Shattergrounds

Infinity

Slick Burned

300 POINTS
Nomads
SpeculaKilla
VS O-12
edpool3

Personal Background

This was my first game of Infinity in more than 5 years, and I was playing an opponent who had last played in N2. It was a fun, but laborious, game of frequent rules look-ups that ran quite long. Mistakes were made, things were forgotten about, and at some point I stopped taking pictures in an effort to focus more attention on the game. But Ed was a great opponent and I’m back in Infinity, baby!

This report contains some (excessively?) lengthy narrative fiction that I wrote to bridge the gap from when I last played and to help get me re-engaged with the Infinity universe and my personal cast of Nomad characters. If you’re into that, it follows after a brief rundown of the actual gameplay.

TLDR: Brief Overview of Gameplay

Nomads win Initiative and choose to go second. Nomads deploy defensively and Starmada spends most of their first turn maneuvering. Hector moves into the Panic Room. Starmada MSV guy goes after a Zero Hacker but doesn’t land a hit.

Nomad turn 1 is spent Smoking out the Starmada lines of fire, Spotlighting the Epsilon, murdering him with a guided missile, and moving a Lunokhod up to the Panic Room to cover it with a Repeater. End of first Round, Starmada scores 2 points.

Turn 2, Starmada ZETA TAG gets Possessed in ARO, they re-Possess the ZETA TAG, and send the Lawkeeper and the KAPPA/Bluecoat Fireteam down different flanks. Nomads lose a Morlock and their Moran. The Nomad Lunokhod on the Panic Room is shot Unconscious. Starmada loses another Fireteam member to a Lunkhod Heavy Flamethrower, and Hector takes some damage from Heavy Flamethrowers.

Turn 2, Nomads move up the other Lunokhod, Evader, and Clockmaker, repair the Unconscious Lunokhod, Possess the ZETA TAG again, and Isolate Hector. End of second round, Starmada scores 2 points, and Nomads score 1 point from their Classified Objective.

Turn 3, Starmada is in Loss of Lieutenant. Starmada takes out the Evader but loses the Lawkeeper to the repaired Lunokhod, destroys the other Lunokhod in close combat with their Bluecoat, kills the other two Morlocks, kills the Clockmaker and Zondbot, and destroys the second Lunokhod.

Turn 3, Nomads Kill the LAMBDA Engineer with a Guided Missile, move up the EVO Salyut under smoke cover, Possess the ZETA TAG, move the ZETA TAG out of the Panic Room, and move the Puppetactica Company up to put Hector Unconscious with an AP Marksman Rifle shot. Nomads have no more Orders to move anything into the Panic Room. Final Score is Starmada 4, Nomads 1.

Prologue

Vivian blinked up at a clear, crystalline sky. The salty tang of an ocean breeze wafted over her, along with the rhythmic sounds of a gentle surf. She ran her hands along the velvety texture of a beach towel warmed by the perfectly white sand beneath it and felt the taught embrace of synthetic fabric between her legs.

“Excuse me, miss…”

Vivian felt her head roll lazily to the side. A tall, toned, exquisitely proportioned hunk of a man stood over her, his chiseled frame conveniently blocking the glare of the sun high overhead. Vivian let her eyes roam over the man’s figure. Piercing blue eyes, lean muscles, golden skin with a light sheen of perspiration, and a tight speedo that served more to suggest intriguing possibilities than to protect modesty.

“…are you getting a sunburn, because you’re lookin’ hot.”

Vivian mentally rolled her eyes, but it’s not like she was here for the dialogue.

“Why don’t you pop off that top and I’ll get you oiled-”

The bronze Adonis above her froze, every muscle taught, a bottle of tanning oil clenched tightly in one hand, dripping into the perfectly white sand in time with the undulating surf. Vivian cursed mentally, quantronic equations springing reflexively to mind, dismantling the narrative lockouts and spiraling off in search of the intrusion.

The stud above her spasmed mechanically, jittering like a combat hacker whose cube is getting fried. “Oiled… oi-oi-oiiiiii… oiled up-up-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-uuuuuuuuuuu—” He suddenly relaxed, settling into an altogether different and hauntingly familiar posture.

Lockouts disabled, Vivian sprang up, covering herself with the beach towel and backing away several paces, screaming internally. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! Trace the source, freeze him out, end the program! Goddammit, Viv! You need to Wake! The fuck! UP!

It was no good. Her program was compromised, but the remaining firewalls would protect her higher brain functions. It’s not as if she was about to get clipped in the middle of a pornographic fantasy. The rat bastard was just here to talk.

“Interventor Muramoto…” the speedo-clad beefcake regarded the crumpled bottle of tanning oil in his hand with amusement before dropping it onto the sand, “your services are required on Concilium Prima.”

“Fuck off, Maks, I’m out. I’ve been out for five years.”

The beefcake smiled, flashing perfectly white teeth to match the perfectly white sand. “The fact that we have chosen not to collect does not mean that your marker has ceased to exist.” He produced a matte black envelope from thin air and tossed it onto the sand at Vivian’s feet, indicating it with his piercing blue eyes. “Mission details. Standard requisition. Use civilian transportation and report in when you have achieved the objective.” The beefcake smirked at the sandy towel Vivian held across her chest, “It’s time for the ‘Specula Killa’ to get back to work.”

* * *

Vivian ripped off her headset and hurled it against the wall in frustration. It bounced off the bulkhead of her cramped apartment with a metallic clang and rolled under the bed where it was promptly retrieved by an idle zondbot, inspected, repaired, cleaned, and placed back on its stand.

This was not happening. She was out, goddammit. She paid her debt. But that was just it, wasn’t it? With Tunguska you were never really out, you were never fully paid up. They always had something on you; always some hook buried in you, waiting to get jerked. And then you’d dangle from it expecting to get eaten by something bigger or just wind up taking a lucky round to the dome in a plausibly deniable field op. Fucking corporate assholes. How did it end up like this?

Quit your bitching, Viv. A job’s a job, and you’ve been laying around playing with yourself for too long anyway.

Vivian smiled. She certainly missed the action of wetwork field ops, but something about this didn’t feel right, even by Tunguskan standards. She spent the remainder of the cycle backtracking the intrusion through three different Oubliettes. As far as she could tell, it was legit. Tactless and crude, maybe, but legit.

Fuck it. She needed a team, and fretting about whether a black ops mission passed the ‘smell test’ was just wasting time.

* * *

Translucent plastic sheeting rippled as it was pulled across the hulking mass of a neon green Tsyklon. Clockmaker Jacqui Hammer flipped open their toolkit and began disassembling the armor plating covering the Sputnik’s central processor. “When was the last time you took the boys for a walk, Viv?”

Vivian ran her hand lovingly across the sleek contours of the garishly painted machine. “You know me, Jacks, I can hardly go a week without seeing my babies, and as usual they’ve been active and interfacing with each other this whole time. But they haven’t been in combat since Kurage. I need full diagnostics on everyone. Spend a little time reintroducing yourself and then run them through some simms. I’m sure they’ll remember their favorite Auntie Jack.”

Jacqui tugged a cable from its receptacle inside the Tsyklon’s housing and plugged it into one of the sockets at the base of her skull. The Tsyklon whirred to life, servos purring happily, and Jacqui rocked back on their heels in surprise. “Okay, okay, I missed you too big guy. Settle down now and let’s see if there’s been any degradation in your matrix.”

Vivian couldn’t help but smile as she considered her next moves. If she had one properly human friend in the world, it was Jacqui. The remotes were in fine shape, Vivian has seen to that herself over the past five years, and Jacks would get them tuned for combat operations without any trouble. It was the rest of the team that concerned her. Trix would be easy to locate, and Hasana wouldn’t be far from whatever Bakunin rat hole the hacker was calling home these days. But convincing Trix to fight under her command was another matter. Vivian couldn’t blame her after what happened on Kurage, but she needed at least two Zeros for the job. Trix was always pissing off someone. With any luck, Vivian could offer to help Trix out of whatever flavor of trouble she was currently in, and if nothing else she could always lean on Hasana. Plus, having a Moran on the team would do nicely in any case.

Momo still owed Vivian a favor, but she was most likely tied up in some kind of field opp. Hell, Momo might already be on Concilium Prima right now, frying Pan-O brains. Vivian figured she could put out a contract on Momo’s commanding officer, break up the unit, intercept the deployment orders and have Momo assigned to Vivian’s command. Messy, certainly, but it would be a longer-term solution, and as a bonus it would still leave Momo owing her one. Omelet and eggs. The Nomad Nation would survive.

That left an emergency combat engineer. That meant Lia Leon. “Hey Jacks, you comm’d with Lia recently?”

* * *

“That’s bullshit, Lia, I need you.” Vivian was livid. “Tomcats are always ready, right? Well, I need you. I need you right now, Warrant Officer Leon. Suit up!”

“I can’t Lieutenant. With all due respect, ma’am, you’re not my commanding officer anymore. I don’t work for Tunguska, and I have responsibilities here on Corregidor.”

This was all Vivian needed. If only more people didn’t give a shit. But this dedication was exactly why she trusted Lia to drop into a hot zone solo just to save her bacon. Even for a Tomcat, Lia is a stone cold badass.

“What do you expect me to do, Lia? I don’t like this job. Something feels seriously off about it, but it’s hot as fuck on Concilium Prima and this is happening. Trix, Momo, Ana, and Jacks are all coming into the field with me. You wanna leave us with a merc watching our six?”

Lia stared down at the hexagonal pattern on the deck plating for a moment before responding, “No, Lieutenant, I don’t.” There it is. I’ve got her. “Which is why I’m sending you the contact codes for my cousin, Rod.” Lia flicked a finger through her AR in a familiar gesture that queried Vivian’s quantronic defense network. Vivian petulantly sequestered the data packet.

“Rod’s an Evader. He’s as good an engineer as me, if not better, and he’s looking for a combat posting. He’ll cover your collective asses, and help take care of the boys, too.”

Vivian rolled her eyes. “I don’t need some hot-shot swinging dick on my team, Lia. I don’t need a fucking Evader with more armor than balls and an itchy trigger finger. I need people I can trust.”

Lia’s face hardened and she spat back, “Then you’d better start trusting more people, Viv. People. That’s what the Nomads are, people. And you can start by trusting me. I’m telling you; Rod is good people. He’ll do right by you, and your collection of misfit toys.” Lia took a step closer to Vivian and put a hand on her shoulder. “You spend too much time in Praxis, Viv. Maybe you just need to unplug, you know, take a step away from the remotes. I can get you a berth here on Corregidor.”

“I’m no babysitter, Lia, you know that better than anyone.”

“And Rod isn’t a baby, Lieutenant,” Lia sighed. “Look, I’m on active until 15:00. If you stick around until…”

Vivian was already halfway through the hatchway.

* * *

“It’s a straightforward data extraction opp.” Vivian had the team assembled in an off-the-books cargo bay of their commercial transport. “Intel suggests that Pan-O captured a number of our pilots and may be performing unsanctioned research in an underwater facility off the coast of Bianca Island.”

“Hey, that’s where Montalbán is, isn’t it?” Trix leaned back as if sunbathing on the beach, piping the sounds of seabirds and ocean spray through everyone’s augmented reality. “Montalbán, there’s no place like here!” Momo Fatale sent a little bioelectric shock back through the connection. Trix shot back up with a squeak of pain. “Oww! What the hell was that for, Mo?”

“You might get a lot worse in Montalbán,” Momo said with a smirk, “I’ve been operating on Concilium Prima. Things are getting pretty nasty planetside.”

Jesse Serrano (https://www.artstation.com/blueblankey)

Trix started to reply, but Vivian cut in, “Momo’s right, things are on edge down there. The planet is crawling with mercs and black ops teams. Everyone is using the confusion as an excuse to skirt the law and push their own agendas. Our target is a private estate on the outskirts of Montalbán.” Vivian brought up a layout of the facility. “The owner is believed to be involved in the research being conducted on our pilots. Our goal is to break into a secure data crypt, here, and collect any info on this program before bricking it. Priorities are the locations of any captured pilots, evidence implicating the PanOceanian government, and any experimental results or analyses.”

Rodrigo raised his hand, “Uhh, Lieutenant?”

“What is it, Rod?”

“Isn’t it kind of fucked up to be exfiltrating data from unethical experiments?”

“We don’t know what they’re doing, we don’t really know why, and quite frankly, we want access to any breakthroughs they may have made, whether the methods were ethical or not. Is that clear?”

Rod nodded, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Trix. Momo.” Vivian continued, indicating the two Zero hackers, “You’ll go in first, fast and silent. Locate the data crypt, disable the security systems, and identify whatever kinetic assets are present. We should expect lightly armed private security forces, but there may be Pan-O military personnel on site.” Viv turned to the two Corregidorans, “Hasana, you’ll go in once comms and cameras are down, and Rod will be on your heels. Jacks and I will set up a perimeter with the boys. Once repeaters are in place, Trix and Momo will work on sabotaging the crypt while I extract the data. Brick it and we’re out before additional support can arrive on scene. Three minutes. After that,” Vivian leaned back and put her feet up on a shipping crate, “we can enjoy the hospitality of Montalbán until the heat dies down.”

Engagement

“Something’s wrong, Lieutenant.” Trix’s voice crackled across the comms. “We’ve located the crypt but no one’s home… no security personnel, automated defenses are cold. And there’s some kind of broad-spectrum interfere—”

“BUREAU AEGIS! LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS AND SURRENDER PEACEFULLY!”

The shout cut across Trix’s open comms and made Vivian’s blood run cold. Aegis? How could Aegis already be here if they didn’t know we were… Vivian opened a team-wide channel, “It’s a setup! It’s a setup! Scrub the mission! We need to get the fuck out of here!”

Vivian’s AR tactical display suddenly lit up with hostile targets picked up by the perimeter remotes. Ground troops were closing in on all sides of the compound. She dialed her REMlocks’ priorities to concealment and the androids sprang forward, aggressively dispensing smoke grenades. That might buy them a few seconds, but they were all fucked if she couldn’t find a way to punch a hole in the line boxing them into this kill zone.

“CONTACT! CONTACT! Epsilon moving in on my position! I’m cut off!”

Trix was in trouble. “Keep your shit together, Zero, and get me a firing solution!” Viv called up Trix’s feed in time to see the Epsilon spray the whole area with a thick cloud of nanites. Trix put out enough feedback through her armor’s sensor suite to fry most of the microscopic machines, but she wasn’t going to last long. One of the Lunokhods whirred angrily and skuttled towards Trix’s position, keeping its profile low. The Epsilon lit up green in Viv’s tactical display and the Luno chirruped.

“Good work, boy!” Vivian swiftly calculated a solution and the Epsilon vaporized in a fireball that was so close to Trix it must have singed her nips. That was it for surrendering peacefully. Starmada wouldn’t be asking too many questions about KIA suspects now that one of their own had been wasted. And then the floor shook with a rhythmic screee-thoom, screee-thoom, screee-thoom! The outline of a hulking armored figure was fast becoming visible through the dissipating smoke.

“ZETA! ZETA! ZETA! They’ve got a fucking TAG!” Hasana shouted as she scrambled for better cover.

“And a lawkeeper,” Rod added, hopping down alongside Hasana, “coming around the flank! We can’t stay here, Lieutenant!”

Thank you, sergeant obvious. “Hasana, cover our flank. I’m sending one of the boys up to get coverage on the TAG. That sonofabitch is our ticket out of here.”

“Copy!” The sounds of combi rifle fire erupted as Hasana engaged. The Lunokhod on Trix’s position scrambled over its cover, beeping angrily, and hosed a massive gout of armor-melting napalm at the approaching Aegis forces. Its twin scurried businesslike through the thinning smoke, sticking close to cover. Vivian’s display picked up a new contact as the Lunokhod approached within range of the enemy TAG; humanoid, heavily armored, biosynthetic. She probed the contact’s quontronic defense matrix and was met with a burst of code immediately recognizable by its ruthless yet delicate precision: ALEPH.

As the smoke cleared, the figure sprang on top of a console, sword raised, a shield of the Homeridae bouncing at his waist. “Oh no…” Momo’s voice slid across the comms, “we are so fucked.”

“What??” Rod asked between bursts of his spitfire, “Who’s that guy supposed to be anyhow?”

“Were you raised in a fucking storage pod, Vega?” Trix replied. “That ‘guy’ is Hector, the Hector, the ALEPH aspect who fights whole armies by himself!”

Vivian flipped the team’s comms to her priority channel. “Cut the chatter. We are not fucked. I don’t care who that sonofabitch is, we are getting out of this hole. I want control of that TAG. Buy me thirty seconds to get past its firewalls.”

“I’m hit, I’m hit!” Hasana left a bloody streak along the wall as she slid to her knees, clutching an inch-wide hole in the abdominal plating of her combat armor. Jacqui unslung her combi rifle and crept along the wall towards Hasana while the lawkeeper came screeching around the corner. The ZETA’s hyper-rapid magnetic cannon whined as the barrels rotated up to speed.

Rod slapped a fresh mag into his spitfire and pounded forward, shooting from the hip. The lawkeeper took half a dozen rounds center mass and tumbled off the speeding bike which slammed into Hasana’s cover and exploded, showering her and Jacqui in red-hot shrapnel.

Vivian’s display whirled like a kaleidoscope as she relentlessly assaulted the ZETA’s programming.

Both Lunokhods saturated the data crypt in flame.

Vivian shunted tasks to Trix and Momo, keeping the security programs busy while she tore through the code, desperately seeking the ZETA’s command protocols.

“Almost got it…”

Hector, his armor half-melted and his face barely recognizable, calmly blew a hole through a Lunokhod’s CPU while a charging Bluecoat neatly bisected its twin.

Vivian’s display went dark.

The ZETA’s cannon roared, and Rod disappeared in a mist of hyper-accelerated viscera.

No, no, no, no, no, no!

Hector smiled and rallied the operational Aegis troops to push in on the Nomads’ positions.

Trix tried to re-engage her camouflage, but nanites had shorted out the optics. Vivian cursed and pried the shielding off her visor, desperately searching for a way to boost her signal.

The little blue EVO Zond scanned Vivian, noting her highly elevated vitals. It monitored Jacqui’s comms, processing the Clockmaker’s labored breathing as they struggled to drag Hasana’s dead weight. It queried the Lunokhods and received null status from both. It attempted to ping Lia’s emergency channel before remembering she was not on standby.

The little Zond chirped at Vivian. It chirped more loudly when she didn’t hear, and vibrated the haptics in Vivian’s visor once it had her attention. Then it clambered out of its mission-designated safe zone and, with a whoop, fairly galloped towards the avenging TAG.

“Sonofa…” Vivian put her visor back on just in time to see it reconnect with the ZETA. By now, the KAPPA’s hacker was in on the game, but Vivian shunted her clumsy malware into a recursive oubliette and seized control of the ZETA’s command functions. Hector turned in surprise when the hulking war machine stomped away from the fight, HRMC screeching into the line of troops closing in on the compound. Vivian highlighted a selection of targets along their best escape route and locked the TAG’s pseudo-AI into seek-and-destroy mode.

Then, she dismantled Hector’s command-and-control software.

“Lions and men make no compacts, asshole.”

Hector’s head exploded. Jacqui Hammer lowered her smoking combi rifle and Vivian rushed up to help take some of Hasana’s weight. “Alright people, let’s follow that ZETA and get the hell out of here!”

Epilogue

“Hey, Viv, are you sure this place is secure?” Jacqui was on edge. Hell, Vivian was, too. They’d made it to the safe house, but the team was in bad shape. Hasana had lost so much blood she looked like a walking corpse, and Bureau Aegis would be scraping what was left of Rod into Petri dishes for analysis. After what happened on the opp, Vivian wasn’t certain about much of anything.

“Yea, Jacks, we’re good. I set this place up myself. It’s completely off the books, no involvement from the company.”

Momo materialized next to the open window. “It looks like we got away clean, Lieutenant. Everything’s quiet out there.”

“Some vacation this turned out to be.” Trix was still cleaning nanites out of her combat armor. “You walked us into a fucking ambush, Viv. Aegis was already there, waiting for us. Only one way that could happen. We got burned. You fucked up and those Tunguskan bastards burned us. That’s what happened. I can’t believe I let you drag me into this shitshow!”

Hasana struggled to sit up. Her pale lips were set in a tight snarl as she fought past the pain. “All we know… is Aegis… got tipped. We don’t… know how… or… why. No reason… to blame… her.”

“No, Ana, Trix is right. It’s my fault. I knew something was off about this gig. We got burned. The question is by who, and why.”

Momo pulled off her helmet and started breaking down her combi rifle. “Yea, it doesn’t add up. If someone in Tunguska wanted you dead, why go through the effort of sending you all the way to Concilium Prima? And why drag us into it? It’s not as if you have a deep bench, Lieutenant. Your handlers would have known exactly who you’d rope into this.”

Trix tossed her toolkit aside and started pacing the room. “What the hell does it matter who or why? We’re fucked! We came here on a civilian transport. We’ve got no resupply, no transport, no support, and we can’t go through channels without wondering if we’re walking into another deathtrap!”

“We’re not that fucked, Trix. I have transport inbound right now. We can talk about our next moves once we’re back into orbit and get Ana patched up.”

Trix looked flabbergasted, “Uhhh…come again? You have a ship in orbit?”

“I told you I thought something seemed off about this job. I just bought the freighter company outright instead of booking passage. So, yes, I have a ship in orbit. We’ve got resupply, we’ve got transport, and we’ve got as much support as I could muster.”

Trix whistled, Momo beamed, and Hasana pulled a pained grimace that was probably intended to be an encouraging smile. “Jesus, Viv,” Trix replied, “that’s officially the most Tunguskan thing you’ve ever said. But that still doesn’t solve all our problems. We still don’t know who burned us, or why.”

“Dammit, Trix!” Vivian exclaimed, “You’re a genius!”

“I am?”

“Problems, Trix. Problems is exactly what we need right now. Let’s get back to the ship and track down Mary.”

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