2:07:58 Juegos de mesa y minis
2:07:58 Juegos de mesa y minis
It took time to fly through the tunnels, trailing Jaclyn and Katuk. The sheer size of the tunnels made it easier even if it made me think again about the tunnels’ origins. The planet had megafauna everywhere and while the creatures that created the tunnels might be long dead, they could easily be used by something big on and off—possibly even descendants of the original creators.
All the same, we didn’t see any evidence of anything like that on the way out.
We exited the tunnels some fifty miles to the north of the colony. I shot out of the tunnel over Jaclyn and Katuk’s heads before starting the landing routine, which involved aiming the Rocket suit upward and cutting almost all of the power, allowing me to hover and then drop to the ground.
We’d come out of the rock next to a forest. Trees with wide trunks and odd, bulbous leaves that stuck out of the trunks most densely near the top of the tree, but appeared all the way down the trunk. They reminded me a little bit of upside-down pine trees and a little bit of palm trees.
Either way, I saw them through my HUD, interpreted by the software using sonar, thermal, and night vision techniques to give me near normal vision at night—which it still was. I’d been woken up after midnight by the invasion, packed and evacuated to the tunnels with everyone else, witnesses to Alanna’s suicide, and now we were going out to gather information without a decent night’s sleep. I wasn’t feeling it yet but I knew I would be. Maybe we’d be able to sleep after we got back to the tunnels.
Looking south, I couldn’t see much from where the colony ought to be, but my HUD’s enhanced vision showed me flame in the sky. I hoped it wasn’t the entire colony. Clearly, they were prepared, but if the Human Ascendancy destroyed everything, it would be a lot to rebuild. On the other hand, they might have resources that I was completely unaware of.
Jaclyn broke the silence. “That doesn’t look good.”
Katuk, who was fully covered in silver armor, said, “My sensors are detecting particles in the air that are byproducts of the destruction of a fusion drive. It seems likely that we’re seeing the results of the destruction of the ships at the starport.”
I wondered how our ship was doing, deciding to wait on contacting it until I knew a little bit more about what we were facing. “So the way I understand this is that we’ll have to go to one of the colony’s villages to contact the ansible.”
I glanced over at Katuk for his response. He paused for a moment, but then started talking.
“The colony’s villages receive the ansible’s signal and then broadcast the signal across the village. We have to go within range of the signal, assuming they don’t destroy the antenna.”
Jaclyn frowned. “And we do this without anyone detecting us long enough to target us. Great. I’d say we should see how close we can get a signal without going into a village and being seen.”
I thought about that. “If we get an ansible signal, does the ansible instantly get our location?”
The implant answered me before Katuk replied and the reply wasn’t too complicated. Once the technical specs were removed, it amounted to, “Yes, it does detect that you’ve connected,” but “No, it doesn’t know precisely where.” It knew loosely where and on a planet with only three spots where you could connect to the ansible, there weren’t many places to hide once you connected.
In short, it wouldn’t know where we were, but there were bombs that could hit all the possibilities at once if they wanted to.
“Never mind,” I said, answering my own question. “Did everyone else just get the answer too?”
Jaclyn nodded and Katuk muttered something that sounded like a yes.
“OK then,” Jaclyn stared out into the dark world in front of us. “There’s not much to do more than run south. Rocket, you’ll have an aerial view, so warn us if you see something you think we’ll need to know.”
Neither Katuk nor I had anything to add to that and so we started south. Jaclyn and Katuk followed the edge where the rock met the forest. I flew above them. As we grew closer, I confirmed Katuk’s guess. It was the starport burning. They’d destroyed every ship on the field—both of the old fighters and the old colony ship.
It seemed like a waste of effort. None of them offered a threat to the ship that could destroy them from orbit.
The village stood. I didn’t see any occupiers on the ground—so far.
You might already know the webcomic Webcomic Name, but if you don’t – you can read it here: http://webcomicname.com/
We made a list of all the games that we’ve bought, that were sent to us or games we’ve backed on Kickstarter this year and we once again came to the realization that board game collections have a sneaky way of expanding themselves. Ours certainly has! At the moment we’re thinking about organizing a big game day at our place this summer and we’ll give away games we never play anymore to the winners.
A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Mar 11, 2018 at 2:16pm PDT
And we’ve finished Mechs vs Minions yesterday! It’s a game we love to play once in a while and it’s a blast every time we play it. It was great to discover that the game comes with a lot of fun challenges for players to complete after they’ve finished all of the missions. But maybe we’ll go through the campaign again with friends, we’ll see. This is definitely a game that we’re going to keep in the collection even though we’ve finished the campaign. <3
Is your board game collection growing quicker than you thought it would?
“What do we need to do to contact them?” Jaclyn pushed her way to the front, looking between Katuk and the plant. “I’m assuming that when you said ‘summon’ you meant calling them though the ansible. You’d didn’t mean some sort of magic ritual.” She paused. “Did you?”
Katuk blinked, an odd visual given his black eyes and gray skin. “When our race was younger, I believe that some did attempt to summon them with ritual magic. I don’t know if anyone does any longer. My intention was to access the ansible and send a message to an address that we’ve been given.”
I checked my implant. It knew about the address. It didn’t have any record of Xiniti magical practices. I wondered if that meant that they were hiding some cultural practices because they were embarrassed, but then reflected that I’d seen magical rituals that worked. With that in mind, I supposed they’d either lost confidence in magic or wanted to hide it.
Either way, I was more confident about connecting to the ansible than I was of performing a ritual in any system of magic.
Jaclyn nodded. “So, let’s get this straight. Our goal is to resist the Ascendancy, not to win, because we’re waiting for help from the Xiniti according to the original plan, but really because we’re hoping the Celestial Ghosts will appear first. To do this we have to access the ansible and ask the Ghosts for help without revealing the location of where we’re hiding. We also need to get a good look at the situation above ground. Is that everything?”
Cassie crossed her arms over her chest. “I hope so. Do you want to talk complicated? If contacting the Ghosts or checking out the forces means running around up there, it’s going to be hard not to reveal where we are, you know? There aren’t a lot of places nearby where people could go.”
Marcus nodded. “That’s kind of what I was wondering. You hid in this rock because it’s hard to find us, right? Is there any reason why we can’t just hide here and not go up at all? I mean, you’ve obviously been planning to hide here for ages or you wouldn’t have made an underground city. That means you’ve got to have food, right? Because if you planned to stay down here for a while, maybe the best plan would be to stay here and wait for the Xiniti show up and not risk giving away our location. It’d be boring, but I’d rather be bored than get everybody killed.”
Maru shook his head. “That’s not how it would work. I was trained by the Ascendancy. Here’s what they’ll do. First, they’ll search for us. They know this is the Resistance’s leadership’s hideout. They’ll want us alive for execution or reprogramming. If they can’t find us and they get wind that the Xiniti are coming, they’ll use a capital ship and hit us from orbit with the ship’s guns or an asteroid. They’ll get us too. Cassie and Marcus are both right. We hid here because there are more than fifty miles of caves down the coast and it’s almost impossible to find us, but there aren’t many other places to hide where creatures won’t eat you.”
I sighed, “I think we have to go out. I’ve been looking at how ansibles work, and using them reveals your location to the ansible in order for them to work. That’s fine normally, but you know how I was trained by a battle simulator that replicated standard tactics? Well, one of the first things invading forces do is get control of the ansible. They may not have it yet, but if they do, we’ll reveal our position as soon as we use it.”
Jaclyn had been checking the view from the window, but she turned back to say, “If there’s a chance they don’t control the ansible, we should try to contact the Celestial Ghosts now.”
She looked over the group. “I wish we could take everybody, but I think we’ll have to go with Nick, Katuk and me. Look, it’s a speed thing. The rest of you won’t be able to keep up. Jadzen, do any of you have maps of the tunnels? We’ll have to leave them, but it doesn’t have to be nearby.”
Jadzen said, “I can give you a copy of what we’ve surveyed, but not much more. We don’t have anyone like you.”
Moments later, I received a database of maps of the caverns and could look ever the entrances and exits. After a little while longer, we left.
As many people know, last week there was a court hearing in the Geniatech vs. McHardy case. This was a case brought claiming a license violation of the Linux kernel in Geniatech devices in the German court of OLG Cologne.
Harald Welte has written up a wonderful summary of the hearing, I strongly recommend that everyone go read that first.
In Harald’s summary, he refers to an affidavit that I provided to the court. Because the case was withdrawn by McHardy, my affidavit was not entered into the public record. I had always assumed that my affidavit would be made public, and since I have had a number of people ask me about what it contained, I figured it was good to just publish it for everyone to be able to see it.
There are some minor edits from what was exactly submitted to the court such as the side-by-side German translation of the English text, and some reformatting around some footnotes in the text, because I don’t know how to do that directly here, and they really were not all that relevant for anyone who reads this blog. Exhibit A is also not reproduced as it’s just a huge list of all of the kernel releases in which I felt that were no evidence of any contribution by Patrick McHardy.
AFFIDAVIT I, the undersigned, Greg Kroah-Hartman, declare in lieu of an oath and in the knowledge that a wrong declaration in lieu of an oath is punishable, to be submitted before the Court: I. With regard to me personally: 1. I have been an active contributor to the Linux Kernel since 1999. 2. Since February 1, 2012 I have been a Linux Foundation Fellow. I am currently one of five Linux Foundation Fellows devoted to full time maintenance and advancement of Linux. In particular, I am the current Linux stable Kernel maintainer and manage the stable Kernel releases. I am also the maintainer for a variety of different subsystems that include USB, staging, driver core, tty, and sysfs, among others. 3. I have been a member of the Linux Technical Advisory Board since 2005. 4. I have authored two books on Linux Kernel development including Linux Kernel in a Nutshell (2006) and Linux Device Drivers (co-authored Third Edition in 2009.) 5. I have been a contributing editor to Linux Journal from 2003 - 2006. 6. I am a co-author of every Linux Kernel Development Report. The first report was based on my Ottawa Linux Symposium keynote in 2006, and the report has been published every few years since then. I have been one of the co-author on all of them. This report includes a periodic in-depth analysis of who is currently contributing to Linux. Because of this work, I have an in-depth knowledge of the various records of contributions that have been maintained over the course of the Linux Kernel project. For many years, Linus Torvalds compiled a list of contributors to the Linux kernel with each release. There are also usenet and email records of contributions made prior to 2005. In April of 2005, Linus Torvalds created a program now known as “Git” which is a version control system for tracking changes in computer files and coordinating work on those files among multiple people. Every Git directory on every computer contains an accurate repository with complete history and full version tracking abilities. Every Git directory captures the identity of contributors. Development of the Linux kernel has been tracked and managed using Git since April of 2005. One of the findings in the report is that since the 2.6.11 release in 2005, a total of 15,637 developers have contributed to the Linux Kernel. 7. I have been an advisor on the Cregit project and compared its results to other methods that have been used to identify contributors and contributions to the Linux Kernel, such as a tool known as “git blame” that is used by developers to identify contributions to a git repository such as the repositories used by the Linux Kernel project. 8. I have been shown documents related to court actions by Patrick McHardy to enforce copyright claims regarding the Linux Kernel. I have heard many people familiar with the court actions discuss the cases and the threats of injunction McHardy leverages to obtain financial settlements. I have not otherwise been involved in any of the previous court actions. II. With regard to the facts: 1. The Linux Kernel project started in 1991 with a release of code authored entirely by Linus Torvalds (who is also currently a Linux Foundation Fellow). Since that time there have been a variety of ways in which contributions and contributors to the Linux Kernel have been tracked and identified. I am familiar with these records. 2. The first record of any contribution explicitly attributed to Patrick McHardy to the Linux kernel is April 23, 2002. McHardy’s last contribution to the Linux Kernel was made on November 24, 2015. 3. The Linux Kernel 2.5.12 was released by Linus Torvalds on April 30, 2002. 4. After review of the relevant records, I conclude that there is no evidence in the records that the Kernel community relies upon to identify contributions and contributors that Patrick McHardy made any code contributions to versions of the Linux Kernel earlier than 2.4.18 and 2.5.12. Attached as Exhibit A is a list of Kernel releases which have no evidence in the relevant records of any contribution by Patrick McHardy.
I could go into the details, but I won’t. Let’s just say that I’d designed the new costumes to include a water-resistant coating and with blood and brains being mostly water, nothing stuck. I think Jaclyn, Cassie and I were all grateful for that. Katuk’s Xiniti designed armor stayed clean too, but probably by a different method. Crawls-Through-Desert hadn’t been hit either, but I suspected I’d seen the glow of a force shield go up.
Jadzen had been sitting across from Alanna. She dived to the floor as Alanna’s head exploded, but she still had to change clothes. That left us back in the room with Maru, Tikki, Marcus, and Kals.
Maru had been restrained when we left, but with Alanna dead, he’d been allowed to stand in the room with everyone else.
“I still can’t say anything about it,” He stood near the front of the room, looking out of the wide second-floor window onto the people removing Alanna’s body from the first floor.
They carried her out on a floating stretcher, a blanket covering her body, the normal human outline stopping at the neck. I wondered what they did with the remains of her head.
Crawls-Through-Desert floated up to the window and landed his pot next to us. “Wish she’d survived. I had questions for her. It would have been nice to know exactly what she’d told them. Now we need to take action no matter what she’d have told us.”
Cassie stood near the window but a little behind me. “I figured. The Human Ascendancy isn’t going to stop looking just because we evacuated the villages. We’re going to have to fight them.”
Maru turned to look at her. “Fight them? The resistance hasn’t ever been able to take them on directly. We’ve always stayed in the shadows. We’re not soldiers. We don’t have the background for it.”
“We will have to anyway, but it’s my hope that the Xiniti and our Alliance agent will take the lead in our defense.” Jadzen Akri had returned, wearing clothes that had not been spattered with brains and blood.
Crawls-Through-Desert turned away from the darkness and streetlights and toward Jadzen. We’d all gathered near the window by then.
“Good,” the plant’s leaves tilted such that their upper surfaces aimed at Jadzen and the rest of us. “Because you will have to fight. The tunnels do mask any sign of your people, but the Ascendancy will recognize it as well. You’ll soon have the choice between fighting them on the surface or fighting them in the tunnels as you retreat.“
“That seems likely,” Katuk said, fixing his dark eyes on the plant. “Do you have some plan for fighting them?”
The plant shook its branches. “Plan? No, but I know what we’ll need to make a plan—information. That’s what we need now. Plans will come after that.”
Jadzen nodded. “You won’t find getting information as easy as you’d like. That is the disadvantage of staying within this rock. We have two antennas on the surface and a limited connection to the ansible. Unfortunately, our preparations for using it were interrupted by the death of our lead technician.”
I raised my hand halfway into the air. “Do you need technical help? I can do that sort of thing.”
Jadzen shook her head. “What we need is knowledge of the protocols for setting up the cave for habitation and we have that already. It’s merely slower than I’d prefer.”
Katuk raised his arm, copying my gesture. “What we have seen so far makes me believe that the enemy is beyond the scope of our abilities to fight and defeat. Aside from fighting to hold out until Alliance forces arrive, we have two other options. I’ll mention the first so that you know it, but not because I expect to use it. I’m referring to the weapons placed in any Xiniti designed ansible that allow us to strip any system of life. Should we deem the consequences of capture or defeat worse than death, we have the option of activating the ansible’s self-destruct and destroy everything.”
In my head, I found that I had access to the necessary codes and protocols to activate that weapon as well as others across the galaxy (though not remotely)—even one in the Xiniti space station near Earth. I blinked. “What’s the other option?”
Katuk nodded and said, “The Xiniti have a protocol for contacting and requesting help from the Celestial Ghosts.”
Crawls-Through-Desert’s fronds stretched out toward Katuk. “We’d suspected as much. Do you believe the Ghosts will arrive before the Alliance or Xiniti reinforcements?”
Katuk regarded him with his wide, black eyes. “Out here on the edge of things? Yes.”
The plant’s branches rustled. “Then I’d say we should do it. We’ll need every scrap of help we can get. Is there any way to use the weapons you mentioned for anything less than genocide?”
Katuk tilted his head to regard the plant. “No.”
The plant said, “Then it sounds like our best shot is to summon the Ghosts, find out the situation on the surface and make a plan for survival.”
Onitama is a fun abstract chess-like game in which the moves your game pieces can make are determined by which card you play. The goal is reaching the starting space of the opponent or removing the Master pawn of the other player by landing on its space. It’s a game with a high level of ‘if-this-then-that’ since two of the next possible moves of the opponent are known to you.
We’ve only played the app version of this game and that’s certainly worth checking out as well! I think this is an app we’ll be playing a lot while traveling by train. Note that Godzilla is not an existing card in the game but part of the joke.
A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Mar 4, 2018 at 1:58pm PST
These last weeks we’ve been playing a lot of the same games: Gloomhaven, Cthulhu Wars, The Lost Expedition, London and Arkham Horror the card game. And yesterday we’ve finished the Dunwich Campaign of Arkham Horror! It was an epic finale in which just one of our characters managed to survive. My character was killed after an epic action that made it possible for us to win the game. Alas, there was no chance for him to make it to the end. Luckily, Heinze’s character did and thus we ‘won’!
Since 7th Continent will be delivered very soon (excited!), we’ll stop playing Arkham Horror LCG for now, we love the game, but we’re playing too many campaign games right now and want to have time for some variation. We’ll pick it again when things quiet down.
What’s your favorite app version of a tabletop game at the moment?
Alanna’s eyes locked on Jadzen, looking up at her from the chair we’d placed Alanna in. “I didn’t… I didn’t fully. I didn’t tell them where we were. I showed them a picture of the sky, but I never expected that they’d be able to find us. I’ve been refusing to speak to him ever since. I never expected it to go this far.”
Jadzen pulled out a chair and looked deeply into Alanna’s eyes. “Let’s start from the beginning. How did you begin to serve the Human Ascendancy?”
Alanna lowered her eyes. “I only ever became part of the resistance because I was with Iolan. When it became too dangerous to stay at home, I escaped here with him and a couple years after we came here, we broke up. I don’t know how that happened. Afterward, I became lonely and started talking to friends through the ansible through my implant even though I knew it risked being caught.”
She took a breath. “And they caught me. Everyone caught me. Maru noticed me talking to my friends and so did the Human Ascendancy. The Ascendancy recognized my implant ID and knew that I’d disappeared with a known resistance member. They contacted me while I was online, told me my name, told me how my relatives were doing and that they could kill them all if they wanted to. If I wanted them to be left alone, I had to tell them what you were doing. I didn’t need to tell them every detail or do anything that would call attention to me—just to make sure they knew whether you were on the planet or back home.”
She stopped, saying nothing, and went on. “I agreed, telling myself that I wasn’t betraying you or anyone, that I was doing a very small thing that was keeping my family and friends back home safe. I know that it sounds stupid now, but then it didn’t seem like they asked for much. The problem was that after a little while Maru noticed too—as I told you earlier. He’d been watching the logs in the ansible or he’d had someone pull the logs for him. I don’t know what kind of access he had back then, but I knew that if he was able to find out who I was talking to, you’d have to exile me or kill me.
“Except I’d done maintenance on his implant. I was doing work on everybody’s implant back then, but I’d noticed the bomb in his brain. It must have been there from back when he was a spy for the Ascendancy. He wasn’t the only one either. Geman and Dalat had both been fighter pilots so they had them too as do a few other people we’ve got here.
“I told Maru that he wasn’t going to tell anyone what was doing or I’d blow up his brain and not only his but Geman and Dalat’s too. Then I told him the I was going to need a hidden way to use the ansible and that someone was going to provide it for me—him, Geman, Dalat, whoever… It took a little doing, but in the end, I made it clear that I had complete control of his implant and I’d programmed it to explode based on triggers I’d set up…
“He did what I wanted and made sure that Geman and Dalat stayed silent with his powers and he kept it up even when you were here. He tried to get me to turn it off over the years, but I knew better. He was completely loyal to you and would have told you everything as soon as he could.”
She glanced over the group of us. “So that’s almost everything. I don’t know much about the person I was giving the information to except that he was an agent of the Genetic Management Office. He let that slip once, that and his number. Does 957 mean anything to you?”
Jadzen shook her head, “No.”
Then she looked over at us as if we might have something to say. To be fair, we had Xiniti implants with all the information that the Xiniti nation felt we could be trusted with, but if they had in-depth knowledge about individual agents of the Genetic Management Office, they hadn’t trusted us with that. All I knew was that they were aware that the Genetic Management Office’s agents were motivators, but more like Iolan had described when he’d talked about Cassie. They had the voice like Julie and were physically better than a normal human.
“I’ve got nothing,” Cassie looked around at the rest of us—Katuk, Jaclyn, and me.
“Me neither,” I said, “except that in Babylon 5, sector 957 was where all the really advanced aliens were, but I’m sure that’s not an intentional reference.”
Jaclyn folded her arms over her chest. “You’re such a geek.”
Alanna turned her head back from looking at us back toward Jadzen. “I’m sorry. I never meant it to come to this.”
Cassie’s eyes widened. “No. She’s got—“
And then Alanna’s head exploded—which was every bit as disgusting as you’re probably imagining. Brains should stay on the inside where they belong.
Volvemos a viajar a Skaandrial de la mano de Jeit Grumpy. En el anterior articulo Jeit relleno la hoja de ambientación para jugar con el sistema Genesys en la fantástica saga de Brandon Sanderson, pero no nos contó como enfocar el profundo sistema de magia. Hoy nos adentramos en el mundo de los Brumosos y los Nacidos de la Bruma, pero debido a la extensión del texto que me ha pasado la dividiré en dos o tres artículos.
Antes de nada vamos a dejar bien claro unas cuantos conceptos:
– Partiremos de la base que quien esté leyendo esto está familiarizado tanto con la alomancia (es decir se ha leído al menos El Imperio Final) como con el sistema Genesys (haber jugado a Star Wars de FFG ayuda pero no sirve) en especial con la sección de magia. Haberse ojeado las reglas las juego de rol de Mistborn de Crafty Games (aquí teneis una preview ¡ojo que tiene muchos spoilers! ) ayuda a acotar mejor las habilidades alomanticas.
– Lo que os voy a comentar son ideas/pautas, no son reglas escritas en piedra que sean sagradas e inmutables. Intento abarcar aspectos generales, si alguien quiere hilar más fino no veo porque no pueda. Aún así recordad que es imposible plasmar la alomancia al 100% en este sistema (y en casi cualquier otro) de la misma manera que es imposible plasmar al 100% un duelo de espadas o una carrera de naves espaciales.
-Equilibrio: Cuando comencé a diseñar las reglas de la Alomancia me vinieron un par de asuntos importantes, ¿Cómo se gestionan esas habilidades? Y ¿Cómo logras crear un equilibrio en un mundo donde un jugador puede ser un brumoso y otro puede ser un nacido de la bruma? Siempre me ha gustado el equilibrio entre personajes/clases en una partida de rol. Es cierto que hay momentos donde unos jugadores deben destacar más que otros pero las razones deberían ser más narrativas que estadísticas. Hay muchas cosas que hicieron bien los chicos de FFG con Star Wars y una de ellas (además del sistema) fue que lograron hacer que los Jedis no fueran esa clase que en nada es infinitamente mejor que cualquier otra clase (como por ejemplo pasa en la versión de d20). Mi idea era pues que, aunque un nacido de la bruma podía acceder a todos los poderes alomanticos (y a algunos más) nunca podría ser tan bueno en un elemento como un brumoso.
– Me gustaría además aclarar antes unas cuantas facetas o manías mías que me gusta aplicar cuando dirigo o adapto un mundo:
Me gusta medir el tiempo; se mide en turnos, escenas y sesiones, décadas jugando a D&D me han hecho odiar los efectos que duran X minutos/horas por nivel. Cronometrar las escenas (y más cuando no es un combate) hace más daño que bien en mi opinión. Además el tiempo en las partidas es relativo, los días pueden durar minutos y las horas pueden durar muchas sesiones. Así que suelo dar más prioridad a los efectos por sesión más que por día.
No hay micromanagement del equipo mundano, se que hay gente que le fascina estarse horas apuntando cuantos palmos de cuerda y cuantas onzas de aceite para lámpara tiene su personaje en el inventario pero para mi, eso es un coñazo. Prefiero que las habilidades de los personajes definan el equipo que, o bien tienen encima o bien saben improvisar (y si no, mirad el episodio de Pickle Rick). Otra cosa es que un objeto en concreto sea pieza clave para la aventura (Como una reliquia mágica o el favor del señor de la región) pero eso ya es un elemento de trama.
Acotar los consumibles, mis experiencias con el Cypher (y Numenera) me hicieron ver que realmente los consumibles son muy útiles si limitas el número que puedes llevar a la vez, les das mucha utilidad y permites que se puedan reponer rápidamente y con facilidad.
El dinero es secundario, a no ser que quieras que tu mundo tenga millones de tablas de equipo en un mundo super globalizado y/o que existan millones de cosas útiles que comprar, el dinero (y las interminables tablas de precios que te diferencian el coste del vino bueno y el de garrafón) lo considero algo muy secundario. El equipo útil (como armas de gran calidad, amuletos mágicos o ese rifle gauss con giroestabilizadores último modelo) o lo encuentras, o lo ganas o te lo tuneas tu mismo. No hace falta ir mendigando y llevando la cuenta de cada mísera moneda y pelearte con el director de juego para encontrar la tienda que tenga lo que quieres al precio adecuado, que ya lo hacemos en el mundo real.
Y con todas estas pautas definidas, vayamos a ponerle números a la Alomancia.
Alomacia (Int*): Alomancia es la habilidad de quemar metales y aleaciones dentro del cuerpo para realizar proezas sobrehumanas. En función del metal/aleación ingerido se obtiene un efecto u otro que van desde mover objetos metálicos hasta afectar las emociones de los demás. Un brumoso únicamente puede usar un metal/aleación mientras que un nacido de la bruma es capaz de usar los ocho metales/aleaciones básicos más otros (como el oro y el Atium).
Cuando se adquiere la habilidad de Alomancia es necesario definir si el personaje es un brumoso o un nacido de la bruma. En el caso de ser brumoso además deberá decir qué tipo de brumoso es:
Lanza monedas: Queman acero y son capaces de empujar metales.
Atraedores: Queman hierro y son capaces de tirar de los metales.
Aplacador: Queman latón y pueden “apagar” las emociones.
Encendedor: Queman zinc y pueden “encender” las emociones.
Ahumador: Queman cobre y puede generar una “nube de cobre” que bloquea tanto la alomancia emocional (Latón y Zinc) como la detección de un buscador.
Buscador: Queman bronce y son capaces de detectar el uso de poderes alomanticos (incluso el tipo de poder que usan y para qué lo usan).
Violento: Queman peltre y son capaces de obtener una fuerza y resistencia sobrehumana.
Ojos de estaño: Queman estaño y son capaces de amplificar sus sentidos.
*¿Por qué Inteligencia? La alomancia no es un tema de fuerza bruta (incluso si eres un violento) sino de sutileza y precisión. Un lanza monedas deben entender las líneas de los metales y como empujarlas con la fuerza adecuada (sobretodo si quiere “volar”) mientras que un encendedor debe saber qué emociones debe tirar y en qué medida para obtener el efecto adecuado por no decir que un buscador debe comprender los diferentes pulsos que siente. De ahí que me haya decantado por usar ese atributo.
No obstante siempre podeis crear un talento (especialmente para brumosos) que permita sustituir el atributo por otro (por ejemplo, un talento que permita usar Astucia para un ojos de estaño o Voluntad a un ahumador)
Uso de la alomancia: La alomancia se puede usar de tres maneras, como un poder, como un apoyo y como talentos.
Como apoyo: Cuando realizas determinadas acciones, puedes “apoyarte” con la alomancia, por ejemplo un violento podría abrir una puerta trabaja sin necesidad de usar una palanca o un buscador podría “rastrear” a una persona entre una multitud siguiendo un pulso alomantico. A efectos de juego se consideran un apoyo que pueden desde evitar dados negros (de complicación) a otorgar dados azules (de mejora).
Un ejemplo más específico es el del peltre, que si se declara que se usa antes de realizar la tirada de ataque aumenta el daño en cuerpo a cuerpo (o con armas arrojadizas) en la puntuación de alomancia. Este uso representa una aplicación básica de los poderes alomanticos y a priori no debería reemplazar el uso como un poder.
Como poder: Siguiendo las reglas de la magia de Genesys, algunos metales están bien estipulados en dichas reglas. A continuación vamos a definir los usos más comunes de dichos metales:
Acero: Puede usarse como un conjuro de ataque utilizando los siguientes efectos:
Blast*, Close combat, Deadly*, Impact, Manipulative**, Range, Destructive* y Empowered.
* Determinados objetos (como monedas afiladas) pueden servir como focos de ataque y dar ayudas a quien quiera añadir uno de estos efectos.
** A discreción del narrador (generalmente si el objetivo es más pesado que el lanzador) puede que sea necesario más de una ventaja. Adicionalmente se puede usar para desarmar un arma/objeto metálico (el número de ventajas a determinar por el narrador, generalmente una o dos como mucho).
Además se puede usar como barrera duplicando los siguientes efectos:
Additional target, Range, Add Defense, Empowered, Reflection.
Lamentablemente sólo sirve contra ataques metalicos
Finalmente se puede usar como utilidad para saltar y evitar caídas.
Hierro: Puede usarse como un conjuro de ataque al igual que el Acero (ver arriba) aunque su efectividad depende más del entorno y que si desarmas a alguien puedes quedarte el objeto. Su naturaleza limita más el uso como elemento de utilidad y además puede usarse para “atraer” los ataques metálicos a zonas más protegidas de tu armadura generando un efecto similar a la barrera (pero sin poder aplicar el efecto de Reflection).
Zinc/Latón: Puede usarse como un efecto de maldición (alterando las emociones del objetivo) aplicando los siguientes efectos:
Enervate, Range, Additional Target, Despair y Paralyzed.
También podría usarse para contrarrestar el efecto contrario que otra persona esté usando como el poder de Dispersar (exactamente igual que en el manual básico). Pese a que teóricamente se pueden lograr los mismos efectos con ambos metales, el narrador puede sugerir que en algunas situaciones sea más fácil aplacar que encender y viceversa.
¿Por qué no se puede hacer el efecto de aumentar con latón/zinc? Aunque sea factible el uso de la alomancia emocional para “ayudar” a los aliados, este uso es más minoritario y prefiero que simplemente se pueda usar latón/zinc para mejorar algunos talentos como Inspiring rhetoric.
Bronce: Aquí entramos en otra categoría, no abordada por el sistema (aún). Sentir, habilidad que requiere tirada y concentración. El buscador (o nacido de la bruma) quema bronce para detectar pulsos alománticos, realiza una tirada de Alomancia fácil, un éxito permite detectar el metal/metales que está quemando a distancia corta, el efecto que está realizando (otro éxito más) y cuánta reserva le queda (otro éxito más). Nótese que el gasto de éxitos es escalado (para saber el efecto primero hay que saber qué metal está usando) y que se puede ampliar la distancia un rango de la misma manera que aplicando el efecto Range y que si hay más de un metal se deben gastar los éxitos adicionales por separado.
Cobre: Aquí entramos en terreno escabroso, si nos guiamos únicamente por lo que dicen los libros, a priori una nube de cobre es imposible de romper y bloquearía completamente cualquier uso de Bronce, además de proteger al brumoso de los efectos del Zinc y Latón aunque hay excepciones a esta norma (que no comentaré aquí) prefiero romper esta regla, permitiendo que sea posible atravesar dicha nube con la siguiente mecánica: Cada vez que alguien intenta aplicar alguno de los metales mencionados arriba dentro de una nube de cobre, se hará una tirada opuesta con la habilidad de alomancia de los dos contendientes, el ganador logrará su objetivo (bloquear el poder o romper la nube). Las ventajas pueden usarse para (entre otras cosas) para evitar que la otra persona se percate del éxito del otro.
Peltre: Un violento puede replicar los efectos de curación con los siguientes efectos:
Restoration y Heal Critical.
Únicamente el alomántico puede ser quien recibe la cura.
Estaño: Un ojos de estaño no puede replicar efectos adicionales más allá que el que le otorgan los talentos y el de apoyo.
Volvemos a dejar las cosas a medias, en el próximo y posiblemente último capitulo nos adentraremos en la creación de nuevos talentos así como a la gestión de las reservas de metales de nuestros personajes. Como siempre darle las gracias a Jeit por su colaboración y la semana que viene más.
The conversation in our heads had taken place in seconds, but not quickly enough that someone who’d grown up with implants wouldn’t notice.
Jadzen sent all of us a message through her implant or computer bracelet—I didn’t know which and it didn’t matter. “What are you discussing?”
Kals sent a private message to me. “Is there anything you sent us that I shouldn’t tell her?”
I replied, “I don’t think so.”
So she gave her all of it or so I assume. All I know is that Jadzen dropped her head, closing her eyes for a few seconds and letting out a breath. She looked tired, as if a massive weight had fallen on her shoulders.
I could imagine how she might feel that way. Over the course of a couple days at least four people she’d known and trusted for years had turned out to be working for the Human Ascendancy, willingly or not.
Crawls-Through-Desert interrupted all our thoughts with a question. “Do you know where Alanna is? The boy’s reasoning is sound even if we don’t have proof.”
Jadzen’s eyes closed as she consulted a computer. “She’s near the front of the cave. The big building to the right of the entrance holds the power equipment.”
The plant’s branches shook. “We should capture her and bring her here immediately. She has half a dozen ways of getting the Human Ascendancy’s attention. The fastest of you should get her before she betrays the colony.”
All the talking went on in our heads. In the room, Jaclyn and I caught each other’s eye and she opened a private implant connection.
“Ordinarily, I’d be asking why we’re listening to the plant, but he’s making sense. We should go immediately. I’m going to ask Katuk too.”
Instants later, I heard Katuk’s voice on our link. “I’m in full agreement. We should go immediately.”
Jaclyn passed it on to the full group as the three of us ran down the stairs and out the front door of the bulding.
I activated the rockets because I’d never be able to keep up without them. Jaclyn and Katuk ran down the side of the street, avoiding and sometimes jumping over floating platforms and the people walking off to the side of them. I kept up even though I couldn’t fly as quickly as Jaclyn could run, mostly because I could fly straight the entire time. My biggest worry was that I might forget I was underground, try for some altitude and hit the ceiling.
I didn’t. I have that much sense.
We reached the entrance in less than thirty seconds. I flipped and used the rockets to slow myself down, finally hovering and lowering myself to the steps in front of the front door. My boots touched the steps as Jaclyn and Katuk came to a stop in front of the stairs.
Jaclyn opened a private channel for the three of us. “Unless the two fo you have a better idea, I’m saying we do a snatch and grab—get her straight out of the building before she knows it and can trigger something.”
We stepped inside. Cylinders as tall as I was went all the way around the room. I didn’t recognize them on my own, but the implant did. They collected ambient energy. There wouldn’t be much of it down here, but they’d been collecting for years and probably had power for as long as we were likely to be down here.
Alanna stood in the middle of the room, talking to a group of about ten people, all of them wearing tool belts. She stopped to look at us as we entered and her eyes widened. Fairly or not, I felt certain she guessed why we were there.
Jaclyn and Katuk didn’t wait to ask if she’d be willing to go quietly. They both ran, turning into silver blurs. Unable to match their speed, I said, “Everyone freeze.”
I barely got the two words out before Jaclyn and Katuk slowed down enough to grab her, elbowing her people out of the way to do it.
Jaclyn carried her out with Katuk clearing the path in front of her. I didn’t wait around to answer questions in the room, activating the rockets the moment I passed through the doorway outside.
They had her back at Jadzen’s building within seconds. I was them as they brought her through the front door. Traveling so quickly through the streets hadn’t agreed with her. She had a coughing fit that started as Jaclyn carried her inside and didn’t stop for half a minute.
When we brought her inside, Cassie met us at the door. “Over here,” she said, pointing down the hall. When we followed her, we found ourselves in the first floor’s common area.
Jadzen stood there waiting for her along with Crawls-Through-Deserts in his floating pot.
“Tell us, Alanna,” Jadzen said, her voice rich with complex tones, “why did you betray us to the Ascendancy?”
Some of you may have noticed that this site was down yesterday for a short period that I like to refer to as “half of the day.”
You might be wondering why.
Well, it goes like this. Over the weekend, I had this site and several others moved to a new server because it had more recently updated development tools. The move was largely unnoticeable. The problem came when they asked me “Can we delete the information on the old server?” and I said “Yes.”
Apparently they didn’t have the DNS information quite right because even though the site still existed on the new server, no one could reach it.
Ah well, it works now and I’m not planning to move again soon.
“I’ll have to show you,” Kals said, but she sent a message through her bracelet to my implant. “I need the footage of Maru talking to Geman and Dalat.”
I sent it to her.
You know how you sometimes know something is wrong, but don’t know why you know? Some people believe it’s magic, and others something psychic. I believe that for most people, most of the time, it’s the brain recognizing a pattern that it can’t put a name to.
It that moment, it wasn’t one of us who had a bad feeling but Maru—or so I assume. Because even as Jadzen blinked and began to look thoughtful, Maru drew a gun. Technically, it wasn’t a gun in the sense we usually mean it—a tube through which a missile is propelled forward by an explosive. It was a shiny oval that stuck to the back of his hand and fired a laser beam.
My implant informed me that the Human Ascendancy’s agents often used laser pistols with that form factor.
He raised his right hand slowly, giving the rest of us time to sense that something indefinable was wrong. Who exactly he intended to shoot wasn’t obvious, but Jaclyn and Katuk both moved forward in separate blurs of silver, Katuk wearing Xiniti armor and Jaclyn the faux Xiniti armor skin on her new League costume.
When it fired, the laser hit both of them, but it stopped instants later. I didn’t how it happened but by the time he stopped firing Maru lay on the room’s floor with Katuk pointing his arm (and the weapon that formed out of it) at him. Jaclyn had Maru’s weapon in her hand, but then she crushed it.
He spoke, and as he did it, I could tell that he was using his voice’s powers on us. I recognized the sound. At the same time, all of our costumes’ protections activated, playing notes near enough to the important notes and overtones to disrupt them (except now I was more aware of how many there were).
Even more interesting, our suits weren’t the only ones doing it. Kals and her mother were also making noise. To judge from the noise, it seemed like they were blocking his voice with their own.
I should have guessed that they could do it. I’d never thought about adding tones that Maru couldn’t counter at the same time that he was countering others.
It struck me that Julie, former member of Justice Fist, was in elementary school by comparison to their college or graduate level skills.
Before I fully thought through what that meant, Maru stopped trying to use his voice, standing still, smiling, his entire body relaxed as if this were a good day.
He looked at Jadzen, “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to betray you, but if I did anything else, I’d die, and I can’t tell you how or who did it because I’ll still die. I’ll understand if you force me to tell you. I know what this colony means to you. I’ve been hoping that you’d catch on or that they’d catch on.”
He nodded toward us. Then he said, “I couldn’t say anything directly, but I tried to make it obvious. I didn’t make it obvious enough because as much as I love the cause, I still hoped to live.”
Over the team’s implants, Jaclyn asked, “Do we have any reason to believe him?”
“No idea,” I said. “He did seem suspicious, but that also works if he’s actually the bad guy.”
Cassie broke into the conversation with, “He’s telling the truth. There’s a bomb in his head. The gun recognized it. It’s a copy of an Abominator device used to keep people silent—either by killing the victim or people around them.”
Jaclyn raised an eyebrow. “A copy of Abominator tech? Is there any chance you could turn it off?”
Cassie shook her head. “It’s a copy. They didn’t copy everything—just the design. Otherwise I would have noticed it the first time we met the guy.”
The gun’s voice echoed in my brain. “A POOR IMITATION—BARELY WORTHY OF THE MASTERS’ SACRED MEMORY! IT MUST—”
“Sorry… I get sick of his rants so I cut him off.” Cassie said, but she sounded more amused than apologetic.
Marcus’ voice came over the connection. “This reminds me of the The Dark Knight. You remember the bomb in the guy’s stomach?”
I barely noticed. I had a feeling that I was on the edge of something.
I started checking Xiniti records about the bomb, learning that the same technology was used for implants, that the Abominators developed implants along with the internal bombs. That led me to the question of who would have the knowledge to plant a bomb in someone’s head. The answer was obvious—someone who knew about implants—the former specialty of Alanna, the colony’s lead tech. I’d discounted her as the mole because even though she’d been around from early on, and was one of the people who used the ansible when we thought the hidden admin account was being used, she wasn’t a motivator.
Except you didn’t need a motivator if you could put an explosive implant inside a motivator’s brain.
I didn’t know exactly why she’d betrayed them, but maybe it had something to do with her breakup with Iolan? All I knew for sure was that if we mentioned her name and it was her, Maru’s head would explode and more likely than not, it would warn her first.
I sent everyone (except for Jadzen and Maru) what I’d just guessed, including my reasoning and my warning.
It all made sense. We could figure out why when we found her.
First: Critical Role is a show in which a group of voice-actors play Dungeons & Dragons together! It’s fun and if you’re interested, you can check it out here.
I’ll admit that I’ve never seen the first season of Geek and Sundry‘s Critical Role, but I couldn’t resist the temptation of watching it after all the online hype around season 2! And ever since that moment… I’m hooked and I’m always looking forward to the moment a new episode airs. It’s a perfect show to ‘watch’ on a second screen while doing some illustration work. I don’t have the time to pick up DnD again, so this certainly scratches that DnD-itch for me.
A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Feb 24, 2018 at 2:42pm PST
And we finally played Cthulhu Wars! And the game is so much lighter than I had imagined. Not in weight, of course, the game is ridiculously big… not to mention all the available expansions – but in the terms of game mechanics. I’m usually not the biggest of strategic conquering games, but I really enjoyed Cthulhu Wars and would love to play it again a second time.
Who are your favorite tabletop gamers with a live stream/let’s play videos?
The current post simply isn’t coming together quickly enough for an update tonight. I’m going to finish tomorrow.
Si hace unos días os hablaba de lo difícil que es salirse airoso del legado de otros autores, creo que hay algo aún más complicado, tu propio legado. Las pasadas Navidades me descargué Thimbleweed Park para el Ipad, una nueva aventura gráfica de Ron Gilbert. Financiada a través de Kickstarter y disponible en casi todas las plataformas actuales que os podáis imaginar. Sólo me queda deciros, Bienvenidos a Thimbleweed Park.
Como os decía un poco más arriba este juego lo firman Ron Gilbert y Gary Winnick, padres también de Maniac Mansion y The Secret of Monkey Island. Lo que significa creadores de uno de esos géneros de capa caída conocido como Aventuras Gráficas o Point-n-Click. Thimbleweed Park no es una secuela espiritual de los otros dos juegos mencionados sino que es más bien un juego que los acompaña, mismas mecánicas, diseño gráfico similar al primero pero hecho en la actualidad. Vamos un ejercicio de nostalgia destinado sin duda alguna a aquellos que nos iniciamos en el mundo de los juegos con sus anteriores obras.
La historia empieza con un asesinato y la llegada de dos agentes de la ley a un pueblo creado a imagen y semejanza de Twiin Peaks. Poco a poco se unirán a nosotros más personajes jugables como un payaso caído en desgracia, un fantasma o una programadora de aventuras gráficas. Con este punto de partida deberemos desentrañar los misterios del pueblo.
Tanto a nivel gráfico como jugable volvemos unos cuantos años atrás en el tiempo. El arte es una carta de amor al píxel. No tiene la preciosidad gráfica de juegos como Fez pero se encarga de recordarnos que no necesitamos texturas en HD ni mil polígonos para disfrutar de un juego. La mecánica si has jugado otras aventuras del estilo no te sorprenderá. Disponemos de una serie de verbos que nos permitirán interactuar con nuestro entorno para ir resolviendo los puzzles que nos plantea el juego. Por suerte la gran mayoría de los puzzles tienen lógica, aunque para resolverlos tengas que recurrir a ayuda para encontrar ese objeto que has pasado por alto. Pero os mentiría si no os dijese que a partir del último tercio la lógica es tan rebuscada que busqué la solución a más de uno de los puzzles.
La historia en mi opinión es más que correcta, aunque el giro final empieza a verse demasiado pronto. Como en otros juegos de los autores el humor es una parte indisoluble del mismo. En este caso además el juego está plagado de referencias a sus otros juegos o al auge y declive de las aventuras Point & Click que nos sacarán más de una y de dos sonrisas.
Thimbleweed Park es una muy buena aventura gráfica, que posiblemente disfrutarás si te gusta el género pero que aporta poco o nada nuevo al mismo.
I looked around the room again, taking in the people unpacking, the streetlights and well-lit buildings going all the way to the ceiling of the cave.
It felt like a neighborhood in a big city more than it did a refugee camp, but it was still a refugee camp. All the people pulling their most valuable and portable possessions off the mobile platforms made that all too clear.
My implant sent me a notification and it wasn’t just to me. Kals sent it to everybody. “As soon as we’ve dropped off our luggage, we tell my mom about Maru.”
Jaclyn sent back, “That’s the plan.”
Crawls-Through-Desert had ridden on the platform along with the rest of our stuff. It’d been a bit of work to keep the dog from peeing on him during the trip. Apparently, he’d been included in the messages too because he asked, “You were working on making your motivator-mutes work better. How’s that going?”
“Mostly okay,” I told everyone. “It works better against Kals’ commands, but I’d have to test it with more people to know if I’m muting everything from everybody.”
The plant’s fronds rustled. “So I still have to watch you. Kids, do yourselves a favor. If you feel any hint of wanting to listen to him, run. I can handle him alone, but I can’t handle all of you at once.”
Marcus cocked his head to the side. “Maybe we should just let you do it.”
The plant rustled again. “Jadzen Akri would never listen to me. She’d listen to Xiniti. I’ll follow along.”
Soon after that, the platform slowed, stopping in front of one of the larger egg-shaped buildings. Kals looked it up and down. “Lucky you. It looks like you’re all staying with me and Mom.”
Cassie looked up at the egg-shaped bulge extending out of the room’s wall. “Do you think he’s in there?”
Kals touched what looked like a chest or maybe a locker on its side and the object floated upward and then floated next to Kals. She looked up at the building. “He almost has to be.”
Cassie nodded. “Then let’s go in there.”
“Before we do,” I tapped through a menu on my palm, “here’s the latest motivator-mute software,” and I released an update.
Jaclyn grabbed her suitcase. “I hope that doesn’t cause our costumes to seize up.”
“There’s a very low chance of that,” I said.
She gave me a look. “I was joking.”
“There is a small chance of it though, but it’s less than one percent, I think.” I grabbed my own suitcase off the platform.
We walked up the wide steps to the building’s front door, Jaclyn, Cassie, and Kals ahead of me, Katuk to my left, Marcus and Tikki behind me and Crawls-Through-Desert at the rear.
As we walked, I overheard Marcus tell Tikki, “If you don’t have a motivator-mute, you should stay out of range. I don’t want him to—“
With the 360 degree vision that my suit gave me, I saw Tikki lean in to kiss his cheek. “You’re so cute, but don’t worry about it. I’m prepared for him.”
Marcus stepped forward, “Are you sure? Because I don’t want to end up fighting you.”
“Trust me,” she said. “It’s not well known, but people from my gene line don’t become easily ensnared by a motivator’s voice.”
If Marcus argued with her after that, I didn’t hear it, and anyway, we were too busy getting settled. All the buildings and rooms had their own number and knowing that, it wasn’t hard to find my room or anyone else’s. We were all in the same hallway—in alphabetical order given the alphabet they were using.
They weren’t large rooms, but they were enough for one person and a bed. I barely put my suitcase down when I got the notification from Kals that, “Maru and my mom are on the second floor. You’ll find me there.”
No one talked as we walked up the stairs. The only sounds aside from our feet were the whimpering of the dog. Jaclyn had locked him in her room.
We walked up into a larger room. From the tables, I guessed it could be used as a dining room, but also a ballroom, council room or even a throne room had there been a throne. Maru and Jadzen sat across from each other at a table. Kals walked with us. She’d been waiting at the top of the stairs.
Whatever they were talking about, they either stopped or switched to implant assisted conversation as we walked upstairs.
Jadzen watched us come closer, showing no emotion. Maru’s eyes darted from one of us to another. As we stopped in front of the table, Jadzen rose, sizing us all up with a look.
“Kals,” she asked, “What’s going on here?”
The theme of Sakura is hilarious and it basically makes everybody we explain the game to laugh. It’s a push-your-luck game in which you try to be closest to the Emperor pawn. Other players can influence the position of the emperor and of the first and last players. You might think you’re smart by ending up right behind the emperor, but you’ll be sorry when another player makes him move one step back. This will lose you prestige and move three spaces back. It’s a game we would play with any of our gaming groups as a short game to end a game evening lightly. It’s definitely one to keep an eye on when it hits the stores if you like these types of games.
A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Feb 15, 2018 at 11:13am PST
We’ve also played London and we’re jokingly calling it Nations-light. Absolutely a game that we were missing in our collection. Heinze simply enjoys these tableau-building games and he’s also really good at it. I’ve already decided that my goal for our second game will be beating my own previous score and not to try and beat Heinze.
This week is going to be a quiet week with hardly any gaming nights planned for a change, except Gloomhaven and we’re looking forward to that!
What is the game with the silliest theme in your collection?
I don’t think that the colonists had ever seen a puppy before—not a “tiger terrier” puppy anyway. Maybe the adults didn’t bring them along and maybe it didn’t occur to them that the twenty or thirty-pound dog following us could possibly be related to the twelve-foot tall predators that lurked outside their fence.
The upshot of all this is that when the floating platforms came to take us all away, the dog was no problem. Even shoved into the corner of a platform with us and our luggage, it was friendly to the two families riding with us.
One of the kids, a blond-haired five-year-old boy asked, “What’s his name?” as the dog sniffed his hand.
Jaclyn ran her hand through the curly fur on the puppy’s back. “I’ve been calling him ‘Tiger’ after an animal on my world that also has stripes.”
I hadn’t noticed it before, but there were subtle stripes in its grayish-brown fur. They were only slightly darker than the fur around them and the curly fur made them jagged. They might look more tiger-like if he was shaved.
The platform floated through the air in the dark. Only my glasses allowed me to see where we were going. We were going up the hill that the colony had been built on, but not in the direction that I’d gone while walking with Kals. We went parallel to the shore of the ocean instead of away from it. After a few minutes of riding, we reached a hole in the rocky cliff that we were riding on.
“Hey Kals, what’s that?” Leaning her back on a pile of luggage, Cassie twisted her hand to point at the hole with her thumb.
Kals leaned against her own luggage. “That’s where we’re going to hide.”
We knew she had to be right because all the floating platforms ahead of us were disappearing into the hole.
“No shit.” Cassie straightened her back. “Where’d it come from? Did you people dig it?”
Kals shook her head. “It was here before we were. These tunnels are all over the coast. We think an animal dug them, but we haven’t seen one.”
I turned back to look at her. “Wait, how long have you known about these tunnels? Are you sure they’re unoccupied?”
Kals stared at me. “We’re not stupid. We’ve known about them since the beginning of the colony. They’re up and down the coast for hundreds of miles, maybe thousands. We think it predates the Abominators terraforming the world. A lot of creatures use the tunnels now, but we haven’t seen anything that can dig them.”
Our platform followed the other platforms inside and deeper into the rock. The walls were ribbed, narrowing a little and then widening a little, staying roughly the same width. It was as if whatever had created them had bunched up and then expanded, bunching up and then expanding again and repeating it as many times as necessary.
I wasn’t sure what could make tunnels like that. The only thing that came to mind was the sandworms from the book Dune, but even those had trouble with solid rock from what I remembered.
Kals reached out to pet Tiger and scratch under his chin. The dog growled at her when she stopped. “We’ve used force fields to set apart a space where we can live. It’s not bad as giant caves go.”
“You know what this place needs?” Marcus told Tikki.
Sitting next to him, Tikki turned to meet his eyes. “What?”
“A railway and mining carts.” He stopped.
Katuk turned to look at Marcus. “Why would that be an improvement over these floating platforms?”
I leaned toward Katuk. “It wouldn’t be an improvement. He’s saying that because many pieces of popular entertainment included mining carts and a railway. He’s wondering what it would be like to try it in real life as opposed to watching it.”
Katuk’s big, black eyes pointed both at Marcus and me. “That seems like an inefficient mode of transportation.”
Marcus nodded. “Yeah, but that’s not why I’d want to try it.”
We were saved from finding out how Katuk would respond to that by the platform floating into a new room. This one appeared to have been carved out of the rock just like the tunnels, but unlike the tunnels, it was shaped like a circle. It was big, big enough that I felt comfortable with the idea of thousands of people living inside it.
And it was good that I felt that way because thousands of people were there whether I wanted that to be true or not. The egg-shaped buildings I’d seen on the surface had been used here as well, some of them fatter, some thinner, all of them in clusters and all of them reaching from the floor to the top of the room’s ceiling. Artificial lights lit the streets and the windows.
The glow of force fields blocked the cave’s exits.
I turned to Kals. “I never imagined you’d have something this big and… developed.”
She shrugged. “We’ve been expecting to have to hide for years.”
Agent 957 of the Human Ascendancy’s Genetic Management Office, Hideaway
Orbiting the only world in the system that showed signs of life, Agent 957 checked the sensors for humanity. Because the world had been seeded with lifeforms with genes the Abominators had gathered from humanity’s birthplace, this took longer than expected. The planet’s lifeforms were numerous and in many cases, massive. Agent 957 filtered for signs of technology. Ignoring the Abominator ruins (remnants of the planet’s terraforming), the agent found what he was looking for on the dark side of the planet.
The sensors showed three settlements, all within walking distance of each other. The computer estimated six thousand people between them. It was hard to say precisely.
Agent 957 checked the sensors for any signs of resistance, finding only two aged fighters in the field that passed for the colony’s starport. Neither of them took to the sky, meaning either that the colonists were unaware that their ships had arrived, or that they’d decided not to waste their lives in a pointless act of resistance.
He’d have seen that as a good sign except that he’d seen the Xiniti ship at K’Tepolu, but saw no evidence of it now. That was disquieting. He’d never heard of the Xiniti running away from a fight without a plan and Xiniti plans had brought down the Abominators. He passed on his information about the Xiniti ship over to the Annihilation, the warship accompanying him. They could use the help. Even if only one of the crew was Xiniti by birth, all he’d ever heard of the Xiniti suggested that those they adopted were just as deadly as the original.
He reached out to his implant and had it contact the mole. She might know the status of the Xiniti, adopted Xiniti, and the missing starship.
The implant had overlaid a light gray square over the spot on the planet where the villages were. Agent 957 stared at it, willing the mole to respond. She didn’t.
The implant reported no response.
Agent 957 knew that she might be occupied. If the colony were aware of the Ascendancy forces, they’d evacuate or fight. Either way, the mole might not have time to converse. On the other hand, the mole had been growing less cooperative lately.
He would have to consider appropriate punishments. It would have to be subtle. On the one hand, she’d given them the colony. On the other, this sort of half-hearted assistance could not be encouraged. He’d have to get creative. It sounded fun. It more than made up for the fact that he wouldn’t be able to do the same to Maru. The onetime Dominator would have to be given back to the other Dominators. He didn’t know what they’d do with him, but it would be interesting—probably.
It was possible to argue that he’d fulfilled his original mission, but with a significant detour.
Agent 957 shook his head and watched as the planet grew closer. He contacted the warship. “Annihilation, are the marines ready?”
“Ready,” the warship’s communications officer responded. “The dropships and fighter wing escort are fueled and ready for launch. Unless you have a reason they should launch earlier, we’re going to wait until we get closer.”
“We control the mines now. I don’t anticipate any need for an early launch.” Agent 957 wondered what Commander Hesses was doing—probably sitting on the bridge, jaw set, and trying to look important. Word had come down from both of their chains of command about who was leading this mission—Agent 957—and the commander had not taken it well. He didn’t think they’d talked directly since.
He shook his head. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they destroyed the colony and with it the resistance’s hidden leadership before the Alliance or the Xiniti sent more ships.
Checking his implant, he learned that he had thirty minutes before they entered the planet’s atmosphere. He walked back to his stateroom and pulled on the last layers of his armor, even grabbing his helmet in case something damaged the spaceship’s hull on the way down.
By the time he returned to the bridge, the spaceship had nearly reached the planet’s atmosphere. He strapped himself in, giving the Annihilation the word, and waiting as it released its dropships and fighters. Then he led them downward, aiming for the colony.
As they neared the “starport’s” landing field, he fired on the two fighters and the old colonization ship near them. It removed the chance that someone would get away and sent the colony a message at the same time. As they got closer, he checked the ship’s sensors for life signs.
There weren’t any. All three towns were empty of human life. Where had they gone?
I think I’m going to be updating on Friday this week. I wish I’d thought of this earlier, but you know how I write on Wednesday night so I can update on Thursday? Well, it occurred to me today that maybe, just maybe that Valentines Day would be a bad day to completely ignore my wife in favor of writing.
It’s been a while since we finished Legacy of Dragonholt and we both agreed that it really deserved some attention. The game actually comes with an achievement list, which did result in us making some irrational choices here and there. I guess that’s our digital gamers background kicking in.
Our characters were a wanderer gnome bard who needed to sing and perform when there was the option and a magic-savvy hyrrinx catfolk sage that couldn’t resist using magic, even if it was the less wise option. You could argue whether Legacy of Dragonholt really is a ‘game’, we consider it more like a gamified choose-your-own-adventure story. We certainly enjoyed the experience and we applaud the ‘unusual’ character choices that are made by the writers. Bravo!
A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Feb 8, 2018 at 1:42pm PST
Last week we were surprised by Osprey Games who wanted to send us some of their games. All of these games have been on our ‘interesting games’-list, so we can’t wait to play them.
Do you prefer playing a character of your own gender in games or is it irrelevant to you?
Outside the council building, alarms went off. At the very same time, a message that the implant informed me was a “local emergency notification” appeared in my head.
A flat, artificial voice sounded. “A Human Ascendancy warship and heavy fighter have exited jump space. Assemble your evacuation kit and be ready to leave.”
Marcus and Katuk sat up in their beds, Katuk going further and making it to the floor in the same motion. Marcus turned toward the light taps as Katuk’s feet touched the floor.
Meanwhile, my implant supplied video from the ansible. Two ships shot out of a glowing flash in space—probably at the same Lagrange point we’d come out of. One of the ships was a long gray cylinder and the other a much smaller wedge that had been painted black but with red stripes and accented lines that reminded me of a sports car.
The cylinder had a round hole in the middle of its front end that I recognized as its main gun. Since that wasn’t enough, it had four, evenly placed lines of turrets running down its sides. Without getting closer, I didn’t see any way to find out exactly what each turret fired, but they had a lot of turrets so I didn’t feel like I was in any hurry to check.
I did wonder how they’d handle the mines though.
From outside our room I heard Cassie and Jaclyn talking to Kals and Tikki, both of whom had slept over the night before. At the same time, Hal’s “voice” overlaid the real world noises.
[I’ve done several simulations. The heavy fighter and a wing of fighters from the warship will land within an hour. Even assuming the colony gets their two fighters as well as myself into space, they’ll only slow the ships’ down by about ten minutes.]
Okay, I thought back, what would be a good plan since a direct attack on a warship is a bad idea?
[If I fly away from the colony with the shields on, they’ll be unable to detect me and since it’s night, they won’t be able to visually identify me. I’ll contact you after I’ve found a place to hide. I need your permission for my programming to allow me to do so.]
Do it, I told him. They’d probably destroy the ship on the ground otherwise.
It didn’t take long before I heard the roar of its engines as it flew away. With that taken care of, I checked the ansible’s view of the Human Ascendancy ships. They had no trouble with the mines at all. In fact, the mines opened a path for the ships to fly through and then closed behind them. It was almost as if someone had handed the Human Ascendancy all the relevant passwords.
That said, something bothered me about the idea that Maru had turned on the colony. It wasn’t that it was impossible that he’d want to do it. It’s just that he’d apparently been turned away from his loyalty to the Human Ascendancy originally by Jadzen earlier. When people make that kind of change, they didn’t casually change back. Of course, it could be that he’d always been loyal and he’d never really changed to become part of the Resistance.
That made sense too, but you’d think someone would notice. Sure, he was a spy with the ability to mess with your head, but not everybody around him was affected and it seems like one of those people (better known as the Resistance’s leadership with whom he worked) would have noticed.
But what did I know? All I really knew was that I’d recorded him ordering Geman and Dalat to forget that he’d been the one to mess with their heads. It was pretty damning. If this idea had more going for it than idle speculation, I’d have to find out how he’d come to betray the colony unwillingly.
In the meantime though, we had to escape the Human Ascendancy first and make sure that no one was in the position to betray whatever they were doing next. That meant giving Jadzen the recording we’d made and hoping the fact that we were spying on him wouldn’t make her reflexively distrust us.
I got out of bed and touched the block of ceramic next to my bed. My pajamas absorbed it, transforming from pajamas into jeans, a shirt and a jacket.
Jaclyn knocked on the door. “Are you guys decent?”
Marcus looked at me and then over to Katuk who was now covered head to toe in silver, Xiniti armor. “Yeah, we’re decent, and we’re also loaded for bear. Well, except for me. I’m just in my costume.”
He’d put on his costume at some point between getting off the bed and now.
“Good.” Jaclyn opened the door. “It looks like we’re getting out of here. I got a message from Jadzen because apparently she’s decided that the I’m in charge of the group. The colony has a bunker and we’re all going there. Grab all your stuff. I’m grabbing the dog.”
She looked at us, waiting for us to say something. No one did.
“There’s one more thing you should know,” I told her and had my implant send her everything I’d gotten from the bots.
She shook her head. “I’d been wondering if this could get worse. Congratulations.”
Jadzen frowned. “If one of the new colonists has something the Artificers made, we’re doomed—unless it’s the Xiniti somehow. They had ways of neutralizing Artificer technology when they fought the Abominators. The rumor I heard is that some Xiniti could connect to the artifacts like Abominators did.”
Maru nodded. “I heard that rumor.”
She took a breath. On the desk, her right hand clenched into a fist. “We’re going to have to trust that the Xiniti do know how to control Artificer equipment because the other rumor I heard is that they collect it.”
Unmoving except for his mouth, Maru said, “I heard that too. The leader of my cell claimed he’d seen them do it.”
Jadzen shook her head. “Then we’ll have to hope that they’re resistant to the corruption of the artifacts. When you feel confident that you can trust Geman and Dalat again, make sure they know to watch the sensors for more and report it.”
Maru bowed and the scene ended.
Even as I considered asking Hal if there were more, another scene appeared. This one showed him in what I now knew was his house, a white, egg-shaped building like any other in the colony. His particular house could only be described as “unfinished.” It had furniture , but no pictures on the walls or rugs—only eggshell white floor. From what I could see from the bots’ cameras, only his bedroom had any kind of decoration—a series of small sculptures. I was sure exactly what they were, but they were human shaped. If anything they reminded me of prehistoric “Earth mother” statues I’d seen in archaeology magazines.
It made me wonder if they came from a culture where those statues still had a meaning. It was too bad I wasn’t going to be in any position to ask about them. My Grandpa Klein (Dad’s father) taught archaeology and would probably love to know what they were all about.
The picture in my head didn’t take place in the bedroom though (and in retrospect, I was thankful for that). It took place in the living room during the early evening—hours ago.
Dalat and Teman sat on the couch, both of them sitting straight up, their eyes on Maru. Geman’s bulky, muscular body and bald head contrasted with Dalat’s smaller frame and thin, scruffy beard.
Maru stood in front of them. “Well, you made a mess of this. I suppose I should have told you specifically that you should be prepared for people whose senses were better than human, but I did tell you to take all appropriate precautions. That should have included using your implants for any conversations that relate to my orders. Is that clear?”
Dalat and Geman said a simultaneous, “Yes.”
Maru shook his head. “In the future, you will do exactly that. Unfortunately, in the future, you’re not going to be nearly as useful as you have been in the immediate past. You will remember all the orders I gave you. You will not remember that I gave them. As far as you’re concerned, the memory of who has been controlling you is hidden. It’s behind the wall and nothing can get through the wall without my approval. My voice, my appearance and habits, and the specific words I used to give you the order? They’re all behind the wall too. You will still respond to any order I give, but anytime I attempt to affect your old orders in public act as if it were someone else who created them.”
Dalat and Geman said yes again.
“Now,” Maru said, “I’m going to have to go more in detail about specific events and memories, but what I just told you applies to everything else.”
With that he began to go into detail regarding different times where he’d given them orders, many of them so outside my experience that they made no sense—for example, “During the Fruit Festival, you don’t remember anything specific about the apples.”
I did tell my implant to record both scenes. I felt sure something in them would make sense eventually.
I was right about that. Midway through the long list, I heard him say, “You don’t remember any specific time when you gave me access to the ansible or the name of the account I use to access it as an administrator. You don’t remember anything I said about the account or any other account.”
And there it was. I stopped myself from sitting up in bed. Maru had been the unknown admin. But what had he meant by “any other account?” Had he created another hidden admin account? More to the point, what were we going to do now that I had this? It seemed like more than enough to prove that Maru wasn’t a double agent, but instead a triple agent. Well, unless this was somehow approved by Jadzen, but that didn’t make any sense. Mind controlling Dalat and Geman would only work as an approved activity if there were some agent that they didn’t know about on the ground. If Maru had created another hidden admin account, it made more sense that he was working with someone that he did know.
I debated whether I should wake everyone up to break into Maru’s house and capture him. We might get something even better if we watched him longer. On the other hand, we might watch him take over the colony’s council if we left him too long.
I decided that this had to be a group decision and that I needed to start waking everyone up when Hal sent me another message.
[Two ships have exited jump space.]
Whooooooh, this week’s comic is the 150th comic that has been published! Crazy! I almost can’t believe our archives have grown that big already! And I can still say that we’ve published a new comic every week, we’ve never failed that statement on top of this website. Our next milestone is our 3 year anniversary! Which will be accompanied by one of the interesting things we have planned for this year.
So at the UK Games Expo, we’ve scheduled a session of Crystal Heart with Eran from UpToFourPlayers.com and the awesome people from BehindTheBox! Crystal Heart is set in the world of Savage Worlds RPG and it has different mechanics from traditional DnD. If you’d like to know more, you should definitely check out the Crystal Hearts comic by UT4P or look up Savage Worlds. We can’t wait for the UKGE and we really went to the store to get ourselves some awesome looking dice for this special upcoming occasion. I just love having a reason to get more dice, it’s a weakness! We might not have bought as many as in this comic though.
(And yes, those dice in the third panel are drawn, I wish there was a filter I could have applied to a picture to make it just look like that, but alas! It does look pretty though if I might say so myself.)
A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Feb 4, 2018 at 10:11am PST
Do you prefer expressive, colorful dice or a matching set of simple solid dice?
I sent them to his house, Jadzen Akri’s and all over the council building while I was at it. I shared the process with everybody via implant.
As I maneuvered the bots through Jadzen’s house, bugging the common spaces as well as her office, I asked Kals, “Are you okay with it? We are bugging your house.”
Kals sat at the table, eyes glazed over like everyone else’s. “It’s my mom’s house and you have to. Maru’s over there all the time. Even if I didn’t want my mom’s privacy invaded, there are so many meetings there. It’s practically the unofficial council building.”
Once every bot was in position, I left the monitoring to Hal. The AI could assign a process to monitor all the feeds for interesting events and notify us if something important was going on.
Over the next few days, we pretended we weren’t doing anything. Jaclyn paid attention to the dog. Everyone helped—even Katuk who seemed to find the whole idea of domesticating animals strange.
We were in the storage room feeding the animal.
Katuk watched as the dog devoured the contents of its bowl. “I know that other species do it. Humans, in particular, have a great number of domestic animals. The Xiniti do not domesticate animals. We set aside hunting preserves and while we have bred animals, it was to increase the challenge in hunting them—not for friendliness.”
The dog stopped eating long enough to tilt its head and look at the Xiniti while he talked but then got back to eating, licking the bowl once the meat was gone.
Kals and Tikki worked at their respective jobs. Alanna had made good on her promise make Tikki busier even if she couldn’t do the same to Kals who stopped by mid-afternoon as Katuk and I made it back to the suite, finding Marcus and Jaclyn gone and Kals talking with Cassie.
Kals took a sip from a mug. “Alanna’s a bitch. Did you know that she dated Iolan? Whatever happened with that, she hates him now. I think the last time I saw her agree with him was the meeting where they told you to stop looking for the mole. Otherwise, she argues with any position he holds, whether he’s right or wrong.”
Cassie laughed. “I heard about that. It’s so ridiculous. I’m here on another planet and what do I hear about? Stupid high school stuff. Two council members had an affair and now she hates him. I could have stayed home for that.”
Kals shrugged. “People don’t stop being people.”
She wasn’t wrong.
A little after midnight on the second day, Hal notified me that he’d collected information that we’d find interesting during the day. I was lying in my bed by then. Marcus and Katuk lay in their beds, Marcus snoring quietly in the dark. Katuk was, as ever, silent. He may have been awake.
Ok, I thought at Hal. I’ve got nothing better to do right now. Show me what you’ve got.
I found myself in Jadzen’s office, a room with potted plants, a comfortable desk, small sculptures, books, a picture of a boat crossing a stormy lake, and not a single piece of stray paper. Jadzen sat behind the desk. Maru stood in front of it.
He shook his head. “I’m picking away at Geman and Dalat. I believe that I’ll be able to get around their conditioning by tomorrow.”
Jadzen eyed him and frowned. “You’ve been trained by the Dominators. Isn’t there a way to do it more quickly?”
He sat down. “No. Whoever modified them was at least as well trained as I am.”
Nodding as he talked, Jadzen asked, “Does that mean there are Dominators here?”
Maru swallowed, but then said, “I don’t know. My implant should be up to date on anybody who could be assigned to us—unless they realized that you turned me. Then they’re almost certainly feeding me bad information.”
She let out a breath, looking down at the desk as she did it, and seeming smaller. “In your message, you mentioned a disquieting discovery. Learning that there might be Dominators here is all of that, but is that what you were referring to?”
Maru sat down in a chair. “No. This is either worse or of no consequence at all. It’s impossible to know. You’ll remember that we stole an Abominator designed array—“
She interrupted, “Yes?”
“The Abominators got paranoid about the Artificer civilization near the end, avoiding archeological digs, sometimes destroying their artifacts from a distance—“
Jadzen gave a curt nod.
“Well,” Maru said, “Geman and Dalat have begun getting readings from a sensor that claims to detect ‘reality manipulation’. It’s supposed to detect remnants of the Artificer civilization. They’ve been getting flickers from it since we landed. Something might have come in with us or maybe with the Xiniti. Or maybe there’s nothing. They’re barely readings, but the problem with ignoring them is that the sensor has been reporting nothing since we bought it and only now started to report something.”
Hand moving an inch closer to the gun on her hip, Cassie said, “You’re a secret agent now? How do we know that?”
My implant created a translucent square above Crawls-Through-Desert. In appeared the words, “Sending ID. Accept and verify?”
I thought back, Yes.
More words appeared on the screen, “ID verified as special agent for Alliance Consolidated Defense Force. Species: Emperor’s Walking Blade (sapient subtype). Cooperation with Alliance agents is recommended where appropriate for the mission.”
We all looked at each other. From Cassie’s narrowed eyes and Jaclyn’s nod, it was obvious we’d all gotten it.
Katuk inlined his head toward the plant. “Our orders encourage us to render Alliance agents assistance when appropriate for the mission.”
Crawls-Through-Desert’s branches bent toward Katuk and then straightened. “Good. I’m glad you’re willing to assist. I think you’ll find that we have the same mission. I was ordered to step in at K’Tepolu when it became clear that the assigned agent would not be able to reach the system before the colonists left. I had a verifiable cover identity and was on site and was therefore reassigned. My mission is to keep the colonists safe and to discover if there is any kind of mole in the colony.”
I looked at the plant, trying to figure out if there was any spot that could double as a face. My implant assured me that there wasn’t. The plant sensed sound vibrations all across its body and limited light sensing by means of its leaves. Asking, “Do you think Maru’s the mole?”
The plant’s leaves rustled. “Eh. Don’t know. He’s in the running. Like you, I realized he was in the best position to be a mole of anybody, but I’m still not sure I believe it. Sure, he’s a motivator who’s the chief assistant to one of the leaders of the resistance. He’d have an excuse to meet with anybody and mess with their heads. On the other hand, I haven’t seen any sign that he hates his boss or the colony. He seems loyal to me, kids. So if you’re going to accuse him, run your evidence by me when you’ve got it.”
I thought about that. “Who do you think the mole is?”
A pause. Then Crawls-Through-Desert’s leaves rustled again. “Can’t say, but I have a suspect or two. I’ll tell you when I’ve got something. I don’t want it getting out.”
His pot began to float. “That reminds me. I’ve got a couple things to check on. I’ll be back later tonight. You can call me with my ID code. You’ve all got it now.”
I looked the plant up and down. Between his green leaves, branches, and pot, I wondered where his implant was. Overall, I felt like the pot was the best bet, but drilling a hole in the trunk or attaching a fake branch might also work. “We’ll keep you informed,” I told him as he floated toward the door.
It pulled the door open with a frond and floated down the street. I reflected that my threshold for normal was expanding during this trip. Floating plants with guns in their pots? Basically, Crawls-Through-Desert was James Bond as a fern. Well, why not? I supposed that plants needed heroes too.
Kals stood next to me and watched him go. “They’re immune to motivators. Their brains, their sense of hearing, their physiology… None of it maps to ours. They’re not the only aliens like that, but you can see why the Alliance sent it. On the other hand, they stand out a lot.”
Behind me, Marcus talked to Tikki. “No wonder it stepped in to protect you from the hrrrnna and waroo when we met. It all makes sense. It seemed a little weird for this sketchy plant to play hero without some kind of angle where he tried to blackmail you or something.”
Tikki said, “I never thought that was so strange. Even criminals aren’t all bad. When you’re in the resistance, you have plenty of opportunities to see monsters show kindness. And sometimes, you also see good people act in monstrous ways, but I’ve seen more good than bad. We live in a universe full of wonders.”
Crawls-Through-Desert disappeared and Jaclyn turned to Tikki. “If you can create a coating that hides his bots from super-advanced spy technology just from natural materials, I’ll believe this universe is full of wonders.”
Tikki shook her head, smiling. “It’s not all from here. We’ve got a coating to use as a base. We’re just going to collect a couple things and add them to the coating.”
That’s what we did for the next couple of hours. Tikki showed us some silvery leaves, and we gathered them. I can only guess what the other colonists thought. Marcus suggested that we tell them that it was for an art project, but no one did ask. We boiled them and mashed them and worked out a process that would mix them with the coating.
By the time we were finished, the room stank and my bots had a dull silver coat that the eye slid off. Even before supper came, I’d loosed the bots to find Maru.
One of the beauties of board games is that they can give us insight into different worlds, whether it’s fictional or not. You have to think about things and situations you’d never have given any thought… like farming! It could also raise ethical questions and discussions on a more serious tone like in This War of Mine, a game that will make you think about what you would do in a certain situation?
Not much news in our board gaming lifes. We continued with Gloomhaven and lost the second scenario AND discovered that we were playing the game on ‘very hard’ in stead of normal. Whoops! We messed up with the enemy stats. We dialed it back to ‘hard’ for now, but we might just play on normal from now on. Since this game is so big, we don’t want to have to replay scenarios all the time because it was just a little too hard. It has to be enjoyable to play as well.
This Saturday we helped two of our friends move in together and it turned out that their combined board game collection was a little bigger than they had anticipated. They might need to get rid of some games or arrange extra shelve space! Formula D and Descent are still missing in this picture.
A post shared by Semi Co-op (@semicoop) on Jan 27, 2018 at 7:57am PST
What board game gave you interesting insight into something you would never have given any thought to?
“Easy,” Cassie said, “Bug him.”
I shook my head. “I was trying to avoid that. My tech is pretty low compared to what I’ve seen in the files in my implant. The Xiniti could detect my bots easily and while they’re ahead of the curve in terms of technology out here, they’re not that far ahead. So, bugging Maru with my stuff might accomplish nothing more than warning him that we’re watching and giving him ammunition to argue we should leave or never leave our ship.”
Tikki sat up, pulling away from Marcus. “I might be able to help. If you show me your design, I’ll be able to tell you if it’s so bad that there’s no chance it’ll work. I’m not an expert in spying technology, so I don’t know what will work, but I can tell you if it’s laughably bad.”
Katuk added. “I have some background in our technology. I may be able to assist as well.”
It was hard to gauge Katuk’s enthusiasm from his voice, but the help the implant gave me in judging Xiniti body language didn’t hint that anything was wrong.
I thought about it a little more but decided that we had very little to lose. “Okay, then, I guess we spy on Maru. There’s something that’s bugging me though. If Maru’s behind it all, he knows that we’re aware that Dalat and Geman have been influenced, so he’s not going to use them. If he guesses that we’ll be watching what he does, he might not do anything but use the ansible as an admin—which means we couldn’t watch him there since I’m thinking he’s got an implant. If he does then we might not see him do anything at all.”
Jaclyn looked over at Katuk and then at me. “Go for it. The worst that can happen if you don’t is that he’ll tell the Human Ascendancy where the colony is and you won’t know it. The worst that can happen if you do it is also that he’ll tell the Human Ascendancy, but this way we’ll have a chance of knowing beforehand.”
I glanced over at her. She was right. I shouldn’t overthink this. “Okay. I’ll tell you all how my spybots work. Tell me what you think.”
With that, Tikki and Katuk came forward to the table while Cassie, Jaclyn, Marcus, and Kals stepped back to talk to each other while we discussed how my bots worked. I got out a few of them, opening them up on the table and explaining how they were constructed and exactly what they did as well as my system for communications and major algorithms that determined their behavior.
Katuk sat still and listened quietly, occasionally asking a question for clarification. Tikki leaned over the table, sometimes interrupting to tell me, “Oh, that’s very clever,” and a couple times to say, “Did you consider…“
The crazy thing was that times that she complimented me were times that I had been clever and times when she asked, “Did you consider?” I hadn’t. They were good ideas. One was a tweak to my search algorithm that I was pretty sure would improve the area by at least five percent. The other idea was a change in the communication protocol that would allow me to decrease the number of signals involved in any given communication. As I said, it was a good idea. I didn’t have time to implement it then, but when I did, the overall effect ought to be making the protocol more secure because there simply wasn’t as much communication to observe.
A life support engineer in the Human Ascendancy got some decent training—that or Tikki was unusually gifted. Alternately, Tikki’s technology was so far ahead that commonplace suggestions made a huge difference.
By the time I finished Katuk did weigh in. “I used the techniques I was taught to detect nearby listening devices. Your devices are unusual enough that they might not register as bugs. If they knew to look for them, however, they might be able to be found by standard debugging techniques.”
Tikki nodded, “Their casing is a type of ceramic shell that isn’t unusual. I think I have an idea for a coating that would lower its chances of being detected. Even better, I think we can find the materials locally. I’ve made an outline of the process. I’ll send it to your implant!”
She all but bounced as she talked about it. On the couch, Marcus not only beamed but did a series quick sketches as she talked. They managed to capture the way she moved her arms, grinning, as we discussed the process.
As we finished, I looked around the room. “Anyone want to help gather materials?”
Before anyone could reply, the plant’s pot began to hum and Crawls-Through-Desert spoke, “As a special agent for the Alliance’s Consolidated Defense Force, I think we need to talk before you blow this open.”
“Uh huh.” Cassie gave Jadzen a small bow as the council members left the room, walking toward the exit via a different wing of the building.
I felt a stab of worry as they passed the doorway that led down to the dog, but they didn’t stop. Soon they were gone and we all went back to our suite. I sat down at the table along with Cassie and Kals. Marcus and Tikki sat next to each other on the couch while Jaclyn and Katuk each took one of the chairs across from the couch. Jaclyn found herself sitting next to Crawls-Through-Desert who had positioned himself in front of one of the windows, his leaves angled toward the sun. He still appeared to be dormant though. He hadn’t moved or said anything.
Marcus looked around the room. “I don’t want to start any trouble, but we’re not going to stop investigating, are we?”
Leaning into him, Tikki shook her head. “Of course not. You know what I think? It’s got to be someone on the Council. I don’t know who, but isn’t it funny how they did exactly what you’d want them to do if you were the person behind it all? They told the people who were getting somewhere to stop.”
Kals frowned. “I don’t know. We’ve got motivators who are capable of doing that to Geman, but except for my mom, they’re not on Council. Maru’s not that good. Iolan’s barely trained at all. Alanna’s all techie. She’s got her hands in everything, but before that, she worked on implants. The rest of them don’t have active powers.”
Cassie spoke the second Kals finished. “Is there anybody who might be hiding motivator powers? Or hey, could Alanna have done that with an implant tweak? I mean, those things go straight into everyone’s brains.”
I found myself nodding as she spoke. “I’ve been wondering about that. They’re basically just computers and computers get hacked all the time. With an implant, it seems like you could hack somebody’s brain.”
Katuk and Tikki both started talking at once, both of them starting with, “No—“ I didn’t hear the rest. Even as I tried, I experienced a massive data dump in my head. By the time it was over, I knew the architecture of the standard implant as well as the protections installed to prevent it from being used to take over a sentient being. From what I understood, it would need a sustained effort by a government or corporation to hack one. A single person on a backwater world wouldn’t be able to.
When the rush of information ended, I became aware that everyone was looking at me. “Didn’t any of you get all the technical details on implants? I just got a crash course in the theory and practice of implant design.”
Marcus shook his head, “No—not in much detail. I got a general sense of how they work and that it would be hard to hack them.”
Glancing around the room, Jaclyn said, “I got some technical detail, but not like you did. Maybe they put more technical info into yours or give people more technical information if they can understand it.”
In his almost expressionless voice, Katuk added, “Both choices are common practice.”
To my eye, he seemed to be in a better mood than the night before. It might be that looking for him hard enough that we got in trouble had touched him somehow. That or he regarded participating in this conversation as part of his duty to the group.
In any case, it was better than last night.
Sitting straighter in her chair and speaking a little louder, Jaclyn said, “Hey everybody, we’re going to have to reel it in and get focused. I think we have to ask ourselves two questions, ‘Who are we going to investigate,’ and, ‘Are we okay with what happens if the Council finds out what we’re doing’?”
Kals shrugged. “They can’t do much. My mom won’t be happy with me. Maybe she’ll move me to a less responsible position in the colony for while, but if it saves the colony, I’m fine with it. She can’t do much of anything to you guys. The only person who stands to be hurt is Tikki. She’ll probably be handed over to Alanna to do menial tech jobs for a few years, but it could be worse. Mom’s exiled a few people from the colony. I don’t think she’d do it to Tikki, but it’s a death sentence. I don’t think anyone’s survived more than a few months.”
Tikki had been leaning against Marcus, each of them with an arm around the either. She smiled. “It doesn’t matter. If she comes down hard on me, I’ll leave with Marcus and the rest of you. I’m grateful that the colony took me in, but right now I feel like I want to see the universe. I trained for years to work on starships because I feel like the stars are calling me. I don’t want to be stuck here.”
Kals’ mouth twisted. “I want to go too, but I can’t go if we don’t fix this first.”
As they’d spoken, I’d come to a decision. “I think we should focus on Maru. He’s got Jadzen’s confidence and if he’s been working with Jadzen for years, he’s had every opportunity to learn from her. The reason we’re assuming he’s not as good is because he didn’t go to as good a school. After years of using a skill, it doesn’t matter as much where you went to school as what you learned in the next twenty years. I still don’t have a motive for why he’d do it, but that’s what we need to find out.”
With the volume of Alanna’s reply, Kals stepped backward. “What? No. I’ve never suspected you, but someone is.”
Geman sat in his chair, face blank of emotion, but his jaw muscles tightened. Speaking slowly as if were difficult, he rasped out, “I’m not… controlled. I’d remember… it.”
Everyone turned toward him—Jadzen, Maru, Alanna, the rest of them, and we, of course, were already looking toward the stage.
As the colony’s leadership had turned though, they’d all gone several shades paler. Geman stood up in his chair, saying, “I… I…”
Then he fell over onto the floor, beginning to choke on his tongue. Kals jumped up on to the stage, her voice taking on a queer tone. “Stop choking yourself! You misunderstood me. I said you weren’t controlled.”
He opened his mouth and started breathing in great gasps.
She watched him as he pulled himself up into a sitting position. “Do you have any orders that will be activated if I ask you questions about what you just did?”
In a quieter voice, she asked, “Will any of those orders have lethal consequences for you or others?”
Taking another breath, he said, “Yes.”
Kals took a look back at her mother and turned back to Geman. “Why don’t you go back to work? Or if you’re done for the day, go home. Don’t think about this meeting.”
Geman stood up and walked out of the auditorium. No one spoke until we heard him walk through an outside door.
Iolan spoke first. “I think we now have all the proof we need that there’s a mole. Thank you Kals for your quick thinking. You saved a life today.”
In her chair, Jadzen let out a sigh. “Iolan is right. Thank you Kals. We’re going to have to discuss the best way to handle Geman now that we know he’s controlled and that Dalat likely is as well.”
Walking to the door Geman had left through, Alanna opened it, looked through, and closed it again. Addressing Kals, she said, “Why didn’t you ask who did it?”
Kals gave a small bow in her direction. “I guessed that if whoever had done it forced people to choke themselves on their own tongues if someone suspected that they were controlled, the motivator would put triggers on asking for their name and it wouldn’t stop there.”
Alanna nodded, “I think I’ve seen that. Back before I left, our group had a mole. No one knew who, but after we made a few guesses, my second in command’s wife shot him and then killed herself. We didn’t know if it was a motivator or if she was just depressed. We didn’t have any motivators in my group who could have stopped her, so we never found out.”
Kals stepped off the stage to stand back with the rest of us. “We’ve developed techniques to protect against other motivators messing with our work, so you might not have ever found out even if you had one in your group. My school taught us how to set triggers based on sound, words, smells, pictures and more. You had to know what’s associated with what in someone’s mind before you could change a command. There are different systems for doing it.”
Alanna gave voice to almost the same thought I had. “It’s not the same, but it almost sounds like breaking into a computer program.”
Shrugging, Kals said, “I wouldn’t know, but it’s a challenge to work out how to unravel someone else’s commands.”
Iolan stood up from his chair. “My motivator training was minimal compared to some here as was my computer training, but I’ve done enough of both to know the we have significant work ahead of us.”
Clearing his throat, he said, “Jadzen, we’ll need experienced motivators to go through their heads—yourself or Maru, perhaps. I know we have a number of others. Kals might assist. In any case, they’re all we need to find the mole now.”
Alanna smiled. “Then the investigation’s over. There’s no need for it if our motivators can get the mole’s identity out of their heads.”
Jadzen rose from her seat. “I don’t think that the investigation is completely over, but I do think it should be put on pause until our motivators have had a chance to examine Dalat and Geman. I’d prefer not to deal with any more controversy than we have to. Maru assemble a list of motivators that could be trusted with something like this and have it to me by this afternoon.”
Maru give her a short bow and Jadzen said, “Good. My thanks to all of you for your work. You’re dismissed.”
Jaclyn and I both looked at each other. I don’t know what she was thinking, but her eyes had narrowed and she was frowning—which led me to think that she was thinking that this all seemed a bit premature. Neither of us had time to figure out a way to broach the subject though.
Cassie crossed her hands over her chest. “Are you sure about that? It seems to me that if anything goes wrong with Dalat and Geman—like maybe they kill themselves—you’ve got nothing.”
Jadzen looked Cassie up and down. “If it comes to that, we’ll put you back on the case, but for now, we’ll leave it to our people.”
Geman frowned but didn’t argue at Kals’ suggestion that he and Dalat used the meeting as an excuse to drink.
Maru’s mouth tightened, reminding me of a growling dog. “Kals, you may be assisting, but you can’t speak on their behalf.”
I spoke even as Kals began to open her mouth to respond, “It’s okay. She’s gotten everything right. I didn’t know about the meeting being an excuse to hang out and drink but it’s definitely true that we weren’t randomly searching people’s farms or property. We were just looking for Katuk. Our implants weren’t detecting him and we were worried that something had happened to him. It turned out that he was safe.”
“That’s right,” Jaclyn stepped forward. “Speaking only on a practical level, we need the freedom to talk to people whenever it works best for them and for us. Some people will have time during the day and others in the evening. And if it looks like we’ve got a person missing, we’ll look for him. This isn’t the kind of planet where I’m comfortable assuming someone’s okay.”
Katuk cleared his throat. “I’m sorry that my disappearance made it necessary for the others to search for me. I felt it was necessary to disappear for a time and didn’t realize that the others would want to search for me. Had I understood that I would have coordinated it with them first.”
Maru swallowed and nodded, not taking his eyes off the Xiniti. “Thank you, Katuk. All of us here appreciate how far you must be from your people right now.”
“All those with me are members of my clan,” Katuk said.
“Not all of you,” Maru said, looking over at Kals and Tikki. “Kals. Don’t you have duties that would prevent you from assisting them? You’re involved in our greenhouses, livestock, and farming. Surely you have enough to keep you busy.”
Kals shook her head. “We’re in the slow season for me. We’re collecting data, but I won’t know how well this year’s crops went until the harvest. Once the harvest is in, then those of us in crop design get to work. Right now I can collect the data I need in a few hours. Besides, you know what my real duties are. As one of the few with fully active abilities, my first duty has to be defense. And that means I need to be with them. Otherwise, I won’t be able to help.”
Maru’s jaw dropped ever so slightly. “You shouldn’t have said that—“
Chin down and staring at him, Kals said, “Why not? They’re on our side. For the good of the colony, we need to be coordinating with them, not spying on them and if I were spying on them, I couldn’t do it from the greenhouse.”
Maru turned to look at Jadzen who shook her head. He turned to Tikki. “As a new member of the colony, I’m sure you have duties that you could be doing—“
Tikki shook her head. “I’m afraid that I don’t. Because I’m a life support specialist, they assigned me to help maintain the greenhouses, but the greenhouses are in good condition. We do maintenance, but there’s not much to do. They keep on telling me it will get busy later in the year, but it isn’t yet.”
Behind Maru, Alanna shifted forward in her chair, no longer looking like she was semi-comfortably nursing a hangover. She gritted her teeth as she stood up. “You both just dropped your duties to help the Xiniti? We know what’s really going on. These Xiniti are human and somehow they’re not triggering the rash…”
She shook her head. “You’re putting the colony behind men who will disappear when the job is done. You should be thinking of the colony first. Is it slow for your teams? Then you should be helping another if you’re done early. The earthworks team is working night and day on the barricades. Kals, you know you could be helpful there. And you, life support girl? I’m going to talk to your superiors. My team could use more help and I know you’re an engineer—“
“No,” Kals kept her eyes on Alanna. “You’ve known me on and off for most of my life, Alanna. I’m my mother and father’s daughter. There is nothing I won’t do for this colony and right now, we need the Xiniti, whether they’re biologically Xiniti or human. Iolan thinks there’s a mole. I think he’s right. I’m almost certain Geman and Dalat are controlled without their knowledge and I’ve seen hints ever since I’ve been here that someone knows that Mom is coming when she goes back. You’ve heard the stories. They shouldn’t have known she was coming. They shouldn’t have known her plans. You and I both know it.”
Alanna stood up straight, staring at Kals, face reddening. “Are you accusing me?”