S3M 1×09: “Wayward Son”

Dramatis Personæ

It is around 22:00 local with the Coffin en route back to the Omen. At Tulk’s request, AJ pressurizes the craft so that Tulk can chat with Carter regarding the guys who were chasing him. Carter demands to know who the Crew are as they clearly aren’t employees of “Boss” Winfrey; this gives Tulk an angle and he gets confirmation that the men pursuing Carter are cops. Carter grudgingly reveals that he is seeking the lost stash of Cooper Hobbs, a post-Exodus villain of some notoriety who was rumored to have used Laughing Buddha as a hiding spot for his captured loots, including a stolen painting, the original Cavallari Sunrise which is potentially worth millions. During this interrogation, Tulk gets a ping from his data mining program which is set to alert him when any of his previous aliases are used, but he pretends not to notice.

Jake Dorne
AKA “Carter”

They dock with the Omen and, while AJ runs through the power down sequence, Tulk and JoJo escort Carter to the hold. Upon recognizing his father’s company trade-dress on the rented habitation module, Carter tries to bolt but is wrestled into submission and punched. Realizing that they need a more long-term solution, Tulk sends JoJo to retrieve his medical gear so he can set up a drip to keep Carter asleep. This gives Carter an opportunity and he makes a run for it. After dodging out of the way of Tulk’s pistol whip to the face, Carter scrambles up the stairs into the mid-level, but Calista, who has been alerted to the noise, launches herself down from the tower, slamming both feet squarely into Carter’s back and sending him stumbling. JoJo, who has by now retrieved his needler, springs forward and jams it into Carter’s neck, injecting a strong sedative that knocks their kidnap job out. AJ is just now exiting the Coffin and shakes his head. Tulk strip Carter out of his smart vacc suit and his clothes, then scans him to ensure that there weren’t any surprises, and lets JoJo set up a sedative drip. They relocate the unconscious Carter to a bed where the doctor can monitor him.

While this is going on, AJ chats with Calista about the local rules regarding duels and then asks her if she’s capable and willing to stand in as his second before retiring to his cabin where he sleeps surprisingly well. Meanwhile, Calista retreats to her cabin where she wakes up Zennith to let him know about the duel; Zennith starts thinking about making a directed sound weapon to distract AJ’s foe. Tulk retires himself and reviews his mail, learning that it is a leaked intra-agency vmail stating that they have a new image of the “second man” in the IBM embezzlement case with a BOLO order. The leak comes from FreeSpace, a hacker organization like WikiLeaks or Anonymous. Tulk then spends several hours looking for cargo; he finds two lots, but only wins one. Meanwhile, JoJo watches over their patient, has another hamburger, and gets some sleep.

AJ is up early the following day and secrets himself in the cockpit to play the violin in order to center himself. A little bit before the time of the duel, the Crew (minus Tulk, who remains behind on the Omen) head out to the park. There is a small courtyard within the park that, if there wasn’t potential ensuing bloodshed, might actually be peaceful. Exactly on time, Bale’s entourage arrives and it is a considerable one, with Boellan, Tohre-Chi, and others. Bella is in their midst and appears unscathed – she offers AJ a hesitant smile – but far more curious to AJ is how none of Bale’s entourage are willing to look AJ in the eyes.

‘I’m pleased that you decided to show up after all,’ Bale tells AJ who replies stiffly that he said he would before shifting his full attention to Bella and asking if she is okay. Bale then gives a speech, something he appears pretty good at doing, about them being present to see that honor is satisfied. Bella is given an opportunity to give AJ one last cuddle; she whispers for AJ to not kill Bale which momentarily causes AJ to give her a confused look before shoving that aside and focus instead on Bale. The two men square off and AJ, falling back on his Taareh training, removes his shirt to reveal the extensive scarring he received at the hands of Terran Federal Republic interrogators. Bale is momentarily surprised, then acknowledges ‘Taareh style’ and does the same, though he is nowhere near as scarred. The two men meet in the center of the courtyard with their swords and the duel begins.

They circle one another and then Bale lunges forward first. AJ draws first blood with a lucky strike – he parries a thrust, then counters with a slash that carves a bloody furrow across the pirate’s chest and causes him to go to a knee in agonized shock. The entourage audibly gasp in surprise at this and AJ steps forward to threaten with his cutlass. ‘Are we done?’ he asks, but Bale responds with a gruff, ‘I’m not quite done yet.’ AJ, being an honorable sort, lets the man stand and recover his weapon. They clash again and AJ parries, sideslips and thrusts. Only after the duel is complete does AJ realizes that Bale intentionally fumbled his parry. Bale goes down, this time unable to continue, and AJ calls out for a medic – JoJo springs forward to do first aid. AJ then turns to Bale’s second, Atilios, and repeats his previous question: ‘Are we done here?’ The big Praxian nods as a barely conscious Bale weakly declares that honor is satisfied before he is hurried off to a hospital. Bella throws herself into AJ’s arms gleefully and, when asks what that was about, she whispers that they’ll discuss it later, after they celebrate.

Back at the Omen, Tulk is finally asleep when he is buzzed awake due to an alarm advising him that someone is at the door. He activates the vid and recognizes “Boss” Winfrey, along with multiple beefy-looking cops. Winfrey informs Tulk that he is present to serve a warrant to search the ship for a fugitive. As a delaying tactic, Tulk puts the boss on hold while he calls the captain (who informs Tulk that he’s gathering the rest of the crew); when he gets back to Winfrey, the man identifies Tulk by name. Thinking quickly, Tulk declares that there is a ramp malfunction that he’s looking into; he then rushes to where Carter is sedated, jams a stimulant into the unconscious man to wake him. Once Carter is conscious, the two manage to get him into the stealth compartment. When Tulk finally does open the ramp to allow Winfrey and the cops entrance, he realizes that his attempts to make the malfunction look real has actually damaged the ramp.

The warrant looks valid and the trail that Winfrey’s boys followed is logical – LB’s flight control logged the Coffin although AJ’s flight path was sufficiently difficult to follow that the LEOs aren’t entirely positive that it was the Coffin – and Tulk accompanies them as they search through the ship. As they do so, Tulk plays up the mercenary card and learns that Winfrey is on the hunt for Carter for unspecified reasons; fortunately, the LEOs did not bring a bio-sniffer and do not find anything. They depart, irritated, and Tulk waits long enough for them to get clear before returning to the habitation module where he finds the door open. Carter is gone.

Tulk rushes to the ramp and looks across the concourse but finds no sign of Carter even though the man was stark naked. ‘Well, shit,’ Tulk murmurs.

Player Notes:

  • GM rambled on in the beginning about what exactly is “illegal” in the S3M-universe … and we never actually resolved this.
  • We’ve run into this issue before where one PC monopolizes the limelight due to the ongoing narrative; in a game I ran relatively recently, I’ve also had a duel with just one PC active. I do wish there was some way to better incorporate the other players into a scenario like this.
  • AJ’s victory against Bale was kind of tainted with the pirate sort of throwing the fight at the end, but prior to that, AJ was actually winning so it counts. With Giger’s approval, I went ahead and picked up off-setting Reputations, a +1 with low-lifes & pirate wannabes as “Badass Pirate Duelist” and a -1 with LEOs as a vigilante pirate hunter. I sort of envision this reputation as being more trouble as it is worth, sort of like a ‘Jim Holden’ from The Expanse kind of rep or a badass gunslinger in the 1800s where idiots just seem intent on testing him.
  • It was certainly Unlucky of Tulk to be on the ship by himself when Boss Winfrey & Co. showed up. And, as a fan of “Justified,” I totally envisioned that show with this ending.

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