Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Forgotten Ghosts - Part 3: A Project: Incubi short story

Greetings friends!

So to date in our story you have been introduced to the following characters:

Paul: The Bounty Hunter
Red: The Warrior
Charlie: The Ghost
Protocol: The NPC AI

The Story So Far:
So the crew of the Goliath arrived at an undisclosed region of space to pick up a friendly ship called the Patriot.

The Patriot was supposed to be the ship belonging to a missing Ghost who was believed to have information valuable to the Free Port Authority; the governing body of Free Port, the largest Human colony in the Outer Fringe.

Once they arrived the ship was under attack from drone ships belonging to the Independent Network Interface. The Goliath destroyed 5 of the drones with the sixth and final making it's escape, but not before one drone was able to damage the Goliath's FTL drive.

With the threat of the drones gone the Goliath was able to board the Patriot. Inside no sign of the Ghost could be found and the power was dead.

Red was able to restart the ship's engines allowing access to the Patriot's cockpit within which Paul found Protocol; the ships active and very cryptic AI Core.

With the Goliath's FTL drive repaired and the toxic levels of air rising on the Patriot, Paul and Red returned to the Goliath downloading Protocol and taking it with them as they left to return to Free Port with the Patriot in tow.

And now; on with part three!


Red hated FTL travel. It made no sense to him how it was possible; to travel faster than light, he had never been the smartest of people, but even he knew that wasn't possible.

What made the experience so much worse was how time seemed to stand still while the FTL drive was active. They could walk around the ship and do whatever they wanted without problem, and when they reached their destination he could check the time, and low and behold time had indeed passed, just as long as was supposed to have passed in fact, often hours, days or even weeks depending on the distance travelled. It wasn't so much that time stopped rather it simply died every time they travelled.

They had arrived at Free Port with next to no problems and the journey had given them all time to think about what had happened on that ship, none more so than Paul who had spent every available minute locked away in the ship's holding cells trying to crack whatever information he could from the AI core.

As far as Red was aware, the Patriot had never been piloted by a Ghost, instead the AI itself was a Ghost, some new tech created by the UEF lab boys to take the fight back to Earth. They had tried to salvage the Phase Loop Drive from the Patriot but sadly it was beyond repair. Other than that the ship itself seemed next to useless leading all of the Goliath to agree that it must have been the AI that interested the Free Port Authority so much.

It was because of this interest that they all agreed not to hand over the AI before they knew why it was so important and for this reason they had all worked together in an attempt to figure out Protocol's secrets.

Charlie had ensured that Protocol, while being connected to the ship was kept isolated from the systems, allowing a drop of information into it's own core every so often but not enough to give it access. Charlie called this AI Water Torture.

Paul led the interrogation, he had seen first hand how much information the AI had on them all by just scanning his face and one thing he was not going to do was jeopardise his crew's safety by exposing them to the unknown consequences of what he was going to try and do.

Red's job was possibly the most vital of all, while Charlie monitored the flow of power to the AI Core and Paul argued with it over info, Red kept the Goliath running. He ensured it completed maintenance cycles when it was supposed to and prepared hot meals for them all when the ship's computer told him that enough time had passed for him to do so.

"Who created you!?" Demanded Paul at Protocol, it's electric blue bars appearing faded and dull.

Protocol waited and replied with the same answer it had for the previous three hours.

"I was not created, I was transferred" Protocol replied "I would much appreciate it if you could reconnect me into the Patriot please".

"You're not getting put back into your tin can until you tell me what I need to know!" Shouted Paul back at the Hologram display "One way or another you are going to tell me what I need to know" he continued, an obvious frustration in his voice "either that or I'll just give you over to the Network next time we bump into a drone! How'd you like that?"

The display shifted and shrank. Protocol's voice sounded quiet "I can not answer you as I do not know the answer" Protocol's hologram shifted and changed, it went on to explain to Paul that it's data banks did not go back to it's creation onto to when it was activated as the AI pilot of the Patriot. Protocol continued to tell Paul how it left it's point if origin when it was instructed to lead an attack on an INI force that it knew would fail and bring about it's own termination.

Red's voice burst out of the speakers "Boys, grab your shit! We're about to enter Free Port Docking!"

Paul hurried to the holding chamber's only window and looked out over the expanse before them; the sprawling docking arms of Free Port's Space Dock loomed ahead of them. They had already deactivated their FTL drive and had already entered the planet's atmosphere.

As the Goliath arrived at Free Port Charlie started scrambling around the cockpit, his Ghost display flashing images of weaponry and masked faces.
"We've got a problem boss!" Called out Charlie. He tapped some buttons on the Ghost display and the images projected onto the main ship display.

"Fifteen raiders located at the landing site, almost all Human with a couple of Kratel, armed and tooled to the teeth!" Charlie finished.

Paul searched through the display searching for something, he paused and double tapped the face of someone. The image flashed and quadrupled in size. "Here's our contact, bastard must have sold us out!"

There was a clunk of heavy metal behind them as they turned to see Red, now covered from head to toe in thick metal armour with a large rifle strapped to his back and a baseball bat sized club covered in rivets and bolts resting in his arms. He smiled at them both before speaking in a confident tone .

"Only fifteen?" Red joked "walk in the park!"

The Goliath docked with the Patriot in tow behind before it too docked at the neighbouring station, the access port to the Goliath opened and Paul stepped out alone.

Paul called out to his contact, a short thin man by the name of Davis "Hey!" He shouted "what's up with the armed escort?"

The man called Davis called back at Paul "Nothing personal, just making sure things go smoothly". Davis gestured to the Patriot and four raiders ran towards the ship, opened the access hatch and disappeared inside. After a minute or so had patched one of the Raiders stepped back outside and shook their head.

Davis almost growled at Paul "Where's the AI Core, Paul?"

Paul faked ignorance, it was not something he was good at but he had a backup plan ready. "What AI you talking about?"

Davis looked visibly angry at this reaction and with two fingers pointed directly at Paul. His raiders responded instantly by raising their guns and opening fire. Darting for the nearest bit of cover; a large docking arm, Paul shouted at the top of his lungs "Red! Now!"

The access door to the Goliath opened once more and Red strode out wearing his armour. He was a frightening sight, the armour giving him a good extra inches of height and bulking out his weight almost twofold, he was a walking tank and in his arms he held his large rifle which barked volleys of fire in the direction of Davis and his raiders.

Red's shots echoed across the docking site as the raiders ducked and dived for whatever cover they could find, Red laughed a throaty laugh as he saw Davis keel over from a single fist sized bullet hole in his chest.

"Sweet! Did you see that bro?" Red called over to Paul "I got one!"

Paul was pleased for Red and gave him a thumbs up, despite being an intimidating son of a bitch, Red could not aim with an actual gun to save his life, his rifle designed all around firing the largest, loudest and most lethal rounds possible so that in the few occasions he did hit, it would do some serious damage. It was then that Paul noticed that it was Davis who's been killed.

"Well crap!" Shouted Paul "that's our contract dead and gone!" The roar of Red's rifle was almost deafening and Paul wasn't sure at first if Red had heard him.

"Screw it!" Called back Red and continued to fire volley after volley into the routed raiders.

Behind them both the engines of the Goliath fired up and the access hatch opened once more, from inside Charlie shouted at both Red and Paul.

"Hey guys!" Called Charlie "we're getting outta here now!"

Paul got to his feet and sprinted through the hatch while Red paced slowly and deliberately backwards keeping his suppressing fire in the direction of the raiders, once inside the hatch he quickly spun on his heels and began to unstrap himself from his armour and made his way to the gunnery chair of the cockpit.

Red noticed with some surprise that Paul was not sat in the pilot seat and neither was Charlie, instead mounted onto the dashboard was Protocol's holo-mount. The unit was emitting the image of Protocol's speech bars in vibrant blue and they danced in large movements as it's voice apparently sung a song that Red had never heard before from the cockpit speakers.

Charlie placed both hands on Re and Paul's shoulders reassuringly as they looked on in dismay at the surreal image before them.

"Isn't she a beauty?" Asked Charlie "while you two were making friends outside, I got chatting with Proto' here, we both agreed that the best way out of here was to give her access to the ship" Charlie smiled as Protocol continued to sing her strange and unknown song to herself as the Goliath now untethered to the docking rig forcibly lifted itself from the docking station.

"Ok boys!" Called out Protocol "On my mark and we are out of here!"

Paul noticed the change in voice patterns from Protocol now she was connected to the Goliath. He didn't know why, but she seemed more animated than before, like the artificial life behind her was almost happy. Paul smiled to himself, it must have been the merging with the Goliath's latent AI, the Goliath had always been a quirky ship, and somehow Protocol must have picked up on this somehow.

"Ok!" Called out the AI voice once more "Ready, Set, Mark and GO!"

Protocol's holo display shifted to that of a blue ball that suddenly lit up as bright green as the Goliath's FTL drive activated. It took a moment to respond but before the crew knew it they were traveling far and away from Free Port.

Reality began to dawn on Paul as he slumped down into his pilot chair, the ship being controlled by their new willing and responsive AI Core. Paul laughed to himself, a self aware AI, now he had seen everything.

Paul knew that the next couple of weeks wouldn't be easy, they had killed a member of the Free Port Authority, and for that there would be reparations to pay, but a couple of jobs here, and giving a week or two for things to quieten down there, and things would go back to normal.

Now he just needed to figure out what was the deal with Protocol, and was Charlie right to trust the Goliath in it's electronic hands?


And on that note I end the first story set in my new game's universe.

What we are looking at here is an action based mission that could have gone a different way.
- If Paul had been a Smuggler rather than a Bounty a Hunter, or if he had better stats in persuasion (or whatever) then maybe he could have pulled off his plan and gotten away with his Jon's money and the AI core. Instead however there was a fight and thankfully Red with his modified rifle and Exo-suit were there to save the day.

Thankfully because of where the mission took place and because Charlie stated away from the combat they were able to escape before the Raiders were able to rally and return fire, but if it had taken longer to integrate the AI with the ship, or if Red didn't have the Suppressing Fire skill, then we could be looking at a different ending.

This is how a game can play out, with lots of possibilities and thanks to things working out mostly for the best the crew of the Goliath now has access to a Self Aware AI Core which will allow them access to special ship abilities normally only available when a crew member remains behind on this ship.

I hope you like what you've read so far, if you have any suggestions or just general feedback, please let me know!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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