Mechwarrior PBeM Report 3a: Hair of the Dog

This is the opening of the third scene of the Hair of the Dog PBeM Mechwarrior Campaign, entitled Hand that Feeds. This version of the scene is as it played out for the character of Lucas Cool Hand Luke Rom as he deals with the poisoning of Fitz and takes command of the revolt. The game is being played using the 4th Edition rules: A Time of War.

Hair of the Dog: Scene III

~ Hand that Feeds

Present Day – November 21, 3028 – 1:13pm

Carol Abercrombie’s thin, but determined frame is blocking the doorway to the Administration Office when you and Westerlie, with a hot-to-the-touch Fitzsimmons half-supported between you, step through the Entrance and into the building’s lobby and reception area, on the heels of Winters.

The great clock on the wall with its harsh message to all future military men, quietly counts off the seconds between each person present and their inevitable deaths.

Standing here, it is hard not to think back to the first time you stood here…

Your first meeting with the Dean contained a lot of subtext and symbolism, sign and counter-sign. The most important realization was that Synnor Liscomb was, or had been, a spook, and very up on current affairs. The upshot of the meeting was the Dean expected you to protect the students, train them to be the best, look out for subversion by less-scrupulous elements (namely Liao and the Lyrans), and perhaps most importantly – not to bring you personal garbage and Ops-related problems into this house.

Once that was out of the way, the Dean pledged to watch your back, for the courtesy of the same being done in return. “They like to think men like us are expendable. I like to prove them wrong.”

You left the meeting fairly sure that the means to access important information on the government and military structure of Oliver could be found in the Dean’s office.

Abercrombie, the Dean’s personal assistant, is saying firmly, “I am sorry ‘Miss Goetz’ but the Dean has requested that all communications be restricted until after the 4pm Assembly. We have cut all outgoing access, but have set the automated message service to record all incoming communiqués and messages. You won’t miss anything important.”

Over Abercrombie’s sharp-looking shoulder clad in its customarily plain, but high-quality silk, the Dean’s door can be seen to be standing open, but no view of the interior is possible. The rest of the office is empty of people, each desk neat and tidy, all files put away. Miss Goetz is looking flustered and is standing far too close to the older woman blocking her entry into the Administration office. Her mouth is moving, her cheeks flushed, but no sounds are coming forth.

Glancing over her shoulder, she takes in the sight of Winters standing close behind her, and then her eyes widen to take in the three of you who follow him from the Main Hall. She stammers out a reply, finally, looking at you mechwarriors, not the assistant, “I – I – guess I will just be going off to my room, then.”

She tries to recover and appear friendly, including you all with an expansive statement, “I guess none of us will be allowed to contact our loved ones…”

As Goetz turns around to try, weakly, to engage the rest of you in conversation, you become increasingly aware of several things:

-Goetz has consciously shifted her posture, head tilt, and breathing in the ways routinely taught to female operatives to use against malesin order to enhance attractiveness, the appearance of weakness, and instill a protective reaction.

-She is directing the bulk of her attention at Winters, and seems put out that the rest of you showed up.

-Fitz’ temperature is significant, and he will probably lose consciousness soon.

-His breath smells like coffee, and you are fairly certain he had a cup not long before the announcement was made… you are less certain, but have a strong feeling, that he had that coffee with the flirty Ms. Goetz.

There is a good, although somewhat old, doctor still on staff, as well as a woman more akin to a school nurse. The pair of them are up for most of the challenges which face a small community alone in these

high, secluded altitudes. Severe traumas and emergencies would rely on medical evac by Westerlie in the Academy’s shuttle. The Doctor’s name is Miller Haversham. The nurse, seemingly born ancient, is Ms. Luella Ardmore.

Mad Dog looks around, checking the scene, and you note his eyes travelling the pleasant curves of the aptly nick-named, ‘Hot Ms. Goetz’ before what you think he must think passes for charm and warmth, but comes across as something halfway between a desperate sales pitch and an accusation, comes out of his mouth like a brutal train wreck, making the false flirtations of Ms. Goetz all the harder for the woman to sustain.

He raises his hands palms up in a stiff, open-handed shrug, and drawls, “Awkward…” before repositioning himself to isolate the woman from the rest of you… obviously to take her off somewhere quiet for reasons of his own…likely to defuse any suspicions she might have.

Mad Dog leans toward Goetz to say, “Miss Goetz, how about you let me buy you a coffee and I can fill you in on some of what’s going on….” but whatever else he was to say gets cut off at that point by your order.

“Lieutenant Winters! (pause for dramatic effect). You will take Professor Goetz into custody this instant. You will search her for potential weapons and communication equipment and escort her to secure containment. Charges are attempted murder and espionage.”

Goetz’s face shifts into an expression of shock and fear, but you catch a flare of murderous anger in her eyes before the perfect mask of innocent victim obscures her secrets. You think MadDog may have seen it too; his shoulders stiffen.

Without missing a beat, you continue, “Ms. Abercrombie: I would ask that you inform Dean Liscombe of this arrest, and ask that a guard be assigned Ms Goetz. Lieutenant Winters, once the guard arrives to relieve you, meet Westerlie and me in the medical bay if there is time before the Dean’s announcement. there will be time for discussion then, but I need to get Fitz to medical attention NOW.”

As Goetz reaches out to Mad Dog for help, you turn your attention from him toward Westerlie, and continue in the same tone. “Retrace Fitz’s recent path to find the coffee cup he was drinking out of. Bring the cup and a sample of the coffee and meet me in the medical bay.”

Miss Abercrombie straightens, and shoots a thinly veiled dark look at Goetz, as if she always knew, or perhaps hoped, that the woman would come to a bad end. She nods at you, and replies curtly, “Alright Professor. Just be sure to be at the assembly by 4pm.” Some women just cannot resist the urge to mother.

Supporting most of the weight of Fitz’s dense, heavily-muscled frame, you guide him through the halls toward the Clinic. He can walk, but is struggling to retain consciousness. He seems to be trying to repeat

the word ‘stupid’ over and over again.

The clinic is not far, but the distance seems to elongate due to urgency. Your training prevents those perceptions from interfering with your actions.

Entering the clinic, the Doctor and Nurse are startled at first, but soon begin their analysis with your observations to guide them. Under the Marik Military command which all of you emigrated to Oliver under, it was not hard to smuggle items onto the planet. However, a real Lyran operative in this environment is unliklely to use some slick, ultimately traceable toxin, or carry a slicker, untraceable one; they would use a naturally occurring compound which could be chalked up to contamination or perhaps suicide – looking for reasonable doubt in the minds of any detectives.

Taking you at your word that Fitz was poisoned, the Doctor wastes no time taking the actions your own training would have had you do had there been no one here. The two work well in tandem, but from time to time have you locate and bring equipment, hold Fitz down as he starts to convulse, and run and type fluid samples while they work to save his life.

Why would Goetz poison Fitz?

Westerlie arrives breathlessly with a few coffee cups, some from various trash cans, and a whole slew of stir sticks. She may be something of an over-achiever.

The doctor sets you to using an old chemical analyser with large-print instructions right on the side to take samples and look for a specific organic compound he claims causes a lot of trouble among people living in rural areas on Oliver. In a few moments, you get a positive result. A very large dosage of a local organic compound, not unlike the terrestrial poison ricin, but with a quicker onset, and deadlier level of toxicity is definitely present in 5 of the cups Westerlie brought, but only on one of the stir sticks.

“I brought more than just his cup, because once I got back in the room, I remembered him flirting with Goetz by the coffee station. They had a lot of cups of coffee, he was pouring, and she was stirring. When Fitz picked them up to bring over to us, he spilled all but one of them. Goetz laughed, and went her own way, but I remember thinking at the time that she looked annoyed. I though then that it was because Fitz must have spilled some on her clothes, but now…. I wonder.”

The doctor chimes in, “Well, she will have something else to be annoyed about. In a few days, he will back to his old self again. He’ll be upset that it will take that long, but with the storm that’s about to hit, no one will be so much as going outside let alone heading out to the bars.”

Looking her in the eye, you reply, “Well done Westerlie. You’ve solved two mysteries for us, and upped the count to 5 attempted murders.”

Should this ever reach a court, which under the current regime is somewhat unlikely, life in prison is the least she can expect. A military court would execute her in time of war.

A message from the Dean comes through on the Doctor’s terminal. It is a message for you, and it quite simply states, “See to Fitzsimmons, then gather those you trust to meet me at 3:45 in my office. Gamble on the trust of no one: be sure.”

According to the Doctor, the clinic is one of the safest and most secure zones in the school, hardened against attack, and with an independent power supply. The guard office is next door. Two guards are available for duty at this time, and can be armed with batons. The doctor has the authority to assign duties to them relating to the clinic.

As Westerlie is in charge of security, you realize it is past time to say, “Sorry if I overstepped my security bounds by having Goetz arrested like that, but it needed to be done quickly. And good call on getting all of the coffee cups. I have to grab Mad Dog and Blowtorch before the assembly – could you do me a favour and see to Goetz’s accommodations?”

Westerlie nods with a knowing smile, and just says, “I’ll correct you when you screw up, Professor. Right now, everything is 5×5. I’ll go check on Mad Dog, he was smart enough to get one of the patrol men to assist him with Goetz, so I think he will be okay. I’ll make sure they took her to a good place, far from prying ears, and with a good stout lock on the door.”

She watches you depart, then heads off down the hallway toward the security office and the side stairs to other levels of the building.

It is very cold outside, and the sky has lost it’s bright metallic sheen of wintry light to the dark and menacing threat of high winds and plummeting temperatures. A storm is coming.

Crunching across the frost-covered ground, you head to the closest door of the stable, and enter quietly. You hear a voice, hard to make out, but from the accent one of the rich students… Chilton probably, talking about the death of a mechwarrior. If it is Chilton, it will be the story of how his grandfather got cut off from the rest of his cowardly lance mates who were unwilling to follow the lead of their commanding officer, and how he died under the guns of three light mechs.

This story, while a good one, doesn’t ring completely true, sounding more like a cover-up than the truth. Some sort of tacit agreement on the teaching staff, however, seems to prevent anyone from saying anything to him about it.

As your eyes adjust to the interior lights, you make out two forms, one clearly Velika, the other… probably Chilton. He looks like he is about to say more to , but like the spoiled child of privilege that he is, turns on his heel and simply leaves, using the smaller side door that is the main form of personnel access during the winter.

As you enter into through the deep shadows at this end of the stable, the wind nearly takes the door from your fingers.

Blowtorch looks your way as you enter.

You walk over to her, doing your best to be unnaturally noisy. You’ve learned never to sneak up on a tech in their own domain. Especially one who has obviously been working hard to uncover answers that are less than satisfactory. The grease and hard expression on her face pay mute testimony to the afternoon she has had.

“Hey Velika, listening to old war stories again?” you ask, to break the ice. “That was Chilton, wasn’t it? It may be worth while keeping a mental note of anyone we spot hanging around the mechs and other equipment. Maybe keep an eye on the mechs for tampering as well. Given the events of today, we can’t rule out a potential saboteur. I just got back from Fitz and it looks like he will recover. It may take a few days for the poison to work its way through his system though. I think I’ll keep him company with a few stories on the history of the autocannon while he’s too sick to argue. Ha!”

“I also just received a comm from the Dean. He asked me to meet him before the assembly with a few people I trust. Right now that includes you, Fitz and winters. If you want to lock up here, we should have enough time to grab winters and get to the Dean’s office by 3:45.”

She nods at you, brushing some oil-stained hair back with an oil-stained hand, looking thoughtfully at the door through which Chilton just stepped.

“Alright, let’s go.”

She gives the bay a quick once-over to make sure nothing’s amiss, locks it up, and goes with you, back out into the deepening cold.

Speak your piece~

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