Today on Mothership...
- Berkeley, karaoke gynoid (Michael Kennedy)
- Manny, scientist (JOZO)
- Hank Price, marine (Max Cantor)
The ancient television clicks on, revealing the scanlined smiley face icon of Friend. They say that they've reviewed the footage from the crash and have put together a response to the event. They already have all the information they can glean from Berkeley, and so they offer her a choice: they will delete her current version and restore her from a backup prior to the event, or she may remain part of the investigation and retain her memories. She chooses the latter.
Friend's smiley face, burned into the screen, is the last thing she sees before waking up.
The simulation dissolves and Berkeley finds herself waking up in a new body (actually a better model than she had started out with) and swiftly brought up to speed with the other two hires, Manny and Hank. Neither had been told of what actually happened, having been informed by Friend that they are invesigating the radio tower for signs of the Ground Beef Bois (named so for what they do to their faces) pushing southward. Berkeley, at the behest of Friend, does not tell them about the monster, the crash, or the man in the box.
The three are flown out this time on a VTOL, hitching a ride with some mercenaries of another faction Friend has influence in, who are headed off to the open warfare north of Highway 1.
There is little of note on the switchback up the hill, besides the buzzard-bats circling on thermals in the distance and some traces of machine oil on the trail that winds around the hill and heads off to the north. Here they find a broken logic core, but are unable to get any information from it.
The station at the top of the hill is little more than the tower and a single prefab building surrounded by a chain link fence. The grounds have been overgrown with desert brush, recently torn up by wide tire tracks.
The door is unlocked.
Inside it is dark. Hank's thermal HUD reads a form scrambling out of the room and down the hall, and in the light pouring in from the door they find the room to be coated in a drying visceral slurry. Five human skins hang from the ceiling by strings woven of their hair.
Pursuing the figure leads them to the generator room - the scrabbling of shoes on dirt can be heard. Hank opens up and sprays bullets through the door and kicking it in. Inside, the generator appears to have been disassembled, many components removed. A hole has been dug into the concrete floor, leading to a long sloping tunnel of reddish dirt. The walls are honeycombed with smaller burrows. At the mouth is an android wearing a ill-fitting human skin, seams splitting open.
Manny loses control at this point and ineffectually begins punching the android, who screams "Deliver us O Lord I think therefore I think therefore!" and sends a private message to Berkeley begging her to "call off her bruteish servant." She manages to restrain Manny and pulls him off and manages to get some information from the android.
The android (his name was Dess Katrz in my notes but they never asked in the game) had been left behind by others of his cabal. They had set up here in an attempt to "retrieve the Blessed Interface", so that they might combine it with their own [Interface]. Hank knows enough about esoteric theology to figure out that Dess is talking about some means of communicating with the divine. Berkeley plays the game well enough to get the location of the rest of the androids: an old Zaibatsu climate monitoring station north of their current location. Hank and Manny successfully remove Dess' logic core without damaging it.
The trio contacts Friend, who gives them the same option as before - take the money now, or extend their contract. They won't be able to get a ride north until tomorrow, when Friend sends the cleanup crew in.
The three decide to stay on the job and get a rideshare into town (the very same that had appeared abandoned the first time through). The woman driving them there seems a bit perplexed at their choice to go there, as the town has recently come under the control of the United Planetary Front (the local band of jackbooted space fascists). The team is obviously not very pleased at this, but they decide to stick it out for one night. They get through the checkpoint, papers all in order, and rent a room at a cheap motel for the night. There are banners on facades and thugs on the street corners, and people are going about their business with heads down.
The fact that the local ISWU (Interstellar sex workers' Union chapterhouse, (one of the oldest and toughest union orgs in human space) has clearly been burnt to the ground does not go without worry. If the Front is willing to pick a fight with ISWU, they mean to commit some serious violence.
With tensions high, the group looks for a local watering hole and settle on Amarpreet's, which has good reviews. It's run by a friendly fellow all the way from Earth, who allows Berkeley to take to the stage before the night's scheduled performers arrive. Everyone gets drunk on feni and rice wine, Hank tries to access higher dimensions because he's kind of a quack who believes in psychic meditation (4th and 5th dimensions are empty, 17th is filled with bees). Manny approaches a heavyworlder and hands them a contact card for Friend. Talk around the town is mostly about who nearby could kick out the Front - rumors of Dog Knights moving in from the west are everywhere.
And so they drink into the night, as the world continues its collapsing dance around them.