At breakfast, the party members can tell that something is going on as the usual sleepy routine of the nomads is changed and the floating town is a hive of activity.
Jie asks around to find what is going on and learns that a school of daghadsi has been spotted and the nomads are preparing to take to sea.
Shortly after breakfast, several of the nomads arrive, bringing with them the party’s weapons – a joyous reunion for many. They are then led to one of the gunboats. A flotilla of a dozen gunboats then heads out ahead of the raft-town.
The Captain of the ship explains the party members’ role in the hunt. They are to keep the chimerocs which accompany the school of daghadsi off while the boat’s guns take down one of the daghadsi. He warns them to be careful not to fall into the sea, or they will surely be eaten by daghsharks.
The party members notice that there are significantly more crew on each of the other boats. It appears that the other boats have three dozen nomads on deck – a dozen with sharpshooter rifles, a dozen with shotguns, and a dozen with long pikes. They also notice that they are in the lead gunboat.
The flotilla spends the morning steaming across the seemingly endless expanse of ocean until they spot what appears, at first glance, to be an atoll of small islands in the distance. Upon closer investigation, however, they realize that this is the school of daghadsi.
The gunboats get into formation and the party members are told to get into position.
Once the gunboats are within 500m of the last of the daghadsi in the school, the guns of the gunboats erupt as they start to blast away at the huge beasts. As the first of the shells connect with their target, a mass of seething winged beasts launch from the living islands. And quite a large proportion of them start heading towards the lead gunboat where the party members are located.
As the winged creatures get closer, the party members can see that the chimerocs are enormous, and they look incredibly pissed off.
Once the first wave gets within range, the party members let rip with everything they have the lasers of Jie and Stian beam out towards the oncoming creatures like searchlights while the gauss needles coming from Taeva, Will and Max provides the flack. Most impressive of all, however, are the barrages sent up from Grim’s Mathilda which blasts a beast out of the sky with every (expensive) volley of grenades that he sends after them.
All of the party members together contribute towards downing the first wave of the chimerocs before they can get close to the boat. The chimerocs just keep on coming, however, with more of them appearing than the party members can knock out of the sky. Eventually one of the beasts manages to make it through the barrage and targets in on Jie, scratching her. Dropping Black Betty, she takes her pneumatic hammer, which smacks into the skull of the injured creature and sending it tumbling. Just as she is congratulating herself for a job well done, however, and enormous daghshark leaps from the ocean and it is only Jie’s reactions which stop her from getting well and truly munched upon.
Jie is pissed now. Dropping the pneumatic hammer, he retrieves Black Betty and takes on the leaping shark as they go one on one against one another. The other party members continue blasting away at the chimerocs, managing to keep them at bay.
Jie and the shark continue to slug it out. The daghshark is enormous, however, and its jaws are sharp. Even Jie’s armor is not sufficient to stop her getting well and truly gnawed upon. Stian heads over to give her a hand as he sees that she is going to be fishfood if he doesn’t. Together, the pair’s lasers manage to finish off the daghshark.
However, the lack of their lasers in the constant battle to keep the chimerocs at bay lets one through, who falls upon Stian, dropping him with an almighty bite. The others quickly blast the stricken beast before turning their attention back to the oncoming wave.
The chimerocs appear to be making one last ditch attempt to finish off the party members as the air seems to be filled with them. Grim is getting low on grenades now and has to ration out his remaining rounds while those with gauss pistols are tossing clips as their smoking guns continue their constant rain of death.
But now each of the five party members left standing has an angry chimeroc to contend with, and they all end up getting scratched or bitten although, fortunately for them, their armor soaks up most of the damage that the chimerocs dish out.
The party members help one another out to finish off the last of the beasts remaining. The party members stand panting for a while, covered in chimeroc gore as their smoking weapons are finally still. A mighty cheer goes up from below decks as they see that the last of the chimerocs has been defeated. Will immediately heads over to see to Stian as the boat continues to rock with the recoil of the three port-side guns that have been constantly bombarding the daghadsi while the party members were concentrating on the chimerocs.
Eventually the guns fall silent – presumably the daghadsi has been slain.
The crew members come up from below decks and heartily congratulate the party members on a job well done. Their reward for having taken down the majority of the daghadsi’s colony of chimerocs is that the gunboat doesn’t have to wait around for the messy business of starting to carve up the huge hulking form of the creature, so the gunboat is able to return straight to the nomad’s floating colony, which is slowly making its way towards the kill.
It is dusk by the time that the gunboat returns. The Captain leads the party members off, excitedly telling all of the nomads as to the party members heroic activities, leading to much back slapping and shaking of hands as the Captain leads them through to the Elders’ residence.
They wait for a short while in the antechamber before being led in to meet with Elders. Their reaction is very different from the first time that they entered the chamber as the Elders greet them all warmly and invite them to sit at the table to dine with them. They now refer to the party members as ‘brothers’.
The general backslapping and hearty congratulations continue for well over an hour, during which time everyone starts to dine on a fish feast of epic proportions.
During the course of the conversation though, the Elders’ delight at having made a successful daghadsi hunt with no loss of life this time becomes more and more muted as talk turns to the problems that they are having with Seaharvester.
Jie translates their concerns. As the ecological pressure groups believe, Seaharvester are ignoring the quota that they officially agreed to and are still killing far more daghadsi than it is possible to sustain. The Elders fear that, if the situation continues for much longer, there won’t be enough daghadsi remaining for the sea nomads to continue with their way of life and they will all be doomed.
According to the quota agreement, each of the Seaharvester whaling ships should only take one daghadsi per month. However, they have seen that at least one of their ships is taking a great deal more than its quota. This ship is in the vicinity and has been harvesting the school that the sea nomads have already been following.
The Elders remind the party members that Max’s original story was that they were here to help the sea nomads to solve this problem. The sea nomads have tried to take on Seaharvester whalers in the past, but the 5" guns of their gunboats are no match for the laser turrets of the Seaharvester vessels and the sea nomads lost a lot of ships and men before they called off the attack. They are willing to try again though with the party members’ help.
If the party members don’t want to help, then the Elders understand and there will be no hard feelings. They are willing to take the party members to land in one of their gunboats. However, as they are 2000km from land and the gunboats don’t travel terribly fast, the voyage will be a long one. The Elders inform the party members that the Seaharvester whaler has several ‘flying metal ships’ onboard which would make the journey in a matter of hours however, were the party members to ‘acquire’ one while helping out the sea nomads.
“What could really hurt Seaharvester is proof from their own records from on board one of their own vessels that they are willingly disregarding rules laid onto them by their parent company SuSAG” Jie says. “SuSAG wouldn’t care of course, heck, may even give them a medal. But if those Glisten Environmentalists see Seaharvester totally ignoring SuSAG, they may start up another, bolder campaign to do justice on Pagaton. SuSAG meanwhile will look like an ineffectual punk. That’s bad for stocks. The trillions lost by no confidence investors would more than out way the loss from Pagaton.”
Jie says the above while eating the spiced cornia of the eye of her shark kill and wearing the native garb of dried woven seaweed. She punctuates her grand scheme with a stone knife that she jabs in the air.
Max looks highly impressed as Jie makes her speech:
“Bloody ‘ell, girl. I’m impressed. Your knowledge of the impact upon events influencing the stock prices of major companies certainly ‘as come on a long way since that time you decided it was the right time to invest in iridium just after we got some insider knowledge that extensive new sources were soon to be comin’ onto the market. Well done!”
Stian is listening carefully to the Elders, weighing up the pros and cons, observing their traditions as best he can. He can see Jie has no intention of not helping them, her loyalty is clear and admirable.
“We’re carrying limited ammo and I lost my advanced boarding vacc suit on the AGC,” he says. “Facing up to gauss rifle equipped combat armour goons wouldn’t be wise but the Seaharvester crews will be equipped how?”
“But we need one the grav vehicles Seaharvester has on their ship else we have a week or two on the open sea.”
“Is that really a problem?”
“We’re how many weeks behind the curve in pursuit of the Connoisseur? If he’s been taken to be a cook there’s a minimum standard he’ll be being held captive at, there’s a chance his captures are abusing him but it’s his incarceration that we need to undo.”
“A sealed grav vehicle will get us back to the Princess where we can re-equip or regroup or it will get us quickly to the Overbluff’s base.”
“The Callios have been out gunned by Seaharvester’s lasers so going toe to toe won’t happen. How can we get onto a ship under cover?”
Stian asks an Elder:
“Have you been on board one of the Seaharvester ships? How did you do it? If not, how close have you been? What can you tell us about them, what they wear, what they carry, do they have weapons like ours?”
With Jie translating, the Elders tell the party members everything they know about the ships. They did manage to get someone on board one of their vessels – several months ago when Seaharvester was looking for new employees. Their employee was shuttled from Seaharvester’s main port at Furingort by air/truck (which was not sealed for flight outside the atmosphere) onboard one of the whaling ships and their spy stayed onboard for six weeks. Upon his return to Furingort for his six weeks off, he returned to the Callios to tell them all that he discovered.
The Elders explain in detail what their spy told them regarding the Seaharvester vessels. The guards carry gauss pistols as side arms and wear cloth. There is an armory onboard, however, where the Elders believe there is some more serious hardware available.
Once the party members have learned all they realize that they are likely to learn about the Seaharvester ship, they discuss the possibilities among themselves. They soon realize that, even with the help of the Callios, a direct assault upon the vessel would be suicidal due to the superior weaponry of the whaling ship. They understand that the only chance they have is to take the stealthy approach – to find a way of getting onboard, check the vessel’s computers in order to get evidence of their misdeeds and then make their getaway in a stolen grav/truck.
The only question remaining is how they should get onboard in the first place.
As the conversation continues, Stian looks quietly stumped but does his best to mask his thoughts: out gunned, out done on mobility, it really doesn’t look like this is a mission the party should pursue. However, looking over at Jie, whose eyes have glazed over and may just be drooling, he can’t quite see from here, it seems there’s no hope for common sense prevailing.
“However, who said we had to take care of this now?” he thinks to himself. “Isn’t the Connoisseur more important? Can we come back to the Sea Harvesters when we’re more suitably equipped?”
Keeping those thoughts to himself till alone with the group Stian asks:
“Do the Callios have either submersible vehicles or have they mastered riding on the backs of a suitable (either flying or swimming) local beast?”
Jie translates for Stian and then translates the Elders’ answers back to him:
“No, they have not developed zeppelin technology and the only flying creatures out in the middle of the oceans are the chimerocs. They have no reason to go underwater for long periods of time. There are too many harmful creatures down there that only the dolphins are able to live with.”
“How about using our (and the Nomads’) tried and true method: getting ourselves employed?” Will suggests. “Perhaps we could ambush an appropriately sized group on shore leave, turn them over to the nomads for safe-keeping, and apply for the suddenly available jobs. Not fast, but perhaps the safest method of getting on board.”
“Although I applaud the Captain’s idea of using a method that will keep me here longer, I agree that Stian is right,” Jie says. “The reason we’re even here is the Connoisseur. I want to solve this SeaHarvester problem Now by gaining the Nomads help with the real job…but how?”
“Dolphins,” Stian ponders. “What can the Callios tell us about the Dolphins here? Are they in contact? What kind of relationship do they have?”
Jie nods and translates. Stian can tell by the sneers that come over the faces of the Elders that they are no great friends of the Dolphins.
“They says that the dolphins are very arrogant – they keep going on about how much bigger their brains are than humans. To which the Callios respond that large brains don’t mean shit when you have opposable thumbs and a harpoon gun.”
“They don’t have a great deal to do with one another. The dolphins here, although were artificially introduced to Pagaton, have lost access to all of the tech that they brought with them and have ‘gone native’. They hate SeaHarvester as much as the Callios do and so the Callios think that they may work with us if we could do something about them.”
“I am not sure how much use that they could be without weapons though. They tend to form pods of a couple of dozen usually.”
There is a long pregnant pause – it appears as if no one can find an easy solution to the problem of getting onboard the SeaHarvester vessel.
Jie feels the rocking sway of the nomad’s make-shift island as it gets tossed about in the rough seas of her home planet. Somewhere in the bowels of the labyrinthine floating village, she has stowed away her Gel-Cloth ships uniform and locked up ‘Black Betty’. She has gone native. On her oriental face, she has applied the grease paint in the manner of a Calios Warrior, one who fought and survived the attacks of the multitude of horrendous sea creatures that Pagaton has to offer. Her hand is tightly clenching a harpoon made of fire-hardened driftwood topped by a blade of Yavru teeth bound together by dried seaweed. She is almost indistinguishable from the others of this place, her olive skin now barely covered by a chain-mail bikini and Skreeker feathers. Her eyes glisten with the fervor of defeating the SeaHarvester menace just as the Elders…her Elders, need her to do.
It would seem she is wholly set upon a path of suicidal destruction.
Grim had noticed the changes in Jie. Never one to wear excessive clothing, her current attire made her look like a wiry Dryad. The warpaint added to the fantastic effect.
Finishing the last of the fish he’d been given for lunch, he turned to Jie and asks:
“What do you want to do, Marine?”
“Sit around here and fish? If we’re going to rescue The Connoisseur, we need to get on it.”
He then ducks the anticipated slap from Jie.
Stian, still conscious of his status of company noob and being in a conundrum as to where this adventure will lead him and/or help him, keeps schtumm in front of the others. But he’s developing a soft spot for the marine and is perplexed by her change of garb and stance, though at the same time, appreciative of a warrior woman in a bikini.
When Stian finds himself alone with Jie, he asks in an offhand, oblique kind of way:
“Marine, have you forgotten your primary mission?”.
Jie is silent for a moment as the realization comes over her that what Stian is saying is true – she agreed to the mission to rescue The Connoisseur and so this must be the primary objective.
“OK, getting back to rescuing The Connoisseur it is then.”
The pair of them join back up with the others, where Jie tells them that she has no more objections to focusing on the original mission.
“Well then if there’s no way to get kinked up with the ‘fins then we should get back to hunting for The Connoisseur,” agrees Grim. “But will they take us round to the island with the merc camp we were originally going too before the AGC was downed? What will we do when we get there: low on ammo and without quick way off the island after we’re done?”
“Let me go and see what The Elders have to say,” says Jie, before heading back into the room.
She returns some 15 minutes later.
“Although the Elders were disappointed that we can’t be of immediate help against SeaHarvester they understand our situation,” she says. “They say that they are still very much in our debt for the help on the hunt earlier.”
“As a result, they have agreed to put a gunboat at our disposal to take us to the island and to take us back again afterwards.”
With the decision to concentrate on finding The Connoisseur for now having been made, the party members turn their attention to the subject as to where they should go. They quickly discount the idea of taking the gunboat directly to the island, figuring that the ship would easily be spotted upon its final approach. Instead they decide to take the boat firstly to Soumester and to ask some questions here before deciding on how to make the final approach to the island.
Once all of the party members are in agreement, Jie suggests that they ask if they can leave immediately as it will take more than two days to go to Soumester and they are already way behind on their mission. Jie goes back to ask the Elders if it is possible that they can leave immediately and the Elders agree. One of the gunboat captains is chosen to take the party member on their journey.
The Elders shake hands with everyone, thanking them once more for all their help and then the party members go to collect their belongings before following the gunboat captain to his ship.
By the time that the gunboat is ready for departure, it is already late at night. The party members retire to the hammocks set up for them below decks and most are already asleep by the time that the gunboat sets off from the artificial island that has been their home for the past few days.