I have been in Oita on a ferocious business trip, one day of which was meant to be spent watching fireworks in Beppu, only to have them rescheduled due to a typhoon that failed to deliver either any rain or any wind. Nothing interesting happened in Beppu, although I am proud of having survived a 7-hour meeting (yes, Japanese people work hard) without a break, spent entirely speaking Japanese, including teaching Markov Modeling and the basics of Relational Database Management Systems without any warning or preparation.

However, something interesting did happen on the way to Oita: I flew by Solarseed Air, and in their cute little in-flight magazine I found the following advert for a live-action Hello Kitty Role-playing experience:

What manner of bastard would imprison kitty chan?

What manner of bastard would imprison kitty chan?

Isn’t that adorable? Apparently Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel(?) have been kidnapped by Kuromi, who is some kind of evil anti-kitty that the official website describes as “cheeky but charming,” and you have to enter the “Black Wonder Tower” to rescue them. There is a password hidden in there somewhere, and you have to find it and get them out. It costs 600 yen each and children under 3 are free! The picture of the two girls with lanterns has writing next to it that says “Let’s pick up our lanterns and go in pairs to help!” The writing at the very top of the advert describes it as an “RPG-style Attraction.”

I don’t think there is better evidence than this of how much more comfortable Japanese nerd culture is with women than is western nerd culture. Or of how much more mainstreamed it is capable of being than it is in the west. In Japan there is a traveling roadshow of Hello Kitty RPGs that visits remote rural areas like Miyazaki (where this is being held), targets girls, and is advertised in aircraft magazines.

Shall we go?!

When I grew up, this freak was considered cool

When I grew up, this freak was considered cool

Growing up in working class Britain in the 70s and 80s meant being submerged in a soup of -isms. My family were deeply racist, sexist, and even though my father was seriously disabled by polio as a child, he and all his friends and family had a deep and abiding hatred of the disabled. They also hated children. “Children should be seen but not heard” was a catechism in my extended family, along with a wide range of repulsive opinions about black people, Asians, and any other foreigners. Special hatred was reserved for women from any of these groups, and their many failings were a common topic of conversation. This wasn’t some kind of background opinion, dragged up only to comment on e.g. news items, or the particularly bad behavior of a specific member of these many classes of people. Rather, it was a kind of current of hatred flowing just below the surface of ordinary life, something that could bubble up into conversation unbidden, so that race and gender were inserted into even the most banal of conversational topics. The sex and race politics of my kith and kin were not just a kind of theoretical infrastructure; they were the dressing on the stones, the decoration on the walls, and the general substance of every day life. It was hard for any time to pass before someone declared a judgment on someone else, usually someone not white or not male, and that judgment was born of fury and hatred, not just clashing political perspectives or remote ideals.

When I was a child all this seemed normal, and after I left my childhood behind and my family and class with it, I was mystified by the intensity of my childhood’s racial and sexual background, but I assumed maybe it was something aberrant about my immediate environment, or maybe I was just too sensitive to it. Some of the more reprehensible aspects of my childhood just seemed normal and it took me a long time to realize they weren’t, and although I eventually started discovering a lot more sexual abuse and violence in my friends’ family pasts than I had originally expected, I didn’t put it all together.

Then the Jimmy Savile case happened, and I think I started to understand at least some of where I came from. Jimmy Savile was Britain’s most prolific child abuser, sexually assaulting at least 200 people, at least 6 of whom were under the age of 10 and the vast majority of whom were children. He was a famous DJ and television superstar, a household name in the UK and much-loved, but he turned his fame into a tool to assault and rape hundreds of girls. He also used his fame to secure protection against prosecution, destroying any case against him and becoming good friends with highly-placed police and politicians. He had regular meetings with Prince Charles, and was on good terms with a great many powerful figures in the NHS, where he used a few hospitals as his personal hunting ground. He had a set of keys to one hospital that he raised a lot of money for, and his own room, and used his freedom of movement to sexually harass nurses and assault sick and disabled children. Were you to write a crime novel about this man its sheer preposterousness would make it unpublishable, but his crimes were definitely real, they spanned the whole country and his network of sycophants and supporters was spread through the police, the criminal justice system, the health service and even the royal family.

If you watch any video of Jimmy Savile now, it should be perfectly clear that he is a freak, a weird and disturbing man with a creepy manner and obvious signs of personality disorders. The way he speaks is so completely disengaged from the interviewer, so self-aggrandizing, so threatening, that there has to be something deeply wrong with him. But in the 1970s and 1980s this poster-child for sexual abuse and misconduct was a household name in the UK.

How did that happen?

It wasn’t just Jimmy Savile, though. Other DJs and public figures connected with him have now been identified as prolific child abusers, and the UK parliament is finally getting around to considering an inquiry into a sex abuse ring amongst parliamentarians and judges that may have been implicated in the murder of a child in housing set aside for high profile political figures. Jimmy Savile was good friends with senior figures from the South Yorkshire Police Force, who are infamous for their attack on miners at the Orgreave mine during the miner’s strike, and for concocting fake evidence about the Hillsborough tragedy – the documentary on Savile claims he hosted them at his house, and that they quashed investigations into his activities. North and West Yorkshire police have also been implicated in this cover up of his activities, and of other paedophile rings operating in their areas. The South Yorkshire police were also responsible for investigating the Rotherham child-exploitation ring that ran through the 1990s and 2000s; unsurprisingly, they did not just fail to break this ring, but dismissed sexual assault complaints from children because these children were judged by the police to be consenting to the assaults. Of course the victims of the Rotherham abuse were homeless children – poor and in protection, just like Savile’s primary victims.

In many ways these children- Savile’s victims and those of the Rotherham scandal – were very similar to me. I avoided being put into protection, but I came from the kind of family background where this kind of thing was all too common. At the age of 10 or 11 I was wandering the streets alone (or in the company of my brother) with much older girls until very late at night, perhaps 10 or 11; on one occasion when I was perhaps 10 or 11 I went on a double date with my brother and two girls perhaps two years older than us, who told us about a recent date one of them had been on where she was directly asked to give head. We didn’t think this unusual because we were all sexually active by then, though none of us had any clue what we were doing. Many of the girls were involved with much older men, and all of us were completely unsupervised. My brother ended up becoming entangled with criminals, and was taken from my family into care for four years – my family abandoned him and took me to Australia, a decision I thought was completely normal until I spoke about it with Australians years later and they expressed shock and amazement at my parents’ callousness.

Were my parents callous, or were they normal?

I think I grew up in a culture steeped in child abuse, where children are considered a burden and exploitation of children is normal. I think our society had no protection against predators at all, even lauded them, and the social structures of my society were set up to ensure that predators found and protected each other. It’s no coincidence that the people who protected the Rotherham rapists also protected Jimmy Savile, fabricated horror stories against dead soccer fans and striking workers who they attacked brutally. This is why Johnny Lydon knew about Jimmy Savile for years and did nothing, and when he openly stated in a BBC interview that he knew what was happening it was cut and nothing was done. This is why Jimmy Paige was openly fucking a 14 year old and bragging about it in interviews, and no one was doing anything. Children were to be used – Savile himself was a Bevin boy, and there are rumours of a bad relationship with his mother that he may have found recompense for in necrophilia – and there was no protection or regard for their safety. Sure, if you were a rich and powerful person you could protect your own children, but this was just a personal effort, a rock against the tides.

My parents were not rich and powerful. They were poor and weak.

I think British culture in the 1970s and 1980s was built around power, abuse and exploitation. Not just economic but real, immediate and physical, of the weak by the strong. This is the society in which my parents were adults, the society I was raised in. I think that this environment of open abuse, disempowerment and corruption informed the attitudes my parents and peers had – it was a society built on the open, naked exploitation of others, on finding someone who was lesser than you and fucking them, metaphorically or better still physically. It was a society of men and for men, but especially for the rich and powerful men who could fuck, take and kill. Somehow I managed to slide through this without getting hurt, even though I was the prey in this environment – they got my brother but they didn’t get me. I think this was just luck. I made it to 13 unscathed and my parents moved to Australia, and it was like a burst of sunlight into a shadowed life, though I didn’t know it then. I don’t have any evidence, but I think Australia’s attitude towards children was different, more loving and cherishing. I was still unsupervised and wild and at risk, but I think Australia was more protective. I was better educated in the risks, and teachers at my school noticed me and tried to help me. They didn’t just see me as working-class cannon fodder, but as an actual human with aspirations and a future. Later, when I started working in drug and alcohol, the Woods Royal Commission identified patterns of sexual abuse and cracked down on them, introducing wide-ranging protections against child abuse (in 1996) that were still lacking in Britain when I moved there in 2008. Jimmy Savile was still alive when Australia introduce full-powered, fully-supported mandatory child abuse reporting requirements for teachers, medical staff and police. Had he been Australian his legacy would have been dragged down and destroyed long before he died, and he almost certainly would have died in prison.

I don’t know, of course, and this blog post isn’t really intended to be a comparative study in fuckedness. What’s clear to me now though is that there was something deep and dark flowing beneath the surface of British society when I grew up – a society of power and exploitation, where one’s worth was set by who one was better than, and people exploited those they were better than – some kind of toxic mixture of class, crippled sexuality, shame and horror. I don’t know how it came about or how it can be fixed, but its central symbol is Jimmy Savile, a sick, cigar-reeking old man stalking the halls of a cancer ward, trying to fuck desperately sick children, while politicians and royals and police and judges and television celebrities all protect him. This is a man who put his hand up a child’s skirt on live TV, you can see her recoil and try to get away, who was never touched by the law for even the smallest of his crimes. This environment of exploitation, rape and power is the reason my family and peers were so deeply, negatively and pathologically hateful of anyone beneath them: because they and their children were the hated, vulnerable victims of multiple tiers of society lying above them, that were protected by multiple layers of legal, professional and class power, and the only dignity available to them had to be stolen from someone else.

Rotherham shows that Britain hasn’t come to terms with this yet, and won’t for some time to come. I hope the coming inquiry into political sexual abuse will help them to drag this stuff out into what little light there is in British life, but I doubt it: British high society never punishes its own. I think it will be a long time before Britain can solve these problems, and I think until it does its working class will continue to have a rich and deep vein of hatred and racism running through it, because without people to sneer at and hate the working class of Britain – and especially its poorest, unemployed class – have no path to dignity that they are able to comprehend within their own social context.

Until Savile was revealed for the sham rapist that he is, I hadn’t really thought about the cultural context of my own childhood sins and vulnerabilities. I still don’t know how to put it all together, those confused fragments that I experienced by myself or with my brother in the wilds of Britain’s post-industrial wasteland after dark, and how they relate to that bigger, larger and much darker world of power and exploitation that was crouching just out of my field of vision. I wonder if anyone else has or can. But I think until someone does, Britain will remain broken.

No, it's not Coyote before breakfast!

No, it’s not Coyote before breakfast!

Date: 12th November 2177

Weather: Rainy. Really rainy!

Mood: Bloodthirsty. Beating corrupt scientists to death with power-armoured gloves is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done, and everyone was really happy to know what we freed those people from. But I am still on a high, replaying those final moments in my head. I always thought principles were for Important People who I don’t like, and for the kind of oily, seedy suited monstrosities who talk about values and ideals during the day but visit the kinds of places I was held in during the evening, to show what they really believe in, but now I discover that besides all of that hypocrisy and lying cant it’s really possible to have principles: real, pure ideals where you kill everyone who does the things you think are wrong. Who can stand between a young woman with power armour, and her moral goals? Not a bunch of soft and squishy bio-scientists, that’s for sure …

Outfit: Power armour! We stole a suit during the hit on the train but it needed repairing, and it’s finally ready to use. Pops is off working on his crazy plan to create a community of misfits who’ll live together somewhere remote until someone loses their cool and they all kill each other, so we decided that for today’s raid I should wear the power armour. I made sure Coyote scrubbed the Arasaka logo off before I wore it, so it’s not uncool or anything, and it is great! I can move as freely as if I was in my favourite one piece, but it boosts my strength and reflexes and all my senses, and it’s almost as good for protection as my normal combat armour. We need more of this!

News: Arasaka have declared war on Goliath! We were watching the news about how the Corporate High Council has been reformed without Arasaka when it was interrupted with a special announcement that was a live feed from Arasaka, but when Arasaka say “live” they really don’t know what the word means because it was just some crusty old Japanese dude in a samurai suit going on and on about treachery and justice. I thought it was some kind of new samurai drama but Coyote told me it’s actually Arasaka’s version of a declaration of war. They moved fast too, sealed off section 43 which is where Arasaka people mostly live, and now there’s Goliath armour moving around everywhere and everyone’s getting ready for war. War! We can make a lot of money in a war!

This. Is. Arasaka!

This. Is. Arasaka!

How shall I explain the dying that was done?
Shall I say that each one did the math, and wrote
The value of his days
Against the bloody margin, in an understated hand?
They will want to know
How was the audit done?
And I shall say that it was done,
For once,
By those who knew the worth
Of what was spent that day.

– The Falcon, on wars

So, although we can make a lot of money in a war, Coyote decided we should go on some stupid pointless mission to rescue his family from some dumb prison they got themselves into. Some Russian dude who is famous for being a human trafficker came to Coyote with a video from Coyote’s family, who apparently have never seen a contraceptive implant they liked because there’s like a thousand of them, and they all managed to get themselves locked up in the same ghetto down on the docks. The docks are now off-limits from Goliath policing, but Coyote’s cousin/niece/some random chick says that they were all rounded up and forced into this weird residential block, one family per room (so Coyote’s legion is all in one room) and sometimes Goliath police come by and grab someone and take them away and they never come back. Sometimes Goliath moves a family on to a “better” home but no one ever hears from them again and now it’s pretty clear that the “better” home is a bullet. So they managed to smuggle out a video to Coyote asking him to come and help them because he was always good at “fixing” things, and now just after we spent a lot of time talking about how we need to stop doing jobs for free, and just when a war comes along and offers us lots of chances to make money doing big fat wetworks, Coyote decides we need to go burn all our money freeing his family. All four hundred of them.

After a bit of investigation though, we found a way to turn a profit. Coyote’s family are being held in some kind of housing complex that is also a Goliath facility of some kind, and it looks a lot like it’s being used for some kind of research or it’s a death camp. If we film our raid we could sell it for a big cash windfall, because there’s a war on and everyone’s interested in what Goliath did to trigger it. So we hooked up with Lin, the journalist who stumbled into our first mission together, and she agreed to come with us and film the situation in the Goliath Ghetto in exchange for an equal share of the takings. Because the ghetto is in the docks we spoke to Ghost’s goldfish hunter friends, and found out that they have a few people trapped in there too – Goliath has been casting a wide net to fill this ghetto up, which is interesting in itself – and they offered us two AV transports, capable of taking 60 people between them. We figured we could free another 20 random people, and we decided we would only free the first 20 people who promised to pay us 500 nuyen each, in either future work or cyberparts they don’t want. Ghost and Coyote did some investigating and found out that the people in this ghetto are having cheap and nasty cyberware put into them against their will by Goliath, which makes no sense at all, and we figured they would want that cyberware out so we could use it as payment for their transport.

If it all goes down smoothly, we could make a lot of money. Oh, and free Coyote’s massive extended family. And find out what Goliath is doing in the docks, where some of our friends live and we’ve noticed there’s a lot of trouble happening. So in we went.

We went in from the Pit, because there’s a way into almost everywhere in the docks from the Pit. The building we were targeting was an enormous column stretching up from the base of the docks almost to the next level. Around this enormous pillar there were habitat rings, each perhaps five stories high, spaced apart ascending the ring, and at the top – near the lowest level of New Horzion proper – a wider structure for AVs and troops. There were troops guarding this underground prison, but like all ghettos we were expecting them to be focused on keeping the Unwanted in, because no one who runs a ghetto ever expects anyone to come in and liberate the undesirables from outside, so we figured they’d be poorly armoured and unready.

We were right. We came in through some kind of sewer system that emerged under a railway line linking to the base of the tower. We managed to cut out a hole so we could emerge near the tower, but there were a squad of guards loading a train when we arrived – they had just finished loading two stretchers with people on into the train when I came out of the tunnel. They didn’t see me but when Carbon came up, his/her cyberleg banged on the rails and someone noticed, even though the train engine had fired up and it had started moving. We had to move fast to stop them before the train got in our way and they got to raise an alarm, but we are fast. I shot two dead instantly, Carbon put an arrow through the third and moved out of the way of the train, and Coyote popped up from the hole and blew away the fourth, then dropped back down as the train rolled over him. All four guards died instantly, and while we killed them Ghost hacked the train and wiped the video of our passing. He and Lin emerged from the hole, and we moved into the lift area. Ghost hacked in, and up we went. The lift opened into a corridor that ended in a guard room, with two guards inside. Ghost hacked ahead into the cameras in the guard room, so we knew what was there, and we moved up to the doors. I fired through and killed one of the guards, and as soon as I fired Carbon and Coyote charged in, guns pointed at the other. He didn’t even have time to wipe the gore off his face before they were on him, and he soon agreed to tell us everything we needed to know. Carbon cut off the other guard’s fingers to bypass fingerprint scanners, and after the first guard told us all we needed to know we locked him away in a cupboard. We moved up.

Coyote’s breeders were on a level much higher up from the security sectors, accessible by a single lift that opened into a security area with two sets of secured doors, between which a guard sat in a little bullet proof booth, and beyond which two more guards stood ready. Ghost hacked into the security system again and prepped the doors, and up we went. At the top the doors opened as we wanted, and we ran in. I managed to slide through and kill both the interior guards before they could react[1]. Carbon came through afterwards, almost as fast, and smashed through the door into the security room; Coyote tried shooting through the window but it was bullet proof. The guy inside pretended to surrender but actually tried to deploy a snub pistol embedded in his arm [idiot – working as a security guard isn’t a movie, what use is a snub pistol against us?], but Carbon saw the shift and pinned his arm to the wall with an arrow. We left him there. Carbon and I took positions in the hall, and Coyote and Ghost went on to gather his family. This took a bit of time because he has so many cousins, and lots of people wanted to pretend to be cousins, but eventually he found a few people to get everything rounded up. That’s when he found out that the Goldfish hunters’ family were six levels up, so he had to go up to get them while me and Carbon kept guard and the family milled around at the lift. Some more guards made the mistake of trying to attack the lift while we were waiting, but we gunned them down; Ghost, coming up behind them to access the control room, killed the last one himself. We all retreated to the lift and went down with Coyote, his legion of cousins, and the Fisher folk.

At the bottom some wizened old distant relative of Coyote’s mentioned that she couldn’t find Timmy. Timmy! You know, Timmy! Who Coyote had never met, nor ever heard of, like most of his extensive family of nobodies, but who we now had to rush off to rescue from wherever he was. Apparently he had been taken out of the Coyote-community a few days ago, so we had to go find him not in the residential section up above but in the secured section beyond the lift. By now alarms were going off everywhere, and we figured we didn’t have very long at all before Goliath’s best soldiers came down on us. Fortunately, they didn’t know about the access from the Pit, so they would have to come down from the AV access areas at the top, which meant multiple switch-backs between lifts that they would have to fight Ghost to control. We guessed we might have time (and who doesn’t want to fight their way out of a Goliath research complex just once?!) so we sent the Legions of Coyote off down the tunnel we had used to come up, and ran into the security/research complex at the base of the Goliath Ghetto.

Resleeved

Resleeved

Things down here were pretty simple, probably because Goliath was expecting any trouble to be ghetto dwellers breaking out, heading up, not trained soldiers breaking in and heading down. There were no guards, and we soon broke into the research complex. Finally we found the central labs. After we had rampaged through a couple of supply rooms we hit the central labs, where there were six research scientists cowering at their desks and trying to look all innocent, like they were just doing experiments on flies or something. The bodies, the graphics on big screens, and the people suspended in cryogenic units suggested something different. The room was suffused in a calm blue glow from the cryogenic units, maybe 10 of them, in each of which a real actual person was slowly metamorphosing into a monster. Something terrible was happening here, and we all wanted to know what it was. Ghost ran to access a computer terminal, yelling at one of the scientists to give him details while Coyote threatened the guy with his massive pistol; Carbon sprinted through to secure the far door.

Me, I did what Dedicated Retribution Units do after they’ve been Involuntarily Demobilized by these kinds of people. I set to work.

The first scientist was running out of the lab into the hallway, and I reacted before I knew we were in a lab; I shot him in both knees, but he wasn’t ready for the power of my rifle and had some kind of seizure when both his kneecaps blew out, falling down and twitching and frothing on the floor. I’ve seen that before and I know it means my job is done, so I moved straight into the room – in this power armour I have to take point. Because it was obviously safe Coyote and Ghost moved in behind me towards the central computer stack, the remaining five scientists all standing gape-mouthed in front of their work. The closest one had her scalpel in hand, standing just past the body of a child on a trolley, organs spread out in little dishes like some kind of Cantonese wedding party for the dead. I didn’t stop in my inward movement, slinging my rifle as I moved forward, and grabbed her by the face, lifting her over the trolley. The power armour has a huge amount of servo power, but I’m not used to its strength; as I lifted her up the boosted armour crushed her jaw and cheekbones, shattering them like a ripe melon and splattering her blood over her name badge, which I deliberately forget now because people like this do not deserve names; the body slipped out of my grip with a kind of still-desperately-kicking gasp and she fell on her experimental “subject” (funny how they use that name for people who are almost always objects), scattering organs all over the floor; somewhere there was a little dish of this child’s belongings and that too fell and scattered onto the floor, but now the scientist was twitching and spasming and gurgling on the gurney, her blood and teeth joining the child’s beads and liver and kidneys. I don’t like to leave a job half done but I thought she deserved such an ending so I left her there as I turned to the rest of the room. Things were moving too slowly – Carbon had barely reached the far door and Ghost was still plugging into the mainframe, but the remaining four scientists’ eyes were widening with slow horror as they realized the Ethics Committee had decided to do a site inspection. The nearest one tried to run to hide under a desk but he slipped on the first one’s blood and did a kind of clumsy somersault, breaking a leg as he fell. I let him slither, gasping, under the desk, thinking he had a safe moment, before I punched through the desk and grabbed him by the back of the neck. Power armour is a very serious force multiplier, but I couldn’t get him out of the desk through the hole I made – after a bit of shaking I gave up, but by now I’d broken him all apart like you see in those videos of lions and buffalo in the savannah back in the Oil Age before humans wiped out all the big predators. Now I’m the big predator and humans my prey, but I guess he didn’t get much time to make the connection while he was being rattled around like a rag doll, thinking his company would save him. The third scientist tried to scoot past me to the door after I threw his friend away like a rag doll but I punched him in the stomach as he ran (these people really should try some boosting if they’re gonna be in this line of work!) He made a kind of hydraulic “whoof” sound and went up to the ceiling, coughing a little constellation of blood all over the floor, then came crashing down. I think he was trying to say something to me after that but each time I punched him his pathetic begs just came out as soggy squelching noises, and then he stopped. There were two left now, backing away into the corner of the room and trying not to get noticed. Ghost was still busily downloading their data while Coyote watched him protectively, occasionally looking at me in this kind of disappointed way (I always disappoint Coyote, he’s constantly complaining that if I get the right coupons I can get my nails done 10% cheaper!) I guess those two scientists had figured out now that maybe if they both ran one of them might be able to beat the other one to the door, but I’m not bloodthirsty – I’m just doing retribution. So I shot them both as they ran, and tapped them a second time as they fell. Really, some people are so arrogant! Thinking I’m going to run all the way across the room just to kill them when I have so many perfectly good guns! But I guess that’s why they’re big-shot scientists in a human research facility, and I’m just a vengeful demon.

Ghost finished his download, though he was muttering it was largely incomplete (what could these people have been learning that we want to know?) and he hadn’t found Timmy, so we moved on, past the inner door of the lab. Here we entered a corridor lined with cells, in each of which was this monstrous semi-human thing, a massive warped pile of flesh and muscle, obviously bioengineered in some way out of a real human. They were screaming and yelling and slamming into the walls of their cells, but it was obviously dangerous to try and open the doors, these cells were reinforced and reinforced for a reason. We stalked down this eerie corridor, surrounded by the blast glass-muted screams of the not-yet-dead, and came to a horrifying dead end. After about eight cell doors the corridor stopped at a kind of door, with a drop into a crate. In that crate was a pile of bodies in various stages of malformation: some still fully human, dried blood around mouth and ears; some half human, their hands brutalized from trying to escape their cells; some closer to the monsters in the hallway behind, but still broken and wrecked. Timmy was nowhere to be seen, but his presence was dark and threatening in the room. He was somewhere in that pile of bodies, obviously. We took another look in the cells to see if the warped faces in there might be Timmy, yelling his name, but the figures in the cell were so broken and deranged that we couldn’t tell even if they heard us, let alone if they were once a small, slender dark-haired teenager with an Arabic mother and Spanish father, who played Virtual-Pokemon and liked spun candy and was said to have got up to some mischief with Angela from the third block that made their families break up in acrimony; he was gone, replaced with either madness or the stench of wasted death.

Then I looked at the camera, and I took a bit of the Falcon, and changed her, and made her my own, and spat her back out in the faces of the villainous scum who authorized this pit of bodies behind me. I gestured down there and said

We’re coming for you, who signed the requisition for this. You’re next in that pit. Cross the gulf between the stars, and we’ll come after you. Go into centuries of storage, and we’ll be there waiting for you, clone-new, when you re-sleeve. We are what you once dreamed of as gods, mythical agents of destiny, as inescapable as Death. We’re after you now, you creeping torturers and rapists, and you can sign all the digital requisitions you want but in the end you’re going to finish in that pit, and we won’t be merciful dragging you there.

Then we ran. And got out.

Now the whole world knows what you’re doing, Goliath, they have seen your hidden crimes. But you don’t have to worry about the whole world: You have to worry about me. I know what you did, and I don’t like it, and I’m not some fearful New Horizon mite, who can’t protect their family or doesn’t know where to go to get justice. I bend death to my will; like the Falcon said, I won’t even let Death in the tradesman’s entrance. I am the fury of a woman not just scorned but wronged, and wronged again. I have no past and no future, nothing to live for, and no reason to die quickly. I will measure my vengeance, but you can rest assured it is coming. I don’t know who Timmy was, but I know who he should have become, and I will pay you back for that, and for all the others who you ground up mercilessly for profit and power. I am the Dedicated Retribution Unit (Involuntarily Demobilized). They should have demobilized me properly when they had the chance, because now I’m coming for you.

fn1: Was there ever a better-timed Combat Sense critical? This got me to Combat Sense 8, finally … Drew is rocking …

Brief summary for the less bloodthirsty:

1. Coyote got a message from his family begging him to rescue them from some kind of ghetto in the docks

2. We decided to help them, and some goldfish hunters whose family were also in the same ghetto

3. We broke into the ghetto and slaughtered our way up

4. We rescued the necessary people, and ran down

5. One of Coyote’s family, some poor helpless Timmy kid, was taken from them to the research labs in the basement a few days ago

6. We slaughtered our way into the basement, and found that there are human experiments going on that seem to involve some kind of bioengineering to create insane super-soldiers

7. No Timmy, but lots of vengeance

8. We got out, with a video of the whole thing including the research labs; Goliath are in big trouble.

Beyond the stix ...

Beyond the stix …

I’m all alone
Matter and shadow
In the darkflow
Treading deep waters
Searching for the shore
Waiting for the dawn to come

– Catechism of the Tomb Masters of Duat

Duat is a small desert planet on the Frontier. Its two big oceans frame one huge continent that appears to be all sand and stone. Only along its huge fresh water rivers can one find any flora or fauna. The rivers, especially the huge delta close to the southern ocean, serve as the source for almost all life on the Planet and are the wellspring of its civilization. Duat is a tomb planet: Many powerful kings and emperors from wealthier neighbouring planets choose it as their burial ground. Artefacts prove it has played this role for millennia. The religion of Duat is ancient and deeply connected to a concept of the Afterlife that is shared across several star systems, and the people of Duat see their planet as a gateway to the Underworld and their Gods as the gatekeeper and guardians of this sacred realm of shadows.

Duat always had great Architects, Stonemasons and Artisans, but also lots of slaves. These slaves were residents of other planets who had been sentenced to death, as well as locals who couldn’t raise their status, rebellious slaves, or political dissidents. However, like all slave systems this arrangement eventually crumbled. About a millennium ago the locals revolted against the out-world lords. In the struggles a local queen rose to power and rallied all of Duat under her Banner, as she was believed to be sent by the Gods. She was said to rule over the living, where the Gods rule over the dead and the spirits. After a long and costly war, she was acknowledged by the out-worlders as the Queen of the Dead – showing how little the ones who chose this planet as their graveyard know about its people.

And so Duat got its first queen and rightful leader in written history, and the dynasty of the God-Monarchs began. Under the rule of the God-Kings and God-Queens the tech-level rose quickly and slavery receded until only off-world prisoners and local pariahs were categorized as slaves. After Duat reached a certain Tech Level through its own efforts, and with a little help from artifacts from off-worlders, the Confederation decided to establish contact. In a short period the now frontier-planet has changed a lot, under confederate law. The God-Queen is a just some kind of mascot in the eyes of the Confederation. But her worshippers still would rise against all of the universes at her command. Nowadays Duat is still famous for its architects, stonemasons and artisans. It is also considered highly fashionable and a sign of great status to get one’s tomb built in the Deserts of Duat. The tombs along the Rivers are only for Queens and Kings, but more tombs have been opened inland and the funerary business is now thriving. With the opening of the space ports lots of grave robbers rushed to Duat to try their luck in the old pyramids – to collect sowme rare artifacts. Those who get caught face the death penalty by local law.

There are rumors that the sudden Tech Level rise – as well as some of the astonishing architectural designs of some tombs – was influenced by some very powerful AI, which hides in one of the many hidden tombs (which is also why there are quite some confederated sponsored “grave robbers”). Others suggest that the rebellion of the original slave queen was fomented by Confederacy spies, and that certain magical traits of early priests of the afterlife who worked in her service may actually have been the work of Confederacy psions. Of course, this was all millenia ago now, so no one knows anymore what happened. But is it not a good thing that slavery was ended and a planet uplifted?

Recently the queen disbanded her esteemed Queensguard, which was a big surprise for all on- and off-world, and was taken by the Confederacy’s leadership as a sign of her commitment to intergalactic morals.

Bleeding across the sky
A purpose that’s gone awry
A dubious reckoning
Don’t fade away

– Motto of the disbanded Queensguard

Ahmose Inhapi

The Queensguard

The Queensguard

Home Planet: Duat

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Height: 186cm

Weight: 75kg

Éyes: Green

Hair: Black

Ahmose Inhapi was born on Duat just around the time the confederation laws were fully enacted and uplift completed, even though she certainly looks younger than that. She was born an orphan, her mother died giving birth and her father a month before. Her family had traditional positions as servants and guards in the household of the Queens and Kings. Her grandfather would often tell her stories about life before the confederation made contact, about the glories of a free world and the rightful place of their God-Queen. Her grandma on the other hand made sure to point out that all is better since the Confederacy uplifted them and made them wealthy.

Her parents were proud and famous soldiers with a fine reputation among the court. She followed their footsteps and she entered the queens-guard at a very young age, after she served as a servant in her childhood. However, a few years ago the queen sent her guards out, to explore the universe and bring knowledge and warnings of danger back to Duat. They are officially disbanded, but the truth is they were never released from their oath, neither that taken to the queen, nor Duat and surely not to the Gods.

At the gates of the underworld ...

At the gates of the underworld …

As one of those guards dispatched to the universe, Ahmose had to make a choice of directions. Others of the queens guard joined the confederate military, some servants joined big corporations. Ahmose decided to learn all about and connect to the world of rogues, Pirates, thieves and smugglers. She joined a pirate vessel to get off world and get to know space. She spent a lot of time with the crew, tried to connect to get all the contacts and information she needs. But once she decided that she had learned enough about travelling in space to make it on her own, she left the Pirates. She won’t serve someone else except her queen! So she decided that, if she wants to keep her journey going, she must be captain of her own vessel. But from her time with the pirates she knows that, to explore the universe, you need a crew you can trust.

Now, it s time to get herself a ship and a crew…

You entrusted your money to people who eat smoked guillemot?

You entrusted your money to people who eat smoked guillemot?

I was in the UK in 2008 and 2009 when the Icesave banking disaster happened, and the UK government rushed to use anti-terrorism legislation to try and protect the money of British investors. There were something like 300,000 “ordinary” British and Dutch investors with money in Icesave accounts, and when the disaster happened all but the first 20,000 pounds or so were not protected by deposit insurance, so the UK government acted to try and protect the full deposits of the savers. I remember this clearly [although, probably not details of dates and money amounts] because one of my colleagues at the time had 120,000 pounds parked in such an account, the proceeds of selling her house, and was looking forward to using the money – inflated by the high interest – to buy her next one, and she was understandably distraught when she woke up to discover it had vanished into volcanic smoke.

I also remember at the time that there was a lot of anger in the British public, not only at Iceland, but also at the British government for guaranteeing the deposits of people who were basically risking their money to get a higher rate of return. I often heard the refrain “they knew the risks” and many people pointed out at the time that higher interest rates usually correspond with higher risk, and these people could have had their money protected if they had taken more reasonable risks in a UK bank. This rhetoric probably wasn’t based entirely in fact, since British deposits weren’t fully guaranteed, and the UK government had to rush to assure large deposits in Northern Rock after it failed[1], but the general rhetorical principle was correct, British banks were safer than Iceland banks and had a correspondingly lower rate of return. The question was asked: should we bail out people who knew the risks they were taking? (Incidentally, I didn’t actually know at that time that a slightly higher rate of interest in a country that I assumed had good banking laws was a sign of higher risk; as a result of the rhetoric of that period I reassessed my involvement in an ING online account that is now defunct).

I can’t easily find articles online from the time that say these things, but I don’t think my memory is wrong. This comment by an academic from McGill University (Canada) makes the point that investors should wear the risk; this blog roundup suggests that many economists thought it was right for Iceland to refuse to protect investors, and indeed Christine Lagarde of the IMF thought Iceland took the right approach. I can’t find any articles directly demanding that deposit holders should carry their risk, but I do remember it being a commonly-stated view at the time, and the view that Iceland did the “right thing” by telling investors to take a haircut is well-accepted, I think, as is the view that it has recovered better than those economies that did not. A subsidiary view, that deposit insurance creates moral hazard, is widely broadcast I think and is consistent with the idea that if you want to get a high rate of return on your deposit you need to be willing to accept the risk that you will lose it, pour encourage les autres. So I don’t think I’m wrong about this perspective and how it was broadcast at the time even if I can’t find written evidence.

The idea that “investors” should wear the risk they take when chasing big profits seems completely reasonable, until one remembers that in this case the investors (and ultimately the creditors) for Icesave included depositors, that is ordinary people who put money in a high-risk/high-return account hoping for a short term gain. It seemed at the time that a lot of people were comfortable with the idea that creditors should just put up with their haircut, and depositors “knew the risks.”

So it’s interesting to compare this rhetoric with the rhetoric surrounding Greece’s recent troubles. Much of the rhetoric about Greece focuses on its profligacy, the easy-spending nature of the Greeks, their corruption, their crazy ideas that they could just keep taking on more debt and spending it however they want. You don’t see much rhetoric (or at least, I haven’t) questioning why people were willing to lend them all this money, and why their creditors are now so heavily exposed. Remember that for every debtor there is a creditor, and the creditor wouldn’t be lending the money if they didn’t want to, i.e. if they weren’t benefiting from it. When Icesave collapsed the greedy motives of the creditors (and, implicitly or explicitly, the depositors who make up a certain proportion of those creditors) was front and centre in the debate, but it’s strangely absent from the Greek debate. We know that in the early stages of its crisis Greece had to take on a lot of public debt to bail out banks that were in trouble; at the time of writing it appears that private debt constitutes about 60bn euros of Greece’s total, which would have been about 30% of the total debt before the collapse. Why were these people lending money to a country that was cooking its books, had apparently obviously unsustainable pension and welfare systems, and an entire population that we are now told were slurping up ouzo down by the beach rather than working 12 hour days like Germans? These creditors didn’t have to lend this money, they could have bought German bonds or Iranian nuclear futures or something more solid and reliable. They loaned money to Greece because up until the crisis Greece’s economy was growing faster than anywhere else in Europe, everyone wanted a slice of that golden Greek sunshine, and basically they thought they could make their motza[2] and get out before the whole shebang went tits-up. i.e., they were greedy. Yet nowhere do we hear tell of their greediness – even though at the same time as their golden goose was turning barren, Icesave depositors were copping flak in the press and the public for being greedy and reckless.

Why is that?

We also shouldn’t stop with these faceless private lenders, who are no doubt lounging around in a gold-plated yacht off some private Greek Island, fluffy white cat firmly en-lapped. We can also wonder why none of this rhetoric of recklessness extends to the dour and responsible Germans. Germany has 60bn Euros sunk in the Greek project, and it is earning a healthy rate of interest. Germany, the country that has never paid its debts, the ultimate trust fund kid, is now strangely insistent on Greece paying its debts, and no one anywhere is questioning why Germany is so exposed to the economy of a country it has deplored as reckless, irresponsible, intransigent and wayward (indeed, worse than Iran if we are to judge by their negotiating results). A handful of eurozone countries have something north of 200 bn Euros sunk into the Greek project, and we now know that they are making a lot of money from this little act of charity: the Guardian’s live blog today tells us that David Cameron is contemplating demanding some of the 1.9bn Euros in profit that the ECB has made from its loans to Greece (though it doesn’t tell us over what period that profit was made). How come this fact – that the eurozone lenders are making fat scads of cash – is not being broadcast widely, as the Icesave depositors’ greedy winnings were being broadcast in 2008? Instead of this morality play, we are constantly reminded that the German taxpayer doesn’t want to have to cough up his or her hard-earned dollars to cover Greek mistakes. Yet right now the German taxpayer is making money from this debacle, so shouldn’t we be instead asking why the German taxpayer tolerates his or her government sinking 60bn Euros into a high-risk, high short-term profit venture in junk bonds? Germany is a responsible country, we’re told, whose taxpayers don’t take risks – at the same time as the media carefully avoids reporting on the big money Germany stands to make if Greece doesn’t default.

The situations aren’t exactly the same of course, and people could argue that the eurozone nations didn’t have a choice – they aren’t loaning this money because they want to, the poor darlings, they’re doing it to save Greece and the euro project. But they did have choices, many choices: they could have told those (primarily French and German) banks to fail, as Iceland did, back at the beginning of the crisis; they could have rushed through some changes to the welfare transfers in the EU to ensure that Greece received direct payments rather than loans[3]; they could have printed money and handed it to the banks, as the UK and US did; they could have raised debt in their own countries, which are much less financially at risk, and provided it as a grant or something; they could have told Greece to find the money on private money markets. But they didn’t, they chose to lend money to Greece on terms that just happen to deliver them large profits – profits that are likely larger than they could have got from e.g. buying each others’ government bonds, or investing in the kind of low-return portfolios that would be politically acceptable to their electorates. And it just so happens that, since they control the mechanism by which Greece generates the repayments of those debts, they are able to turn the screws to ensure the money keeps coming – unlike those investors in Icelandic banks, who have no direct means of control over Icelandic politics and economy (and anyone from Britain who is old enough to know about the Cod Wars should surely know how hard it is to control Iceland!)

And all while this was going on, we were being told about how irresponsible ordinary depositors were to put their money in a bank that had a high interest rate. It’s almost as if the morality underlying the rhetoric depends entirely on the people who took the risks …

Fn1: Northern Rock was then run by famous climate change denialist Matt Ridley, which one should always remember when one is considering how far our modern banks have sunk, and how much one should trust the risk assessment abilities of climate change denialists.

Fn2: This is a Greek word, trust me, I’m Australian so I know Greek slang

Fn3: Something you might argue is hard to do, but it appears that today the leaders of the ESMF have been able to magic up 20 billion euros from the Common Agricultural Policy, in order to find a way to provide rapid finance without leaning on the ECB[4]

Fn4: Which makes one wonder, doesn’t it? Have these people been listening to the Greek government when it tells them how fucked it is? Had they not noticed? They just spent two days arguing with a Greek dude about whether to give him any money, and after they agree they find they don’t have any mechanism to provide the money, and he needs it now and he’s been telling them that for weeks! Perhaps instead of spending that two days arguing, they could have spent it more productively looking for their wallet.

At least it's not debt relief!

At least it’s not debt relief!

This week the European Union was involved in two major deals that settled two outstanding issues. One involved a long-standing issue that posed a threat to global economic prosperity, with an intransigent and corrupt government that consistently refused to adhere to past agreements, was not transparent about its activities, consistently responded to criticism of its activities with aggressive and nationalist rhetoric, and was suffering serious economic problems that required it to rapidly come to a deal that the rest of the world could agree to. The other involved Greece.

The first of these two deals is, of course, the Iranian nuclear deal, which sees Iran keep its peaceful nuclear program and the vindication of its claim to a right to peaceful nuclear power, despite 10 years of obfuscation, secret development, and often dangerously inflammatory rhetoric. For much of that time Iran has been actively undermining US foreign policy interests in the region, including those of its allies, and any concessions to Iran are widely seen as both an insult and a threat to the US’s regional allies. But somehow the EU plus Russia and the USA managed to come up with a genuine compromise that respects Iranian sovereignty, allows it to continue to broadly control (and in many ways, expand) its nuclear science program, eases sanctions and gives security guarantees to the whole region. This deal is realistic about the realpolitik of the region, sensitive to the levers required to influence a sovereign nation’s domestic policy, and mindful of the long-term sustainability of the actions proposed. On a first reading it seems like a masterpiece of cooperative diplomacy.

In contrast, in the same week the EU managed to come up with a completely reprehensible deal that crushes Greek national sovereignty, removes all national control over the key levers of the economy, and doesn’t offer any promise that the problem will go away in 5, 10 or even 30 years. It is both ignorant of the underlying economics of the problem and completely unrealistic about what can be achieved with the policy levers available. On a first reading, it seems like a dog’s breakfast of coercion and wishful thinking.

How could the EU have come up with two such radically different deals in the same week? Ostensibly the former concerns a much greater threat – nuclear proliferation – from a much less tractable nation that shares no strong cultural, political or even geographic ties with any of the nations involved, while the latter involves an ultimately manageable debt crisis in an allied country with strong cultural, political and geographic ties. The latter problem could have been solved by unilateral EU fiat (debt relief) while the former required cooperation from the other power. Yet the deal on Greece has been forged as if that unilateral action were inconceivable, while the deal with Iran has taken a nuanced approach to the real challenges of securing cooperation from such a belligerent negotiating partner. I don’t believe that anyone negotiating with Iran really believed that Iran has a nuclear weapon, so they weren’t negotiating under such a threat, so it appears that they really, genuinely have just tried to come to good terms. It’s not even the case that oil diplomacy or regional military concerns could have been that influential – oil is losing its importance as a geostrategic asset (and will rapidly drop in value as global warming bites), and although Iran has something to offer the US in dealing with ISIS, it is effectively militarily contained.

So what drove this difference? My suspicion is that the economic ideologies underlying the politics of most developed nations are now so completely unhinged and divorced from reality that it is impossible for them to negotiate reasonably in a sovereign debt crisis. They don’t (or won’t) understand fiat currencies, and won’t act with the authority and power that proper understanding of fiat currencies gives, so their negotiations have to be conducted in such a way as to carefully skirt around the actual economic facts in evidence. Connected with this is the related problem of ideologies and moralities – about work ethics, deserving vs undeserving poor, leaners and lifters – that are really hangovers from 100 years ago, and have no place in modern economic discourse (whether sub-national or international). In comparison, the nations involved in negotiating with Iran remain very cognizant and accepting of the basic principles of realpolitik and so are able to incorporate them into decision making and policy development. Hence the apparently bipolar mind at work on these two deals.

An alternative explanation is that negotiations with Greece involved only the EU central powers, whereas negotiations with Iran involved Obama and Putin – who at the moment are looking waaaay saner than the European leadership …

I didn't want to land there anyway ...

I didn’t want to land there anyway …

The first adventure of the Spiral Confederacy campaign starts with just two adventurers, who find themselves looking for work on a Starport above the Remnant planet of Dune. The two adventurers for this first session are:

  • Alpha, a psion with an interest in archaeology who has travelled out to Dune in hopes of exploring its surface
  • Ahmose Inhapi, an ex-pirate who has switched to smuggling and is travelling the Frontier hoping to find adventure, independence and wealth

The planet they have travelled to, Dune, is under protective blockade by the Spiral Confederacy, enforced by the naval frigates Script for a Jester’s Tear and Garden Party. All congress with the planet is forbidden, even high-resolution film, and no one is allowed on- or off-world. This blockade has been in place since the planet was identified some 30 years ago, but the system itself is rich with asteroid belts and an extensive mining operation is underway. Travel in and 0ut of the system is unrestricted, and the starport was established soon after the wealth of the asteroids was identified by Pan-Galactic Mining, which sounds like a big company but isn’t, under a semi-exclusive lease. The starport is small but high grade, in order to support a large fleet of automated mining vessels and a small fleet of piloted vessels. Dune lies two parsecs from any other planet, and its star system is being exploited ruthlessly before the planet’s residents are uplifted and able to stake a claim on their resources.

The characters have met with a man called Kong, a slightly effete fixer and broker from a nearby planet called the Forge. He has offered them a very simple deal: he needs them to get an ancient data crystal from a mine on an asteroid in-system, immediately. The crystal is a left-over relic from miners or prospecters who moved through the area a few hundred years ago, and may contain information of value to Kong’s buyer. He arrived in-system five days ago but didn’t have time to find people to help him on the way, so he is hiring the PCs. Because there is a possibility the crystal is guarded by some kind of automated system he wants people with a bit of combat experience to find it, and he can’t take his own bodyguard because the man is a Remnant and very uncomfortable with zero-g. Getting to the asteroid is simple: Kong has a chip that contains access codes for the automated mining ships, which can be overridden and given new flight orders, or even flown manually. If given automated flight orders they will not wait on the asteroid for more than a day, so it is better to use manual flight if possible, something Ahmose is definitely capable of. Payment consists of a single Memory Download Centre access card, valid for one week from date of activation, to be given to the PCs on their return with the chip. A memory download is equivalent to a spare life – it comes with a clone of the user’s body at the time of download – and is usually only available to members of the intergalactic elite, so even a one-time download is a great reward.

The PCs spent a few hours getting their gear together, and then left on their mission. Hacking the mining ship was no trouble, and so after 15 hours of steady flight they were on the destination asteroid. They set the mining ship to manual upon arrival and emerged onto a small asteroid, perhaps 2-3 km across, rimed in some kind of ice and very far from the small, super-hot white sun that flooded this star system with deadly light. Vacc suits on, they trudged across the landing site, down a slope on the far side and into a gully in deep shadow. Ahmose activated a mining lamp and they moved cautiously down the empty gully, which was cast in deep shadow by 6m high sharp walls, on one side surmounted by rib-like stone arches. After walking perhaps 200 m they came to a small hole in the gully wall, which opened into a smooth tunnel leading down into the asteroid. They followed this tunnel down in a spiral for perhaps 60m before it opened into a small cavern. Here in the middle of the cavern was a small plinth, on which sat their target, a dusty yellow chip in a rough cube shape about the size of a die. They explored the cavern carefully, Alpha’s surveillance drone checking for any radiation or invisible signals, but could find no evidence of automated guard systems. Using a special box provided by Kong they picked up the crystal and left the cave unharmed. Too easy!

As they returned, slogging up the gully back to the ship, they were ambushed. Two laser beams hit them, one each, and they dived into cover. They were taking fire from a pair of antagonists in a jumble of rocks about 40m away on the far side of their landing zone. Alpha, not being a combatant, slipped back down from cover into the gully, activated an anti-grav belt, and drifted out of the gully further away, out of sight of the shooters, in order to drift around behind them. Meanwhile Ahmose took out her shotgun and returned fire, flattening one of their attackers instantly but taking more damage from the other, who had better cover and seemed to be an excellent shot. Fortunately this enemy’s laser carbine was having difficulty penetrating Ahmose’s combat armour, and she was able to sustain only light wounds while she kept him pinned down. As this battle unfolded, Alpha slid up behind the remaining attacker and opened fire. He hit once but the attacker saw him and returned fire, doing a very light wound. Alpha, terrified of being killed here, teleported out of his vacc suit and back inside the hold of the mining ship, leaving his space suit drifting empty in front of their attacker, who didn’t realize immediately that something so strange had happened and kept shooting. This gave Ahmose time to leap forward into battle, drawing her cutlass and laying into the guy. He was soon beaten by her ferocious attacks, and she was able to tie up both men and drag them back to the mining ship.

Once there they woke up one – Larry – and interrogated him. He was quite forthcoming, revealing that he and his empathy-linked colleague Barry had been paid by a woman called Orlac at Junction Zero, to come here and take the crystal. They were told that the crystal was a relic of an ancient rebellion that swept through this area 1000 years ago and might hold secrets about the nature of that rebellion, but that other factions connected to that time might be searching for it and they were to kill them if necessary. They were also told to rush the job, and offered shares in a micro-cutter called the Lithium Blade, as well as a safe house on The Reach (a pirate planet). Larry and Barry themselves had come on a small ship called Come as You Are, which was a shifter – a type of tiny ship designed to move very small numbers of people across short interstellar distances. Investigation revealed it had just two staterooms – room for four people – and a small cargo hold.

Ahmose negotiated with Larry a little and they came to a deal: she would let Larry and Barry live, in exchange for becoming captain on their ship. Larry agreed, and they headed back to the starport together. Ahmose contacted Kong on the way and he met them in the arrival lounge of their ship bay as soon as they arrived, carrying their memory download cards. Larry and Barry passed him and went straight to the medical bay of the starport to tend to Barry’s (serious) injuries, while Ahmose and Alpha negotiated with Kong. They handed over the crystal and Ahmose told Kong about the information she had received from Larry; in exchange she convinced Kong (rather easily!) to give up two more memory download vouchers. He handed them over, thanked the PCs, and left in quite a hurry.

Ahmose and Alpha were going to return to their quarters and relax a bit but something about the atmosphere in the starport made them change their minds. Things seemed tense and busy, and something had changed. Getting a bad feeling, they both went immediately to the Memory Download Centre, only to find it closed and the remaining staff member directing robots to pack up equipment. When they asked her why she was closed, she told them that the entire Starport was going to be destroyed within five days, and the MDC was evacuating today. Since memory download takes a full day with aftercare, they wouldn’t be able to do the download; and since jumping to another planet with an MDC would take more than 7 days, they would not be able to execute their vouchers. Perhaps they could find an advocate on Junction Zero who would be able to force an extension of the expiry date …

Had Kong known this when he gave them the vouchers? Had he ripped them off?

The pair of them rushed to a nearby bar where starport residents were gathered around a screen, to catch up on the news. The starport was due to be destroyed as part of a contractual dispute between Pan-galactic Mining and Soleria, a larger core company, that had been resolved several weeks ago in the Supreme Court. Soleria starships had just arrived with the news, and with the gunboat that would destroy the starport. They had also provided two evacuation vessels, Soleria 11C/1 and Soleria 11C/2, that between them could carry 400 people in cryogenic low berth. Because there were 600 – 700 people on the starport, these ships were sorting through residents and taking only residents who had legitimate business on the starport and were not Pan-Galactic staff, consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling that they only had to exercise a “reasonable” effort to save starport residents. Everyone else had to find their own way out …

Alpha and Ahmose rushed down to the medical bay to find Larry arguing with the Doctor, who was refusing to provide medical care to Barry because his condition required several days of care and she needed to get out soon. Unfortunately she was a Pan-Galactic Mining employee, so had no guaranteed way off the ship. Ahmose suggested she could leave on the Come as You Are if she loaded up the medical equipment needed to care for Barry, and any spare valuable gear that would fit. She agreed to this deal very quickly and began preparing to move Barry and all required gear to their ship. They then rushed back to their ship, worried that someone might try to steal it, and indeed found two men arguing about whether to break into the docking bay when they arrived. They scared them off, set Larry to guard the doors, and went down to the main docks to find out what was happening.

The main docks were a scene of chaos. Only four ships were now docked here – Soleria 11C/1 and 11C/2, a mining ship called the Mineral Dahlia, and a freebooter called the Ride on Time. The Soleria ships had marines out in force herding people into queues for assessment, and the captain of the Mineral Dahlia was looting as much mining gear as she could, loading it all into the cargo hold of her ship – a cargo hold that, if empty, could probably rescue all the remaining citizens of the starport. Meanwhile the captain of the Ride on Time, an odious man by the name of Mithril Carn, was auctioning off berths on his ship. He had enough stateroom space for 24 people to board his ship, and had begun taking bids on the space. Six of his men, thuggish-looking mercenaries, stood ready to quell any dissent, and as the PCs watched the two men they had scared from their own ship sidled up to join that gang. Things in the docks were rapidly taking a desperate and criminal turn …

This is where the adventure ended. The PCs need to decide whether to try and intervene in this madness to try and rescue everyone on the starport, or to just abandon them to their fate. They have only two or three days to make their decision before the deadline becomes pressing. What will they do …?

 

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