Here we are again. It's time for another recap of Tinker Titan Rebel Spy! And this time I remembered to record the session so, hopefully, I won't miss anything important. Woo!

 Things are beginning to heat up. We've got some things confirmed, so questions answered, and a whole bunch of new ones. 

1. Summary

Things, once again, picked up where we left off, though there was some slight retcons, namely that the shuttle had not left the hangar yet which was fortuitous for several reasons. We also had some no-name NPCs aboard to stir up trouble investigating things on the surface and some NPCs to deliver an invitation to GovernorGideon Voss and Sub-Admiral Shaw Starlane to meet with Knight Commander Evander Rook (our friendly neighborhood Darth Vader who, even with just over 300 points is terrifying) and The Commodore (Sharo-To Greaves, who's player was sadly absent and who is likely to be chewing a couple of us out in the next session or two) at their earliest convenience. I had thought this gaggle of NPCs was going down in a different shuttle. It doesn't really matter, which is why I thought the retcons (or corrections) relatively minor.

1.1. Some (Un)friendly Banter

In response to Kyra's jab from last session, Nal replies, girnning, with, "A thousand apologies Lieutenant Elso. I did not mean to imply your beauty was any less radiant than before." It earned Nal an eye roll from Kyra. After teasing his minder/handler, he turns on Damari and demands to know the chain of logic that lead to Her Highness, Mina, Princess of Shinjurai, being on his shuttle. He states that she was necessary to the investigation. Nal counters that he failed to see the logic in taking her from behind the defenses of the Warmain, the Psi-Wars version of a Star Destroyer, and all of the guns, fighters, and troops that would be between her and people who wanted to do her a mischeif. Damari tells Nal that he was certain that the safest place for her was on the bridge of a ship commanded by the affable, though currently annoyed, pilot. Kyra pipes in with a comment about how she likes Damari and how the security agent reminded her of the ace pilot.

Nal, trying hard not to snap at Kyra, whom he likes and is quite fond of, and squashing his desire to give Damari a dressing down, whom he is truly angry at, sidesteps the potential pitfalls of correcting Damari by asking, rhetorically, about his willingness to obey an order to take the Princess back to her quarters. Damari begins waffle and brings up the whole chain of command (though Nal does outrank him, technically) which tries Nal's patience enough to just cave and do his best to protect Mina from whatever comes after her. He walks off the shuttle, grabs a set of light, sealed body armor for Mina and another for Sherri. He hands the one he got for Sherri to her and then holds out the other to Mina and tells her to put it on.

Sherri asks if it's an order, and that she'd prefer not to wear the armor (more on this in the Thoughts section.) The princess begins to balk at wearing the armor, asking the sorts of questions you'd expect from a high-society debutante when told that her designer clothes need to be left behind. It becomes clear that she doesn't understand a thing abotu Grist, nor the situation she's in. Patience tested, Nal almost literally throws his hands up in the air and orders Kyra and Sherri to get her into the body armor, even if they have to strip her to her underwear to get her to agree and stalks to the flightdeck of the shuttle to get them into space while Damari just shakes his head. (I'm sure that's going to come back to bite Nal later.)

As Nal's preparing to launch, Sherri says that she'd perfer not to unless an actually direct order. Nal says it is and returns to launch prep. Mina, seemingly at a loss, looks about, supposedly for a place to change. Damari tells Mina it might be a wise precaution until she's safely at the dig site (Nal's not letting her out of the armor even when they land.) Just as Mina replies that she believes that Nal is preparing to take off immediately and would rather not change in the passenger compartment with all of the eyes on her just in time for the ramp to raise and the shuttle to leave the hangar. Nal asks for Kyra to make sure Mina is armored before they land.

Kyra, perhaps feeling a little exasperated at Nal's admittedly gruff way of handling the Princess when he he was trying to get her into something more protective than Shinjurai chic, grabs a tarp from stores and she and Sherri hold it up like a privacy curtain so Mina could change. After changing into the form-fitting battleweave, Mina exchanges some words with Kyra, which has Kyra smiling and agreeing with whatever Mina had said. After returning to her seat, Mina tells Kyra to thank Nal for his generous gift.

1.2. The Approach to Port Belter

On the approach the shuttle is challenged by Grist Traffic Control and Nal transmits the transponder codes. Shuttle-123, as the stealthy, covert ops sleeper shuttle was christened, was instructed to land in Docking Bay 24 after Nal relayed their destination. Seeing an opportunity to meet with his contacts, however briefly, Nal began to open up a channel to the Gaju Crime Syndicate. However, something strange happened. He was being hailed just as Kyra was rejoining him on the flightdeck.

Shin San Sage, a man who had been fingered in some intel that Damari had obtained prior to coming ot Grist as being one of three potential leaders to the rebellion on Grist, had contacted the shuttle to speak with the Imperial representatives. Nal, not having heard of this man, asks how he may be of service. Mr. Sage informs him, and Kyra and Damari who happens to be listening in, that Governor Voss plans on giving the Imperial inspection party a curated tour of the Heap. Being a representative of Gristian interests, Mr. Sage wants to show what Voss's governorship has done to Grist and show them the true face of the hardscrabble planet.

Nal, however, didn't become an old soldier by being an idiot, and rather bluntly asks Mr. Sage if this is a trap. Mr. Sage responds by stating that while there are enemies to the Empire, he is not one of them. There are things going on that are not just the result of a few pirates and that Governor Voss's corruption may have something to do with it. (Unfortunately, this kinda got garbled due to technical issues, so this may not be correct.) After some back and forth, Mr. Sage agrees to set up a meeting through the Gaju Crime Syndicate.

As soon as Mr. Sage is through and cuts the connection, Nal contacts the Gajus to get in touch with his contact, Jax Blasters (A name that I made up on the spot.) Though Jax is unavailable, one of the lieutenants is and after Nal establishes his credentials, they agree to setup a meeting on "neutral" gound. The Gaju lieutenant espresses some concern, asking if this meeting is safe or wise for an Imperial. Nal answers with, "no, but I'm know for doing very unsafe and unwise things." The lieutenant then asks about payment and I am going to pretend that Nal just told them that yes, there will be a nice payment for this job, rather than giving the cringe-wrothy, overly expository answer that I gave. (Seriously, this was one of those times that the player's mannerisms and habits mess up the character's response. Nal's supposed to be a lot smoother than that.)

Things were going rather swimmingly. That had Nal worried.

1.3. Port Belter

As the shuttle is approaching the Heap and Port Belter, Nal pulls a couple of the investigators aside to ask them to help anyone that approaches them for it and to be on their toes. That last part probably unecessary as these are professionals, but Nal seems to be the type that starts stating the obvious when he's getting nervous. As it turns out, he has good reason to be. Waiting in the ramshackle docking bay is Tera Masterton having a lively discussion with the head of Imperial Security on Grist, Kyto Castor, apparently about the shuttle that had just arrived and the inspectors that had just tromped off. Nearby is a young man, Hal Stillwalker, who's dressed like a Imperial director, though perhaps a bit too causually to be in uniform, and is busy talking to a robot that looks like it came from a junk heap. All of them appear be waiting for someone to come out and talk.

Nal immediately realizes that there's a very real danger of them finding Mina and starts working on a cover for the princess. He tells her to put her helmet on and keep it on, and that if anyone asks, she's a cadet on her midshipman's cruise. Damari just says that he'll run interference and everything will be fine after seeing that she's not too thrilled with the plan, a sentiment that Nal doesn't share, but isn't about to argue with at this point.

The princess squared away, Damari, Sherri, Kyra, and Nal all walk out into the docking bay, much to the relief of Ms. Masterton. Kyto stops gesturing to the ship as he focuses on the party now before him. Ms. Masterton smiles as she greets them and holds a hand out. Nal, being the dashing, roguish officer that he is takes it and kisses the back of it in the style fo a nobleman greeting a lady at court before introducing himself as a charmed Commander Nal Aldru. The gesture (and nailing the the target number on the influence roll) brings a genuine smile to Ms. Masterton's face. She manages to regain control of her expression and seems to have been a bit flustered by Nal's charms.

Introductions are had and when Tera notes that the Commodore is not among the party, Nal informs her that they were there to arrange for a meeting between Governor Voss, Subadmiral Starlane, Commodore Greaves, and Knight Commander Rook. Tera pales and Kyto Castor begins to makes some urgent communications through his wrist communicator at the mention of an Imperial Knight Commander coming to visit. Tera asks Nal what the meeting is to be about and Nal admits that he doesn't know, not having been privy to the reasoning behind the meeting. The official invitation is that Voss and Starlane meet with Rook jointly at their earliest mutual convenience. The location is up to them.

At this point, Kyto leaves and whispers something to Tera as he passes her. Damari notices that Tera is in an inferior position to Kyto Castor and seems relieved that the party is there to talk instead of bombarding the planet. After this has passed, Tera pulls up a map of the Heap and traces a route to a place in High Garden, which is the Imperial Quarter, and the nicest quarter of the city, though that's not a particularly high bar to pass given the Ode a Chimique bouquet that the air has and the pervasiveness of the Scavanger School among the architecture. The location of the meeting is a place called the Prestige, which is a club that Voss likes to frequent.

Damari recalls that High Garden is a place that many Gristees go to get close to the imperials and, hopefully, land better jobs and living conditions. The district is named for the govenor's mansion which is domed off and has many gardens inside. The Presitge has a mixed repuation. Many Gristee girls make their way there in hopes of finding an imperial husband, and they are sometimes not treated well. As Mailanka put it, it's like one of those clubs in Hollywood that a young farm girl goes to because of all the producers and directors. They're promised they'll get a role if they'll just... and the implications are more than enough to paint the picture.

Damari also sees that the route is indeed curated to show the best of the Heap and Grist. It's the kind of route that you'd make if you wanted to paint a picture that everything's fine and there's nothign to worry about. The confirmation of what Shin San Sage had said is a worrying echo of the bland, undetailed reports from the first session. He only notes that it is acceptable to Subadmiral Starlane and Governor Voss, it should be suitable to Commodore Greaves and Knight Commander Rook. The meeting seems at an end as Tera asks if there's anything more she could do, when Assistant Director Hal Stillwalker finally joins in the conversation. He's a tall, spindly fellow with a freckled face and a mop of messy hair, and he's a very exuberant man who immediately takes a liking to Sherri.

Hal introduces himself and his robotic companion, Pawn, to the group, then immediately guesses that we're there to talk to Director Thorn. Damari replies by asking if there's a reason we should be talking to Director Thorn. Hal looks to Ms. Masterton before turning back to Damari to give him a wink and telling us that there's no reason that'd he want to talk about there in the docking bay. Nal immediately begins disliking the man, for what are probably obvious reasons. He tells us that Director Thorn is out, if we did want to talk to him.

Curiously, after asking about Damari's name, he turned his attention on Nal and mentioned that the Aldrus were an old family from Sovereign. Nal coldly corrects the man, saying that the Aldrus were never good enough for the Alexian Empire or the Old Federation to have a family seat on Sovereign. Which leads to a lame joke from Hal about the Old Federation being old for a reason. He then tells Nal that Kyra is lovely, which only makes Nal dislike Hal more. It was then that he turned his attentions to Sherri.

After noting that Nal didn't introduce Sherri, which Nal is thinking was probably doing the young woman a favor at this point, he asks her who she might be while taking one of her hands in both of his. Sherri, professional as always, replies with her official designation and an "at your serivce, sir!" Nal, while maintaining a pleasant expression, is seething at Hal on the inside, just a bit. Hal asks if he can just call her Sherri, and naturally she replies with, "if you wish, sir." At this point, Nal is standing there, pinching the bridge of his nose, though it's unclear if it's because of Sherri or Hal.

After an awkward pause, Hal begins to dismiss himself, but Sherri begins to ask about Pawn. After Hal teases the robot, asking for him to introduce himself and state his function (to assist Assistant Director Hal Stillwalker), Sherri tells Pawn it was nice to meet him. The robot, who would have been annoyed by Hal's antics if robots could be annoyed, refuses to respond to Sherri. Nal, despite his feelings on robots, feels sorry for Pawn for having to deal with Hal (pot, meet kettle.)

Damari then pulls Hal aside to ask him why the Warmain would be interested in Director Thorn's work. Hal reveals there's been some questions around his archaeological work and that Thorn's made some discoveries. While he isn't willing to discuss those discoveries right there, he does admit that since we're navy and since Subadmiral Starlane is interested, that we were there to investigate Director Thorn's work. He says that if we want to know more, he'll need to see some security clearances. Procedure, policies, and all that you know. Damari does flash his credentials, but doesn't show him the Imperial Mandate that we were issued. (Ironically, Damari's player said it was because Hal leaks like a sieve. HAH!) He also says for Hal to let them know. Hal agrees and tells Pawn, who's been silent this whole time, to stop chit-chatting with the security asset and that it's time to go.

As Hal, Pawn, and Tera all leave, Nal gives Tera a formal and polite bow, then turns to see Kyra smirking at him. Nal begins to usher everyone back onto the shuttle now that they've taken care of what they came to do. Once they are back on the shuttle, Mina mentions that Assistant Director Hal Stillwalker seemed very nice, very polite. Sherri agrees (or seems to. The audio got from Kalzazz was a little garbled.) Nal just says, "yeah, I don't like him." Kyra explains to Mina that Hal reminds Nal too much of himself, which is exactly the truth.

Nal waits for the last of the entourage that was there to greet them to get out of earshot and begins to power up the shuttle. As systems come back online, he relays the location and time of the meeting back to the Warmain, along with the route to get to the Prestige. Damari also mentions that the route is very curated. With no other business in the Heap for the moment, it was time to leave.

1.4. Crash Landing a Rusted Hunk of Junk

Nal takes off and heads for orbit. After getting to the Junk Belt, Nal activates the stealth systems and angles the shuttle for a reentry that will get them to the dig site that the Warmain had spotted. Things are going smoothly, even with the storm. Nal sees that he'll be able to land, though the storm is rushing to meet them. Strangely, one of the things everyone sees before the storm hits is a trench with two heavy weapon emplacements on either end facing out towards the desert. Strnage, and a little worrying, but still, it looks like things might not be too bad after all.

Everyone gets a chill, a sense that something dangerous is about to happen. Through the storm, impossibly, Nal feels as if he can see a figure, cloaked in rags and standing miles away, raising a staff towards them. The shuttle, a brand new vehicle outfitted for the worst missions Imperial Black Ops can through at it, begins to age and rust. Panels short out, going dead. Paint peels and flakes as the metal underneath turns to rust. Visibility drops to zero as Nal struggles to control the craft and complains about everything trying to ruin his ships. Kyra yells for Nal to pull up.

Nal manages to guide the stricken shuttle into a skidding stop. Director Thorn comes running up to see what is going on as people recover from the landing. Kyra begins to ask Nal what happened and why the lights were off. In answer, Nal peels a large flake of rust off and shows it to her. He has no idea what it was, but he knows that he has no desire to be around when it comes back. Nal, in full on soldier mode, begins shoving everyone off the shuttle. He grabs the gear that he and Kyra brought with them and forces Mina's helmet on, something that she was not amused by as seen through the visor.

After stepping out, Director Thorn arrives and shouts over the winds. He asks who the party was and why they were there. Nal introduces himself and states the landing wasn't his fault. Mina, on the other hand, is visibly excited to finally be meeting with Director Thorn as she's helped out of the shuttle by Damari. Thorn tells them that the Ashwalkers probably saw them and that they needed to find cover while Nal is trying to get everyone under cover. The harried pilot replies with a "Yes, I know! I'm trying to get everyone under cover!"

Director Thorn points to the trench and Nal ushers everyone into it. Now that they were on the ground, they can see that the two emplacements, a repeating blaster and a heavy anti-vehicular weapon, are both manned. Now that they had a moment to breath, they could see that there were a number of repulsor craft, including a Vanguard IFV that appears to have been damaged and is listing to one side. Director Thorn asks again why they are there and Nal answers that they were sent by the Emporer's Hand to secure the dig site and his find as well as root out the traitor in his midst.

As they talk, a couple of strange, robotic-looking, bird-like creatures called cyber-vultures land on the communications tower and look down at the trench, each with a single red eye on the end of a long, snake-like neck. Director Thorn was kind enough to point out that those are not drones and that cyber vultures can be found all over Grist. He also points out that their appearance meant that they were not in a good way and that they liked to pull parts from disabled vehicles, like the shuttle they'd arrived in, or as Nal put it, "My very nice shuttle that I'd just requisitioned." To which Thorn replied that it's not so nice anymore.

Thorn told them that it looks like they'd had a run in with Cog Thonis. He began to berate them for coming out. He would have been back in a few days and coming out was not a good idea. Nal shot back that it was obvious now that they were there. Thorn then pointed out that they had to have seen the storm from up there and asked what they were thinking. Nal replied that he thought was a pretty damn good pilot. All this happened while the cyber-vultures looked on like furneral goers keeping vigil. More specifically, they looked on at the two security men manning the gun emplacements.

Then out of nowhere, a blaster bolt takes the gunner on the repeating blaster in the eye, busting the faceplate and killing him instantly. More fire rakes the trench to force everyone's heads down as the storm hits. Director Thorn tells party that the Ashwalkers have arrived.

1.5. The Battle with the Ashwalkers

This is where our first ground combat began. One gunner was already dead, and besides his companion in the anti-vehicle mount, everyone was in the trench. Nal glared at Damari.

"Oh sure," he told the agent, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "bring the princess along to a potential warzone. What's the worse that could happen?"

"Permission to engage the enemy, sir" Sherri cuts in before Damari can reply. Nal answers with an exasperated "yes!"

Another blaster bolt takes the other gunner in the eye, killing him as well. Mina has her hands over her head and is clearly on the verge of panic, and the battle is joined with Sherri springing into action. Sherri, though she can't see well, manages to gun down four of the snipers while Damari and Nal look out over the rim of the trench to see if they can see anything. Return fire almost hits Sherri who, luckily, manages to dodge out of the way. All the while, the security men remain huddled out of sight of the snipers.

Sherri continues to return fire, though it isn't clear if she's having an effect. Damari continues to look out into the blowing sand, looking for a target for his little hold-out pistol. Nal, though, leaps out of the trench to make for the auto-blaster to hopefully take some of the heat off Sherri and to provide some cover fire. It's then that it becomes clear that the snipers were there only to keep everyone's heads down. A squad of raiders with vibroblades and a couple of heavily armed and armored bosses (in both the sense that they are in charge and the video game sense of the word) are moving in close for the slaughter.

Sherri, not aware of the danger yet, continues her withering fire against the snipers. Damari tries to take down the larger of the two heavies coming in and while he hits, his souped-up hold-out isn't enough to inflict any damage.  Nal gets to the autoblaster, only to see that two of the raiders had beaten him to it. Thinking quickly, he blasts out the controls, much to the raider's dismay. The security men finally begin to move and Kyra begins firing into the advancing mob. The raiders reach the trench, grabbing Sherri's attention, and being hopping in. A big brute in heavy armor and weilding a huge axe hops down in front of Damari, not noticing Mina who's been curled up against the trench wall since the fight started. Nal gets knocked off his feet and proves that good armor is worth the cost when the raiders can't even hurt him.

The fight turns into a mess. Sherri guns down two raiders that come in behind the big brute and notice Mina. Damari and the brute go into a death grapple that it going to result in Damari dying messily, though he does severely wound his opponent. Nal takes out a couple from his back while the others got for the anti-vehicle gun. Kyra hear's Nal shouting for them to protect the other gun and rushes for it. The security troops and Director Thorn join the fray, gunning down the raiders going to the weapon. Sherri shoots out the other heavy's gattling blaster, then kills him before shooting the grenade he was going to be using before Kyra ends the fight by gibbing the last one that was still fighting Damari.

1.6. Aftermath

The aftermath of the fight, such as we were able to cover in the time remaining, was rather benign. Mina lost whatever her last meal was after getting splattered by alien gore, and was then disappointed to learn that Thorn hadn't sent the message that he wanted to mentor her and that he wasn't planning on taking her on and being her mentor either. The rest of the party learns that Thorn has discovered a massive warmachine, dubbed a Titan, here on Grist and he needs our help getting it off the planet. It was there that the session ended.

2. Thoughts

 Over all, I think this session went well. I felt bad that I was the only one pushing things for the first thirty to forty minutes, and I wish that Nemo, Rook's player had gotten a chance to play. Still, I think everyone had fun and it's nice to know based on the other after action reports that Nal's an entertaining character. Combat went much more smoothly than in the space battle and I think that there was enough danger about to keep us on our toes while not killing off the less combat oriented characters *cough*Damari*cough*, which is something that I think is going to be a concern. Most of the baddies couldn't have hurt Nal or Kyra, but they certainly could have severely hurt the other characters. Damari managed to get off fairly lucky since he actually waked away under his own power.

The session and some post session discussion brought up some differences between how some of the players, myself included, see things. One of the players is very much into the mechanics of the game. I feel that if they could, they'd avoid the backstory all together and just focus on the crunch, or at least that is how it feels at first blush. I think that it'd be more accurate to say that they have a certain concept in mind and are only concerned about the crunch to make it work. Background and descriptions of what the dice are showing seem to be just distracting fluff to them. I'm not saying that's wrong, but it is a bit jarring considering how the other players and the GM play.

That said, I do think this session answered a question that Mailanka had about whether or not the fighter ace can be useful outside the cockpit. I'd say yes. Nal's good enough to hold his own, though he's never going to be as deadly as Sherri is with a pair of pistols. Then again, he's not supposed to be. He's good enough to mow through mooks and keep things from falling too far out of control to deal with, and I think that's what is needed. I didn't have a problem in this session with combat, even if Nal spent most of it on his back fighting off raiders at point blank range.

I did have some issues after the session when it came time to spend points. My hang up was that Nal was an old man and was, realisitically anyway, not likely to be getting better at the more physical things. I had to be reminded that this was a genre where age really is just a number and Nal certainly could improve in those areas.

3. Conclusion

I enjoyed this session. I think that it's done agood job of setting things up for the next couple of session. I have a feeling that next session will have those of us at Director Thorns' digsite more on the sidelines as Greaves and Rook discuss things with Starlane and Voss. I've also established that Nal's a sucker for a cute girl in trouble and have changed some of his disadvantages to better reflect how I'm playing him.

Speaking of changes to Nal's sheet, there's going to be a new NPC joining us soon, since one of the things I got was a new ally. It should be a blast and I'm looking forward to seeing how this meeting turns out.

As far as plans for the next session, we're in a more of a wait and see mode at the moment, though we do plan on having the dig site fortified. On a more individual level. Nal's going to be going to be talking to Mina about what happened, and possibly bond with the princess. He's also going to start freaking out a bit once he has a chance to realize what happened to his shuttle. He hasn't have time to process it yet.

All in all, I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes.