2nd Return to Ishak IV

This is in reference to a sci-fi milieu adventure I have partly completed, and would like to finish up and run at some point. Many orbits ago I ran an adventure on a shit-hole of a desert mining planet called Ishak 4, with predictably lamentable (lamentably predictable?) outcomes for our heroes.

The best character archetypes for this go-round would be:
– The usual soldier/enforcer/muscle types – the more the merrier.
– Someone with good investigative skills; like actual police, chain of custody, type stuff.
– Computer and security systems hacker type.
– Stealthy infiltrator type.
– Some of these can obviously be combined in single characters.

I’d be running my main Star Frontiers guy as firepower and vehicle expert, but not involved in decision making. He brings the group together, and you ain’t going to The Dustball without Leevon ‘LT’ Tauklar. We’d also have to have Bleeg ‘K5’ ‘Meatshield’ ‘Blasty McLaserFace’ ‘Shotgun Messiah’ Fenortner on the team, because no team is complete without Bleeg.

Bleeg is rather famous around the armed forces as possibly the only guy to survive a direct, close-range shot from a KE-5000 laser. That’s a tripod mounted, ordnance grade, anti-material weapon; kind of like having the door open and someone letting go with a Browning .50 in your face. As my character remembers/reimagines it, the parts of Bleeg’s armor and clothing that weren’t simply blown away were fused to the front of his body; power screens completely burned out and batteries melted or exploded; pretty sure we found his helmet in the next room or something. I think we slapped some kind of induced coma, stasis medi-pack on got him evaced out for a few months of rebuilding. Awesome! Now don’t you want to join the adventure back on the planet where we got captured and turned into slave-bots?

Kelly: Actually he was in an elevator, doors opened and the itchy trigger finger twitched. The result slagged a door and bleeg. The door wouldn’t shut but the elevator went back up – sparing him from the resulting battle and seemingly dead. It was a LOT of reconstructive surgery – he was used as one of those test subjects in some highly questionable procedures and technology (like robocop) and out came bleeg 2.0

Eric: (I do remember it was an elevator – it always reminded me of the first Die Hard where the elevator went ‘ding’…’BOOM’. Except in this case it went ‘ding’ again as the doors closed on Bleeg’s smoking near-corpse, then carried him up in a suspiciously symbolic trip toward the heavens. Or was that elevator going down, toward the other place?)

“How are your fused vertebrae feelin’, Bleeg?”
“Fine, fine. Thanks for askin’…”
“You hating your boring life yet?”
Gosh, I know I do! Where do I sign up for another tour?
Ho ho! Quit yer grinnin and drop yer linen… we’re on a one way express elevator straight to Ishak! Bleeg – how ya feel!?
Absolute Bad-Ass!
Right here on the dotted line son; and welcome back – we kept your bunk just like you left it. The transport ship for Ishak 4 departs tomorrow at 1700 local, with a 5 day acceleration to the wormhole and 4 day deceleration in the Ishak system. A new life in the off-world colonies! They even got the wobble out of the Ishak 4 orbital station and will probably have the barf smell all cleaned out by the time you arrive! I’m sure your team will have a productive and uneventful trip; just be cautious out there – they got some zero-day diseases your nanos might not be ready for.
Dig it. I guess we need to encourage mustaches on the team as Leevon is known to sport one too, from time to time.
Cant wait to get me some of that ishak poontang

Climate: Arid, windy desert planet, particularly prone to dangerous haboob (haha, he said ‘boob’) storms.

Ishak 4…. shit.
Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.

How many people had I already killed? There were those six that I knew about for sure. Close enough to blow their last breath in my face. But this time, it was Star Law and an officer. That wasn’t supposed to make any difference to me, but it did. Shit… charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do?
Tribu Kef

The New Sentience

Shortly after arriving on the Ishak 4 orbital station you’re able to shuttle over to the UPF Persuasive for some medical repairs. Your burnt-out nano fleets are flushed and replaced, Bleeg and Leevon get their bio-mechanical systems repaired, and you get some sweet bacta-tank treatments to repair any physical damage. The ordnance sergeant makes sure your weapons, screens, etc. are replaced or repaired. Also consider equipment requests, given your next task is to check out a small orbital station. Might not want to start blowing holes in things there.

You’ll like Potash – at 1500m above Ishak’s standard base elevation it actually gets cold some nights, though the constant high country wind whipping over the plateau gets to some people. I mean, Potash does have the most collapsed economy of the three main cities, but that just means your paycheck goes further right? You can always head up higher into the mountains, where the valleys provide more shelter, to the mining communities of Dogsbottom and Hellhole. Somebody put a sign on the road into Dogsbottom that says “The sun ALWAYS shines on this dog’s….”

SEAN’S Epic musical score, to the tune of ‘Love Shack’:
‘Ishak (Ishak Ba-aby) Gone’ lyrics by B. Fenortner

If you get a garbled signal from the Star Law command, that says
“15 parsecs to the
Ish-shak, yeah, yeah

I’m headin’ down the desert highway,
Lookin’ for Paratwa, tryin’ to getaway,
Headed for my likely grave today…

I got me a truck, it’s as big as a whale
And we’re headin’ on down to the Ish-Shak,
I got me a rover, it seats about twenty
So hurry up! We’re gonna’ go Dralasite huntin’

The Ish-shak
is a little ol’ place where – heat waves are the only weather,
Ish-shak baaayby, (uh – Ish-shak baby!)
Ish-shak, baby, Ish-shak! (Stealth, baby, that’s where it’s at)
Ish-shak, baby, Ish-shak! (Tech, baby, take out that sat)

Comm says (wooo) “Stay away, fools
‘Cause crime rules, on the I-I-Ish-shak”
Well they’re set way back in the middle of a field
And they’re firin’ flak, so you gotta get baaack
Turrets in the desert,
Turrets on the highway,
Turrets at the front gaaate,
Turrets on the highwaaaaaay,

The Ish-shak is a little ol’ place where – survival odds are not really fair,
Ish-shak baaayby, (Ish-shak Baby!)
Iiish-shak, thaaat’s where it’s at
Iiish-shak, thaaat’s where it’s at

Snipin’ and a-drivin’
Headshots and high-fivin’
Ordinance explodin’
My intestines I’m holdin’

The whole truck shimmies, when everybody’s
Firin’ round after round after round after round,
LeeVon punchin’ sentries, Chauncy hackin’ entries, baby
Bleeg chargin’ up, outside, and gets cut down,
Everybody’s bleedin’, everybody’s needin’, medics
Fuck you, Ish-shak,
Fuck you Ish-shak!

Hop in my rover, “Fuck You!” on the side, and we’re about to go ride!
I got me a truck, it seats about twenty
So come on, and bring your grenade money

The Ish-shak
is a little ol’ place where – you’ll be left with a va-cant stare,
Ish-shak baaayby, (uh – Ish-shak baby!)
Ish-shak, baby, Ish-shak!
Ish-shak, baby, Ish-shak!

. . . Musical Interlude . . .

Bang, bang, bang on the door, baby…
(Knock a little louder, Sugar…)
Bang, bang, bang on the door, baby…
(I can’t hear you!)
Bang Bang! (On the door, baby)
Bang Bang! (On the door!)
Bang Bang! (On the door, baby)
Bang Bang! (On the door!)
You’re hit!?
Armor plate… busted.

Ish-shak, baby, Ish-shak!
Ish-shak, baby, Ish-shak! (Guns, baby, always need more)
Ish-shak, baby, Ish-shak! (Bombs, baby, load the C-4)
Ish-shak, baby, Ish-shak! (Body count is risin’
‘cause we’re mostly dyin’
On the Isssshh-Shak!)

[12/2017] { OK, to try to get a little debrief out… – Sorry everything took so much longer than I ever plan for, again. Things like the space station assault were a quick little zero-G fling in my mind, until I realized that morning how much more complex it could get. }
– Things left off with the group stopped short of Hellhole, on the only road in and out, about 1-2 km short of town – or whatever distance you want.
— The transport truck is pretty huge: 14 axles across the tractor and two trailers. Gross weight when loaded is about 100,000 kg, but only the front hopper trailer is full of ore so it’s currently running about 70,000 kg.
— The cab has eight seats and a storage space behind those with some emergency food, water, clothing, space blankets, flares, etc.
— It’s around 4 AM, -2C and snowing lightly.
— You’ve got 2 drones and 3 spy eyes (pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and you’re wearing sunglasses). And the loot from the locker in the Mad Max truck: 4 multi-pro suits, 8 explosive grenades in 2×4 belt racks, 2 maser carbines, 2 gyrojet carbines with 200 rounds for each in 5×40 rd mags, 2 small tents and 4 sleeping bags, water and rations for 12 person-days.
– You get a transmission with a bit of intelligence briefing:
— Adriatica Daggundrensson was known to have ties to the Valbergen Syndicate, but not known to be the second-in-command and advisor to the boss until now. She’s known more for leadership and intelligence than for combat, and apparently survived an assassination attempt via car bomb a couple years ago.
— The Kold Killaz are local to Potash, not a particularly powerful or accomplished gang but they have a lot of members and rule their part of the city through intimidation. The Killaz are mostly a Yazirian gang at the upper levels with numerous humans and a few ifshnits. Pushy a-holes in a power vacuum, if you will. They answer to the Valbergen Syndicate and that’s why they’re helping.
– Commence worrying about somebody sending in a flying vehicle to extract Adriatica. On the upside, the Persuasive has a drone they can send down to do an aerial blockade on the Dogsbottom-Hellhole valley and provide you some reconnaissance as a bonus. It’ll take about 90 minutes to get prepped and on-site.
Now we have to start figuring out when we can get back together to finish this up. Who’s ready for a 3 hour firefight?

There was a Fire Fight!

After initially stopping the mining truck on the highway outside Hellhole, Joonzey hopped off into the snow and darkness to take a Humma-sized dump, only to discover he’d forgotten to plug his comms unit into the USB port to charge and its battery was dead. Getting lost and – in true Humma fashion – refusing to trust his GPS, he got turned around and kept bounding down the valley until he ended up in Dogsbottom. After some confused discussion with a cafe owner he figured out where he was.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party raised some concern about their target (Adriatica D.) being extracted by air; but the drone from the Persuasive arrives just in time for Elliott to link up, detect two aircars coming up the valley, discover the doofus gang members in the lead car haven’t taken it off-grid, hack the controls and crash it into the second aircar (and drive the first one into the ground). Job done.

Another aircraft does a high altitude flyby and the drone starts picking up ~20 small/transient radar hits descending toward Hellhole. The team gives the drone ‘fire at will’ orders and not long after there’s a loud ‘thud’ near the truck. Investigation finds a lightly armed and wingsuited yazirian has cratered at the base of the cliff. Hmmm…. It would seem a team of yazirian flying monkeys probably glided into town, though the drone must have gotten some of them. Elliott uses the drone to jam any comms out of the valley.

After setting up the Rafflur M10 on top of the truck cab and hearing from the local law-blob (Drrxxnnxxlllllr aka ‘Little Bill’ the dralasite state police captain) and finding him on the ‘corrupt law enforcement’ watchlist, Kid Cisco scrambles up the south cliffs to take up a sniping position – he uses something like a .338 Lapua – and the team slowly starts rolling into town in the truck. Elliott is driving; Leevon on the rooftop gun; Treebu in the rear hopper (with the back doors open, ready to jump out, and packing two of the eight shoulder-fired missiles); Bleeg walking alongside the right side of the cab with another missile. The snow starts to let up and dawn is breaking, so visibility improves. Cue the Morricone music.

Blue Team and Red Team spot each other simultaneously. Cisco can see two ‘technicals’ (pickups with 3-4 guys and mounted, belt fed gyrojet guns in the back) surrounded by maybe twenty individuals on foot moving through surrounding alleys and streets. In one instant: (switch music to ‘Intelligent Worship’ by Fu Manchu) Treebu fires a ‘TOW’ missile, so does Bleeg; Leevon fires the M10, and the bad guys fire 2 more TOWs at us. (In the movie there’ll be a scene where the 4 missiles all simultaneously zip around a local stray dog that’s running across the road.)

Treebu’s TOW does some minor damage to the second technical, and Leevon’s shot further disables it. Bleeg’s TOW hits the lead technical right in the bread basket, flipping it 5 meters in the air and snuffing all aboard. Cisco holds his Big Damn Rifle shot until the end of the round then spikes the gun operator on the second vehicle with a single digit result roll.

The first missile from the hostiles whistles right over Leevon’s head and explodes somewhere down-valley, but the second impacts the truck right under the front bumper. The cab lifts about 3 meters, catches fire, throws Elliott and Leevon around for some damage, and 80 tons of truck grinds to a permanent halt.

Next round Bleeg has disappeared – somewhere in the flame and smoke of the missile impact he buggered off; Treebu saw some guys run behind the Ishak Smokeshack BBQ restaurant so he fires another TOW at the building, hitting it directly and destroying it, and taking out 2 of the 3 guys behind it. (After-action you’ll find one guy with the rotisserie spit right through his chest. Bonus for the best snappy line around that.)

Elliott jumps from the burning cab and takes control of the drone for aerial interdiction and support; Leevon takes a last pot shot with the M10, looks longingly at it and jumps off the truck; Cisco sees an ifshit with what appears to be an Alpha Bolt and puts a round in him that spins him around, bounces him off the wall of a building, and onto the ground – but doesn’t quite kill him.

Treebu grabs the other 4-pack of TOWs and starts running up the road toward the middle of town and the concentrated baddies. Elliott moves around the burning wreckage of the Smokeshack and encounters a surviving Kold Killaz yazirian who shoots at him and jumps back; Elliott throws a grenade (IIRC?) and jumps back too. Stuck in the narrow space beside the building the yazirian gets blowed all up. Various opponents fire on Treebu but he uses a mentalist power (and defensive garments) to somewhat minimize damage. With another zero-something roll Cisco ‘pays the insurance’ on the ifshit and the morale of the 2 yazirians with him completely fails as they realize there’s a sniper out there somewhere. They run and hide.

Sheriff Little Dralasite Bill steps out in the road waving a needler, a laser carbine, and a stun stick in his 3 hands but has little immediate effect. Treebu decides to give him the good news with another TOW, and yet another zero-something roll. The squishy dralasite body doesn’t even trigger the warhead, but the missile shreds his cold, uncaring nerve center on its way through and he drops into a shapeless blob in the road. The Devil’s Pint bar and brewery Bill was standing in front of, however, is plenty substantial to trigger the fuse and is instantly converted to a cloud of smelly beer steam and bricks.

The sounds of gunfire and grenades are coming from the south side of downtown. Bleeg jumped into the dry creek and ran into town to flank the enemy; he’s been toe-to-toe with 3-4 guys at a time, relying on shotgun, grenade, harsh language, and a truly unnerving bloodshot stare.
Leevon has run to the main intersection to support Treebu, but given absolutely mediocre rolls let’s just assume that – despite an Automag pistol and katana – he’s essentially a non-factor for the rest of the time. (As befits a NPC anyway.)

Elliott throws another grenade – very accurately – into another alley, and Cisco watches the nasty outcome as smoke, fire, and Yazirian parts eject from both ends of the alley. Treebu throws mentalist confusion on 4 guys north of the main intersection and they do various confused things. One is hiding in the entrance of the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant and the shotgun packin’ proprietress steps into the doorway behind him; a 01 roll with the Mossberg sends constituent bits of his head out into the street. (Everybody stops for a second process that bit of unpleasantness; Leevon is kinda turned on.)

Attention turns to the south side of the intersection where Bleeg is battling 3 guys on the bridge over the dry wash – Bleeg is bleeding from a lot of holes (some that he started with and some new ones). He started out with skein suit long undies, flack vest, ballistic overalls, and a miner hardhat he found in the truck, but the clothes are pretty shredded and the hardhat is missing now. Treebu decides that firing another TOW at the enemies on the bridge is the best option(?) and Bleeg dives over the side of the bridge as the missile soars down the street and blows a chunk out of the cliffs at the edge of town. Bad guys fire on Treebu and Leevon. Bleeg tries to flip a grenade onto the bridge but it falls back down with him and he has to jump behind a post to avoid the blast. He does manage to stuck his shotgun muzzle up through a gap in the decking and give a yazirian a load of buckshot straight up main street, then run under the bridge to the other end. Cisco snipes another guy on the bridge.

Elliott has used the drone sensors to find the vehicle used by Adriatica & co. parked outside the Paradise Arms motel/apartments. She comes out with 2 bodyguards to get in the car whereupon Cisco puts a round through the power core and the drone further burns a hole in the hood. They jump back out of the car and Adriatica starts giving orders.

Treebu and his last 2 stamina points start running across the bridge toward the Paradise Arms; Elliott watches (via drone sensors) as Adriatica starts running – at an unnatural speed – west toward the truck leasing yard and he starts running parallel; the bodyguards take up positions at the end of the bridge to cover her escape; Bleeg pulls a great pop-up sneak attack on the bodyguards, except he rolls a fumble and shotguns Treebu into a heap on the bridge.

Back down the valley there’s been an aircar collision and Joonzey joins the locals in the rescue effort. 6 of the 8 occupants of the two cars are killed but Joonzey is proud of his part in saving one human and one yazirian from the wreckage. :\ He and some locals celebrate with beers and lunch at Dogsbottom’s best restaurant.

Cisco, Bleeg, and Leevon engage the 2 bodyguards while Treebu uses a mentalist healing power to get himself back above 0 stamina and continues pursuit. Adriatica has almost jumped the 4 meter fence around the truck yard but caught the barbed wire on top. A shot from Cisco takes out more than half her stamina but she hangs on to the fence top. Elliott tries to intimidate her with the drone but a bodyguard hits it with a missile and takes out about half its systems. Treebu uses a fear power and she drops, runs for the dry wash, and hides under a bridge. Between a levitate power from Treebu and a tangler grenade from Elliott she’s pinned to the bridge. After a couple misses from her custom polished stainless auto-pistols, and swipes from her sharpened, weapons-grade, titanium fingernails we manage to plasti-cuff her. She won’t say anything or look at anyone, but you do discover her bionic legs that were patched on after the car bombing she sruvived. That explains the twice-normal speed and high jumping.

The team patches up Bleeg a bit and – on the advice of Cisco who knows the area and the locals a bit – head to The Lucky Shaft. Two of the girls that work there have medical training, including Wounds II and Wounds III. In a screwed-over failing town like this the brothel is the de facto medical clinic too; “when needs must”.

Starlaw requests you hold position for about 12 hours; they have to extract another team then will have a shuttle available to pick you up. Joonzey gets back in touch and catches a ride up to Hellhole in a water delivery truck. Any characters with the persuasion skill and/or high charisma (Cisco, Leevon, …?) manage to patch up relations with the town alderman and other influential people. They didn’t like Little Bill – he was an abusive small time tyrant – or the gangs who regularly showed up to cause trouble and generally take advantage. So when a bunch of Kold Killaz showed up and the firefight started they were definitely on your side. They do want somebody to pay to rebuild the BBQ and brewery though. And pick up the 23 dead guys that are laying around town.

The one thing you definitely are is exhausted. You’ve been pretty much nonstop since the train from Sulfur to Potash, and all the stims in the world can only keep you going so long. You set a couple watches, including spy eyes and mini-drones in case more trouble is headed your way, and mostly collapse onto the couches and floor of The Lucky Shaft.

You’ll be picked up by the shuttle and transported to the Starlaw temporary command post at the Sulfur space port where Adriatica will be transferred to Starlaw custody. It’s requested you stay planetside for the time being, as the situation here is still ‘developing’; the Starlaw news stream mentions increased unrest brought about by The Blessed Ones (that lizard cult that thinks Ishak 4 should be purged of everyone else and made into their religious homeworld). Apparently there are more cult members than initial analysis predicted; but then hopelessness and poverty makes great opportunities for religious wack jobbery. Anyway, you’ve been given a week of R&R at a resort in Chromium – your own 10 room cabana with a pool, so you got that goin’ for ya.

Oddly enough something about this back-of-beyond, depressed, dirt pile of a planet is growing on you. (Because I’m the GM and I said so. Or maybe it’s those weird drugs one of the mega-corps is testing in the water supply. Or maybe what’s growing on you is an indigenous form of mold.) Treebu realized his dream of Old Earth western movies and it was even better than he imagined – possibly dangerous addiction in the offing. There are good people here trying to get by in a crappy situation.

For those who participated, 10 character points each. Good creative stuff that led to good (and sometimes spectacular) outcomes.
Cash bonus for ‘Captured Alive’ equivalent to $50,000 each, so if you’ve had your eye on the new car or down payment on a place or something, you’re set. Or you could probably get about 10,000 hectares of prime Ishak 4 real estate.

The crazy number of zero-something rolls certainly made things interesting – and fun. There had to be at least 10?

Roll end credits with ‘Black Smoke Rising’ by Greta van Fleet….https://youtu.be/vhbMbiYb5bg
(now go listen to the rest of their ‘From the Fires’ EP.)

After Fire Fight Action Report

Please stand by FIU-Delta9; Starlaw investigation/pursuit of Valbergen Syndicate chief is ongoing; further development of intel from captured asset Daggundrensson, Adriatica expected in the next 96 hours.
Operational designation ‘Insistent Nomad’ is deactivated; stand by for new designation when mission parameters are established.
Contract asset 035-70076-97a, aka ‘Kid Cisco’ is officially attached to FIU-Delta9 and granted clearance level 2.

Daggundrensson, Adriatica:
High level advisor to Valbergen Syndicate with knowledge of internal systems and strategy.
Bionic lower legs below mid thigh (assassination attempt, not enough funds yet for regrowth). Moves at 2x normal human.
Prefers Earth nordic appearance and displays of Icelandic heritage including viking style tattooing (via nanobot skin mods).
Unit tactics: Improved combat results for personnel under her direct command.
Leadership/morale: Improved morale/zealotry for personnel in direct contact (personal, voice/telepresence).
Uses only PGS unless there are no other options. Typically prefers a carbine when available and carries 2 hi-velocity custom pistols.
Martial/Melee: Titanium fingernail blades, sharpened, retract/extend 1cm. Typically for last-ditch and distraction, but critical hits can be debilitating or deadly.