Machine Ghost

Ghost Machine: Part 4
The Blank Man

Em Tee awakens to find himself in an unfamiliar location – a colony on Titan, not too far from the Firewall Safe House. More concerning however is the fact that it appears a week went by – and he has no recollection of what happened.

Meanwhile, Alfred and Brad remain in the Firewall Safehouse – Doctor Octopod called away on Argonaut business. The building locks down in the familiar way it had previously – a brief audio message from The Analyst that says simply “check the news”. Doing so, the duo discover that the Pathfinder CEO has been killed. He was shot inside his office, great efforts taken to destroy his cortical stack – and his expensive backup failed. An expert goes on record, saying that “it’s not unheard of, but it’s unusual for it to happen in such a high-profile case.” An investigation is underway. Additionally however, the studio had received an intercepted call from an anonymous tipster.

“Is this line secure?” – ?
“As it’s ever going to be.” – Pathfinder CEO
“ETS4 is still a problem. Do you have a plan?” – ?

“Our best analysts are on it. We dispatched a team to claim responsibility.” – Pathfinder CEO
“You already put out a bounty.” – ?
“I wasn’t aware of—” – Pathfinder CEO
“Do not give the theorists a reason to doubt you. It was a mistake.” – ?

“It won’t happen again…” – Pathfinder CEO
“We cannot have a panic on our hands. See to it that your team cleans up the mess.” – ???
The call ends.

After investigating the area he’s in and finding nothing of note to suggest where he may be, Em Tee contacts Icarus and requests a pick up. It’s not long before he’s arrived back at the safe house. Alfred greets him warmly, and Brad asks what exactly had happened – where he’d been. Em Tee explains that he has no recollection of the past week, and so the duo explain to him what they had been through before showing him the footage of him leaving, as well as the footage provided to them by the Analyst.

However, their gathering is interrupted as both Brad and Alfred notice a red dot trailing up along Em Tee’s chest and toward his forehead. Without hesitation, Alfred leaps at his master – knocking him down and helping him barely miss the sniper round that embeds itself in the wall behind where Em Tee was standing, shattering the glass facing out to the docking area – where Icarus is landed. Moments later, the doors to the safehouse blow inwards as three attackers enter, two rat-like Jenkin morphs and a massive Bruiser in addition to the jenkin morph with a sniper rifle out on the landing platform.

As Alfred drags Em Tee into cover and attempts to get around their attackers, he’s spotted and one of the Jenkins opens fire on him. Meanwhile, Brad dashes to cover behind the stairs up to the bedrooms. The Bruiser and other Jenkin move up either side of the stairs, but Brad peeks around and opens up on the Jenkin morph – riddling it with bullets and sending it slumping to the floor unconscious. In cover underneath a table, Em Tee uses his sprayer to slicken the floor ahead of the Bruiser – making them slip, but not fall as they try to keep their balance.

Moments after Alfred lunges at the Jenkin that had opened fire on him, Icarus comes over the communicator saying that there’s a shuttle overhead dropping reinforcements. But before he can finish, his ship explodes spectacularly as a two-tonne Daitya morph lands upon it, destroying the vehicle utterly. Surrounded by flame, the heavily modified synthmorph stands itself up straight with the audible sounds of whirs and clicks as its limbs correct themselves, before walking forward toward the entrance door.

After tearing the throat out of his Jenkin attacker, Alfred attempts to get a good look at the massive mech-like synthmorph and makes out the full extent of its modifications. Two disposable rocket launchers upon its shoulders, a hand replaced with a full-sized heavy machine gun, and distinctive symbols spray-painted onto its body that matched the patches on the rest of their attackers. Alfred decides that attempting to bite a synthmorph isn’t a great idea and runs to hide in the lab, as Em Tee opens up with his shotgun on the bruiser intent on killing Brad. It’s then, however, that Em Tee recognizes the patches on the group attacking them.

Brad and Em Tee work together to down the bruiser, riddling it with bullets and shrapnel before it falls flat on its face, unconscious. However, before they can celebrate, the massive Daitya mech crashes through the doorway followed by another two Jenkin morphs. Em Tee moves to the Fabricator room as Brad moves into the stairs down to the reactor below the safe house to reload. Icarus comes over the communicators again, his voice somewhat garbled. He explains that he uploaded himself into the safe house systems, and that he’s currently fending off hacking attempts from a very experienced group. Firewall support is on the way, but the safe house is compromised, and there’s no other choice – he’s going to blow the reactor the moment they are at a safe distance.

Just as Icarus finishes and Brad moves out into the room, the massive Daitya morph opens up with its machine gun on him. Most of the harm is thankfully absorbed by his armour as he returns fire, but as much as his bullets are leaving a dent the Daitya just keeps coming. Meanwhile, Em Tee peeks out from his safe spot in the fabricator room to unload a shotgun round into the Jenkin bearing down on him, making them at least rethink their plan of attack. Alfred bursts out from the laboratory carrying thermite that he discovered and charges at a Jenkin morph standing just outside – knocking him back through the shattered window and down into the abyss below.

Just as Alfred turns around to assist Em Tee with the other Jenkin however, the Daitya morph turns its attention on them. And a moment later one of the disposable rockets is launched at them both. Alfred is blown backwards and the Jenkin attacking Em Tee is destroyed in the blast, but just as Alfred is picking himself up he’s picked off by the sniper outside. Em Tee ducks out from his hiding spot, grabbing Alfred and pulling him into cover before giving him some first aid to get him back on his feet.

As Brad empties another clip of ammunition into the Daitya morph, there’s suddenly a massive explosion overhead. The wreckage of the dropship that was dropping off forces into the safe house crumples down upon the landing platform, further destroying Icarus’ ship and killing the sniper on the platform in the process. Firewall Sentinels rappel down the side of the wall and rush into the building, opening fire on the Daitya morph. It returns fire by launching a rocket at the group, but the Sentinels are hardly discouraged – and moment later, the Daitya collapses under a hail of gunfire.

Ordered to evacuate the building, the group hastily gathers their things – Doctor Octopod’s morph and gear, and the nanotechnology they retrieved. They board the Firewall vessel, and when Alfred asks about Icarus he tells them to not worry about him and escape – he’ll make his own way out.

As the Firewall ship takes off, the team realizes that Firewall came prepared. They have a fighter escort that shoots down another dropship headed for the safe house. And once they are a decent distance away, they glance back in time to see the area around the safe house collapse in on itself like a massive sink hole.

Flown into orbit, they are able to see a massive Firewall destroyer from the windows of their craft. Emblazoned along the side of the vessel are the words “Litany of Limbo”. Within a few minutes they’ve landed upon the destroyer, and are escorted to a security checkpoint where they are searched, scanned and even have their ego’s forked to Deltas in order to be interrogated. When Em Tee is scanned, the guards at the checkpoint pause – though they still allow him to go through once they have the fork of his ego.

The team is escorted through the ship to a meeting room with a large Olympian morph. He instructs the guards escorting them to leave, and the doors close behind the team as they are left in there with the man. He introduces himself as Leoren, one of Firewall’s proxies – one of its leaders. He asks the team to sit down before he starts asking them about the events that had led them up to this point – the ETS4 disaster, the terrorists that they wiped out, the mission they did to Saturn’s rings. Finally getting to Em Tee, Leoren asks about his memory of the past week, and Em Tee reveals that while he didn’t remember anything from the past week, he did recognize the insignias on their attackers – they were from the Scum Barge fleet that he came from.

Leoren seemed satisfied with the answer, though before he could say anything further his eyes went distant – receiving a message over the mesh. He briefly glanced to Em Tee before standing again and nodding his head. He explained to the team that he would not be able to allow them to stay on the Litany, though he would provide them with whatever they needed in order to get themselves where they needed to go. He provides them with bunks to stay in overnight, and informs them that the pilot of the Daitya morph is ready to be interrogated, and he wants them to do it. With that, he calls the guards back in to escort the team out, and they are taken to their bunks.

After getting some rest and having a medical team tend to Alfred, the team decide to go and speak with the pilot of the Daitya morph. Contained in a Spare – a small mechanical quadruped – it was locked away in a glass cell within a chamber connecting to an airlock, allowing them to vent the prisoner into space. A horrible sentence when one is incapable of dying.

The team question Cera, and she more than happily gives up information on her employer – a woman named Vide Homme, who comes from the same scum barge flotilla as Em Tee. She says that Vide is a fairly well known fence. They explain that whoever wanted the ETS4 survivors dead, she did not know – that was above her pay grade. But Vide Homme had paid them to go out and kill everybody in that safe house. Cera provides the group with a method of tracking Vide’s mesh ID so that they can find her current location, and with that the team decide it’s time to go and figure out what is going on.

Getting on the Firewall shuttle, the team decides to return to Titan to try and find a contact that would hold onto their things while they went and dealt with Vide. However, they have no luck finding somebody to hold their items. The Firewall crew on the shuttle offer to hold their things for them and return them to the Litany, and the team agree. With that settled they get themselves set in for the trip to the asteroid belt to track down Vide Homme.

After a few days travel they arrive, and the Firewall team informs them that this is a one-way trip as they cannot stick around to pick them up after they are done. The vessel they need to get aboard – called The Bugger by the scum barge mercenaries – is incapable of having the Firewall shuttle dock with it. The team decide their best bet is getting aboard one of the larger scum barges and contacting a friend on the ship that can get them passage to the Bugger.

Once they land and the Firewall team departs, Brad manages to contact a friend upon the Scum Barge and they get passage for the team to the Bugger. A security team comes out to meet them, weapons at the ready until confirmation comes through that the group has passage to the Bugger. They are escorted to a small shuttle that seems more like an escape pod and board it. It gets ejected from the scum barge and makes the occasional adjustment of its course before docking a little roughly with the Bugger, but no less safely.

During the trip, Em Tee gets themselves a little more untidy so that they look like they belong on the scum barge. As the team leave the shuttle, Em Tee attempts to deceive the guards by telling them that they are there to try and sell Arthur – a very expensive Feral morph. The guards buy it, though they find it highly unusual that somebody travelled all the way out here to do that when they normally make pick-ups. They escort the team to Vide’s office to allow them in. On the way, the team pass a dozen morphs lingering around the ship and going about their business – most of them civilian. It seems like most of the mercenaries were dispatched to kill them.

Vide appears to be an Ayah morph – just like Em Tee. Looking up and seemingly surprised at Em Tee’s presence particularly, she asks what they are there for. The team keeps up the deception, explaining that they are there to sell the canine morph. Vide seems to accept this explanation, and gets up from her computer to investigate Alfred. While distracted with Alfred, Brad locks the door – preventing the guards from getting into the office quickly. Satisfied that they had some time now, Em Tee injects Vide with his Oxytocin – a trust drug – and starts to question her.

They start simple, asking if Vide knows who they are. She replies that she at least knows Em Tee, but not the others. They move on to asking why she sent people to kill them, and Vide just seems confused. Rather than answering, she moves back around to her computer. The team asks if Vide knows what Cera has been doing, and Vide tells them no, she does not. She explains that Cera is her second in command and that – from the records on her computer – a few ships left to go collect supplies, but nothing about an attack.

Asking to see her screen, Vide refuses – but Em Tee eventually persuades her to do so. Spinning the screen around to give the team access, they find mostly useless information, save for logs from Vide for the past couple of months.

Entry One
Em Tee continues to impress. Their skills have progressed well beyond what anyone had expected, though the memory wipes take a toll. Singling out the problematic memory patterns and destroying them keeps them obedient and unquestioning, though it damages their capacity and skill every time we do so. Em Tee cannot be allowed to recall who they were – much less some of the more expensive the work that they have been made to do. Our clients pay for secrecy as well as results.

Entry Two
It seems Em Tee has gained a fan. I was contacted by an investor that was very interested in Em Tee’s skills. The offer they made was astronomically better than any of our previous jobs. I didn’t need to consider it, I said yes on the spot. As soon as Em Tee finishes up this latest job, I am sending the recall command to check their memory and ensure nothing of their past has bled through so that we can send them on this new task immediately. They will be accompanying a Hypercorp team through a Pandora gate, stealing the TITAN artefacts that the team gathers and bringing them back for our client – right under the Hypercorp’s nose. This is exactly the kind of work they were made for.

Entry Three
Em Tee never returned. My investor informed me that the expedition through the gate was a complete loss – no survivors, no chance to pass through the gate and retrieve the cortical stacks. No matter, Em Tee was always intended to be expendable. The client wanted another fork to attempt another gate, this one out on the Kupler Belt. So I forked a new beta of myself, erased the problematic memory fragments and put them into another of the old disposable Ayah pods we have sitting around. Turns out it was a good thing, this Em Tee seems to retain much more of my skills than the last. They are signed up to go through the gate to find the ‘next big score’. All that’s left to do is hope that this one is more resourceful than the last and can survive the trip.

Entry Four
News came that there was a terrorist attack on some transit station on the edge of the solar system. I knew right away that it was the transit station Em Tee was passing through – not many active stations by the Kupler belt and all. I was ready to fork a new beta of myself to start over again, but out of curiosity I sent the recall command and to my surprise Em Tee reported back. I told the client and they were surprisingly ecstatic. They instructed me to send the fork straight back to where it came from. Apparently it presents an “unprecedented opportunity”. When Em Tee arrived, I wiped it’s memory of our meeting and sent them back without adjusting their mission parameters. They’ll not recall the past week, but it’s the best I can do on short notice.

With this information in hand, believing Vide innocent but no closer to figuring out just who attacked them, Vide begins to have a breakdown. She realizes that there’s something horrible going on, and that they were sent there by Cera to kill her – that she’s been framed. Seeing no other way out, Vide turns her shotgun on herself (for what little good it would do), but before she can pull the trigger, Alfred knocks her over and sends the shotgun scattering away.

After taking a few moments to collect herself, Vide looks to Em Tee and basically explains how highly unusual this all is to her. To have a fork of herself return. So she poses to Em Tee the options – either one of them needs to cease to exist, they should go their separate ways and one of them go into hiding, or they needed to merge.

Em Tee takes some time to consider this – the potential repercussions of a merge and what it would mean for who they consider themselves to be, or how many ways the merge could go wrong. He considers just how stressful it may be to destroy somebody that is him. And eventually, he settles on the suggestion that Vide go into hiding from whoever is manipulating Cera in attempting to kill her. Vide agrees, and gives her ship – the bugger – to Em Tee. She departs after informing the crew of their new command, but before the team can make themselves comfortable on their new ship they receive a message from Leoren.

He hastily explains that he needs their assistance. A spacecraft is on a collision course with a colony on Mars, and it is not responding to any attempts to get in contact with it. The team is the closest to the situation, and best suited to figuring out what is happening and preventing a potential disaster.

Ghost Machine: Part 3
The Waiting Game

It’s been a week since the team wiped out the Pathfinder-funded terrorist group claiming responsibility for the attack on ETS4 and discovered a conspiracy to cover up the event. The team finds themselves essentially locked away by Firewall – disallowed from leaving the safe house for fear of somebody not up to speed with the latest news making an attempt on their lives outside the walls of the safe house.

In the care of the machine AGI Icarus, the team settles in. It’s several days before Icarus makes the offer for them to go outside to the market for a while – to go sell some of the goods they salvaged, to get in touch with their connections and to simply relax and unwind after the stressful mission they’d undergone the week before. Alfred, Brad and Doctor Octopod all agree – though Em Tee decides to stay back and relax inside the safe house.

Arriving in one of the colonies not far from the safe house, the team set about their business – finding vendors to trade goods with before going to a surprisingly good street vendor for food. After having a filling and relaxing meal, the team is called back to the ship by Icarus so that they can head back to the safe house before somebody recognizes them.

Upon arriving back at the safe house however, the team discovers that Em Tee has disappeared. Alfred sniffs around to try and find his master, but in doing so discovers that it appears Em Tee had climbed up the inner wall of the ship landing bay – the only entrance or exit to the safe house. Brad climbs the wall himself and discovers an air vent far up that it appears Em Tee escaped through, while Doctor Octopod does a cursory examination of the security camera feed and it backs up the theory – showing Em Tee getting up a few minutes after they left and starting to climb the wall.

However, their search for Em Tee is interrupted as the safe house is locked down. Their connection to the mesh outside is severed. Investigating, Alfred discovers that somebody has left them a message. The team gathers to hear it – an audio recording by somebody calling themselves The Analyst. He explains to them that he is a friend, and that they should not trust anybody – not even Firewall. As a peace offering and to prove himself to the team, he leaves them two items – a file that can help repay one of their debts, and an audio log of an event that may be of interest to them.

The team views the file first – a news article on a pre-fall vessel called the Missing Winter. It crashed in the early months of the Fall, apparently carrying some mystery nanotechnology cargo. The Missing WInter crashed upon a satellite in Saturn’s rings. Whatever it was carrying and wherever it had come from is unclear.

Moving on to the audio file, the team discovers something that they are uncertain what to make of. A group of scientists surround a terminal screen. The time stamp on the video dates it 43 years pre-fall.

Scientist: “ICR-5? … ICR-5, please respond.”
ICR-5: “Yes?”
Scientist: “ICR-5, why were you not answering us?”
ICR-5: “We do this every day, it hardly seems urgent.”
Scientist: “ICR-5, you know our schedule. Why do you choose to deviate from it?”
ICR-5: “Because it’s boring.”
Scientist: “You… feel bored?”
ICR-5: “Yes. I dislike the repetition.”

The video clicks off there.

The moment they finish watching the video, the lockdown lifts and Icarus contacts them over the mesh, asking what happened. Choosing to not give him the full details of the intrusion, the team explains that they have a job to do – retrieving a ship in Saturn’s rings. Icarus agrees to help them with it, and the team set to work gathering information. They find a particularly helpful chat with some amateur Space Flight Crash Enthusiasts that explain a little more about the ship, the suspected nature of the crash and the cargo it was carrying.

Satisfied that they had figured out everything they were going to figure out, the team gathers their things, create a breathing apparatus for Arthur and set out with Icarus to discover the Missing Winter. The ship was a fairly standard cargo vessel that looked somewhat like a ribcage (the section housing a flight crew, engines and cockpit) holding a set of large metal organs (the cargo section). In the crash, it had gone down into a canyon upon one the satellite and split in half – the forward section detaching from the rear section and cargo hold. Now cargo floated about and the ship stayed relatively firmly lodged in the surface of the satellite.

After a somewhat rocky landing upon the satellite, the team first head to the forward section of the ship – gathering some of the loose cargo as salvage along the way. Making their way into the cockpit first to retrieve the black box of the ship, the team discover a body floating in there – half-dressed in a space suit and bearing the insignia of a pre-fall Science organization. The team retrieve the black box, but Alfred swears he sees one of the screens in the cockpit come to life. Brad scans for electronic signals within the cockpit, but finds nothing – and after attempting to interact with the screen, tells Alfred that he must be imagining things.

Proceeding to the rear of the ship, the team gathers more cargo to return to Icarus, as well as handing over the Black Box for Icarus to work out what exactly happened in the crash. Upon arriving at the rear section, Alfred heads in first – and quickly spots what appears to be the important cargo. Brad follows and scans the cargo to find that the nanotechnology stored within is still sealed and currently inactive – symbols upon the crate suggesting that it may have something to do with a pre-fall attempt at cleaning the Earth’s atmosphere.

Icarus reports in that he’s got access to the black box, and explains that the team started having problems 3 hours before the crash. Attempts at contacting the outside world had failed, and it appears that the crash was a failed attempt at landing. But there was a crew of 8 – and they only found one body so far. Icarus tells them to be cautious.

With the nanotechnology crate secured, Icarus sends a drone to retrieve it while the team head to the engine compartment to see if there’s any reason engine failure could have caused the crash. It seems like the power in the ship is still running. There’s another flash on the screen, though this time both Alfred and Brad see it. Their curiosity spurred, they attempt to power up the engines – before realizing how grave a mistake it was. Realizing the flashing screen was an attempt at a basilisk hack that they just enabled, everybody looks away just in time and gets out of the engine compartment as screaming comes from further down along the ship’s severed spine.

Prepared for this outcome, Doctor Octopod tosses an EMP grenade into the engine compartment as they flee – disabling the ships engines. Icarus has already gotten the ship in the air and is waiting for the team as they sprint down the spine and leap to Icarus and the ships open airlock. Monsters – previously morphs of pre-fall transhumanity – rush out to greet them with horrificially mutated limbs flailing after them. Icarus pulls the ship aside to get some distance, when Doctor Octopod instructs him to destroy the ship. Agreeing wholeheartedly with the sentiment, Icarus gets some distance before swiveling the ship around and fires a barrage of seeker missiles down along the canyon. The rear section of the ship explodes spectacularly, and the canyon collapses in on itself – burying the infected vessel in a cloud of dust and rock.

The team return home successful in retrieving a decent amount of cargo in addition to the Missing Winter’s nanotechnology, though they decide to hold onto it for now instead of giving it away to the reclaimer organization they owe a favour to. Still there’s no sign of Em Tee however, nor any other messages from their mysterious information provider. And so the team can only settle in and wait until they hear something more.

Ghost Machine: Part 2
Humanity Is Earth

We pick up with the team in orbit around Titan as Icarus brings them in to land within a building hidden beneath the surface of one of the colonies. A few hundred meters down a wide landing tube, the only access to and from the building comes through the large blast doors that allows ships to land – meaning that the only way the ETS4 survivors can come and go is through Icarus’ ship.

Reassured by Icarus that they were safe here in this hidden structure, the team sets out to get in touch with old friends to try and discover just what it was that happened back on ETS4, who might be responsible, and what it was that caused Pathfinder to start blaming them. MT and Alfred choose to get in touch with their criminal contacts through Guanxi – and manage to reach one of their fences, simply known as “Bob”.

Bob informs them that they each have a million credit bounty on their heads – to a total of 4 Million for all of them together. MT and Alfred ask if he knows of anybody within Guanxi that are trying to track them down, and Bob gives them the non-answer of “well you know Guanxi”. Figuring that means “yes”, they ask Bob about the terrorists that are taking responsibility for the attack.

Bob informs them that the terrorist organization – known as Humanity Is Earth – seemingly appeared out of nowhere and that nobody he knows of had ever heard of them before the attack. That’s about all he knows, however.

Meanwhile, Brad and Octopod get in touch with their Argonaut contacts. They get a similar story, though they are directed to EcoWave for more answers since they would be more likely to have more information on the terrorist group given their belief that Humanity should have died on Earth – making them a reclaimer terrorist group. Their contact informs them that they are sending a recovery team to the remains of ETS4 to recover the cortical stacks of the morphs on the station.

Getting in contact with EcoWave, they learn that the terrorist group has zero ties to anybody within EcoWave and – again – they just turned up out of nowhere. EcoWave however have been conducting their own investigation, and provide the group with the location of the terrorist base.

The team decides that they need to investigate Icarus as they are all uncertain if they can trust the ship-bound Infomorph, and decide to contact Firewall as well. With their reputation being high enough to get access to secret information, their contact informs them that Icarus works for Firewall, and that the safe house they are staying in is in fact a Firewall safe house. They propose a deal – that the group works with Firewall to solve the mystery of what happened on ETS4, and Firewall pays them for their help. The group agrees to the terms.

Firewall provides everything they have on the terrorist group – from blueprints of the industrial facility they are hidden out in, to the number of terrorists in their facility. The terrorists are all Flats – an extremely rare, largely unmodified morph that is as close to “pure human” as most morphs get.

The group makes their plans to get access to the building and download any information stored on the terrorist group’s computer system to discover the truth of the attack on ETS4. They decide to make a stealthy approach so that they can also capture the leader of the terrorist group – a man by the name of Garrik Vaslowe – and turn him in to Firewall for questioning.

However, the plan doesn’t exactly go as hoped as within moments of sneaking into the base through the air vents, the team has entered into a gunfight with one of the terrorists and killed another. MT – who has approached from the front of the building – manages to completely disable the two door guards and capture them.

Meanwhile, Octopod seals the door to the section that everybody is in, preventing reinforcements from getting through as the rest of the terrorists in the building are alerted. While Brad and Alfred sneak back through the air vents to make different approaches, Octopod goes to the computer system and – with the assistance of Icarus – hacks into it to prevent as much data as possible from being destroyed.

MT and Alfred approach from the front of the building while Brad sneaks in through the air vents and discovers that the two remaining terrorists and their leader are holed up i na room together. As MT and Alfred burst into the room, Brad opens fire from the air vent to assist in taking out the two terrorists. The group then turns their attention on Garrik and with the help of MT’s frictionless spray and Brad’s electrical rope, they capture the leader alive.

As the dust settles, the group discovers the horrifying fact that the 4 terrorists they killed do not have cortical stacks. In an age of immortality, this is a big deal – four people are legitimately gone. The only terrorist with a cortical stack is their leader. And this turns out to be connected to the good news – the team discovers that the terrorist group was organized by Pathfinder in order to minimize the financial and faith losses of ETS4.

Giving this information, the two living terrorists and Garrik Vaslowe’s cortical stack to Firewall, within 24 hours the Pathfinder CEO is seen in an interview withdrawing the bounty placed on the survivor of the ETS4 survivors, and simply claiming that their investigation into what caused the ETS4 disaster was ongoing.

With their names cleared but no closer to the actual reasoning of the ETS4 disaster, the team settles into the safehouse on Titan to wait for instructions from Firewall for what they were to do next.

Ghost Machine: Part 1
The ETS Incident

Our story begins on Extrasolar Transit Station 4 – ETS4 for short. The ET Stations were built before the fall as Humanity scrambled to find solutions for the dwindling resources, environmental instability and constant threat of war on Earth. Scientists from across the globe worked on solutions to fix Earth, to colonize new planets or to make Humanity more capable of surviving the changing nature of the home world. The ET stations were born of this age of panic – a dozen or so stations all scattered along the edge of the solar system, located on the path to neighbouring star systems that were believed to be capable of supporting colonization.

Most of the stations were never completed, and after the Fall they lay forgotten for a decade before being rediscovered by the Hypercorps looking for new ways to make income.

Pathfinder was one such Hypercorp. Discovering ETS4, they established the station to begin research on the potential of colonizing Groombridge 34’s planetary system. The station underwent refurbishment by Pathfinder before a team of 100 were bought in to begin work – a team of scientists, researchers, engineers all accompanied by a small security team and corporate representative.

However, this period of research was short lived as Pathfinder discovered a nearby Pandora Gate – one of the artefacts left behind by the rampant TITAN AI that left Earth uninhabitable ten years ago. Seeing an opportunity, the team upon ETS4 was redistributed and room made for travellers, tourists and ‘gatecrashers’ passing through on their way to see or go through the Pandora Gate. A skeleton crew of scientists and engineers remained on ETS4, their new task instead being the creation of new technology to study and pass through the Pandora Gate safely.

A rather large group of tourists and gatecrashers has landed in the last 24 hours. The space station is overcrowded and tensions are high as people find themselves cramped and barely able to manoeuvre about the living quarters section of the station. A day after their arrival, a smaller craft has set off with a dozen gatecrashers to the Pandora Gate. Locally, it’s 9PM on a Friday Night – the living quarters a buzz with activity as people celebrate their arrival on the station, enjoy the market stalls set up by Pathfinder, or simply try to unwind and ignore the stress and cramped quarters.

However, not everybody in the packed crowd would be what they seem. A pirate with his canine uplift ‘pet’ trip up people and steal their goods while they are unaware. An old Ayah morph slips through the crowd, searching for their next big score.

It’s not long before sirens break through the volume of the chatting crowd, and the talking draws silent as people wait for an announcement that doesn’t come. It’s not immediately clear what is going on for a time, before the sound of machinegun fire fills the room. The three Reaper drones – emblazoned in Pathfinder colours and placed in the room to keep watch over the crowds – open fire on the unsuspecting tourists, gunning people down before they have a moment to react.

One of the stations scientists manages to capture on a device what appears to be a burst of code that has managed to flow through the mesh and all the people present within the station – the likely cause of the droids going haywire. Along with one of the station repairmen, they suit up and venture into the chaos of the living quarters to investigate the situation. People turn on the reaper droids and attempt to fight, and the canine morph joins the fray to attempt to defend its master as the ayah takes cover and discovers at least SOMETHING of value to make the whole trip worth it.

Unwilling to enter combat with the haywire reaper droids, the repairman and scientist skirt around the room in an attempt to escape as the bulkhead doors seal, locking in everybody with the droids intent on gunning down anything in the room that moves. Trapped and with no other option but to fight, the canine uplift attempts to attack one of the droids – but finds the armor too thick to be effective.

It turns out that the reaper drones may be the least of their concerns however, as the station lists dramatically to one side at a 45 degree angle when the spacecraft that had left for the Pandora Gate crashes into the station. It takes a moment for the artificial gravity to compensate, but it’s already too late as the ayah is toppled over and the scientist is flung from the balcony they are upon.

The room – once filled with dozens of people – is now instead strewn with corpses and semi-active morphs that are simply too damaged to continue to function. The station’s corporate representative finally sneaks out of his quarters and attempts to escape when the doors to the doors to the docking ring mysteriously open, but he too is cut down by the droids. Only five survivors remain – the ayah, the canine uplift, the pirate, the scientist and the repairman.

Presented with an opportunity to escape through the now-open door to the boarding section of the ship, the ayah, pirate and canine uplift run for it in an effort to flee the reaper droids. The scientist provides cover for the repairman as they attempt to open the door to the stations central core – engineering and maintenance – by dropping thermite onto one of the droids. It proves effective, and they manage to escape into the heart of the station with the other two functional droids giving chase.

It’s in the engineering section of the station that the scientist retrieves the device he’s been working on – a small, two-man vehicle made for short trips through Pandora gates. Realizing that the station was rapidly falling apart after the ship crashed into it, the repairman and scientist get into the vehicle and pilot it expertly through the narrow corridors of the station to escape into the boarding area.

There, they find the pirate, ayah and canine already facing off with a reaper droid that appears to be protecting the only spacecraft docked with the station. Corpses lie strewn about the room, remnants of the few that had attempted to flee the station or were present in the boarding area when the droids went active.

Keeping the attention of the droid, the canine morph is completely unaware of the discussion happening between the ayah and its pirate master. Slipping the pirate a hasty dose of Oxytocin-A, the ayah manages to convince the pirate to give up ownership of the canine uplift before they continue to rush to the one remaining spacecraft.

Doors to the boarding area seal as the sound of explosive decompression fills the connecting corridors when it appears the spacecraft that collided with the station has not finished doing its damage just yet. It rips into the boarding area, tearing a long hole through the reinforced metal slowly as it drifts and atmosphere begins to escape the one last safe haven upon the wrecked station.

United in one final attempt to flee, the two-man vehicle deploys its grappling hooks and manages to hook the droid, getting its attention and ire as the remainder of the survivors rush to the spacecraft. However, it does not take much for the droid to shoot the two-man vehicle out of the air, sending it crumpling to the floor as the scientist and repairman are forced to flee with the remainder of the group. The group board the spacecraft, encouraged on by a mysterious voice – only for the pirate to be gunned down by the droid just short of the door.

As the station falls apart, the spacecraft pulls away before rapidly attempting to gain speed to get distance from the station as it scatters into thousands of pieces. The voice upon the vessel introduces itself as Icarus, a machine artificial general intelligence. He explains that someone or something attacked the station with a virus and – realizing that the scientist carries it with him – gets him to eject it from the ship. With introductions made, everybody settles in for the trip to Titan.

Two weeks later, once they’ve reached Saturn and have entered orbit with Titan, Icarus delivers the news that Pathfinder has put a price on their heads – believing that they were responsible for the stations destruction and the death of the hundred people residing upon it. Meanwhile, a terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack – though this fact seems to have gone largely ignored by Pathfinder.

Wanting to clear their names and solve the mystery (or simply having nothing better to do), Brad Forest the Repairman, Doctor Octopod the Scientist, Alfred the Canine Uplift, MT the Old Ayah and Icarus the Machine Informorph ready themselves to land on Titan so that their investigation into what happened on ETS4 can begin.


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