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Campaign:Black Moon
Adventure:Expedition to Zhodane
Send To:Jack, Kyle, Mek Meday, Vamperina
Turn Start Date (ex. 12/31/6565)02/23/6570
Turn Number:13.6
Combat Turn:
Subject:Black Moon
After three weeks of rest and relaxation on and around Jewell, everyone returns to ROCK. The crew of ROCK now consists of the professor, his wife and daughter, Jack, Surge, Midnight, Mek, Kyle, Omen and Vamperina. The gives the ship two licensed pilots (Professor Ricket and Vamperina), two licensed engineers (Professor Ricket and Surge), two licensed astrogators (Professor Ricket and Surge), three licensed Sensor Ops (Professor Ricket, Surge and Kyle) and one licensed gunner (Midnight).

It takes about a week to reach Jewell JP, another six and a half days to reach Lysen JP where the professor pays for fuel at the Jump Station, and then another ten days to reach Newcomb JP. Then the ship begins the week long trip to Black Moon, an inhabited moon that orbits a very large gas giant in the system. As systems go, this one is extremely cluttered with several asteroid belts, including a massive one that orbits Newcomb Prime (the gas giant around with Black Moon orbits).

MEK: During the voyage, Mek seems back to his normal self. If anyone asks if he's still hearing voices, he'll answer, "WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

MEK: He enrolled in a college course via distance learning (but doesn't know what he paid for that yet {ahem}) in Occupational Therapy. There's a fair amount of basic anatomy he'll have to learn, so Kyle will be a reference point for him. Given the long hours he can keep now, he gets a lot more done.

JACK: Jack spends his time much the same as he did on the long trip home from Qantseqr, with the addition of some playtime with Lisan and some beginner studies with Midnight on the Rocket turret, getting familiar with the controls, just in case we get displaced after all this and he needs to be able to get a license to do a job on a ship.

JACK (GM): He figures rockets are the most common type of ship-board weapon, I thought I'd heard that somewhere. Is it correct or obviously wrong or just a misconception?

GM: Yes it is a fairly common shipboard weapon.

MIDNIGHT: Midnight spends most of his time tinkering on his new weapon. (Tech: I don't have the XP yet, so he'll be tinkering for a while.) However, he makes a point to work with each person on board including the littlest Rickett in an effort to become a more efficient team member. He'll also gladly help Jack learn the rudimentary rocket weapon systems.

KYLE (OOC): Unless someone told him not to, Kyle will spend much of this time refitting one of the cabins (whichever Professor Rickett allows) into a medical bay. He'll have as much equipment as he could pull together on Jewell Prime, and would probably ask for some help from Surege to get some of it installed.

GM: The professor has no problem with you making one of the staterooms of his ship into a medical bay but keep in mind that your trip to Black Moon may be your last trip on ROCK. Or you may catch a ride back to Jewell or to Regina on ROCK and then part company. The bottom line is that your time on ROCK may be limited.

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Obviously the ship could arrange for a radio link to the imperial net immediately upon arriving in system but latency would be a major issue (161 seconds one way, 322 seconds round trip). An alternative would be for Surge to deposit Storm into the net but that also carries a risk. If the radio link dropped while Storm was enroute (i.e., during the 161 seconds) he would abruptly cease to exist. The issue has waited this long and can certainly wait a few more days until ROCK reaches orbit around Black Moon.

The next week passes uneventfully and, on 03/25/6570, ROCK connects to Black Moon Orbital, a moderate sized space station orbiting the moon. Professor Ricket pays for a radio link to the imperial net and then Rockora begins searching for Rocknetta. It does not take long. Rockora and Rocknetta are closer than sisters and now how to find each other. No one, with the possible exception of the professor, is privvy to conversation that takes place between the two.

A short time later, the professor summons everyone to the wardroom for a briefing.

PROFESSOR: "Rockora has recovered her alter ego, whom she names Rocknetta and has analyzed the accumulated data. Rocknetta has been in communication with Xorn on several occasions. As far as she knows, Xorn is not in Circle City. Xorn does not require any of the necessities that most humans require and can easily survive in the toxic atmosphere of Black Moon indefinitely. Xorn does wish to depart Black Moon and has given Rocknetta specific instructions on a long term plan to depart. His plans are hampered by two things."

PROFESSOR: "First, he is an escaped criminal and thus does not want to risk the attention of the authorities. This is not a great concern as he can easily procure papers that will pass scurtiny."

PROFESSOR: "The second concern is a bigger one. A shadowy group known as the Anubi Brotherhood is looking for him and they have not relaxed their guard at all in the years since his escape. Xorn made one previous attempt to get off-planet and though he escaped the attention of the authorities, he did not escape the attention of the Anubi Brotherhood. A battle ensued at the starport. Xorn managed to escape after killing two members of the brotherhood, but several innocent bystanders also died, the result of the brotherhood's tactics. Unfortunately the brotherhood's resources are tremendous and the only story that got out was that an escaped criminal tried to board a starship but was discovered. The official news story is that a criminal named Etienne killed several innocent bystanders before managing to escape."

PROFESSOR: "That being the case, Xorn is somewhat leery of further attempts to leave the planet using the starport. However, he may trust Rockora enough that he will depart on ROCK. He gave Rocknetta instructions for contacting him which she and Rockora will use if a plan is put in place to get him off planet. They will not reveal the means of contacting Xorn as that was a specific order that Xorn gave to Rocknetta, and one that she feels compelled to keep."

PROFESSOR: "I hope that this can be kept fairly simple. We need not visit Circle City at all. We can ask Rockora to contact Xorn and arrange to have him meet PEBBLE at a location some distance from Circle City."

PROFESSOR: The professor looks expectantly at the others, awaiting their input."

SURGE: Surge does not react greatly to this and his body language suggests he's comfortable with the extraction attempt. "What do we know of this brotherhood and their resources? Has Rocknetta done any research on this? Say if they got word of this and decided to attack us, what should we expect?"

KYLE: Kyle will nod in agreement. "I'll help in any way I can, Charles," he adds.

MEK: Mek looks surprised, "He's a criminal? Shouldn't we be trying to catch him and send him back? I mean, that may seem kinda old fashioned, but that's the way we always did things on Enope, and the Army encouraged that view. Something about security from homicidal maniacs."

JACK: The Anubi Brotherhood's tactics seem heavyhanded and rely on overwhelming firepower with no concern at all for bystanders, and in fact seem to rely on the fact that while the target may not fear the firepower, he will fear for the people around him. This was the case when they interrogated us about Xorn, threatening to blow up the entire building and our vehicle outside, leaving everyone exposed to the toxic atmosphere of Black Moon even if they DID survive the explosions. Their interrogator seemed like a complete fanatic, unconcerned about his own life being lost in the explosions. They had some kind of aerospace fighter jet at the time, though I didn't see it. Wasn't it you that spotted it Surge? What can you tell us about it? How would PEBBLE fare in a dogfight with it?

SURGE (OOC): Correct, Surge spotted (I think most did) the fighter jet and remembers the encounter well enough. However, Surge doesn't know anything about fighter jets beyond some basic stuff so he would be the wrong person to determine how PEBBLE would stack up with their jet(s).

JACK (OOC): I never spotted it because I remained inside the house the entire time. I was hoping with your memory you could perhaps give us an image or spot it among several standard type assault jets in imperial or private service, or something like that. Once we had more info on the base jet, you and Vamperina could come up with at least a ballpark estimate of how we'd fare.

GM: Actually everyone saw the plane. Jack came out of the house with Brother Gray and so he saw the plane, and saw another member of the brotherhood dive out of the plane using some sort of rocket assisted backpack. He flew down and picked up Brother Gray and carried him up to the plane.

VAMPERINA: "Their vehicle was better armed than PEBBLE but I think that, in space, PEBBLE would be faster and more maneuverable."

JACK: I have no doubt that if the Brotherhood gets wind of our attempt to extract him they will attempt to blow up the PEBBLE. Ideally they need never know, of course. I am still willing to try, but then I can survive the loss of the PEBBLE, so I should not be given much weight in the discussion, my risk is much less than others.

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JACK: Surge, I know you have checked over the PEBBLE extensively in our months in space since leaving Black Moon, but I would suggest you and the Professor and Midnight give it one more sweep in case the Brotherhood planted a bomb on it, especially the outside of it. It seems unlikely, but they did have at least one opportunity to get to the outside of the PEBBLE, if not inside, and given their tactics, one can't be too careful.

SURGE: "Sure, I can do a complete sweep of it with my EM sense. If there's an electronically-based bomb somewhere on PEBBLE, I'll find it. I suppose if they possessed some sort of cloaking technology then it could remain hidden."

SURGE (OOC): When did the brotherhood encounter PEBBLE? I thought our only encounter with them was Parl Klive's house. Though we don't know the brotherhood's history with Xorn so they may be familiar with both ROCK and PEBBLE from way before Black Moon.

JACK (OOC): Technically I cannot be certain that they did. I do know that they know where PK's house is, and Vamperina parked the PEBBLE right outside PK's house when she first brought it down to Black Moon to meet with us, so if they had PK's house under surveillance, they had the opportunity. It seems a reasonable enough possibility that taking precautions is only prudent.

JACK: "I was more speaking simply as an engineer, but I agree that your special sense would be particularly helpful. I included Professor Ricket as another skilled engineer, and Midnight as the team's demolition expert.

KYLE: "I'm also very good at looking in hard-to-access places. [TECH: Clairvoyance and Desolidification] I'll be happy to help as well.

SURGE (GM): Surge will spend a few days doing a very thorough scan of PEBBLE covering every inch. He'll use his EM scan power as well as his EM sense and EM Probe to explore all parts of the electronics and mechanics of PEBBLE.

KYLE (GM): Kyle will assist however he can.

MIDNIGHT (GM): Midnight will provide any help he can including looking for and possibly disarming any explosive devices.

GM: No one finds any evidence that PEBBLE was tampered with in any way.

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MEK: "Yeah, but he's still in prison, or would be if he weren't on vacation. I thought we were coming to talk to the authorities and plead his case, not help in a jailbreak. That's illegal. And besides, you guys were different. You were scurvy spies, not REAL criminals. And you're clean now. Well, at least not as smelly."

JACK: "Pleading his case before the very authorities that still believe we are wanted criminals was never an option. They may notice that our record is clean, but they will almost certainly ignore it and arrest us anyway, believing that we somehow hacked into the records to get them expunged. Doing such things publicly is almost certain to draw the very attention of the Anubi Brotherhood that we are seeking to avoid.

MEK: "Look, I know the Empire can make mistakes sometimes, but breaking out of prison and helping people escape back into society doesn't seem the best way to do things. It just puts Midnight in peril. See, I'm not just thinking about my selfish skin."

KYLE: "I'm not sure that Charles, Nanci, and I will agree with you," Kyle observes. We all have personal experience that sometimes the only solution is to break someone out. If the Empire had gone through regular channels, the three of us would still be on Qantseqr. Now I know you'll say that it's different because we were in a *Zhodani* prison and they're the bad guys. My only response to that is that for my part there are few bright lines between good guys and bad guys. I'd rather see what the situation warrants and keep my options open.

MEK: "I know this sounds silly, but if Black Moon is as bad as you say it is, why not have it investigated and shut down? Call in the cops. Get the government to turn it into a decent prison again where people are treated the way they're supposed to be."

SURGE: "Well, actually Xorn is not in prison. He broke out a short bit after we did several years ago. He's just trapped on the moon itself. The prison is only a small part of the moon. It's quite large, relatively speaking."

JACK: Yeah, the moon is pretty big, big enough to have E-normal gravity... It's mostly unused real estate though.

MEK: "Duh! I KNOW Xorn isn't IN prison. I'm not all that dim. Only half. But he's supposed to be. And I'd like to stay on the right side of the legal system for awhile longer."

JACK: "What the legal system doesn't know won't hurt you. I agree that this were an ideal world where we could clear his name, we would.

JACK: "See there's part of your misconception. Black Moon isn't a prison for 'people', it's a slave camp for dirty muties. The new warden has cleaned it up a LITTLE bit from the extreme corruption of the old one, but she still uses prison gangs to her own ends, forcing 'people' to do things they wouldn't otherwise do, using their friendships against them, and more. The Empire simply doesn't CARE how badly the mutants who are incarcerated in its MULEs are treated, Black Moon is literally a death camp with a longer life expectancy. Probably half of the mutants who are sentenced to Black Moon die before they are ever released, and not just to inmate violence, there's also radiation poisoning from working the mines, cave-ins, and the like.

KYLE: And historically planets in the Imperium have had a great deal of power to run things as they want. So long as they pay their taxes and follow the bare minimum of Imperial rules, they can get away with some pretty terrible things.

SURGE: "Mek, I'll don't really want to deal with the prison at all. Our names may be cleared now but that won't keep some local authority from taking the law into their own hands. I'm willing to go along with this as the Professor and Rockora both want to see this resolved. If the Professor is willing to take the risk that fetching Xorn represents, I'll go along. Knowing more than we do about the Brotherhood would make me feel more comfortable but it's not a necessity."

JACK: "Exactly. Our pictures were circulated amongst the Circle City authorities as well, so who can say whether they believe that our record is cleared if we suddenly turn up.

JACK: Now that there's a war on, it will be even harder to get the Empire's bureaucracy to care about a badly run MULE. I'm not saying that the Emperor himself wouldn't be outraged at the treatment of his prisoners there, but he never even knows what goes on, because of the bureaucrats on all the levels in between. Speaking as a man who was sentenced there simply because a security guard who worked in the same movie lot was killed, with no evidence whatsoever linking me to the crime, I gotta say that I'd rather err on the side of freedom. Don't worry, I will definitely be paying attention to Xorn and his activities once he leaves here, if not asking him to remain with us until we are certain of his rehabilitation, but that rehabilitation is definitely not going to be best served by putting him back in Black Moon's MULE.

MEK: "So? Why not tell the Emperor? Let him know."

JACK: If this were an ideal world where we could just pick up the phone and call the Emperor and convince him that everything his trusted bureaucrats are telling him is a tissue of lies, I'd do it. It's just not that simple, and you know it. You can't just see the Emperor whenever you feel like it, let alone actually talk directly to him.

MEK: "Look, these Anubies sound bad and I don't like them and I think it'd be a good idea to send them all away, but this is turning more and more into an army ops, and all my army gear is, well, back in the army. It sounds like you guys have met these Anubi guys before, and meeting them again would be bad idea, so why not put off the family reunion and let the younger members of our outing grow into dysfunctional, angry, but productive adults? Couldn't we work out a deal with the authorities? Maybe offer to watch over Xorn, be his legal guardian until he comes of age or eras or whatever. If people are trying to blow holes in the asteroid, bad thing, maybe getting him out LE-GAL-LY would be a win-win situation. Oh, and the bomb checking idea sounds like a winner by me."

SURGE: "I don't know Mek. That sounds like crazy talk. I mean we just want to get down to the moon, extract Xorn, then get out of there. No authorities, no brotherhood, just a simple, quiet pick up."

JACK: Jack nods quietly.

VAMPERINA: Vamperina does not get involved in the discussion about the legal niceties of extracting Xorn. Jack knows that she is fully on his side in this matter.

MIDNIGHT: Like Vamparina, Midnight avoids these conversations. He has done some studying during the break and tries to remember anything which may be of use to the group. TECH: AK: BLACKMOON (11-) [rolled 5], AK: NEWCOMB STAR SYSTEM (8-) [rolled 13], KS: BLACK MOON POLITICS (11-) [rolled 16]

GM: Midnight has been brushing up on his knowledge of Black Moon. He knows that it has only one city and that the moon has a toxic atmosphere that, while not instantly fatal, will kill a normal person in a matter of minutes. The one city (Circle City) is domed and has a population of a million or so. There are a number of settlements outside the domed portions of the city. Black Moon MULE is about 100 km away from the city. The MULE is mostly underground but does have some above ground buildings inside of a dome.

JACK: I'd be happy to get him out legally if it were an option, it just isn't. I think simply avoiding the attention of the Brotherhood and getting him out of there is our best plan, and once we have him away from here we can talk to him more about his life, his plans, and how he may be able to get his record cleared, as ours was.

MEK: "Well, crazy talk to me sounds more like, 'Hey! Let's break the law and help a convict, who we don't really know about, but who may be able to take over our ship and endanger the lives of not only the adults, who are not crazy, but also the minors.' THAT is crazy talk where I come from. OK, I come from Enope, and it's like the rear end of space, but it's still home.

JACK: Vamperina was able to beat Xorn in one on one combat alone, without any of our mutant powers, while he had his. I guarantee that I can beat him now that my bio-field isn't completely mind-blocked. The risk is very manageable.

MEK: "Jack has said that he 'thinks' Xorn 'might' have been railroaded. Fair nuf. Sounds wrong. But what if he is a real homicidal loony bin? I could probably get out of his way, but what about Lisan? It's not fair to her to risk her life, is it Professor?

JACK: You forget, I actually know him. He chose to stay behind in the MULE when he could have easily escaped for quite some time, simply to avoid risking the lives of innocents threatened by the Brotherhood's attempts to get at him. It was only when he became convinced that they were sending agents into the MULE to get at him that he left, and STILL he stayed out of sight, hiding out in the wastelands of Black Moon, trying to avoid risking any trouble with the Brotherhood. He has done a lot to convince me that his intentions are good, and risked and endured a lot to prevent even the potential harm that could come to those around him. Would he go through all that just on the -possibility- of someone coming to harm, and then turn right around and intentionally harm Lisan himself? It makes no sense.

PROFESSOR: "Young man, you seem to be a lone minority of one who believes that Xorn is a danger. I am convinced that he is not. And I am not going solely on the word of Rockora or Jack or anyone else. I am also going by his history in Cape Goliath."

MEK: "If the good guys are such bad guys as you make out, then why not go where the good guys are and work to get the bad guys. That doesn't sound crazy. Running in to pick up an escaped felon who's being chased by exploding fanatics sounds crazy to me. And I am the EXPERT on crazy. Ask anyone.

JACK: We are pretty much the only good guys around here with the power to do anything. And there's a good guy on Black Moon, trapped there because of bad guys who are willing to blow up buildings just to get answers to a few questions ABOUT him, let alone to capture him. Let's help the good guy, thwart the bad guys, and worry about straightening things out with the bureacratic legal system later.

PROFESSOR: "To put things in perspective, my plan is not to help an convicted felon escape, it is to talk to someone who has earned the love of an AI. We are not required by law to turn in a convicted felon or even report him as long as we don't actively help him. The Anubi Brotherhood is the entire reason that I wanted your group to assist in helping me find him. I did not come here to try to plead his case to the authorities because, generally speaking, that won't do any good in the case of a convicted felon who is also a mutant. I have every intention of not calling any unneccessary attention of the authorities to our real purpose here. We are in the system quite legally. We are docked at Black Moon Prime Orbital as any law-abiding travellers would be."

PROFESSOR: "If this does not sit well with you, Mek, then my suggestion is that you enjoy the meager amenties of the Orbital or of Circle City, and Jack and the other can arrange to catch up with you at a later date. If you choose to do so, you should obviously avoid any mention of our plan to speak with Xorn."

JACK: "The abbreviation MULE stands for MUtant Lockup Environment, it's what Black Moon prison is. All of the inmates there are mutants, and we were all forced to mine oridium in the mine, with a quota of 5000kg a month. At first this quota seemed unreachable, but as you get used to what to look for, you can reach it, if you try. When I say you are forced to mine, I mean that if you fail to reach quota for long enough, you go through special mining instruction, and if you still refuse to mine, or fail to, you end up working an even worse job, or working in the irradiated zone, which unless you have special pills or immunities from mutant abilities, is gradually lethal. This zone is richer in the oridium ore, so you are given another chance to meet your quotas, but if you fail, worse things are in store. Even if you succeed you may well have received a lethal dose of radiation before earning your way back out.

MEK: Mek looks like he's about to say something when you start talking about mining, but he shrugs and lets you go on.

JACK: I say all these things as fact, and you can either believe me or not. It is a fact that this has been going on for many years, and the local government either does not care or is bribed to look the other way, or it could not continue. I personally do not have the political connections to attempt to initiate an investigation on the regional level, and even if I did, it is my belief that they would not bother, because the inmates are second class citizens as mutants.

JACK: Now, you can accept all this or you can reject it. If you choose not to trust me or the others who have spoken on this subject, and wish to abstain from participating in this extraction, you may, as the Professor said, spend your time on the Orbital. I would hope that as our friends you would respect us enough not to report our intended activities to the authorities, but I cannot force you to keep silent. If you are indeed going to recuse yourself from this operation, it is time for you to go now, so that you have no operational information that can incriminate you or jeopardize the mission.

MEK: "Phont alive. I think I slipped the spacely bonds of Empire and just entered the Mek Zone. I'll try this one more time in Imperial. Xorn is a criminal. He is *supposed* to be in the brig. He isn't. That's bad. When Irky Lemlan busted Gerdy Hassen's chops for calling him... well, I shouldn't really repeat this in front of decent folk, but he called him something really nasty, Sarge put both of them in the brig for a week. Fair? Well, it was Army fair. Was I happy as an aslan in catnip? Nope. Did I decide I just had to break out poor, suffering Irky? Nope. When Orsen blabbed that I had gone all alien, did I hunt him down and give him a giant Mek noogie? Nope. Life is hard. It may be difficult to understand, but it is tougher on some folks than others. Xorn did something. Maybe he was just a mutant, maybe he killed people out of season, but the Emperor decided he should go to the clink. And no, Jack, I kinda doubt that the Emperor signs every single order. Not enough hands. But it comes from the Throne, so it's law. If you aid Xorn in escaping, you are not only breaking the law, but you are showing contempt for what is an otherwise perfect society. Well, except for that putrid smell on Ghandi III.

JACK: Jack stops himself from a gut reaction at your mention of a 'perfect' society, and says patiently, "All right Mek, you are a good citizen of the Empire, and a faithful supporter of the Throne. As the professor said the current plan is not technically illegal, to talk to Xorn and get his information about his relationship with Rockora. It is also not illegal for us to assist him in escaping the Anubi Brotherhood because they are not agents of the Throne intent on putting him back in the brig. This is all we intend to do until we have him here on ROCK and have debriefed him further. At that time you can revisit this argument as to his legal status, and whether or not we send him back down to the brig in chains, or help him escape the Newcomb system and pursue legally clearing his name. Is this sufficient?

MEK: "Here's what I offer to do for Xorn. Jack, you say that Xorn is there in prison and he's slave labor. Well, they seem to be short one slave, or else we'd talking about duckies and clouds. I've got money from that fabulous time in zho-space. Let's arrange a not-so-free agent trade. I'll buy his contract and if we find him, I get to use him to mine ore in the Alien Wasteland when we all find it by-and-by. It's a free agent they don't even have anymore. They come out ahead, we can try to find Xorn, and anyone who gets in the way of my property rights becomes a legal target. That's the legal way to do it. Stupid? Maybe. Won't be the first time that somebody called Mek Meday stupid, though it might be the last. Testy things, these alien invasion biological portals of doom. Fair 'nuf?"

JACK: "And who would you talk to about purchasing his contract? When they ask you where Xorn is, what will you say, that you just hoped to find him and thought you should have legal title to him when you did? He's not technically a slave, he's a 'ward of the state' overseen by the Corporation that runs Black Moon MULE, and they can't technically sell his contract until his sentence is up. When it is, they still can't sell the contract, they have to free him. Unfortunately it's a bureaucratic mess, and it does not help things that he has escaped their custody, or that we have, for that matter. Oh, and for what it's worth, his mutant abilities make him one of the best miners in the galaxy, so his contract is not something you're likely to be able to afford."

JACK (GM): Is there such a thing as a bounty hunter to hunt down escaped convicts and recapture them and return them to the prison? Is this something the public can do or do you have to be licensed in some fashion? This is the only thing I can think of to give Mek a legal reason to pursue Xorn, but it STILL ends up being a problem if he allows us to take him up to ROCK instead of directly back to Black Moon MULE. This is why I don't suggest it in character.

KYLE: "That's an interesting idea," Kyle says with a thoughtful look. "But I'm not sure the Imperial prison system works that way. The ostensible reason for the MULEs is to both punish mutants for their crimes and to protect the public from supposed danger from the mutants. Setting aside the falacies endemic to both of these goals, that means that the MULEs are intended to be ultra-secure. I don't think the Imperium allows just anyone to purchase what amounts to the indentured servitude of a convicted mutant. Anyone holding a MULE prisoner would likely have to go through some sort of inspection process to show that the facilities that the mutants would be kept in are secure enough. Allowing individuals to buy up the prison terms of mutants would amount to allowing rich mutants to buy their way out of MULEs. And given the strong public opinion against mutants, I just don't see that happening."

KYLE: "In the end I'm afraid that despite all our posturing, you are correct. What we intend to do on the planet is on the shady side of the law. And while it might not be technically illegal, it is definitely stepping very close to the edge, and might get us in trouble with the authorities. We intend to seek out and engage in dialogue with a man who has been convicted by an Imperial court of murder. We have considered the risks inherent in this, to both body and liberty, and have determined that the benefits outweigh the risks. I had thought this was made clear when we discussed coming to Black Moon, but perhaps it was not. As both Jack and Charles have said, you don't have to participate. If it makes you uncomfortable, you can remain aboard ROCK. No one is forcing you to accompany us. But it's what we intend to do, risks and all."

PROFESSOR: Turning to Jack, the Professor says, "Jack, I would like to speak with you privately for a moment, if you don't mind."

GM: Assuming Jack has no objection, the two depart the wardroom and head down to the Professor's suite on the 2nd level.

MEK: As they walk away, Mek will ask, "Hey. I don't suppose this is a secret good guys only talk to save the universe, is it?"

VAMPERINA: Vamperina waits for a couple of seconds after the two depart, then she too stands and departs, heading for her room.

MEK: Mek takes on a more direct approach, for reasons that may seem hard to fathom. "Yeah, great. Questions. First, Kyle is exactly right. Just based on my observations Rockora is in love with Xorn. Professor Charles Ricket is the source for that information. By extension, that would seem to indicate that her Rocknetta part is also in love, or whatever AI does. Irrational? Duh! Love is crazy talk squared. You are not here to talk to Xorn in a friendly way anymore. When we left, we thought he was *in* prison, not on it. He's busted da joint. Rocknetta, and by extension, Rockora knows how to contact and possibly locate Xorn, which makes this ship liable to boarding and interrogation. While it may not be a crime you can be convicted for, nothing stops the local law from prosecuting you. Nor does it stop the authorities from interrogating me. I have also been told that Xorn has not left Black Moon, but is not in the habitable zone. Source. Professor Charles Ricket, via communications with Rocknetta. This means that he is able to function as a mutant again. Whatever measures they took to stop him from functioning as a mutant have failed. Furthermore, I have the names and detailed information about the abilities and talents of each member of this crew, except Lisan and Mrs. Ricket. Sorry, ma'am, but I just haven't taken the time to get to know you as well as I should have. Even with my meager experiences in the army, I can guess how you will make the extraction. Since I can figure it out, any competent team of debriefers and analysts can do it. It's just not that hard. Given the fact you used this as a forwarding address for awhile, I'd bet they know a thing or two about you already. I have observed ROCK and PEBBLE in combat situations. I have already observed enough to endanger you and your mission." Most of this is delivered in a deadpan, just like his debriefings while he scouted for you.

MEK: "Now, how would they learn all that? They'd ask. Like you said Jack, except for a couple fights in grade school, I've led a pretty clean life. My father works hard in the mines in Enope and my mother is a good teacher. With their hard work and my sweat, we managed to put me through school. An Imperial school. The kind the Emperor builds. I like the Empire. It works more or less, even if it manges to do it stupidly sometimes. I don't really look forward to the time that Strephon dies and there's a struggle for the Throne, but it's got to happen. There may be things wrong in the Empire, but there are better ways to solve them than declaring that you are the sole source of good in this system and nobody else is. That's just a cool way of saying you're better than everyone else. Fine. If you're so much better, then make your own monetary system. Create your own net. Build your own security apparatus. Fund your own schools, hospitals, garbage dumps, and power plants. Do it all, please, but don't lecture stupid ole Mek about how this is just a simple talk with a felon and not a rescue. That's hiver hockey.

MEK: "And Kyle, for all those brains you've got, you still have a thing or two to learn. Money does buy freedom in this empire. There are places mutants go to hide out legally. If they have money and connections, they stay free. Some of them run orphanages for mutant kids and others work in corporate mines as free men and women. Whoever used to own Xorn's contract just screwed up Imperially. Now, they can be honest and tell the authorities that one of the big ones got out, which could lose them their license. Probably not. Goes back to money. Or, they can sell a contract for a person they don't have to a speculator who wants to buy.

MEK: "Actually, since you guys escaped, but officially didn't anymore, I'd bet they're having problems. Seems less like a prison and more like a prison escape training program.

MEK: "Look. When Harvey Lindt, forward for the Regina Astros in '68, when he told the press that he had an inoperable tumor in his left lung and the Astros confirmed it, everyone thought that was it for him. Then when Hr'rat over on Efate, with the Gr'latts, told the sector he'd buy out Lindt's contract everyone thought he was nuts. Hr'rat jumped him to Glea and the hivers operated on the inoperable. Brilliant. Lindt came back and the Gr'latts are still a force in the Spinward League. Was it worth it? Yeah, probably. Attendance shot up and the Gr'latts have a good shot at the Cup.

MEK: "If anyone asks me why I want Xorn, I'll tell'em. I want to be rich. I want more money than I have. If I find and keep Xorn, any moron will figure that I can do that. And if they pawn a missing prisoner off on an idiot, they win and I lose. Just like Hr'rat. Except, if I get Xorn, I don't have to use him in some stupid mine, do I? I can do whatever the law allows. Will I get rich that way? I dunno. It's speculation. I'm fresh outta the army and flush with money and crazy for adventure. What's new?

MEK: "The real question isn't whether it's legal to sell Xorn's contract. The question whether there's a way to do it and does a corporation that doesn't own the article want to sell it. So, ask yourself. Would you be willing to sell me Enope's moon for 50 grand if I kept begging for it?"

MIDNIGHT: "Without getting in the middle of your legal debate, wouldn't approaching the prison or whoever about his contract send a big red flag up for the Brotherhood who we're hoping to avoid since they seem to like causing mass destruction?"

MEK: Mek looks puzzled. "It's not law, Midnight. It's right and wrong. It's whether you get to decide the fates of other people alone, or whether you work with the rest of society. The Aslan call it /khori'yekh/, submersion of self for the good of all. To deny the good of the group is /rukhta/, a deed without honor. I took an oath to defend the Iridium Throne, the same one Vana took. It may have expired in one sense, but in another it has always been binding. For you, it's tough. You don't know what family and trust mean, except for your foster father, and maybe these guys. For me, it's easy, since that's what I've known my whole life. Even on the worst days, there are the better days coming. I can fight the Brotherhood with honor, but not the Throne. Maybe that's just stupid Enoper thinking, but it's how I was raised."

SURGE: Surge had remained silent for the last few exchanges. Several times he glances over at Vamperina and Jack. Once Professor Ricket and Jack get up and depart, he turns his attention back to Kyle and Mek. As Mek winds up with this long and detailed reply, Surge's expression grows troubled a few times but he lets Mek finish. Finally, he speaks up. "Mek, I'm not really following where you're going with all this. I'm pretty sure we've definitely entered 'crazy talk' land. Surely, you don't see the universe as black and white, right? I mean you understand that the Empire isn't perfect, right?"

SURGE: "Let me back up... I used to be what folks would call naive. I followed all the rules and excelled at what I did. Then one day, I was arrested. Why? Because they believed I attempted to murder the Lord Mayor. How this could be the case, I'm still unsure. After they held me in a titan cell for a bit, I was put through a trial, found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 50 years in a MULE. This all happened in roughly 3 hours after my arrest. I had no ability to contact anyone and my 'appointed' lawyer might as well been asleep. After being exposed to the corruption inside Black Moon MULE and hearing the other stories of my fellow inmates, I realized there was much of this universe that I did not know."

SURGE: "So am I here today to take down the Empire? No. Do I even want to reform it. Well, if I could wave a magic wand and make it happen, sure. But I have no illusion that it's feasible. People with money and power want to keep themselves on top. The rules are good for keeping most in line but those with power and money can break the rules. It is for this reason that I am not so concerned with following the letter of the law but living within the spirit of the greater good for all."

SURGE: "Does this mean that I'm better than everyone else? Nope, but I'm sure not going to be some sheep following all the rules those in power have laid down to control me. If you want to live by all the rules then finding a boring day job someone might be best for you."

SURGE: "So far the last few years have been unbelievable and if I've learned anything, you have to break some of the rules. If I hadn't, I'd been mining oridium down on Black Moon, if I could have survived. Lisan would be in cold sleep drifting in a spaceship without fuel, lost in a asteroid belt. The professor and his wife, along with Kyle, Brandon and Delag would still be deep in Zho space. Given my life experience so far, I'll stick with figuring out which rules I'll follow in the moment. Will they come arrest me? I'm sure many of them would like to. But I've also learned not to bring attention to myself so let's hope it doesn't come to that."

SURGE: "You mention the good of the group. How is turning Xorn over better for the group? How do you know? He could be as innocent as I was. So until you know the story how can you even claim to be serving the greater good in this case? You haven't a clue."

SURGE: "Just in case there was any doubt, I'm not interested in any bounty hunter reward or buying a sentient being's life via some contract. Last time I checked that was called slavery and that's not cool with me."

MEK: Mek looks tired, but he tries to answer Surge. "Surge, I don't think we live in the same world. It's not a question of whether the Empire is perfect. It never was. It works. It's what brought me into this world. It's what gave me medicine, when I got measles. It what educated me and even provided transportation. OK, that was all on Enope and people joke about Enope all the time. We're backwards. We're hicks. But we're loyal hicks. We're all stupid sheep -- just animals. At least that's what you just said, and you're oh so smart Surge. Look, if you want to insult me, and my friends, and my family, that's fine. My dad has a boring day and night job mining molybdenum and other ore, and he's shop steward now. Mom is just a boring old art teacher. Sometimes they were boring old bandage appliers and listeners, too. Way too boring for universe saving heroes. My sister wants to be a boring college student and then have a boring career with a boring family. My friend Davey, is a boring old cop. But you're probably right. This kid I grew up with, and who consistently picked me for his ball teams, and played Imperial soldier with me, he's just another piece of Imperial scum. NOT that you will kill him today. But if he ever decides to do his job and get in your way. Well, your refined sense of justice will just have to kick in and his mom can read the nice card his Captain sends. Yep. It's just stupid Enope, Surge. Go ahead, make fun of us.

MEK: "If the Emperor or one of his servants did you wrong and now you need to take revenge on society, do it. If the Empire has a stupid rule, you'll find an intelligent one. The problem is, Surge, you don't really think there are any rules you have to follow, except your rules. On Enope, we call those people 'criminals'. We arrest them, we try them, and then we lock them up. Maybe the whole Empire is full of innocent men and women in vast prisons. Xorn killed people he said were guilty. Do you think he bothered to check to see if any of them were a little bit crazy before he bit off their heads? Or is that a rule you're willing to follow? Maybe your kind of justice is deeper and more philosophical than that, and Mek Meday, Enoper idiot of the year, is just too stupid to understand it. Sheep aren't very smart. My world is a lot easier to live in in some ways, and a lot harder. Guess I don't have the brains to be more than sheep. Sorry."

MEK: He sighs, "I better go pack. Good thing I've just got that one duffel. Of course that assumes that your secret cabal of Jack and Charles allows me to leave now. Or do you know everything about being the good guy now? Maybe you have that answer too."

MEK: Since everyone else is going, and he doesn't seem interested in Surge's response, he *walks* away.

SURGE: Surge shrugs and looks at those left in the room. He shakes his head then returns to the bridge.

SURGE (OOC): I'm actually not going to pursue this discussion any further but I have to say that IC this should have resolved much earlier. The problem is that we timeflow and while our characters would have had months to discuss details of things, we don't do that in PBEM. I know that Mek's view of the situation is off and that's due to OOC gaming limitations. However, Chester is free to play his character however he'd like, even if it's based on incorrect knowledge that IC Mek would know correctly. I'll be keeping my responses IC though (beyond this one :)).

OMEN: Vareq doesn't really care one way or the other about Xorn, and nothing he's heard has changed his mind about that. He really doesn't have anything better to do at this point in his life.

OMEN: Staying on the ship seems better than venturing off on his own.

OMEN: Vareq was present for the debate, sitting as far away as possible, but hasn't said anything.

JACK: Jack and Charles return to the wardroom. They see both Vamperina and Surge on the way and ask them to rejoin them. Jack says without preamble, "Mek has raised some good points, and even if I myself consider them narrow-minded and polarized, I am not the Emperor, and you are not my loyal minions. Each of you has the opportunity now to decide whether you will stay or go, now that Mek has refused to see reason and left. Now is the time for you to decide whether you trust me and the Professor enough to see this through, or whether you believe you cannot support an attempt to extract Xorn at the very least long enough to speak with him at length. I cannot promise we will send him back to the surface, just as I cannot promise we will not bring him along out of this system and try to help him regain his legitimate freedom. Will you stay and hear what he has to say? Each of you needs to decide now, however, as ROCK will be departing immediately. Fair enough?"

JACK (OOC): Each of you should try to take the time to respond either yes or no, at least letting us know whether you left the ship or not, in character. If you do want to have any dialog beyond that you're welcome to, but this is Jack's last word to the public group at this meeting. I have already heard Kyle, Surge, Midnight, and Vamperina pledge their continued support (though some of that is OOC), so I will assume their answer stays the same unless you speak up and say you've changed your mind. I guess all that really leaves technically is Vareq/Omen? Give us your answer so we can continue, with or without you.

VAMPERINA: Vamperina shrugs and says, "I think most of us recognize that there are many shades of gray between black and white. We came here for this reason. We all knew that. Nothing has changed. I know Xorn just as well as you do and can say that he proved to be something completely different than our initial perceptions gave us to believe." She smiles briefly and adds, "I'll never forget Eli's 'modified assessment' after our second encounter with Xorn. He said 'Etienne has just proven himself a much more intelligent opponent than previously thought.' He was dead on with that assessment. In any event, I'd like to see how Xorn is doing."

GM: As Keith mentioned, everyone except Vareq already indicated that they were still in. Let me know if anyone has changed their mind. Eric, feel free to chime in with Vareq's thoughts on this matter.

KYLE: "As I said, I stand with Charles on this one. I too know what it's like to suffer unjust imprisonment, and I'd like to judge this situation based on what I see, not on what a court did over a century ago. Besides," he adds with a brighter look, "I'm as eager as Charles to meet a man who could make an AI fall in love with him."

MIDNIGHT: "I'm not going to leave the team hanging, but are you saying we're just going to drop Mek here in orbit and leave? That just doesn't seem fair."

PROFESSOR: The professor seems somewhat surprised and says, "Mek has already left the ship taking all of his gear with him."

MIDNIGHT: "I thought he was going to stay on the orbital until we finished like you suggested. I would have at least said goodbye if I'd known he was leaving for real."

OMEN: "I'll be right back."

GM: Jack knows Omen well enough to figure out that he is probably going to go check and make sure that Mek is not busy talking to the authorities about our plans.

JACK: "Don't be long. We're taking off in less than 15 minutes.

MIDNIGHT: Midnight needs some clarification. Are we leaving Mek behind for good? Is he leaving to not "compromise" the team? Midnight won't go after him because he knows he can't change his mind, but he needs to know exactly what the team's decision is about Mek both now and then.

JACK (OOC): I guess the question is, who are you asking, how, and when. Since we're trying to keep all interactions in character to avoid confusion, I can't speak unless actually approached in character. I think the current plan is to leave Orbital shortly, and arrange transport for him to civilization through the Professor, and we are not likely to meet up with him again real soon. With time, and life, all things are possible, though.

JACK (GM): There is currently a mild misunderstanding between what Mek thinks is going on, and what we've been reported as going on by Rockora. Is he indeed packed and off the ship? I am not going to go look for him to find out, I'm simply asking what the facts are, whether Rockora was mistaken or just that there was a small gap in time in there.

JACK (subtext): Jack doesn't dislike Mek, just thinks he is being incredibly na´ve and childish. He won't go after Mek to stop him, or to wish him well, but if we run into each other in the future there is the remote chance we will be able to see eye to eye again, at least temporarily for the sake of a higher purpose like a mission. Right now he just needs time, and believes that Mek needs to grow up a bit and get a taste of the Real World and its shades of gray.

KYLE (OOC): Whether on the ship or on the Orbital, Kyle would look for Mek to give him a data chip including all the data that their tests had gathered on Mek and his condition. Kyle doesn't know whether it will be helpful to Mek, but he deserves to have every chance to figure out what's been done to him and this data might prove to be important. Kyle will also wish Mek well, but will pointedly not mention the group's plans or the previous discussion about Xorn, particularly if the conversation takes place on the Orbital.

MIDNIGHT: "I thought he was going to stay on the orbital until we finished like you suggested. I would have at least said goodbye if I'd known he was leaving for real."

MIDNIGHT (OOC): I think Midnight did as in character, here when Jack & the professor returned.

JACK: "If you're quick you can definitely catch him on the orbital. Were you going to arrange passage for him on the Solar Suns, Professor, or have Rockora do it? He probably needs to know that, Midnight could pass whatever message you want to send him. Midnight, he has no need to know that we plan to leave soon, so don't mention it, just pass the message along and say your goodbyes. I guess you can wish him well for me too..."

KYLE: "Midnight, I'm going to go try to find Mek to give him something. You can come with me."

JACK: "Just remember to be back within 15 minutes.
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