Frankly, this was the weirdest session we ever had for a couple of reasons. I was on way too much caffeine, Chief was riding the emotional high from exams he was sure he did well on, and in general we were all in odd post-exam emotional states.
Chief was unusually generous, only cutting a few hours off the time we had last been quoted and barely quibbling when I wanted magnesium nanofabricator feedstock. It was hideously expensive at a hundred dollar-equivalents per kilo, but we got a hundred twenty-five kilos of "relatively pure" magnesium and a nice robust bench grinder to boot. I only needed twelve Repair checks to keep it from jamming! While I was doing that, Darya was down bilking Blackspire out of armor and grenades. We'd gotten smarter about asking for things: we asked for sixteen suits, so when we got four after a series of checks, we were happy. Chief was also insistent that "no one would ever believe you'd stolen police-issue body armor. You don't look like that capable of mercenaries."
Well, that was no problem. We had Darya Mozambique Drill them with her sniper rifle -- after all, it acts just like a pistol once it hits, right? Then we started spray-painting the most ridiculously macho symbols we could think of all over them: flames, sharks, barbed wire... As we explained to Marty, we wanted to look alpha as [all get out], so we'd be taken seriously. I swear he would not know satire if it bit him; we made "our symbol" a bunch of crossed katana silhouettes that were kanjis for something or other, and apparently that was just so cool. We used the extra paint on the net canisters, to make them look like outsize grenades.
Darya was blow-drying our attempt to look as stupid as possible while Jin was tending to our other needs: a flying "prisoner transport van" with the cages in the back and a GIA police team. We wanted a police van, but we could only get an undercover one -- and, of course, spray paint would run if we only let it dry for a few hours. Enter spray adhesive and a LOT of carefully cut black plastic sheeting. Naturally, it's covered in air vents, which mean more checks to cut correctly. While the lads were rolling Papercraft checks to make the letters and so forth, Jin was arranging to pick up the team in an hour or two. "Of course" we could pick up some GIA agents. Marty has a horrible poker face, by the way.
Jin: "They're going to be infiltrated, aren't they?"
"No." With this stupid grin.
The last thing we needed was barbed wire and staple guns, and here I was careful to explain to Marty that I wanted to staple the former into the Dhohanoids with the latter. "Sure they have it. How much do you want?" That stupid grin again...oh, Marty. I have a metaplan. Six miles of barbed wire would do fine, so we got three. Now, of course the Dhos are going to be staple-proof, but that's fine. Ian, for his part, finally got his
Everything went into duffel bags along with "a few hundred pounds" of coffee, and off we went into the "industrial suburbs", the scattering of factories and warehouses that persisted outside the arcology despite nanotech completely displacing conventional industry. We wanted a very specific warehouse: one that stored Limburger cheese. Apparently warehouses no longer exist unless they do something else, so I went for broke:
"All Limburger warehouses are like that, [Marty]; they need waxing facilities and curding tubs and stuff, because of how cheese is made."
"Oh, okay. Yeah, you find one."
Of course it's uninhabited, because people don't want to breathe in Limburger fumes all day. There isn't a waxing machine, because things still need to be manufactured "the old way" to warrant all the space; there is instead a vat of wax kept constantly liquid. When I say "vat", I don't mean a little vat, either. I mean a goddamn foundry ladle. I think I can explain this, given three things:
1. Marty has no idea how cheese is made.
2. Marty has a dim idea of how steel is made, apparently from an elective course in metallurgy.
3. Marty is a thundering moron.
This is the only explanation I can come up with for the foundry ladles of curds lining the back wall, the "cheese forge" in the corner, the aforementioned vat of constantly liquid wax, and the chains on the ceiling for moving them around. Apparently you make cheese by superheating milk in Martyland, and then you pour the molten cheese into molds as though it's metal. There are welding masks on hooks on the walls. I am not kidding. It's that apparatus and rack after rack of drying cheeses, all waxed-- which is what finally crystallizes the plan.
Jin tears off to pick up the team and sit in his van. He's going to serve his original purpose: he's gotten all the 911 calls in the area rerouted through his PCPU, and he'll be our responder when someone notices the explosions. Meanwhile, the Tagers finally show up, and I have them handle putting the wire coils on the roof with little coffee bricks behind them, then stapling the end of the reel to the roof and carefully arranging planks as ramps. I never said horrifying confinement was the only thing I wanted it for, after all; as it was rigged, everything was hidden under the edge of the roof, and with a single detonator channel I'd catapult a curtain of wire down the walls. We just stuffed the core of more rolls of the wire with more coffee, and there we go; we covered everything with the remaining black plastic. Horribly uneven shrapnel distribution, but the roof was going to be a very unappealing place to be once we got started. No byakhees were going to crash our party this time, at least in theory.
Almost everything else went inside the cheese. We cut the wheels in half, scooped out the insides into an empty ladle/vat, packed them with coffee, and resealed them; unfortunately, coffee is relatively stable, so we needed to add primer to every single wheel. The big racks also got a lot of powdered magnesium, until two hundred kilos of a 50:50 mix of coffee and magnesium bisected the room. More went elsewhere, as we rigged the ladles. One charge on the side of the ladle and one charge in the bottom to tip over and then explosively belch proto-cheese all over the facility floor. We also set up a little folding card table in the middle of the room, and I taped my net gun under it. The strobes and stereos had been positioned in the corners of the building. The remaining magnesium went into the light fixtures, and everything went to the multichannel radio transmitter Jin had thoughtfully spliced into my
I rolled a literal bucket of dice. Didn't know what they were for. Probably demolitions checks. Marty didn't say.
And then we got called to ask where the meeting was, and ten minutes later I was shaking hands with three men in dark suits and sunglasses. Naturally, this was Marty, so they had to be completely stereotypical: two shaved gorillas and a little guy. The gorillas never said anything; the little guy stopped me putting my helmet on before we went inside, over my complaints about the smell. He sits down, and we start lying to each other; he notes our two guys, but of course the Tagers are "far too stealthy" and maneuver into place over our targets. Darya apparently recognizes the little guy, but can't tell the rest of us about it. Apparently the Eye is the Dagger of Trafalgar, blah blah blah Lord Nelson blah blah history blah 20% of our asking price.
Hey, do the Tagers have a smell ID yet?
No? More lying: blah blah couldn't be, what's with the freaky pseudo-text then, wouldn't anything Nelson had made been in English...
This went on for a while. Ian brought the thing over, Not A Gorilla Guy looked it over, and we kept desperately stalling for time until finally the damn Tagers tell us that, yes, both of the muscular ones are Dhohanoids.
"Well then, just satisfy my curiousity on one more point: 'air eh namblies be keepin' me wee men, ye muckle damned cultists?"
"I SAID, YE MUCKLE DAMNED CULTISTS, AIR EH NAMBLIES BE KEEPIN ME WEE MEN?!"
And then everything exploded. The barbed wire went flying across the roof, the magnesium coffee wall lights up, all the actual lights blow out, and various cheese wheels violently self-destruct all around the building as the strobes turn on and the stereos start blasting. They were, naturally, loaded with the March of the King of Laois played at double speed and out of sync with each other. The Tagers had also had their radio headsets blip at the same time, because I had "forgotten" to tell them to wait a bit. Every single one of them failed the Reflex save against the rave from hell and hit the ground hard, where they were rapidly pummeled by shrapnel. At the same time, I pulled the trigger on the net gun conveniently taped under the table...which was pointed directly across from me.
"He doesn't even flinch." And there's the grin again; I begin to have some sense that this encounter is not what we thought it to be.
Right. Two kilos at point-blank range directly to the balls and he doesn't flinch. So much for maintaining a human guise.
Darya, having sensibly taken aim and then engaged her helmet's flash shields for the boom, put a round directly through his skull, and he flinched a bit at that. Ian got off a net shot at the dhohanoids, tripping one, and the Tagers moaned on the floor. Then it was their turn...and apparently the flash was so bright that the gorillas' glasses had melted and fused to their faces, so the other guy fired some kind of magic at Darya.
"I hit him with my gun."
"You can't. It's loaded with blanks."
"I know. It's also ten pounds of metal, apparently. I jump on the table and start pistol-whipping him."
"You can't. You aren't proficient in pistol(club)."
Oh, fine then. I reload my net gun. The un-netted Dho starts running, so I blow another cheese rack as he passes it. Ian is dual-wielding the net gun and his arcane revolver, and is apparently focused on hitting our mysterious non-Dho with positive energy shells; our sniper continues sniping. Naturally, the little guy heals the bullet holes, fires back, and wounds Darya significantly, so once I net the other Dhohanoid I fire off one of the cheese foundry ladles.
Apparently cheese works differently than I'd been led to believe. It fountains upward in a ballistically improbable geyser, "flash-cooking" into string cheese before coating everything. More reflex saves for everyone, which of course everyone on both sides fails -- but we, in our self-contained environment suits/combat armor, apparently don't have as much to worry about, because the suits are covered in nanoTeflon or something. We break out of the mess in the next round.
Two rounds later, when Jin tells us he's inbound, the Dhohanoids are covered in nets and cheese, and are barely twitching. So are the Tagers, minus the nets. We nearly die finishing off the other guy, but eventually Darya gets a lucky crit and he bursts into flames, crumbling into dust. "The Dhohanoids are trying to get up." Ian and I go over to both of them, kick them several times, lift them up, and dump them in the unexploded cheese vats. Then we rip the side charges off and suspend them in the cheese forge. Dhohanoids don't need to breathe, remember? We even made our cheesemaking check.
When Jin got there, it was a bit of work to make a door big enough, but then he just drove through the wire -- flying vans are big, apparently. Then he lets out the team. These guys in full-on police armor charge in, rifles held ready, and we're stepdancing, horribly, in these cheese-covered suits of ruined power armor by the light of the burning rubble. Hey, it was the next song on the playlist. They tell us to get down on the ground, we just keep dancing, they point guns at us, we get very unhappy...we were not in the mood for cooperating with authority, and were in very bullet-resistant suits.
They keep up the whole stormtrooper shouting interrogation thing until Jin tells them to cool it, and then they help us wheel our prizes out of the cheese forge. We didn't have any good way of telling if they were alive until Jin came up with the idea of Tasing their exposed feet, incidentally. We also didn't have a good way of storing them until we got the transport cage all the way open; then we just slid the ladles inside and unhooked them. The team was also wary of the Tagers, and then I pointed out that they were hardly much of a threat. They'd spent the whole fight lying down. We still dusted Marco off so he could shake hands with one of them, although neither liked my suggestion that they kiss and make up for years of armed conflict. Diplomacy can only do so much.
Marty, similarly, did not appreciate it when I asked if they were going to be pointing guns at the forge ladle the whole way back. Jin, too, was apparently nonplussed at everything that had transpired, and felt that he was needed to destroy the evidence -- which really meant shoveling all the speakers, strobes, and remaining wheels into the cheese forge, shutting the door, and setting everything off. It was surprisingly neat, all told. We take some souvenir cheese wheels and walk off.
"Of course you guys know this will be investigated thoroughly. Cheese factories don't just explode."
But fireworks factories do. Don't they, Jin-the-forensic-accountant-with-government-access? "Oh, yes, especially ones with no records of an inspection ever." And he passes his Hacking checks.
We all find a convenient park, take our helmets off, and Jin pulls out a bottle of vodka and a box of Triscuits. The man is prepared, although I can't say we're in culinary agreement. They start passing it around, and when it gets to me, I think to ask when we can interrogate our captives.
We cannot; in fact, we will have no access to them whatsoever and cannot even confirm they exist. Even the bug Jin slipped into the van is useless.
Rather than drink, I start stuffing a rag into the neck.
"D'you guys think Blackspire's compromised?"
"Doesn't matter; they're about as much help either way."
"'K. Have to follow the trail then."
"The trail of melted cheese."
"No, you guys solidified all the cheese."
"With several kilos of radio-detonatable coffee in the bottom. How many vents were there again?"
For the first time that day, he was no longer grinning, and I was laughing out loud.
So we started planning how to mount an impromptu raid on whatever top-secret hole Blackspire was going to dump them in and swap ourselves in for them; we wanted to see who would spring them as much as we wanted to talk to them. We eventually figured out that it'd be easiest to interrogate them in place rather than get them out, so we decided to bring along the remaining Limburger for a circumstance bonus -- and that was when Marty ended the session, while we were all chuckling at the idea of breaking into prison.
It was only afterwards that I learned that the non-dhohanoid was, in fact, the lich that had wrecked the party before I'd joined, and it was only by sheer luck that we'd survived without the Tagers' help. And I'd opened the fight by shooting him below the belt. So much for gravitas, I suppose. We should have leveled from killing him, but apparently the Tagers got equal shares of the XP, and Marty didn't want to hear about how they'd made zero contribution to the fight.