Invasion: Episode VI

" The leader that hides his strength until the crucial moment will find that in the second of revelation his victory is more complete, and all the sweeter for being unforseen, while the leader who reveals his cards at the outset instructs his enemy in how he might be defeated."

-- Strategos Ambros Nomarche, On Conflict


The party starts out by interrogating the tractor beam techs taken into custody during the Dark Jayla affair. Katya and Ciernan go at them for a while, but are mostly only able to determine that they spoke to Dark Jayla and then don't really remember anything they did while presumably under her influence. Jim thinks about the actual damage and decides that a tractor beam override has a number of interesting tactical applications, but nothing that can be pointed to as a clear objective.

The Hippocrates gets hailed by the science council asking for Dr. Symphony-Hayes. As she's "not available," they leave a message saying essentially that they've analyzed the plans she brought back from the other dimension and agree that it is indeed an orbital mind control platform powerful enough to enslave the planet of Tinara and its moons. They apologize for doubting her preliminary analysis and say they will pass the information on to the military council.

Next, the encrypted transmission that the party received while fleeing the Tinara system is finally finished decoding. It did the same strange decrypting, decompressing, and decrypting trick that the original movie from Nero did, but this time it wasn't a movie. The result of the final decryption was an inscrutable data file.

I specialize in inscrutable communications. -Ace
After further analysis the crew determines it's an encoded encephalographic memory file, more similar to what Murdoch uses than anything else they can think of. There is a long discussion as to whether the crew can currently afford hiring Murdoch to translate it for them, but eventually they figure the Red Hegemony could cover it if it got too pricey.

Around then, Viktor calls to fill the crew in on the current strategic thinking. Having successfully cut the Hector fleet off from the other dimension, they now need to destroy the mind control station before it becomes operational. Should the Hector get the entire industrial power of Tinara on their side, before the Red's can gather together the multi-national fleet to eliminate them, it will be pretty doomful for everyone. So Viktor is planning a strike against the mind control platform. He'll keep the crew informed as the plan develops.

The crew passes along the info about the brain scan file, and Viktor says he'll pass it along to Garan Hans.

"It's a snapshot of a mind. -Hippocrates
"You can do that? -Viktor
Er... No, I can't. -Hippocrates
Ace gets his people to contact Murdoch and arrange a meeting. Simultaneously, Garan Hans tried to arrange a meeting with him as well. Seeing all the attention directed his way, Murdoch decides to fly up to the battlestation from Gateway to start taking job interviews.

After a couple of travel days, Murdoch arrives on the station and takes his first meeting with Ace and the gang. Ace, Katya, Hippocrates and Osric take the meeting. They bring along Mirris' Murdoch cartridge so he'll remember who they are. They brief him quickly on the situation with the tape and Murdoch agrees to accompany them back to the ship to deal with it. (Garan Hans' guys witness this and call off their meeting.)

Murdoch says that basically the only two options are to either insert a cartridge with the file into his head and see what happens or to spend several months analyzing the file with computers. He charges them an aster to just do the insertion. Ace ties Murdoch up with the crystal rope (just in case) and in goes the tape.

Meanwhile the science council calls again asking for Dr. Kye. As he's unavailable as well, they ask the crew to provide them all the data on plasma bombs so they can use it to plan their assault on the orbital platform. Unfortunately, given it's a prototype, the crew really can't guarantee that the plasma bomb will roll on the apocalyptic weapons table rather than on the critical fumble table. So, they decide to go back to planning a straight up fleet assault on the mind control platform.

Down in the lab, Murdoch finally gets the file downloaded, takes copious notes and then transcribes it for the crew.

A memory: You see the white featureless room in which you had that conversation with Dr. Cain that you are only now remembering...

Hi there! You may not remember me, well, you do now, but you probably didn't until you started just then, but whatever.

I am Dr. Cain, the greatest scientific mind of our time. I am now offering you the chance to repay the huge debt you owe me since I saved your life last time we...


What do you mean I can't lie? Of course I can lie. I just did. Look, I'm lying now. Well, not now, now, but then, now. See?

That's stupid! If I can't lie to him, how the heck am I going to convince him to help save the planet?

Really? You think that will work?

Well, it's foolish, but if you're going to be that way about it, fine, I'll give the truth a try. Erase all that and I'll start again.

Ready? OK, here goes...

Hi there! You may not remember me, well, you do now, but you probably didn't until you started just then, but whatever...

I am Dr. Cain, the greatest scientific mind of our time. I am now, um, prepared to pay you that money I owe you. Here is a numbered account XXXXXX in the First Hegemonic Bank of Tinara. Feel free to pick the money up.

Of course, once the domination from the other universe is complete and they blast the planet with their mind control laser, all those beings lesser than myself, such as, say, bank tellers, will be mind controlled slaves and likely not interested in giving you your rightful earnings, unless you get mind controlled too.

So here's what I propose. You get some guys together, and come to Tinara real soon now, and blow up the orbital mind control laser before it becomes operational. Enclosed, I am giving you the plans for the Secret Force Field generator. It protects the orbital construction project.

Now, there are obviously a few problems.

1) You can't get through the jump gate.

There's a simple solution to that one, the HMS Hippocrates! Just tell them I sent you, and they'll be happy to help. Oh, and you should mention that its about saving the world, they like that sort of thing.

2) Even if you get through the jump gate, one of the Hector's fleets will destroy you.

Heres a security code that might help. Its an older code, of course, as I stole it, er, an associate stole it, well, a few minutes ago, but you wont remember this until you get it, and by that time it'll be an older code, I'm sure.

Pause for a second.

Are you sure you can get this message to him? I mean, there's not a lot of time before the ship leaves the system, and I'll have to encode it first, and then.

OK, OK, I'll hurry it up. Start recording again.

3) The force field generator itself inside the force field.

So, duh, just land far away, and come in over land. The force field doesn't quite extend all the way to the ground.

4) The whole area is swarming with security troops.

Well, um, yeah. That's your job.

OK, then. That's it. You contact the Hippocrates, ask them to send you through the jump gate, cause a pile of mayhem, save the planet from mind control, and get handsomely paid.

What? No, I don't think I've forgotten anything.

Oh, OK, fine. Let's just hurry up. Delete that last line and I'll tack on your final bit.

Oh, one last thing. I am suddenly reminded that the pay is actually for your last job, and you'll probably want new pay for this pay picking up job. No problem! Usual rates, I'll deposit the money as soon as we finish this conversation.

OK that's it. Cut the recording and I'll start encoding it.

What? Of course I'll send him more money. I just said I would, didn't I?

No, I stopped lying like five minutes ago, remember? Though I should remember to start doing that again soon.

Just send it. Oh, if you want, you can include a note to your Hippocrates friends thanking them for blowing up the dimensional gate. I hate it when my technologies are used for subjugating humanity. Under someone else.

Now, let's talk about my payment. Just how are you going to get me a sample?

Given the revelations from Dr. Cain ("He owes me money." -Murdoch) the crew quickly informs Viktor that the orbital mind control platform has a powerful defense mechanism, AKA a force field being generated from the nearby forest moon of Hazard.

Thus it comes to pass that the plan will involve two elements. Viktor will use the Blue flagship to bring a sizable (though still no match for the occupying forces) fleet into Tinara. Meanwhile, the Dancer, cloaked as an Imperial shuttle will head down to the planet using the stolen imperial codes and the party (plus Murdoch) will destroy the force field just in time for Viktor to destroy the orbital station. Afterwards, everyone still alive will flee out the closed jumpgates while being pursued by the immense Hector fleet.

My life depends on your staying alive.
A sign made for Katya by Ace to remind her elite she'll need them to get out of the system again.
Seeing how important the success of the mission is, Ciernan decides to bring the flash. ("Never die with smart bombs.")

Ace gives First Frost of Autumn some encryption homework to work with in case the crew uncovers some further encrypted files in the future.

Not wanting to leave the Hippocrates mostly undefended with Klothos while they all fly off, Hippocrates sends it to Vircus to get repainted while they are away. After another day of preparation, the mission is off. Ace maneuvers the Dancer through the fleet, dodging the first four patrol squadrons. The fifth squadron notices the ship, but thinks it's an imperial shuttle as planned.

Unidentified shuttle. Identify yourself immediately.
Transport shuttle here. Hi, how are you? We're fine. -Ace
What's your destination and purpose?
Parts and technical crew for the unidentified destination.
The "older imperial codes" seem to do the trick and get the crew through the checkpoint. They are instructed to land at a supply platform just outside the force field. Guarding the platform are two guards in white matrix armor. Ciernan talks to the guards and gets them to send a truck to carry all of the "cargo" in towards the force field generator. When the truck arrives, Ciernan and Akito load a number of crates on board. Crates containing most of the rest of the party and their weapons.

The truck driver starts heading down the road with Ciernan riding shotgun. About halfway in, Ciernan tranqs the guard with Turquoise, and grabs the wheel, bring the truck to a gentle halt.

Make a Kith roll. -Mike
A what? -Charles
The fortune check for 10s you make when you put the driver of your truck to sleep. -Mike
Taking the guy's uniform and ID, Ciernan drives the truck up to the gates of a guard station and talks his way in. He's told to drive the supplies over to warehouse 4 where they will be inspected by security and then sent further in. Arriving at warehouse 4, they're told to unload the crates. Katya starts stretching before lifting heavy crates and makes a seduction roll to distract he guard for a brief moment, while Akito and Ciernan jump him. They then let everyone else out of their crates, and tunnel under the warehouse and out beyond the fence, after rigging the warehouse to blow, covering their perfidy.

The party starts heading overland through a forest. Ciernan scouts with a bird who seems to have extraordinarily good eyesight. The bird spots several speeder bike patrols allowing the party to dodge them. Unfortunately, the bird gets distracted by lunch and fails to point out the final patrol. Of the three guards that spot the party sneaking, one is on his speeder and flies off at top speed looking for help.

Jim and Katya take off on Jim's speeder after the sentry to intercept him before he sounds the alarm. Hippocrates locks down the other two speeders long enough for the rest of the party to eliminate the driver. Akito and Deirdre commandeer another speeder and chase off after Jim and Katya. Ace and Osric take the third speeder, but discover that they exceed the weight limit and can only fly half speed.

There's an exciting chase through the forest on speeders, but eventually, Katya manages to TK pull the enemy driver off his speeder which crashes into a tree. After the chase, Ace convinces Deirdre to join him on his speeder with promises to obey her orders, while Akito gets Ruthie on his scooter, ("Hey! What's she doing here!"), leaving Osric to walk.

The party proceeds into the mountains, but can't find a way into the presumably underground forcefield complex. Heading back out into the plains, they are surprised by several giant mech warriors.

How the heck did mech fifteen feet tall sneak up on us! That makes no sense! -Andrew
There's significant support for the plan of "Run Away!" but no one seems to want to be the first to do so. Thus the combat begins. Ciernan makes a pile of quicksand to slow a couple of them down, and everyone pummels the rest. Protected by Katya's shields, the damage is minimal. Clearly, these aren't the ultra deadly models encountered during the Flames.

Ace manages to trip the big one by flying around its legs several times with his crystal rope. Hippocrates takes one over preventing the driver from controlling it, while the others are all destroyed. The captured driver is then interrogated and he gives up the location of the two entrances to the underground structure.

They head towards the entrance, but decide that once they figure out where the underground base is, the best plan is to tunnel down to it rather than storm the fortified entrances. Ciernan makes a tunnel and the party heads down to the base. They prepare to blow a hole in the roof. As soon as the hole blows, people start getting the eerie feeling that for some reason, Ace is definitely their problem.

Unsure what to do about that, they press on with the plan. Jim outlines a quick plan to hold the corridor outside the fortified generator room. Ace will pick their way in, they'll plant bombs, and head out again. Inside, they discover that they've come in behind 40 troops who are outside the blast doors waiting for them. Hippocrates diverts away from the generator corridor and heads out to the main hall alone to try and keep the blast doors from opening, trapping the marines outside.

This are going reasonably well. Ciernan covers the place with fog to minimize ranged combat and Ace gets about a third of the way through the generator room doors when Akito notices he's covered with evil chi. Then, suddenly, all is clear, as Akito realizes it's not that Ace's chi is unusual, it's just that evil is normal for Bishop.

Katya TK grabs Bishop, but he breaks out using his drug enhanced strength and shoots Ciernan. General combat ensues outside the generator room doors and Bishop attempts to keep the party from getting into the room.

Meanwhile, up on the orbital mind control laser platform, Ace finds himself in a giant TK grab facing evil Katya. She attempts to get him to join her. Ace hears her words in a voice he can almost, but not quite, place.

"Since you blew up my gate, I can only eat the food on this side now. So I'm staying. Join me and we can rule this dimension side by side." -Katya
Back down on the planet Bishop switches tactics and starts attempting to shoot people with dart guns. Jim pulls his sword, and manages to destroy Bishop's drug projector, while more people pour damage into him.
"Hey Bishop, didn't anyone ever tell you that drugs are bad!-Jim
Up on the battlestation, Katya turns up the charm and offers Ace everything he desires.
"I can tell you're...frustrated with the restrictions your people want you to work under. You want to destroy your enemies, not coddle them. But you're not as completely psychotic as Bishop, so we can work together. Do you want Klothos dead? We can do that. Do you want every drug dealer on Tinara to put a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger? You can have that with us. You don't have to hold back any more. You don't have to pretend to be nice." -Katya
"Look, you may have a pretty face, but you have a mind like a slug martini. It's not the restrictions that chafe, it's the respect. No one deserves to be a slave. Not to drugs, and not to you!" -Ace
Ace suddenly appears back down in the combat. He's got all of Bishop's damage, but Bishop seems to have left with the battle armor. It's so unfair! It's at this point that everyone notices that Jim is definitely their problem. Jim decides to take all of his various equipment off (though there's no time to remove the armor) and throws it at Ace's feet, just in case.

Jim gives everyone a free action in the event his evil duplicate shows up, and Akito preemptively grabs Jim. As expected, a switch occurs, but Akito suddenly finds himself grabbed by Jim instead. Everyone takes their free action, evil Jim takes a small pile of damage and is TK grabbed by Katya. Unfortunately for him, evil Jim doesn't have as much strength as Bishop, so the TK grab is more problematic.

Ace finishes unlocking the door to the generator room and then attempts to pickpocket the captive Jim of any other nasty surprises his might be hiding. He ends up grabbing a hand grenade covered in superglue, which loses the pin as Ace pulls it free of Jim's belt. Damn that Jim. Ace throws himself on the grenade to save the others from the damage, losing both his hand and his consciousness in the blast.

Up on the station, Jim uses his free action to preemptively reject Katya's offer: "You're not her. There's nothing you have to offer me. Send me back so I can finish defeating your failed plan." She give it a try anyway:

"I'm not going to try to appeal to your logic. I know why you're frustrated. And it's easy enough for men to fool themselves."
She kisses him, with 16 successes of seduction. He sways briefly, but between his strength of mind, fortune, and scout training, he manages to resist. Barely.

Evil Jim attempts to fake Katya out with an acting roll in order to get her to release him, but she doesn't quite fall for it, and he stays grabbed.

Up on the station, Katya is put out by Jim's rejection.

"If you will not turn, then witness the full power of this fully armed and operational mind control laser! Commander, fire when ready."
Oh no! Suddenly everyone is starting to think thoughts about serving the Imperium. But for the stupid looking tin foil hats, they'd already be lost. Seeing the approaching disaster, Murdoch burns his three (and only!) karma points to set all of the bombs in the generator room so people can start pulling out.

People start running for the exit hole, while Jim, with crushed morale due to his failure is sent down to his friends so he can witness the full extent of his failure. As feared, he shows up with all of evil Jim's damage, but no battle armor.

The mind control starts ramping up fast, as people run for the exit. The bombs go off, and the force field protecting the mind control platform falls. Up in the fleet, Viktor orders all ships to fire their missile before they are all mind controlled!

Down on the planet, the feeling that someone is their problem returns, but this time, it's jumping all around the room, and doesn't seem to lock in on any particular person. People start flinging themselves and others out the exit tunnel. Hippocrates starts to feel like he's about to lose it and grabs the unconscious Ruthie's (What's she doing in here!) tin foil hat. Feeling stronger, he then makes a leadership roll to give the rest of the party a burst of anti-mind control inspiration. The entire party makes it into the exit tunnel and Ciernan seals it off, so at least they'll be alone when they decide to serve the Imperium.

Up on the fleet, Viktor's bridge crew falls to the mind control and turns on him. They grab him, but he fights a couple of guys off and dives for the weapon controls managing to detonate all of the missiles, just before going down under the knives of his men.

The orbital mind control platform explodes, and the mind control effects start ramping down. The enemy is in temporary confusion as they start shouting to each other trying to find out what happened to evil Katya. No one is sure who is in charge in the local area, and the confusion allow the remains of Viktor's fleet to recover their sense and head for the jumpgates.

The party similarly manages to use the confusion to escape the area. They make it to a small village of uplifted koalas, who are happy to resupply them and send them on their way back to the Dancer. They too head back through the jumpgate. While leaving the system, Murdoch manages to get his payment from Dr. Cain electronically transferred to one of his own accounts. Jim spends some time guilting over Viktor's unconscious body. Back at Gateway, the Dancer flies directly to Vircus to throw Ace into the tubes, and the Reds take the comatose Viktor directly to Riden for medical treatment.

Puttering: (Vircus and Gateway)