Foreword: this is the second and final session of Alpha Squad of the Broken Sword arc, GM’d by Hank. It is the follow up to the session written about over here. Special thanks to the other players Chuck, Damion, and Tim. I had a great time.
… calibrating sensor arrays …
location: Aster 12
ship “HONEY” status:
this “NOVA” status:
What remained of the crew of the Xevosian ship “Honey” was in the cargo hold. The ship had crashed. Again. In a last ditch effort to complete operation Broken Sword, the crew (if it can even be called that at this point) made a high speed atmospheric maneuver that brought them over their sister squad and dropped a payload of supplies for them. Burned up all their fuel, but this mission was too important to worry about little things.
And so Honey crashed. It was a graceful sort of crash, like a smooth rock being skipped across the surface of a pond. The three mechs inside, all that remained of the original crew, were fine. For now, at least, because the speartooth that had killed their biological crew-mates, slowly regained its feet and began to crawl over wreckage of the cargo bay. BONG BONG. A hollow ringing echoed over the creaks of the ship’s hull. Someone was outside, knocking on the ship’s hull. It distracted the speartooth for a moment, but only just. It loomed, its eyes red with hatred. It would kill the three mechs despite them offering no meal.
“HONEY, open the cargo bay hatch and run scans on the local area”
… exception detected …
“strange. sustained damage must have caused an error.”
“why did this think HONEY was sentient…?”
“a… dream? no. a malfunction.”
Nova, after a short hesitation, moved to the exterior walls of the cargo bay, searching for an undamaged control panel. “I will deal with this oversized kitten!” Grubber, the Trailblazer 2000 mech, revved its attached chainsaw to attract the speartooth’s attention. Sawdrone, the small wheeled drone finished affixing it’s previous owner’s weapon to its chassis: a powerful arc cannon.
The speartooth was fast, and lunged forward at Nova, but the smoke and fire that was slowly spreading in the cargo hold was enough of a deterrent to keep the speartooth from rending the mech. The cat howled in frustration and rage. Grubber didn’t care, but Nova and Sawdrone weren’t built with the same durability that Grubber was. They quickly retreated to the back of the hold, Nova using the smoke and fire to cover its escape. The archons that built Nova back on Xevos had the sense to install thermal repair module, which meant that when Nova’s chassis could repair itself when exposed to high heat.
… yog matrix updated …
… new function added. designation SMOKE …
Outside the ship was no more peaceful than inside; an unfortunate truth for the Torton hermit that was casually knocking on the hull with his gnarled staff. A group of corroders were skittering up to the wreckage of the ship, eager to feast on the metal. The torton paid them little mind, confidant that he was the last thing they cared about. He hid behind a rock and calmly waited.
The remains of Honey creaked and groaned. The ship wouldn’t last long. Maybe 30 seconds more before the whole thing collapsed in on itself. Sawdrone swiveled the arc cannon around on its gimbal and took aim at the speartooth. Three bolts of electricity slammed into the beast in rapid succession knocking it off balance and singing its fur. Grubber seized the moment and opened the beast up with its chainsaw. Gruesome, but the beast was dead. Vengeance was theirs, if the mechs could care about such things.
The corroders were at the ship, eating through its hull. Sawdrone and Grubber grabbed as much supplies as they could from the hold and rushed to one of the still-working escape pods. Nova had a different idea. As Honey’s entire upper deck collapsed, Grubber and Sawdrone launched the escape pod, ejecting out and up, using what the pod’s vector thrusters to land back near crash site. Nova ran towards the corroders that were eating through the hull and activated its new function “SMOKE.”
Nova’s body disappeared. Metal, plastic, and glass was gone. Instead, a thick cloud of smoke drifted out the hole that the corroders had made. This smoke drifted on the breeze over to where the torton was sitting, and tried to communicate by mimicking the gestures and body language of the torton. “Huh, smoke signals,” The torton mused.
Grubber and Sawdrone landed nearby, and the corroders quickly surrounded the escape pod. There were more of the insects now, and it wouldn’t be long before they got at the two mechs inside. Sawdrone, however, was originally built as a mobile rotary saw and plasma cutter, and with both style and grace cut away the back of the pod so that Grubber and it could escape. But not before grubber rigged the vector thrusters on the pod to overheat and explode; the corroders would have some indigestion with this meal.
The torton spoke to the smoke that was Nova. “Whaaat are you?” Nova, seeing Grubber and Sawdrone exiting the pod, reformed. “This is designation NOVA. We are what remains of our ship’s crew. Do you know where to find safety?” The torton was almost more confused by the strange mech than by the sentient smoke. “Yeaaah, I know a safe place. Follow meeee.” His speech was languid, as if there was nothing more important in the cosmos. Still, the mechs were damaged and needed to reground. They followed the torton through the jungles, and somewhere behind them… Honey exploded.
It was a short walk to the torton’s home. It wasn’t much, just a small cave in the side of a shallow pool. The torton turned to the mechs, “Caaaall me Rhux… What’s your story?” Grubber and Nova explained the situation: they were part of a crew meant to stop Imperium operations on this planet, but their biological crew-mates had been killed by the speartooth. Sawdrone whirred and gestured, alerting the rest to a pair of squags were audible a short distance away.
“They must be searching for the ship, and us. Grubber, Sawdrone; we will hide in the cave. Rhux, send them on their way. There’s not much ship for them to have, anyway…” Nova led the mechs to Rhux’s small mud hut and waited. The squags approached Rhux and, after tuning their translator unit, asked if Rhux had seen a ship. “Whyyy yees, there was one that flew overhead earlier. It crashed that way I think…” Rhux pointed. The squags eyed him, but that’s all they did before they went on their way. The four of them were safe for now.
The group rested for a few hours. The mech’s spent time swapping their modules and repairing, all while Rhux slowly and casually spoke about the Imperium base that was about 20 clicks away. This was their chance. If they could disrupt activities at the base, then maybe their sister squad could take advantage of that. They had to do it. There was no other option. Nova rigged up a crude transmitter in order to send a short-wave burst to their sister squad, to let them know their plans.
“alpha squad approaching imperium base. arrival at approx. 183052ut. task: disrupt, distract, destroy.”
… transmission sent …
It was night by the time the four of them reached the Imperium base. Rain was pattering on the jungle canopy. The base was situated on top of a rocky hill; fortified, elevated, and highly defensible. A stone ramp was the only easy means of ingress, but Sawdrone had an idea. Using the ocular sensors that it had scavenged from Honey’s cargo hold, the small drone did a thorough perimeter sweep, returning with enough information to allow the mechs to spread out and scale the hill in relative safety.
Grubber and Sawdrone scaled the north side of the hill, hiding behind huge, monolithic stones that ringed the top of this hill. Nova activated its SMOKE function and effortlessly glided through the base’ defenses to and into its interior. This wasn’t some small backwater outpost. There were at least 20 squag elite troops here, all standing at attention. A huge duranium turbine thrummed behind the troops. Nothing good could be happening here.
Meanwhile… Rhux walked straight up to the two squags guarding entrance ramp. “Helloooo theeere.” The squags approached, fiddled with their translator box, and pointed their blasters at the torton. “What are you doing here? Answer or we’ll shoot!” Rhux was having none of their hostilities. “Don’t worry friends… I live heeere, and I thought… on a night liike this, the mushrooms grow wonderfully tasty. Would you like one?”
Rhux’s calm demeanor was infectious, and he had the squags eating out of his hand in seconds, literally. They plopped the mushrooms into their bubble-helms and enjoyed the tasty snack with him.
A mechanical voice boomed over a speaker system “Jump commencing in 20 seconds. To stations. This is not a drill.”
“jump… this has heard that before. like a dream, but this does not dream.”
… WARNING: yog matrix at 80% …
“not an error. not a malfunction. this remembers. another timeline. another ship.”
… WARNING: yog matrix at 85% …
“this made an error before. HONEY wanted to go jump to the binary star system, but this refused.”
… ERROR: yog matrix at 90% …
“three deaths she died. this will not make the same mistake again.”
… ERROR: yog matrix at 95% …
“the archons knew this’ purpose. this accepts it.”
… CRITICAL: yog matrix at 100%
… yog matrix updated …
… new function added. designation NOVA …
As the voice over the PA echoed around the base, Nova returned to its corporeal form and stepped into the middle base. Grubber and Sawdrone were still behind cover, but they saw the esper-class mech. The squags turned and pointed their guns, for all the good it would do them. Nova ignored the squags and spoke. “This is my purpose. This is why I am here. I accept this. Finish it.” The mech activated its new function, designation “NOVA.”
The fragments of yog crystals that were embedded in Nova’s chassis glowed more brightly than they had ever before. And they burst. A shockwave rippled out from Nova at the center of the base followed quickly by a flash of fire and radiation. The squags surrounding the mech were instantly vaporized. The only ones left were the two enjoying mushrooms with Rhux.
Nova’s body fell apart and clattered onto the metal flooring. Grubber and Sawdrone rushed forward, both trying, and failing, to put Nova back together; there was just too much damage. Rhux did what he could, and shook his staff and hissed in his deep voice. The squags, made distracted and a bit woozy from the mushrooms, retreated back to their base and began taking wild shots in the dark. Despite their state, their blasts landed true, and in two quick shots Grubber was dropped to the ground.
Sawdrone, that brilliant little done, had taken from the cargo hold a flask of that ultra-strong whisky gar the bios like to drink. This one was fortified with nanites designed to repair and reconstruct. Unsure if this would work on a mech, Sawdrone tipped the flask into Grubber’s tank. As it did this, it accessed an old voice recording from one of the bios on the ship and transmitted it to Grubber: “Do your job!”
In moments the Trailblazer was back up! The nanites were doing their job and reconstructing the holes left by the squag blasters. Not only that, but they would continue to reconstruct any damage done for another 20 or so seconds! Grubber took this chance to race to the squags and lay into them. Their next shots may have hit him, but it didn’t even matter.
Sawdrone powered up its mighty arc cannon and blasted the squags with rapid fire electricity, wounding them heavily, but not enough. They took aim at the little drone, ignoring the invulnerable tank in front of them, and fired two perfect shots. Sawdrone didn’t stand a chance. The little mech had its wheeled legs blasted off, and it collapsed on top of the remains of Nova.
That’s when the imperator arrived. The booming voice from before wasn’t over a PA system, it was from this thing. The most advanced mech suit ever built, piloted by a disembodied spirit with only one purpose: to destroy its enemies. The imperator stood at the top of a ramp, in front of a pair of prismatic obelisks and a swirling portal being tended to by a pair of eldritch floating brains.
The imperator descended the ramp and engaged Grubber. In a last ditch effort to heed Sawdrone’s and Nova’s final words, Grubber picked up Sawdrone’s broken chassis, jammed the arc cannon into the whirring turbine, and fired. Grubber, however, was not built for finesse, and Sawdrone’s body was fragile. The tiny drone was caught in the turbine’s blades and ripped into countless fragments.
The sacrifice was not in vain, though. The turbine sputtered, shook, and rent itself apart in a great explosion. The portal through which the imperium were about to “jump” faded. For now, the timeline was safe. In retribution, the imperator pinned Grubber to the ground with one of its legs, “I can’t kill you yet, but I can crush you.” The imperator waited for a few more moments, gloating, while the nanites in Grubber’s system slowly powered down. Then came the chain sword. It bit through Grubber’s plating and tore at the mech’s chassis.
Rhux tried his best to help the mechas, but his spiritual magic was meant for those with hearts and souls, and he did not think these mechas had such. He had heard there was a second squad. Maybe he could find them and tell the tale of this night. The torton retreated into his shell, and rolled down the hill. Even in the midst of this dense battle, his calm easiness saw him through with not even a scratch.
“You think you’re strong, but you have no style. You are just a tool!” Grubber wasn’t the most advanced mech, but he had spirit; or something close enough to it as to make no difference. The imperator stepped back and was preparing to fire a salvo of rockets, when the two squags stepped up and made two more perfect shots. There wasn’t anything Grubber could do. The shots melted through his weakened plating and fried his internal circuitry.
The imperator’s voice was a distant hum in the background to Grubber, “Good work squags. You have performed adm…” the sound faded out, and all that was left of Grubber was being made into a single transmission; the final transmission from Alpha Squad of operation Broken Sword:
Mission transmission 123004-1a30001: “Poets and scientists from around the known multiverse have debated whether Mecha feel emotion, or pain, or anything one might call ‘real’. I ask you this, those that may still hear me, what is the difference then, when it comes down to it, between those electrical reactions within an organic compound or those currents that run through a system of wires and yog crystals which both ultimately result in a shared synergism of experience we call life? Hath not a Mecha eyes? Hath not a Mecha hands, senses, emotions? Does not a Mecha live and die by the same sword and energy blast as an organic? Are they not warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter as those that are derived from carbon? If any out there receive this programmed message, it is because I have met my demise and I have only one final request. Please know that I am Mecha, and that I lived!”