mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Star Wars: End of Empire: The Red Sun Rises.

(Frankensith, concept art by Joey Ammons.)

The White Zone, Imperial district of Worlport. A scarlet Praetorian Star Destroyer hangs turgid over the city. Far below it, the Imperator stands at a podium before an AT-AC3, an all-terrain armored command, control & communications walker. She is backed by four ominous Royal Guards, Vice Moff Solt & Countessa Misaani. They are flanked in turn on each side by black clad ISB agents with disruptor pistols & silently hovering interrogation droids (white jackets are internal affairs) & a squad of stormtroopers mounted on AT-PTs with a lead AT-ST scout walker centered behind Imperator Pryl: Imperial nesting eggs.

Tanda Pryl's voice is beautiful & stentorious, Chandrilan debate school crisp as she says, in summary, that Wuukar the Wookiee is an escaped slave & droid saboteur conspiring to create disruptions across the Bright Jewel system. While his alien accomplice Sshushath has been conscripted into a labor force for rehabilitation, Wuukar has squandered the second chance indenture had given him...

..& with that she personally executes the Wookie by red bladed laser sword, a sizzling slice as the bloody eye of Ord Mantell's crimson sun rises, the Star Destroyer's eclipse keeping the Imperator shadowed. Obviously, she says now backlit a toxic cadmium red, these brutes are not the brains behind the mass droidjacking, & so she offers a one million credit reward for the capture of the cyborg terrorist Eris Berserk, mastermind behind these Rebel crimes.

The PCs have no problem slipping past Imperial patrols & joining the flotilla of troopships landing on the planet, having already filed forged flight plans & gotten proper clearances. Their refurbished TIE/boarder cruises across the sky ahead of the horizon, & the hologram projections of the Imperator looming statuesque in the skyline, even as the astroprobe Kaytee's own holoprojector renders it in miniature for the characters in the boarding pod of the starfighter. In the background comms as the PCs talk, she can be heard with the rest of the boilerplate you expect from Commander Verbost's call: mandatory re-enlistment for every former imperial servant on favourable terms or forcible conscription. Crimes against the Empire are punishable by periods of indenture. The Empire pledges to respect individual world's traditions & corporate practices of indenture. Already the Sorosuub Sales Vichy shows the benefits of accepting Praetorian protection...

Fleeing the ISD Rubicon & a brush with the Dark Side, Joey's character Jolit's organic sheath is cauterized meat, his internal systems are ruptured & leaking an artificial person milky white from lightsaber wounds. Para Totool is a veiny blue, gasping for thin life from the lifedraining fingers of that...thing & the felinoid Theynur has passed out after her visible use of the Force to save the replicant from certain doom. Eris flies back to her lair in the Savrip catacombs, where the droids have painted the staryacht False Profit in Imperial colour schemes. The privateer has had her bacta tank installed inside, & Jax & AK-88 load Rachel's injured character Para in. The blue-skinned Chiss cyborg stalks back from her quarters where she had been conferring with the leaders of the Droid Uprising, The Committee, & says she's going to fly Jolit there to get him repaired...with the datatape from the not-quite successful attempt to steal a corvette-class Star Destroyer. Jax Cadderly, on the other hand, the droids have a mission for: they need him to go steal or win the protocol droid & Uprising spy, 4-DOX. It was taking the fall for the heist of her memory crystal that got Wuukar executed, & The Committee has decided that it is time for her to come in from the cold.

(Jax Cadderly, concept art by Joey Ammons.)

Jax Cadderly is Raj's character, & he takes off on a swoopbike muttering “why’s it always have to be red lightsabers?” under his breath, cruising to the Blue Pyramid, a sabacc parlor that sits on the very edge of the cliff marking the border of the Scraplands, the garbage prairies & junkyard canyons of rust & ruin. In fact, the eponymous azure "pyramid" of the Blue Pyramid is just the tip of an ancient blue obelisk, its length running down the full height of the chasm, revealed From Dusk till Dawn style, as the giant walker-sized droids with molten cores known as Fire-breathers stomp below gulping up garbage in their flaming maws. The massive incinerator bots are overseen by the tiny Junkers, who some believe to be Jawas given over to cybernetic addiction. The Jawas themselves have built modest second-hand empires, flitting about on sandskiffs, "fishing" with electromagnets, divining the best salvage. One of the newly lower middle-class Jawa "princes," Knnick-Knnick, is entering, just as Jax arrives, in clean blue robes & a conical metal hat.

The musician is a Bith named Tech M'or, a light pianist who occasionally uses an omni-box or mood-synth to create a Godspeed You! Black Emperor-like post-Modal Aubade cantina song for the film's soundtrack. The tech'ed out Quarren infochant in the corner, Valdo Vance, has cables jacked into the back of his head, mirroring the tentacles of his face, piping data as slicers & snitches whisper & exchange datachips with him. Several droids sit, kneel or wheel up to his palanquin-throne to get junk code uploaded, luminescent hallucinadraulics pumped into their systems along bright fiberoptic lines. Partially obfuscated by spice-clouds, a diabolical Devonian, skeletal Given & tenebrous Defel huddle in a booth talking to a humanoid figure on a holoprojecter; Meph, Rerak & Sk'ol. (Of course all of the background characters have names & their own stories: this is Star Wars.) Known for being an "off-white" bar for the Imperial margins, there are clumps of Garrison folks slumming it at the Blue Pyramid, but it is empty of the usual "former" Imperials in the wake of the Praetorian's ISB crackdown.

Crosh is reprised by Joey, a callback to the first appearance of deuteragonist villainy, the arms dealer getting a spin with Jolit out of comission; all the while Para floats in a bacta tank & Rachel tries out the espionage droid 4-DOX, whose surface persona ends up a bit Lucille Ball's Gal Friday. The proprietor & dealer at the Pyramid, Mu, is held in awe by the Junkers & Jawas, the cyborgs & cultists, because it is— or was— a B'omarr monk, a brain cut free from any meat body, pickled inside a BT-16 spider droid & running a casio as a low-ley temple to entropy & chance. Crosh brings 4-DOX to the table to help him decipher non-human tells & bluffs, as he plays with a cast of otherworldly scum & villainy. Jax sits down with a flourish of his long coat that brandishes his heavy blaster, bluffing for all the world like he belongs there…& they deal him in.
    Zar Stygos is a Zygerian Slaver with Thundercats hair, a bejeweled chestplate & delicate golden manacles, himself belonging to another Zygerian, the suzerain Baal Maat. A nostalgic fan of the in-the-sand rivalry between Sshushath the Zode & Wuukar, the reptilian Trandoshan kneels next to the slaver’s stool with an exploding collar around his neck, having been won by Zar Stygos from Crosh after a particularly dramatic hand. Over the course of the game, Jax Cadderly sees him playing with a skifter, a fraudulent sabacc card that lets you chose what it displays, but the slaver is using it to lose, so no one calls him on it. He elucidates the Praetorian’s goal of setting up a system of “triangle trade,” in which war profiteers like Crosh form one corner, with slaves & spice holding up the other ends. Already, semi-sentients like the Savrips are being pre-emptively “indentured.”

    Conscience Argos, though Jax never actually gets his name, is a thinspun human in formal purple robes with a tall lavender hat, face haunted by pupil dark eyes from iris to sclera. A spice pusher from Kessel, he passes a little silver tray in the scoundrel’s direction, offering a friendly bump of cardamom-scented Avabush or the more volatile Glitterstim, a substance that crackles prismatic in the light as Argos snorts a line. Avabush, Jax knows, has a side effect of acting like a truth serum. Glitterstim is much more intense, rumored to heighten your senses to the edge of ESP but with an addictive edge. Jax declines to sample the wares. An acolyte of fear, Argos finds the Imperator’s shock & awe tactics an admirable use of limited forces, & mentions that the elite research teams of The Maw are hard at work developing some kind of droid control signal, a broadcast restraining bolt.

    [Low Snarl] has a name that to many ears is just a guttural growl; Low Snarl is the Basic transliteration. He is a Gank killer in caution yellow heavy armor, wolfish face behind a tinted plasteel helmet hemorrhaging sparkplug cyber-brain structures in the back. The shaded helm sparkles with occasional diode flashes: a successful Xenology check lets Jax know that Gank’s have a cultural tradition of cybernetic upgrades, starting with an internal communication device, so he keeps his cards low so that the mercenary's packmates, like [Young Gold] at the bar, can’t read his hand. He has a predator’s glee at the Empire forcing the Hammerheads to strip-mine Ithor & chop down their Mother Jungle to fuel the war machine. Voice a hungry animal grumble rendered binary then dulcet by an implanted vocoder, [Low Snarl] sees the Praetorians as a pack of hunters, herding & culling their prey with a doctrine of buffer states & soft occupation.

    “Mother,” is what Zar Stygos calls the occupant of the booth the game table is backed up against. Blocked by a white privacy holoscreen, it is unclear if “Mother” is a name, title or term of endearment, as the occupant is completely concealed. She doesn’t speak, but when appropriate, old hands reach out through the intangible holographic screen to play her hand with black nails sharpened to talons & a gleaming poison needle attached to her index finger.
The gambling itself is fairly close to how the game suggests you run it. Cool or Deception, based on how you’d like to play your hand, plus Skullduggery if you want to cheat, 4-DOX, giving purposefully bad advice to Crosh, gives him penalties. Jax builds up the pot & talks trash about Crosh gambling with worthless Imperial credits while somehow convincing Zar Stygos to give him Sshushath the Zode outright, as Cadderly waxes poetic about being a true fan of the dried-up ex-gladiator. Losing on purpose & handing out slaves like party favours seems to be Zar's thing. It also gives Jax an in to provoke Crosh into betting his droid. Everything seems to be going great; a mixture of social engineering & being a skilled cardshark just might be their ticket out of here without any entanglements.

Which is when the saloon doors get kicked in by whooping, shouting gangbangers. Street toughs with T-shaped fluorescent tattoos over their eyes, nose & lips, one with sharp cheekbone lines, one with uni-visor goggles, all dayglow Mandolorean-esque. Their leader is a bald man who speaks excitedly, shouting frequently, periodically sucking a big hit of stimulant spice from a aerosol mask clipped to his chest like Saw Gerrera. Hopper Rose, an underboss of Black Sun Vigo Rao Kast. This is Conciliator Kek’s turf, but Hopper & his tribe of miscreants & Mando-wannabes— Bambam, Shank, Wriggles, Skeeter & Dalton— are here to…persuade Crosh that not selling his TIE fighters to Rao Kast is a bad idea. The problem is that Crosh is supposed to be exclusively supplying the Praetorians now, &…

…& then they spot Jax Cadderly. See, Jax & their boss, the Mandelorian former-assassin & crimeboss, go way back, back to a game of cards that went in Jax’s favour in a big way. Totally legit, he swears. Maybe they just want to haze Jax when they see him, but...maybe not. Either way, just as they get the shark smiles of bullies on their faces, the scoundrel whips out his blaster & gives Hopper a taste of hot laser, because, let’s all say it together, Jax always shoots first. The crew’s vibroblades come out; shivs for most of them, but Hopper Rose has a pair of vibroswords across his back, & before you can sneeze they are in his hand…& Sshushath the Trandoshan rages too, throwing caution to the wind & remembering past glories, giving Jax & 4-DOX— the droid all business now, dropping the flapper mumbo-jumbo as the infiltration protocols take hold— the opening they need to abscond, fleeing the scene to rendezvous with the Droid Uprising!

The leadership of the robot revolution, The Committee, hide in a circular, antique Separatist Lucrehulk-class capital ship gone submarine. It breaches the sea of toxic runoff & sinks again, keeping the droids secret’s in the dark of the ocean, half the rusted majesty of a former droid army, half the torture dungeons of Jabba’s palace, free of the conventions of organic morality or aesthetics. Eris Berserk & a repaired & healed Jolit & Para Totool rejoin Jax as 4-DOX leads them to the bridge of the ship, the bulb in its center, which is jammed full of hundreds & hundreds of astromech droids. Mostly R-series, including the curmudgeonly hitchhiker droid R5-NE Theynur Kötturinn picked up to make the hyperspace jump here in the first place. Linked & webbed over with cords, running in serial, electronic guts strewn about the room, The Committee is trying to calculate the odds of...well, everything.

Decrypting the stolen files from the Vigil-glass Star Destroyer is the agenda of the moment, & the number-crunching machines are chirping & whistling cacophonously away as the tape is plugged into the lone central control console. Looking through the code for headers & tags, keeping focus as line after line of semi-decipherable symbols slip by, the players do their best to help. The Empire isn't really looking for Eris Berserk, as it turns out. They are looking for her brother, her clutchmate, Cadecus Dee, for stealing a prototype Star Destroyer. A “kitchen sink” project starting with a cloaking device, The Insidious also includes interdiction capabilities, shield drainers, phase disrupters, a variety of other experimental weapons & countermeasures…& something else the Imperator is chasing. She doesn't want Eris at all, she's after something called Starkiller.

Wipe to an escape pod bobbing in space, scooped up by Lamda-class shuttle & flown into red Star Destroyer.

Cut to the TIE Ace Jeran Gauth from last session being questioned in interrogation by white-coated ISB Loyalty Officers, but rather than being mistreated he's obviously furnished with water & a stiff drink. Overseen by Lieutenant Commander Ulma Verbost, the Imperial Rachel helped flesh out as her PC’s former protége, the pilot from The Rubicon is looking at a holo-table, like a dejarik board, displaying corrupted security footage, rendered in three grainy blue dimensions: Blurry "bigfoot" images of the patchwork Dark Side user, strained by static. The “Frankensith” in the databank surrounded by frenzied, Jacob’s Ladder’d engineers. Freeze frame & rotate of stormtroopers being swarmed by a horde of maniacs. A bridge crew suicided en masse, along with the captain. The PC party in the databank messing with the tapes.

ISB silently hands Jeran Gauth a holochip, which he stares at for a moment before returning to them, & nodding. The agents hand the chip to Ulma, & she exits to the observation room, where a Royal Guard looms, observing silently. Ulma says to its back: "Lieutenant Commander Gauth can confirm. It was Para Totool, working with some wretched crew of smugglers & bounty hunters. She's part of the Rebel Alliance, & a traitor."

The figure in red just stands there, monolithic. But already plans are in motion...
Tags: end of empire, rpgs, star wars

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