Starfinder: Dead Suns

Session 11

Cheap Sunglasses

Castrovel

The Cult of the Devourer was actively searching for the Gate of Twelve Suns and the Stellar Degenerator – an ancient alien superweapon that would devastate the Pact Worlds and countless other star systems if it fell into the cult’s hands. Although the crew defeated Tahomen and his Castrovelian cult cell at the Temple of the Twelve, they also learned that the cult leader had already shared his discovery with another Devourer cult in the Diaspora.

Upon their return to Qabarat, they found a message from Chiskisk wanting to know the results of their expedition to Castrovel. The host shirren’s signature refined enthusiasm transformed into anxiety and near panic at the prospect of the Cult of the Devourer finding a weapon like the Stellar Degenerator. Chiskisk encouraged the crew to return to Absalom Station to get the Sunrise Maiden refitted while other Starfinder Society resources tried to find the cult’s base in the Diaspora. It was important for the Society to determine just how much information the cult had and how its members might be planning to act on it.

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Absalom Station

A number of things changed for the crew when they returned to the Lorespire Complex. Radaszam, leader of the Acquisitives offered Galakrond a position on another Starfinder crew in need of an agent of his talents. The vesk mercenary agreed, and left the crew to pursue more martial tasks. Radaszam explained that as the Starfinders monitored their teams, sometimes agents were reassigned as befitted their experiences. He then introduced the crew to Porunga, a vesk priest with crusader chaplain experience.

The crew hit it off with the new agent, Winslow reacting with some relief. He had been offered a position running a trauma wing in the Lorespire Complex, but he had decided he preferred to stay with the crew instead. However, he explained that he would take a less active role in the field, instead remaining with the ship while the others were out on a mission. He was concerned that his morality might actually imperil the crew’s safety, so he would be there to patch them up when they returned to the ship. Porunga’s talents as a mystic healer would fill the gap that would otherwise have existed with Winlsow’s semi-retirement.

Twitch made the arrangements to improve the Sunrise Maiden, and while the crew waited for the upgrades to be completed, they were summoned by another Starfinder leader. The efficient hum of machinery filled the Archive’s Cortex. Projected images and text flitted across multiple screens positioned around a raised swivel chair occupied by Historia-7, leader of the Dataphiles. The android swiped a finger to clear the feed and spoke without preamble.

“My sources indicate that you are the most efficient and capable team the Starfinder Society currently has for my mission. I sincerely hope you do not prove this claim erroneous. I recently detected a discrepancy in the Society’s data logs. As you may be aware, my primary objective has been decoding information regarding the Scoured Stars incident. Before the incident, my predecessor, Historia-6, and other Society members extensively investigated several corporations as well as the Scoured Stars system. Much of their knowledge was lost to us. A recent ally that you helped recruit, the skilled hacker Ceren, uncovered multiple data links from what remains of my predecessor’s research leading back to a corporation known as the Arch Energy Consortium. When I compared these findings to our records, I found no mention of this corporation, and all data related to Arch Energy Consortium was somehow deleted from our records. My worst-case scenario is being realized: our data has been tampered with.”

Historia-7 unhooked the neural cables from her neck and massaged the attachment sites. “I require additional information about this corporation. Arch Energy’s CEO, Ilia Tamm, has enough security resources and paranoia at her disposal to make a direct infiltration inadvisable. The weak link in this proverbial firewall is her son, Envar Tamm. His proclivities make him very suggestible, and I hypothesize that resourceful individuals could convince him to provide the information I seek.

“Envar routinely attends gladiatorial fights on Arch Energy’s corporate space station, Brilliance. It will take you some time to reach Brilliance from here. During your journey, I want you to create false identities. Meanwhile, I’ll make sure that you’re entered into one of these gladiatorial matches as contestants. From there, you’ll need to get Envar to grant you access to his mother’s computer records. Acquire any data related to the corporation’s board of directors. Above all, this mission demands subtlety, as Envar has quite the media presence.”

Historia-7 provided the crew additional information about the mission in response to their questions. “Arch Energy is a minor subsidiary of Resurgent Technologies, which is a larger Aballon-based corporation. Analysis of Arch Energy’s finances suggests its CEO wants to keep it that way. Ilia Tamm has made multiple business decisions over past fiscal cycles that stunt company growth. I therefore conclude that the company is a front – for what, exactly, I don’t know. I suspect that Resurgent Technologies is still unaware of this.”

“Why is Envar our way in?” asked Kusanagi.

“My research led me to discover that Envar has an addiction to transdimensional pesh, and while he’s impaired he may be highly suggestible. Additionally, Arch Energy PR constantly edits his info feed, suggesting he may already be prone to leaking sensitive information to the infosphere. This is an unenviable task, and I fully intend to ensure that Envar receives the help he needs – after we get our data.”

“Where will we find the information you’re after?” asked Boske.

“Once you gain access to Ilia Tamm’s computer, a capable computers expert should be able to locate the appropriate files. I am not entirely sure what you will find, so download anything secure and return it to me. If you are unable to extract the files on-site, removal of the computer’s storage module will suffice, but it will alert Tamm to the security breach.”

After they were dismissed, the crew performed some perfunctory infosphere research and asked around about Envar Tamm, the CEO’s only child. He was chief procurement officer of the Arch Energy Consortium, a corporation that manufactured and distributed solar batteries. Envar was a minor celebrity who relied on his money and connections rather than actual talent to remain in the spotlight. He disliked being bored and apparently sought the company of exotic or famous individuals.

Envar owed his position within the company entirely to nepotism, and while he had an elevated level of security clearance and a matching salary, his mother employed a host of assistants to limit his influence on the corporation – and her bank account. On Brilliance, however, Envar usually traveled unsupervised. Ilia Tamm and her public-relations team tried to cover up Envar’s addiction to transdimensional pesh, but leaked videos of Envar’s drug-fueled antics occasionally slipped through the cracks. One of the more popular videos depicted Envar nearly crashing a solar yacht in an attempt to impress the shirren icon Magisterial Chef Ghornak Ryzcech during his visit to Brilliance.

Finally, they uncovered the fact that Envar owed a substantial amount of credits to the ysoki gangster Razor, the leader of a crime organization funded largely by the drug trade. Razor was known for her brutal methods of extracting credits from those reluctant to pay. She often uses gladiatorial matches to recruit hired muscle, and she planned to attend the event on Brilliance, intending to collect Envar’s debt after the fight.

The crew relied on Kusanagi and Twitch to craft false identities using their prolific computer talents. Porunga, as an albino vesk – a rarity – was the most difficult to disguise. Still, they hoped they would be able to keep their heads down during the mission and avoid tipping the Society’s hand. Leaving Winslow to make sure the Maiden’s upgrades would be completed in a timely manner, the crew borrowed a Society Drake and headed out.

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Brilliance

Brilliance was a sizable space station closely orbiting the Pact Worlds’ sun. Its upper level boasted retractable shields that allowed safe observation of solar activity and the absorption of solar energy, while its lower levels contained laboratories, offices, workstations, and recreational areas including an auditorium, cafeteria, and gymnasium. Brilliance’s lowest tier provided docking for craft ranging from tankers to solar yachts.

A female korasha lashunta customs officer recorded the crew’s alias names and images on her computer, and security recognized them as attendees to the gladiatorial bout. The match was set to begin almost immediately, and the guards quickly shepherded the Starfinders to the location of the impending fight.

According to their research, the immense auditorium was usually used to broadcast entertainment and training transmissions to Arch Energy employees. One of Envar Tamm’s few tangible company actions had been to convert the area into an arena for gladiatorial bouts. Giddy to host his favorite blood sport, Envar had spared no expense in furnishing the auditorium for the matches. Arena guards directed the crew to the southern entrance of the arena, explaining that they were set to fight an alien creature imported at Envar’s request. They had a few minutes to prepare for the fight before the guards ushered them into the arena.

The ceiling of the auditorium was made of artificial transparent sapphire, providing a stunning view of space. The glare obscured the faces of the roaring crowd crammed into bleachers towering above the floor. Overhead, six suspended holoscreens looped images of the arena. Metal pillars rose like jagged teeth from the bloodstained arena floor, and an announcer’s voice boomed, “Are you ready for some carnage?” The crowd echoed the refrain as the silver metal door to the east grinds open.

A team of two male korasha lashuntas and a female vesk armed with stun guns guided a harnessed and chained beast through the metal door at the north end of the arena. Porunga communicated what he knew about the creature – a “crest-eater” – to the others over the mindlink he had established in the warm up area. Its bite was venomous, and it could also spit venom about thirty feet! The handlers latched the harness clips onto either side of the door before hastily retreating. Once far enough away, the handlers remotely unlocked the clips, giving the crew a few moments to warm up the crowd and prepare before combat began.

Remembering Historia-7’s entreaty to impress Envar, Twitch and Porunga engaged in impassioned speeches like those they had seen on professional drama-sports on Absalom Station. Unfortunately, they got a somewhat lukewarm response. Kusanagi took a more direct approach, firing up his jetpack and alighting atop the nearest pillar. Simultaneously, Boske lobbed a series of star-knives up the side of another pillar, then rapidly climbed up the impromptu handholds to gain the top. He raised his heavy gun high and roared about the time that Kusanagi turned on his active camouflage and disappeared from view. The crowd went wild!

From their perches atop the pillars, Boske and Kusanagi opened fire. The crest-eater spat venom on the android, but he resisted the debilitating effects. After that failure, the beast rushed LACIE and took a bite out of Twitch’s drone before being put down. All told, the gladiatorial fight had lasted fewer than thirty seconds. Moment’s later, the crew met their target.

An attractive, muscular korasha lashunta with reflective glasses strutted through the northern door. He casually walked over the remains of the defeated crest-eater, stepping over the carcass with a skip. He lowered his sunglasses to reveal dilated pupils and flashed a toothy grin. “Stellar,” the man slurred. He glanced at the floor and his smile changed to a look of disgust. He then took an exaggerated step over the bare ground as though trying to avoid an object there and tripped, falling face-first into one of the metal pillars on the arena floor. He immediately sprang back up and dusted himself off.

“You killed two of those things? That’s amazing!” The man held out a hand in greeting. “I’m Envar – Envar Tamm, you’ve probably heard of me. I know, I know, I’m way more handsome in person. It’s a pleasure to meet me, I’m sure. Now, tell me all about you; I want to know all about my new best friends.”

They muttered a few vague introductions, and Boske was the first to make an impression upon Envar when the vesk took a selfie of himself with the lashunta. “Thish guy getsh it!” said Envar, taking his own selfie with the arena “champions”. After the introductions, Envar announced that he wanted to take the crew on a tour of Brilliance. He casually stated, “While you’re here, do you wanna check the place out? My personal tour covers all the hot spots. If you want the VIP treatment, come with me.”

Envar led the group out of the auditorium and down a hallway to the elevator. A holo-projection of Ilia Tamm popped up in the hallway as they passed, reciting a canned message: “Security is important to Arch Energy. Remember to reset your computer passwords once a week. Use a 16-character password that does not contain any recognizable words or patterns to increase its security.”

The lashunta rolled his eyes at the projection and sighed, “I told you, Mother, I can’t remember all those letters and numbers. That’s why it’s still – Wait, where’d she go?” The crew tried to get his password out of him, but the stoned young man was way too distracted.

The tour began at one of Envar’s favorite spots, the afterhours lounge on the second level of Brilliance. The group entered a gray metal elevator with a glass window that allowed them to watch employees at work as they descend to level two. A holoprojection of Ilia Tamm announced each level as they passed, and a chime sounded as the glass doors slid open to reveal a dimly lit hallway ending in glass double doors emblazoned with a crescent sun and the word “Eclipse.”

As they approached the doors, another holo-projection of Ilia Tamm appeared and announced, “Your rest cycle and mental health are important to your productivity. Please enjoy your recreation time responsibly during your non-contracted hours.”

A small foyer led to a large open room furnished with hovering black marble tables and dark-orange leather booths. A semicircular bar occupied most of the north wall, its multiple tiers backlit in blue and purple neon where glowing, flaming, and frothing drinks were served. A small holoscreen above the host stand in the foyer broadcasted an image of a scowling shirren in a white chef’s hat accompanied by the text “Chef Ghornak personally endorses Eclipse with a five-nova review!”

A male android clad in a white suit and orange tie greeted them from behind the podium and offered to check their coats and weapons. While everyone handed their possessions over, Envar boasted that his “friend” Magisterial Chef Ghornak Ryzcech had featured the Eclipse Lounge on his reality broadcast and provided his own downloadable hospitality interface for all android employees.

The android host rolled his eyes and comments, “It’s completely degrading. Sadly, anticorp hacktivists got their hands on the program, and now I have an excuse to be rude to customers. Oh, my apologies, may I offer you a hot towel?” The android then beckoned for you to enter the lounge.

Behind the glass doors, an all-android wait staff catered to customers in the Eclipse Lounge. Tolara, a kasatha bartender with two additional cybernetic arms, mixed and served drinks to patrons with all six arms. She turned to the group and asked, “Would you care for a cocktail, or perhaps service at our premium gas bar? We carry oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen – whatever suits your pleasure.”

Everyone ordered and the crew listened as Envar regaled them with rambling tales, including, but not limited to warnings about space worms that created black holes in the hallways sometimes. The lashunta also offered them pesh before realizing that he had smoked it all during the match. It seemed that the crew was in for a long night tolerating the inebriated young man, but Boske continued to make a good impression with his scotch-bread “invention.”

A few minute later, a female ysoki entered the club with two vesk bodyguards, all armed. She walked right up to Envar before glancing at the crew. “Move if you don’t wanna be collateral, smooth skins,” she squeaked. Then she turned to Envar and demanded to know where her creds are. Envar, still in the throes of transdimensional pesh, squealed and tried to pet her, exclaiming, “Aren’t you sooo fwuffy!” The ysoki was unimpressed and immediately ordered her bodyguards to seize Envar.

The crew intervened, trying to talk the ysoki – the drug-dealer Razor – down. Porunga tried to convince her that she could have Envar after the crew was finished with her, but no one ever addressed the money Razor was apparently owed, so she quickly lost patience and ordered her goons to attack the crew, too. Even without weapons, the crew held their own against the mercenaries, and LACIE’s artillery laser did most of the work of putting them down. With her mercs down, Razor pulled a smoke grenade from her cheek pouch and made good on an escape from Eclipse.

During the confusion, Kusanagi had convinced the addled Envar to hand over his comm unit. He quickly forwarded everything he could over to Twitch, who had gone into the back to access the control computer for the club’s fire-suppression system. The fight ended before he could assert control, and a pair of security officers came out of the back office and ushered him back to the front.

Security briefly questioned the crew about the incident, although a review of security-camera footage confirmed that they had acted in defense of Envar. The officers filed a report but assured them that they would take no action against the crew. As they were about to leave, one the guards looked a bit more closely at Porunga’s credentials and started to question the vesk. Envar interrupted, “They’re famous professional gladiators. They need some downtime from the spotlight, so they had to put on these awful clothes and pretend to be someone else. Would you want a media drone following you to the bathroom?” Security seemed to accept this explanation and bid everyone a good night.

After the chaos died down, Envar decided that something “a bit more relaxing” was in order. He took the crew to the sixth floor of Brilliance, the solar observatory. While on the elevator, Envar enthusiastically gushed about the magnificent view of the sun and mentioned that he was glad they’d have the place to themselves, since the scientists who usually worked there were a real drag.

The elevator doors slid open to reveal a chamber with golden-hued metal floor and walls. Plasma screens on the south wall stretched from floor to ceiling and displayed crisp, breathtaking images of space. A fluorescent mural on the floor depicted the stages of a solar eclipse. Two silver doors to the east and west led farther into the observatory.

When the crew entered, Envar stared intently at the screens on the south wall and murmured, “I can see, like, the whole universe from here.” The lashunta stood mystified in front of the screen for a long while before Porunga stirred him from him reverie. Retinal scanners affixed to the east and west walls allowed the doors to slide open when an authorized person presented his key card. Once snapped out of his fugue, Envar proceeded to the west, opening the area with his key card and retinal scan.

Arch Energy Consortium scientists observed and recorded solar phenomena in the chamber to the west. The sun blazed above the transparent, domed ceiling of the gold metal laboratory. An enormous gray-and-silver telescope was mounted near the western wall and pointed up toward the ceiling. A half-circle desk and associated chairs rested near the northwestern wall. A dark-silver control station in front of the northern wall housed twin computer terminals. A set of silver shelves jutted out from the northeastern wall, displaying various scientific instruments and tools.

The enormous telescope mounted to the floor in the southwestern corner was positioned to view the sun through the lab’s protective shielding. To the northwest of the telescope, a holoscreen hung above a round metal table surrounded by hovering chairs. The computers in the northern control panel controlled the various layers of shields surrounding the observatory, including a dimensional shield and airlock.

As they began exploring, Envar approached the telescope. A holo-projection of Ilia Tamm appeared near the telescope and announced, “Guest safety is important to Arch Energy. Only authorized personnel may enter this restricted area.” Envar shrugged and sauntered over to the control panel and lounged in one of the hovering chairs within the console area, spinning it and giggling. “Mother,” he addressed the projection of Ilia, “you never let me play this game when I was a kid. Finally, I’ll get my high score! Check this out!” Envar mashed the buttons on the control panel. A loud droning sound filled the room, and the floor vibrated. The sun above appeared brighter as a shield lowered.

Then a pair of solar elemental materialized in the laboratory.

The outsiders looked similar to fire elementals, but no one was familiar with this particular variation. Still, everyone assumed they would be immune or at least resistant to fire, so they didn’t reach for laser weapons. Boske got a little burned, but his were the only injuries sustained as the crew swiftly dispatched the threat. Twitch approached the controls and closed the protective shield that Envar had lowered. The lashunta gave him a toothy grin and congratulated the crew on a job well done. He went on to post an infosphere-wide update, along with a selfie of himself and the crew that read “Envar and friends 1, Sun 0.”

Envar then felt that it was prudent to leave the observation deck, but he suggested that the crew check out the shelves in the laboratory and in the storage room next door and take any stored equipment as their rightful rewards. As a ranking member of Arch Energy, he informed them that he was legally allowed to offer these goods, so they wouldn’t be breaking any laws. The Starfinders shrugged and collected their SWAG.

After they finished exploring the solar observatory, Envar told them that his official tour was almost over. He’s included everything except for the “boring levels” and asked if there was any location they would like to see before the tour ended. Unanimously, they suggested Ilia Tamm’s office. Envar brightened. “I’m the only other employee who has access. Mother’s office is really plush. I go there sometimes to get away from it all… I mean, when she’s not around.” He checked the time on his comm unit. “Like now!”

Ilia Tamm’s office was located on the third floor of Brilliance. As the crew exited the elevator with Envar, a pair of vesk in security uniforms entered, but after scanning their credentials, they gave the lashunta an indifferent nod. A locked plastic door barred entrance to Ilia’s office. A keypad and a plate for swiping a key card were just to the right of the door. Envar happily provided his key card, but the dual-authentication setup struck Twitch as curious. The ysoki tinkered with the controls and discovered a silent alarm that would trigger if the right code was not typed along with the key card swipe. A few moments later, he’d disabled this security measure and the crew entered the office.

The rectangular room was starkly different from the typical gold-and-silver metal decor found throughout the rest of Brilliance. Darkwood credenzas and bookcases complemented the wood-paneled walls and tan wooden floor here. A model of the Pact Worlds system, sculpted in gold and silver metal, hung from the ceiling near the center of the room. Framed parchment maps from some ancient era adorned the walls. The lone visible piece of modern technology was a silver computer console affixed to a darkwood desk on the eastern side of the room. A private climate-controlled and air-sealed balcony overlooked open space to the north. Racks lined with dusty bottles stood along the western wall of the office, watched over by an oil painting of a graceful lashunta woman reaching up toward a radiant sun.

“I commissioned that painting for Mother,” Envar confided. “Pretty proud of it. I’m glad she likes it enough to display,” he added a little wistfully. A moment later he blinked and smiled. “Take a look around! See if she has any decent games on that computer!”

While Twitch attended to the computer, the others looked around the rest of the office. Most of the books on the shelves were works of fiction from bygone ages, and the wine bottles in the racks were priceless relics of decades- and centuries-old viticulture. Kusanagi casually unlocked the desk drawer and withdrew a high-density datajack. Porunga pocketed a psychic booster he found on a credenza.

The computer required a two-factor authentication to access: the key card that Envar had provided and a password. They didn’t have the password, but in the information taken from the lashunta’s comm unit, Twitch found the answers to the security questions to reset Ilia’s password. With these two things in hand, he was able to access the secure files without much trouble.

At a glance, Arch Energy was essentially a front that funds clandestine meetings between the members of its board of directors, each of which was hidden by a false identity. The data would require a dedicated team of data analysts to properly pry any major secrets from. Clearly, this was the data Historia-7 was looking for. He downloaded the files to his rig, the logged out. “No games, man. Just work stuff,” Twitch reported to Envar.

“Figures,” said the lashunta, dejected. “C’mon, guys. Let’s get outta here.”

Envar escorted them back to their ship, making it clear that he was really glad to have met them all. He appreciated them taking the time to take the tour and party with him. The crew got the impression that despite his wealth and connections, Envar’s lifestyle left him few enough chances to make any real friends. He assured them that he would be sending them a present crafted from the bones of the crest-eaters they had defeated in his arena. With that, he bid them farewell.

Shortly after the crew’s starship detached from the station, a pair of Brilliance security fighters approached, weapons hot! The Drake was a sturdy ship, but a bit more unwieldy than the Sunrise Maiden. Still and all, they managed to keep the shields up enough to avoid much damage to the hull while they focused their attention on disabling one of the two fighters. As it powered down, the crew turned their attention to the remaining Brilliance ship.

It faced them down undamaged and apparently without fear.

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Splintered Worlds

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