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Subject: Stratford Sector - In Character, Actual Play rss

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Non Sequitur
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01-02-3202

The city of Holmes is carefully designed, laid out in a neat grid. This is the capital of Regan, the Sector's seat of power before the Scream. And centuries of human traffic, the ebb and flow of countless fortunes, have been carefully channelled by these streets.

There is a place for everyone in Holmes. A corporate executive takes his caffeine hit amid the holo-celebs, academics, and offworld tourists. His barista wears black, her hair las-scalped into intricate running patterns. Every building is an architectural kaleidoscope, bristling with strange angles and pedestrian bridges. The only unifying theme is a rich, glimmering tint of gold, which seems to run through the entire city. It sparkles with the fresh dawn of a desert world.

As you walk the streets, the heavy hum of atmospheric pumps rises through the pavement. It's a part of the city, easily lost within the general buzz of the millions trying to get ahead. News feeds trickle down buildings, or beam from the undersides of taxicabs, like digital welcome maps.

WORST FEARED AFTER SATELLITE "DURAN" EXPLODES.

HUNDREDS SIGN UP FOR NEWLY FORMED REGAN HONOUR-GUARD.

HIGH SENATE STRENGTHENS CONTROVERSIAL TIES WITH THAKEHAM.

A native river runs through the city, its water as naturally barren as the rest of the planet. Overhead, the sharp trail of an ascending ship spears through the pink morning. That's where you should be - heading out. But it's not going to be cheap. The going rate for a single ticket off Regan is $6,000.
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Shawn McCarthy
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Barnes sighed. He didn't need to reach into his pocket to know the contents, a few loose Credit coins and a beaten up card.

"Miss my wings. No way I want to join the forces again though... Ah heck, who am I kidding? I'm too young to be a washed up soldier - need to get off this rock." he mumbled just under his breath as walked, trying to keep a good pace on his way to work in a cafeteria under one of the towering office buildings.
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Michael
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Bialek scanned the crowed frowning. The law was enforced well here which meant not many were in a rush to hire a mercenary. But Bialek needed work, and he wasn't exactly the day-job kind of guy. He watched the News Feeds reports on other planets and wished he was in a place that had a little more...chaos. The Regan Honour-Guard headline caught his eye.
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Ernest Chua
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All things considered, this wasn’t the worse place for Steig to wake up in. He had slept in ships that were more cramped, stormed vessels that had a putrid smell and taken facilities after not having eaten in over a day. Here, he had a room to himself which was kept clean and was regularly given wholesome, nutritious food. The white room had a calming effect and the bed was actually better than his own.

Too bad this was the detention facility.

He replayed the holo recording they first played for him two days ago when they came to arrest him. An unknown Navvy Prosecutor showed her badge and informed him that he was under arrest for conduct unbecoming of a Space Marine. Like a good soldier, he voluntarily surrendered and had been taken to this detention facility.

He knew better than to ask about or for anything from the guards who brought him his meal, but knew that it was unusual for him to be waiting this long before someone, anyone, saw him. He had only just woken up when the door opened and his superior officer strode in.

“No need,” he said as Steig immediately stood up formally as fitting their difference in ranks. No one in the team had done that in years, but then this wasn’t a usual situation.

His superior office waited until the door closed and the light on top of the door softly changed to green, indicating that the room was now soundproof (Regan took its legal system seriously). Steig sat, not knowing whether his superior officer was there as his advocate/lawyer to help him with his charge or as a prosecuting officer wanting him to plead guilty early.

“Sorry we had to haul you in like this, but there was no other way.” This wasn’t what Steig expected to hear, but he showed no surprise. “The team has a mission, but couldn’t have you all be seen leaving together.” He showed Steig a piece of paper. “Here’s where you have to go,” he said as Steig nodded to show he had memorised it.

“All the normal gear and further instructions will be waiting for you there,” he continued as he burned the paper with a match. “Your fellow Reganittes are currently focussed on the military, so we can’t give you any help and you’ll have to make your own way there with whatever gear you've currently got.” Steig didn’t react to a lie in that statement. “We’ll reimburse you some of the funds later, but for now, you’re own your own.”

As he stood up to walk to the door, he continued. “The charge will have to remain on your record for now but we’ll take it off once the mission is done. For now, you’re officially charged pending further investigation.” He opened the door to let Steig out. “Unlike the Honour-Guard,” here he smiled, “you’ll actually be doing something.”

At this, Steig joined him in a genuine smile. “That sir, I will.”
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Elizabeth Kate
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Cordelia clambers up a steep, narrow stairway. At the top, she pauses, listening with ears and mind, before slipping out the door into the alley behind the free clinic’s sewage treatment plant.

She rounds a corner and immediately steps from the squalid shadows of Regan’s underworld into the chaotic golden ambiance that is Holmes at rush hour. As she walks, her demeanor changes. No longer the wary, furtive step of the fugitive; now she walks as citizen: head up, eyes on the headlines that assault passers-by.

As she threads her way through the masses of humanity that clog the pedestrian bridge, she collides with an enormous man. She walks away from the encounter with a scrap of paper clutched tightly in her fist.

She hastily scans and then pockets it, frowning as she pulls her hair back and secures it in a no-nonsense knot. She fishes in one pocket for the ID badge that marks her as "Assistant Medic - Level I," clips it on, and heads for her night job.

Jobs, plural, really, she thinks. How in the world do they expect me to get my hands on Dianozipanol? And how do they expect me to get it out?
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Non Sequitur
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Steig took the gravtrain across Holmes, a quick trip made longer by constant stopping and starting for the afternoon rush. As the sun finally set, the passengers thinned out, until only dregs remained. An old man struggled to stay awake, his bright orange vest smeared with dark engine oil, while two women whispered frantically in the corner - probably Steam addicts.

Dobry Station was small but clean, awash in the sanitary glow of overhead lights. This far from the city heart, all the streets looked the same: row after row of utilitarian apartment blocks, a product of Regan's Social Inclusion Project. Sure, they were ugly, but also damn cheap.

Steig walked the final stretch to his new home, following the directions spat out by a nearby info-deck.

AHEAD, TO THE MEDICAL CLINIC.
RIGHT, TOWARDS THE RIVER.
CONTINUE TO NUMBER 320A.

The decks used a different syntax out here - simpler, not to mention more patronising. But they worked, and Steig soon found himself inside yet another identical apartment block. Within its cream corridors, digital sniffers hissed softly, constantly testing the building's atmospheric mix. Everything smelt of cheap food-blocks.

Steig pressed his palm against the reader on door 45. It slid open after a brief pause, revealing a tiny, anonymous apartment. On the floor, somebody had left a pair of binoculars, low-light goggles, and a short note: PROTECT GALT ELLIS.
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Shawn McCarthy
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"Nope, nope, nope, nope, hmm." Barnes pointed at the wall with a knife. Projected onto the yellowed plastic surface, a column of job ads scrolled by. "QANTM? Mark that one for later."

The small projector chirped once in assent, but it was lost in the regular beeping of some forgotten food prep timer. He tapped the standby button on the reader with a ladle as his boss walked past the kitchen. Only ... 8 hours to go.
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Non Sequitur
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In the dining area, a holo-deck trawled through news of the day, playing feeds to the cafeteria's largely indifferent clientèle.

"Today saw the formation of controversial patriotic body, the Regan Honour-Guard. Up to 1,000 citizens signed up around the planet, instigating a special round of debate in the High Senate. The Honour-Guard seeks the official recognition of the government, which has so far declined to comment to the media."

The holo-deck showed a quick series of uniformed men, saluting the Regan flag, before moving on to the next story.

"Galt Ellis, the enigmatic CEO of QANTM Starships, has again disappeared from public life, reportedly preferring to live amongst ordinary citizens. QANTM Starships has come under heavy scrutiny lately, after announcing plans to shift production off Regan, to Curan."
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Michael
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Bialek pondered the Honour-Guard. He didn't have too much honour, but signing up might at least let him have fights outside the bar. But at the moment hunger seemed a more important issue then what to do with his life. Bialek ducked inside a nearby cafeteria and grabbed a paper to read more about the Honour-Guard.
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Shawn McCarthy
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Barnes steps through the doors to the front of the restaurant and sets a small tablet loaded with the menu in front of the patron - "Paper and wireless is free with your meal or a credit otherwise. Grab you something to drink?"
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Michael
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"Coffee. Black." says Bialek, "And I'll take a paper and whatever the special is for today too." He pushes the menu a few inches back towards the waiter and begins to glance around at the other customers.
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Elizabeth Kate
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Cordelia smiled at her patient, an elderly woman who didn’t need medical care so much as she needed comfort.

Gerard waited for her outside the room. He tapped his vitals records against one thigh impatiently. She arched an eyebrow at him, anticipating the old argument.

He sighed and sped down the hall to the next pod. “I know, I know. It’s sad that our old folks don’t have any respect anymore. It’s terrible the way we treat them. And we should really be more considerate of them. Now can we PLEASE get on with it? At this rate we’re going to take all night.”

Got a hot date, Gerard? Somewhere you’d rather be?”

Actually, yes. The Starfarers are playing. Drew’s got blast-window tickets. And I’m stuck playing nursemaid to folks with more credits than wrinkles. I just don’t see why you can’t speed it up. Stick your head in the door, get the vitals, get out. It’s not like any of these buffets would look twice at you or me if they weren’t at death’s door.”

Cordelia just shook her head. It was an old fight and one she didn’t have energy for tonight.

As they passed the pharmacy, her heartbeat sped. “Tell you what, Gerard: you take the rest of the vitals; I’ll finish the shift and do scrips tonight."

You’d do that for me? Thanks! You’re the best, Delia!” Gerard took two long strides and rounded the corner before she could reply.

Cordelia pulled out her hairpins and shook her heavy mane back over her shoulders. Donavan was working pharmacy tonight, and she didn’t need her empathy to confirm that Donavan was . . . persuadable.
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Non Sequitur
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Donovan ran the clinic's pharmaceutical processor, a heavy grey cube set amid stacks of overdue paperwork. While technically only for emergency supplies, which wouldn't be sourced from elsewhere in time, it was never a big deal for staff to drop in for this or that. And so what if the occasional 'test batch' disappeared? As far as Donovan was concerned, a few easy credits never hurt anyone. He'd worked here longer than most of the doctors, anyway - and didn't that mean anything?

Tonight, he was dressed as usual: tight grey singlet, chunky black headphones, and a big grin with three missing teeth.

"How you doin', Delia?" he seemed to be taking quality assurance a little too personally these days. "Just received a whole batch of new recipes from the department. Absolutely insane! How messed up are these old guys supposed to be, anyway?"

Predictably, Donovan didn't have a problem cooking up a little extra Dianozipanol. At the end of her shift, Cordelia pocketed the little white container on her desk, and was heading for the staff exit when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Of course, the night had been too easy...

"Cordelia?" It was one of the new guards, looking almost apologetic. "I'm sorry, do you mind if I take a look in your bag? It's new policy."

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Elizabeth Kate
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Cordelia's heart pounded.

Nothing to do but brazen it out, she thought.

"Hey, Jerry," she gave her best smile. "They got you working night shift already?"

As she spoke, Cordelia put a friendly hand on the guard's shoulder, hoping to sense something useful...
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Non Sequitur
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Bialek's coffee was cheap, sweet and strong, the way the regulars liked. It steamed from a small, bio-manufactured mug, heavy with caffeine. (According to popular rumour, Bio-Builder® was itself edible, should the crew of some marooned ship grow desperate enough to try. Better than starvation... maybe.)

The Regan Honour-Guard was all over the front page. Patriot groups had been forming for years, ever since the Scream really, demanding Regan reinstate its former authority in the sector. Now, the Honour-Guard brought them under the one roof. Somehow, they had uniforms and everything - the sort of stuff that always raises eyebrows.

"Nobody knows for certain how this new 'Honour-Guard' intends to bring back the planet's glory days. However, patriotic leaders have long demanded the government take a harder line with off-world powers. After all, follows their theory, Regan is still the administrative capital of the sector. If off-world governments refuse to pay taxes - which they haven't paid for a long time - they may technically be secessionists. The High Senate still has no official stance on the issue, except to repeat that nobody wants another war. Indeed."

In the kitchen, Barnes prepared the daily special. Somehow, this guy didn't seem so regular.
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Shawn McCarthy
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A few minutes later, Barnes slides a large plate onto the table before Bialek:
Diced meat with vegetables prepared as a salad, layered generously between slices of the local take on bread. A side of something that one might accidentally call soup but was flavored heavily with capsicum compounds. Slices of a fruit with bright red segments.

"If you need anything else, just wave me down. It's getting busy in here and the server - I'm just supposed to be cooking today - isn't in yet, but I'll keep an eye out for you.

"Hey, I can't recall seeing you around here before. New in the zone? I don't mean to pry, just tell me to jet off if I'm bothering you."
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Non Sequitur
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The info-deck in Steig's apartment quickly produced a torrent of stories on Galt Ellis.

Most were business reports, tracking the fortunes of QANTM Starships, the largest private manufacturer on Regan. Then came the opinion pieces, savagely attacking his recent decision to shift production to Curan. Finally, there was a spattering of conspiracy pieces, paranoid voices connecting Galt's regular disappearances to all kinds of outlandish theories - he was working for some alien force, or knew what was behind Regan's barren ecosphere.

Practically everyone had something to say about Galt Ellis - except the celebrity circles. As a 68-year-old recluse, not even exorbitant wealth had managed to turn Galt into a truly public figure. Maybe he liked it that way. It would certainly explain those disappearances...

Steig sat back in his seat, and glanced once again at the apartment across the road, clearly visible from his own. For some reason, Galt Ellis, sole heir to the QANTM fortune, had moved into the neighbourhood.
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Michael
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"I wish I was new here," Bialek said absentmindedly, "I'm sick of this place."
He took a bite of fruit, and sticky red juice sprayed over the Regan Honour Guard photo on the newspaper. It looked like blood on the soldiers. Bialek wistfully thought of the few battles he had been in.
"Hey," he said suddenly, "What have you heard about this 'Honour Guard' deal?"

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Shawn McCarthy
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Barnes:

"Just what's come across the deck and the feeds... QANTM this, Honour Guard that. It's weird, y'know, how as soon as a company that big moves to pull out the people suddenly decide we need an army. I've seen it before, man. Things'll get nasty up there," - gesturing to the projection from the deck - "and out there, too." - finishing with a wave to the plexi windows separating the restaurant from the street. The last part comes across with a bit of a troubled inflection.
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Non Sequitur
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Cordelia touched Jerry, opening the already porous borders of her mind (subtract 1 Power Point).

The empathic connection lasted only a moment, more than long enough to evade Jerry's confused mental defence and grasp a single, clear emotion. It was the feeling of family, with all its duty and obligation. A middle-aged man in a guard's uniform, smelling strongly of aftershave, loomed over a small child. Jerry's father was a guard, and he didn't want to let him down.

"That's right," said Jerry, with a little smile. "I can handle it though."
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Michael
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"Well if anything I'd rather be up there then out here," said Bialek through a mouthful of food. You've seen it get nasty here? asked Bialek looking doubtfully at the happy people buzzing around on the street outside. "What exactly happened?"
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Shawn McCarthy
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"Not here, no. But cities like this, and colonies especially. A group of different-thinkers gains support or a company that's 'too big to fail' starts talking about pulling out... soon enough people with guns are keeping the peace and detaining outsiders, or maybe the central power is assuming control of factories to maintain stability."

Barnes inflects the propaganda phrases but doesn't make it clear which side he's truly on. And, honestly, he's still not sure... civil conflict used to pay his bills - quite handsomely at that. The military paycheck wasn't bad, plus food and housing, and the blockades that his flightpaths were crossing had provided opportunity to transport in demandgoods.
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Ernest Chua
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Steig picked up the binoculars and low-light goggles as he read the note. In typical Regan navy style, it was direct without explanation. He frowned. He had been ready to go off world to storm a ship or a planetary installation. He could do that, look at what to shoot first, where the weak points were, how and what to quickly and effectively take out. Instead, he thought as he looked around the apartment, he was in a protection detail.

He settled into a chair to find out about Galt Ellis. He ignored anything conspiracy related and any business news, concentrating on information him personally-what he liked to do, where he was likely to be, who his enemies were likely to be. To do his job, he needed to know the subject.

Steig examined the latest photo of Galt. It showed him crossing a road, a harried and stressed look on his face. He wasn’t looking into the telephoto lens and his gaze was elsewhere. As he went off the info-deck, Steig already had a few ideas about how to protect Galt. He glanced again at the apartment across the road but now the curtains were closed.

He took a closer look around the apartment but failed to see any sign or signal that any of the rest of team left. He must either be the first one here, or they couldn’t be seen together and would have to find each other and communicate in another way. Figuring that this was a navy apartment, he decided to wait for the other team members after a shower the detention block was clean, but it was still detention. He was showering when he distinctly heard the front door open. Not switching the water off, he slowly reached out until his hands found his monoblade.
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Non Sequitur
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As Bialek flicks through the newspaper, Barnes catches a glimpse of that advertisement again:

QANTM seeks experienced operator for short-term contract. Rewarding position for impeccable pilot. Contact your nearest office for further information. No unions.

From the kitchen, Barnes' boss calls out impatiently, "Come on, what am I paying you for? Do I look like an asshole?"
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Shawn McCarthy
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"From this angle, you kinda do but maybe it's just the light, boss. I'm just making a customer feel welcome, there's no more orders on the spike!"

Barnes shrugs amicably at Bialek and salutes the boss, before strolling back behind the counter.
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