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
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".
But...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." Wha...how...who...Right. 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.
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!