Wednesday, September 11, 2013

SUETHULU: We Do Something Significant, part 1

At this point, the only real plan we had was the aforementioned capture, using the Eye as bait. No orders were forthcoming from Blackspire and nothing was going on to which we could react; the Tagers were doing nothing for us either. With that in mind, we really planned on working alone -- which led to the aforementioned problems with the resilience of a Dhohanoid to incapacitation or immobilization.

Chemical sedation was of course out, and we lacked the ability to control our damage output to keep them unconsious rather than dead through physical trauma. The best shot we had was, in our view, some kind of net or other physical restraint, combined with trusting Blackspire to have some sort of more permanent holding facility to which to transfer them. The idea of a net, in view of the Dhohanoids' melee prowess, swiftly became a net gun, and then very swiftly became many,many net guns.

Marty insisted that we set up the meeting at this point, before the prerequisite technology was tested and in place. By his logic, the underworld takes a long time to get word around about anything, so it could be a week before we hear back from any interested buyers once we say that we have the Eye. Jin and I go put a description of the Eye on Evil Space Ebay; instantly, we have a meeting in three days. "Clearly you don't know everything you think you do." Thanks, Marty; actually, this isn't that bad, and it falls well within the range of acceptible tricks to pull on us.

Immediately after halving our time limit, Marty raised objections: clearly Cael didn't have the expertise to design firearms, and anyway a gun doesn't have enough energy to launch a net any significant distance. The former was relatively easy; it just took a while to describe how to cut down a silencer, bore it open, and machine a wider tube to lock into it via a reducing bushing and cleverly cut slots/nubs. Pack a series of these tubes with wadding (and thankfully, we had amazing wadding), a net, and a quartet of tractors; load a heavy pistol with blanks and wear enough of a glove to deal with the cartridge heat. It took three dozen Repair checks (and Bluff checks to get them from Blackspire), but we got them working.

Then we got to argue over how much energy was stored in a heavy pistol round. Marty maintained we'd be better off using a "needler" gun, powered by pressurized carbon dioxide; mind, these can't take silencers, but still, they're obviously superior. "You get more gas pressure from pressurized gas than from fire." Then we start actually doing the math on the relative pressures involved, and Marty comes to the following conclusion: "If you need that much pressure to make gas rounds better, obviously pressure can't be the whole story. You're probably overlooking something." See, we took his provided energy, bullet mass/cross-sectional area, and barrel length, and worked back to an approximate average pressure of four gigapascals, because he liked anti-tank pistols. Now, I could come up with HEMs to reach that chemically given the cartridge volume, but getting that kind of power out of compressed gas is...interesting, thermodynamically speaking, especially when you consider how to build the pressure vessel cheaply enough to put in every. single. round. We can't heat the gas, either. "That would defeat the purpose."
Marty, naturally, didn't care. "Well, obviously it works, so presumably everyone just deals with whatever side effects." Side effects like several thousand cubic meters of gas ejected per shot. Yep, obvious.

Eventually, I get him to watch several Youtube clips of chemically propelled net guns, and he relents; we can get a two-kilogram net to go ten meters and still be traveling at a reasonable speed. Blanks, though, apparently don't have as much propellant as normal bullets, and "it's a lot harder to jury-rig rounds to accept more propellant than it is to overpressure an airgun." Uh...sure. Why do we need more propellant? We have enough to put some heavy machine guns to shame. Free recoil is enough of a nightmare already, Marty.

Regardless, more Engineering checks later, we make them "slightly more efficient"; they'll only fly nine yards now, but we can use them with blanks. Blanks we do not, in fact, have -- apparently Blackspire has none in stock, and can't get any in, and we can't just buy them. The entire NEG doesn't need blanks -- but thankfully I pass enough checks to make a suitable substitute from ordinary bullets. Two checks per bullet, by the way; he did not want this to happen. Finally everything was ready but the nets, which of course were not commercially available. That's fine, say I: we'll just buy the fibers and weave them ourselves.

We can't buy the fibers. Not the MWCNT-epoxy ones I wanted; no kind of nanotubes at all, actually. Nor carbon fiber. No Aramid, no Vectran, no proper steel, no silk, no aluminum. 200 MPa was our limit -- the best publically available fiber a society with free energy and nanofabrication can do is half the strength of human hair. "That ought to be enough for your purposes, anyway; it's much better than what we have now." Will it stop Dhohanoids? "Of course not, they're much stronger than that." Well it's scarcely a replacement then, is it? If you want to get anything done in this arcology, you've got to complain till you're blue in the mouth. (Apologies to Monty Python.)

Now, we know they have bulletproof vests -- and yes, Marty confirmed they're made of Kevlar. As in, Aramid, with an ultimate tensile strength of around 3500 MPa. So, Marty, can we buy some spare Kevlar? "No. They don't just have spare bulletproof string lying around. It gets made into vests; that's why it's there, dude." And indeed, there is no surplus -- or, at least, significantly less surplus than the roughly four kilometers we'd like. There are "maybe a few dozen yards, total." Well, okay, can we get a nanofabricator template for it? "Of course not." But this is the perfect time for them! "Bulletproof thread is restricted." Blackspire can't get it for us either. Of course not; "you can't even get feedstock capable of producing it".'s...just CHON... Incidentally, Marty, it's not bulletproof thread. The thread itself doesn't stop bullets; sheets of it just spread the impact out enough that the vest can absorb some of the energy. Still verboten? Okay then. No bad batches lying around a landfill somewhere? "They're destroyed for security reasons." How about the chemical precursors? "Takes three days to make the fibers, minimum." So, are there any factories making body armor in the NEG's headquarters?

Finally, an affirmative response. Apparently they ship the Kevlar fiber in by "unmarked, unobtrusive flying truck that you can't just pick out of the sky", and this month's truck is coming in five minutes. Well, this seems simple enough: we'll just spoof the navigational data to the truck's autopilot to drop it in another bay, then unload it before anyone realizes what happened.

"What autopilot?"

Come the hell again, Marty?

No automation whatsoever here. All of the materials flown into the Chicago Arcology every day are flown in manually, without so much as a cruise control. "It's all done by CB radio." Marty doesn't mean actual CB radio, apparently, but CB that isn't actually public access and has about a million channels and is more properly called air traffic control. It's also "totally unhackable"...which is, I suppose, a valid precaution. Blackspire is finally useful: they can disconnect the bay operator's radio from the circuit and patch us into it. "Once." So I get on the radio. "Hey, this is Chicago Bay Control; Bay A227 is experiencing technical difficulties. We're going to need you to divert to B227." And I roll bluff with a -40 penalty. Again, what? Apparently "You aren't speaking in Trucker so he's instantly suspicious." Oh, so that's why it's CB: everyone speaks some foreign language called Trucker. Thankfully, Jin saves the day and yanks the radio away from me before adopting this hugely exaggerated drawl: "Ignore him, he's new. [indeciperable] handle [unintelligible] Christmas card [i don't even know, something with bears] B227." Apparently that works; as we run like hell for the new hangar (dodging the people coming to pick up the Kevlar) he mentions that, in future, when I realize I don't speak their language I should leave off trying to lie to them. Good advice.

Anyway, we get down to the new bay, run in, and find the truck already open, with the Kevlar in unmarked, one-meter cube cardboard boxes inside. Thankfully, Darya and Ian brought those wonderful collapsible hand trucks. Before we wheel them out, I have a plan; I scrawl "MASTER BEDROOM" and "ATTIC" and suchlike on them in the messiest magic marker handwriting I can manage. It's moving day, you see. Not my best plan, but come on, I had no prep time.

We stack up the boxes and wheel them out. As we do so, the airtruck lifts back off again, and it's time for electronic tricks; Jin copies the footage of the truck arriving and departing from the B227 cameras into the A227 security records, then loops a few seconds of the truck just sitting there to cover the intervening time; oddly none of the cameras pointed outside. Marty raised objections; Jin pointed out that he'd never disabled his Blackspire camera hacking app. As far as it looks, the delivery truck came in, sat there, and left when the driver couldn't see anyone, while in an unrelated bay some new residents were unpacking stuff from Space Uhaul -- which Jin the maverick forensic accountant quickly creates. Hooray for unmarked trucks.

We managed to get the crates back without going under a security camera, and then we unpacked the crates. Inside each was a single bobbin of thread with about a kilo of fiber on it, along with lots of packing peanuts. "Why are you looking at me like that? It's valuable stuff, and needs to be protected. It's not like it's bulletproof, after all." Can we get more? "No. The whole air traffic center is on high alert after such a brazen theft."... Right then, time to make the nets. How are we looking on time, Marty?

"Well, I'll say all that business took a day. Now, it takes about two minutes to tie a knot, so...several days, assuming you all work in shifts."

Right, well, time to get creative. Next time: Nets!


  1. Two minutes to tie a freaking knot? I can tangle it up into a reasonable "knot" in 3 seconds...

  2. My god... The plot's advancing!

  3. Did he ever say why kevlar's so valuable in the setting?

    1. Because the PCs want it, obviously!

    2. my theory indicates that anything the PCs want in the past present or future, is also something, that other people opposing Crysalis *ahem* I mean uh ... the human government, would have tried using, or had used to try to not be as easy to threaten. Bulletproof vests, gives you protection from small arms fire. Chemicals, easily used by terrorists. Kevlar thread, all sorts of thing using awesome strings.

  4. "It takes about two minutes to tie a knot."

    No, Marty, it doesn't. And if you're experienced at it, like say from making friendship bracelets or jewelry strung on silk or ribbons for presents or embroidery, you can make a lot of complex knots very fast. But then, this is the man who banned baking soda (no cookies for you!), so the likelihood of him ever having done any of that seems minimal.

  5. So, apparently it takes Marty four minutes to TIE HIS SHOES. Sounds about right.

  6. Honestly, I would have pointed out that... wait a sec, did you say SEVERAL THOUSAND CUBIC METERS OF CARBON DIOXIDE?

    Like the kind that swiftly suffocates everything in the immediate area after discharge? That sounds like a ridiculously powerful weapon for the entirely wrong reason.

    Of course, what the hell do I know? Most of these posts I just kind of smile and nod at the science stuff. I'm a language and psychology major. I haven't had nearly as much exposure to cool mechanisms and chemicals you guys have had. So it's entirely possible I'm totally wrong about that.

    1. You are totally correct in your assumptions. what they have there is a weapon more similar to a Nazi death camp than a gun.