5860/Eclipse Phase: Mind the WMDs (Part 1)

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Eclipse Phase: Mind the WMDs (Part 1)
Date of Scene: 16 May 2018
Location: Transhuman Territory: Scum Barge "Ecstatic Metamorphosis"
Synopsis: An enigmatic client hires Multiversal elites to prevent a smuggler from selling an especially dangerous weapon. But what could be considered "especially dangerous" on a habitat with no real rules?
Thanks to: GMed by Staren
Cast of Characters: 632, 673, Rebecca Chambers, Starbound Flotilla, 385, 518

Staren (42) has posed:
    The coordinates given lead the elites (probably aboard the Odyssey) to the scum barge Ecstatic Metamorphosis. It's a colony ship that was never quite completed or launched for its original mission -- after the Fall, the workers stayed around, more people looking for a home away from the control of the hypercorps, and it's now sort of a floating city in space, home to thousands of people. The massive cylinder is rotated fast enough to maintain 0.4g on the outer decks. There's other ships floating around, smaller habitats being towed, the occasional ship coming and going... It's a busy and thriving place!

    The most convenient docking point is at the axis. There's no gravity here, and it's a fairly plain, metal corridor leading to intersections of other corridors. The influence of the scum is clear even here, though: There's graffiti all over, and the people passing by are... Honestly, most of them aren't THAT weird. But a significant percentage of passerby are dressed, if not bodymodded, to stand out, with everything from punk-like fashion to garish colors and hairstyles to cybernetic limbs. One person even has FOUR limbs. Others aren't even humanoid, robotic octopi and the like jetting around through the microgravity.

    Given that it was designed as a colony ship, the Ecstatic Metamorphosis is a little roomier than most habs -- there are actually open spaces here and there, like a miniature park or a public meeting room that's currently been turned into a bar and dance club. (There are robots at the bar holding drinks. How does THAT work?)

    While the elites are deciding how to go about their search, a drone like a large box with manipulator arms jets up to them and a compartment opens, containing belts and torcs with air tanks and blobs of some sort of material on them, and a tablet and pair of glasses for each of them. The tablet can be compressed to phone size or bent and worn as a bracelet -- the glasses allow them to see the AR tags that are everywhere -- advertisements, art (there's virtual graffiti too) -- and to check people's social media accounts. Notably, these ectos are themselves tagged with fake IDs, so that anyone checking the party will see that they appear to be normal visitors from this universe, although the pictures don't look like any of them.

Septette Arcubielle (632) has posed:
     Finally, a place where Septette won't look too out-of-place! Sure, there's still the unsettlingly Chernobyl-like magic signature oozing off of her, but with any luck these folks aren't Multiverse-savvy enough to have detectors for that yet. She's looking around with a practical yet rapturous expression, like a park ranger surveying the land, when the humble robot scoots up and prompts for her attention.

     "Oh! Thank you very much. I don't need the oxygen, but... I..." She slowly trails off, dawning comprehension written on her face as it clicks that this particular robot probably isn't intelligent. Septette grabs the bracelet and glasses with a disgruntled harrumph, and throws herself into the task of figuring out how they work with the singlemindedness of someone who doesn't want to think about other things right now.

     As soon as she does, a trio of small floating drones pop into existence around her and disperse, looking for any Obviously Shady Dealings (if one ignores that this whole place can be called shady). "Wonder where we're meant to start..." It's spoken aloud to nobody in particular, but maybe she's just embarrassed to address the robot again.

Rory White (673) has posed:
    indeed, anyone who wants a ride to the Ecstatic Metamorphosis is given one, courtesy of Rory's starship, the Cognizant Odyssey - which the Metamorphosis would be able to tell, is not a typical standard transport like its IFF says it is. It's now a hybrid of Starbound Flotilla technology and lacks any of the passenger or cargo booms, being a streamlined delta-shaped vessel covered in sensors and only a few weapons.

    Rory's profile is public enough, and easily verifiable against the open Argonaut databases. This includes the fact that she's an AGI.

    Hopefull this locale won't have a problem with that. Because she's sleeved into her well-featured Synthmorph, wearing the robes.

    It was, oddly enough, designed to fit in amongst anything BUT Transhuman Society. Amongst the people that frequent the docking bay, Rory's bluenette appearance is startlingly tame and boring...

    At being showered with an unusual deposit of gear, Rory has enough attention to spare for a frown. She scans the robot, the gear, the fake IDs, everything... and she wisely decides to ping everyone's Ectos with a request to establish secure VPN connections with her.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
The coordinates were given, and Rebecca was one of the first aboard the Odyssey. Having no real way of traveling through space on her own, she decided to make use of whatever resources were available to her. While she's aboard the Odyssey, Rebecca is getting her weapons ready and throwing on her kevlar vest. She then prepares to dock with the colony ship while going over what she knows about it, even if it's not a whole lot.

Once she makes her way onto the ship, Rebecca is slightly surprised by what she's seeing, but it's not that much. With her long time in the Multiverse, Rebecca's learned to expect nothing and be ready for anything. The various passersby don't even draw a second glance from Rebecca. It's all too common for her, although she, too, does wonder how the robots are having drinks. But that's for another time and another place.

When the drone finally arrives, Rebecca is a little startled, but then goes over what's being offered to her. She frowns a little at the fake IDs, before attempting to find one that resembles her as much as possible, and even then that's easier said than done. She then takes an Ecto as well checks it out, getting a feel for how it works, before taking whatever gear she feels she needs.

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    George knows plenty when it comes to this business. Low and slow, soft and simple. Today he's not come with his militarized, powered EVA hardsuit. This one's a simple softsuit over the vacsuit -- retro, even -- and it looks like George is hanging out as some kind of 50s-era spaceman. but the fashion sense and crimson accents are both modern and apolitical enough to make it seem like a stylish modern space-outfit more than a relic of his homeworld.

    Today's tools are a simple collection. Well-hidden electro-shock gloves built to deliver varying levels of charge through the softsuit's hands, a simple telescoping baton in the back pocket, a hidden one-use knife he's slipped into the rims of those AR glasses, and George's own wits. "Well, probably not meant to start any particular place, Bones." George says, grinning and laughing. "This is the kinda thing I'm pretty familiar with. We start where we fit best." George hops onto Rory's VPN, drives his own little shuttle into docking position, and heads on inside.

    First thing's first. Gotta get leads. George immediately starts scouring local chatrooms and networks, heading through older logs as much as he can, trying to identify well-established local cliques that would be socially disinclined to have strangers with more tense or sociopathic natural habits aboard. Not even the greatest disguise can fool human intuition and tribal instinct, and so the best place to start is to check in on public social media to see what their tensions have been about lately, while he heads through.

    He's just gotta find a bunch of pretentious isolationists who overlap with pretentious pacifists, see if they've mentioned any contempt and sneering lately, and try to crossreference that with new arrivals. Then fire the data to Rory over VPN and get their friendly neighborhood AGI to heat-map probable social movements and give them a specific zone to start at.

    All this done with apparently almost no introduction. George has seemingly done this sort of thing before.

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
While Yuna's home world isn't exactly 'transhuman,' there's a somewhat familiar feeling about boarding the Ecstatic Metamorphosis. ... well, sort of familiar. Yuna's no stranger to microgravity or zero-G, and not needing to worry about monsters lurking around every other corner means she can relax a fair amount compared to most of the space stations she's visited in the Multiverse at large. On the other hand, the space stations she's been on back in her home reality - or the parts of it which exist as the Fraulein Sector in the Multiverse - don't usually have a criminal element where she'd need to worry about it.

In any case, Yuna is outfitted in her Light Suit just in case things go south, and Elner is flitting along next to her as usual, monitoring their surroundings for anything that seems like it could be a source of concern. Yuna collects a belt, one of the respirator torcs, and a tablet/glasses set as well, experimenting a bit with both of them to figure out how they work - and how to make them do what she wants to; that much AR advertising makes her brain hurt, so she tries filtering those down as much as she can. Elner might be able to help with that, depending on the interface restrictions.

Rory's VPN is joined in due course, to help coordinate, and once that's done, Yuna takes more of a look around the entry area. She doesn't have anything *close* to George's experience or expertise; the best she can do is look for empty spaces that stand out - you know, something that seems like regular passers-by are being warded away from, consciously or otherwise.

Yuuki Kuran (518) has posed:
A dangerous mission into the depths of Weirdoland (well, it's not like a dimension where all the cats have human faces and make awful cat puns, so, maybe it's not truly Weirdoland) go, this one seems noble and just. Go in, stop the Mystery Weapon from the spaceship home, and then leave? Maybe catch a drink with the robots?

It's tempting to flit off, for Yuuki Kuran, and dally here and there with all the new sights and experiences! But she remains resolute. Instead, she consults the details of her fake ID/social media presence, and frowns. "A food blog? But it's not really a good one... Maybe I'll update it with some pictures on my phone..."

The slender-armed girl withdraws her smartphone from her pocket, starting to swipe and tap away, before frowning deeply. "Uhm... Hmm. Which network do I connect to? There's..." She starts swiping up... and up... and up... and up...

"Maybe I'll just, uhm... not! And find out information the old fashioned way?"

Staren (42) has posed:
    Septette's drones find all kinds of stuff that might be shady on one world or another. People selling small arms out in the open (that can't be what was meant though, can it?), people doing drugs, advertisements for houses of ill repute (although their repute actually seems to be pretty good), a genetically-engineered cat show... wait, that's probably not shady. There are certainly people who look at the drones suspiciously, and who act kind of suspicious, but noone's put any signs up advertising a one-of-a-kind WMD sale... Maybe it's invite-only?

    Rory's scans reveal that the robot is hab maintenance automech #231, which is currently supposed to be cleaning the windows or something innocuous like that. Clearly a hacker has redirected it here to deliver things that their patron expected outsiders to need. Barring a question that the operator feels merits a response, it will depart back to its job shortly. The ectos and smart vacsuits all seem normal, and the fake IDs at least pass a cursory inspection, although closely digging into them, they don't have much history. The ectos are equipped with all the standard software -- whoever set them up expected you to use a VPN, it looks like.

    Rebecca wearing obvious armor gets brief suspicious looks from passerby, but it doesn't seem to scare them off or attract the attention of whatever passes for police here.

    The ectos are mostly operated by 'entoptics', the user reaching out and touching AR projections, including of keyboards and the like.

    George fits right in! A lot of people are wearing light spacesuits. It IS a space station.

    George's search is perhaps the most immediately enlightening: While there are certainly cliques with better standards of behavior, the ship as a whole seems to only eschew those who make trouble en masse, or engage in slavery. His search of logs and social media activity doesn't, alas, turn up anything so direct as complaints about WMD sales, but it DOES show him who on the station might know about such things. There are people with criminal ties all over -- Nearby, there are some at the bar and some at the cat show. He could also try to investigate every docked ship that's potentially shady, but even if he just searches the recent arrivals, that could take awhile. It needs a little narrowing down...

    While there aren't actual monsters lurking around the corner, there is the occasional person who's made themselves look like a monster.

    There are certainly some rooms that have KEEP OUT signs (some of which have been responded to with graffiti like 'MAKE ME'), and likewise some of the docked ships have guards standing around, but there's no ONE place that sticks out just yet...

    Yuuki's phone might have trouble, but her ecto works AS a phone and does, indeed, work just fine for uploading photos, of food, cats, or otherwise! There are plenty of people she can start old-fashioned talking to!

    Coincidentially, just as she thinks of awful cat worlds, someone floats past on their way to the cat show. The cat in their arms looks at her with an almost human face before they disappear down the corridor.

Septette Arcubielle (632) has posed:
     'Map geotagged posts', he says. Septette starts walking towards the bar, her eyes flaring a slightly brighter purple as her view of the world slows to a near-halt. Colors fade away into monochrome, and then into blackness as her perception outpaces the rate of photons entering her eye, leaving her with only the memory of a list of countless blithering social media posts.

     The memory's enough. Correlating the three-dimensional coordinates with her outside view of the barge, matching that with posted time and the backwards-extrapolated rotation of the O'Neill cylinder to reverse the distorting influence of its spin on locations, and recompiling a map is drudge work, little more.

     A fraction of a second later, the world unfreezes as she says "Will do, Cap'n" over her radio. Now for the actually tricky part: recompiling her knowledge into a human-readable map. While she figures that out, she seats herself at a stool (in this gravity, she barely weighs more than a gorilla!) and orders... whatever the guy next to her is having.

     Twenty seconds later, a crudely-drawn (yet accurate) 3D map of the social hotspots onboard the barge is splashed onto Rory's network. "How's that suit your purposes? Sorry I couldn't make it look prettier. Don't have the hang of this UI yet."

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Yeah, Rebecca's wearing armor. Although calling it that seems like a bit of a stretch for her since it's just standard equipment for people like her. She doesn't mind the glances she's getting, since she's not causing any trouble for anyone so she figures she'll just keep to herself for the time being.

It should be noted that Rebecca is rather fascinated by the AR projections that make the ectos work. "Just like that movie I saw recently," She says with a chuckle. "Kinda neat if you ask me." She isn't really paying much heed to those who look like monsters, whether or not it's intentional. She's just going along with everything.

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
This is not going to be particularly easy, is it, thinks Yuna. The 'keep out' zones seem pretty clearly labeled - very nearly drawing attention at the same time as they attempt to deflect it, as illustrated by some of the rebuttal graffiti. And to be sure, the thought of letting the more experienced investigators do their thing *does* cross Yuna's mind - it certainly seems like George and Septette have a leg up on trying to narrow down where the arms dealer might be; Yuna's better suited to trying to take the dealer down (alive, importantly) if/when the dealer is identified and confronted.

But Yuna keeps trying to figure out what approaches she could bring to the table that the others might not be thinking of. While she's racking her brain for ideas on that front, she takes a look at Septette's social-network map ...

And frowns. Whoever they're looking for, he or she (or it, or they) will want to be findable by customers - but *not* necessarily by random people. "Elner," she says to her robo-faerie companion, "help correlate the social media map with the station's physical map, please?"

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    George works through all the data he can, and gets Septette to handle everything he can't. Looking at the bar, he calls out to Septette over subvocalized communications, "Oh, sure! Thanks tons, Bones." And he strides towards and into the bar. Now to operate more finely. Area reconstruction -- matching selfies to different sides of the room -- and then correlating those to different regions of the bar, that should give him an idea of which kind of person sits where. Location-tagging on the posts he picked up and got organized by Septette should give him vague ideas about seating. Visible accounts, he follows her advice -- people with new arrivals, guarded nature, no geotagged posts -- and tries to narrow down to individuals. And then...

    He orders a bunch of nonsense. First he tries for a Changeling Sting, then a Beepsky Smash, then a Lizard Wine, and then finally settles on something sane they actually serve here, before getting a good seat and trying to find someone meeting those conditions: Physically associating with the people he's found, but digitally distant from record. And, of course, starts hassling people the way an old man would at any bar like this. "Heya!" He says, taking a seat and trying to bother around. "How's stuff? You guys here for the art show, or the art show that isn't about those cats?" Cats are always a kind of art. Especially in a highly digital culture. "I've been real interested in getting a good look at all that sorta stuff." He's unbearably cheerful, and smoking conspicuously.

    The smoke smells like a hospital. A subtle signature to the savvy that it's full of regenerative chemistry and not tobacco, that George is one of the capital-F Fun kinds of guys.

Rory White (673) has posed:
    IT doesn't take long for Rory to polish up the ramshackled UI pings that Septette cobbles together, and begins to run background checks and Mesh scans for haunts and other things of the individuals George is showing an interest in!

    Unlike the others, Rory's digital actions seem to be happening without any triggering action whatsoever. She's not typing on any keyboards or looking at obvious floating displays. Things are just HAPPENING. Because, being an A.G.I. in a Synthmorph, she doesn't need such things to do her business!

    Of course, she now has absolutely no idea how to proceed. George's intutiion is the best she has to work with here. However, she begins to also do Mesh searches for local computer system experts, and also tries to locate any other Argonauts who might be here and have any influence!

Yuuki Kuran (518) has posed:
With her phone rendered incapable of connecting to the private, ritzy VPN by the mismatch of technology - one of an era where an open network is a blessing and the other, a terrible plastering curse upon every iota of wavespace, Yuuki Kuran is momentarily rendered totally useless. But she has an Ecto, which is SORT of like a phone (and a camera). While she gets to getting her social media on through the new interface, instead, she starts searching for the most popular Augmented Reality game on the Ecto... app... store. There's probably a zillion and some are super garish, but she's looking for something nice and local.

The Ingress of Hab Garish Scum. There's gotta be one, because with this much focus on communal social pluggy-inny...

I mean, come on.

Unfortunately it may also load her ecto up with a crippling amount of malware, but c'est la vie. She follows behind George, who Knows What He's Doing, messing with her phone and taking instagram photos of his drinks and then a few selfies. It's important! To their cover! ... She is a dignified noble, not a dumb teenager.

With the metadata from the app though, figuring out via process of elimination where's well-tread and where's randomly blocked off would be a cinch. Then it's just collating that with the group!

So, while she waits, she asks the bartender: "Stop me if this is cliche: notice anything suspicious lately? I'm... an adventurer. I'd like... a quest? u h h h h... Hashtag real life tabletop?"

She leans to George's ear. "Do they do hashtags here?"

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    "They do hashtags here, but I can't read some of them. The memes around this territory are really thoroughly baked." George whispers back to Yuuki, in a tone that's far too serious for the silliness he's saying.

Staren (42) has posed:
    Most of the party goes in on cross-referencing social media, metadata location tags, ship's logs, and public maps! All together, this indicates that there are a few ships that recently arrived, that noone's posted from (or that they scrubbed the metadata when they did), and that have guards. One even stands out as more heavily guarded, now that they're looking at just a few. It seems logical to conclude that one of these is the dealer, and the others are prospective buyers. So the question remains: Who can afford more guards: Someone looking to unload a weapon dangerous enough that their patron cares, or someone rich enough to BUY it?

    Septette sits next to a humanoid robot without a face. The bartender glances at her, and passes her a 'drink' like the robot has. Her glasses' HUD briefly notes that her (fake ID's) rep has had a minor service pinged against it. The 'drink' is a sealed cup with blue liquid in it and a nonfunctional straw. An embedded chip inside the housing is emitting wireless signals. Sadly, it can't interface with her brain. The glasses give her an error message, complaining they have no way to run a 'narcoalgorithm', whatever that is.

    A few seats over is someone whose head LOOKS like a tank with a brain in it but it's got to be a prop. It's atop a humanoid female body in a plain T-shirt and shorts over obvious robot limbs. "Hey, nice look!" A voice comes from a speaker somewhere on her chassis, as she makes a fingergun gesture at Septette. An AR winky emoji animation briefly appears over her head.

    The bartender gives George a blank stare until he orders something they actually have. Of the two people next to him, one is a dark-haired man in a colorful tanktop and dark pants. Joint lines all over his body give the impression of something artificially put together, but maybe it's some kind of 3D tattoo? He does seem to be drinking an actual drink rather than the props the robots have. He just gives George a surly look. Next to him, though, is a young blond boy with slicked-back hair in a pinstripe suit. (checking his profile indicates that he's middle-aged, this body just looks like that. Also, one of the less-guarded newly docked ships belongs to him). "What do you know about an 'art show?' he asks, eying George suspiciously, like that's something he didn't want to hear from a stranger. Then he turns and looks at Yuuki. "I'm not an MMARG NPC, kid." He points at her glasses. "Yer skin's not configured right. Go bother somebody else."

Staren (42) has posed:
    Rory's search for fellow argonauts does turn up some people! Mostly folk cracking hypercorp software and blueprints, doing morph genetic engineering research and offering computer security consulting. None of them are mega-influential, but software pirate, biosculptor, and infosec specialist alike have mostly good space yelp reviews.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca looks over at the humanoid female with the brain atop her head and turns away in disgust before realizing it's just a prop. She seems to be taking a while to get used to her ecto. Once she's finally gotten the hang of it, Rebecca takes a seat near the others, attempting to look into more detail for any possible names that might be useful to her.

She's only got a little information for the time being, but she's willing to use whatever she's got to see if there are any specific names that pop out.

Septette Arcubielle (632) has posed:
     Hey, someone LIKES the horrible blade-skeleton body! Or, at least, what they can see of it with the shawl and all. She reciprocates with two fingerguns, adding an extra for good measure since she can't figure out how to display emoji just yet. "Thanks! Has anyone ever told you that they like you for your brain?" She laughs, then knocks back the fake-drink and sets it down on the counter. Shush, glasses-warnings.

     The peculiar reaction of the blonde neotenic catches her eye, though she makes little indication of the fact that she's keeping an eye on George's interactions besides suddenly going a bit quiet. Her silvery earfins twitch and angle to pick up the subtle aural cues of their respective tones in case things go south.

     "Hey, kid," she says, waving at Yuuki before patting the seat beside her. "What game's that? Might be able to give you some help with it, depending." Anybody answering this call can probably handle themselves, pretensions otherwise aside, and at this rate it's a good idea to keep as many bodies in the bar as possible.

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    "Plenty of rare and exotic paints!" George says, spreading those hands wide. "The kinda masterpiece made out of all kinds of colors that are just too hard to find anywhere else, maybe with the kinds of brushes you sure don't get to buy these days." Rare elements crafted through unregulated printers, is what he's saying. "Huge fan of that kind of work. Sort of a connoisseur, a kind of curator! I used to manage plenty of collaborations and exhibitions back in the day. Most of my work was at the Letheia Corporation's artistic interests." Any quick Google will indicate that several Letheia space stations in Starbound space had their internal nuclear devices activated a few dozen years ago; the mining company in George's home galaxy was not one that managed to keep its opposition out of the headlines.

    George speaks with the tone of a friendly art enthusiast and occasional exhibition curator, but he speaks more with the familiarity of someone who deals in this business with startling regularity and experience. And he's made sure nothing that he's saying could ever be construed as tipping his hand too much. "Nothing makes quite so much of an impression as a masterpiece on full display. Well, you know, just as long as it's the curator doing the presentation and not the painter or the dealer." And there's the implication that George is a "curator", and the kind who knows to keep "dealers" and "painters" from needing to take responsibility.

    It's a little-known fact that George actually owns at least three paintings, inopportunely purchased at Moonfin's urging when he accidentally did this bit to actual artists and art dealers.

Staren (42) has posed:
    "Ahahahahahahaha!" The girl with the art project for a head buckles over and laughs at Septette's joke. She emits a :) emoji and tells the bartender that Septette's next drink is on her.

    The kid looks at George skeptically. A huge fan? "Are you now..." He checks George's profile, but assumes it's a fake. Searching for news of Letheia, though, makes the kid's eyes go wide. He thinks quickly. Then replies, with lowered voice: "Alright. In return for a finder's fee of... let's say 100,000 credits -- Multiverse credits -- You can have my appointment. I'll let them know to expect you."

Yuuki Kuran (518) has posed:
Yuuki Kuran is offended and pouty - and a little something else - for a few minutes, lost in a sea of Overbaked Memes. "There's nothing wrong with my skin..." She mutters, but is by and large deflected by people not playing along with her dalliences. It's rude.

But George has this in the bag, so she follows along, resisting making mean faces at the bartender as they go. "Wow, George, I didn't know you were into art collection! I could..." She gets ready to launch into Actually Talking Real Art with him before the price comes up.

"Is this a private gallery? Well, that's fine." Yuuki starts ticking off her fingers (giving away that she has little head for numbers, and also that she's a terrible no-computer-brain normie, reeee). "...I can cover that. A hundred? Escrow? Wire transfer? ...Unmarked small-denomination bills?"

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    George taps away at ecto interfaces and handles a transmission of payment. "Art deals, am I right? Yeah, she handles my cash. How's six fifty ahead, and then the rest after, however all this goes down?" Though honestly, if Yuuki is going to be handling this, he won't mind the hundred thousand up front. No skin off his nose! "Love working with creative people." George says, giving a thumbs up. "Nobody in the universe like 'em. Glad to work with you." He gives a wink under those AR glasses and a quick fingergun. "I'm always punctual, you give me a time and a place and I'll give them some cash and a face." He takes a sip of his drink just to punctuate it; he feels satisfied about this exchange!

Septette Arcubielle (632) has posed:
     "Sorry, but I shouldn't have another," Septette gracefully protests. "Looks like I'll need to be heading out-" And then she's served anyway, so she shrugs and knocks it back. It'd be rude to return it at this point, wouldn't it? Now to disentangle herself from her new friend: she reaches into her pouch and pulls out a small amethyst prism, lit from within by a smoky fractal mote of light- like the filament of a lightbulb, if filaments were branched and wriggly.

     She rolls it across the bar towards the braintank-gal like a die, then stands up. "Sorry to be so abrupt. Hope that can keep you entertained in my stead- figure out what makes it tick." It's a Pole Stone, a teleportation trinket! Without a paired crystal and magical talent it's not much practical use, but its composition and power source ought to be a real head-scratcher.

     That social responsibility discharged, she slips into position behind George and Yuki, with the alert-yet-affectedly-casual demeanor of a Professional Bodyguard overseeing the exchange. It's a sight to behold, given that she's just short enough to have her line-of-sight blocked by George's shoulder.

Rory White (673) has posed:
    Rory is at a bit of a loss with this. Now she knows who's about.. and that information is filed away for later use if the group gets in oer their heads! But this leaves her usnure how to help pin down where anything STRANGE might be going on...

    This is why AGIs still need human supervision from time to time, isn't it?

    Rory rather stupidly just stands there, sifting through Mesh search data and ponderin her next move. If this was anything OTHEr than a Scum Barge she might have some idea of how to pinpoint nefarious behavior.

    But... this is a SCUM BARGE. There's suspicious behavior EVERYWHERE. so how to separate the acceptable stuff from the unacceptable stuff?

    With no other leads to go on, she begins a new covert search on radioactive materials availability and who is supposed to have control of them, hoping it will give her a lead for figuring out where anyone might hoep to steal any such materials FROM.

Staren (42) has posed:
    The kid blinks at Yuuki. He didn't suspect they were working together. So pretending to be an incompetent MMARGer was an act... well, whatever. He's actually surprised -- he didn't think this far ahead. How WILL he accept Multiversal money? "Um..." he thinks. "Wire transfer. Give me a moment."

    Those monitoring the local mesh see a request for help establishing a multiversal bank account go up. It's claimed in seconds.


    I think they found it. Just need to make a Multiversal bank account for some mob underling.

    Good. I'll get it to someone who can do that.

    I'll keep watching them.


    The brain-for-a-head oohs, taking the mysterious object and 'looking' at it with her head, then cheerfully waves as Septette. "Thanks! I'll see you around!"

    The boy considers George's offer. "Eighty up front." One way or another, a price is soon negotiated, and after several minutes, the boy gets back to them with a fresh account in some bank out in the Multiverse that specializes in anonymity.

    He gives them a time and a place. It's the ship with the most guards, owned by a 'Grey Xu', and the meeting is a couple hours from now.

A Couple Hours From Now, The Ship With The Most Guards

    From the Ecstatic Metamorphosis's aft docking area, two gorilla uplifts in SWAT-level body armor and two slitheroids (robotic naga-form morphs) all carrying railpistols escort the group across the docking tether into a retrofitted ore freighter, where a woman with vaguely asian features wearing a silvery bodysuit greets them. "Welcome, most illustrious buyers!" She bows. "I'm sure you're eager to see what I have for sale, so if you'll just leave your weapons here and come back to the cargo bay, I can show you what's on offer..."

    The security starts searching them for weapons and confiscating any that aren't built into someone's body. If they want to go in guns blazing, they'll need to do it while they still have guns...

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
Yuna legitimately doesn't have any weapons at all on her person. Neither does Elner, for that matter. Now, the Light Suit which Yuna is wearing *does* seem to give off a mild energy signature, but it's not really designed to work as a 'weapon' in the usual sense - there's just a low-level force field emanating from it to surround Yuna's body. (Or more accurately, the Light Suit itself seems to *be* some kind of energy field, on closer inspection.)

Yuna submits to the search without argument, although if anyone's hands get too inquisitive, she *will* call them out on it.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
They're searching for weapons and confiscating them... Oh damn...

Rebecca came fully equipped so she knows she's in a bit of trouble once they find her weapons. Her Beretta, her MP5K, even her knife, all likely to be confiscated. The girl begins to sweat a little, but then realizes that it's better to go with it. She slowly unequips her weapons and readies them to be confiscated. Although there is a look of concern on the girl's face, as they might think she has other plans...

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    George turns out his pockets for the search. That means letting go of his telescoping baton. It doesn't mean letting go of his electro-gloves. The shock gloves have their wiring systems deeply embedded in finely insulated layers using nanoporous fabric, and psychic charge generation. It just looks like engineering workwear. "I do love illustrious buying." George says, with a broad grin. "But boy, you really underestimated the eagerness part."

    And with a single clean motion, he kicks the hand of whoever's holding the baton, intending to smash it out of their hands and get them disabled by the reflexive urge to grab for it instead of shoot him. This also ducks his upper body low, enough that he can lash out and wrap his gloves around the wrist of one of the nearer guards, electrifying them and trying to get at the pistol.

    He doesn't bother waiting to try the pistol -- no doubt it's smart-locked -- and so instead he immediately whips it as hard as possible towards the one who took his baton, trying to smash him in the head, leap onto him, grab his baton, and bean him repeatedly in the neck until they're limp enough for George to grab their hand and force their own finger to pull the trigger on several shots at the remaining security.

    Success or no, George intends to at least drive them into cover; ideally, it'll be enough for him to RUSH deeper into the ship where he can get at the goods themselves, and make sure there's no chance of escape!

Septette Arcubielle (632) has posed:
     Septette's perfectly fine with the search, at first. Her pack contains a few weird trinkets, but the curved blades built into her body are rather quaint! There aren't even any guns or anything; it's like someone tried to build a bipedal killbot with only Medieval melee weapons. It's almost adorable, in the same way that an original Ford Model T is.

     'Almost' is the operative word. She slips off her shawl to reveal a skeletal frame with a hollow ribcage, rolls her shoulders and then... there's a noise like a gunshot. She unfolds one of the blades on her arms and slashes towards a gorilla's neck at speeds high enough to create a brief white sonic vapor cone, following it up with a rib-crunching punch to the chest in case that fails to neatly decapitate.

     "EVERYONE," she bellows, "WEAPONS OUT." The pulsing crimson core in her chest rises to an ominous glow as the blades on her other arm unfold into an uncanny murderous assemblage as she moves to her next target. The other Elites will likely have time to take out the other armed guards before she can do so, but if any slip through the cracks, Septette will be right there to finish the job.

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
Oh, they're going loud already? Yuna's not sure whether to disapprove of George's abrupt switch from 'sneaky' to 'fight our way in,' but she rolls with it - trying to grapple one of the guards who was searching her, and to take advantage of the microgravity to send him or her (or it) flying off towards a bulkhead. By the time she finishes twisting around and pushing off, her right hand has a pistol in it, bulky yet sleek.

And then she starts squeezing off shots, not exactly laying down beamspam but trying to nail the majority of the guards with focused stunning hard-light bolts. As is usual for Yuna, none of them are going to be particularly injurious - her 'don't kill if it can be avoided' policy is in full force here.

Once she's fairly confident that they can proceed without being further molested by the security they've passed through, she flies after George and the others.

Staren (42) has posed:
    Some people are willing to play along and give up their weapons. George is not.

    They don't actually get around to taking everyone's weapons. There's four guards, and they start searching the others, but when one of the neo-gorillas grabs George's baton everything gets very chaotic, very quickly. These guards aren't trained agsinst robusting -- most of the time, combat around here consists of either dumping as many bullets/missiles into someone as quickly as possible, or running up and punching them with a shock glove before they can react. Robusting is the stuff of movies.

    It IS a gorilla, though, so it takes a bit longer than George would like to get it to go limp, but in the meantime, railpistol shots fly everywhere -- they can't get a clear shot at him and the impulse not to risk shooting their buddy is strong, even if he DOES have a backup.

    The other gorilla is neatly beheaded by Septette, in the middle of turning towards George Shenanigans.

    That leaves the two slitheroids, and Gray Xu herself. She looks enraged, and has wordlessly grabbed a longarm off the wall, levelling it at George AND the gorilla and firing a cloud of diamondoid flechettes -- three clouds actually, it's on burst fire -- to try and give him AND the gorilla a few hundred superfluous ventilation holes.

Staren (42) has posed:
    Yuna tosses the slitheroid searching her in microgravity. It's able to reorient itself surprisingly quickly -- it's used to this body AND to microgravity -- but before it has time to fire its railpistol, it desperately tries to dodge her light bolts. Energy weapons are scary, and given what George and Septette just did, it has no idea Yuna's weapons are nonlethal.

Rory White (673) has posed:
    If anyone expects Rory to be walking in without some kind of plan, they're utterly crazy. Which is why she doesn't, in fact, intend to utterly disarm herself. Oh, she walks along with the group just the same, but the moment she's aboard this mysterious vessel she sets her HACKING endeavors into motion, seeking to stealthily sniff out and probe the local Mesh for any nodes she can use to slip into administration of the ship itself. This might not be so doable, depending onh ow it's setup, but any bit of control she can seize of the ship while remaining covert is a positive.

    She isn't, actually, carrying anything besides a small shredder for self defense, nothing odd for the locale, but there's no telling what's hidden inside of her Synth, right?

    OF course then Septette has to ask the question. The million credit question. And...

    No sooner does she ask 'why?' then ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!

    This takes Rory COMPLETELY by surprise! WHAT. WHAT WHAT WHAT, that wasn't a thing she expected!

    The Bluenette dives for the nearest sort of cover, which might be behind someone else. Friend or foe, doesn't really matter. But since she hasn't yet surrendered her Shredder, she brings it out!

    However, the Shredder is NOT what she's keen on using! Instead... she quietly continues operations on the Mesh, attempting to subvert the ship. ADDED to this, she begins bombarding the agents with all kinds of garbledeygook exploits to turn their AR against them and blast them with all sorts of phantom noise and imagery!

    All without saying a word. At least, not from her mouth. Instead, a message goes over the VPN.

    <Warning would be appreciated next time.>

Yuuki Kuran (518) has posed:
Hours of not getting anything done and being out of her depth is, in fact, pretty much par for an outing with Yuuki Kuran. The oddest part, for her, is that the normalcy of weirdness in this small slice of the world was downright confusing. It was almost sandpaper to her worldview, of denying her inner self, or at least keeping it under wraps.

But they weren't here to re-align everyone's perceptions with the New Self. They were here for ""art"".

At the door, Yuuki affects an airy smile, her expression hiding the deep thinking within her mind.

>> 'I really have to think of something cool to say, don't I? But it should be cool, and not edgy-murdery.

Getting patted down for weapons by the gorillas and George going full ham, leading off the others, and Septette's shout of WEAPONS OUT causes her to snap from her reverie, bringing up a hand to brush a bit of her hair behind her right ear as the gunshots start. Her stance is casual - dismissive - and the decapitation of the gorilla causes her eyes to glow with the spray of gore and the impacts from bullets into flesh.

"Perhaps we'll paint the walls red..." She smirks, sweeping her hand out - and with it, a telekinetic crush-force aimed at the snakes in the back, presuming her allies would browbeat the Person With A Name into submission.

Bullets impact her, causing 'spluts' of blood and the whumps of railgun rouns piercing flesh, but she barely reacts. "George, that was too edgy, wasn't it? It was the first thing that came to mind..."

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca seizes the chaos in the moment to regain her weapons. She wastes no time in looking for cover, knowing that there's many possibilities about what she's up against. Regardless of whether or not she can find cover, she's going to try to take out Gray Xu. Or rather incapacitate the target.

"You messed with the wrong group!" Rebecca yells out as she fires a couple of shots at Gray Xu, intending not to kill but to stun the target. She'd use her stun baton, but she doesn't want to get too close.

Staren (42) has posed:
    With Rory's fast machine mind and up-to-date knowledge of zero-day exploits, she can actually get control of the ship surprisingly quickly! She had to try a lot of things to do it though. So, that's cameras, thruster control, tether and airlock control, the works...

    Including the cargo manifest.

    There is a canister in the cargo hold tagged 'TITAN nanoswarm'

    There is now a convenient headless gorilla to hide behind while Rory considers the ramifications of this information. Clearly, experiences like this are what she's missed out on by joining the Paladins instead of getting recruited by Firewall. Enjoy your mental stress!

    Gray Xu grunts in annoyance and starts to run for the cargo compartment while her muse fights Rory's AR illusions. The snakes are telekinetically and illusorily assaulted, and fire everywhere wildly until sustained crush force breaks their bodies. That's a lot of railgun slugs lodged in the hull. There may be some small holes and a distinct hissing noise by now, but really, that's not much of a concern compared to all the gunfire.

    Gray Xu can't dodge while assaulted by illusions. That silver bodysuit of hers is strange -- Rebecca's shots splatter it apart like a fluid, revealing a dark grey bodysuit underneath that seems to resist the piercing effect of the bullets somewhat... but the arms dealer cries out in pain as she's sent tumbling in microgravity. She starts cursing in Mandarin. "You assholes! I'm an honest businesswoman!"

    In all the chaos, some of that wild fire from the dying serpentoids ricochets back through the ship.

    There's a loud BANG and Rory can see that item suddenly flagged as DAMAGED.

    In the back of the ship, scintillating silver fog starts to spread across the cargo hold.

Septette Arcubielle (632) has posed:
     The little murderbot takes a moment to glance at Yuuki's blatant injuries, showing an unreadable flat expression. Then her earfins twitch violently and her violet eyes spike in brightness. Tactical assessment: if anyone can't outpace the nanoswarm, it's George. He's the closest to the cargo compartment. She turns and sprints down the hallway after him quickly enough to gouge claw-marks into the metal.

     "Squishy! Get out NOW. Right fucking-" She breaches into the cargo compartment by tearing through an internal wall, just in time to see the silvery fog spreading through the room. "NOW." She raises one hand to spew billowing clouds of partially-liquefying air at it in hopes of slowing it down through sheer cold, then grabs his wrist with the other!

Rory White (673) has posed:
    The moment that people are OFF the ship, Rory ignores the ENTIRE safety procedure checklist and takes full control of the ship, forcing it to disengage docking clamp and FIRE THRUSTERS to take it AWAY from the ship - and ANYTHING ELSE first thing. And if she can maintain control of it long enough, she'll plot a course straight to the SUN with it...

    She doesnt' trust anything LESS to be capable of totally obliterating one of THOSE horrible things!

Yuna Kagurazaka (385) has posed:
Yuna gets into the cargo bay right about the moment at which that silvery mist starts spreading - and immediately turns around, heading back the way she came as fast as she can go, using a combination of pushing off from whatever architecture she can get and controled spurts from the null-G maneuvering belt she got on the way into the hub.

At the same time, Elner is holding out of people's path of travel, monitoring the spread of the nanoswarm - and standing by to teleport to safety anyone who isn't out by the 29-second-mark that their mysterious benefactor laid down. If all of the Elites are safe with time to spare, Gray Xu will get teleported to safety as well - although in the businesswoman's case, 'safety' is going to include Paladin custody or something ...

Assuming anyone in the group is *from* the Paladins. Yuna's not even sure of that, but as far as she's concerned, somebody needs to arrest the woman whose ship held the now-released WMD.

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    "Oh shhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIIIiit!" George shouts, immediately aborting his rush through cargo and pulling back. He's stumbling hard; the diamondoid flechettes had to go through the gorilla because George used him for cover (of course he would), and he wound up badly bruised through the armor of his softsuit. And then Septette comes smashing out of the nearby wall! "Oh shiiiiiiiIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIwait no this is a good thing." He calls out, and then sort of goes limp when her big hand grabs his wrist and he gets yanked out! Stumbling and dashing as fast as his bruised body can take him.

    Back out of the bay, down the ramps, out into the Barge, and sort of diving away from the clamps and systems of the dock as everything seals up and gets this ship outta here!!

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca's primary goal is to get out of here right now, as all hell is breaking loose. But then she hears that Yuna has the businesswoman, and she decides to make a break for the cargo bay, hoping to take the woman into custody. Her legs guide her almost like they're on autopilot while her lungs are breathing as steadily as possible to avoid running out of air.

When she finally arrives, Rebecca proceeds to handcuff the woman before guiding her back to the Odyssey where she got on. She makes sure that the woman is stable before placing her in a confined space while keeping an eye on her for the ride back.

Yuuki Kuran (518) has posed:
Yuuki's wounds have the strange effect of being 'bloodless' beyond the initial strike, and even the rail-spikes shot into the ground around (and through) her bear no viscera. As a giant, bulkhead-eating nanoswarm is released with a forboding name, and she's encouraged to hoof it, she nods firmly and starts zipping for the door. "My space-suit-y thing got all shot up, so I'd rather not get tossed into space!" She agrees.

Is that how hardsuits work?


"Geor-" Whoops, Septette has him, and the Paladins seem to be heading out in good pace. No worries, then!

Except for how they accidentally almost* unleashed a nanoswarm on a populated area.

(* Not fixed yet!)

Septette Arcubielle (632) has posed:
     Septette skids to a halt back in the dock, lets go of George, and immediately steps several feet away from the rest of the party. She raises one finger, signaling for everyone else to stay away! A moment later, her frame crackles with coruscating electricity that causes the lights in the hangar and nearby sensitive electronics to flicker. She heats up until her whole body glows a dull red, then abruptly quenches again with a hiss and a billow of steam...

     And then sighs, hands on her hips. "Emergency decontam complete. Mind if I do the same to you, George? You know, just as a precaution." She's wearing a shit-eating grin as she scoops her shawl and satchel up again, but takes a menacing step towards him all the same before cracking up with laughter.

Staren (42) has posed:
    The last people to get off the ship, if they glance back towards the cargo bay, catch a glimpse of the fog starting to move and begin eating the ship from the inside out. Rory has a great view from her cameras! A tendril of fog reaches for Gray Xu, but she's teleported to safety. Honestly, she's lucky that the Paladins will grab her before Firewall can. She might NOT wish the nanoswarm had eaten her! She tries to make a run for it, handcuffs or no, but George's shock gloves can subdue her easily enough.

    From windows in the docking tether (and the habitat's external cameras, for the tech-savvy), they can see the ship undock and start to fly away from the station before, true to the mysterious voice's word, missiles fly into it from another ship and blow it up, before the firing ship high-tails it away. First conventional explosives break the hull into an expanding cloud of shrapnel, followed immediately by the distinctive fireballs of plasma missiles making sure to absolutely cook all of it before it can expand so much, leaving the pieces a singed, half-slagged ruin. That seems to have rendered the swarm inert -- the glittery cloud is no longer moving or cohering in any way.

    The voice contacts them over their ectos, congratulating them for a job well done and promising more potential work when they've found out how Grey Xu obtained a TITAN artifact. As for payment... they can take credits, or ask for favors -- they're left with an anonymous mailbox they can send requests to.

    It seems whoever hired them very much values their anonymity.