The Martians Are Coming is a new Fate game in a steampunk world, played between me and 2 of my best friends.
“I cannot prove I am sentient, sir… can you?” Abigail Stracht, serial # ST-18, voiced the audacious words in the midst of the Royal Academy’s audience hall. Professor Hatfield was leading a debate on the nature of the Awakened souls– the elusive quality that meant a machine had attained self-awareness. This sentience, vaguely threatening to the humans who had built the automatons, was equally confusing to those who had achieved it.
As she and the professor exchanged quick-witted remarks, the crowd of scholars, nobles, and well-regarded merchants in the audience seemed swayed between Abigail and Captain Winfield’s arguments– that no one can truly know the mind of another, automaton or otherwise– and Professor Hatfield’s– that all automaton actions are derived in some form from their creators.
The day had started much like every day for the past several weeks– business was slow and mind-numbing, due to local subway construction tearing up the major intersections near Winfield’s Bakery. In fact, if not for the dreariness of the day, they probably wouldn’t have accepted Professor Hatfield’s invitation in the first place. After all, what Englishman orders a cruller and then fails to eat it? Winfield didn’t trust the man, and had said so to Abigail.
As they stepped outside after the debate, Abigail was approached by FG-36, the head of the Automaton Guild and keeper of the Registry of Awakened Persons for the Queen. They exchanged a few pleasant words– civil and more pleasant than Abigail had exchanged with him since refusing membership in the Guild proper. And then an older couple approached her and Winfield.
“We were so moved by your words…” The couple, Mr. and Mrs. Mers, were merchants who seemed more emotional than an academic debate might warrant, and Abigail and Winfield listened to their plight. It seemed their automaton, Sally– not Awakened– had gone missing several days earlier. In fact, FG-36 confirmed that several automatons had gone missing over the past several weeks. “We hope that she Awakened and may simply be… lost.”
“It is a very confusing time,” Abigail agreed, recalling her own traumatic awareness. She turned to FG-36. “Perhaps you could lobby the manufacturers to include some kind of… instruction set, for use when one awakens? Explaining where to go for registry and to get help?”
FG-36 regarded her coolly, and nodded. “An excellent suggestion. I will take it up with the creators.” He bade them a good evening and stalked away.
“…and take credit for the idea, no doubt,” Abigail muttered under her breath. She and Winfield continued on their way home in the late New London evening. Not long after they parted ways from the Mers, Abigail suggested they pop round to the police station. “They must know a little something about these missing automatons, right?”
Whatever Winfield thought they were going to do at the police station, he soon found himself staring in shock as Abigail scaled the outside wall and let herself in through an upstairs window. Just as he was about to call down for her, a couple of police officers rounded the corner. He distracted the coppers while Abigail raided the offices upstairs, looking for clues.
When she descended, it was with a large wall map and a sheaf of papers, all carefully tucked under her arm. She handed the papers to Winfield and the two of them took off for Winfield’s Fine Bakery.
At the shop, they used the map and their own cunning about the city to figure out that, indeed, the disappearances appeared to be random and unconnected, but in fact, they were all located near sites of the new subway system that was being constructed. The pair went off in search of an access point in the subway– taking the papers with them.
In time, they found a closed access door and heard sounds of someone behind it. Cracking open the door stealthily, they discovered a long row of automatons, all metal, standing deactivated in a long row. Off to one side was a well-lit office with a curious gentleman– Professor Hatfield, of course.
Abigail approached the long row of automatons, eventually finding Sally’s designation (SL-32). Just then, Hatfield came out of his office and spotted her. The two exchanged words, then he ordered his automatons to attack!
Abigail fought a crush of automatons while Winfield focused on stopping and capturing Hatfield. Heroically, he shot the door handle off the access door, effectively locking the two men in with two dozen rampaging robots.
Indeed… the rampage was brutal and efficient, as Abigail tore her fellow metal men apart, ripping limbs off of carefully-crafted bodies, and eventually using a power supply to electrocute the entire dog-pile of machines.
As she crawled out from under the pile of bent, broken, and smouldering bodies, she heard a voice from deep within the dog pile. “Huh-hullo?”
SL-32, miraculously, had not only survived the attack, but seemed to have Awakened in the process. Abigail introduced herself and had a few words with Sally, who also remembered Mr. and Mrs. Mers and wanted little more than to go home to them.
When the police arrived, Professor Hatfield was raving about “his” army of automatons, and his papers seemed to also contain all the stolen investigation notes taken from the police station (however could that have happened?!?) Abigail took Sally to the Registrar before delivering her home to the Mers, who were overjoyed to see her.
They returned to the bakery to prepare a double batch of fried dough goodies for delivery to the police officers in the morning.
When last we left the intrepid crew of The Wild Side, Captain Judson was sealed in a medical pod in sick bay, recovering from 3rd degree burns, Acting Captain Boost Harper had taken command of the ship, Ashleigh had just been “interviewed” by Ms Norville Morrissey, JD/CPA, with the interview ending when, in response to Morrissey’s question “do you often do drugs recreationally?” Grace piped in with “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her sober!”
Ashleigh hopped up at that and stumbled off to her quarters, muttering something about going to bed. Morrissey remained on board, despite the impending “running of the blockade” as she had work to complete in her investigation into various irregularities in The Wild Side’s performance.
In engaging with the blockade, the crew found a large “net” of New Ireland ships ready to ensnare them in legal and violent complications. Harper sent a decoy bot out to one side, faking out the New Ireland vessels, before making a run for it. The New Ireland vessels pursued, as did the United Earth Government Navy, lending the full military support, as promised.
If a small civilian vessel were to be damaged or destroyed in the process… well, that would just be one unfortunate witness to the illegal promise of support, wouldn’t it?
The ship made the run, barely, scraping off battle microbots and grappling hooks with a combination of speed and clever engineering on the part of Grace. At one critical moment, Dr. Sutton came up to the bridge and snatched the headphones off of Boost’s head, startling him and sending the ship into a momentary autopilot lapse. The action nearly cost the ship dearly, but Axel’s quick thinking in the gun turret means most of the incoming missiles were shot down before getting close enough to hit.
Meanwhile, crouched in her bunk, the explosions rocking the ship around her, Ms. Morrissey patched into the navy’s comm system and broadcast a series of alerts of their procedural violations, causing a great deal of chaos and confusion among the lower-ranked crewmen, all of whom proceeded to spend precious time verifying orders before proceeding.
The ship made it to the slingshot and performed the jump, ending not far from SS-0. They had numerous words among the crew, resulting at one point in Dr. Sutton cowing Ms Morrissey during her “investigative loopholes.” In the end, Morrissey’s actions led to her and Harper discussing in heated terms the parts of the ship which were off-limits.
“We can discuss this in your quarters.”
“As we discussed previously, my quarters are off-limits.”
“I don’t see a captain’s signature on that schematic, which means it’s not valid.”
“Good point. In that case, the cargo hold is no longer restricted to me. Good day, sir.”
As she proceeded to walk past Harper and Axel, Axel turned and fired on her, grazing her leg.
When she was brought into the medical bay, the lawyer was gripping her thigh and gasping “shot! Shot! Shot!” as panic and shock went through her. Dr. Sutton patched her up– despite her initial instincts– while Harper grabbed up the bureaucrat’s papers and briefcase and rifled through them.
What he learned about Ms. Morrissey was that she knows nearly everything about their jobs– legal or otherwise– and has a keen eye for where and when a greater profit could have been made. For all she knows every procedure and regulation… she also knows how to sidestep them and manipulate markets to her advantage.
“Welcome to the crew, Ms. Morrissey.”
The delivery was completed as the New Irish McRearies took delivery of extra crates of strawberries… and a side order of war with the UEG, thank you very much.
#45 The Seduction of Lady Phoebe by Ella Quinn
I finished There Was No Second Date on Friday, weighing in at 52,208 words. On the NaNoWriMo validator, it shows up as a lot less, but I blame the email headers in the Interludes.
Anyway, here is a lively excerpt from the book, for your enjoyment.
Read the rest of this entry »
The Wild Side docked at a nearby space station and, almost immediately upon arrival, as soon as the cargo door had shut, explosions on the other side of the docking bay rocked the station and our ship!
Boost, Axel, and Ashleigh were still on board. Ashleigh was unconscious, and Boost and Axel were waiting for us to handle a cargo manifest issue before going off-ship to complete Boost’s side delivery job.
A mob of New Ireland supporters flooded the docking bay, while two of the “coppers” from the United Earth Government tried in vain to protect us. One of the guards went down to the mob’s fists and boots, and the other fled.
Grace dove into a pile of boxes, quickly tunneling upwards until she was well-shielded in a fortress of cargo boxes… with turrets.
Dr. Jules grabbed the downed guard and hauled him into the relative safety of the ship… via the only currently open entrance, the garbage chute.
Meanwhile, the New Ireland bomber, his body covered in multiple incendiaries, threw an explosive at the ship.
“That’s my ship!” roared Captain Judson as she pulled out her gun, seemed to take careful aim, then shrugged and fired wildly. The bullets struck the bomber’s ammo, igniting and exploding some, removing him and a few of the mobbers from this Earthly plane.
Unfortunately, the backlash from the remaining incendiaries caught everything in the docking bay in its shockwave, including the captain, who at the time did have the benefit of several human shields. They were quickly incinerated, and the captain found herself on fire.
Suddenly, red lights and a klaxon went off, warning of the fire danger and the imminent opening of the docking bay doors to suppress the flames.
Well, at least I won’t be on fire for much longer, Lou thought as she rolled around, trying to put the flames out. Dimly, she sensed a troop of mobbers running into her ship, the fog of the knockout gas filling the cargo bay, and Grace flitting past her to hop into the ship. Good girl, she thought, glad that Grace would survive this nightmare.
Flames out, Judson felt a surge of adrenaline and hopped up, seeing with a clarity what must be done. The men must be expelled from her ship. She ran into the cloud of gas, grabbed one of the loading bars, and held it at the ready. As some of the mob moved up to attack her, she fended them off with the bar.
Startled and yelping in pain, she felt slim arms grab her from behind and a strap wrap around her waist, two, then three times. The klaxon blared one final time, then the docking bay doors opened. The gas in the cargo bay flooded out, leaving several startled men who were rapidly decompressing. Judson exhaled, slowly, aware that this rapid decompression was going to kill her in just a few moments. She held tight to her savior– Grace!– and watched the men fly out into the darkness of space, a few frantically grabbing at untethered debris. One was impaled by the loading bar. Another took a stiletto to the eye before the silent blackness of beyond turned him into a tiny, floating speck of nothing, disappearing into the void.
« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »