The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    The trip over to the Fist by shuttle took only half an hour, once everyone was assembled in the bay and ready to go. Macharius' ship didn't have a huge amount of landing bay space, but they had managed to scrounge up a small hold and outfitted it with an ancient Aquila lander and all the connections the small ship required. The Aquila was old and slightly battered, but was maintained in top condition and the wings were covered in 'feathers' made out of hammered gold plates.

    They were recieved in a larger but equally undedicated landing bay. Captain Jonell was waiting for them personally as they disembarked. He was a large, barrel-chested man with an enormous mustache and a bright red dress uniform. The uniform came complete with gold braid on the epaulets, a double row of bright brass buttons, and a couple of medals which he might actually have earned pinned to the left side. He was leaning on a polished white marble walking stick topped with a clenched fist, and wore his weapons at his belt; a basket-hilted chainsword in black chased with gold, and a chunky bolt pistol stamped with the maker's mark of Cinder Crag Forge. He was flanked by a thin, severe-looking woman with a dataslate, and a man in matte black carapace armour of the sort favoured by Imperial Guard Stormtroopers.

    "Captain Absalom!" His voice was practically a roar, in this close proximity. "A pleasure to meet you, good sir. These must be your officers and associates. Splendid. This is Ms. Devereaux, my seneschal, and the fellow in the armour is Ambrose. Absolutely chuffed you could make it. Where were you when you got my message?"
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Macharius' formal wear is a blend of Imperial Navy and Ecclesiarchy. His dress-coat's epaulets bore the hereditary insignia of a system admiral, symbolic representation of House Absalom's close ties to the Navy. In place of the system heraldry, however, he wore the skull insignia of the Ecclesiarchy that sponsored his Warrant. The golden Rosarius around his neck emphasized his position as a favored and devoted servant of Him on Earth.

    Macharius felt heartened to be in the presence of a kindred spirit. Too many Rogue Traders were jumped-up pirate lords and nouveau riche pretenders, but this man was the real deal. He shakes Jonell's hand heartily and replies in his typical booming fashion. The pleasure is mine, Captain Jonell! Lady Vanhal, my seneschal, Astropath Pythonissam of our Lord's blessed Adeptus Astra Telepathica, Magos Del'Karro of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and Hannabel Shanx. He gestures towards the officers. Splendid to meet you! Lady Vanhal and I were discussing logistics when you called, ensuring that we were prepared and ready for the voyage before us. The Emperor smiles on the ready and the vigilant, as they say. Wouldn't do to disappoint Him with lollygagging, what!

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Anika is dressed in a heavy black and silver robe that she has had made specially for occasions where she has to play the role of a Seneschal in public. Her sword and hellpistol are worn at her belt, with the mono sword held in a scabbard bearing her families crest. She is otherwise unadorned except for a silver signet ring carrying the symbol of the Hetaireia Lexis.

    Now she meets Jonell, she wonders whether her usual Guard greatcoat would have worked just as well. Through her family she had known people like that all her life. She will bow respectfully to Jonell but will make a mental note to herself to look into the man's service record.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Ravia is as she tends to be wherever, clad in a well made greatcoat adorned with the symbols of the Adeptus and all dendrites in compact modes or braided. Openly not seems to be armed with anything beyond the noticeable blades of her right hand.
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  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Hannabel is wearing her flak armor, cut in the style of the Imperial Guard but with no insignia and unnecessarily tailored to show off her fine figure. Her heavy combat helmet is tucked under her right arm, and the Adeptus Mechanicus amulet of warding is affixed to her belt. Holstered on either side are her "Emperor's Will" laspistols and sheathed across the small of her back is a razor sharp short sword. She stands properly at attention behind Macharius, but when Captain Jonell introduces his aides, she can't resist giving Ambrose a wink and an insouciant little smile.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Pytho

    Pytho is wearing his formal robes; those being identical to his normal robes but these ones are clean. The only addition is a clain-link sash passing over his right shoulder and across his body, which buzzes slightly as they walk. A smaller cadre of skulls have come with him, and no weapon-skulls as they set the wrong tone apparently.

    "Thank you for your hospitality Lord Jonell, the astropath speaks quietly, not confident he'd get away with reading his comrade's minds.
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  7. - Top - End - #37
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    "No indeed, no indeed. Alacrity is a fine trait to have." Captain Jonell turned and led the way out of the bay, and through the corridors of the ship. Behind him, Ambrose inclined his head to Hannabel, though with the full face covering his helmet offered, it was difficult to read what he was thinking. Then the guard fell into step behind his captain, and the party moved on. Throughout the short trip, Captain Jonell kept up a steady rate of conversation.

    "We'll talk business over a meal, I think, as it's not really proper to get down to it before I've shown you some hospitality. I've had the staff lay out enough places for everyone, and I've brought up a bottle of Quaddis 38', which I'm informed would be specifically to your liking. I'm normally a spirits man, myself, but I confess to enjoying a good glass of fine wine now and again. I've also got a fine Cantus Amber 85 year for once we're done eating. Best spirit in the galaxy, as far as I'm concerned, but that might be the old homeworld bias showing, eh? I have it shipped over in barrels, so it can keep properly aging along the journey. Always keep some on hand."

    The dining hall was a huge room, likely near to Jonell's personal quarters. It was filled with trophies and souvenirs of hundreds of worlds, set on pedestals around the perimiter or mounted on plaques on the walls. The head of an Ambull, an antique duelling pistol, a chunk of gold ore the size of a fist... The list of items went on and on. The table that took up the centre of the room was vast as well, with enough chairs to seat a whole delegation. Less than half of it was currently set. Were the table full, Macharius would have been given the chair opposite Jonell's as a sign of his status. Given the small size of the party, and the fact they had to be able to hear each other talk, he was instead placed to the right of Jonell. The chair that would normally have been there had been shifted to the side, replaced with the larger, fancier one from the far end. A trio of liveried servants brought out the first course as they were sitting down.

    For the first little while, Captain Jonell refrained from bringing up the business purpose of the visit, instead inquiring into Macharius' health and adventures. It was only once the remains of grox-tail stew had been cleared away to make room for a platter of seared fang-fish that the other Rogue Trader put voice to his objectives.

    "You've heard, perhaps, of my disputes with a fellow named Tristan Quinn? Damnable claims jumper. He's blockaded my newest colony with a small fleet of frigates and escorts. I could take any of them in a straight up fight or a defensive action, but the Fist is a stoic old girl. I don't have the speed to outrun any of them, and I don't have the firepower to get through all of them. Way I see it, I've got two problems here and you could solve both. The first is that I've got a pile of tools and food supplies all set for delivery, taking up space in one of my holds. The second is that the last message I got from my colony said they'd found something interesting down in one of the mines, but I don't know what it is and I can't connect with them to find out."
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  8. - Top - End - #38
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    During the first course Anika has been making small talk with Jonell and his associates, but will try to ask after the history of some of the more interesting or obscure pieces on display in the dining room. She will try and get a closer look at them when their dinner is finished.

    She will reply first, comfortable with pre-empting Macharius. 'This discovery. Do you have any suspicions on what your people dug up? I assume if it's something valuable like a promethium well they would have told you what they found already. Or are they simply worried that Quinn or someone else would intercept the message and take what they found for themselves.'

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Hannabel nibbles daintily at each of the courses, handling the cutlery with an ease that betrays familiarity with finer dining. Following Anika's lead, she happily makes small talk with Jonell's officers, unashamedly lavishing most of her attention on Ambrose in an attempt to draw him out.

    Where is he from? How did he come to be in Jonell's service? What weapons and armour does he favour? What does he do for fun and relaxation? What's his opinion of the Imperial Guard's strategy and tactics in the civil war on Tranch? Is Ms. Devereaux really as severe as she appears? Does he have a pet? What's his favourite spot on the Mailed Fist? The questions come thick and fast throughout the meal, with her tone and demeanour switching effortlessly between cool professional interest and girlish innocence at a moment's notice.

    When Captain Jonell begins telling Macharius of his problems, Hannabel pauses momentarily in her interrogation of Ambrose and pricks up her ears. "Ooh, a mystery! I love a good mystery!" she coos excitedly when Jonell comes to the unknown discovery his colonists had reported. "Captain Jonell - sir, you said that you can't connect with your colony to find out more about the find they made. Is that by choice, or are they simply not responding to your calls?"

  10. - Top - End - #40
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    Macharius enjoys the meal enormously. He and Jonell regale each other with stories of derring-do and bravado, swapping tales of battles won and adventures had. The trophies along the wall are excellent visual aids. The food and drink are superlative, reminding Macharius of his youth. As the conversation turns to business, he fixes his rowdy crew with a stern eye, then speaks up.

    Indeed we had, my good sir. The talk about town is that he's little better than a jumped-up pirate, and that he's been blockading some new mining planets of yours. Contemptible thing, that, stealing from a fellow Imperial. Emperor knows there's enough xenos, heretics, and mutants for us to fight already. Weakening worlds that are already being brought to the light of the God-Emperor is but a small step from heresy, if that. If he wants to raid so blasted much, why not do the galaxy a favor and raid the Tau or Eldar or blighters of that nature?

    But your point is well taken. The Sting is a fast ship, and quiet too. What with her... unfortunate history, she likes to pass unnoticed. Much as it pains me as a gentleman to say it, she's the perfect blockade runner and infiltrator. We could deliver your supplies and investigate this discovery. Did your men give you any indication of the nature of their find?

  11. - Top - End - #41
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    From her seat at the table, Anika is able to see a great many of the unsual trophies. She can't get a good close look at them without standing up, but that can wait. For now, there are a few choice ones to ask questions about. A bizarre crystalline skull with a light mounted underneath it turned out to be from one of the famous Sand Tigers of Vaporius. Jonell said that he hoped to return one day, in an effort to retrieve a more complete skeleton. A huge, chunky, and rather crude claw-thing had come from an Ork he had killed. A few shards of bone-like material turned out to be all that was left of a suit of Eldar armour. One large case, holding a vast array of small metal objects, was simply a coin from every civilised world Jonell had visited.

    While Anika focused on the trophies, Hannabel had a frustratingly terse conversation with Ambrose. Jonell's guard had removed his helmet to eat, revealling a square-jawed no-nonsense sort of face, topped with sandy brown hair buzzed down almost to the scalp. Where is he from? Cantus. How did he come to work for Jonell? Served together. Weapons and armour? Boltguns. Ripper pistol. He never answered a question with more words than were absolutely necessary, until she started talking about tactics. The War on Tranch got him to open up properly, and before long he was explaining in detail the situation that existed on Tranch, and how he would have deployed men to take advantage of it. The problem, according to Ambrose, was that the Imperium had used a sledgehammer when a scalpel would have done better. Send in a few specialised infiltration and scouting regiments to decapitate the insurrection, follow with a more massed landing to crush the remnants. They were still facing years of bloody meat grinder because now it was a holding action against guerilla warfare, and nobody was taking action to remove the root of the resistance.

    "They can't talk to me, and I can't talk to them. It's a new colony," Captain Jonell said, "and I haven't established an astropathic relay there yet. We were relying on a vox-link between a ship and the surface, but with the blockade in place I can't get close enough to make contact. I don't think it's something immovable, like a prometheum well, so it could be that they don't want Quinn to know what, or where, it is. Some sort of archeotech, maybe."

    The Rogue Trader brightened at Macharius' response. "Quite so. The history of your ship is unfortunate, but she's in far better hands now, and lucky for me. Where else am I supposed to find a capital fellow such as yourself in command of a ship like the Sting? As I believe I said, I've heard great account of your honourable nature. Wouldn't want just anyone on this job. Someone like Quinn, shiftless degenerate that he is, would pull the discovery out from under me and claim he didn't find anything."
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  12. - Top - End - #42
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    Ravia listened to the conversations in a half interested way, the Trophies now they were much more interesting particularly the Xenos ones except when the word Archotech is mention she pays a bit more interest to that line of talk
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  13. - Top - End - #43
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    In her head, Anika keeps trying to use the size of the Ork weapon to judge the size of the creature that wielded it. The stories about them were true evidently. She found the talk of Tranch depressing for all that Ambrose was probably right about how the Imperium should have acted. From what she had heard, too many had already died on that world and the Imperium would be lucky to salvage anything from it.

    On the discovery, Anika is curious but in truth it could be a lot of things. She is mainly content with the chance to set foot on a new planet. To Jonell, 'Well whatever it turns out to be, perhaps I could take a look at it? After your own people of course. I might be able to work out where it came from.' It would never hurt to ask. As long as she could make it clear that her interest was strictly academic.

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    Pytho

    Pytho politely eats quietly seated next to the Ms Deveraux, whilst having a skull circle the room recording the treasures and trophies. He directs conversation attempts to the seneschal, accepting silence if she declines to engage.

    "I've not been in the Expanse too long, I'm still learning to recognise the names and faces,
    odd as it may be for a blind man to say. Does the Fist have any dealings with Sarvus Trask; I've heard he's somewhat of an odd duck, ranging out beyond the Cauldron for reasons unknown.
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  15. - Top - End - #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Destro_Yersul View Post
    While Anika focused on the trophies, Hannabel had a frustratingly terse conversation with Ambrose. Jonell's guard had removed his helmet to eat, revealling a square-jawed no-nonsense sort of face, topped with sandy brown hair buzzed down almost to the scalp. Where is he from? Cantus. How did he come to work for Jonell? Served together. Weapons and armour? Boltguns. Ripper pistol. He never answered a question with more words than were absolutely necessary, until she started talking about tactics. The War on Tranch got him to open up properly, and before long he was explaining in detail the situation that existed on Tranch, and how he would have deployed men to take advantage of it. The problem, according to Ambrose, was that the Imperium had used a sledgehammer when a scalpel would have done better. Send in a few specialised infiltration and scouting regiments to decapitate the insurrection, follow with a more massed landing to crush the remnants. They were still facing years of bloody meat grinder because now it was a holding action against guerilla warfare, and nobody was taking action to remove the root of the resistance.
    Hannabel listens attentively to Ambrose's lecture on Tranch, sometimes throwing in a dissenting opinion to get him to expand on his thinking, but mostly agreeing. "Thank you for that enlightening lecture, Ambrose! Speaking with you has been a delight! And if you ever have the time, I'd love to get a closer look at that ripper pistol of yours!" she rounds matters off with a sunny smile.

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    Macharius smiles. This had the potential to be a very profitable venture, even aside from the value of establishing an alliance with House Jonell.

    It appears the Emperor smiles upon us both, Captain. A partnership between Jonell and Absalom strikes me as a capital idea. Always good to do business with an honorable fellow such as yourself, if I do say so.
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  17. - Top - End - #47
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    Jonell clapped his hands. "Excellent, excellent. I'll have some men start transferring the supplies to your ship - See to it, Ms. Devereaux - if you'll have someone there to meet my shuttle and direct the cargo to your storage areas. Whatever they've found, you are of course welcome to examine if you think it's worth examining. Once you've got it, send me some details and I'll know which contact to refer you to. I've got a few around, for different subjects." He hesitated a moment. "Then, of course, there's the subject of compensation. Only the first meeting, here, but I've always thought it prudent to get the details sorted as soon as possible. Mere money would never be enough, of course, so I've a few thoughts on what I can offer, and perhaps you've a few ideas as well. I've settled a lot of colonies around the expanse, and a few are doing quite well. I'm prepared to offer you star charts and trade rights to some of them, or shares if you'd prefer."

    Jonell's order interrupted the conversation his Seneschal had been having with Pytho about Sarvus Trask. She stopped speaking just long enough to tap her dataslate a few times, likely delegating the order further. "As I was saying," she continued, "Trask is indeed a little strange. Perhaps mad, in some ways. That said, he's also managed to be extremely profitable. Turned the fortunes of his house around by himself. If he's going out there, there's something out there worth looking for."

    Ambrose, for his part, does not produce his ripper pistol at the table, but does offer something noncomittal about if there's time later.
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  18. - Top - End - #48
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    Shares sounds like a splendid reward, Captain. Nothing like a spot of co-operation with a fellow house in the Emperor's work, what! Besides, depending on how this shakes out we may have to run supplies to the colonies through the blockade more than once. Nothing to motivate the men like knowing it's our lads down there too, eh? Do you have any details on Quinn's forces? What ships does he have? Is his flagship there?

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    ++If it is Archotech then it will need to be validated++
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  20. - Top - End - #50
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    "Shares it is, and I'm happy to hear that. I'll have paperwork for you to sign after your return." The remains of dinner were being cleared away, the staff bringing out dessert. Jonell picked a dark spice cake for himself and set in. "Quinn's got four ships in the blockade that I know about. His flagship probably won't be there, he's not the sort to sit around idle supervising a blockade when there's other villainy he could be getting up to. Still a stiff fight, though. At least two frigates and two escorts. If it comes down to them noticing you, your Sting can likely run circles around them. They won't be able to cover the whole planet at once, but they don't need to. They'll be concentrated around the colony."
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  21. - Top - End - #51
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    Anika will take a piece of cheesecake and start plotting. She wasn't worried but four ships was still four ships. 'I admit that I'm not one for tactics, but is it feasible that we can lure some of Quinn's ship's away from the planet before making our approach? If some of their ships are drawn to the other side of the system, or even are tricked into looking in the wrong place it might make our job easier.'

    And will ask Jonell, 'There's also the matter of how Quinn's people might react if we manage to deliver the supplies. Is he the sort to threaten the colony directly if he isn't getting his way?'

  22. - Top - End - #52
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    "Void bait!" Hannabel chimes in. "It's an old pirate trick. We drop off a lure that projects a signal Quinn's ships will be sure to investigate, and when they move to do so, we can move into orbit and do our thing. Of course, once they've checked up on the lure and noticed that it's a diversion, they'll come burning for home at flank speed. If we're still in orbit, we'll just be a big, fat target and they can pick us off at their leisure. Plus, if I were Quinn, I'd have left strict orders that at least one or two ships always have to maintain the blockade, so the bait would have to be really good to draw them all off."

    Turning to Macharius, she continues her train of thought. "Lord Commander - the way I see it, there's likely no way we can deliver the supplies and possibly go dirtside to investigate whatever the colonists found without a fight. Facing four ships on our own is a problem, but if we can divide their squadron and ambush them one by one, I like the Sting's chances. Up close, with a proper target lock, we stand a good chance of crippling any of Quinn's ships in a single volley."

    By now, one can positively see the gears turning in Hannabel's mind. "Of course, even if we can kill one of them, there's no way to be certain we can pull off another ambush. They might come after us in force, or sit tight over the colony and force us to come to them. All in all, this would be a lot easier if the Mailed Fist were there as well. She'd be a target Quinn's crews can't ignore, and when they move against her, we can move in behind and shank them...or chase them into range of the Fist's broadsides."
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  23. - Top - End - #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by rax View Post
    "Void bait!" Hannabel chimes in. "It's an old pirate trick. We drop off a lure that projects a signal Quinn's ships will be sure to investigate, and when they move to do so, we can move into orbit and do our thing. Of course, once they've checked up on the lure and noticed that it's a diversion, they'll come burning for home at flank speed. If we're still in orbit, we'll just be a big, fat target and they can pick us off at their leisure. Plus, if I were Quinn, I'd have left strict orders that at least one or two ships always have to maintain the blockade, so the bait would have to be really good to draw them all off."
    Anika wonders how Hannabel knows anything about pirate tricks but won't press the issue. 'Well them coming back and catching us in orbit rather depends on how quickly we can offload the supplies, but I take your point.'

  24. - Top - End - #54
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    ++What do we know of the Systems other bodies, any moons or stellar phenomena.++
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    "If you put a time delay on the lure, you might be able to sneak into position to do your unloading more easily. You can start working as soon as they leave to investigate, and have twice as long before they get back." Jonell suggested, in between bites of spice cake.

    Ms. Devereaux fielded the other questions. "Historically, Quinn's actions and blockades have been designed in a way to inconvenience the Jonell Dynasty as much as possible, while minimising risk to Imperial citizens. Rogue Traders are still part of the Imperium. A direct attack on a colony could draw the attention of Navy elements, or the Inquisition. As long as Quinn can frame this entirely as a disagreement between Trader dynasties, the Adepta will stay out of it. It's tremendously frustrating." She pursed her lips. "The system actually has three planets, which is why we selected it as an excellent colony location. The main colony world has breathable atmosphere, and scans revealed fairly high mineral concentration as well. The other two are a ball of lifeless rock too cold for habitation, but possibly suitable for mining, and a gas giant. Lots of useful things in the atmosphere. The gas giant has collected a small handful of moons, most of which appear to be captured meteors and asteroids. Nothing much useful on any of them, unless we had a way to grind them up for their iron content."
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  26. - Top - End - #56
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    Anika will reply to Jonell and develop her argument, 'Time delay and a lure set as far away as possible. It won't fix every thing for us but it at least feels like a good way to break up our opponents. Even if they come back too quickly we only have to slip away and come at them from another direction. Knowing that we are out there doesn't neccessarily mean they can do anything about it as long as we're quick enough. I believe the Tacita called it crossing the T or some such thing.' It had been a while but some of her education had stayed with her.

    'If they do decide to sit over the planet the question is really do they have enough fire power between them to cover each other from every angle? Especially if we've managed to disable one of their frigates first.' As Hannabel had said, a second ship would make things easier if Jonell was willing, but Anika wondered if that would effect the terms of their deal. She wasn't that worried either way.

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    Pytho

    Pytho politely nibbles at a small slice of fruit tart; 20 years of field rations had obliterated any sweet tooth he might once have had. Not wanting to be disrespectful (despite remembering Anika's distaste for it), he raises his query quietly in Hannabel and Anika's minds rather than question them publicly:

    Drawing off the blockade to drop the supplies is one thing. But the need to be gone when they come storming back into position won't give us any time to investigate their mysterious find, which our good Captain has just won us a share of. If we plan to make this a hit-and-run, would we need a second phase where we enter orbit on the far side of the planet and reach the colony by land to investigate?
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    A combination of distractions may be in order. Our ship does love disguising herself, and much as I'd prefer an honorable stand-up fight it'd be quite foolish here. Ships can't blockade indefinitely without resupply. We could pose as a reinforcement ship, allowing us to get into position, then fire off the bait. Perhaps we are a ship sent by Quinn to make planetfall and begin exploiting the colony on his behalf? Would give us an excuse to be sending landers down. Alternatively, we're a supply ship. We begin transferring supplies to their weakest ship, then the lure goes off. The rest of their fleet sails off to investigate, leaving us with only one to deal with. One with its shields down to accept cargo, at that.

    He looks inspired and pained, the love of a plan coming together conflicting with its less-than-honorable nature. The supply crates could even contain remote-detonation mines, should we be so inclined. If we can broadside a frigate once before its shields are up and then set off melta charges in its hangar bay, the fight is almost won.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kobold-Bard View Post
    Drawing off the blockade to drop the supplies is one thing. But the need to be gone when they come storming back into position won't give us any time to investigate their mysterious find, which our good Captain has just won us a share of. If we plan to make this a hit-and-run, would we need a second phase where we enter orbit on the far side of the planet and reach the colony by land to investigate?
    All depends on their orders and their discipline. There's no way to tell how Quinn's crews 'll react when they find out they've been had. If they bunch up over the colony, we could perhaps hide on the far side of the planet or behind a moon, but then we'll be a long way from the colony when we head down to investigate, and every hour in orbit is an hour for them to find us. If they decide to spread out and scour the system, that may buy us more time to head dirtside, or it may mean they go looking on the far side of the planet straight away. Of course, if they're sloppy, our odds of getting in and out will be a whole lot better.

    Quote Originally Posted by PotatoGolem
    A combination of distractions may be in order. Our ship does love disguising herself, and much as I'd prefer an honorable stand-up fight it'd be quite foolish here. Ships can't blockade indefinitely without resupply. We could pose as a reinforcement ship, allowing us to get into position, then fire off the bait. Perhaps we are a ship sent by Quinn to make planetfall and begin exploiting the colony on his behalf? Would give us an excuse to be sending landers down. Alternatively, we're a supply ship. We begin transferring supplies to their weakest ship, then the lure goes off. The rest of their fleet sails off to investigate, leaving us with only one to deal with. One with its shields down to accept cargo, at that.

    He looks inspired and pained, the love of a plan coming together conflicting with its less-than-honorable nature. The supply crates could even contain remote-detonation mines, should we be so inclined. If we can broadside a frigate once before its shields are up and then set off melta charges in its hangar bay, the fight is almost won.
    "With all due respect, Lord Commander, we'll need a lot more intelligence on Quinn's operations if we're to pose as part of his organization. Ciphers, code speak, SOPs - we won't be fooling anyone without those. And to be fair - up close, the Sting is nobody's idea of a supply ship." Hannabel reminds her captain, a note of pride creeping into her voice when she speaks of the Manticore's Sting.

    Fingering one of her earrings, Hannabel continues her musings. "If Quinn makes a point of not antagonizing the Navy, perhaps we could work with that? I'm pretty we've enough ex-Navy folk on the Sting to play the part. We could drop the lure, continue ghosting towards the planet, then - when the lure's gone off and one or two ships have headed to investigate, we announce ourselves to the ships still at the colony and tell them we're the Navy, come to inspect reports of an illegal blockade. Then we can demand to come aboard and speak to their commander, and carry out your plan from there. Come to think of it, if we drop two separate lures we might be able to get even more of Quinn's ships out of position. Of course, we still have to figure out what might get them to weigh anchor and go investigating..."

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    "Something of mine, likely," Jonell said. "I could have a package put together that would broadcast as a message from the Fist. They know that they can outrun my ship, and with all four of them they could outfight it. Because you're right, it would be too great a prize for Quinn to ignore. If they do leave one behind to guard the colony you might have to improvise, but the Navy idea is a good one by my estimation."
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