Back From DragonCon

We flew home from Atlanta last night. I don’t know how many DragonCons I’ve been to now (I think six), and this was Bridget’s second.

I can’t do a full recap. The days are just too busy. The blog post would be too long and I’d still probably forget things.

I saw a lot of old friends, met people for the first time, signed a bunch of books, and was on a bunch of panels. My schedule was pretty much nonstop most days, and running from event to event (literally running in a couple of cases, and still getting there late, because Dragon is huge, and there’s a lot of people).

The highlight for me was a panel called “The Larry Correia Showcase”. DC likes to do some solo panels for authors, where it’s just them, and they talk directly to their fans about whatever, and then have a Q&A. Normally when I do these I don’t have a moderator, I just kind of hang out and talk. But this year since Bridget was there they asked my wife to be the moderator.

So we changed it to be The Larry Show, Now With 100% More Bridget, and the idea was that the fans could ask her anything too. She even bought a corset that day, so that she could be dressed in proper DragonCon fashion. (thank you KC) 🙂

It was 10:00 at night on Sunday, which if you know DC, by then everybody is fried, brain damaged, liquored up, or severely hung over, so I wasn’t expecting much of a crowd. I was in the audience for the panel in that same room the hour before (Chris Kennedy Publishing’s Four Horsemen, because I think what they’re doing with the fast turnover production with a bunch of authors is reminiscent of the old school pulp mags, and is a fascinating new business model). And when I walked out of the room right after that panel was over, there was already a huge line for me and Bridget outside.

It was a good sized room, and we filled it. Since the room was already full twenty minutes before our official start time we just started talking to the fans, telling stories, and generally shooting the bull. By 10:00 it was packed.

So Bridget and I just started talking about whatever, telling stories, and answering questions. By 11:00, it was time to stop, but then we realized we were the last thing scheduled for the night, so we could just keep going. By 12:00 we had to tell everybody that we had to wrap this up because we were getting kinda tired. By 12:45 we made it out.

Because my fans are awesome we had a panel, a post panel, and a post panel wrap up show. I believe this was because Bridget is just so charming. If it had been me, I would’ve had six people (counting the con staff for the room) and we’d be out of stuff to talk about by 10:14.

The Dragon Awards went well, with many of my friends winning (and in the process beating some of my other friends). I got to meet a bunch of other authors I’ve only previously known online. I got to be on some panels with some old friends (Laurell and I did How to Write Guns together again). When the the Dragon nominees panel was asked about things which had inspired them and up and coming urban fantasy author R.R. Virdi talked about how he read my books in high school. And I was like wait, he’s an adult man… damn… I’m getting old. (but to be fair, this is probably karmic payback for the times that I’ve done that to guys like Dave Drake, Dave Weber, Tracy Hickman, and Terry Brooks on panels)

As always, DragonCon was a big, awesome, nerd party, where everybody was focused on having a good time. I love it.

My DragonCon Schedule

Here is my schedule for DragonCon. The most important thing on there is Sunday night, because for my solo panel they asked my wife to be the moderator.  😀

Friday
11:00 AM Book Signing at the Missing Volume
1:00 PM V-Wars
2:30 PM Monsters Are People Too
5:30 PM Guns 101: How to Get Started
Saturday
11:30 AM Bugging in 201: Riding out the Disaster
1:00 PM BYOMC: Bring Your Own Magical Creature
2:30 PM Baen Books Travelling Slide Show & Prize Patrol
5:30 PM The Yin & Yang of Bang-Bang
8:30 PM The World & the Game
Sunday

10:00 AM Book Signing at Bard’s Tower
2:00 PM Third Annual Dragon Awards Presentation
3:00 PM Book Signing at the Missing Volume
5:30 PM Meet the Authors: Dragon Awards
10:00 PM Showcase: Larry Correia (The Larry & Bridget show)

Infinity RPG 2nd session recap

I’m currently GMing a sci-fi campaign. After the session I always take my notes and then write up a recap to send to the players. We’re playing again this weekend, so I threw this together last night. Since these are kind of fun, I figure I might as well post them on the blog too.

Session 2 Recap

Link to Session 1 http://monsterhunternation.com/2018/07/11/infinity-rpg-session-1-recap/

From L to R, Ammar, Renzo, Batwan, Jimmy, Two-Vi, Rikku (I kit bashed together each of these minis from various parts to match the characters)

 

Our second session began with our intrepid PCs being taken into custody by PanO forces and O-12. After Inspector Castro stole the Black Box, and tried to blow everyone up, he also sent a message to his O-12 people that the PCs had robbed the Black Box and tried to murder him. Castro is kind of a jerk.

The city of Ravensbrucke is in total chaos because of the alien invasion. The north side of the city is totally lost, but the army is holding them back at the river. Crowds of refugees are trying to get out, but the roads are jammed. PanO aircraft keep screaming by overhead, doing attack runs against the north side of the river.

As the PCs are trying to escape in the crowd, they are surrounded by the authorities. When a skimmer flies overhead a bullhorn blasts, DROP YOUR WEAPONS. Our heroes have the chance to do this the easy way or the hard way. Everybody but Two-Vi decides to surrender peacefully, but he makes a break for it into the crowd. Unfortunately for our Nomad their observation is better than his stealth roll, and he ends up getting repeatedly blinded by flash pulses, and then stuck to the ground with an anti-riot glue gun.

The PCs are loaded into military transports and taken to an emergency base which has been set up on the south side of Ravensbrucke.

The camp is a mess. The PanO military is getting its ass kicked. There are so many dead that the Trauma Docs are just yanking people’s cubes and dropping them into five gallon buckets in the hope that they can be evacuated and resurrected later. There are a lot of buckets.

The PCs are locked in a room and guarded by several very weary Fusiliers. With some very surprising rolls, our most antisocial character, Ammar the totally not an assassin, befriends the soldiers and they take a liking to him. They even give him one of their fallen comrade’s prayer rugs because none of them are Muslim and they don’t know what to do with it.

After waiting around for hours, hearing explosions in the distance the whole time, an Aleph representative named Diodoros (he’s a Myrmidon, an artificial human built for war) who has been attached to 0-12’s secretive Bureau Noir arrives to question them.

They are getting the book thrown at them. O-12 is charging them with everything you can think of. Theft, murder, arson, jaywalking, intent to loiter, the whole thing. Their word is nothing against the word of a respected law enforcement officer like the missing Castro. Bureau Toth (Castro’s group) is in charge of monitoring Aleph (the all seeing AI of the human sphere) wants to send the PCs to jail forever. However, Bureau Noir (it’s like a cross between the CIA’s black ops and the Stasi) isn’t convinced the PCs are guilty. And either way the Box is missing.

Aleph has been analyzing all the available information and is 95% certain from what it observed that the PCs are innocent. Normally they’d have their cubes downloaded so they could torture the truth out of everyone in VR “interrogation”, except there’s that whole alien invasion thing going on.

However, since in the last session Ammar dumped all of Magna Obra’s secret files onto the Mayanet, Aleph has been analyzing that information and is 99.7% certain that the Black Box is an alien artifact from an unknown race which has been at war against the Combined Army aliens who are currently invading Paradiso. This Black Box is extremely valuable and must be recovered at all costs. Most of its current assets are unavailable due to the invasion.

So Aleph has sent Diodoros to make the PCs an offer they can’t refuse. If they agree to pursue Cortez and get the Black Box back, all of the charges will be dropped. Most of the guys jump at this (plus, revenge on Cortez, happy bonus). Two-Vi is nervous though, because to the Nomads, Aleph is basically the devil. However, he doesn’t want to get his cube ripped out and his memories analyzed in VR, because he’s secretly an agent of the Black Hand and Aleph wouldn’t look too kindly on that. Ammar is an assassin, but he’s been directed by the Society to assist the authorities.

Renzo is a PanO citizen originally from this planet, but he’s a disgraced bounty hunter with no clearance. So Aleph has scanned through the available PanO assets and picked out someone to attach to this group as a liaison, with all the necessary clearances to get them through any local government or military obstacles. Which introduces us to our newest player, run by Josh.

Batwan Singh grew up in a violent household amongst the hyper-elite of the planet of Aconticimento. He became a corporate executive, until he was murdered, live on TV, by a bunch of terrorists. However, he went out like a boss and took a bunch of them with him. Because of the publicity and the rep this caused, PanO brought him back to life in an Orlando (combat) Lhost body. He was given SpecOps training and became a “diplomat”, who solves “problems” for the PanO government. He was on a training mission on Paradiso when the invasion happened, and has spent the last 24 hours in combat against the Combined Army, under the command of Father Captain Charles DeLambert (one of our players characters from the last campaign)

Batwan is given a special emergency clearance to go anywhere or requisition anything they need from the PanO authorities. All he needs to do is have them contact Aleph through their coms, and it will be confirmed.

Castro has a considerable lead on his pursuers. However Aleph is 98.6% certain that Castro will try to flee the planet as soon as possible and the nearest working spaceport is in the capitol city of Silvania to the west.

Aleph is looking for him, but as a Bureau Toth agent, Castro knows all the tricks. As a senior agent he has the codes to basically make himself invisible to the local Aleph node, effectively blinding them. He’s locked out now, but the damage is already done. They will have sent out a BOLO to everyone in Silvania, but frankly, with the invasion, it’s chaos on the ground.

There are several possible routes from Ravensbrucke to Silvania. Many of them are being attacked, or are jammed up with refugees. If they take the Gernot Multi-Way (a maglev super train) they may be able to reach Silvania ahead of him, or at least make up for lost time.

There is a super train loading up the last of the refugees now. Averaging 300mph on the Gernot Multi Way it will reach Silvania in 90 minutes.  If Castro stayed on one of the roads out of the city, due to refugee traffic it is possible they may beat him to the city.  The aliens haven’t hit the lines yet. Either they are focusing on the military targets first at the beachhead, or they don’t grasp the significance of it… or so they think.

There is one last complication. Because the Black Box is so incredibly valuable, and Ammar let that out on the mayanet, once people realize what it is, other interested parties will also be looking for it. Criminals might be tempted to hold it hostage. Other powers might want to grab it for themselves. And who knows who Castro actually works for?

##

The Train

The PCs are some of the last to board the crowded train packed in with thousands of refugees and wounded troops.

Each car is three stories tall, about fifty yards long, and ten wide. There are a variety of different cars, but all of them are packed with people.

Some of our guys have medical knowledge and immediately volunteer to help render aid. They find a weary doctor named Hanna Weisman, who has been tending to awful injuries nonstop since the invasion started. She’s super happy for the help. She leaves the PCs to help one car while she goes onto the next to see if she can do anything in there.

And the train sets off.

Strangely enough, Two-Vi and Jimmy both intercept a small bit of encrypted communications. It’s exactly the same as the weird alien datasphere they ran into when they inspected the alien they’d killed in the jungle. And it’s currently pinging the train… And worse, a minute later, something on the train sends a coded message back. Uh oh…

The PCs now suspect there’s an alien hidden on the train heading for the capitol. Some good rolls and they figure out that the signal came from somewhere ahead of them. A moment later Dr. Weisman comes back from the car behind them looking really flustered because she started getting really weird readings from her medkit. According to it, some of the soldiers in there should be dead, but weren’t. According to the readings, their cubes were slagged, but somehow still functioning…

Jimmy has all sorts of bonuses for technical diagnostics stuff. He checks the doctor’s med reader, and it seems to be working fine. So they’ve got weird alien coms from up ahead, and something weird with a few of the wounded behind.

Solution, split the party! Batwan, Two-Vi, and Rikku head forward to search for the signal, while Ammar, Jimmy, and Renzo follow the doctor to check on the weird cube readings.

In the car with the wounded, the Doctor points out the wounded soldier who was giving her the odd reading. He is lying on the floor, bandaged from severe burns. They approach and try to make conversation.

Suddenly, the PanO soldier goes for his gun. Our guys immediately blast him. And it turns out he’s got two friends who are on the same wavelength. When they go for their weapons, there is a brief, and extremely violent close range execution. Unfortunately the popped these guys while standing in a train car full of other soldiers, who don’t know what the hell is going on.

It gets really tense for a minute, as Ammar, Jimmy, and Renzo talk everybody down. Doc Hannah has been treating these guys for hours too, so they know her, and they take her word not to start shooting the PCs. She pulls her knife and cuts the cube out of one of the dead soldiers.

And holy crap… It’s weird. A cube is normally a small, regularly shaped device, made out of Silk (a special synthetic biomaterial), and implanted into the base of the brain. Only it’s like something has melted this cube, and then it reformed, and grew tendrils that crawled all up into the poor soldier’s brain. It’s like he got hit with some kind of alien mind control device, which is some scary stuff.

(for the guys who’ve played the war game, it’s called Sepsitor, and it is a really frightening alien mind control weapon). Apparently these guys got hit with this weapon sometime today, and they were being sent to the capitol city. Also, all of the infected worked in engineering, logistics, and air defense. Which is kind of worrisome if you think about it.

Meanwhile, toward the front of the train, Batwan, Two-Vi, and Rikku are searching for the alien signal. Apparently it originated inside a car that has been taken over to serve as the command center for the PanO military officers. Some guards try to stop them, but Batwan has crazy street cred among PanO forces, and bullies his way inside.

On the top floor of the car, they run into the higher ranking officers who are in a planning meeting. The signal came from this room. The officer in charge is a Colonel Marcel Hammerling (of the NeoTerra Bolts).

There is a tense bunch of argument, as Batwan tries to convince the officers that they’ve been infiltrated. Only all the aliens they’ve seen so far have looked very inhuman, so this is a hard sell. Hammerling tells them to go away, they’re wasting his time.

However, Two-Vi radios Jimmy back in the hospital car, and they come up with a plan. Jimmy reconfigures Doc Hannah’s med scanner to send a signal into the mangled cube matching the signal they got earlier. Then Two-Vi watches to see who receives it in the command car.

And all of a sudden, the ping hits Colonel Hammerling. He reacts immediately, and tries to murder the PCs. All pretenses of disguise are dropped, and the next thing anyone knows, the Colonel is moving with super speed and crawling across the ceiling.

The PCs give chase while the other officers order a lock down. (we decided there was one captain who had a clue). They end up chasing the alien through several cars, until Two-Vi hacks the door controls ahead of it, trapping the creature. It turns to fight, and it is really really tough.

But Rikku activates his rocket pack, slams into the creature, pinning it to the door, and then goes to town on it with his sword.

Upon examination of the body (lots of science and medical rolls) whatever the hell this thing is, it isn’t Hammerling. As far as they can tell it is similar to the first alien boarding party they encountered in orbit. Only it’s like Hammerling’s DNA was stolen, and then grafted onto this thing so it could basically grow a skin suit over itself that looked like him. They also find Hammerling’s cube, buried in the creature’s chest. The theory is that Hammerling was killed during the invasion, this thing stole his cube, his DNA, and his armor, and was trying to infiltrate the capitol to do who knows what sort of bad stuff.

And now they understand why the Combined Army invaders haven’t targeted the Gernot Multi Way yet. It isn’t just taking refugees out of the war zone, it’s taking infiltrators into the capitol.

They alert the PanO military to this threat. Upon further examination of the creature, they find that it’s got extra organ buds that can be biologically programmed to grow into different kinds of organs, so that it can survive in any environment. And worse, it’s got a little seed soldier version of itself implanted in its abdominal cavity, like an escape pod. So if you kill one of these, the little thing inside will eat its way out, and then go back on a rampage.

(for the regular players of the war game, they know that this is what’s called a Speculo Killer, and they’re bad news)

And then the 90 minute train ride is over, and they pull into Silvania.

The Capitol

Known as the city of rainbow spires, Silvania is all super tall shimmering glass skyscrapers rising out of the jungle. It’s a huge city, population twenty million, not counting the untold number of refugees pouring in from the east coast.

And they’re all scared to death. The city is in a state of panic.

Silvania doesn’t have a large footprint. Because of the aggressive plant life here it is easier to grow up than out, with many 200 story mega towers. The space port is on the west side of the city and is the largest patch of cleared ground on the continent, but finding Castro in there will be like a needle in a haystack. It’s the biggest space port on Paradiso. At least the locals will be on the lookout for him.

As they get off the train, Castro’s face is on all the public displays. Wanted. And with a 100 Oceana (earnings) reward. Only who is going to pay attention to wanted posters when there’s friggin’ aliens invading?  Castro is getting swiped to the side as everyone watches the terror in Ravensbrucke unfold.

Suddenly, everybody with a hacking device gets a warning that every system in the city is getting blasted. All of the feeds and displays go momentarily blank,  and then an alien appears (the war gamers recognize it as an Umbra). The alien delivers an ultimatum (which is simultaneously translated into a hundred human languages).

Basically, the alien says that the humans have a wonderful opportunity to join with the Combined Civilization in order to strive toward ascendance.  And if they don’t, things are really gonna suck, because they can step on us like bugs. (for those who have the Infinity RPG book, I read them the speech on pg. 307)

Once the message was delivered, the Silvania datasphere starts getting bombarded with the biggest hacking attack the likes of which mankind has never seen before. Coms become iffy. The power goes out. For many PanO citizens this is the first time they’ve not been able to reach the internet in their whole lives. People freak the hell out. Not being able to access the datasphere is about as scary as the space monsters.

But really bad for our PCs, the local Aleph node is locked down, defending itself. So their all seeing, all knowing AI which was going to help them catch Castro is offline.

Ammar rents a limo at the train station and they head for the spaceport. Unfortunately, it is also being mobbed by people trying to get off world. There are hundreds of ships there, but with Aleph closed off, traffic management is falling apart. There has already been one terrible accident where two ships rushed to get out, collided, and exploded. Crews are still fighting the fires.

Catching Castro here is like finding a needle in a haystack. But at least Aleph warned all the ships beforehand, so they’ll be checking IDs. If Castro is getting off Paradiso, it will have to be with a fake ID, or with criminals who don’t give a crap about Aleph.

Luckily, as a bounty hunter, Renzo knows something about this sort of thing. He’s worked in Silvania before. He knows that the smuggling racket here is controlled by the Communa, the powerful PanO mafia.

##

The Favelas

In the shadows of the rainbow spires, beneath the street levels of Silvania, where the jungle is creeping back in, there is a massive shanty town. This is the Favela.

You can get anything you want in the Favela if you can pay for it.

This is where the Ateks live. The Ateks are the people of PanO who the system has forgotten. They have no cubes, no contact with the datasphere, they’re the undesirables and the outcasts. They’re usually pissed off and ready to riot anyway. The fact that there is an alien invasion, and they feel like they’re going to be forgotten down here and left behind to get eaten by space monsters ain’t helping their disposition any. They’re nervous and jumpy.

Keep in mind, some of the people who become Ateks are because they’re paranoid conspiracy nuts. So some of the people they talk to are going to be straight up crazy. Others are down here because this is the one place in PanO society where the law can’t see you.

Renzo has been here before, but it has been nine years. He has some Submondo contacts in the Communa, the dreaded Aconticimento mafia.  The local Communa hangout is in “social club” called the Black Lagoon. If Cortez wanted a discrete way off this rock, the best way to do it would be to talk to Tony Tastey at the Black Lagoon.

The Black Lagoon is a smoky little bar for the Communa to hang out, play dominos, conduct business, and watch strippers.

The PCs take the limo into the shanty town. Immediately the locals start eyeballing it to see if they can carjack it. But Two-Vi hacks the system to change the codes so that it reads like it belongs to the Communa. And two bit thieves don’t mess with the Communa.

They arrive at the Black Lagoon. The doorman (a hulking brute in a Titan Lhost) recognizes Renzo and lets them in. The place is crowded with thugs and hooligans, who are all drinking and talking nervously about the invasion.

Of course I kept this all hidden under a sheet until the fight started, so the players wouldn’t know what they were walking into

The thug gives introductions as they stroll through the bar: Doghouse, Forehead, Merendino, Double A Ken, Gay Dave, Fax Machine, and Alice. They’re a real nice bunch. (I lifted all the names from Scud the Disposable Assassin). The Don is in the back room, but their guide (Bitch Magnet) says only a couple can go back to see the Don. The rest have to stay out here and socialize.

So our two PanO citizens, Renzo and Batwan head back through a smoky room where some other big enforcers are playing pool, to an office. Unfortunately for Renzo, Tony Tastey got murdered a few years ago. Don Cortese is in charge now, and he’s not a fan of Renzo’s. Last he heard he’d ripped off a silk shipment from the Druze society. Word on the street is Renzo is bad news. Batwan “smells like a cop”.

But the Don admits Cortez did show up in the Favela looking for a ride, of course he was using a different name, but they knew who he was. There was a 100o reward, but Cortez paid them 500o up front, and arranged 500o on delivery… The money transfer went through no problem, using a secure account straight from the Vault on Tunguska. Oh yeah, and another 500o bonus is sitting in escrow if they silence anybody who came around looking for Cortez.

Uh oh.

Time to collect.

It turns out there was an assassin with optical camouflage hiding in the back of the Don’s office, and he throws a garrote over Renzo’s head and starts trying to choke him to death. The Don pushes a button and an auto turret pops out of his desk.

However, Batwan has an EMP grenade. Which he sets off right at their feet. It scrambles the Don’s desk turret before it can murder him. Renzo gets yanked out of his chair, but he gets out his hand cannon and blasts the guy choking him. This dude is tough, but Batwan and Renzo shoot him a mess of times. But while they do the Don flees out the back into an alley.

Back in the bar, they hear the whump of the EMP grenade, and then a whole mess of gun shots. Our four guys exchange a glance with the room full of criminals, and then it is on like Donkey Kong. The bar erupts into a full Tarantino style battle.

Ammar is good at one thing, and that’s murdering the hell out of people. He drew his graze blade and the next thing you know it’s heads and arms flying everywhere. Poor Jimmy is just an engineer. 48 hours ago he’d never been in a gun fight in his life. He ended up dropping three dudes with an assault pistol. Two-Vi started blasting people with his shotgun, only then he got brain blasted by another hacker (Alice).

Rikku went over the bar and went after Batwan and Renzo, toward where the EMP blast had come from. Only when he crashed into the pool room, there were the three big gang enforcers who’d been heading into the Don’s office to help. Rikku immediately starts getting shot, ends up wrestling Bitch Magnet across the pool table as the other enforcer’s guns go empty (I was rolling a lot of complications), so they started beating him with pool cues.

Renzo and Batwan chase the Don into the alley , and catch him about to get into a car. Renzo blasts him with a stun pistol. Only outside they Communa have a sniper on lookout, and it turns out that “Fax Machine” is an old Garuda combat robot. So they start taking fire and get pinned down behind the Don’s car. They manage to drop the Garuda fast, and when the clip the sniper he fails his guts check and runs away.

Back in the bar, it turns out there are more automated turrets to keep out the riff raff. Only Two-Vi outhacks Alice, takes those over, and starts machingunning everybody who isn’t running away.

Ammar and Jimmy go after Rikku, to find that Rikku has managed to stab Bitch Magnet to death, only now he’s still getting wailed on by Doghouse and Forehead (and these guys were tough dudes). But with their guns empty, when they turn around to see a bunch of guns pointed their way, they surrender. And Ammar promptly executed them both. Hassassins ain’t big on taking prisoners.

Two-Vi now has control of the cameras, and he sees that there are ton of Communa guys headed this way, and they look pissed. He immediately scrubs the system so that there is no record that they were the ones who did this (you really don’t want the PanO mafia mad at you). They load the unconscious Don into the limo and take off.

I set up a table for this combat. The guys saw that there was another nearby room with some medical stuff going on inside, but they didn’t have a chance to investigate before they fled.

In the limo they interrogate the Don. And Batwan is super intimidating. He spills it. Cortez showed up, paid them, and they got him passage on a luxury vessel called the FS Monarcha. It’s actually the nicest luxury liner on Paradiso, and it was evacuating the rich and powerful hyper-elite from Silvania. It has already blasted off and is on its way to the Circular, which will be heading for the planet Svalarheima within the next few hours.

The Don starts to bargain for his life, so Ammar promptly shoots him and shoves his body out the door. As they drive away little street urchins run out and immediately steal the Don’s shoes.

##

With all the coms down they have no way to reach the Monarcha.  They can’t reach Aleph or the PanO military to ask them to intercept it either. Castro has a head start. He’ll reach the C7 circular, and it will not delay. It’ll leave the system, and then they’ll be stuck in the Paradiso system for several days before the C8 circular arrives.

Most ships need to attach to a circular in order to transit a wormhole. However, if a ship has a special drive called a Minotaur Motor, it can make the jump. However, those are rare. They’re so expensive that you usually only find them on major warships. And every PanO warship in the system is currently occupied trying to blockade the new alien wormhole (now code named Acheron Falls)

If they’re going to have any chance of catching Castro, they need a Minotaur equipped ship, and they need it fast.

Luckily, Batwan knows of a ship…

##

The Ship

Currently impounded at the Silvania space port is a gunship with a minotaur drive. The ship is of high quality but unknown manufacturer. It was built using parts from a variety of worlds, but everything has been scrubbed so it’s impossible to trace its origins. It’s high tech and expensive enough that it either came from a major government or a megacorporation for some deniable purpose.

Basically, it’s a ghost ship.

Batwan wasn’t part of this investigation, and it’s above his clearance. He doesn’t know how the PanO navy caught it or what it was up to, but he heard about when it was impounded at the space port as evidence a few months ago. It probably needs some repairs and a refuel, but that’s nothing Jimmy can’t handle.

Normally, with Aleph expediting things, he could probably requisition this ship—but all coms are down, the Aleph node is currently under attack and unable to communicate, and the O-12 officer who gave him permission to do whatever was necessary was last seen in Ravensbrucke, which has just fallen to the aliens.

On the way back to the space port every street is jammed with traffic. Every Aleph controlled system (including traffic) is crashed. The Ateks are rioting. Of course, the regular folks don’t like that, and some street battles erupt. Buildings and cars are set on fire, but the fire departments can’t get there either.

Luckily the limo hovers, and Jimmy drives it like it’s stolen. They do side swipe a truck, but it’s a rental. Hopefully Ammar paid for the insurance.

Inside the space port, the ship is locked in an underground impound bunker. Normally there would be a bunch of soldiers stationed on the bunker as guards, but they’re a little busy right now. But it is still guarded. As the limo comes up the gate, they’re being watched by a bunch of REMs with machineguns and Auxbots with flamethrowers.

There is an intercom at the gate. They left one Fusilier to watch the bunker, and then promptly forgot about him during the invasion. His name is Corporal Augustus “Gus” Tamatoa, and the poor guy doesn’t know what to do. He’d love to help, but he can’t reach his chain of command, and everything is going nuts out there.

Gus is a big Tongan kid from Varuna. He ain’t gonna move aside easily, even if it means getting capped. He’s stubborn and earnest. However, he’s also heard of Batwan (everybody in PanO has it seems like) and Batwan manages to bluff/intimidate his way into the bunker.

There is a nervous moment as Gus thinks that he’s got the security bots turned off, but the gate won’t open. Ammar has to get out and do it manually, while having two machineguns and three flame throwers pointed at him… But it worked. It turns out Auxbots have a very friendly Have a pleasant day voice programmed.

They go into the underground bunker, and discover that this ship is truly badass. However, it’s been parked for several months. Jimmy is going to need a few hours to get everything charged up and function tested, but worse, the massive steel docking clamps are still attached to the ship (it’s sitting on a big elevator), and without the proper codes to unlock everything, Jimmy is going to have to cut them off with a torch. That’s going to take hours of manual labor.

Jimmy gets to work. Gus pitches in (he signed for this thing, he can’t leave without it!). While they do so, the others start buying/procuring/stealing whatever supplies they can get ahold of. Batwan uses his rep to get ahold of a trailer full of missiles and ammo for the ship’s cannons.

There are spots for a dozen crew (twenty if you want to live like you’re on Corregidor, which everybody but Two-Vi would hate). So they decide that now is a good chance to round out their crew with some NPC’s who have useful skill sets.

As they compare their skills, our guys have some medical knowledge, but they don’t have a solid doctor. They liked the doctor from the train, so I figured what the heck, Hannah is at the spaceport, still accompanying the wounded. When they seek her out, she’s been tending to injured soldiers for 48 hours straight now. She’s willing to hire on in exchange for a way off this planet and a nap.

Jimmy and Renzo can fly a space ship, but they’re only decent pilots. And there’s still a ton of Combined ships between them and the wormhole. So some of our PCs go to the pilot’s lounge and start looking for somebody with skills. There is a little altercation between Two-Vi and one pilot who despises Nomads, but it all works out (Two-Vi picks his pocket).

Rikku ends up buying a drink for a pilot named Luke Mosley, who is also from Sol system. Only Luke’s from Mars, and thinks earthlings are punk ass bitches. Only Rikku is from the orbitals, so they hit it off. Stupid earthers, taking for granted stuff like air. Luke’s got solid piloting skills and a good resume. He’s not cheap, but Rikku’s got money.  So they hire a pilot.

Ammar decides they might need some more muscle, so he heads over to the caravansary rep. At first he gets the typical run around from the merchant wanting to haggle, until he reveals that he’s the Black Lion of Bourak, and then the dude is all sorts of cooperative. He has two Naffatuns working for him who he is happy to lend, provided that Ammar remembers this great favor, so on and so forth.

Naffatuns are light infantry who specialize in flame throwers. These are both young guys, fresh out of basic training for Caravansary security, named Jallal Abid and Rafeeq al-Fadel. They’ve got no idea what’s going on, but they just got told that Ammar is their new boss.

Back at the ship, everything is looking good.  The systems are coming online. A very tired and sweaty Jimmy is almost through the boarding clamps. Once free all they have to do is take the elevator to the surface and leave. In another hour they should be able to take off.

Which is good, because that’s when the biggest Combined ship anyone has ever seen comes braking through the atmosphere, heading directly for Silvania.

The second stage of the invasion has begun.

 

I know now why you cry, K Tempest Bedford Forrest, but it’s something I can never do.

This morning somebody showed me this tweet from noted racist, K Tempest Bedford Forrest.
My reaction was: There was something going on this weekend?
 
Oh yeah, WorldCon. Whoop de friggin’ do. 
 
Alas, poor Tempest, sadly I cried no salty tears of sadness, because a bunch of assholes continued to prove me right by giving awards to their friends.
 
As much as these mopes keep trying to drag me back in because they really need a villain to rail against, I wrote them off years ago.
So instead let’s see what did I do rather than give a crap about WorldCon.
 
During the week I wrote a new Grimnoir short story for the upcoming Noir Fatale anthology, edited by me and KC. We’ve got all the stories in now, and they’re great. 
Target Rich Environment comes out in a couple weeks. I also got back the 2nd draft of Monster Hunter Guardian. I just received the first few chapters of another collaboration to go over as well. I signed another contract with Baen. Oh yeah, and I got the next Tom Stranger contract to look over too.
 
For fun, I shot my new custom Grayguns Sig 320. I boxed up my 625 to send off to Apex for a full custom job. I got a Seekins Precision 6.5 Grendel upper as a thank you from RMR Bullets, but I’ve not shot it yet. 
 
On Friday I drove my 18 year old daughter off to college and helped her move in. Ironically, since my teenage daughter has had two pro short fiction sales in the last year, I believe she’s written more than Tempest has in that same time frame. Which is really kind of sad, since Tempest has been a writer longer than I have. Well, nominally a writer, because you know, that would require actually writing fiction and not just angry tweets about how everybody in the world is having fun wrong.
 
In more time than it has taken me to write 20 novels and 50 short stories and novellas, she has written like a dozen shorts… And some fools still take this dilettante hobbyist’s opinion seriously? Really, she’s just one of those useless parasites who has latched onto publishing, who rarely creates anything, but is all up in fandom and on lots of panels, constantly bitching that people who do create are creating wrong. She interjects herself into every controversy, and if there isn’t a controversy right then, creates one.
 
But back to my week of not paying attention to people with severe projection issues, on Saturday I went car shopping to replace the one my daughter took with her. I got a low mileage 2017 Murano. I just paid cash (I’ve never made a car payment in my life). This is the second car I’ve bought this year (first one was a 2016 Explorer). As a former accountant, I never buy new. Let somebody else take that big first year depreciation hit.
 
But anyways, when you are a hack pulp, not a *real* writer, with and irreparably damaged career, you can buy a couple of low mileage, almost new, vehicles, and just write a check for the full amount. Proper award winning authors have to beg on Patreon for rent money.
 
After that, I had to check on the construction of my new place. They laid the footings last week. This week is forms. Due to the half a mile of mountain driveway, it is a logistical challenge. The issue now is, are we going to be able to frame and button up before the weather turns, or will I just have a big bunch of concrete sitting there for the winter, and then start framing in spring?
 
Sadly, no tears for that either. Those are simply the challenges you face when you develop a big piece of property up in the mountains and put a gigantic house on it. I suppose life would be simpler if I was just a rich kid bum whose daddy sent me to the most expensive undergrad program in the country, before dropping out to couch surf and mooch off my rich friends, before going into a career of whining about other folk’s “privilege”.
 
But anyways, yesterday was my birthday. I appreciate the thousands of happy birthday wishes. I took the day off, painted minis, while streaming some low budget horror movies, and gave myself a free day on the carbs to enjoy some cake and ice cream (on that note, I’m now down 51 pounds and 4 pants sizes this year).
 
So let me think… More work than I can handle, enough contracts that if I don’t have another idea I’m booked up for the next 6 years, my books are doing well, there’s more coming, I love my job, and I have the creative freedom to do whatever I feel like. All that and not a single tear was shed because a bunch of stuck up dipshits had their annual circle jerk, after months of them ripping each other apart for not being sufficiently woke enough?
Go figure. 
 
I didn’t even cry when I dropped my daughter off at school. Because I was proud of her, not worried or sad. I raised a strong, independent, smart, hard working kid, who knows that identity politics is a cancer (plus, she’s majoring in computer science, not social justice studies, so unlike most of my detractors will actually be able to get a real job).
Sorry, Tempest. As much as you guys keep trying to drag me back in to serve as your Emmanuel Goldstein, I’ve washed my hands of your clown show.  Enjoy your slow decline into irrelevance. I’m busy.

So in conclusion: