Keeping the Peace

Cat survivors' protests are a daily headache for the station's Governor. Can you find a way to calm tensions?

Level: 10
Start: Orson Xian, Government Center, Barnard’s Star Jump Gate

Introduction

Outside the Ministry, you encounter a citizen protest. A small crowd addresses the powers inside with the usual means. Slogans, projected huge onto the exposed rock above, hint at grievances and demands. “END BAKKER SILENCE!” sits across an uneven stretch of the station’s internal Basalt wall. Below it, simply; “TRUTH!”

The group intrigues you. Among fresh-faced youths, there are also many older residents. At the front, one of them starts a vociferous chant. The mob responds by turning to face him.

You have accepted the "Keeping the Peace" mission.

Look at Old Mo

Next NPC: Old Mo, Government Center, Barnard’s Star Jump Gate

The faded insignia on Mo's tattered jacket suggest a pre-Cat Consortium uniform, frayed with cycles of wear but still intact, not unlike Mo himself. Despite his age, there's a vigor in Old Mo's step that comes from knowing others depend on him. As a campaigner for Cat survivors on Barnard's Star Jump Gate, he sports the typical blue-dyed beard of those raising awareness about this sometimes-neglected group.

  • Take a closer look at the protest.

The chant gets louder as you edge forward. It's not elaborate: a shrill prompt from the leader, met with a rowdy clamor from the rabble behind.

The leader shouts: Truth and justice, HOW?

He cups his ear, theatrically prompting the crowd to respond.

The crowd chants: Publish Bakker NOW!

The watching Ministry guards seem wearied rather than threatened by the group. Behind, some passersby pause to regard the scene, but most barely register it, occupied instead with their own daily errands. A few stand further back wielding hand-held 360-degree recorders. They tut in annoyance as you pass, briefly blocking their angle.

  • Looks like trouble. Walk away.
  • Stick around. See what happens.

Walk away:

These things can get out of hand quickly. You're not in the mood to risk a brig sentence for someone else's quarrel. Not today, anyway. You walk away from the rag-tag huddle and their rhythmic chants, back to the general bustle of the station's busy central walkway.

You have failed the "Keeping the Peace" mission. You can retake this mission and try again.

Stick around:

Despite the commotion, the Ministry itself seems normal. Little stirs apart from a deep-blue Consortium flag, swaying gently to the rhythms of an adjacent air recycler. Below, a pair of staffers chat idly in the courtyard. The demo is noisy, but it's not getting much attention yet. Out in front, the ringleader steps up his efforts. He waves a hand and honking klaxons erupt from the crowd. Then a metallic thud as someone's boot uses a bulkhead as a drum. Dumdum-dum. Dumdum-dum. A new chant syncs to the beat, calling for the station's governor.

Protestors shout: ORSON XIAN… FACE US NOW!

It's an ambitious demand. But after a few repetitions, it works. From the Ministry's main door a purposeful official emerges, flanked by a single guard. They march over, stopping a few paces from the protest. The official raises a weary hand to quieten the crowd, before turning to the lead agitator at the front.

  • Move closer to hear the exchange.

You sidle carefully through the crowd, stopping a few rows from the front. Here, the view is good enough to recognize the official as Governor Orson Xian, whose face adorns the welcome posters in shuttle arrivals.

Governor Xian says: Back again, Mo? Didn't we cover everything yesterday? And the day before that?

His tone is a few light years from warm. More like the forced politeness of a tired professional. He sighs, like a Cirque Centauri stand-up sick of working a stale script, then gestures at the watching pack.

Xian continues: Do these brave survivors not deserve a rest?

Mo exclaims: A rest?! Many here saw Catastrophe's hells first-hand… And still, cycles later, nobody has told them why! What they deserve, Governor… is TRUTH!

Mo shouts the last word, eliciting whoops and yeahs from the protestors. To your left, a young woman expresses herself with a throaty shriek.

  • Stay. Keep listening.
  • Leave before something happens.

Leave:

You don't feel unsafe, but something tells you this could escalate. Better leave before it does. Gently, and without drawing attention, you slip away. After a few steps, the noise of the protest is replaced by the station's everyday bustle.

You have failed the "Keeping the Peace" mission. You can retake this mission and try again.

Stay:

The governor nods, patiently formulating his response as the heckles subside.

Governor Xian says: I've nothing but respect for the brave survivors who pulled us through the darkest days of Catastrophe. Without them, we wouldn't stand here today… Our biggest challenge now is to unravel the secrets of those terrible events. The Bakker Inquest was a start, at least for helping us learn what happened locally, here at the Jump Gate, all those cycles ago, when Cat came… But-

Again the crowd bristles with discontent. Mo seizes the opportunity to interject.

Mo says: There can be no "but!" We stand here as survivors of something YOU can only imagine… Why shouldn't we have access to Bakker's answers?!! We demand publication of the findings! But all you give us is scaremongering and excuses. What exactly are we s'posed to be 'fraid of, Governor? War? Another Cat? All because you released a few classified files to bring peace to a dozen survivors in their final days… Don't make me laugh!

The atmosphere sharpens. To your left a gap in the bodies opens. In it, the shrieking youth from before smears red paint onto an adjacent bulkhead. Huge letters proclaim that 'ORSON XIAN = LYING BAST-' You're not the only one that sees where this is going. To your right, a guard lifts his baton, urging her to desist. She halts briefly, feigning compliance, grins, then resumes her vandalism. They stand either side of you as the threat of violence crystallizes into tangible reality.

  • Run away. This could turn ugly.
  • Intervene. Persuade the youth to comply.
  • Intervene. Intimidate the youth to comply.
  • Defend the protestor. Stand between her and the guard.

Run away:

You take a deep breath, visualize the direction of the station's central walkways behind you, turn, and sprint. Somehow you manage not to bump anyone hard enough to draw their attention from the stand-off developing ahead. After a few units your pace finally slows as you return to the station's everyday bustle.

You have failed the "Keeping the Peace" mission. You can retake this mission and try again.

Persuade:
(social check)

You wave your arms, trying to pull the young woman's focus from the guard onto yourself.

Me: Hey! Don't give him an excuse… Trust me, this isn't how you get what you want.

It gets through. She seems annoyed as she finally registers your presence. Then she looks around at Mo, Xian, the guard, and the observers filming it all from the side. She drops her paint-roller, seemingly coming to her senses. The guard behind relaxes, lowering the stun rod poised above his head. Back in front, Governor Xian interjects, keen to re-establish order.

Governor Xian says: Shall we leave it there, Mo? I'd say we've all made our positions clear, at least for today. But I've no doubt you'll be back tomorrow…

Mo says: Tomorrow, and every other day, Governor. Until you publish Bakker's findings and give these people the answers they deserve!

There's a modest cheer for Mo's closing statement. It's clear the group's energy is dissipating now. The governor turns, issues an order into his lapel mic, and disappears back into the Ministry entrance, trailed by the slightly-shaken guard. You've barely caught your own breath when your CORETECHS alert flashes an incoming message alert. The sender field says: 'O.XIAN'.

  • Read it.

You double-check it. The message really is from Governor Xian, calling you for a meeting right away. It reads:

O.XIAN Dear <name>. Your intervention is much appreciated. I want to express my gratitude in person. Please come to see me. Immediately. Kind regards, Orson.

Around you the protest has mostly dispersed. One or two linger, apparently making arrangements for tomorrow's return.

  • Head inside to see Governer Xian.
  • Talk to the protesters.

Talk:

You approach the elderly pair, muttering and gesticulating as they plan for tomorrow. People their age are usually a rare sight, but not at this protest. The shorter one, a woman, addresses you in odd, pre-Cat English.

She says: What can we do you for, stranger?

  • Ask her age.
  • Ask about their plans for tomorrow's protest.

Age:

Me: I have a question actually, if it's not too personal… How old are you?

You brace for a frosty rebuff but she chuckles instead.

She says: Not used to seeing people like me, young'un? I don't blame ya for being curious… Near enough three hundred cycles I've seen. Not all of em pretty though…

  • Ask about their plans for tomorrow's protest.
  • Ask if she lived through Catastrophe.

Catastrophe:

Me: So you lived through it? Catastrophe…

She bows her head solemnly by way of answer, appearing slightly upset.

She says: That I did, young'un. Long time ago. Still hurts like it was yesterday though… Excuse me, I should be going.

There's a glaze in her eyes as she bids you goodbye, taking her friend's hand as they wander off back in the direction of the residences up on The Perch.

  • Head inside to see Governor Xian.

In the Ministry, citizens mill between desks and terminals, from one queue to another. A junior staffer leads you past the ration dispensers and up to a waiting area on the top floor. He mumbles something about a short delay to the Governor's schedule, invites you to take a seat, and leaves. Unlike the laminate benches downstairs, there are wide-berth foam armchairs here. You sink into one, passing the time by eavesdropping on some staffers discussing the earlier protest.

A young, male voice says: Honestly… That protestor deserved a whack. You're gonna call me a meany, but some people… only way they learn is a baton bruise.

An older female voice emits a mock gasp, followed by a conspiring giggle.

She says: So. True. But… Not the older ones, I sorta feel sorry for em… I mean, imagine actually living through Cat. What. The. Hell?! Y'know?

The first one says: Yeah, I s'pose… Anyway, I almost forgot. GUESS who I saw yesterday, kinda drunk-looking, by the back tunnels in the Perch, where ya only go if getting high is on ya mind… Clue: begins with 'F.'

She replies: Ooo I don't know… His highness, bossy king of the universe… Felix!

They cackle in delight at the flavorsome gossip. Your mind drifts back to the stand-off. Would he really have hit her, if you hadn't intervened? You mull the question as a guard appears, motioning for you to follow. Two wordless corridors later, he shows you to a clear glass door marked 'GOVERNOR'S OFFICE.'

Look at Orson Xian

Next NPC: Orson Xian, Government Center, Barnard’s Star Jump Gate

  • Enter the office.

The governor's office is spacious, as far as any place on a station can be, but the interior is sparsely functional. Only the real wood desk stands out. Probably a diplomatic gift from Estación de Amazon. Otherwise it's standard-issue wall panels and furnishings all the way. You step in and the guard closes the door behind you, leaving you alone with Xian. Looks like they did a background check on you. At least enough to conclude you aren't the Governor-murdering type.

Governor Xian says: <name>, it's a pleasure. Thank you for calming that tricky stand-off earlier… You were calm under pressure, I like that.

Me: Er- thanks. Happy to help.

Xian says: But I'm puzzled. You're not affiliated to that group… What's the basis of your influence? We know it was your first protest…

Xian's tone is light, as if to gloss over the awkwardness of admitting just how much of a background check they did while you were sat in that waiting room.

Xian adds: You were drawn to it by the media coverage perhaps? One of those blog feeds maybe?

  • Ignore his question. Ask why you're here.
  • "Coverage?" Confess that you haven't a clue what he's talking about.

Confess:

Me: More of an accident, really. I was passing and heard the noise. Don't know about any media coverage…

Governor Xian says: Really? Then you probably don't realize you'll soon be a minor Jump Gate celebrity… Get ready for your fifteen segments of fame!

Xian's manner is puzzling. He watches you intently for a little longer than is comfortable, before turning to activate a wall display. It shows a bulletin site on the local network, "GATE-FACTS". The landing page features a video from the protest, in which you stand between protestor and guard, doing your best to avert violence.

He says: Strange to see oneself recorded, isn't it? I've had to get used to it myself. These protest videos more or less always make the landing pages… The more controversial, the better. That's why I'm so grateful for your intervention. Violence, as you can imagine, goes viral pretty fast… This'd have a hundred times the hits by now if you hadn't stepped in. And then I'd have twice as many to face at tomorrow's protest…

He pauses, examining your reaction. You realize that his CORETECHS have probably been scanning your features for lie tics since you first entered. The Consortium doesn't skimp on senior staffers' neuro-mods; his chairs may be basic, but his augs aren't. He's evaluating you. You'd feel better if you knew what for.

  • Ask what this is really about.

He seems to hear your question before you've even had time to verbalize it. You make a mental note never to lie to this man.

Governor Xian says: Forgive me, <name>, I know you're no fool. You're suspecting there's more to this than I've told you.

Me: Now that you mention it, yes. I'm curious…

The Governor nods. You seem to have passed whatever test he was conducting. He now regards you normally, rather than with the half-focused glare of someone preoccupied by a CORETECHS interface.

He says: This isn't an easy station to manage, <name>, but it's a duty I take seriously. Above all else, I'm here to keep us safe. And that means looking at the bigger picture… You know, Post-Cat, the rumors here spread like wildfire. There was a battle, they said. Two ships, one Consortium, one Gaule… I don't need to explain the implications of this to you… So, a few cycles ago, the Consortium commissioned the Bakker Inquest into this station's Cat experience. For the sake of our present safety, we needed the truth… Relations with the Gaule aren't always easy. If they attacked us, if that's what started it all… Well, that's something we should know about, isn't it?

He sighs heavily, as if reminded of the weight of responsibility he carries daily.

Xian resumes: Bakker's work is of vital strategic importance. It wasn't conducted for the sake of a few ageing survivors, no matter the traumas they bare… I can't risk a swell of public support for their cause. The files are classified, and must remain so. That's where you come in. Find a way to stop these protests and you'll be well rewarded.

  • "You're offering me a job?"

Me: You're offering me a job?

Governor Xian says: I'm offering you… an assignment, <name>. This is a stressful situation. Carswood, the staffer on it previously, suffered a- … Let's call it a "breakdown". We need a calming intervention here. You're being asked to influence thinking, not crack ribs. No violence. If I wanted a thug, I'd have found someone else. It's important we aren't seen to be suppressing survivors' voices… A delicate situation, but you're a capable person. What do you say?

  • Accept the Governor's offer.
  • Reject the Governor's offer.

Reject:

Me: No thanks, Ser. I'm flattered that you think so highly of me, but this doesn't sound like something I want to get mixed up in.

Governor Xian looks somewhat disappointed, then does his understanding nod again.

He says: That's your choice, I respect that. Thank you for your time. You'll receive a small token of our appreciation for your earlier intervention nonetheless. Good bye, <name>.

Xian mumbles a syllable into his lapel mic and the guard reappears in the doorway, again wordlessly motioning for you to follow him. On your way back through the Ministry's corridors you get an alert of a small credit transfer into your account.

You have received 200.00 credits.

You have completed the "Keeping the Peace" mission.

Accept:

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License