Part 6: Polaris - Part 06 - February 5, 1178NC: Bar-knightedFebruary 5, 1178NC: Bar-knighted
We make our way to Ryll in a single run without stopping to refuel, mindful of Federation patrols. We avoid detection until we reach Ryll proper, but manage to land in "the most open port in the Federation" a split second after the Federation patrol opens fire.
I actually watch the the news, and there's nothing of the sort. Someone here is lying.
Deliver Explosives to Ryll posted:
You land on Ryll to find the docks a swarm of activity. You wonder how the corrupt dock-workers know which ships to approach, but you guess that Flannigan and the Geese have made sure that the shipping Scripts have been organized to match.
A number of burly dock-workers approach you, and with a poker face you tell them that the containers are to be delivered to Marguerite Harris. When asked by what time the goods must be delivered, you tell the foreman "Before six tomorrow, and make it snappy". The foreman grins, and hands you a chip for 30,000 credits.
"There you go," he says, smiling. "A little bonus from the boss for a prompt delivery." You smile, more at the irony of the situation, but the dim-witted foreman does not notice the difference.
You head back to your ship to get some rest and watch the news. A couple of hours later, the broadcast you are watching is interrupted for a special report. You watch in grim satisfaction as a news reporter makes a telecast from the front of a burning warehouse. Great gouts of black, oily smoke billow from the building, and the Reporter has to shout to be heard over the roar of the flames. Switching off the holo-receiver, you head for the stars and ultimately, New Ireland.
Regardless, we head back to New Ireland.
News from the Auroran/Federation border: In response to Auroran raids, Federation ships have raided into neutral territory and attacked Auroran shipping in the SPC-034 system.
Deliver Explosives to Ryll posted:
"We saw your handiwork on the news," Flannigan smiles as he meets you at the hatch. "I especially liked the bit when the authorities tried to take the credit for the destruction of a large shipment of drugs, and breaking the smuggling ring. Funny thing about crooked cops. If something too big happens, they take down everybody, get promotions and medals, and sleep well at night knowing that they have heaps of cash and have still done their jobs." Flannigan shakes his head, and you wonder just how the police and security forces were tipped off.
"Go and get some rest in a real bed," he finishes with a warm smile, "and take some time to wind down. The next stage of the operation is going to be tricky, so I'll need some time to set it up."
This is one of the most annoying missions in the entire game. Why? We will soon find out. I say yes.
Take Peace-Proposal to McGowan posted:
You are sitting down, enjoying a drink when you see Flannigan and Michaleen walk in, both looking grim.
"We need you to go into the dragon's lair," says Flannigan without preamble once they make their way over. "From what intelligence I've been able to gather, this guild that McGowan is in charge of is a little more capable than I thought they were. They have ties with the Bureau, and some of their equipment could only have come from them.
"I'm going to be sending you to make a peace proposal," Flannigan says showing you a data-cube and holding up his other hand to forestall your protests. "We do not have the manpower to defeat them, and if we do get dragged into a war with them, we will probably get blind-sided by the Federation through their ties with the Bureau.
"We have hurt them," Flannigan notes quietly, "and hopefully, we can negotiate a truce without further incident, if I can get McGowan to see that the cost to his damned guild of so-called 'associated traders' would also be detrimental to their purpose of amassing wealth.
"Are you prepared to risk your life to be our envoy?" he asks quietly.
I head for Scheall. Stopping in Kania, a Polaris Striker swings by and takes out all my shields and half my armour in a single pass. I hit the burners and run as fast to the dock as possible to recharge.
Take Peace-Proposal to McGowan posted:
"Thank you, Jack Burton," states Flannigan evenly, "we owe you more than you know. McGowan's headquarters are on the station called 'Harbor' in the Scheall system to the galactic north of the Federation. Good luck."
With that he turns on his heel and heads out of the bar leaving Michaleen behind.
"I'll be thanking you as well," Michaleen grins shamelessly. "If you had refused, it would have been me going! And I know that McGowan holds me in no high regard since it was me that caused this whole thing. Anyway, I had best be catching up to Flannigan or else he'll have me back in training again!"
With a wink and a saucy grin, Michaleen heads off after Flannigan.
Port Kane posted:
Named for the legendary woman behind the design of the Hypergate system, Omata Kane, Port Kane was the hub of all traffic to the galactic west of the old Colonial Council. The Polaris now control much of the area to the east of the Federation that used to be in the hands of the Colonial Council, due to the slow withdrawal of the Council into the core worlds during the collapse. Port Kane now occupies the vital intersection between the Auroran Empire, the Polaris and the Federation. What little trade and diplomacy is conducted between these three governments occurs here. Port Kane also holds the dubious distinction of being the furthest Primary system from the Federation core worlds. It is something of a backwater, but it's cosmopolitan enough to have good port services, full of decent outfitters. It's also the gateway to many a "specialist" transaction, if you know where to look.
We meet some man in the bar:
Kane's Bar posted:
The lurid neon sign that proclaims that this bar is called 'The Hypergate' stands over a mammoth doorway shaped vaguely like an orchid which is also surrounded by neon. Inside you see sights which can not be mentioned to anyone below the age of consent.
As you sit enjoying a well-earned drink, an athletic looking, lean faced man walks out of the crowd and sits down at your table.
"You are Captain Jack Burton?" he asks politely.
You cautiously nod in agreement.
"I'm Jack Folstam, Captain of the 'Hunter' and member of the Guild of Bounty Hunters," he continues quietly. "You have quite a reputation for combat, and I've been called in to see if you would like to make a little extra cash?"
So, given that ships spend a day in hyperspace for every 5 minutes spent in normal space, finding this ship should be nigh-impossible, right?
Bounty Hunter posted:
"Okay, here's the deal," Folstam continues. "The Guild is prepared to offer you membership, and a share of the reward if you can destroy an Auroran ship named the Talons of Integrity that has been nosing around this system and its surrounds. The military is not prepared to spend the enormous resources required to locate this single ship so they have posted a bounty and that's where we come in. We're a little thin on the ground right now so we're offering the job to you. Simply put, if you want to get your share of the bounty and become a member of the Bounty Hunters Guild, you have to go out, find the Talons of Integrity and destroy it. Then to collect your payment find the Guild offices on the Kane Band.
"The actual bounty from the Federation government is 20000 credits, but the Guild will take fifty percent in a one-off membership fee. If you succeed they will give you clearance to access all the bounties through the Mission BBS' every time you land."
As it turns out, the ships you hunt find you instead. The very next system we jump into finds the Talons of Integrity fall in after us. It's armed with a railgun unlike the typical shorter-range fusion cannons, which keeps us at a distance.
I'm faced with a choice: either stand off, dodge the railgun shots and shoot rockets at it until it explodes, or take a few hits and go charging in all guns blazing. There's only one appropriate course of action here. I point the bow at the Abomination and hit my burners.
We lose all shields and some armour from flying head-on into railgun blasts, but the Talons of Integrity disintegrates quickly once we reach range. I move on towards Scheall.
We jump into the Tyr'l'Ded system next and spy a strange object:
It doesn't respond to hails, but it's clearly alive. And deadly - our standard response of "kill it" ends up with a crazy energy beam washing away our shields and armour in a wave of blue. I start to Monty Python it, but it's more strongly shielded than a Carrier and I give up after 2 minutes of chipping away. I move on.
Jumping to our final destination of Scheall instantly causes the entire radar screen to turn red as every last ship in the system goes hostile and starts pursuit. The station we're supposed to land at also takes potshots at us with a massive cannon! I get hit, and it takes almost all my energy afterburning to avoid the Manticores and high-end Pirate Valkyries. I end up flying in a huge circle, drawing them away from the spaceport and then afterburning quickly into port before they can react. If you're in a slower ship or simply get unlucky you can be disabled and killed over and over in this mission. Add on the fact that the friendly harbour fires disabling cannon shots at you on top of the usual heavy garrison and you have a recipe for an incredibly frustrating mission. Fighting isn't any help, because heavy reinforcements get immediately called in - if you're in a light ship like ours, the only option is to try and deke them out. Fuck this mission.
Welcome to Harbor.
Take Peace Proposal to McGowan posted:
Almost before you land, someone has picked the lock on your hatch and in minutes a small group of men carrying all sorts of weapons have stormed into your cockpit and taken you prisoner. They carry you through the spaceport to a set of offices just off the main structure of the spaceport and throw you into what appears to be a conference room of sorts. Inside you see seated in a plain, yet obviously comfortable, chair a man slightly more than medium height and of slim build. There is something almost hauntingly familiar about the man, but you cannot put your finger on it.
"If my information is correct, Captain Jack Burton," he begins pleasantly, "you have recently come from the planet called New Ireland in the Tuatha system. Now, as I am sure you have guessed by now, my name is McGowan, and at the moment, as Guild-master of the Associated Guild of Free Traders, I am not terribly impressed with a group of people, known as the Wild Geese, that hail from that area of space. Now tell me, why should I allow you to leave this station alive?"
You take a few moments to tell McGowan of your most recent meeting with Flannigan and of the data-cube containing his peace proposal. When you have finished speaking McGowan stares at you for several moments.
"Meet me in the bar in a couple of hours," he dismisses you indifferently, his urbane manner sends shivers of something akin to recognition down your spine. "By then I will have made my decision regarding this 'truce'." With a small wave of his hand his muscular henchmen grab you and turf you back out into the spaceport. With a few muttered curses you decide that discretion would probably be the better part of valor in this case, and you head off to find the local bar, wondering what it is about the man that seems so familiar...
At this point I forget that I actually didn't visit the bar, and take off. This means that I have to repeat the entire landing song and dance again, with the cherry on top of having to bribe the pirates to land! Fuck this mission. We manage to reach the bar on the second go-around.
This is the home of the 'Associated Guild of Free Traders'. These 'merchants' are better known throughout the galaxy as pirates. This is a surprisingly well-run station, but you should keep an eye out, as those who break the very strict code of conduct can find themselves in deep trouble very quickly. One step outside the code, and you are fair game for everybody. You are best off saying and doing nothing.
Harbor's Bar posted:
You walk into a menacingly dark and smoky yet surprisingly clean establishment. A small jazz band play classy numbers on the stage making just enough noise to cover any conversation going on. You notice six dangerously well-dressed men sitting at a table on a balcony quietly overlooking the club.
You can bet that we'll be coming back one day to kill every pirate. We head back for New Ireland, dodging a few parting shots from the station.
Return with McGowan's Response posted:
As you sit, drink in hand wondering what it is about McGowan that bothers you, an expectant hush falls over the bar and you look around to see McGowan, and a number of his bully-boys have walked into the bar. Noting you sitting near the rear, they make their way over.
As soon as McGowan sits down his bully-boys set upon you. You desperately try to defend yourself, but there are simply too many of them for you to do anything effective. Possibly only two or three minutes later the beating abates and one of the thugs lifts you off the floor to face McGowan.
"I have accepted Mr. Flannigan's proposal," he says, unperturbed by your condition. "I will no longer launch operations against the Wild Geese if they do not launch against us. As for you, I am warning you never to return to this place whilst I am alive. I don't know what it is, but there is something offensive about you, and I will not tolerate your presence any more than I have to."
With that, he gets up and starts walking out of the bar. The man holding you up drops you to the ground and you remain there, unmoving for some time before levering yourself up.
Not a single person in the bar makes eye contact with you as you leave this establishment.
At a refueling stop in Port Kane, we receive a call to adventure.
UN Shipping posted:
As you sit, sipping your drink you notice out of the corner of your eye a familiar blue-black flash. You turn to see Samantha Virana making her way over to you.
"Hello again, Captain Jack Burton," she greets you with a smile and a handshake. "It seems that you have done fairly well for yourself since we last met."
You shrug your shoulders, slightly embarrassed by the praise.
"Anyway," she continues after sitting down, "the head office is looking to expand into the Auroran Empire which would be an enormous business coup if they could. They need someone competent and trustworthy to help them out. That's where you come in. Interested?"
Aurora? This can only end well.
Ferry US Negotiator posted:
"Excellent!" she exclaims happily. "It's good to see that we can rely on you.
"Anyway," she continues in a more moderate tone but still smiling, "it's going to be my job to act as a negotiator, but I need to get to Aurora in the Aurora system. The pay is 50000 credits.
"So," she asks with a grin, "when do we leave?"
We stop by Sol to pick up our bounty as well. Arriving at Sol, we get receive a transmission:
This is a randomly-occurring mission that only costs 100 credits worth of fuel. Depending on where you are, it's usually worth it. You can also disable and pirate them instead, as it's invariably a weak class I Valkyrie that can barely defend itself. We land on Sol to collect some cash. We're now official bounty hunters!
Refuel trader posted:
"I was just recently attacked by pirates and they took most of my money, and my energy," comes a plaintive voice over the commlink. "Can you help me out with enough energy so that I can get to the next system to deliver my cargo? I'm prepared to pay 2000 credits."
We finally return to New Ireland and a hero's welcome, spending St. Patrick's day on-planet.
After going through your post-flight routine you head off to find the offices for the Guild of Bounty Hunters. After a bewildering half-hour you eventually find it in one of the many promenades that dot the Kane Band. The officious receptionist greets you, and after seeing your external camera shots of the action, pays you 10000 credits.
She explains to you that this is the only place where you can collect your bounties. She adds that you will only receive bounties if you have a clean record with the Federation. She goes on to explain that there are two Guild rules that must be obeyed. Firstly, the Guild takes ten percent of all bounties received and secondly, never attack another bounty hunter on pain of Guild retaliation.
750 credits a day. It adds up quickly.
Return With McGowan's Acceptance posted:
When you return, your bruises are nearly all healed, and most of the aches and pains are gone. Flannigan receives the news that McGowan has accepted his proposal stoically, and mutters something about keeping an eye on the bastard to make sure he is actually abiding by his word.
Within minutes word has gotten out of your bravery in meeting with McGowan, and, in typical whirlwind fashion, Michaleen has grabbed you and dragged you, only partially against your will, down to the pub. There is much singing and dancing and before too long, you catch yourself smiling and enjoying yourself.
At one point Eamon pulls you aside, and tells you that the Hacker Techs had been able to perform some last minute trickery whilst McGowan was ordering his people to return to normal activities. For all intents and purposes, the entire Wild Rovers team are employees of the McGowan organization. You will be receiving a regular salary from McGowan, and he will not know a thing about it.
"All the entries are invisible. His accountants will never know that they are there. Even if he gets shut down, and the proper authorities take over the operation on some of the front businesses, we'll all still keep gettin' paid."
You both laugh at the irony of the situation for a long time.
It turns out that the pub is actually the Wild Geese's entire head of government. who knew? I pick up a Wild Geese representative to ferry over to a planet near where we're dropping off the United Shipping lady. I land on Earth to buy more rocket ammunition when we're approached by yet another adventure-caller.
Return With McGowan's Acceptance posted:
Toward the end of the night, Eamon calls for quiet, and an expectant hush falls over the bar patrons.
"Friends," he says "You all know Jack Burton, and have heard what a wonderful fella he is!"
There is a roar from the crowd, and you feel yourself blush.
"You've heard that it was himself that did well for Michaleen, and fought beside him, using his head to break the feet of his foes," again the roar, this time accompanied by good-natured laughter. "Well, it is my great pleasure to bestow upon Jack Burton the Order of the Red Branch!"
The crowd goes ballistic, and you are pushed forward by a wave of hands patting you upon the back. Flannigan takes you by the arm, and instructs you to kneel before him.
He takes a huge sword of highly polished steel and places it upon your shoulder, then the other intoning "I dub thee Sir Jack Burton, Knight of the Red Branch, keeper of the Blood of Cuchalain. Stand and be recognized."
The roaring of the crowd is deafening, and you stand and are presented with a small brooch. Looking at it, you see it depicts a Goose in flight, surrounded by small three-leafed plants, all set over two crossed swords. Tears mist your eyes, and you feel the arms of your new family embrace you.
Next day Flannigan sees you off at the spaceport.
"Don't forget what I told you, now," he embraces you warmly. "Stop by every now and then and I'll probably have a job for you. And if you ever get into trouble, just you come back here, and we'll take care of it for you."
You smile and tell him that you will, and step aboard your ship. He waves farewell, and before long the stars fill your viewports, and you leave New Ireland behind...for the time being.
Well, 30,000 is 30,000.
Temmin Shard posted:
You are sitting in the bar, considering if you should have another drink, or go and tear apart your drives to remove an annoying rattle, when you notice a mysterious looking man walk towards your table.
"Sorry to bother you, Jack Burton," the man says by way of introduction. "My name is Temmin Shard... investigator. I was wondering if I could have a word to you?"
Your hand drifts towards your blaster in an almost instinctive move. Something about this man isn't quite right. He strikes you as being a dangerous individual.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," he warns, pushing his jacket open to reveal a modified shot blaster. "I have an investigators license. Legally, I could kill you and not see the inside of a prison hulk."
You place your hands on the tabletop as Shard steps forward and sits down.
"I'm glad you didn't decide to test me, Jack Burton. I'm here to hire you, not to have a fire-fight. I have been hired by the Federal government to track down some stolen Vell-os artworks. They were stolen from the First Federal Gallery and Museum on Sol. The Feds have hired me to track them down and return them intact. Apparently they are supposed to have some form of 'mystical' symbolism to the Vell-os people. The Government have of course debunked this notion, but by the same token, they are paying handsomely for their return."
"Well, what do you need me for?" you ask "You can obviously look after yourself."
"The thing is that I need another ship to go with me," he confides. "I have traced the artworks to a certain cargo convoy. They have quite an escort, and I need you to disable the Leviathan and board it while I hold them off. I will pay you 30,000 for your services. Are you keen?"
We escort Temmin Shard, he in his Mod Starbridge. The journey to Boral I is relatively placid, casually killing a raiding Abomination on the way in.
Escort Temmin Shard posted:
You nod. You have a feeling that the safest place to be will be close to this Temmin Shard character. You don't think that he would kill you just to keep you quiet, but space travel and shady characters have given you a good nose for situations, and something smells fishy here.
"Meet me in orbit tomorrow. I'll be flying in a modified Starbridge. We'll jump out to Boral I in the Arcturus system, where the convoy is leaving from. Once there I'll set up some surveillance. See you tomorrow."
Shard turns and heads for the door. You head for your ship, too. There's no way you're going to go all the way to Boral I with your engine rattling.
How do you prospect an atmosphere?
Boral I posted:
Boral I is the headquarters of Boral Mining Corp. It is here that all the noble gases harvested from Fermia's atmosphere by the small army of prospectors employed by the company are processed and refined. So far Boral has survived in the fiercely competitive universe of commerce by staying small enough that they remain beneath the notice of any of the larger, more professional mining companies.
Boral I's Bar posted:
This bar is filled with the rowdy crews of some of the small trading concerns that deal with Boral. This establishment is a spacer's dream; good beer, good service, jokes, laughs and the occasional rousing fight. What more could you want?
You set down on Boral I. As you cycle the hatch you see Shard heading towards you.
"Wait for word from me in the bar," he says. "I have a feeling we are just in time. I bribed the dockmaster, and he says the convoy is scheduled to arrive in about an hour. I'll double-check and let you know."
This mission really wants you to say no. We won't bow to that kind of pressure, however.
Recover Stolen Art posted:
You spend a half hour waiting, before a message beeps on your wristcomp. You quickly run your decoder over it and scan the message. Shard wants you to take off straight away, and meet him 'up top'. The message ends with a cryptic question, asking if you are really sure if you are ready to take on this job. You wonder what is going on. You resolve to ask Shard the first chance you get. But then, should you just message back that you have engine problems and decline to help him?
Do you take on the mission?
We immediately jump to Tidbinbilla and disable the first Leviathan we see. Strangely, it carries only some energy and cargo, which we pillage.
Recover Stolen Art posted:
You are preparing to leave the bar when Shard opens a hailing channel.
"We are going to make our attack on the convoy as they arrive in the Arcturus system. Remember, head for the Leviathan. I'll take care of the escorts. Once we have the artifacts, meet me on LPAD in the Tidbinbilla system."
He terminates the channel, and you find yourself wondering why he insists on being a man of few words. Sighing, you start mentally preparing yourself for battle.
It's at this point I realize that I misunderstood the instructions, and in fact pirated an entirely innocent ship. Whoops. I jump back to Arcturus, ending up in an immediate clusterfuck of Fed ships gunning for Temmin Shard, with him hauling ass to run away. A Starliner is quickly shredded in the crossfire.
I spy the Leviathan and quickly disable it, using the time-honoured tactic of "get real close while they don't suspect you then backstab them." It helps that we're very well camouflaged.
A quick boarding retrieves the art, and I turn to deal with the Pirate Valkyrie that is intent on disabling us.
Mission accomplished, I land on LPAD.
Temmin Shard greets us.
LPAD was a propulsion research lab in the days before ion drives were perfected for sublight travel. According to rumor, researchers on this station actually came up with a remarkable new design for sublight travel that would reduce fuel requirements to a twentieth of the current value. However, Pyrogenesis swiftly executed a hostile takeover of Tidbinbilla Inc and quietly terminated the project, for fear of having their revenues for raw gas mining slashed. LPAD still has backup power, but anything of any great worth has long since been removed by Pyrogenesis Corp.
Recover Stolen Art posted:
You land on LPAD with the flush of success on your cheeks. However, you are still surprised that the Feds attacked Shard. You cycle the hatch and head out to find him.
You meet Shard walking through the abandoned LPAD spaceport. For the first time since you met he is smiling.
"Well done, Jack Burton." he beams "It was a hell of a fight wasn't it?"
You nod, telling him that you haven't seen flying like it before.
"I have had some fairly specialized training," he says, "but for the moment, I'll just say that things aren't always what they appear."
You look at him, bemused.
"I know I can trust you now, since we are in this together." he confides. "I am not working for the Federation Government. I'm working for a third party keen to see the artworks returned to the Vell-os."
You suddenly begin to see the light; why the Feds attacked Shard, and why he has been so secretive on the whole journey.
"I'll meet you on your ship in twenty minutes. I'll tell you everything there."
It's good to see that we'll get a more friendly reception, as we'll be heading into Auroran space shortly. Next time: We actually deliver people to where they were supposed to be!
Twenty minutes later, you cycle the hatch closed. Shard sits down, and produces a bottle.
"I have something to tell you," he begins. "I am not a free-lance investigator. I am a deep cover operative working for the Heraan House, the most noble house in the Auroran Empire." You are stunned. While you knew that there was something strange about Shard, you would never in your wildest dreams have considered this possibility. "I have been in Federation space for fifteen years now," he continues "and have been sending information to, and doing missions for, the Heraan House the entire time. My father was a Thurokiir of the house, and I am a shard of his Obsidian Heart.
"The artifacts we have liberated rightly belong to the Vell-os and, contrary to popular belief, the Aurorans do look after peoples other than their own. I have approached you because you have shown yourself to be a man of honor. To not treat you as such would be a great insult. Therefore your records with the Federation will never show your involvement in this heist, nor shall the Federation ever know of your involvement here."
You ask Shard why he trusts you so much, considering the fact that you could sell him out to the Federation at a moments notice.
His eyes turn cold.
"Firstly," he says "I know that you have never sold out an individual before. To do so would be an incredible change of personality for you. Heraan intel agree with my conclusions. You may think that you are anonymous, but your Federal file was an open book to us. The Feds have not even encrypted it that heavily. Secondly, if you were to 'sell me out' as you put it," he takes a sip of his drink, eyeing you over the rim of his glass, "the early warnings I have set up would give me ample time to escape the Bureau snatch squad sent to capture me, and a number of Heraan hit teams would continue to hunt you down wherever you went until you were dead. Only you would be in a position to betray me. No other."
You quickly tell Shard that you would not betray him, not because of the threat of Heraan retribution, but as a matter of honor.
He smiles. "I know that, Jack Burton. If you ever go into Heraan space, know that you will be treated with the respect you deserve."
He stands, grasps your hand, collects the artifacts and leaves you a credit chip. Part of you is sorry to see Shard go, but another is glad to be out of his immediate orbit. Danger follows him like a ghost, and for a little while at least, you will be glad not to be in the firing line.