Knight Commander Evander Rook, Imperial Space Knight
Sherri Grace, Slave-Soldier Bounty Hunter
Abbot Chance, Imperial Intelligence Handler
Commander Nal Aldru, Imperial Black Ops Fighter Ace
Lieutenant Kyra Elso, Imperial Black Ops Handler
Commodore Sho-Taro Greaves, Imperial Navy Officer, CO of the Warmain
Commander Badri Hara, Imperial Navy Officer, XO of the Warmain
Agent Damari Nash, Imperial Intelligence Spy
After hatching a somewhat convoluted plan in session 2, our group of Imperial agents finally made planetfall on Grist. The intention was simply for Nal, Nash, and Grade to drop off a team of investigators to stir up trouble, then make their way to our main objective in Director Thorn's dig site. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that plan started to run into problems even before the group's shuttle landed on the planet.
One Mr. Shin San Sage contacted our shuttle on the way down, claiming that he was a local businessman and that he'd like to show us the "curated" tour of the capital. Nal, being a suspicious sort, directly accused Mr. Sage of setting up a trap. At this point, Sage made it clear that he was not someone we wanted to ignore, and that he did have ties to the criminal element in the city. While we also have reason to suspect that he has ties to a rebellion on Grist, it was enough for Nal to agree to arrange a meeting with him at a later date.
Nal then called up his contacts with the Gaju syndicate to arrange said meeting, and while they were cooperative, they also made it clear that they expected some financial compensation to be forthcoming. Nal demurred on the details of payment for now, but did make it clear that he'd arrange something...once he was back on the Warmain.
At this point, the shuttle made its way down to its designated landing pad in the aptly named Heap. What a mess this place is, with what's likely centuries of construction over older construction over older construction, and with a rather ad hoc approach to maintenance. But smelly and messy as it is, it's also where the Imperial port is, and it's also where a welcoming committee was waiting.
One group consisted of local Imperial security agents and the governor's assistant, Tera Masterton, having an animated discussion that seemed to involve the shuttle and what exactly was to be done about it. The other was a not-quite-regulation Imperial having a lively discussion with his robot.
Seeing the reception, our team made sure that the Shinjurai princess, who Nash had previously snuck onto the shuttle, was properly disguised in case the inspectors decided to come aboard. I somehow doubt that Mina was keen on wearing the battleweave armor and helmet, but she did agree to it.
Our team then debarked to meet with the various people on the landing pad, and after seeing that they brought investigators and not a squad of soldiers, some of the tension went out of the security group. Nal very politely handed off the investigators to their "tour guides", making quite an impression on Ms. Masterton in the process. He then delivered Knight Commander Rook's request that he meet with Governor Voss and Subadmiral Starlane "at their earliest mutual convenience."
The news of a knight commander being in the system caused something of a stir, with Masterton going pale and Kyto Caster, Director of Security,starting to make what where likely urgent communications with his staff. Still, knowing that we were here to talk and not start making arrests/take over the planet seemed to relieve everyone involved, and our investigators went off on their very carefully managed tour. They likely won't find anything too interesting, but they're around to be visible, not necessarily to be effective.
That left the other pair on the dock to address, and the scruffy man turned out to be the very personable and direct Assistant Director Hal Stillwalker and his robot Pawn. He was particularly enthusiastic about meeting Sherri Grace, who wasn't quite as eager about it, and Nal was definitely not impressed. Stillwalker intimated that he knew Director Thorn had asked for help, and that he had made some important discoveries in the wilderness, but that they were matters of some secrecy.
While Nash, never one for operational security, would probably have asked for more information right then and there, particularly by revealing that we had an Imperial Mandate, more cautious minds prevailed, and Stillwalker was placated with assurances that we'd talk to him if anything came up. This was probably for the best, as Stillwalker's grasp of operational security seems to be about as good as Nash's.
With the welcoming committee sorted out, that left the question of how to get out to Director Thorn's camp without drawing attention. After some discussion, including it being pointed out that there was no way to hide the shuttle's departure, it was decided that our team would ascend to space, lose themselves in Grist's orbital debris belt, and then descend to the planet in stealth mode.
Nal, being a good pilot, handily made the necessary rolls. Unfortunately, the timing of his descent coincided with a major sandstorm hitting Director Thorn's camp. While this on its own wouldn't have been much of a problem, a figure in the storm spots the shuttle, and then something strange happens. The shuttle begins to rust and age rapidly, shorting out instruments and making a difficult descent even more challenging. Fortunately, the shuttle holds together, and while it won't go down as the most graceful landing, Nal brings it to the ground in one piece.
And as it so happened, the shuttle landed right where we wanted it to be: in the middle of Director Thorn's camp. Of course, no one told Thorn we were coming, and he was quite surprised to see us, but he wasn't too concerned about who we were at this point, because, oh yeah, an attack was imminent.
Thorn and his security forces were reasonably dug in, with a trench and a few heavy weapons emplacements to anchor it, and our team ran for the cover of the trench. At this point, the Ashwalkers attacked, with sniper fire taking out the gunners of the repeating blaster and the anti-vehicle blaster emplacements.
Despite the poor visibility, Sherri Grace was able to make out some shapes in the distance, and fired off a withering volley of surprisingly accurate shots in their direction. While the sandstorm made the results of that fire uncertain, it's probably safe to say that some targets were hit. Nash and Nal had less luck, and everyone else, not being PCs, were keeping their heads down after the sniper fire.
The snipers then returned fire, and Sherri Grace made a very fancy leaping, spinning dodge to get out of the way. Nal decided to make a run for one of the gun emplacements to provide suppressing fire, but unfortunately, this was when the Ashwalker's flanking force showed up. A bunch of unarmored combatants with vibroblades, one heavy with a Gatling blaster, and one really heavy monster with a giant vibroaxe.
Sherri, who hasn't spotted the flankers just yet, continued to fire on the sniper's position. Nal, thinking quickly, shot out the controls of the repeating blaster to prevent the Ashwalkers from getting to it first and using it against the group. Nash then tries to put down the monster by making some very nice shots to its face, but alas, his holdout blaster proves to be utterly inadequate for the task, and merely draws the monster's attention to him.
Nal failed to dodge the attacks coming his way, but as he's wearing heavy armor, they didn't do so much as tickle him. The impact did knock him down, however, which proved to be less of a problem than it could have been. Sherri dodged some more attacks, and Nash faced one very angry monster with an axe. He not only fails to dodge, but Luck fails him as well. Fortunately, the attack proved to be only a Flesh Wound.
I somewhat lost of track of what happened when after that, but Sherri proved highly effective, putting down more of the attackers, including two that had just realized that the unarmed Princess was hiding in the trench. Nal put down another attacker, and decided not to bother Dodging attacks that clearly couldn't hurt him. Nash, unfortunately, was still facing the monster, and barely survived another attack with an invocation of Flesh Wounds. Then he made a brilliant shot on the giant's hand, utterly destroying it and forcing the creature to go to hand to hand combat. Being a hulking brute, this still would have ended badly for Nash.
The Gatling heavy also managed to get into the trench at this point, and was all set to mow down everyone when Sherri put his weapon out of action. The security troopers recovered at this point, and started pouring fire into the monster, but even that didn't seem to faze the brute. Nal then called for Kyra Elso to take the anti-vehicle weapon, which she did, but not before Nash ended up pinned against the trench wall and soaked in some unpleasant stuff. Fortunately, before the monster could press its advantage, Kyra put it down with a well-placed shot from the heavy weapon.
The Gatling heavy, with his weapon out of action, tried to draw and throw a grenade, but Sherri put a stop to that with a burst of laser fire, and he ended up being blown to bits by his own grenade. With that harrowing fight over, the princess, who is alive but very much shaken, suffered a natural reaction to the violence and mess and, as Mailanka delicately put it, "added to the mess". Nal, being a rather outspoken sort, loudly complained that this is why he didn't want her here to begin with.
Director Thorn, on the other hand, seemed to be utterly unfazed by the battle, merely stating that it was "worse than normal". He then invited the group in to explain just who they were and why they were here. He was informed that we were responding to his request for aid, and the princess was rather disappointed to learn that he had not, in fact, sent out a request for her to meet with him.
The fallout of that revelation would have to wait for next session, though, for Director Thorn had important information for us. He had discovered a Titan, a vast warmachine of alien design, and with the arrival of the Marrowheart in the system, it had begun to stir. With that, the session ended.
Due to our decision to split the party, I had to spend this session sitting on the sidelines, because Rook needed to be in the capital to meet with the Governor and Subadmiral. I'm not particularly bothered by this, because I had a lot of fun watching the sessions unfold.
Nal is probably the most entertaining player we have, and watching him interact with the various NPCs and PCs was good fun. Mailanka also has a pretty diverse cast, and while that means there's lots of people to keep track of, it also keeps things interesting.
Sherri Grace easily wins my vote for MVP in this session. If it weren't for her and her blaster pistols, that fight would have gone badly for the group. Not only were they outnumbered, but they were outmaneuvered. But even with the appalling conditions and long ranges involved, Grace still hit far more often than not, and since most of the opponents were mooks, that was enough to put them down. All in all, some very impressive work.
The group needs to rethink their loadouts. While Nal and Kyra were reasonably well protected and armed, Nash's holdout blaster proved entirely inadequate against an armored foe, and both Nash and Grace probably need to think about investing in heavier armor. Yes, it might be encumbering, but it will help keep them alive.
Speaking of which, Luck and Impulse Point expenditures played a big role in keeping the PCs alive. On no less than four separate occasions, using them meant the difference between life and death for the PCs. This is a testament to just how deadly that fight could have been, and even that wouldn't have been enough if Grace weren't putting down targets as fast as she could spot them.
Communications were a bit of a problem in this session, particularly with keeping track of turn order. A visual turn tracker of some sort would probably have been helpful in understanding who was supposed to go when.
Two of our player characters, Knight Commander Evander Rook and Commodore Sho-Taro Greaves, didn't make the big fight. How would things have gone differently if they had been there?
For a start, it would have completely changed the numbers game. Between the two of them, they bring no less than fifteen competent troopers with them, and they probably wouldn't have frozen like the security troopers did.
Both Rook and Greaves have Tactics, and so they could have picked up on the enemy plan before the flankers appeared, giving at least a little more time to react.
Rook also has Leadership, and I think Greaves does as well, so they could have rallied the security troopers earlier in the fight, which would have partially offset the Ashwalker numbers.
Looking at what Rook in particular would have brought to the fight, one of his big contributions would have been a ludicrous Intimidate score. If he spent two FP on the long range Aspect technique, he could easily have rolled against 22 to scare off the attackers (base 16, +4 Aspect, +1 armor, +1 force sword). Even without those modifiers, a roll against 16 is pretty good.
Also important is that most of the combatants were melee, and Rook uses a force sword. Anyone who attacked would likely have had their weapon destroyed before being killed in the next attack. Even Umber, the big hulking monster, would likely have had a bad time of things. A destructive Parry would have deprived him of his axe, and Rook's force sword deals a terrifying 8d+24 (5) worth of damage. I don't know how much HP Umber had, but I doubt he'd have lasted long.
All in all, had either or both been in the battle, it would have been a lopsided curbstomp in our favor. As it is, it's a testament to just how effective PCs are that the three who were there managed to turn what should have been a massacre into a narrow victory.
Next session, we need to find out just what it is that Director Thorn needs to safely remove the Titan from the dig site and bring it back to Sovereign, because then we'll finally have the concrete information we need to make proper plans for accomplishing our mission.
We also need to make sure that Princess Mina Shinjurai isn't too traumatized by her experiences, because she's potentially a very useful ally to have. Oh, and she's an earnest, naive young lady who's a little in over her head. You'd have to be heartless to not feel sorry for her.
Rook and Greaves need to have their meeting with Subadmiral Starlane and Governor Voss, mostly to distract them from our interest in the dig site, but I'm also hoping to come out of there with more information and resources to use. The plan is to convince them that we're here to investigate reports of Cybernetic Union activity on the world, which is a hostile power in this region of space.
It's not entirely misdirection, either. In the short time we've been in the system, we've accrued significant evidence that there's a major rebellion fomenting, and it's not unreasonable to think that the Cybernetic Union is involved. And since this rebellion would cause us problems, we need to investigate it anyway.
I doubt we'll be able to keep our interest secret for long, though. After the last session, I think we need to seriously consider dropping a company of troops and some prefab fortifications on Director Thorn's camp to defend against future attacks. We might be able to recruit some local resources to do so, but we'll have to consider how effective it would be.
I'm also going to try and start developing a network in the capital city, because we need as much information as we can get. Rook can get some contacts among high society without much issue, but unless Nash, Grace, or Nal returns to the capital, the commoners and underworld are more of a problem. Fortunately, Rook does have a lot of money to spend, so hiring agents is not out of the question.