! Let's see the sunrise first!" The doors to the elevator opened and revealed four figures in uniforms wielding rifles. The Mayor looked back at the office as the window exploded inward. The lifter was coming down on the terrace. This was the last time he'd work this late he promised. Then he realized these newcomers wore the uniforms of Professor Elevator's Operators. 

"Hey yer honor, ya don't mind we're gonna rescue ya!" the lead goon said pitching a grenade into the office.There was a bang and a flurry of bullets and cursing.

Hands grabbed them and they were hauled into the elevator. The Mayor and Sissy by force of habit looked at the ceiling and the Mayor was uncomfortably reminded of the time Professor Elevator had installed his so called hypnogogic projectors on elevators. They still heard gunshots but they were getting fainter.

"We don't like this no more than you Mayor Burns," the lead goon said. "But honest we're on the side 'a the angels tonight. The Professor radioed us ta get ya out of there. It's a mass fly by whacking. There's goons hitting the Tech Knight gala and the Professor is hitting the goons!"

"Damn. I gotta get to the Central Precinct fast. The flyvver is on the roof ..."

"We got it handled sir. Getting off!"

The Mayor was going to protest that they hadn't spent nearly enough time to get to the ground floor. he looked at the floor meter and saw they had stopped between the 12th and 14th floors. 

"You gotta be kidding me! You guys holed up ... on our thirteenth floor? Ten floors under my office? And the Police Commissioner's?!

The gangsters all shrugged a little. "It pays to keep yer enemies close. What can I say? The Professor was a civil engineer for years before he went rogue. Ya think he didn't plan stuff?" the leader asked.

"Makes sense. The man pays with exact change, the tip, and tax already figured in before the check arrives. But we gotta get to ..."

"Right the copper's security phone system ... already been  done. We hacked into it years ago. Come this way."

"D'oh! If you guys wasn't saving our lives I'd ..." Sissy threw her hand over his mouth.

"Hizzoner thanks you for your service in this time of global crisis!"

"Hey, we're crooks, not traitors. Right boys? Besides ... most of us voted for him. Some more than once!"

"Oh constituents! Next time lead with that."

***

"We got them now. They're pinned down," the task force leader said from behind the ATV. Okay take your teams and rush that restaurant before our clips run out. use your grenades going in." His two subordinates nodded as they all became aware of an thumping more felt through their feet than heard over the gunfire. Over to his left a hole spewing flame appeared in one man's chest and he went down. "Tell the covering team to focus on the mad genius!"

"Uh ... we might want to hold positions ... "

"What the hell is that?"

"It's a 'bot. Holding a car in its arms," Beta-team Leader said.

"Son of a bitch!"

"No ... it's a 'bot ... look out!!"

A slightly drawn out crash followed.

The Elevated Man was having the time of his life.

***

"Those poor bastards ... stuck between E-M and Two Gun Twoomey," Basement said. He managed to clip a merc in the arm with his automatic pistol, but then he was out of bullets.

"Shut up and keep shooting Basement. You're still on the clock," Mort said lying beside on the floor. Mort fired a burst from the rifle he'd acquired about the time he'd snatched the armor. He noted the police had gotten the civilians clear.

"Yes ma'am."

"Who are you calling ma'am?"

"Sorry, I thought I was talking to Mezzanine for a second there," Basement answered. He ejected the clip from his gun, caught an extra clip Mezzanine tossed at him and loaded it in a single motion.

"If we get outta here, you want some advice?" Mort asked between shots. 

"Sure."

"Ask her out if you want to live to see tomorrow," Mort growled.

"Yes ma'am!"

"You're a very sick young man."

Sirens could now be heard in the distance.

"Cheezit! The cops! Ohhhhh man," Basement moaned.

"It's okay ... they're coming to help us," Mezzanine called to Basement. She absentmindedly adjusted a strap on her gown, pushed the hair out of her face and wondered where her designer pumps had got to.

"The cops ... helping us ... and you guys call me the stupid one!"

***

Outside in the street the mercenaries finally broke ranks and made a run for it. It was probably the third car thrown at them that did it. Professor Elevator was thrilled to pieces. He beamed another mercenary as the Tech Knights and their squires began moving out of the shattered facade of the restaurant firing as they went. When you had a personal combat test as well as military service to qualify for a position in the higher levels of government it made assassination attempts dicier than normal.

"Hold the Elevator!" Sir Bert said stepping forward. 

Elevated Man reached for another car.

"You'll never jail me Cuthbert!"

"Jail you ... I want to reinstate you, you moron," Sir Bert said. 

"... "

"Will you just accept and mail me your witty reply?"

"..."

"Boss? Boss? I think you broke him, Sir Bert. Yo, EM, hold off with that car a tick. Boss?"

"What about my minions?" Professor Elevator asked.

"Well I'm not promising anything. But I swear by my honor I'm not looking to lock them up right now! Amnesty for lesser crimes. Murder, and rape still get you the death penalty."

"What about a guy who murdered a rapist?" Lobby asked.

"At the very least  a healthy head start ... We'll talk!! What about it?"

"We can give it a whirl. I'm only doing this for our planet ... and my boys and girls. Understand?"

"Of course. Look on it as a truce if that's better."

"Dad!"

"Ranna!"

Ranna grabbed Elevator in a she-bear hug. "Mom would have been proud of you, you're a hero!"

"Don't rub it in. I know I caved."

***

"Bo?

"Yes Steen."

"I think them dime store killers took off ... yeah. I think they did. Let's get you to a doctor. It's all over." Steen Prigo was dead wrong of course.

***

So you want to invade a planet. That requires control of space around the planet. If you control the space around the planet that implies you have ships out there. Why not simply blast the defenders to bits until they surrender? The answers are much the same for why am I trying to board yon vessel rather than letting the beams and missiles fly and picking through the debris? 

Tactics
First controlling space around a planet is a often a far cry from 'no one is shooting at me'. Starship missiles are fairly cheap even if bought offworld. Launch systems could be built as early as TL 7 and possibly at lower TLs as prototypes or at least maintained. Ships orbiting to provide ground fire are easy targets. It might pay for a low tech planet with a large stockpile of missiles to attack with a large number of low value targets (drop capsules) to knock out defenses.

Some bases or defenses might be impossible to effectively attack from orbit and require troops to destroy. They may be hidden or so far below ground or the waves that you can't scratch them with available weapons.

Ideology
Prove your way is better by not just winning but occupying the enemy's world. Then make them follow your way. This includes finding the opposition leaders and wacking them so they don't start the whole business up again or flee offworld to begin anew.

Strategy
You need that planet as a base for ... reasons. It has a strategic material or is positioned to protect your interests or has useful construction facilities. Blasting everything from space is fine but you need boots on the ground at some point. 

Humane Concerns
If your goal is to liberate people or target a specific group (smugglers, pirates, drug lords) making trouble among innocents then a trooper is more discriminating than a missile (this may vary by trooper and TL.)

Bear in mind that invasions lead directly into occupations in most cases and occupations are a fresh form of hell.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Inertron and Slide Rules

I thought about the Satellite I and II for a bit and decided to work them out as they were originally intended. That means using inertron. That means I need to reread Armageddon 2419 (not a bad thing) because aside from repelling normal matter inertron has a bunch of other properties that make it very very useful.

For handwavium it was worked out very nicely as I recall. The Satellite series were not constant boost ships instead having a normal cruising speed of 40 kps. Of course the characters say at once point that they can produce food and fuel en-route. Which makes me kind of cry a little. that makes the Satellite as bad as a reactionless drive ship.

There's also no word on what powers the dang ships. If it's atomic it ain't fission as we understand it because there's no room for radiation shields. So I get to make some stuff up or translate their 1930's doubletalk to 2016 doubletalk.

What's interesting about this setting for me is that aside from lacking a warp drive a lot of the technology is up there with Star Trek. Disintegrators (phasers)? Got it. Gravity manipulation? Got it. Very well behaved rocket drives (impulse power)? Got it.

Unlike Trek, Buck Rogers tried to keep the effects of its handwavium straight. Inertron could be deadly stuff. Ships that lost part of their structure might rocket into deep space. Wearing a back pack with the stuff let you make incredible jumps and leaps but you retained momentum and could break your skull if you tripped.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Satellite I and II

The first interplanetary vessel Buck Rogers used was the Satellite pictured here.

(Image from Atomic Rockets website)

It's an interesting design using compressed air to fly in an atmosphere and true rocket propulsion beyond the atmosphere. The blast of the engines seems to pass within centimeters of the hull which gives me problems. The ship also uses inertron which is repelled by normal matter to negate some of the pull of gravity which lets it accelerate more smoothly. These days you'd have a repulsion generator or whatever because negative matter floating away seems silly to some. At the very east if the late Dr. Robert Formward is to be believed neg matter and normal matter will destroy each other utterly. If Raymond McVay did his research right (And Ray McVay does) it would also do weird things with any energy striking it leading to a big boom.

Inertron was about as dangerous as press board unless you let it hit you in the face on its way out.it also was a perfect insulator and was completely opaque to all forms of EM radiation. 

If you get past how improbably  useful inertron was you had that damned vector rocket thrust inches from the hull. Honestly that's what really bugs me but the design looks so radical I forgive all that. The Satellite II had a larger drawing:
(Image from Atomic Rockets website yet again)

This has a set of rockets at either end which ought to make it darned maneuverable. It lacks the aerial torpedo of Satellite I. If you have a rough length of 30-35 meters and a diameter of 10 meters you'd have about 1800 cubic meters or 128 dTons. If the Satellite I has a similar volume both the ships would be a little larger than a Type S. I find it satisfying that Buck Rogers seems to endorse a small ship universe.

Assuming three weapons systems you'd need a minimum volume of 300 dTons, unless each weapon system was part of a triple turret that was dispersed through the ship. The ship also uses rocket 'fuel' instead of 'propellant'. I'll forgive that since rkets were pretty new when this came out. No word on what kind of power the thing used. Some sort of atomic power is likely. That doesn't make me want to get any nearer the rocket blasts of Satellite I. Satellite II has its main engines on the bottom and the tubes in front are for steering and reversing thrust. 

Anyway the ship is calling to me for deckplans and stats so I will likely do something inspired by such drawings.






Bringing a Knife to a Raygun Fight

Mezanine or Constance downed the glass of champagne in a single shot tossing her blonde hair in an impressive display. Her blue eyes were bright as she regarded Basement across the table.

"So," she said leaning forward a bit. "I told you mine. Now you tell me yours."

"My ...?"

"Name, handle, moniker, tag -ya stoop. Your mom didn't name you 'Basement', did she?," Madison explained. One hand was twirling a lock of her hair.

"Oh. Bullethead," he said cautiously nibbling a little caviar. He made a face, added a little ketchup to it and seemed satisfied with the results.

"It suits you. Dance with me, Bullethead," Madison said smiling.

"Oh gee ... the dancing ... I ain't so good. I ... big feet ... you know what they say about guys with big feet ... I mean two left feet! I ..."

"Oh. That's so sweet. You're shy around women, big fella? I thought so. You want some advice, champ?" Madison asked rubbing her foot up his shin and enjoying seeing him swallow a whole cracker, fish eggs, ketchup and all.

"That'd be (ahuh) swell!"

"You want to live to see another sunrise; you better dance with me," she said still smiling and delivering a slight kick to his thigh.

"Would you do me the honor?" he said yanking her from her seat and practically carrying her on his arm to the dance floor.
***

"Soon now ... Soon Cuthbert and the fools who laughed at me will see their folly ... " Professor Elevator said, not noticing his wig slipping. Lobby adjusted it.

"Maybe you should monologue after we drop your little gas bomb and get out of ..." Lobby trailed off. Professor Elevator looked over where the minion was staring and saw an open topped ATV full of troops pulling into the street ahead of his gang. The ATV turned down the street and towards the Ergali restaurant, still gayly lit up. Jazzao music could be heard playing.

"What. The. Last. Hell? They're ... going to attack ... my target?" the gang leader sputtered.

"Well neat! I had my doubts about this job sir to be perfectly honest. Why don't we head back to the rendezvous, clean up and go out for some pizzao and beer?!"

Mort being absent, Professor Elevator delivered a slap to Lobby himself. "That is our target! I'm no slacker! Arm up boys and girls! Follow me double time! No one gets over on the Elevator Gang!" Professor Elevator began running down the street and the gang followed including the chastened Lobby. Thought of pizzao and beer were reluctantly put on hold. Forward the Revolution!

***

"Basement? Basement honey? Basement!" Madison hissed and then lifted her head from Basement or Bullethead's shoulder to bite him on the ear. 

"Nnnngh! What's the matter? I thought I was dancing pretty good," he said snapping out of his euphoria.

"The waiter over there ... that's Twoomey," Madison hissed.

"Two Gun Twoomey? The flatfoot?" Basement's eyes narrowed a little then returned to its usual genial expression and kept his mind on doing the box step.

"I don't mean Twoomey the optometrist! Look at the other servers ... are they ... ?"

"Packing? looks like it," Basement might have had trouble with calculus, spelling, and telling time but seeing if a guy was strapped was like breathing to him.

"These are all flatfoots."

"Wow, I knew the economy was troubled imagine all them coppers need to moonlight to make ends meet," Bullethead said sadly. Mezzanine bit him on the ear again

"It's a trap for the Boss and the guys ... we gotta do something!"

"Ngha! Okay.! OkayYou're the brains on this job. Me, my ma always said I wasn't the sharpest tool on the tree. How do we play this?"

"First get off my damn toe you gorilla!"

***

Ranna Morrigen, Dame Ranna Morrigen now, watched the blonde and the dimbulb twirling on the dance floor and wondered why they didn't just get a room? She was sure she knew them from somewhere. It'd come to her. "What did you mean about Professor Elevator, Sir Bert?"

"I meant he is not going to be a problem after tonight Dame Ranna. We got a tip he's planning something. This joint is packed with incognito cops and every undercover private dick we could hire. He's going to be caught and brought to justice. Don't worry, we will make every effort to take him alive. We don't need to make him a martyr."

"Oh he'd love that for sure."

"I see no reason to oblige him by killing him or his passel of footpads, vagabonds and fools."

***

"Ah hell ... all this paperwork. Sissy, you're young. It's Satyrday night. Whyncha knock off and go see a movie or something? Ghouls of the Underworld is playing right down the block." the Mayor said rubbing his eyes.

Sissy Bobeck, journalist, executive assistant, and public relations manager, dumped another sheaf of papers on the desk. "Awww that's nice yer honor. Not a chance. We're finishing up on this budget tonight. C'mon, we can at least see some light at the end of the tunnel."

"No doubt an oncoming train," Louie moaned chewing on a cigar.

"Anyway ... I'd be out and about if you didn't sock my Galen with working overtime tonight."

"I dunno what ya see in Twoomey ... a monkey with a tin badge." Louie grumped blowing a smoke ring.

"Awww don't be that way yer honor. Are you jealous?"

"Let's stick a pin in this fight, we got company. Looks like a lifter full of Xibalboa's crew coming in to land on the terrace. Wonder what's up?"
***

Prigo waited a moment for Xibalboa's stomach to stop turning then continued helping the tall offworlder along by the arm.

"You feeling better?" Prigo asked.

"Starting to. Thank you for escorting me Mr. Prigo. I know my people are a little fussy and me more than most ..."

"You're a bunch of germaphobes. I would call you nancies but I seen the way your boys handle their dukes in a scrap."

"Ah yes. Anyway ... I try to be understanding on this world but that ... glass with the lipstick on it ... nnnngh!" the Inerzan grabbed his stomach.

"Okay ... that's one I'll give ya. The wife done me like that once. Wanted me to take a drink out of it ... Zhao give her peace," Prigo said.

"I had no idea. I'm sorry. How long?" Xibalboa asked.

"Three no four years. I wish she'd seen me ... like this.I'm a success and partnered with a rich offworder ... one a' your merchant princes. I got two restaurants. Our place has the cream of society eating there now ... but Sadie was just around for the hard times." Prigo stopped a moment and produced his wallet, opening it to a photograph.

Xibalboa nodded. "I have no one. I hope I find a lovely woman like your lady. Say, I think we're lost. let me check my wrist paddlet."

The wrist paddlet projected a small holographic display then bleeped for attention. Xibalboa fiddled with several telltales and peered at a line of red text.

"What's the matter? You need a recharge?"

"No. My security system is flagging something as inappropriate. Prigo ... go home,; don't got back to the restaurant. I will make my way alone. I feel much better," Xibalboa said. He straightened up and appeared to make a sudden recovery.

"... No thanks. What's the problem?"

"I need some privacy. Some folks want to see me on a deal I am reneging on."

"I see. Nix. I'm sticking," Prigo pulled a revolver from his pocket and Xibalboa's eyes widened a little above his face mask as the little man readied his pistol.

"I did not take you for a man of action Mr. Prigo."

"I'm pissing myself right now. But I stick by my friends. Zaoni stick by their pals. Ain't it like that at Inerze?"

"I don't know. I don't really have any friends ... except here Mr. Prigo." 

"Call me Steen. Now what's the deal here?"

"Someone has placed a tracer on my paddlet. They were tracking me. My security system has alerted me but they shut down my comm functions ... okay let me rephrase: some goons slipped my gadget bad code and it turned snitch on me. I got the straight dope from it just now but they're close and the gadget is on the blink so I can't drop a dime to my own gang at my ship!"

"Okay ... any problem if we cheezit? There's a police station three blocks over that way ..." Prigo pointed as two men in offworder armor stepped around the corner guns drawn. They wasted no time but began firing at the two restauranteurs.

"Down the alleyway 'Bo! Watch it!" Prigo lost his grip on the trader as a bullet struck Xibalboa and he doubled over. Prigo fired two shots and managed to drag the merchant prince into an alleyway.

"Yo, local? We only need Xibalboa. Push him out and you can leave," one of the gunmen offered. The reply was a bullet that spanged off his armored shoulder and hurt like hell. The offworlder cursed.

"I'll push my foot up yer asses you bums!" Prigo yelled. He had no idea he was firing some of the first shots by Zaonia of their next war.

***

Ah those personal computers were hot stuff back in the seventies. The idea of a computer that could be strapped to your forearm (only weighing a kilogram or two) that could relay information to you was heady stuff.

Now we have cel-phones that fit in your back pocket. It's okay though. Even Star Trek's communicators look unbelievably clunky (and they can't even send pictures!). A pc strapped to your wrist makes a lot of sense, especially if it has voice recognition. Sometimes you need both hands free and have questions. With it you can link into a planetary internet and for nominal charges have a planetary database at your fingertips, or tongue if you're still doing the voice activated thing.

It can also be a virtual fingerprint if you're engaged in any kind of clandestine activity (see what I did there?) I know you referees are saying, "Lawbreakers? Not my players!" But think about it. Players may begin to think of their little porta-comps as mobile phones. That is to say they they don't want to live without them.

One of the things you learned living in New York City in the Sixties and Seventies was the gentle art of civil disobedience. Trust me, you learned it just watching the news and reading the papers every day or in my case having several people you knew involved in protests.

This art was unsuccessfully performed recently once again. The Occupy Wall Street movements (both of them) taught everyone a painful truth. If you're going to commit a crime leave your electronics at home. Many people were caught based on the location of their phones at the time of mass arrests, established by the cel tower the phone was using. It's reasonable to assume tracking this sort of tracking will continue to improve and that police will get better at it. What is a party to do when they need to keep a low profile?

The easiest solution is to leave your wrist comp at home when you plan skullduggery. This is not always possible. You might need a wrist comp with some info on it (train schedule, local sales, police patrols restaurant reviews). In that case you could arrange a secure connection to your ship (if you have one). Then you'd at least have the default library. Too bad if you need local information.

Another solution is to swipe a local's wrist comp. This might be arranged with the local's knowledge. You pay him. They report the theft after a prearranged time and then you toss the computer in the trash somewhere (not anywhere near your ship or lodgings). Local turns in an insurance claim and gets a new wrist comp.

Of course finding the cookies that let your wrist comp be traced or building and programming clean wrist comps to log onto planetary data systems then toss. Likewise putting tracking programs or other malware on an enemy's comp.

One last warning about wrist comps: have a friend clear your browser history if you fail your survival roll.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Their Eyes Were the Same -Black Part Two of ???

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Consider this a little gift to you. It says you can keep it.

Kilroy is in many ways the Phantom stranger, the Keyser Sose of the Second World War. The question of what he/she/it was demands multiple answers.

She lost her family to the Nazis and arrived in the USA as a refugee. Her country of origin and any other details before the arrival were classified need to know. It was in a stateside hospital that her talent manifested. The Walking Darkness strode the wards frightening staff and patients alike, appearing and disappearing at will. Seldom glimpsed it was described as a shadow man with green glowing eyes. Several favors were called in mystics and mystery men were brought to investigate. The thing was finally caught in a sub-basement where it held off several costumed heroes until a wizard could trap it in a ward and trace it to its source: the nightmares of a badly abused girl.

With occult training the girl learned to project the creature, codenamed Killroy, at will. Killroy's handler fell into a trance when she projected Killroy. As a mental construct the thing could teleport at will. The maximum range of its ability was never found. The further the distance the quicker it had to return to its maker. Teleporting from England into Occupied France was doable with a duration of a couple of hours. It was theorized Killroy could teleport anywhere in the world for a few minutes at least. Most dsturbing was its ability to assume human form for a few minutes, usually that of a trusted person, once the Fuehrer himself.

Killroy was mute or at least never spoke to the Army handlers seeing to it and the creator. It knew how to read and write in German and English and would write down information it gathered or draw maps. The creature possessed almost total recall. It liked to sign its work.

The girl never had any recollection of this when she woke. Killroy seemed to be a separate personality and some thought she didn't create it so much as call it. Killroy never used weapons. It also possessed a wicked sense of humor leaving its victims in little tableaus, like the Ahnenerbe Major with the sword collection. Eventually it was used with the Special forces on a few missions. The rest of the team put up with it and its love of graffiti (you could bribe it with paint or markers.)

Option 2
Killroys are creatures of the mind. Probably. They act out the impulses of their creator. Mostly. This usually means seeking the destruction of a particular person or group by any means. A Killroy is run as a character and seems to know what the creator knows. Briefings are with the human involved not the creature. The Army lost a few officers before they learned that trick.

Level       XP          HD          BHB          ST
1          2,500          2+1          +1              14

2          5,000          3              +2              13

3          7,500          4              +3              12

4         10,000         5              +4              11

5         15,000         6              +5              10

A Killroy moves 15. It can hide in shadows (Special Forces teams have a 1 in 10 chance of noticing one others a 1 in 20). The thing attacks with two claws doing 1d6 each. If a Killroy takes a person by surprise its attacks will be +2 to hit and do double damage. First level characters must make a saving throw or be frozen in place when they see a Killroy for the first time.

Hack Version:
Killroys roll to increase Dexterity and Intelligence twice at each level. They attack with advantage from shadows and characters roll with disadvantage to detect them (if there's even any possibility. Ref's call.) A first level character can be frozen for a single round by a Killroy that makes a Charisma test will freeze a first level or 1HD opponent in place for a single turn the first time it is seen.




Friday, December 23, 2016

The Haunted

It became more and more clear that supernatural forces were involved in the Second World War as it progressed. One of the more signs was what soldiers would call the Haunted. A soldier would claim to be able to see and talk to a the specter of a dead military man. Sometimes it was someone they knew personally. Other times the revenant was a historic figure, here to help our boys out.

Most of the Haunted would have gotten sent to a hospital for shell shock (at least) except for two things: they were completely rational aside from this quirk and they did have vital information they couldn't know by normal means.

Ghosts warned their tank commanders of minefields, and pointed out snipers to infantry. They indicated ambushes and traps and saved lives. On very rare occasions something appeared to others and briefly tore into enemy forces evening the odds at the least and destroying all opposition at best.

The Haunted
The Haunted is always a Tactician (OWB) or Leader (The Front). They have all the abilities of that class but are penalized 50% of their experience (they need half again as much XP or objectives to rise in level.) As they rise in level their unseen guardian becomes more powerful allowing the character to get more frequent and powerful supernatural effects. The levels and their favors are as follows:

1st Level Sixth Sense: The character may Detect Enemies three times a day. The effect lasts a minute. It only applies to living opponents. It won't tell you there's a minefield

2nd Level Warding: The character can detect traps three times a day. This will let them see inanimate traps such as mines, tripe wires and pitfalls. The effect only works line of sight but the character could see any hidden trap he could see otherwise.

3rd Level Omens: Once a day the character can ask their guardian a question about the future. The answer is usually enigmatic and often ominous.

4th Level Manifest: The spirit is now powerful enough to manifest once a week. This effect is powerful enough to cause any first level opponents to flee. Higher level opponents get a saving throw. Friendly characters never see the spirit in its true form but as something innocuous or a half seen shadow.

5th Level Materialize: Once a week the spirit can assume physical form. This effect lasts for 1d4 rounds. The spirit has Intelligence 16 and Wisdom 16 and in all other respects treated as identical to the human character. Though it looks and acts physical normal weapons have no effect on it. It can allow a character to roll with advantage by helping out or make attacks or even operate equipment. Other people seeing the spirit often mistake it for another soldier in their unit if not the Haunted himself.

Spirits have appeared on both sides and have occasionally fought. Two opposing spirits cancel out and provide no effects to their human charges. Additionally some artifacts have hurt or driven off the spirits and neutralized their benefits.



Fear and Loathing in Zero-Gee

Transcript # 12200567 GCS Tesla Cargo Deck (Some hours before the poignant game of peek a boo played in sickbay between the Lieutenant and his Synthetic love interest.)

Captain: Tell me again ...

Lt.: Aye sir. Telling it again. Ms. GAIA and I went after the NBE that remained on the ship. We tracked it to shipping and then the cargo hold. We used cryogenic sprays to drive it further into the hold and it booked right for the AXA. The NBE managed to open the case of the AXA and ...

GAIA: I slammed the lid on it.

Lt.: I perma-glued it shut. Then I sealed the entire AXA in perma-plast. That door isn't opening anytime soon barring a shaped nuclear charge hitting it.

GAIA: Then we called you to report this.

Captain: ... I haven't said this to you in a while but ... good job Technical Officer.

Lt.: Sir?

Captain: Oh you thought I was going to chew your ass? Heck no! Why did you decide to jam our unfriendly ghost in there?

Lt.: ... Sir. The casing of the Rockapongalie artifact is impervious to sensor scans, nearly unbreakable and inert to darned near any test I could think up. I was fairly sure it could contain the entity. The AXA has not been powered up in months and has sat inert here.

Captain: Smart job. Now we got us an excuse to unload that AXA and the NBE. We're going to stick them both into orbit round that gas giant we pass by to survey. Let them send the Edison to retrieve it and try to make contact or back engineer the AXA. They're supposed to be number one at contact scenarios and dealing with alien tech.

GAIA: Edison has the most stuck up AI in the fleet. I hate that bitch.

Captain: ...

GAIA: I was thinking worse than the b-word too. Darned censoring subroutine makes me ration swear words.

Lt.: Yes sir, shall I have it moved to the teleporter?

Captain: Nonono. Move it to Shuttle 2 and prep her to launch ASAP!

Lt.: Aye sir! Moving the AXA to Shuttle 2 and prepping the bird to launch ASAP.

Captain: GAIA, tell the Exec and Jenn they got errand duty. They're dumping our AXA into Klaatuu Behemo Alpha. Then you guys can stand down and have a bite and some rest ... and a recharge.

Lt.: Thank you Captain!

***

Transcript #3524 GCS Tesla/Shuttle 2

Exec: I'm getting too old for this shit.

Jenn: It's a fine day for a shuttle flight Ma'am!

Exec: I'm getting some tea. What are you so chipper for?

Jenn: May I speak freely ma'am?

Exec: Sure, hon.

Jenn: I don't have to guard that misbegotten piece of junk anymore. feels like I was doing it for months.

Exec: Okay. I'll give you that, Marine. Coffee?

Jenn: Tea please. Thank you ma'am. I could have done that for ya.

Exec: Stand down I tasted your coffee.

Jenn: Heheheh. Chief says it's the reason I'm still single. Uh entering orbit round Klaatu B-Alpha in five.

Exec: Well there goes the coffee and tea. Get your helmet on, hon. Let's do this!

Jenn: Aye ma'am. Suiting up.

Exec: Suit check, you're good.

Jenn: Suit check, you're good too.

Jenn: Entering orbit ...

Exec: Good. We're going to positive yaw till we're nose out on the orbit. Belt in.

Jenn: Belting in. Positive yaw. Mark. Nose is out.

Exec: Cut internal gravity on my mark. Mark. Gravity check.

Jenn: Gravity check. We have zero gees.

Exec: Check. Depressurizing on my mark. Mark. Opening ramp. Releasing AXA pallet ... releasing Axa pallet ... goddam pallet is stuck!

Jenn: Roger that, goddam pallet is stuck! Wait what?!

Exec: Gimme some line ...

Jenn: Line is in the lockers back there, Ma'am. Shall I close the hatch and rev up the gravity?

Exec: We're losing this AXA right now or my name isn't Philomena Gertrude Lovecraft! Give me some of that vacc tape. Always got some rolls in the cockpit to tape up exploding consoles.

Jenn: Here you go ... Gertrude ...

Exec: You want to get a my boot on your backside Marine? Watch how I'm braiding this stuff. They don't teach this in the Academy.

Jenn: I learned it back home in Hellas actually.

Exec: Gotcha. Give me that pry bar.

Jenn: Ma'am ... maybe that NBE is causing this. I should go.

Exec: No. You're the better pilot in case this shuttle set up goes further south. Mind your superior and your elder. I'll go and that noncorporeal son of a bitch better keep outta my way!

Jenn: Aye ma'am! Be careful.

Exec: I'll be careful. Man you blow up one subdwarf planet and people don't let you forget. Man this is hot work in a suit. I'm getting too old for this.

<Bang! Bang! Bang!>

Jenn: Old? You" Hah! Just be careful of the microgravity effects. Your below the zero spot. You could fall out of the shuttle if you get distracted.

Exec: You're a sweetie.

<Bang! Bang! Bang!>

Exec: Move you motherf ... I got it. I'm just going to give her a good shove!

Jenn: Give it a boot in the ass for the Squad ma'am! Not to mention the Chief!

Exec: Ayah. This is for turning darlin' Eustace into ... Laverne for a fortnight. You aren't even supposed to be able to do th ... uh!

Jenn: Ma'am? Situation?

Exec: I'm cool. I think I sprained by foot or something. I ... feel all hot now. Strange. Okay...  it's clear. Can we shut the door and turn down back on and like, get out of here?

Jenn: Aye Ma'am. Shutting the door. Pressurizing, Turning gravity back on. Be ...

<Thunk!>

Jenn: Oh crapcrapcrap ... Tesla, this is Shuttle 2 have a medic on hand please. The commander fell on her helmet and got knocked out. Oh crap crap crap. I didn't wait for her to 'aye' me.

***

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Robot Jamboree

So Raymond McVay and I were looking over his absolutely gorgeous deckplan WIPs. He asked me for feedback on some stats for a cruiser and I remarked that he seemed to have included a lot of droids for a ship of that size. This led to a few insights (for me anyway). Those led to a table for you today.

Where the #$%* Is that Robot?! Roll a d20 or pick  reason.
1) Recharging. Believe it or not robots usually work in shifts (and recharge at least part of the day).
2) Defragging.
3) Undergoing preventive maintenance.
4) Performing preventive maintenance (the shop is short handed)
5) Getting a wash (robots get dirty too.)
6) Stuck on a job running longer than expected.
7) Getting a software upgrade.
8) Someone forgot to turn it back on.
9) Broke down and needs a push to the elevator
10) Swapping new code with another robot.
11) Distracted by something on the interweb.
12) Suffering from conflicting orders and needs a human to resolve a logic problem.
13) Has a virus.
14) Planning to take over the ship.
15) It's engaged in a lively discussion of odd user practices with its peers.
16) Someone locked it in a compartment by mistake.
17) Needs a major repair or overhaul.
18) In a timeout. Bad robot!
19) Someone grabbed it to help on a job and won't let it go.
20) Walking around out on the hull. Don't ask.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Their Eyes Were the Same -Black Part One of ???

He was one. He was one of many. He was American. He was an expat German. He could walk through walls. He lived in shadows. He was that fleeting glimpse when you turn your head suddenly. That cold finger stroking your cheek when you lie half asleep.

As awesome and terrible as the Green Man and Frankenstein's monster were they were all too real. This was a walking shadow, a scrap of a nightmare spun into lethal reality briefly then returning wherever he came from. Gestapo and S.S. men went mad seeking him. Some were found dead in locked rooms. Plans were stolen from unopened safes. Each scene had a crude drawing drawn or scratched on a wall and the words 'Killroy Was Here.'

Option 1
A Killroy is a highly trained though human operative. A mystery man if you will.  This elite unit operates outside the chain of command, known only to the highest echelons of command. A Killroy's training gives him the following advantages


Level       XP          HD          BHB          ST
1          2,500          1+1          0                14

2          5,000          2              +1              13

3          7,500          3              +2              12

4         10,000          4             +2              11

5         15,000          5             +3              10

Special Training
The nature of the Killroy unit's training is a mystery. Medical, surgical or mystical techniques are all suspected. Whatever it is conveys the following advantages:

Level 1 (nearly superhuman senses.) All of the character's senses are very acute. Penalties for darkness or smoke are halved. The character rolls with advantage for any tests involving ambushes, surprise attacks and other enemy actions. In more dated terms the character will detect a secret door on a 1-2 as he passes by. Any rolls made against Awareness get a -2 bonus and many rolls such can be waved. The character rolls surprise and initiative with advantage.

Paranormal (clearly superhuman.) The character can see in all but absolute darkness. Hearing and other senses are 4-5 times as acute as normal. They can hear a whisper 10-20 feet away or feel the pattern on a dish.  The character can smell lingering traces of chemicals and gets a roll for things like tasting poisoned or spoiled food before ingesting a dangerous amount. They are quite capable of sensing a truck or car coming by feeling the vibrations on the road they stand on. More telling the character has a good idea where people are going to look by reading their body language and rolls with advantage to remain unseen. The character has a sixth sense allowing him a ST to sense attacks coming from behind or from hidden enemies (like a sniper). The character detects secret doors on a 1-3.

Inhuman (high level superhuman). Many secret doors are no longer a challenge to the character who detects masterfully concealed doors on a 1-4. The character can hear people breathing at 30 feet, read print by touch and can appear out of nowhere to startle foes by making a Dexterity roll. In addition to the sixth sense the character appears to be a mind reader, often able to tell if a person is lying by their body language or pheromones with an Awareness roll. They can easily count the number of rounds fired off by a squad and tell which man is reloading.

Character's with heightened senses may be at a disadvantage in many situations. An artillery round going off nearby is much louder to them for example, strong odors can sicken them. In situations like this they may have to make a Constitution roll, possibly at disadvantage for characters with higher levels of the power. Carrying welding goggles, earplugs and filter masks can allow them to make a normal or advantaged roll.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Checklist for Determining a Free Trader's Route

1) Get a map of the subsector or general area you want to run cargo and passengers in.
  a) there isn't a lot to worry about here. Honestly you can get a paper print out map in the starport lounge. Go ahead. Why are you so paranoid, like every item on my lists is a crisis? Geeze. (1)

2) Eliminate the Restricted worlds. (2)

3) Are you planning on running contraband? Eliminate the B starports. they have a low volume of traffic compared to the A ports and nearly as good technology to spot shady stuff.

4) Are you skipping? Eliminate the A starports. Too many law men there. Too many AIs checking paperwork.

5) Doing anything else illegal? Avoid Zaonia unless it's in their interest too (trust me!)

6) Got a Free Trader? Make sure you can land on a size 8+ world and make orbit again (ask your referee). If not eliminate all size 8+ worlds.

7) Have you got a fuel refiner? If not eliminate systems with a D starport or worse.

8) Have you got a bunch of gun bunnies in your crew? Avoid planets with Law 6 or higher.

9) Eliminate anything else that looks shady, like that Garden world with the population 0. WTF ate the people?

10) Best to avoid the worlds on the main travel routes. They will have 5000 ton merchant ships from megacorporations to ply the trade lanes. They laugh at your 200 ton midget tramp freighter junk heap.

11) With the worlds left find one with at least one commodity you can truck somewhere else and unload at a high profit at another world.

12) Now find a planet where you an unload your prize commodity that's close enough to make two trips a month. That is a couple of adjacent planets. After all jump tapes cost a grand per parsec, navigators cost more and the clock s ticking on your mortgage, life support, salaries, and maintenance costs.

(1) Really I'm not screwing with you this time. Just take a fucking map!

(2) Worlds only count as restricted if there's a ship there to enforce it.

(3) Alternatively find the right palms to cross with credits.

(4) Yeah, I can't think of a reason to hit an A port if you're running unless you need jump drive maintenance or repair and you're sure you're ahead of those damn warrants and subpoenas.

(5) If you plan to screw with Zaonia you obviously have not read this blog in a while.

(6) Even I wouldn't stoop this low which is saying something. I would make up stuff like rocket powered sleds or pressor beam fonts to get your ship in space though.

(7) Everyone should have a fuel refiner. For the cost and volume they'd pay for themselves in no time. In situ resource utilization. Read up on it.

(8) High law level doesn't count if they can't find your weapons.

(9) Reading up on a world might provide an innocuous reason for it being mostly empty. Then again people putting out travel information can lie. So can people providing subsector maps.

(10) The exception to this is of course the hot cargo beloved by free traders. A huge corporation doesn't always have everything slated to ship ready when it's time to ship. You don't keep a bazillion credit ship grounded waiting for a crate of fine wines. Of course if the wine belongs to the subsector potentate you make damn sure you stick that wine on a ship you hire to ship it.

(11) Finding that commodity may be an adventure in itself. Face it. It's going to be an adventure. The ref didn't draw that map up for nothing.

(12) The nice people at the bank will expect you to have a couple of trade items lined up and figured out when you apply for your loan. See #11 above? Do it but don't breathe a word of it to the suits. They don't want to hear you have to brave the Canyon of  Grizzantularillas to get those fire gems you're moving.

Happy Trading!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Now You See Her ...

GAIA Personal Journal  #391256 GCS Tesla's Medical Section

Lt.: How's she doing?

GAIA: She is still unconscious, resting. Her vitals are steady and normal for her at rest. There is a slightly faster heartbeat. Nothing indicative of cardiac trouble. Do you want to see her?

Lt.: Sure. You're a good daughter.

GAIA: <Peck> You're a good maker.

Lt.: The hell! GAIA what happened?

GAIA: I don't understand.

Lt.: Were you watching her?

GAIA: Yes. I have kept a constant scan of her biometrics. What is wrong?

Lt.: I but she's ... hang on. Give me your remote control please.

GAIA: ... okay.

Lt.: I want to show you something.

GAIA: Schaeffer, where did  you go?! Who are you?! Where's Ma'am?!

Lt.: Hang on. I shut down your facial recognition software. I'm re-engaging it now.

GAIA: Oh! There you are. Toff used to play peek a boo with me like that. I made him stop.

Lt.: Look at Ma'am please.

GAIA: ... that isn't Ma'am! Where's Ma'am?

Lt.: Okay you were with Ma'am the whole time in here. She couldn't have gone anywhere, right?

GAIA: No! The bed would have told me.

Lt.: So ...

GAIA: What the hell happened to Ma'am?

Lt.: When your facial recognition software identifies a human you don't keep running it over their face. In effect you label us and just read the labels until we leave and return. So you read her face and labeled her and ... this happened.

Exec: Nnnnnnn ....

GAIA: She's waking up!

Lt.: Oh good! I'll tell the Captain!

GAIA: Wait! Son of a bitch.

Exec: GAIA ...

***

While I believe it would be  very good idea to instill some emotional responses and morals into AIs I do not think they have to perceive things we do or process information the same way. In his wonderful webcomic Freefall Mark Stanley has done a masterful job with AI strengths and weaknesses. One of the operating procedures he puts forward is that robots have radio transponders that they identify each other by instead of visual recognition. Without providing spoilers a couple of crooks use this system to their advantage.

AI might recognize humans by their facial features ar go by whatever cell phone you're carrying. A cheap rental 'bot might do this. Imagine an Uber style system to rent robots on your phone via an app. Facial recognition software is more expensive than just hooking the recognition system into the phone that rented it. In a military set up or a spacecraft all crew might have electronic id (maybe even chips implanted) that their assigned bots use for identification. Not only do they identify you more quickly they can probably track you onboard the ship or your base to find you quickly in an emergency.

Even if a robot did use a facial recognition system  for identification purposes it might not use it for judging emotional states (GIA doesn't). Biological scanning systems could produce a more accurate picture of a human's emotional state. Some AI experts feel that predicting human responses to a situation would be one of the most difficult tasks for AI and only possible for extremely advanced machines. Using bio scans could be an easy cheat. It is also possible that drugs, physical activities and medical conditions can give an AI a skewed reading of a person's emotional state.

The thought of a robot using bioscans as an improvised lie detector comes to mind. It also comes to mind that polygraphs are not considered admissible as evidence in modern courts because there are so many factors that can throw them off.

A robot connected to wifi of course becomes a wizard capable of knowing intimate details about you with a cursory marketing search. Some prudes are against robotic love slaves and you wonder why the lifelike models manning store counters armed with a winning smile, morphing physiques, pheromone emitter, and all your buying habits on record don't bother them. it's even worse when it's your own phone that rats you out.

A robot on a ship might not even be equipped with audio sensors. It could always link to the ship's computer and listen through an intercom. In fact it's whole sensor package might be subpar if the ship has good internal sensors and say an anti-hijacking program. This works great until the wifi fails. Then you need to break out the robot service animal.

Robots using visual recognition might be spoofed by men growing beards, makeup or extreme makeovers. A quick x-ray scan might be better for recognition programs using bone structure. A highly sophisticated bot might even use retina scans. Imagine a less advanced model that has a palm scanner. Just shake hands. Or place your hand wherever (some risque establishments really have fun with this though they have to modify the robots after purchase.)

It's up to the referee to decide what sort of details a robot will focus on and what may escape their notice. Could a magician stump a robot? Possibly until the 'bot ran through the archived sensor scans of the performance. It's also up to the referee how much a robot remembers long term. It might keep a day's worth of memory in full color holographic recordings then archive the bulk of its recordings as flat screen black and white.

Would it pay to give a robot a sense of smell? Possibly. At the very least the 'bot could have a smoke detector. That's pretty safety conscious. Taste probably doesn't pay unless you're going all out to create a lifelike model of a foodie say.

Tactile senses might be confined to the hands, again letting things go unnoticed. If your robot is walking around with a knife through it's back start asking hard questions of your crew and passengers. Shanking a robot is a lateral move from hitting a pup or kitten.

As with the bioscanners there's a whole array of nonhuman senses that might make sense for a robot. Thermal vision to locate potential fires, pressure sensors to warn of hull leaks, magnetic and electrical field sensors to aid in repair tasks. People building robots though are up against engineering and economics. Build a robot with every sensor on the market packed into its head and it probably won't be able to lift that head and be ten times as expensive as a regular model. A less sophisticated model might not perform the sensor tasks in the way its user deems best as well. For example a bot checking a person's facial features against a database of known criminals may miss the concealed pistol they're carrying until it becomes a problem.

Just as space combat becomes more a matter of managing resources at high tech levels robots may wind up with 'service' humans instructing them how to use their sensors. 




Saturday, December 17, 2016

Taking It to the Top!

Post by Special Guest Professor Elevator follows.

Being a crook with a theme is a tough road, even on Zaonia. Why would people do it? Hubris, ego, obsessive compulsive disorder, and Dunning Kruger Competency Syndrome all come to mind. I will discount those because those reasons lead to a brief career and a long fall interrupted by a short rope.

In my case, as is typical of my imitators (I say imitators because really, I have no peers), I have a message to get out. The Tech Knights are a bunch of Fascists who restrict technology for their own enrichment. Every time I pull a job off I want everyone to know who did it, to see how ineffectual that band of militaristic handymen are. That's my message. If you use it please give credit.

Being a name criminal mastermind can be a benefit. Everyone knows what you're capable, in my case a lot. You get the first pick of henchmen, people leave your territory alone, I even get favorable deals when I subcontract part of an evil scheme (more about that later). You also have victims cooperate much more with you. You see when your gang is well known they take pains not to murder or commit other atrocities. When that happens your victims realize that you will not hurt them if they cooperate and the cooperation fairly flows.

I chose my sobriquet after a stint in civil engineering. What can I say? Elevators make modern cities possible. They also make for marvelous misdirection. You make your getaway waving as the doors close, climb out the escape hatch and rappel or ascend by rope, leaving those dumb flatfoots earnest police and guards to force open the doors at the lobby only to see an ingenious booby trap waiting for them. That never gets old.

A word about themes: don't get too caught up in or choose too narrow a focus. I advise anyone planning their crimes around the number Pi or animatronic dolls to seek professional help. It's too easy to tell where you'll hit next. In my case any building with a lift and a payroll will do to make the rent and pay the minions. It makes me hard to predict.

As for me, my theme relates mostly to nicknames and of course my robot: the Elevated Man. My hench-crew is named after floors and other building areas. Okay I did try mounting hypnogogic projectors in several elevators to try some spontaneous brainwashing. That was not one of my better ideas.

Minions are your bread and butter. Treat them well. You might have to kill one early on to show the rest who the alpha is though I never did. People were far more obedient after being invited to a game of catch with the Elevated Man but then he does throw them pretty high and sometimes misses. It is best for your minions to love and fear you. Fear will make a man kill for you but only love will make them capable of dying for you. People from the lowest rungs of society, those who have known only the brutality of prisons and other institutions, can respond well to kindness and fairness. Sometimes all it takes is a relaxing game of catch to break the ice.

The old trope of a minion admitting failure to his lord and master and being killed for it is grossly overblown. This sort of extreme reaction is counter productive. At the very least you are out a minion, one you've probably invested a lot of money, training and time in. More to the point you just killed a man who showed you loyalty. He returned to tell you of this failure and give you notice to let you perform damage control. Many a timely warning from a lackey has gotten me to clear out in the nick of time.

Killing minions for failure also insures that some will leave, sabotage or betray you. Would you want to work for someone like that? I am very tolerant of failure due to outside events or unexpected consequences. Sometimes a busload of cops breaks down in front of the bank you're robbing for example. I thank everyone for a good try and we get together to try to plan better for next time.

I am not as forgiving  of incompetence and especially cross about disloyalty. After all if you don't like the job why are you here? It turned out one guy was only there for the ice cream machine. I got him out of there fast. Never mind the details.

Loyal lieutenants are worth their weight in jewels and official pardons. Another silly myth has us masterminds disregarding them, nay abusing our loyal lieutenants when they deliver bad news. My lieutenants were picked for intelligence and initiative. The trick is to pick people who not merely smart enough to replace me but people who are smart enough not to try. I take their reports seriously.

A vital note: plan for your career in crime. I was a civil engineer for years. I mapped or installed a number of escape routes, safe houses and bases. Make sure your people, logistics and intelligence is all set up before you announce your new career. It's much more expensive to buy abandoned real estate when you're already on the ten most wanted list. The people who just go off one day and rampage never get very far.

When seeking loyal, intelligent minions try looking in odd places. Intelligence is rarely rewarded with riches and fame in this life (ask the guys compiling jump tapes at the starport). I found Lobby in a carwash and Mezzanine working a switchboard (Dr. Switchboard was really pissed about that coup.)

One of the surest signs you are indeed a name criminal is others imitating your work. I encourage this. It means less police on my tail, more feet muddying of the waters should I ever face trial and possible loyal minions I might recruit. This encouragement does not extend to theft of my brand name. The Lift Gang and the Escalator squad learned that. Before you start up make sure you're not stepping on anyone's toes. Those of us on the wrong side of the law have to coexist.

If the authorities are left scratching their thick skulls and muttering, "How did we miss the clues?" you did it right.








Friday, December 16, 2016

Swamp Monsters

The Frankenstein monster became a walking nightmare tearing through partisans in France and the Low Countries. Amid fears that Hitler would soon unleash a horde of similar creatures to aid in the invasion of England, that they were already marching under the waves with no need for oxygen a school of British druids was enacting a desperate plan.

Theologists of every stripe knew this was not merely a war for living room or oil or power. It was a fight for men's souls.

The druids were inserted into the Netherlands by small planes at night at hidden airfields and laboriously made their way to a rendezvous. A similar plan involving the rabbis of Prague had already failed when many of them were rounded up and shipped to death camps.

The Swamp was carefully chosen and remote. Even so the S.S. and Gestapo were close behind as the ceremony continued. The Reich's undead and invincible monster appeared as it concluded and the High Druid died immediately but the working was completed. Ancient magic, earth elementalism and a long buried centurion combined. The muck and mud parted and a creature of branch, leaf, and root given human form rose. Partisans and S.S. exchanged gunfire as the two giants, one born from death and lightning and the other from nature red in tooth and claw charged roaring their challenges.

Swamp Monsters (aka Muck Men, Swamp Devils, Green Men) are 6 HD monsters. Their talon like thorn studded fists do 1d8 damage. they are never surprised in a swamp, forest or other natural setting and surprised on a 1 in 6 elsewhere. Swamp Monsters are made up of wet pulpy wood and leaves. Explosions and fires do only half damage. Other weapons do a maximum of 1d6 damage. The monster will quickly regenerate damage in its native swamp or other natural location regaining one hit point per turn.

If not directed by the person calling it forth Swamp Monsters are fairly docile and even shy unless provoked. they seem to be curious and drawn to children and will often befriend a child, acting as a guardian. With the death of the High Druid it is unknown how well the rite will work or if it will work again. The Green Man remains with the partisans and few surviving Druids committing acts of sabotage in occupied Belgium and the Netherlands.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mystics and the Military

True magic users were rare during the Second World War. Fortunately most of the Axis wizards were merely schooled in ritual or used artifacts collected by the Ahnenerbe. True magicians were categorized by their ability to create virtually any effect using magic on the spot without using rites or methodical magical procedures though the range and duration of their spells varied.

There were several mass magic workings attempted during the war. Soviet operatives attempted to summon and inflict waves of gremlins on the Luftwaffe. English druids manned the white cliffs to send lightning bolts and hail at German bombers raiding Britain. The Ahnenerbe used several massive rallies held for the Party to attempt to conjure incredibly powerful beings to aid the Reich (including the Aesir and Vanir). These rallies were thankfully disrupted by Allied agents and spellcasters.

Magic also had several hard and fast limits.

1) The magician always has an object or action to cast their spell. Whether it is speaking a lost language, composing a quick rhyme or waving a wand, their powers are quite limited or nonexistent without these focuses.

2) Conjured objects that appear out of thin air are not permanent. The stronger, or larger the object the more temporary it is. A magician conjuring a nearly invulnerable shield might find it only exists while he is concentrating on it. This prevents our Axis foes from conjuring valuable strategic materials. Creating radioactive materials out of thin air seems to be impossible thank goodness.

3) Enchantments are spells that magnify or reduce the qualities of animate or inanimate objects. They last longer than conjurings but may still need maintenance spells from time to time or rare elements or artifacts to function. An example would be the magic sword able to cut through steel, that needs to drink the blood of the innocent to remain sharp.

4) Living creatures can be conjured. Aside from the smallest and most innocuous animals these are limited to a few minutes of existence at most. Some entities can be summoned which is completely different. Summoned entities remain until they are dismissed or rebuked, requiring another spell. They also can be very intelligent and dangerous.

5) Time travel appears impossible.

6) Raising the dead to true life is impossible. vampires, zombies and animated skeletons are very possible. Don't be fooled.

7) Cold iron (and to some extent steel) will disrupt the function of magic and usually effect magical creatures, especially those summoned. More advanced mages can compensate for the effect though their spell power may be reduced. A dragon might need to be killed with a sword as lead bullets bounce off it and flames just keep it comfy and felling loved.

A magic user can use his magic to deal damage as a creature of equal levels out to nearby range. They can cast spells affecting the six attributes of a victim directly and requiring saves. Usually a magic user can affect one attribute per two levels. So a 2nd level magic user might decide they cast illusions to befuddle people and affect their dexterity by tripping them up running int walls etc. At 4th level they might broaden the effect of their illusions to play on a person's inner fears and affect Intelligence or Charisma. Inanimate objects in general must be affected using spells against strength or constitution. The referee has final word on what magical effects are possible. A magical effect can create a shield with armor points equal to double the character's level and affecting him and nearby characters.

The character makes a test vs. Intelligence for the spell to take effect. The rules for powerful adversaries should be used.

A magic spell can affect a number of 1 HD or lower creatures equal to the magic user's level if they are standing in a group (like a machine gun nest).

A magic user can create or summon a living creature with a level half that of the magic user's and may have an additional power (see some of the super powers I've already written up). Imitating a super power is also possible with the referee's okay.

The magical power available to a character is represented by a usage die (what else?) The die is equal or less than the magic user's level with a minimum size of 1d4. If the magic user chooses to roll the die and it comes up 1 or 2 it is reduced one size as normal and the spell backfires doing damage equal to the caster's level to the caster or a friend. When the die is 1d4 and comes up 1 or 2 the character in unconscious and takes double damage. By rolling the die the character may cast a spell as if he were one level higher.

Using artifacts or rituals don't have a chance of backfires. The spell simply doesn't work. There is no usage die involved.