Unless you'd prefer ...
This is the third game in this campaign.
The first is written up, here.
The second, here.
Think of the biggest machine you’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s the Union Pacific 4014 over at the Museum of Industry. Maybe you served alongside a Promethean EXO. Maybe you grew up in the shadow of rockets at Xichang. If Upstairs is interpreting the data right, the Tao Xing Fluid Computing Corporation is mixed up in something that combines the bulk, the intimidation, and the power of all three. Something called the Nátttröll is in dry dock at Lyngbakur, an offshore installation controlled and operated by the Skallagrim Foundry. Despite the famous xenophobia of Hong Kong industry, the Icelandic armorer, Skallagrim, has made a name for itself among the corporations, here, for bespoke hoplological nightmares. Skallagrim makes real and terrible shells for the warmongers’ and assets managers’ binary dreams. No other company handles the mechanics of heavy metal, moving fast at high temperatures, better. Their Reifiers translate the spec limits of code to tensor strength and torsion axes. Their Húskarls work up fittings for whatever the customer wants out of the armory. The Bondr floor, then, swings into production. We’ve never had need for their services, but we’ve dismantled their work a few times. The reputation Skallagrim carries is well deserved - all of those jobs were ugly.
In fact, you’ve seen something of their efforts. Those big guys in the orange armor and the glowy swords? Yeah. Some time back, Tao Xing contracted Skallagrim to build a body capable of the finesse they were pushing through the manufactory’s top-of-the-line, augmetic interfaces. The Quilin, as they call it, was their answer. Ji swears she’s seen one split a large caliber round in the air on the edge of that blade. They do good work, both of them.
He didn't make it onto the table, this game, but I found a way to put him in the AAR.
Most of the time, this work permits two parties: a software corp. with a dream and the Foundry with the experience to make it real. This time, there are numerous, though buried, references to a third entity, one Fylgja Organics. The last time they show up on the sphere is eleven years ago, when they were bought out and reorganized as a subsidiary of Skallagrim Foundry. After that, Fylgja disappears entirely from public records. A deeper cut pings a number of redacted projects, black sites both corporate and defense funded. Organics is usually the province of the contractor - a souped up skin with all the showcase cybernetics built-in. A tripartite arrangement is exceedingly rare. A dedicated organics firm is a Skallagrim first. There’s something here not even Upstairs has the vantage on, yet.
What they can see, though, is the work log of one Lead Developer for the wetware on this project under the initials FPL. No wonder they’re so jealous of Frances Pei Leung’s consciousness. She’s the one who is making the handshake between that monster Skallagrim is building and whatever it is Fylgja is bearing to the proverbial table. She is also the only branch of this endeavor that roots outside of the Lyngbakur facilities. Somehow we tangled up in the only loose thread off a kind of secret that conspiracy-junkies can only lust after. Maybe it’s just the paranoia talking, but it’s hard to see these guys making many mistakes. Again, there’s the question of whether our induction to these mysteries was ever only the “lucky accident” Upstairs saw when that flier went down.
I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map.
I'm the map!
Regardless, we are the seekers of truth for a price, and there are new and terrible truths to be had, here. We insert onto the domed and industrial island of Skallagrim’s Lyngbakur with a lot of questions. A couple of them answer themselves as soon as our LIDAR goes live. How big is this thing? Fucking huge. Could we take it if we had to? Not fucking likely - at least at present.
There's nothing funny about the Nátttröll.
Especially not the fact that it has three 'T's in its name.
Especially especially not the fact that I'm not making up the three ‘T’s in its name.
It's worth a Google.
We’re going to need some solid intel on this monstrosity. To that end, we need to jack into the thing, and pull as much as we can, as fast as we can. Hex, our Splicer, doesn’t need a fiberoptic map to figure out the whole thing is air-gapped. If it was accessible from the outside, Upstairs wouldn’t run the exposure risk of bodies on site. So, the first thing we need to do is plant a USB router on the console beneath it. No. The first thing we need to do is blackout the antenna in the middle of the hangar. Nothing good is going to happen once Hex breaks in, better to mitigate that, now.
Who's a Master of Computer Science and likes academic regalia jokes?
The Splicer shuts it down fast, then hands the controls over to Nguyen, our Sawbones, to keep the thing suppressed. She is good, but she’s going to need SysAdmin privileges for this job. There’s a hardwired console on a central, sheltered catwalk. That’s her rig for the day. That’s the machine she’ll use to crack the monster’s metaphorical skull, and vivisect its live-wire brain. With hardly a backwards glance, she’s popped her talons and is scaling the steel plate.
hashtag dramatic warm noir,
hashtag my instagram filter is the sun,
hashtag i know hashtags are discrete search terms, but it's really hard to parse these without proper spacing,
Ryu, the Razor, sprints towards the monster. His job is twofold: first, plant the router; then, hold the connection in meat-space while the Splicer exploits every soft point she can find. Ji, the Ronin, and Nguyen are on support.
The light is different because I needed a picture to break up the text, but I didn't have a good one, so, I had to stage this one, much, much, later. I think the Dutch Tilt gives it that je ne sais quoi verisimilitude vibe.
If the Sawbones loses control of the antenna, this job gets much, much harder. Right now, the whole station is on red alert. They started sending in guards as soon as the comms went down. If that antenna is brought back up [H-SEC success at one of the two blue consoles; the Sawbones can defend so long as he stays in base contact with the other - ed.], this isn’t a local affair, anymore. Worse, if they regain control, they can pump up the volume across all bands and turn that thing into a white-noise, brute-force signal jammer. That means the router bricks out, and all hacking would need to be performed in situ, exposed, at the feet of the titan. The Razor is a machine spec-built to thrive under adverse conditions, but he lacks the technical acumen to rip the nerve center of that machine out through its nostrils. The Splicer can do that work, no problem, but she is a touch fragile. It wouldn’t be impossible, but it wouldn’t be easy, either.
Same story. Still true.
The Ronin, meanwhile sets up on a corner with great views on the approach. She can’t see Ryu, but he hardly needs the backup. Her primary objective is to de-res any countermeasures that popup. To that end, she is armed up, armored up, and practicing her mindful breathing.
"Fur is Murder!" Ka-Boom
As intended, the Razor is drawing most of the attention. Between his sword and his frags, that corner isn’t wavering. The Ronin is getting the occasional shot off. The Sawbones is fine, what with his Gibson MACRO and the double countermeasures drone to help out. The Splicer is sweating. She’s going to need thirty more seconds [I’m playing for three turns of successful hack roles on both consoles, non consecutive, but simultaneous - ed.].
You've heard of the Golden Angle, right?
That perfect, photographic ray that captures all of a miniature's best features?
Well, consider the search pared down to 359.
Unfortunately, a pair of goons hasn’t taken the bait. They’re hot cycling, and speeding up the stairs to the Splicer’s position too fast for the Ronin to take out both. With a muttered curse, Hex checks the arc Ji sent to her HUD, and tosses a frag as close to that parabola as she can manage. Her aim is spectacular. The grenade’s performance, however, leaves something to be desired. Unfazed, both chumps carom round the corner onto the landing. One of them sprints straight into Ji’s reticle, but the other opens fire. For a tense blink, there’s nothing we can do. If this guy’s shots hit home before Ji can line him up, the Splicer is going to be running at a distinct disadvantage. She’ll probably get the data, but she might not be fast enough to beat those H-SEC to the EZ. He misses. Ji exhales. He’s red mist and sparks.
Turning back to the screen, Hex finds a shortcut in the code that should have been patched thirteen days ago. It’s a fine place to drop her last .exe. The status bar climbs to one hundred in no time at all, and the data is ours. The Splicer jumps the rail and drags her talons down the wall in a dramatic, screeching slide. She’s the first to the EZ. The Ronin breaks cover, dashes up, and sets up overwatch behind a new screen. Her suppressing fire is enough to distract the H-SEC squad that’s been creeping on the Sawbone’s position. It’s a close call, but Nguyen runs a button hook around the fastest outriders and tucks in with the team.
Always the slow fullback, never the nimble defensive tackle.
The Razor gets the good news, shakes a tackle, and beats feet for extraction. Unfortunately, he’s only just in front of the inbound Lite EXOs. They’re more than fast enough to run him down in open ground. Once again, Ryu is going to jam himself, bodily, into the gap, stemming the flood, drawing ire, protecting the team. It is his job, but we really should up his cut.
Charmander reprises his role as The Extraction Zone.
The Sawbones and Ronin slip through the security door the Splicer cracks, and disappear into the duct work. They are carrying the data in a rider module. What all that screed of numbers and hex-code means is a problem for Upstairs. Without them on the floor, the Razor is free to cut and run [puns intended - ed.]. He’s a skilled technician. If all he has to do is get out, it’ll happen.
And, nothing. Hopefully, that’s it. Skallagrim’s machine is terrifying, sure. With all the specs to hand, though, Upstairs will find an exploit. They’ll sell it on for an oil baron’s ransom, thus dispersing the secret name that turns the demon, and making a tidy profit at the same time. Freedom wins, with a detour through the free market, natch. Bad guys pound the table. We make our cred, and take some lighter jobs for a while. End of Story. Fin.
This isn’t some video game narrative, sorry to say. We work hard to skip the boss lairs, kiddos. We are tool assisted, frame perfect, OoB, sequence breaking, backwards long jumping glitch hounds for hire. So, if you were expecting a QuickTime pan out, here, to set up the pitched battle against this mecha’s final form, I am afraid you will be sorely disa --
Well fuck me running.