Fly Hard: An Emberfest Tale

An enigmatic Captain offers the chance to join her on the heist of the cycle in a festive holiday caper.

Level: 1
Start: Jelena Starkiss, Port, Tau Station

Introduction

The port of Tau Station is awash in the glittering lights of the Emberfest. Station ambient light has been turned down in honor of the festival and to better accentuate the glimmering decorations that represent the burning embers from the folktale. Folks jostle through the area with the usual chaotic determination though a new layer of hope and cheer does seem to cover the general mood. Travelers seem to smile at each other and strangers wish each other a Festive Emberfest as they go about their business.

Despite the maelstrom of chaotic activity overlayed with holiday cheer, an interesting situation nonetheless manages to catch your eye. A fiery haired woman stumbles drunkenly into a pair of guards bearing the insignia of Hephaestus Weapons Tech. In itself, this would not seem unusual to the casual observer. What catches your eye, however, is the expert fashion her manicured fingers dip into the guards pocket and out again before she coyly apologizes and stumbles away.

You have accepted the "Fly Hard: An Emberfest Tale" mission.

  • Approach the familiar looking woman.

You grin as you recognize Captain Jelena Stelarvic from a previous encounter on Sol Jump Gate. You recall helping her smuggle medical supplies out from under the noses of the local authorities, though a part of you suspects she would have succeeded with or without you. Oddly, her CORETECHS seems to be broadcasting a different handle this time around.

You make your way through the crowd, making sure to keep her in your sights though she seems to weave in and out of the river of travelers with practiced ease. Suddenly, you seem to have lost her. You cast about, turning back the way you came for a moment to see if she doubled back but can see no sign of her. When you turn back around, she is standing right in front of you, a brazen grin on her lips and hands placed on her hips.

Jelena Starkiss: Hello Stranger, looking for me?

  • "Long time no see Jelena."
  • "Right. So what are you up to?"
  • "Maybe I just wanted to wish you a Festive Emberfest."

Long time no see:

Me: Long time no see Jelena.

Jelena's smile grows even wider and you can't help but notice a glint in her eye that could almost match the merry little lights twinkling all around the area.

Jelena Starkiss: Quite right my little comet, we had some fun that time eh? Up for some more fun? It's Emberfest after all? The governments have left out some presents, as is tradition, for us to pretend to purloin and spread among the poor. You know the tradition yes? The Auld Lang Syne?

  • "I actually don't."
  • "Right. So what are you up to?"

I don't:

Me: I actually don't.

Jelena Starkiss: Well! Allow me to illuminate you my dear. The Auld Lang Syne are a group of freebooters, never caught, never seen, who steal presents from the government during the Emberfest and spread them to the needy children around the stations. In these modern and oh so progressive times, of course, the governments leave a little 'offering' for this gang of miscreants to steal and distribute. It's their little way of adding to the holiday cheer eh?

Jelena pauses a moment and lets her smile slowly widen as her eyes twinkle. She gives you a conspiratorial wink before continuing.

Jelena Starkiss: But you see my lovely, as fun as it is pretending to be one of the Auld Lang Syne once a year, I am also a freebooter. Charity just is not our gig see? We don't accept, we are not given…we take. And that, that is why my hand was in yonder befuddled guard's pocket. While everybody is expecting the festive little 'theft,' I will pull off the heist of the cycle!

Jelena grins widely at you.

Jelena Starkiss: So…you in?

  • "Right. So what are you up to?"

Me: Right. So what are you up to?

Jelena smiles and nudges her head towards a large, looming skyscraper in the distance. Its height is so tall that you would not have to travel much farther from the roof to hit the ceiling of the station above it. Three behemoth like letters adorn one side of the building, marking its owners: HWT.

Jelena Starkiss: WE…are going to rob the Hephaestus Weapons Tech HQ. A prototype tech they have recently developed that produces heat at a fraction of the resource drain. They would, of course, use it for weapons. We will retro-engineer it for those stuck in the cold of the ruins during Emberfest.

Jelena plants her hands on her hips and grins.

Jelena Starkiss: Dashing and daring eh?

  • "HWT? That's gotta be a pretty secure building!"
  • "Hold up. Who or what is Hephaestus Weapons Tech?"

Who or what:

Me: Hold up. Who or what is Hephaestus Weapons Tech?

Jelena Starkiss: Oh they're big, Sugar. Big old Weapons and Armor corp, shady as smog too. Should be lots of info on them in your CORETECHS archive if you're curious. And that there is their HQ, see? HWT.

  • "HWT? That's gotta be a pretty secure building!"

Me: HWT? That's gotta be a pretty secure building!

Jelena Starkiss: Is an event horizon a bad time to have second thoughts? Smog yes that is a secure building. But it's Emberfest darling. The place is almost entirely on lock-down, except for the support staff in Marketing, Weapons Branding, and Sales. See HWT does not take, or give breaks from bringing in the all-mighty credit! But that's ok, because I am very, very, clever.

Jelena Starkiss: Now time's a tickin', Darlin. If you're in, and if I judge that gleam of a fellow thrill-seeker in your eyes right, you are, then head over to HWT Plaza. It's adjoining to the Government Center. I know, irony is lost on these fellows. Regardless, you get your bad self over there and I'll fill you in on the rest. If you don't show, hell, no hard feelings! I still got this, it's just less fun when there's nobody else to show off to.

Jelena dispenses a roguish wink and slides into a group of revelers, leaving you to decide if you will join her on her heist.

Head to the Government Center on Tau Station if you want to help Jelena with her heist.

Next area: Government Center, Tau Station

  • Head into the HWT Plaza Complex.

Behind the main thoroughfare that leads to the government center, you find a road that leads to the complex that houses the HWT Plaza. Here, the atmosphere is quieter, the sound of Emberfest revelry having been left behind in the more populated parts of the station. The road and buildings around are still dimly lit by the little, glittering lights that mark the festival and this lends an almost fey ambiance to the area.

You head into the plaza and the behemoth like structure of the HWT Corporate headquarters looms above you, its logo illuminating the ceiling so high over the area. Occasional bouts of song or cheer drift in from distant parts of the district but otherwise, all is eerily quiet. So quiet that the CORETECHS notification informing you of an incoming call nearly causes you to jump.

Jelena Starkiss: Why hello there, Darling. I had zero doubts that you would be joining me. Awful glad you did though! This is gonna be fun!

Jelena Starkiss: Now, remember me saying I was a genius? And remember those folks I said were meant to be working tonight? So, they each recently received a CORETECHS mail from someone high up in corporate, yours truly thanks to some creative hacking, and happily read that they were all given the night off after all!

Jelena Starkiss: Building is pretty much all yours, Hun! Just avoid the lonesome security guard and make your way inside for phase two of my ingenious plan. Now said security guard is basically just the backup, the ACTUAL security, the bots and various systems, seem to very conveniently (for you) just gone into a mass maintenance update mode.

Choose a route into the HWT building close to the Government Center on Tau Station.

  • Walk right in the front entrance.
  • Climb up to find a way into the building.

Climb:

You walk round to the side of the giant building, comfortable in the Emberfest gloom brought about by the station's traditional dimming of the ambient light. The HWT monstrosity rises up and looms over the district like some mythical creature, squatting over the area. You spot some scaffolding, a happy coincidence, and use it to climb a ways up.

You manage to climb a fair distance. From this vantage point you can see the area and districts beyond, all shrouded in darkness and lit up by thousands of little, glittering lights that have been put up to commemorate the Emberfest. The vista stretches out before you like a blanket of stars over the station's buildings. Distant sounds of merriment drift upwards and you find yourself wondering why you're clutching the side of a dark building high above the city when everyone else is having a drink!

From this point, you can see a couple of options that may grant you entry of sorts.

Choose a way to get into the HWT building close to the Government Center on Tau Station.

  • Use a nearby window cleaning platform.
  • Pry open an air vent.

Window cleaning platform:
(Agility check)

After some false starts, you finally get the platform moving in the right direction. There are several open windows on the building and you slowly get the rig close enough for you to jump. You decide that looking down is not a good option and just go for it.

For one hair-raising moment you seem to hang in the air, hundreds of meters above the ground. The gloomy, glittering vista below spreads like an endless tableau and you wonder if perhaps you could have thought this idea out a little better. Then you clear the gap and land in someones dark and empty office. You almost don't hear the CORETECHS notification over the beating of your own heart.

  • Accept the incoming call.

Jelena Starkiss: Now THAT, was some fancy footwork, so to speak. Really surprised me there and that ain't easy, let me tell you! Had I a hat, I would tip it at you.

Jelena Starkiss: Now, remember that group of people I mentioned earlier, the ones we sent home via a lovely mail from corporate? Well that was just step one of my ingenious plan. See, I want to make life real easy for you right? I just want you to be able to waltz right in, get the tech, and walk right out again! So, we're going to set up a fake little hostage situation to give you a bit of a diversion, some cover so to speak. First things first, get to the elevators and head up to the 40th, that's marketing.

Walking to the nearest elevator, you proceed inside, bringing up a holo-display duplicate of the building and selecting the 40th floor. A little floating bubble confirms that this is indeed the Marketing department and a scrawling logo reads: "Exciting you about exciting weapons for 34 cycles." The lift begins to move as Jelena continues.

Jelena Starkiss: So, remember that email I mentioned? It, of course, came with a little spice on the side, in the form of an ingenious little bit of software a hacker I know made just for me. Now, the CORETECHS is built to be un-hackable. It just can't be done. But, what I CAN do, is create an echo, a sort of digital clone of someone's ID that can be broadcast for a short time until the system realizes there is a duplicate and cleans away the offending signal.

A pleasant little PING interrupts Jelena and announces that you have reached the Marketing Department of Hephaestus Weapons Tech: "Bringing the Narrative to the Art of Selling weapons. Enjoy your visit."

Jelena Starkiss: This is how we get our hostages! All I need from you is to round up some of these security bots who are now so conveniently going through their annual maintenance protocols and, once I upload the duplicate marketing department, we have ourselves a little Emberfest hostage party!

Figure out how to gather all the security robots for Jelena.

  • Round up the robots by hand.
  • Hack into the security network.

By hand:
(Stamina check)

It takes a long time, but after some heavy lifting, pushing, and not a small amount of swearing, you finally herd a good sized group of security bots crowded into the marketing department.

Call Jelena back.

  • Call Jelena.

You call Jelena and inform her that all the 'hostages' are in place. You can almost hear her grin and, after a short moment, you notice little ID tags popping up above each security bot, with different people's names being displayed in your CORETECHS.

Jelena Starkissed: Well! There we go, what a merry and festive little Emberfest office party this is eh? Now, get yourself to R&D pronto while I report this hostage situation like the model citizen that I am.

Jelena Starkiss: All you need to do is grab the prototype tech and get it all the way downstairs into what once used to be a vehicle parking garage. There is a high class transport bot waiting with a fairly classy vehicle there for you. My associates travel in style! Plus, it will be fairly inconspicuous during Emberfest no?

  • Get to the R&D Department.

You make your way back to the lifts and interact with the holo-display of the building. An area on the 47th floor is tagged as Research and Developed with the tagline: "Bringing you new and innovative ways to put the enemy in the ground (or in the air, or blasted all over the walls or some exciting combination therein.)"

The research and development department is quite large, taking up the whole floor. It is also, courtesy, you suspect, of Jelena, completely unsecured. You move through the area, taking stock of a number of bizarre and dangerous looking implements of death and/or pain along the way. There is a large room filled with various different versions of attack drones, each fitter with various types of weaponry. Another chamber seems to be a testing range for rocket powered ballistics. You even pass a lab that seems to test the effects of a chemical dispersion device on different materials. Most of the test materials look melted to some degree or another.

Finally, you locate the thermodynamic technology that Jelena described to you. There are a number of items consisting of the fundamental tech as well as two prototype pieces of gear. Around that time, your CORETECHS notifies you of the now familiar caller ID of Jelena Starkiss.

Jelena Starkiss: Wow! They showed up real fast! They've already got Consortium guards surrounding the building! We may have to rethink your exit strategy. We also need a way to get that tech out of the building separately. Did you notice anything in there we could use?

Find a way to get the tech out of the HWT building on Tau Station.

  • "I noticed some drones on my way here."
  • "There was a device that seemed to project some type of acid."
  • "Oh! They had some explosive ordnance, like a rocket launcher."

Drones:

Jelena Starkiss: Now that could actually work for us, yes! See, I knew there was a good reason I brought you along. Hell, as this is R&D I doubt you'll even need to hack them, they're probably ready for testing and the like. You just need to bag up the tech and attach it to the drones, then fly them out of there and to the coordinates I'll send you in a mo. Meanwhile, I will work on your exit strategy. Don't worry, I got your back partner!

  • "There was a device that seemed to project some type of acid."
  • "Oh! They had some explosive ordnance, like a rocket launcher."
  • Take the tech to the Drone room.

Drone room:

You gather up all the tech and the two pieces of gear and take them to the chamber with the assault drones.

You arrive at the chamber and notice four drones standing like mechanized birds of prey on their pedestals. An uplink device close-by links to all four of the drones and is likely the way to control them. As Jelena's voice intones loudly in your head, you realize with a start that she never disconnected her call.

Jelena Starkiss: Ha! They're really freaking out. Just asked me for my demands. For the moment, I've told them my name is Bill Clay and I want more worlds to conquer. That should have them in a jam while they call a psyops specialist to figure me out!

As Jelena talks, you attach the tech to each drone and step onto the control console. Your CORETECHS links up to the nearby system and you hear a gentle hum begin to emanate from the drones. Suddenly, four new fields of vision appear over your own, each connected to a different drone.

Jelena Starkiss: Hey! Is that the gentle hum of killer drone I hear in the background? Nicely done, Darling. Now fly them out of there pronto! Remember, we still gotta get you out too.

Fly the drones out of the building.

  • Fly the drones straight out of a window.
  • Fly the drones through the ventilation system.

Ventilation system:

You take control of the drones.

It takes a moment to adjust to the strange sensation of controlling four separate entities without physically moving yourself. The software, however, seems designed to help you adjust and compensate. The drones rise up, a little unsteadily at first, with their stolen payload and drift out of the room at your unspoken commands.

In your CORETECHS, you can see what each drone sees as well as a number of readouts that confer various statistics and scanner info. You guide the drones towards the nearest ventilation shaft. Once there, you pause for a moment as you consider how you might actually open the hatch. Suddenly, a small blast shakes your field of view and you realize one of the drones must responded to your unvoiced quandary. Feeling both amazed and a little shaken by the thought and its implications, you guide them through the shaft.

You guide the gently humming flying machines in single file through the system. You are able to make a fair amount of progress quite quickly, reaching the lower levels in very little time. At one point, one of the fields of view turns downward and you are able to make out a number of Consortium guards huddled around a speaker device, no doubt listening to more of Jelena's crazy demands.

Finally, you're able to exit the building unseen and proceed to the coordinates that Jelena sent you. There a team of men and women, other members of the Auld Lang Syne you assume, wait to take the drones and the tech you have brought them. You sever the connection.

Ask Jelena about your exit strategy.

  • "Jelena? Where am I going?"

Me: Jelena? Where am I going?

Jelena Starkiss: Actually…you're going up. And fast! Some security guard caught onto us. I locked him in but that smoghead got their attention by throwing a damn chair out of the window! They're swarming the place. You gotta go! Hurry! All the way to the roof. It's your only chance, trust me on this.

You dash out of the room and towards the nearest set of stairs. On the way, you hear a clanging from one of the vents above you.

Sergeant Mohn JcClane: Come out to Tau Station. We'll get together, have a few laughs…

Jelena Starkiss: Yeah.. that guard? He decided to try and circumvent my lockdown via the vents. Is it just me? Or does he sound a little sarcastic there?

Noting an exit hatchway for the ventilation shaft just ahead of you, you pick up your pace. You run through the door to the stairwell just as you hear a clang and a shout from behind you. Not stopping to look, you sprint up the stairs as fast as you can. You hear running footsteps and more voices from behind you. The Sergeant must have let others through somehow.

You reach the rooftop and blink in the darkness. A soft glow from one side of the building drifts up where the large letters HWT rest below.

Jelena Starkiss: Straight ahead…run! JUMP!!

Cursing and wondering if Jelena has tricked you to your death, you nevertheless sprint to the edge of the building and…LEAP! You fall, several moments pass as you wonder how it will feel and then you land, with a thud, in a soft, cushioned seat of what appears to be a small flyer. Jelena is sitting next to you, in the pilots seat and, naturally, she is grinning.

  • "What just happened?"

Me: What just happened?

The hatch above you hisses shut and Jelena pilot's the little craft down and into the shadows behind the buildings. It seems to be a small and agile vessel, built only for short hops and able to carry no more than two people.

Jelena Starkiss: Yeah, funniest thing really. Back when I first found my ship, salvaged her myself you know? Well, she has this little detachable section! The rest of the ship looked like a cargo freighter. It was a smuggler's wet dream actually, hidden compartments in the cargo bay and everything. But this little beauty, she was decked out in satin and soft velvet, even has a small bed in the back. And if you know about the access tunnels behind most stations' walls, like any good freebooter does, weeell, this lovely girl can come in awful handy huh?

You can only agree as you struggle to catch your breath and slow your heart rate down to a manageable level. Jelena soon lands the craft in a dark alley on the edge of the Government district and points to the back.

Jelena Starkiss: Now, I reckon I owe you some credits for a job supremely done eh? See we're going to take that tech you stole and retro-engineer it for real cheap and affordable heating for folks in the ruins. But, those two prototypes you found, hells I reckon they're yours for the keeping right? Go on, take 'em and vamoose before I change my mind! Though.. I have a feeling we're gonna see each other again real soon.

Jelena taps her forelock with two manicured fingernails in a dashing gesture of farewell and flashes you a brilliant smile. You grab the two prototypes she stowed in the back and exit the ship before it silently rises and disappears into the shadows above the city.

You have received 100.00 credits.

You have received 1 'The Nakatomi Plasma'.

You have received 1 'The Powell'.

You have completed the "Fly Hard: An Emberfest Tale" mission.

Notes

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