Mustered Out on Mertactor

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Finding Mr. Traske (Take Two)

The party members sleep in a little as dawn comes late in the morning on Tarsus time. At least it means that they can continue searching until they have to give in through exhaustion now.

After another one of Shania’s enormous farmhouse breakfasts, the party members head for the air/rafts as soon as the sun appears over the horizon. They sit quietly in the rafts pulling their coats around them to keep off the chill until the grayness of dawn has lifted, then head the short distance to the beginning of the swamps.

They follow the same tactics as before – or try to at least. Whereas the Range was open and it would have been easy to spot someone on the ground, the thick trees and bushes of the swampland contain many more potential hiding places and so the air/rafts are forced to sweep more closely together and more slowly than before.

The party members settle in for a long day of searching. However, after just a couple of hours (by which time the party is still less than 2km from the ranch), Grim points and calls to the others:

“What’s that over there, where all those big birds are gathered?”

Clint brings the air/raft down for a closer look, bringing it between the trees. Billy-Bob does the same in the second raft.

The approach of the air/rafts frightens off the large dark-feathered birds, revealing that something is suspended from the branches of a large tree. The grav/belt is the first sign that they have, unfortunately, found what they were looking for. It’s the body of Taeva’s father, slightly nibbled upon by the carrion eaters.

The party member disentangle the corpse from the tree and William investigates it.

“Looks like he’s been dead for between 48 and 36 hours by the state of decomposition,” he says.

“The cause of death seems obvious,” he adds. “A bad burn from a laser weapon across the left side of his torso. He also has severe bruising on the arms, legs and torso. The shapes and sizes would lead me to believe that they were caused by a high speed run through the swamp forest, as if he was running away after being pursued. It looks like he must have gotten away from his attackers, but died from his wounds surely afterwards.”

Jie investigates the laser wounds, having seen many of them in her time. “This didn’t come from a standard laser rifle or carbine,” she says. “Normally the beam on a laser weapon is round. This one is more of an oval shape.”

“I’ve only seen such a shape once before,” she adds. “It was a special laser carbine used for designating targets. It’s a good weapon, although they’re expensive.”

While the others look at the body, Arvor asks Billy-Bob to drop him down to ground level so that he can look around more. He spends a while investigating the freezing cold swamp water until he thinks he has found something lying in the water. He pulls it up to reveal what seems to be a large white stake, made from ceramic.

“Does anyone have any idea what this could be?” he asks.

“It looks like a sonic stake,” Clint says. “All of the ranches have them at their borders to stop the nobbles from destroying all the crops.”

He scratches his head. “It looks slightly different from the normal ones though. The normal ones are a little larger.”

“I want to check the crime scene some more,” Arvor says. “Maybe you can investigate the stake a little more, William?”

“For form’s sake we should mark the spot and report this to the TDF: they’ll send a team out to do an official report but it will take time for them to get here – plenty of time for us use up the daylight hours however we choose. We shouldn’t waste them. "

“Putting stakes in the swamp is a bit odd. We should look for some more and see what the pattern is.”

Taeva doesn’t show much obvious emotion regarding the death of her father. “People are going to die for this.”

Arvor, Taeva and Grim spend some time investigating the surrounding area in a little more detail while William studies the stake. He then runs some scans on it. He soon realizes that it is emitting high-pitched sounds.

“Seems to me that it is designed to repulse smaller animals in that case,” Jie comments. “Something as huge as a nobble would respond only to very low-pitched sounds.”

Further comments are interrupted by a call from Grim. “I’ve found a patch of dried blood,” he says.

The others come over to take a look at the few drops of blood, some 15m from the tree where Taeva’s father’s body was found.

“This gives us an idea as to the direction he would have been coming from,” Arvor says. “Let’s see if we can follow them and see if we can find out where he was first attacked.”

All of the party members agree to the task and form a line fanning out from the spot of dried blood and then slowly, carefully wade through the swamp water heading back towards the ranch. Realizing that they have plenty of light, they take it slowly so as not to miss anything out. Every now and again, the party members see predators in the shadows eyeing them carefully. A few volleys from the party’s weapons scares the creatures away, however.

Their diligence is rewarded because, as the afternoon wears on, they are able to find more drops of blood, or broken branches which shows that someone has been through here in a hurry over the past few days.

Late in the afternoon, Max trips over and falls into the murky water. After getting up and uttering a seemingly endless string of curses, he reaches down and produces another of the stakes. Everyone spreads out from here, taking long sticks in order to explore the waters. Over the next few hours, they find more of the stakes. By late evening, they have found perhaps twenty of them spread over an area of around 3km. They are arranged in the shape of a funnel, pointing in the direction of the ranch.

The discovery leads to a long debate among the party members as to what they should do next. In the end, they decide to twist the direction of the stakes so that they are sending predators away from the ranch rather than towards it. They then decide to wait for the men in air/rafts to return as, according to William’s calculations, they should start to arrive in the next hour or two.

Arvor, Grim and Taeva take to the treetops in order to scan the surrounding swamp lands. An hour passes, then two and those on the ground are starting to get bored. Billy-Bob breaks out a pack of cards and a game is in progress when, Arvor finally sees something through his rifle scope.

He points to Grim and Taeva westwards. They can just make out a solitary air/raft skimming through the treetops before setting down around 5km from the party’s current position.

The three of them shin down the trees and pass on the report to the others in the party. So as not to lose the element of surprise, they decide to leave the air/rafts in the current position and head to the position they saw the intruders’ air/rafts descending on foot.

It’s slow going yomping through the cold, fetid waters of the swamp but, after a couple of hours, Taeva who is in the vanguard, puts her hands up and tells everyone to stop, telling them that she can hear voices ahead.

Taeva, Grim and Jie decide to head forward, with Arvor close behind them. William and Max stay back a little.

Taeva glides through the undergrowth with the grace of a ballerina. However, all of this is for naught as Jie right next to her stomps through it with the grace of a small hippopotamus. Quietened voices are coming from ahead now; it’s obvious that they’ve heard something and are coming to investigate. The party members dive for cover and they see six redneck looking types slowly approaching them in a line, studying the undergrowth carefully. The party members immediately open fire on them, quickly taking a couple out before they have dived into cover. Max and William hear the shots and quickly run forward to join the melee.

The party members take out another two, with Arvor getting hit, but fortunately not seriously. Taeva though, in the front of the party’s position, demonstrates that the Traske family’s power for attracting laser carbine bolts is genetic as she takes one to the chest, dropping her instantly. Jie immediately sees to her, while Arvor and Grim continue to take care of the intruders. The original six intruders are all down now, but another six have emerged from up ahead.

Max comes around the left flank in order to strengthen the party’s line while William, hearing that Taeva is down, runs towards her, taking over med duty from Jie who goes back to the front line. Together Arvor, Grim, Jie and Max quickly take down another five intruders at no loss.

The last of the intruders runs back to the camp and leaps into an air/raft. Arvor trashes the air/raft badly with a DSAP round, while Jie finishes the job with her laser rifle, making the air/raft completely unusable. The occupant jumps from it into the second of three air/rafts parked in the clearing. But as he emerges from the wreck, Grim quickly brings him down. All of the intruders are down now – the final tally being two dead, three seriously wounded and seven unconscious.

The party members quickly incapacitate them all. Due to William’s administrations, Taeva is conscious again, although not feeling that great. It has not done much for her mood, however.

The party members start to interrogate the prisoner’s. Initially they are tight-lipped. However, when Taeva blows the head off one of them, they quickly change their minds and decide that they would prefer to talk after all.

The party learns that they are in the swamp to find some ind of rare moss known as Tarsuline. William looks up the details on his handcomp, but can find no information regarding the moss that would lead anyone to believe that it is particularly valuable. It obviously is though as the intruders are paid Cr.1000 per kilo for all they can find.

The intruders all seem to be low-level henchmen. They tell the party that they work for a guy called Jimmy-Joe from a company called Evander Agricultural Engineering on the outskirts of Evander. Taeva learns that they were not supposed to have killed her father – their instructions were to just try and frighten them off their land. The guy who pulled the trigger was the one that Grim caught who was trying to make off in the air/raft and so he is dead now.

Having learned all that they are likely to find out from these low-level employees, the party members debate what they should do with them. Eventually the decision is made to incapacitate the remaining two air/rafts and their commos and leave them with just knives to enable them to slowly make their way back to civilization.

Max then calls Clint and Billy-Bob to bring the air/rafts over. It’s been a long day according to the party member’s body clocks and so they head back to the ranch.

Shania and Hyrm should normally be sleeping by now but they are both still up when the party members return. Shania panics when she sees how badly injured Taeva is, but she brushes it off before she tells her mother that they have found her father – but that he’s dead. Shania bursts into hysterical tears. Hyrm stoically tries to comfort her with a reassuring hand on her shoulder, but it’s no good – and Shania just heads to her room, crying for several hours afterwards.

Exhausted after a long day of tramping through the swam, the party members each take a shower and retire for the night.

Comments

Arvor will record the details of the scene (for justice proceedings) before They take the body down and wrap it in a survival blanket and place it in an air/raft.

He will run a sensor scan on the stake to see what if energies it emits.

If it is sonic, it would probably keep underwater creatures at a distance, and would not have to be as powerful as the land variety.

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“For forms sake we should mark the spot and report this to the TDF: they’ll send a team out to do an official report but it will take time for them to get here-plenty of time for us use up the daylight hours however we choose. We shouldn’t waste them. "

“Putting stakes IN the swamp is a bit odd. We should look for some more and see what the pattern is.”

Taeva doesn’t show much obvious emotion regarding the death of her father. “People are going to die for this.”

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“Well there you go; the Bastards have been directing swamp animals towards our land-spooking the Nobbles and causing the ranch problems. We need to GPS log this, photograph them and make sure the TDF Team are copied in. Deliberate sabotage”

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Hmmm. Assuming they don’t know we have been here and discovered this, we could perhaps ambush them. If they show up to drive creatures out of the swamp, we could give the a swamp surprise of our own. If we stake out an area to Westward of the funnel opening, we may catch them at their startup point for spooking creatures our way. I would also suggest we re-position the stakes to form a shield that will actually deflect approaching creatures away from the ranch and disperse them on either side.

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           |               .
           |              .
           |              .
           |               .
           |                .
ranch      |      swamp       .  .  .                      x stake out (4 km from swamp edge)
           |                .
           |               .
           |              .<->
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Good idea Arvor. We should keep one stake to investigate; perhaps we can trace its origin and purchaser.

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“Before we rearrange the stakes, we should make sure they don’t have RFID, etc, or our moving them might give our presence away. At the very least, the enemy might be in a position, by whatever means, to notice the animals moving in an incorrect pattern if they trigger the units before we’re prepared to move on the blighters. This would also alert them to our discovery of their dastardly little staging area. Those are risks we should avoid. Otherwise, I agree with Arvor and William regarding an observation position. Those of us with reconaissance skills should set it up, with the air/rafts nearby in case we need to regroup and reassess after we discover their numbers and equipment. EMF discipline should be strictly observed while we wait, in case they have active scanners.” says Grim in a somewhat professional tone.

Pausing, he smiles and produces a small flask, “Anyway, I brought a little hooch. Who’s up for a snort before we start?”

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If the stakes are directional best to just turn them round and point intom the swamp-that way they’ll log as still functional.

Rather than just wait in the swamp and maybe catch one air raft, maybe its better to take the fight to them. We know where they come from (probaably). Let’s snoop around there.

If we do ambush a lone air raft we can be sure the coverup will have occured before we get back to their base. Better to ferret out the problem at source, and hit them as hard as possible.

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@grim: I already examined the stakes for energy emissions. All I got was sonic.

@william: agreed – all part of the court case.

@Taeva: It depends – do they only come over the swamp under the cover of darkness? If so, we could use the “long day” to do some snooping in Evander. However, that may tip our hand, and we have only circumstantial evidence to connect whoever we find in Evander to here.

I vote for the ambush, because we know they have to come here for the stakes to do anything, whereas Evander is a big(ish) city, and finding them there could be like a needle in a haystack. Plus if we get them here, they will be in flagrante delicto.

I do have a question concerning local law. Would we be within our rights to use lethal force if we catch them driving dangerous swamp creatures towards the ranch? If only maybe, then maybe the ambush is to tag them somehow, and follow them back to Evander and discover their base of operations?

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It’s Frontier Law pretty much. The problem is as soon as we hit an air raft/ they don’t report in they will be alerted. It will take us hours to get to Evander at which point we will find nothing or entrenchment.

The corridor the air raft take is 800km wide as Nick said. The chances of having anyone to ambush are none (almost): they actually have no reason to come to this spot- the stakes are a device which reuire no ongoing maintenance except on a very long cycle.

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LOL! I saw that about scanning the stakes for active energy signatures, just didn’t realize you’d done it for passive ones like RFID (which don’t emit until triggered by the proper frequency and code). I’m probably getting too high tech for what is a glorified electric fence though! In any case, messing with the stakes just lets them know we’re alerted to them if they do have a way of checking on the functionality/direction/efficacy of their stakes (maybe they occasionally fly over with a properly tuned sonic detector to scan the array?). Why change them now? On the other hand, Taeva is probably right about this being an extremely low maintenance activity with highly infrequent visits, so maybe we should skip the stakeout and take the search to the city?

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Some notes for you:

1. The computer analysis that William made a couple of days ago told you that three air/rafts set out at hourly intervals from Evander at dawn. It’s an eight hour trip by air/raft from Evander and so the first of the air/rafts should be arriving in a couple of hours or so.

2. Evander is actually a smallish town of 21,450 inhabitants.

3. The Tarsus Defense Force is a very small organization that tends to get involved in matters only if they really have to. They are far from efficient and will try and get out of doing anything unless people make a real fuss.

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(Sorry Nick, been a busy week at work, forgot that part of the logs :-)

Cool, then the decisions are:

1. Stake out, observe, and ambush them,

2. Stake out, observe, and try to follow them back,

3. go to Evander, bypassing the incoming rafts, then quietly investigate in town while keeping an eye out for the rafts as they return to town?

Does this seem right? If so, I vote for 3. It would certainly seem that they’d be alerted if we attacked the raft (as Taeva pointed out) and it didn’t check in on schedule (or meet the other rafts or whatever). It also seems beyond our capabilities to follow the incoming rafts, either as they poke about out here or as they are returning to Evander, closely enough to see where they go without being spotted doing so. So, let’s go to Evander and play tourists/nobblehunters/ranchers and wait for them to return, then we can see who they are and where they land from a relatively anonymous standpoint?

Grim/Ian

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(they do go back to Evander? Will this interfere with the timing of our nobble hunt too much? Would it be better to take a John Wayne approach: ambush them, consider the score settled and then trot off to go harvesting, only to find they’ve attacked our basecamp and killed Cookie, our chuck wagon chef? Will Becky find the missing colt? lol, sorry guys, just killing time before I go wait tables for a few hundred drunken revelers! Will check on the boards tonight, but too late for any further input (after midnight PST), so whatever you guys come up with, Grim’s good to go! See you in the AM, PM, whatever it is, wherever you are ;-)

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If William’s information is correct, then the bad guys should be in the swamp for around 36 hours of daylight before heading back to Evander.

The nobble harvest will need to take place somewhere between 9 and 18 Terran days away (you will get the exact time and date later). But it means that you have plenty of time before you need to worry about that.

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I’d have thought we could just position ourselves near the edge of Evander and observe the air rafts returning. We then get them all on the ground.

Nick when you say ’ the bad guys should be in the swamp’, presumably you mean -the bad guys should be arriving somewhere within the very large area of the swamp’?, i.e. not to this exact spot?

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Yes, that’s swamp as in the 30,000 square kilometre of swamps.

Maybe they will come to check on the sonic stakes; maybe not. They are solar powered and so require very little maintenance.

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My assumption is that like hunters since neolithic times, the stakes are indeed passive, but they require humans to “beat” the game towards them and into the trap / funnel. Without any force to drive them, and without any bait near the tip of the funnel, there is no reason for creatures to make their way all the way through it and out of the swamp. Normal creatures would probably simply do a 180 and head back into the swamp without the right encouragement.

It doesn’t matter (I believe) if we find them in Evander. We have (as yet) no proof of any tie between whoever we might catch, and the activities around the Traske Ranch. It is my intention to stay here and await the arrival of the enemy. When they get here (and I am pretty sure they will), I intend to remain hidden for as long as possible, to find out exactly what they are up to. Once I know, then I would decide whether springing an ambush or delaying is the best tactic. If we have to hit them, I intend to take them out when they are away from their air/rafts – unless they never leave them. I could certainly use some heavier weapons support from Grim and Jie, but even without that, I am staying – if only to find out what the bastards are up to out here.

As to finding them in an area as big as the swamp – William has already obtained historical tracking data – perhaps he can hack into the feed real time? Then we would know pretty much exactly where they are.

Look – these are the very people who killed Mr. Traske. They have no idea we are even on planet. As far as they know, they only have old Hyrm, and Mrs Traske to worry about now. If we go blundering into Evander and laying accusations, the whole thing could end up with us in custody, and no Nobble harvest. If on the other hand, we hit them here, taking a few prisoner by using the Carbine, then we will find out what they are up to, and have a prisoner to spill the beans on the rest if them. If my guess is right, this is all about money, and such people will rat each other out to save their precious skins. Once we know all the facts, then we can tackle Evander.

Now if we trust the commo link, we can send a detailed message of our discoveries and intentions to the TDF – and even ask if they “screen” planetary departures over the next 72 hours, looking particularly at folks who are not active Tarsus Ranchers – based on our suspicions.

If people are not too leery about splitting the party, we could send a couple of us to Evander to keep it under observation directly – monitor communications, observe sudden activity, even be ready to pounce and detain – however, I would caution that that option would increase the risks of people getting killed without the firepower of the rest of us as backup. After all, they showed no compunction about killing Traske.

So – in a nutshell – I say we wipe out the gang’s foot soldiers first, then go in after the brains once the way has been cleared.

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As an afterthought – if we don’t find them in the swamp, we can still most likely make it out to Evander before they usually do and |catch them landing as Taeva suggests.

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As we have no precise information my assumption is that the stakes are entirely passive: that is how these stakes are actually used by ranchers. The whole ‘Scare Taeva Ranch’ project will be a sideshow in relation to the main business of what the air rafts are actually doing-they will be in the swamp about their actual business (picking up gold bars or whatever) while they have set up a low cost/ time input option to further incapacitate the Ranch.

Confronting a single air raft in the swamp will entirely tip our hand here and give the bad guys open warning that we’re onto them (in the same way as sabotaging the stakes would, assuming there is some simple electronic monitoring). For both these reasons I see the ambush option as completely counter productive.

If the air raft tracking is as accurate as William thinks then by tracking them to their exact location in Evander coupled with a few simple observations of comings and goings should be entirely sufficient to pinpoint their origin.

Shooting 4 guys in an air raft- when we know there are several air rafts involved simply removes any element of surprise and reveals that we are onto them.

We have no proof currently either way. The discussion is really about the best way to obtain it.

Having someone here to watch them is ok (as long as its not me), but revealing that we’re onto them -ie attacking an air raft-would be entirely counter productive.

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Point 1. Unless someone has physically prevented it, Arvor has, by himself if necessary, rearranged the sonic stakes as described.

Point 2. Please consider that if we are headed to Evander, there is nothing stopping them from making a raid on the ranch (they expect only Hyrm and Shaia there now).

Well folks, here are the choice for you all. I have made up my mind to stay. What you do is up to you.

Hide here, observe them, trail them back to Evander,
- or -
Hide here, observe them, given the opportunity, attack the foot soldiers out here by surprise and out of sight of local population or backup (the way the dealt with Mr Traske), take at least one prisoner and interrogate him/her.
– or –
stay at the ranch two more days as a lookout / defense, then head to Evander (hoping they don’t just decide to attack the ranch just before they leave), and hope to spot the incoming air/rafts at Evander and track them to their lair.
- or –
go to Evander right now (taking a circuitous route to avoid them incoming), and poke around looking for clues (which may tip their hand), wait 3 days for them to return from the swamp (from whence they might decide to set fire to the Traske ranch now it is hardly defended)
- or -
some other idea.

Once again, I am for the swamp – they don’t know we are here. It is a good place to hide, and they are probably not taking much precaution. One should be able to spot a grav raft a mile away with our LI goggles. At the very least, we could stay hidden and observe – although I personally favour the ambush. I have no objection to Taeva and whoever else wants to go to Evander, but as I said, I would prefer some support weapons here.

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Further to Comments post, probably will miss most if not all today’s game. William votes with Arvor for whatever that’s worth. Hope to join you later today.

Jay/William

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I can start an hour early (noon EST), but I have to leave by 3 for dinner at my in-laws. See you all in three (or so) hours!

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No worries – if everyone just turns up if/when they can, that will be fine.

This is the advantage of having five players – we can still move forward even if one or two can’t make it.

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youngerpliny

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