Session 4 13

The engagement with volcano number three gets an early start. Just when the crew was getting ready to evaluate Zinda, the Roland lurches to the left!
ExecutiveOfficer: "Incoming fire! Plasma cannons. Looks like they've improved that other volcano's designs."
Abraham braces himself so he deliberately does not do the Star Trek shake. "Evasive maneuvers. Let's see if we can figure out what kind of targeting system they are using."
ExecutiveOfficer: "Aye aye. I think their targeting system is just their eyes, sir."
Spyboy Pearson glances at the jammed turkey feathers on his port thruster. "No time, babe, we gotta head back out."
Zinda Tegram: "Hmm."
Abraham: "Eyes? Are they trees or are they potatoes? Nevermind. Just maintain evasive maneuvers."
[OOC] Abraham: Yep. I went there.
ExecutiveOfficer: "Yes, sir!"
Zinda Tegram: "Well, let's give them the chance to surrender."
Zinda Tegram: "Abraham? I, ah, lack your diplomatic touch."
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: And amusingly enough we're expecting another diplomat.
Abraham glances over at Zinda. "You want me to Cyrano for you? I can do that."
Zinda Tegram shifts her weight slightly and looks away. "Something like that."
Abraham stands and starts heading for the hangar. "All right. Let's get you out there then, because all my poetic words don't matter much if they're not in a form they can understand."
Zinda Tegram: "Alright. Watch out though, I think they're scared I'll mind control them."
Abraham pauses at the door. "Keep me apprised of their movements while I'm out there. I would rather not get outflanked and ambushed while I'm concentrating on being erudite."
Abraham diplomatically does not comment on that revelation.
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: What's the name of that recovered scientist from Tzimitche?
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Nikolai
Zinda Tegram nods and exits the hangar, giving Nikolai a dirty look on the way out.
Abraham notes what, if any, reaction Nikolai has to Zinda's glare.
Nikolai has had the sense to stay hidden in the labs most of the time.
He pretends not to notice.
Abraham gets in his fighter and heads down to the surface. "Since it's probably a more practical than political matter, you should probably select the landing site."
Fortunately, the usual ground battlefield seems to have thinned out here, significantly. Several scorch marks suggest the plasma cannons were tested by raining death from above on convenient targets.
The red-white plasma shots make an earnest attempt to track Abraham, but he has seen rookie gunners in action, and they would put this "targeting" to shame.
Though they seem to be quickly getting better…
[OOC] WC GM: I.e., no roll to evade yet.
Abraham: "Their marksmanship is improving and… yes… they just figured out they need to lead their target. A landing site would be better sooner."
Spyboy Pearson: "Can the Roland mass-synthesize pheromones? I think I have a line on how we can jam their targeting."
Ingenue studies the grouping of plasma ejections. Is there a pattern or sense of coordination to the firing?
Abraham answers Spyboy, "We do have medical 3D printers. Primitive, but cheap and easy to maintain."
Spyboy Pearson: "Alright. Could you have someone route a few of them out of the ship? It seems to me that even if they've decided to start using roving encryption on their pheromones, they'll still be susceptible to jamming…"
Given that the shots arcing at Abraham all miss by the exact same amount in the exact same direction, it is very easy to believe that they're being fired in volleys by a single mind.
Spyboy Pearson: "Their sensors are just optical interferometry, so reduce bandwidth and you reduce resolution."
Zinda Tegram keeps some distance from the plasma cannon array and keeps an eye on slither movements, keeping her own slithers in reserve.
Abraham gives the order.
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Communications to jam the skywatchers?
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Let's not give them any ideas yet.
[OOC] WC GM: You can try it.
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Brute force jamming isn't something that seems to be within their capabilities, so I'm not too worried about them returning it. But if they are Spyboy won't mind. He lives for that stuff. =D
[OOC] Abraham: Don't worry. We won't tell Heggy.
Spyboy Pearson: "Algorithms are in place, but in retrospect I'd rather wait for Zinda to make her surrender demand before I start trying to block pheromone communications."
Abraham: "Probably a good idea. I'd hate for my Cyrano impersonation to fall on deaf ears."
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Had the roll typed out, but then I realized what I had written for an Aspect.
Zinda Tegram circles around a few times before picking a landing spot that doesn't seem to be as scorched from plasma as the rest. "Abraham, I've found your landing zone. Want me to drop slithers to secure it?"
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: I can do alertness if you'd like.
[OOC] WC GM: No need.
Abraham: "Please do. I always would rather negotiate from a position of strength. Or at least not from one with my opponent's hands already around my neck before we begin."
Abraham: "It lacks credibility."
Zinda Tegram radios her slithers onboard to pull the 'explosive ejection' switch on a cargo bay full of torch-slithers, dropping them into the marked landing zone.
Unfortunately, the Roland is unable to get near overhead of the landing zone. A simple drop will not get them in place; horizontal motion - in the air, or on the ground - will be required.
In the air - how to move a cargo bay? On the ground - there's a reason that spot is the landing site, and not the higher-density-scorch-marked areas all around it.
Abraham: "I see the site, Zinda. Not seeing an easy way to get to it, but it is a good spot… if we can get to it."
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Hmm.
The site itself is in the lee of some boulders. A few slitherers lurk there, but from the way they are just standing around, they are probably not controlled by the volcano clan. Their controlling clan might no longer exist.
Zinda Tegram turns off air filtration and makes a low pass over the relevant slithers, trying to leave a pheromone trail that will drift down to take control of them.
Abraham tries to compute the safest air route to the landing site. ((Science))
[OOC] WC GM: Pilot check, Zinda. The cannons are starting to get not-sloppy.
Zinda Tegram rolled up 4dF: - - + + (Base: 6 Total: 6) (Pilot)
Zinda easily weaves through the incoming fire. The slitherers were indeed uncontrolled, and quickly respond to her "request" to switch allegiance.
[OOC] WC GM: Abraham, your check?
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Huh. Plasma slithers?
Abraham rolled up 4dF: - 0 - - (Base: 5 Total: 2) (Science)
[OOC] Abraham: …
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Reroll?
[OOC] Abraham: … invoking Outmath Aliens for a reroll
[OOC] WC GM: These slitherers were being targeted by the plasma, and had been hiding out. They've got nothing better to do than whatever you say.
Abraham rolled up 4dF: - + - 0 (Base: 5 Total: 4) (Science, Reroll)
[OOC] Abraham: … woo.
WC GM rolled up 4dF: 0 + + - (Base: 3 Total: 4) (Gunnery)
Abraham has a safe enough path for his own fighter, but not for something the size of a cargo bay.
Assuming the cargo bay has a way to fly, rather than just fall.
[OOC] Abraham: Dude. It's Terran-made. Even their 'ground' command stations can fly when they need to.
[OOC] WC GM: Wrong universe.
Zinda Tegram: "Geoffrey, would you mind using the tow-cables on cargo bay 9?"
Abraham: "All right, I've got a route, but we'll have to leave the Roland to take it, it's too narrow for The Roland."
[OOC] Abraham: Ah, sorry. D00d.
Geoffrey: "On…oh, right. Got it."
Zinda Tegram: "That's fine. Crown squadron will tow the slitherbox into position before providing air cover."
And indeed, Crown Squadron does just that…
WC GM rolled up 4dF: - + + + (Base: 4 Total: 6) (Gunnery)
WC GM rolled up 4dF: + 0 0 0 (Base: 4 Total: 5) (Pilot)
Abraham: "All right."
…only for the tow cables to get hit. The slitherer-box crashes short of the landing zone.
Zinda Tegram: "Geoffrey!"
Abraham: "Was that the plan?"
Geoffrey: "Aggh! Good thing they only hit the cables."
Zinda Tegram: $Alright Geoffrey, I'll maneuver them from there. Get crown on air cover and start clearing us a route.$
Geoffrey: "$You got it.$" Crown Squadron begins trying to attack the cannons directly.
The slithers cut their way out of the box and begin advancing to the landing zone, broadcasting 'requests to ally' to any in route before engaging.
The volume of fire coming at Zinda, Abraham, the Roland, and targets on the ground diminishes substantially.
Zinda Tegram: "$Just keep them busy, we don't need a knock-out blow yet.$"
Zinda finds few allies - an occasional handful of slitherers, a few labor types lucky enough to shelter in protected areas. All of them respond without question.
WC GM rolled up 4dF: + - + - (Base: 5 Total: 5) (Gunnery)
WC GM rolled up 4dF: - + 0 + (Base: 4 Total: 5) (Pilot)
Geoffrey: "$Roger th-whoa! We'll keep them busy as long as we can.$"
Zinda Tegram: "$Expect their aim to improve rapidly.$"
Geoffrey: "$Confirming that.$"
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: I'm assuming that there's not any particular resistance for my torch-slithers making their way to the landing zone?
[OOC] WC GM: Yeah. As mentioned, ground fire's essentially nil right now.
[OOC] WC GM: Crown Squadron has their complete attention - for the moment.
Zinda Tegram: "Abraham, route should be free for now."
Abraham: "Looks like. Let's get to the ground before that changes."
[OOC] Abraham: Piloting roll? Or automatic?
Zinda Tegram: "$Geoffrey, if you can help it don't use any confed standard maneuvers. We might need them later.$"
[OOC] WC GM: Automatic for now.
Spyboy Pearson frowns at his radio.
Spyboy Pearson: "They're barely avoiding getting shot and you're telling them to not fly at their best?"
Said radio makes no facial expressions back at Spyboy. It is less emotive than Ingenue.
Spyboy Pearson: "I know there's no one better at space superiority than you, Zinda, but you have a LOT to learn about suppression of enemy air defenses."
Geoffrey: "Our best isn't Confed standard!"
Spyboy Pearson: "Crown Squadron, pull out, loiter and suppress. Getting shot at and missed is my job."
Abraham: "That means if you're hit, I'll have to dock your pay."
Zinda Tegram: "You're not in charge of them, Spyboy."
Heggy kicks up the 'afterburners' and darts in towards the triple-A, rippling off a spray of fire to attract enemy defenses.
Geoffrey: "If you'd like to come down and help, be our guest!"
[OOC] WC GM: *swap those two lines
The cannons' attention is now split.
Spyboy Pearson rolled up 4dF: - 0 0 0 (Base: 6 Total: 5) (Heggy piloting + 'I love my sleek fighter')
WC GM rolled up 4dF: - + - - (Base: 5 Total: 3) (Gunnery - Split Attention)
Between Crown Squadron and Spyboy, the ground remains free of fire for now…
[OOC] WC GM: Abraham & Zinda, you're up!
Abraham heads for the landing site along the calculated route, only firing if fired upon.
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Slithers will take care of themselves yeah?
With the ground fire distracted, there is no more "landing site" so much as "open field to race across" .
[OOC] WC GM: They're waiting for your orders, actually.
[OOC] Abraham: Ah, well in that case.
Zinda Tegram beelines across her slither-groups, ordering all of them to advance and secure the landing zone.
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: IE, ones there stay, ones not there move on it.
Abraham heads towards the ground at breakneck speed, only firing his retro-rockets at the last second. A bumpy ride, and against regulations since it wastes so much fuel, but damn does it look cool when done right. Less cool if done wrong and you crash and smear yourself across the landing pad. ((Piloting to lay the aspect: Impressive Landing))
The slitherers very quickly rally around Abraham's landing spot.
[OOC] WC GM: Roll it.
Abraham rolled up 4dF: + - + - (Base: 4 Total: 4) (Piloting)
[OOC] Abraham: Chessa was obviously less than blown away by my landing stunt.
[OOC] Ingenue: Hey, that's average. Chessa was slightly impressed.
[OOC] WC GM: It's good enough. Aspect laid.
WC GM rolled up 4dF: - - 0 0 (Base: 6 Total: 4) (Gunnery - Split Attention)
[OOC] WC GM: Spyboy, Pilot check?
Abraham climbs out of the cockpit only slightly shaky.
The guns continue to track the flying circus, ignoring the ground for now.
Spyboy Pearson rolled up 4dF: 0 0 0 + (Base: 4 Total: 5) (Pilot for Heggy)
The fire is getting closer…but no hits yet.
[OOC] WC GM: Zinda and Abraham! And Ingenue, if Ingenue's doing anything?
[OOC] Ingenue: Does it look like the firing lines are getting progressively closer? That is, does it look more like they're missing on purpose for a false sense of security, or that they're actual misses?
[OOC] WC GM: Actual misses, but they are getting closer.
Zinda Tegram retools her labor-slithers into dedicated pheromone producers.
Abraham: "Well, Zinda, do you think you can… speak… in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear?"
Zinda Tegram: "We'll need a way to spread the pheromones, but we probably have enough."
[OOC] WC GM: Ingenue and/or Abraham might want to Science check…
Abraham rolled up 4dF: 0 + - - (Base: 5 Total: 4) (SCIENCE!)
Ingenue rolled up 4dF: - 0 - 0 (Base: 2 Total: 0) ((Just science.))
[OOC] Abraham: e=mcHammer?
[OOC] WC GM: Abraham gets it
Abraham: "Actually, looking around the only people likely to listen at all, is the volcano and the tree fort, so no need to disperse the pheromones, concentrating them will serve us better."
Zinda Tegram: "Well, in that case…"
Zinda Tegram rolled up 4dF: + + - - (Base: 3 Total: 3) (Science to place 'It's a solution' on the pheromones.)
Zinda Tegram starts cramming as many pheromones as she can into the labor-slither's fluids. Or something.
The message is concentrated and ready to squirt.
Zinda Tegram: "Liquid solutions allow for high concentrations right?"
WC GM rolled up 4dF: - + + 0 (Base: 7 Total: 8) (Gunnery - Split Attention)
[OOC] WC GM: Pilot check for Spyboy again
Abraham: "Yes indeed."
Heggy blanches (though you'd have to pay close attention to see it) as a new wave, thicker than the last, of anti-air fire rises up from the ground. That said - this is what she trained for, and what the fighter was built for.
Spyboy Pearson rolled up 4dF: 0 + 0 + (Base: 8 Total: 10) (Heggy's pilot + That's Why I'm The Pilot + YGBSM)
Again the fire misses - though all who see it can tell that both sides have stepped up their game, and it's not over yet.
[OOC] WC GM: Ground team go!
Zinda Tegram: "Abraham, do you have a delivery means yet or am I going to do this manually?"
Abraham: "Spyboy, I believe you heard Zinda's question…"
[OOC] Abraham: The buck gets passed here.
Spyboy Pearson: "Well, I got word from the med team that they have three dispensers hooked up. But I don't know how well we can convert your output into a format they can read."
Zinda Tegram: "As long as the liquid makes contact, the message should be received."
Spyboy Pearson: "Sure, but you're on the ground. The dispensers are in the air."
Zinda Tegram: "Should I bring some back up then?"
Abraham: "That is a small problem, but only for this volcano. Zinda will just have to… 'do it manually' but at least their ready for the next one."
[OOC] Abraham: *they're
Zinda Tegram: "Well, I can do that then."
Zinda Tegram has one of her slithers gutted and repurposed into a firehose.
It opens itself up to let her convert it.
Zinda Tegram: "Hmmph. I'll do it myself, then."
Abraham: "All right, it is important in any negotiation to make a solid first impression. If you don't you'll be fighting against your poor first impression thought the entire negotiation and what should have been an easy deal made over lunch will turn into a protracted negotiation that will most likely fall through." ((Bureaucracy to lay on Zinda "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." ))
Zinda Tegram: "Their ground doctrine is Kilrah, right?"
Abraham: "So far anyway, but they are learning new tricks."
Abraham rolled up 4dF: - 0 + - (Base: 4 Total: 3) (Bureaucracy to lay aspect on Zinda "you never get a second chance to make a first impression.")
[OOC] WC GM: Aspect laid
Zinda Tegram: "So, Abraham, what's going in the message?"
Abraham: "Probably simplest to start with who you are and what you want. Then you can see their reaction and go from there."
Zinda Tegram: "Alright, I'll code it into the hose."
Zinda Tegram: "Shall we deliver it then?"
Abraham: "Indeed."
Zinda Tegram cocks her neck, gives the truck a radio, and touches Sterne Lanze down.
[OOC] Abraham: Because "Make it so." is taken.
Zinda Tegram: "Assuming direct control."
During all this, the fire continues, the volcano-gunner getting ever closer…
WC GM rolled up 4dF: 0 + - 0 (Base: 8 Total: 8) (Gunnery - Split Attention)
[OOC] WC GM: Spyboy?
The firehose slither is promptly hoisted by a team of labor slithers and loaded onto a newly manufactured truck.
Spyboy Pearson rolled up 4dF: 0 0 - 0 (Base: 6 Total: 5) (Pilot 4 + YGBSM)
[OOC] WC GM: Rerolling or boosting w/aspects?
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Spend a few FP, we're gonna pacify them in a second anyways.
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Boosting with Aspects - We've Gotten Out of Worse Scrapes Than This from Spyboy, and That's Why I'm the Pilot from Heggy.
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Dry on FP now, though.
Heggy almost panics as a plasma round hurtles right past the canopy, but Spyboy's lack of (visible) concern steadies her and her instincts take over. She darts right through the swarm and it winds up missing to the other side.
The shots are now barely missing, passing through the exhaust plumes of Crown Squadron's engines.
Footage of this sort of dodging routinely goes into Terran Confederation recruitment videos.
Abraham: "They are getting better. I have to admit it, they are getting better."
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Spyboy, meanwhile, is working on the jamming system. He uploads a program to the Roland's medifabs that start producing chemicals that'll interfere with enemy targeting, now that he's not interfering with Zinda's conversation.
Zinda Tegram: "$Crown, you're cleared to retreat.$"
Geoffrey: "$Roger that, bugging out!$"
Spyboy Pearson rolled up 4dF: 0 0 + + (Base: 4 Total: 6) (SCIENCE! to place the aspect "I can't smell what you're saying!")
WC GM rolled up 4dF: - 0 0 + (Base: 3 Total: 3) (Resolve)
The guns stop…for a moment.
As if the orders to fire were abruptly cut off.
Spyboy Pearson: "Huh. That wasn't what I expected to happen."
Zinda Tegram rolled up 4dF: - - - - (Base: 9 Total: 5) (Gunnery, It's a solution, The Fruits of Tzimitche Station)
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: …
[OOC] WC GM: Hail Chessa!
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Rerolling that.
Abraham: "At this point, we are probably entitled to a little unexpected fortune."
[OOC] WC GM: Which aspect?
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Hundred Eye'd demon?
[OOC] Zinda Tegram: Alternately, assuming direct control is sort of like being in the cockpit.
Zinda Tegram rolled up 4dF: + 0 0 - (Base: 9 Total: 9) (Yeah)
The repurposed slitherer spits words at high velocity toward the tree-fortress, which absorbs their meaning.
There is no immediate reaction.
[OOC] WC GM: PC actions while it is - literally - sinking in?
Abraham: "Huh, I would have thought there would have been something a bit more… instant."
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Compel on the busted engine?
Zinda Tegram: "$Crown, form up for a FAB run on their plasma array.$"
Zinda Tegram: "$Spyboy, are you ready to blind them?$"
Zinda Tegram: "We can't be sure they'll listen."
Geoffrey: "$Forming up. Ready to fire at your mark.$"
Abraham runs through the possible, eventual, responses the tree fortress might have and tries to formulate the best counter-responses. ((Oratory to lay the aspect 'All responses considered.'))
Abraham rolled up 4dF: - 0 0 - (Base: 3 Total: 1) (Oratory to lay 'All responses considered')
[OOC] WC GM: As to the compel - sure, though it's probably not going to matter.
As if concurring with so many OTHER things holding their breaths, Spyboy's engine chooses that moment to cut out.
[OOC] Abraham: It's probably unopposed, but I can invoke aspects if I need to.
It is fortuitous that Abraham is considering all responses. "^Oh. So that is the situation.^" was probably not the first one he thought of.
Zinda Tegram: "^We can't exactly let you kill us. You understand.^"
VolcanoClan: "^I received these designs and something about a large flying enemy who could control us through words and I tried asking about other fuel sources and everyone wanted to go for the bright shiny one and I was getting tired of having to defend this volcano all the time and…and…^"
Crying was almost certainly not the first response Abraham expected. The tree-fortress does not visibly seem to be shedding tears, but the translation is unmistakable.
Abraham: "I believe at this point a hug might not be out of line. It might not be the most appropriate response, but I think that's what we're going to go with."
Heggy manages to successfully shut down the jammed engine. Spyboy checks Ingenue's logs to see what happened while they were in the spin cycle.
Spyboy Pearson: "That was unexpected."
Zinda Tegram: "^Uh…well, I'm not sure how this works with slithers but…^"
Zinda's slithers hug the Volcano lord's slithers.
The volcano lord's slitherers have been manning the cannons. They resist at first, but relent once the temporary jamming clears up.
Spyboy Pearson monitors the way the volcano lord has been countering the jamming and starts cutting the jamming in advance of the effects of the counter.
Spyboy Pearson rolled up 4dF: + + - 0 (Base: 4 Total: 5) (SCIENCE! to place the aspect "Countermeasures less effective than they appear")
[OOC] WC GM: Eh? I thought the jamming was one-shot.
[OOC] WC GM: So, cleared up over time.
[OOC] Spyboy Pearson: Eh, I figured it would clear up over time as it countered it, and that Roland kept putting out chemicals. Course, I only expected it to generate misses, not block the communications entirely.
[OOC] Abraham: Our net is getting pretty choppy and it's getting to be around that time. Logend soon?
[OOC] WC GM: In that case - are you sure you want to keep up the countermeasures?
[OOC] WC GM: And sure, rolling up toward end of this encounter.
The volcano lord is still sending pheromones of emotional distress.
Abraham: "Spyboy, end the countermeasure and let it dissipate. If we need to, we can reinstate it pretty easily."
Spyboy Pearson: "Already on it, sir."
Abraham: "Also tell the Doc to start working on potential psychological therapy for a tree-fortress. Let him stretch his mind a bit."
[OOC] WC GM: Culture/Tech for Abraham - and anyone else who wants to psychoanalyze, but Abraham's got a boost here.
Abraham rolled up 4dF: 0 0 - + (Base: 1 Total: 1) (Culture/Tech.)
[OOC] Abraham: Probably not enough…
[OOC] WC GM: Enough if you boost it via aspect
[OOC] Abraham: I can use two… I'm thinking 'I am needed here' and 'Military Family' since this seems to be PTSD.
[OOC] Abraham: Assuming that's enough.
[OOC] WC GM: 'Tis
[OOC] Abraham: Then two FP for +4
Abraham: "Zinda, let's go introduce ourselves in person to the Tree-Fortress controller."
Abraham starts walking towards the tree fortress.
Abraham wanders the Tree-Fortress with Zinda until they find the distressed controller. Abraham indicates that Slithers are nice and cuddly and all, but hugs should be given in person and has Zinda hug the the controller. ((Since the controller is most likely a Metis-copy, Zinda should have a lot of experience with that.))
There is no controller, just the tree-fortress itself. The sobs intensify, then settle down.
[OOC] WC GM: Since Zinda appears to be AFK or DCed…
Abraham: "Reassure her, Zinda."
VolcanoClan: "^I…I feel…^"
VolcanoClan: "^…you…you'll actually listen? You want us to eat those smaller things? And you have two of the others already? Tell me your plan and I'll do it.^"

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