(The ISD Rubicon, ship by Ansel Hsiao.)
The human replica droid Jolit is standing in front of a seething, writhing mass of darkness. The end of the world given tangible form as seen through an observation window, like the one at the end of Empire Strikes Back on the medical frigate. A pane out into the void, or in this case, the Void, as the x-rays of a massive singularity-mass object play across his optics. Behind him: the sounds of magma & lava, the erupting roar of the fiery earth making fists of flame. He turns, & there is a ledge overlooking a black basalt plain, split by a Nile Delta of rivers of fire, & inhumanly shaped stairs leading down. Jolit takes them awkwardly, ending up in a medical theater, strapped to a table. Paralyzed, unable to move, he cannot even struggle against the restraints &...there are whirring drills & laser scalpels in his brain, boring into the back of his skull, lobotomizing him, the smell of his own burning grey matter a horrid parallel to the smell of dental work in progress. The faces surrounding him are oversized metal masks, hacking & coughing, skull-like visages looking down on him...& he wakes up from shut down mode in the cyborg pirate Eris Berserk's quarters, looking at her in her Ellen Ripley underwear bobbing in a tank of bacta, armless, her blue torso studded with feeding tubes & respirator valves...holding a drill & a bone saw in his hands.
Joey's malfunctioning assassin droid's dream sequence aside-- the rest of the party seriously considers putting a restraining bolt on him-- from there it's a montage sequence. Using such storytelling tricks is one of the ways I hoping to instill a cinematic feel, as well as things like this session's cold open & wipes to advance the story, like how we exited the montage. Last session ended with them getting a payday & hatching a plot to steal a corvette class Star Destroyer that Eris' contacts have reported adrift & seemingly abandoned. Eris has a semi-scrapped TIE/br Boarding Shuttle, a TIE/br Bomber variant whose payload is exchanged for plasma cutters & room for a squad of stormtroopers. It is rusted out & the drive system isn't piling, & Para Totool, the former Imperial officer played by Rachel, stays behind to work on it, with Jolit's ID-9 "parrot" droid helping out with the paint job. Jolit, meanwhile, practices with his new vibro-axe, & Eris shows up, mentioning incidentally that her "vibro-blaster" combo weapon was a gift from the man who taught her everything she knows, the Chiss teaching the droid a few moves that work for wielders with jacked-up cyberarms, like they both have.
(Jolit, concept art by Joey Ammons.)
Jax Cadderly, gambler & smuggler on the run described by Raj as "what if Han & Lando had a son," goes to one of the franchised medical droid booths in Whorlport, 21-B9's, something like a healthcare automat in a Zoltan vending machine. Theynur Kötturinn, Burke's felinoid Farghul Force-sensitive fringer, has...felt something, a disturbance in the Force, when Para's fancy flying saved them all by the skin of their teeth in the collapsing super-structure of The Girders. She gives Para a bit of mumbo-jumbo, enough to spook the ex-Imperial, & Jolit returns to "help" with the ship just in time to scrape up the paint & get scolded by his own multi-purpose droid. Jax, back in Whorlport, is following up on a tip from Eris about his...well, his nemesis. He's on the run from a Black Sun crime boss who retired upward from wetwork, Rao Kast. "Wait, as in Jodo Kast?" asks Raj; well, yeah! He's a Mandelorian, they come in clans! There's an abandoned commerce guild big box store filled with gonk droids, each tethered to brightly coloured flutterplumes, the avianoids a rainbow code for dead drops, love letters & other anonymous exchanges. Jax can't figure the setup out, but spots some of Kast's low level gangsters hanging around, Mando-wannabes swaggering with vibroswords & ultra-violent colours. Back at the shop, Para & the droids get the bomber up & running again; in fact the whole engine block is brand new, they just had to peel off the factory presets!
Running the Imperial blockade isn't actually all that difficult, if you plan things correctly! Theynur is in the TIE boarding shuttle's cockpit, cat-like features obscured by the TIE fighter pilot's helmet; she's filed a false flight plan in the navicomputer that makes it look like the ship is meant to go to a rendezvous location & wait for a transfer...& the Bureau of Ships & Services agent in her TIE interceptor & her two wingman assume by the crisp paint job, 501st worthy, that it is a VIP pick-up. Some fast talking gets them past the orbital BoSS inspection with no issues, the TIEs distinctive roar accompanying them as they fly past the Jubilee Wheel space station & Crosh's hijacked Kuat shipyards. The Imperial fleet is daunting: three Super Star Destroyers, flanked by classic Star Destroyers in Royal Guard scarlet. Out into the Oort cloud; the Ord Mantell system has only the single planet, & is one of a number of stars in the Bright Jewel nebula. The frozen comets floating there are vast, & scuttling in the void amongst them are the goliath binary starsifters, very similar to binary vaporators in most respects except scale. The things are capital ship sized, robots with transluscent nautilus shells filled with churning gears of darkness & light, with "tentacles" of optics, sensors, manipulators & inputs. They mine the ice & rock of the comets, building more of themselves & refining rare cosmic minerals. Friendly to the Droid Uprising, they put out a "goldrush" call to scramble any sensors in the area & provide cover for the TIE Bomber to abscond, the operatic vacuum of space split by the sounds of an R2 unit's whistles & chatter, dragged out long & low like humpback whale calls.
(Eris Berserk, concept art by Joey Ammons.)
The Rubicon is stranded in a death spiral around a proto-star condensing in the nebula, a stellar whirlpool that Theynur slingshots around, bringing the TIE up to one of the corvette's docking ports. Para & Jax are in imperial uniforms & Theynur's species is still masked under a TIE pilot's helmet, & Jolit they figure they can explain away as a bounty hunter: if the craft isn't as abandoned as it appears to be, they are set to bluff their way through as a salvage & repair team. Eris waits at the getaway ship to make certain nothing goes awry with the escape plan. The thermal shielding on the Star Destroyer is down, & the ship is frosty but the party is buttoned up tight-- Theynur especially in her environmental survival gear-- & weather it well. Two things besides that are immediately worrying: Jax & the Farghul smell hints of refined Tibana gas, & conclude there must be a dangerous power conduit leak somewhere on the ship. The other is the sound of Jokerized, haunting laughter echoing through the corridors...occasionally accompanied by the sounds of screams of terror, suddenly cut short. Welcome, friends! The players are thinking of standing their ground to confront whatever hyena-thing is cackling in the distance, but a chamber portal slides open & a pilot officer is there gesturing frantically for them to get inside & take cover. He's Lieutenant Commander Jeran Gauth, TIE ace, & with him is the injured stormtrooper Sergeant Eevee, EV-2600. Her arm is severed & none of the party has the medical expertise to alleviate her pain, but the hiding Imperials do confirm: red saber, & there is something mysterious "compromising" the crew. Para, who outranked sailors & soldiers like this in her day, order Lieutenant Commander Gauth to lead the way, & Jolit is helping carry Eevee, as an honorary member of the one-arm club that he & Eris are in.
The party's plan is two-fold. The priority is to grab the file on Eris from the ship's main computer hub, to discover why the Imperator of the Imperial Praetorians is looking for her, & the secondary mission-- frankly, our party's heart's ambition-- is to steal the ship itself. Para has her own mission, as well, & with her ordering Jeran Gauth around, they find the datacore with no difficulties. It is a Rogue One situation: a massive shaft running the depth of the ship, with the datatapes stored in a stack down the middle, accessible by remote-controlled arms, & a separate workstation to look up the reference tags & metadata. Your typical user interface experience. The players characters & NPCs set up cross-fire covering the corridors while Para & Theynur try to hack the system with a dataspike. They are bemused to discover that AK-88, the astroprobe droid, is not any good at computers...there's a reason the R-series was so popular! Her programming from the probe side of her lineage gives her the Vigilance skill, & she burbles off a warning as a small horde of utterly silent naval engineers charge them with pipes & shivs. Para grabs her datatape & tries to reprogram it with heightened security clearances, as if plotting to play double-agent some day; she glitches the final line of code but doesn't notice, thinking she's succeeded. Eyes bleeding as they charge, the party cuts the quietly berserker greasemonkeys down with blaster fire, with the ones that get close enough mowed down by Jolit like Obi-Wan in a bar fight. Still, there are just enough of them to stab the already wounded EV-2600 to death with their crudely made knives. Hearing more frantic boots, they grab Eris' tape-- marked with the highest levels of encryption-- & abscond.
(Para Totool, concept art by Joey Ammons.)
There's a matter of opinion on weather they should head towards the bridge, or back to the bomber. On one hand, wasn't the whole point to steal a Star Destroyer, even if it is a miniature one? Para needs to transport something...big. On the other hand...red lightsaber, & some insinuation that whatever is attacking the ship needs someone to help pilot the ship. They can't ask too many questions for fear of blowing their cover with Gauth, but enough of them seem committed to going back to their TIE boarding ship that they are headed that way by inertia. The astroprobe proves her worth again, making sure they don't get lost in ship's maze of hallways during their expeditious retreat. Not fast enough, though: just as they round the corner to the airlock, something...else comes down the intersecting passageway. Something in layers of tattered robes; as if one was worn threadbare, another put over top & worn ragged, another placed over that to get tangled & torn, all resulting in draping ribbons, a ringwraith hood, & the dull hum & crimson glow of the promised red lightsaber.
I thought I might have to kill someone. They make a fear check, & Jeran Gauth is the only one who fails it, straight-up hightailing it out of there to save his own skin. It is a little bit Tantiv IV hallway, if you know what I mean; Jax (who always fires first) & Para open up with their weapons but the blaster bolts don't seem to phase the thing. Its fingers are mismatched & crudely stitched together-- they dub the hysterical thing Frankensith-- & as they touch Para's face she goes blue as the life begins to flow out of her & into the Force vampire. She's felt a hate & rage this strong before, because she's been on the outskirts of the room when Darth Vader was present, back when he was still alive & before she fled the empire, back when he would visit the woman Para served under, the woman who is now Imperator. Theynur can feel it too, simply because the Force is strong with her. Jolit takes a swing with his massive quivering blade & the vibroaxe thumps into flesh & metal...& again the thing is unmoved, except to jam it's lightsaber through his torso, out his back & then to score across his legs, knocking him prone, doing quite a bit of damage even while continuing to drain away the living Force from Para Totool with the Dark Side. Eris has the twin ion engines hot & her hand on the release clamp screaming "go, go, go!" & Jax Cadderly grabs Para out of the thing's clutches & into the hatch. Theynur, seeing Jolit on the ground, the nightmarish thing still giggling over him & ready with it's laser sword, snarls "we're leaving...now!" She reaches out with the Force, grabbing the replicant droid & yanking him into the craft with supernatural power. Eris pulls the lever &:
Cue the escape pod sound effect from Episode IV & then that TIE fighter scream!