Johann lit by a solar flare
Before we got started, The Cheshire Cat's wife, The Paper, joined us all for dinner, which we ordered from a nearby Italian place. I ordered the eggplant parmesan with spaghetti and a salad, and I actually had enough left over for two other meals! Despite the fact that pregnancy increased my appetite considerably during the second trimester, now in the third trimester, I have less room for food (thanks to the expanding baby). My appetite has therefore shrunk to what it was pre-pregnancy. I try to eat small meals, interspersed with snacks, to meet my nutritional needs.
Playing Confed this time were myself as Carmella Maylock, a cheval trader (or gypsy) who's been made the default ship's captain; The Gryphon as weapons expert and pilot extraordinaire Jenna Starfall; The Martial Artist as Taiwan MacGuyver, the idiot savant ship's engineer and my character's second cousin, twice removed (also a Rimhold baron); Batman's roommate as Johann Wolfcastle, an eight-foot-tall genetically-engineered goon with a cybernetic eye (since replaced with a human transplant), a penchant for weaponry and a thick Austrian accent; The Dormouse as the private investigator Sherlock, a communal life form made up of five individuals who resemble wolfhounds; The March Hare as Fader, a baron and reckless adventurer; and The Court Wizard as Katya, a 6-foot tall female Marine.
When we last left our heroes, they had been hired by a nobleman, Count Arlo, who ruled over a small agricultural planet, to investigate the kidnappings of his sons, 10 and 14. The crew of the Vandervecken had managed, through investigation and questioning, to confirm the culprits: the Five Stone Wardens, also known as the Yevis Gang, named after its leader, Cole Yevis, who had met his partner-in-crime, Gavino MacEdin, while the two were young criminals. They had solidified their partnership while serving juvenile sentences together.
Now, the crew knew, was time to go after these thugs. But first, they needed a plan. A brainstorming session evaluated several methods. The kidnappers had demanded that an extremely large amount of money (7 billion crowns) be left in a shipping container in a specific uninhabited star system. That amount of money was beyond the financial capabilities of the Count, despite his efforts to raise it. Knowing time was of the essence, the Vandervecken crew planned to fake a drop-off and get the jump on the thugs as they came to collect it. They knew it would be essential to disrupt their shipboard computers, in order to prevent them from escaping, fighting back, or notifying other members of the gang.
The first working idea was to plant a EMP (electromagnetic pulse) device in the shipping container. Such a device would, once activated, disable all electronic devices within a certain range. Unfortunately, this would be hard to hide from scanning devices and would be prohibitively expensive, at 2 million crowns. The plan would only work if the Count would agree to cover the expense. Then, of course, it would also take time to build, time the lordlings might not have.
Taiwan, who has taken enough interest in astronomy to be able to glean useful information, had informed the crew that the star system in question consisted of a blue-white giant star, with a white dwarf in close orbit around it. The giant star periodically flares, which would pretty much fry any unshielded ships, as well as anyone who was outside at that time.
At this point, Carmella, who had mainly been listening to the others speak, asked, "Could we cause a flare?" Taiwan did some calculations and, with his basic physics skills, figured out a way to use the ship's fusion drive to set off a flare. Then it was simply a matter of setting the trap.
The crew met with the Count, and Carmella explained to him the idea of the fake-out, without revealing the plans for creating a solar flare. She asked him to create the illusion of producing the money, by actively moving large amounts of money on the stock market and to have trucks making midnight runs to the Vandervecken. The trucks were empty, but the illusion worked: some petty criminals even got arrested trying to hijack one of them! By the end of three days, the interglobal buzz about the economic movements of the small planet would have easily reached the criminals, who would then be more likely to believe that the drop-off was genuine.
The Vandervecken crew dropped the shipping container in the system, near the two stars. After appearing to fly away, Jenna, the pilot, used the glimmer drive to jump the Vandervecken into a hiding place near the white dwarf.
After a relatively short while, the ne'er-do-wells noticed the shipping container and came to collect it. Taiwan waited until the ship had opened its cargo bay to receive the container and set off the solar flare. The Vandervecken was protected, thanks to its grav shields, although the ship spun violently and Carmella almost lost consciousness.
Jenna remained aboard the Vandervecken, while the rest of the crew used a Rimhold boarding pod, provided by Johann, to board the pirate ship. They were greeted by a grim sight: the cargo bay had been obliterated, with the remains of two or three crew members discovered in that area. The boarding pod was probably unnecessary, since they did not need to cut through the ship's hull: rather, in addition to the cargo bay remaining open, the ship contained a gaping hole on that end.
The crew proceeded carefully through the rest of the ship, checking for resistance as they made their way to the bridge. Johann lives for this sort of action and led the way. As an active-duty member of the Rimhold military, he has very different ideas about combat then the typical Confed citizen, which comprise much of the rest of the crew. The Rimholders believe in overwhelming force, whereas the Confed citizens prefer to limit casualties, using nonlethal force wherever possible. Since Johann is acting as the personal bodyguard to Taiwan, who is betrothed to the heir to the Rimholder throne, Johann is even more prone to excess in cases where Taiwan is present.
This led to some interesting conversations. As the crew would approach an electronic door, for example, that had been rendered motionless by the flare, Johann's first instinct was to pull an explosive from his belt. Another member of the crew, however, pointed out a perfectly operational hand crank that could be used to open the door. Disappointed, Johann agreed to crank the door open instead.
Behind the door to the hallway lurked two pirates, one of whom suffered a broken finger when Johann, who was honestly trying NOT to do grievous harm, grabbed the barrel of his gun and bent it upwards. Another guy was taken down by a well-placed stunner shot from Carmella. As the first guy was cursing but still refusing to surrender, Carmella placed her stunner point blank against his head and insisted he surrender. Despite her small stature and normally non-intimidating manner, the circumstances were enough to convince him to give up. Sherlock cuffed him, using the police handcuffs he carried for his work as a private investigator.
With Johann and Taiwan leading the way, they checked the four doorways in the hallway on the way to the bridge. Katya and Sherlock opened one door to find a rapidly decompressing room from a hull breech. They quickly shut the door. Behind another door, Johann and Taiwan found two more baddies, one of them particularly stupid. He pulled four pins out of the grenades on Johann's belt, and Johann had no choice but to remove the belt, throw it into the room with the baddies, and crank shut the door.
Yet another room contained nothing but supplies. A fourth room contained another crew member who was stunned (literally) when Sherlock proved his fight capabilities. One of his members flew through the door, a specially-modified stunner in his mouth, and blasted the guy at close range. The rest of the Vandervecken crew commented that it seemed as if he'd been flying in slow motion, with birds flapping away like in a John Woo movie.
Carmella mainly hung back and looked for opportunities, covering the crew members who went ahead. She also forced Johann to accept some medical care for several shots he'd taken to the chest and abdomen. Despite his armor, he did suffer some injuries. She would have warned him to be careful, but she knew it was useless.
As he stormed the bridge, Johann got shot again by the ship's captain, who was wearing his own version of a military uniform, though it was nothing more than a dime-store quality reproduction of a real one. Before Carmella could stun the captain, Johann got his revenge. Remembering that Carmella had urged him to leave the captain alive for questioning, Johann reached a non-lethal yet excessive solution: cutting off his firing arm! Since there was no one else in the bridge, Carmella rushed forward and, with her excellent primitive medicine skills, stabilized the captain and demanded he be transported immediately to the Vandervecken's medical bay. Sherlock, with a delicacy unexpected of a pack of dog-like creatures, collected the arm, being careful to carry it by the cloth to avoid doing further damage.
Since, predictably, the gang's leaders were not aboard, the surviving criminals were ushered back to the Vandervecken for medical treatment and then questioning. This was truly a bad day for kidnappers.
At the conclusion of this part of the adventure, it was midnight, so I woke The Gryphon to go home. Poor guy: after his long day at the birthing seminar, instead of getting to relax and play a role-playing game with friends, he spent most of the time enacting an important Web site update for one of his company's clients. Afterwards, he was so exhausted he just took a nap. Hopefully, the next time we play, he'll be able to take a more active role.
When Johann's boarding your ship, it's probably best to surrender immediately.