Bleed Out: An Ashen Stars Campaign

Episode 1.5 "The Pleasure Bringers" Part 1 of 2

Andarta, Aventine Cluster

After discussing their contract via holo with Bazuhl from the Loghos Corporation, the Earwig proceeded post-haste to pleasure planet Andarta. Their conversation didn’t reveal that anything Gravely had been working on would lend itself to suspicion, and Bazuhl, who just wanted the meeting over, insisted that they’d just find Gravely shacked up somewhere with a prostitute, his tether off for privacy. Skimming through the hundreds-of-thousands-of-words-long attachments, Jim managed to identify another Loghos executive who had recently filed insurance paperwork for travel to Andarta: a durugh named Jezhabur.

The Andartan spaceport assaulted the crew with gaudy advertising for every kind of sexual experience: Wild Jim reveled. All incoming travelers had to submit medical records and a blood sample before being allowed on the main concourse: Jim made it through and continued on to the more commercial areas, and Vedeg was waved through perfunctorily as well, but Deadbeef, still in the female Ur meatshell acquired on Tartarus, required special attention.

Fortunately, the crew had foreseen this eventually and forged medical records for “Dead Betty,” but two friendly security guards, Gerd and Lou, insisted on holding him in a security room while the lab processed a larger blood sample. Deadbeef complied, and Vedeg convinced the guards to let him accompany her and wait.

Meanwhile, on the main concourse, Jim found the spaceport crowded with pleasure-seekers of every kind, some unable to wait for Joy City proper having sex on their luggage. Only a line of dirty, bedraggled refugees being processed in an out-of-the-way side hallway marred the mood.

A sleezy pimp who eventually introduced himself as Dhez approached Jim and attempted aggressively to hook Jim up with one of his prostitutes, and he didn’t take “no” for an answer. Jim offered to take Dhez’s contact information, but the man insisted, then eventually broke down and revealed that he had a quota to hit, and if he didn’t, bad things could happen to him. Jim sympathized, but left Dhez to find other clients.

Gerd and Lou proved amiable enough company for Vedeg and “Dead Betty” as they waited for the blood sample to process. They provided information on the slums, which were overrun by gangs like the Jerks and the Squirts. The two men disagreed on the state of the Church of Regenerative Carnality, with one believing the healing side of its message was taking a back seat to spiritual ritual since the war. The lasers asked where someone would go to indulge in illegal, scary sex acts, and the guards recommended The Pink Pit, a scary club in the slums. When shown a picture of Gravely, neither recognized the man, but that was unsurprising given the number of people they regularly processed. In response to questions about missing persons, the guards said they wouldn’t know: the government does all it can to keep scary crimes out of the media in order to protect the vital sex-tourism trade. They did offer that Andarta was straining under the weight of refugees from the Mohilar War which had been bounced around from facility to facility for years; apparently, the Combine or other local organizations had recently deemed Andarta a fit relocation destination. But planets like Ares-3 rendered unlivable by the war needed to shed their citizens somewhere.

Finally, “Dead Betty’s” blood sample came back clean, and Vedeg and Deadbeef were freed to go. As an apology, Lou offered “Dead Betty” his address and the possibility of a quick threesome later with he and Gerd. Deadbeef remained politely noncommittal.

Once the three lasers joined up in the main concourse, they spotted a group of smartly-suited young men and women passing out literature. A brief interaction showed that these were representatives from the Church of Regenerative Carnality. Jim briefly flirted with one of the women, Heather, who gave him a flier detailing their tenets. She invited him to the upcoming Grand Conciliation festival.

The crew boarded a mag-lev train headed for the city: Vedeg chatted up an older man who gave him advice about pacing himself and taking performance-enhancing drugs for his first exposure to Andarta. Their conversation was interrupted by a crowd of grey-robed zealots moving down the train aisle berating pleasure seekers. The older man explained that these were Restreamers, a cult who believed that reality could snap into an alternate, “correct” path if enough people simply believed it to be possible. The Restreamer group picked a fight with some CRC acolytes, but the lasers deescalated the violence by interposing Deadbeef’s enormity, Vedeg’s bulk, and Jim’s quiet hand on his disruptor pistol.

Downtown, the lasers visited the Alachir Hotel, first attempting to flirt with receptionist Bernice, then speaking with the manager, Tal Barner, who took them into his office.

After the lasers reluctantly displayed their credentials, Barner acknowledged that the Loghos Corporation had contacted him that they’d be sending effectuators to look into Gravely’s disappearance. The hotel’s record’s didn’t reveal anything new, and Barner provided them with a key to Gravely’s room, which was still allocated to him.

Something about Barner’s eye contact in the interview bothered Straight, and after he subvocalized this to the others, Deadbeef planted a snail under the chair he was awkwardly occupying.

When the investigators proceeded to the hotel elevator, the snail picked up an immediate holo call in Barner’s office: he had a brief conversation with Victoria Fritz, updating her on the presence of the lasers, and she in turn reminding Barner to keep her updated on their movements. A quick Feed search showed that Fritz was a former heirodule in the Church of Regenerative Carnality, moved on into law enforcement, and has since acquired a nebulous, high-ranking position in Andartan government.

Inside Gravely’s room, the lasers found a card for an escort service called Joy Services, Gravely’s headset, medicine in the bathroom, a pamphlet for the Church of Regenerative Carnality, and a few blond hairs on one of Gravely’s shirts. The medicine represented a variety of vending-machine drugs intended to treat general symptoms. The headset showed that the last number called was Joy Services. Hacking the headset, the crew found that Gravely had also called a medical consultation number and a private number: they backtraced the private number to a Steve Moore. A Feed search showed him to be a dropout and social media douchebag.

Hacking Gravely’s private messages, the crew found several from Loghos wondering why he wasn’t answering his calls, plus a group of messages with pictures of Gravely consorting with various women with messages like, “Does she know what you’ve been doing?” The pictures were taken from the street outside the hotel; a quick records check revealed Gravely was not married.

Checking the halls outside Gravely’s room, the Lasers found no surveillance, but they did hack the lobby holos to see videos of Gravely coming and going. The final video showed him stumbling and a little bit confused as he left.

The group decided to take a cab to Joy Services next. As per “Dead Betty” and Vedeg’s conversation with Gerd and Lou, Joy Services was smack in the middle of Squirts territory. Leaving the cab, the group saw several Squirts (identifiable by the brown patch on their pants) lounging around, appraising Deadbeef’s meatshell from afar. The more dangerous individuals, however, were innocuously-dressed men acting casual, walking in pairs pretending to be in conversation, but also clearly packing heat and walking patrol.

The group tentatively approached the Joy Services building, a nondescript business with a small sign. The door locked, Vedeg tried the intercom and was told by a sultry voice to call the number from his hotel room instead. Vedeg responded that he would tell everyone how the company’s prostitutes were making their clients sick, and the voice became more concerned: she opened the door and let them in.

Inside, the group met with Hana Voltar, source of the sexy intercom voice, incongruously huge and repulsive. She was nervous at first, but eventually relaxed as “Wild” Jim Straight flirted with her. (Wingman Vedeg referred to him loudly as Wild Jim Thickcock.)

Shown a picture of Gravely, Hana identified him as a repeat customer who preferred a prostitute named Kara Canal. Kara left Joy Services, however, around the same time as her pimp, Rayan Fitch. Rumor has it they took some of club owner Kevin Brazil’s money and ran, which was so not a good idea. She also admitted that Brazil had her send Gravely’s details on to a mysterious “J,” for whom she only had contact information. She provided that information and the investigators backtraced it to The Church of Regenerative Carnality.

Hana at this point said she almost regretted alerting Kevin Brazil when the investigators threatened to spread rumors about sick clients. At the lasers’ urging, she left him a message calling him off.

Unsurprisingly, when the lasers’ left, their cab was gone, and in its place a huge black ATV. Four huge, cybernetically-enhanced men were exiting the vehicle: the bald one ran at the investigators while his dreadlocked thugs covered them with their disruptor pistols.

Kevin, the bald man, accused the lasers of being saboteurs from the Pink Pit sent to spread rumors about Joy Services, and he threatened to kill Vedeg and Deadbeef, letting Straight return to the Pit with his slain colleagues as a message. Vedeg quickly grabbed Brazil with his arms and flex arms, getting him into a lock. While Brazil screamed for his men to kill the lasers, and Deadbeef insisted they weren’t from the Pit, the screen faded to black.

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