SWTOR: Rix’larril’an of the Ascendancy 2.04 – Crazy Train

By Paige Francis Posted Monday Mar 25, 2024

Filed under: Epilogue, Paige Writes 5 comments

Brengle says we will have to override the security for the MOST-top-secret-labratory at three different consoles that have the proper clearance. The first is in the busy warehouse we passed a few minutes ago, the second is at the heavily-guarded power station next to the warehouse, and the third is at a lookout station next to the power station. Disabling those systems will give us access to a building in the first courtyard next to the goal of our search for Duchess Sarnova’s missing men.

All are heavily guarded, but Kaliyo and I only need to remove anyone standing near the computer stations. I *COULD* just put them to sleep with a tranquilizer while we worked, but as the Sith are already cutting Grathan’s forces in half (literally), I figure a quick stab-and-slice job won’t really be noticed at this point. Despite all this work, as soon as I access the computer in the lab, a holo-projection pops up:

Droge claims to be a cyberneticist enslaved by Grathan. He has developed bionic artificial limbs that grow just like real arms and legs. Grathan, of course, is using this for his cyborg army (so now THAT rumor is confirmed, and gives me a sense of foreboding regarding Sarnova’s men), but Droge hopes someday he will be free of all this and can use his research to help people who have lost limbs.

“Have you looked through a window lately?” I ask him.

He is confused. “What? Why? No, I’m kept in the underground compound below Grathan’s fortress.”

Sigh. “Two questions: is a guy named Mindak down there with you, and have you perchance noticed alarm sirens going off, security forces running around, stuff like that?”

“Uhhhh, yeah; I thought there was some kind of fire drill, or maybe one of the cyborgs went crazy again.”

I look at Kaliyo. “I hate this place. I really, really, hate this place.”

Kaliyo points at the computer. “Money. It’s in there.”

Droge continues, “Oh yeah, and Theovor is in his office. What do you need him for? Going to steal his research, too? This is important work for…”

“Shut up,” I tell him. “Nothing personal, you’ll be dead in a half-hour from lightsaber inflicted injuries, and the entire compound is being burned to the ground by the Dark Council.”

“YOU HEARTLESS B…” he screams before I finish the download and turn off the computer. People with morals are always a drag, but being situationally ignorant is an unforgivable sin in the Ascendancy.

We cross the courtyard to a larger building that happens to be located just under a lightning tower that conceals an Imperial listening post. The lower level contains numerous technicians running tests on odd-looking droids. A ramp leads up to what looks like an open operating theater judging by the lights I can see, and a turbolift appears to access a command or security room on a third level. The operating theater appears abandoned, so Kaliyo and I check that out first.

We see a dead body sprawled on the operating table, and one of the peculiar droids standing across from it. Long story short, OHK-99 identifies as the last of Duchess Sarnova’s troop. The rest are downstairs or dead; his brain was removed from his body and placed in the droid. Even as we talk, he says he can feel the programming eating into his brain like acid. He begs us to access the control station and deactivate all the droids to put them out of their misery. Regardless, it’s clear my next step is gaining access to the secure room above, which I suspect IS guarded.

Sure enough, the computers controlling the cyborgs are being patrolled by a rather beefy man with an auto-fire cannon. Thank the gods for stealth. We manage to sneak behind him and put him out of action. Likely for good unless a full medical team shows up in the next thirty seconds. AND NOW FINALLY we have full access to a general use computer that appears to connect to all of Lord Grathan’s systems. His Research and Development list is enormous, but I am able to find pointers to Mindak’s records being controlled from inside Grathan’s main building, which we already suspected. There are numerous automated turret projects, but one in particular describes using some kind of remote artificial intelligence controlling system…I’m betting that’s the project Bryn would be interested in. This is also located in the underground facility, so hopefully that will be easy to reach.

And finally, upon perusing the control systems for the cyborgs, I see that I can shut down the entire system and then delete it…OR I could program a new commander and bind their allegiance. I am legitimately torn over this decision. While OHK-99 was still self-aware, he WAS the last one “converted” and the cyborgs downstairs didn’t seem to be screaming in pain and frustration. They just acted like droids. Plus, OHK-99 DID say they were programmed for intelligence gathering, advanced combat…the kinds of things the Duchess is assigned. ON THE OTHER HAND, from what I’ve seen, these cyborg troopers don’t actually appear to work right. Even that fool Droge mentioned something about “just another cyborg going crazy,” and that certainly fits what I saw in OHK-99. But that could have been a different experiment; I didn’t look through Mindak’s work, just verified where he was. On the third hand, this could also net me a bonus.

I program the droids to fight their way out of the building and report to Sarnova.

Kaliyo and I return to Brengle on our way to the main building.

I like this woman. Brengle and Kaliyo make arrangements for credit transfers and contact info, then we sneak into the belly of the best. The inside is disturbingly red. I know the Empire is really big on red and black, but this seems a bit much.

Mindak’s office/workshop is just off the storage and staging area that appears to underlie Grathan’s entire main courtyard. The private quarters, offices, and an entire private hangar indicate that Lord Grathan’s entire “estate” lies on top of a vast, artificial underground complex. Maybe he really is capable of threatening the Dark Council. I certainly haven’t run into any fighting down here yet.

We access Mindak’s secure workshop with his daughter’s key, and find the old man waiting for us just beyond the door, flanked by custom war droids. The scary part is that he assumed it was Samara coming to him for some pointless reason, not an Imperial Agent who coerced (or otherwise extracted) the codes from his offspring. Theovor is in no mood to bargain, even if I was. Samara had mentioned his datapad and an old bag he keeps personal items in; I spot both sitting on a desk at the back of the room. But Mindak is raving about how Imperial Intelligence took his wife in the middle of the night and never told him why, and now his only daughter is worthless, and there will be no bargaining with the Empire until it changes its ways.

“Is that true?” Kaliyo asks while he rants.

“Yes, Watcher Two mentioned it. Apparently part of a bungled attempt to get her to spy on the guy. They should have approached Samara; she was itching to throw him in front of a speeder.”

“So, really; he’s not wrong about anything,” muses Kaliyo.

“Hm. No, that’s a good point. He’s raving, but not lying.”

We realize Theovor has stopped yelling. “Are you through?” He asks. He’s sweating.

“Oh, pardon us,” I reply. “Just talking shop. It looked you needed to vent a bit.”

“ATTACK!” he screams, pointing at us. The war droids raise their gun-arms.

Kaliyo and I dodge in opposite directions behind some extremely fortunately-placed computer terminals. I’ve been working on a way to overload a stealth field generator to effectively “disappear” in the middle of battle, but so far it doesn’t work. Well, it DOES work, but it knocks me unconscious, rendering the effect useless in most situations. Mindak’s droids are powerful, but they are already programed for ranged combat and don’t pursue us into cover. We take turns lobbing pyro and acid grenades from behind the workstations. Theover Mindak succumbs quickly, but the droids take a minute to deactivate (read: blow up.) I plug Theovor’s datapad into my own and contact Watcher Two. She is able to see some promising leads over the remote connection, but can’t break the security encryption on the spot. She tells us she will have it ready by the time we get back to The Citadel.

The advanced turret program is assigned to a room in the private residence area, which seems odd. And it’s a bit of jog, but it looks like we have time. As we’re walking back to the storage area on the way to the residential section, we see a Sith Warrior sprinting in the same direction followed by a Twi’lek with blue skin firing at pursing Grathan guards; a blaster in each hand.

Kaliyo puts a hand on my shoulder. “Look, I know this is Dromund Kaas and Sith are something different…but that was weird, right? I mean, you saw it too, right?”

I pat her hand. “Yes, I saw it. Just forget about it. Hopefully we will be off this planet soon and won’t have to deal with Sith anymore.”

The turret workshop is a deathtrap with open flames and clutter. I don’t know if it’s always like this or if that sprinting Sith Warrior beat me to the room. There are still some guards and a couple of turrets guarding the office at the back of the room, so I assume not. After clearing the area, we are confronted by a protocol droid begging us to kill him.

I’m not a droid-rights advocate by any means, but I think it is telling how many droids owned by Grathan greet random strangers by begging for death. Sure, the last one actually had a self-aware human brain, but I’m pretty sure this one is electronic. I think it is, anyway.

PO-12 here explains that HE is the control protocol for Lord Grathan’s new turrets. Sensory data from the turrets are fed back to him constantly, and he can direct them using his naturally more capable full brain instead of simple targeting circuits. Having to constantly murder humans day in and day out is driving him insane. It’s probably a miracle he’s still functional, honestly.

The only thing keeping him from destroying the targeting protocols is a restraining bolt. If someone could just pop that off his chest, he would be able to wipe that program out of existence.

“DON’T DO THAT!!!” I yell, pointlessly, considering he already said he couldn’t with the restraining bolt in place. But I’ve already come all this way doing something I wasn’t really sure I wanted to do, so it’s gonna pay me if I have to take it out of Lieutenant Bryn’s pocket myself.

“Cover him,” I tell Kaliyo. “If he tries to clumsily fall over or pretend to be malfunctioning, start shooting his limbs off.” Again, probably needless with the restraining bolt, but droids can find all sorts of ways around them when they have to.

I step past PO-12 and download his programming and the schematics for the turret control systems from the computer terminal behind him.

“It’s not like I can stop you,” PO-12 says. “I’m not programmed for combat.”

“Based on the two turrets we destroyed getting back here, clearly not,” Kaliyo replies. “But credits are credits.”

“If it were up to me,” PO-12 starts again, taking a shuffling step toward Kaliyo. She jams the barrel of her rifle against the droid’s right shoulder joint.

“Give me a reason,” she threatens. Thankfully the download finishes and we leave the distraught droid screaming “Nooooooo…..” as we head for the exit.

“I hate this place,” I say again. “Grathan has the weirdest droids I’ve ever seen. He must have some kind of severe hangup or fetish. That’s the only explanation I can fathom.”

“Speaking of which,” says Kaliyo. “Do you hear that?”

We’re back to the doorway that opens into the storage and staging room again. Somewhere down the opposite corridor where the bedrooms and Grathan’s personal office are come drifting some extremely disturbing sounds. It sounds like a woman screaming in sexual satisfaction, a man bellowing, and…another woman yelling “oh my gods can we just GO now? Please?”

“Let’s get out of here,” whispers Kaliyo.

“Agreed,” I reply.

I take a step, then remember our other task. “Oh, poodoo. The mask. We’re supposed to find the Mask of Revan somewhere down here.”

“Right. And that one is important. Could be worth a LOT,” Kaliyo agrees. “So, if I were an ancient Sith artifact, where would I be? I think probably the blackest and reddest room.”

“I honestly don’t see one that stands out,” I answer. “Wait, the corridor opposite Mindak’s office had some armor on stands and some kind of lit artwork in it. Let’s try there.”

Behind a locked door left unguarded by only a half-dozen men we do indeed find the room’s sole occupant: a facemask held aloft by a repulsorfield.

I deactivate the repulsorfield and catch the mask before it falls. I am almost irresistibly drawn to hold it up to my own face, even though it clearly requires the wearing of some latching mechanism that isn’t present. Probably a Sith thing. And that’s when the alarm goes off. Another squad of guards runs into the room, apparently failing to notice the pile of dead guards outside of the door. A few seconds later we’re sprinting for the elevator back to the ground level. I glimpse the Sith Warrior and Twi’lek woman from before racing ahead of us; the Twi’lek screaming “I hate you I hate you hate you I hate you” over and over. Kaliyo and I stealth all the way back to Lieutenant Bryn, who wanted the special turret design. He’s practically panting, like an addict ready for his fix.

“There’s nothing special about the turrets,” I tell him.

His face falls so far I bet he dislocated his jaw.

“But, but, but…” he blubbers.

“The turrets were controlled by a protocol droid deep in Grathan’s compound. I have all the programming right here.” I hold up a data chip. He reaches for it and I snatch my hand back. “This was a lot of trouble to get. What’s it worth to you?”

“Ahhh…how much do you want?” he asks tremulously.

“How about ‘everything you have, AND you owe me.'” I hand the chip to Kaliyo and leave the negotiations to her. I honestly don’t care about the credits, that’s up to Kaliyo. I just want the favor he will owe.

We then return to Duchess Sarnova. She clearly is taking the tragedy that has befallen the men she commanded in stride as a commander, but is still grappling with the emotional attachment.

It’s never a good idea to bond with subordinates like this, but it seems humans can’t help themselves. I think Duchess will make it, though. Even in her distress she recognizes the utility of the cyborg troops and the accolades that will likely accumulate to her because of their presence.

That leaves only one loose end. Kaliyo and I steel ourselves for our return to the Revanite Weekend Retreat.


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5 thoughts on “SWTOR: Rix’larril’an of the Ascendancy 2.04 – Crazy Train

  1. M says:

    Why is always *three* things you have to find/lose/fight/destroy/reinforce/build/activate?

    I mean even the ICBM launch systems only wanted two keys.

    I had an MMO quest the other day which ended up with 4! people at one point and I said to myself “Finally!”

    Then I realized it was three *more* people besides the one I was originally looking for and said “Bother.” (well not really; something else which I bowdlerized to that).

    1. Ironically, SWTOR actually does a pretty good job of avoiding the 3/7/10 triumvarate of goals. The thing is, it’s almost always an “arbitrary” number, at least in bonus and extra content. The oddest mechanic I’ve noticed in SWTOR is that you have to activate a computer to trigger an elite that you have to beat in order to loot the item you need. I’ve done this I would guess over 100 *UNIQUE* times; Bioware really like this setup.

  2. sheer_falacy says:

    It makes sense in character but thinking as a player it’s funny to ignore quest hooks and just try to achieve your specific goals rather than clearing the area.

    1. This is one of the reasons I like playing stealth characters the most in this game. You can easily ignore area bonus content which is where you most often find the “kill thirty Grathan guards” goals. You also move through content a lot faster if you can sneak past most mobs. You actually do get access to a sleep dart you can fire from stealth…but it’s only limited use. You break stealth when you fire it, and most enemies appear in groups of 2, 3, or 4. Which means that you draw the entire group when you put the first one to sleep; and that means you will have to kill the guy anyway in order “defeat” the mob. It’s used mostly in more difficult group content when cutting down the numbers or isolating one particularly damaging enemy is useful.

    2. Daimbert says:

      TOR actually does this pretty well by splitting between instanced and non-instanced areas. In the non-instanced areas, MOBs respawn so it makes no sense to try to clear the entire area. In an instanced area — an area set aside just for you and your group, usually related to a specific quest — they don’t and so it makes sense as a player to clear them all out to get the XP. You can get bonus missions in both areas which are almost always “Kill X enemies” or “Destroy/Activate certain things” and whether you do them or not is up to you (although at least some of them do seem to add more to the story of the quest and are also sometimes referenced when you turn the quest in).

      As for quests, while you can get some of them out in the field you get most of them from the quest hub in each area. So if you want to do them, they’re easy to find, but if you don’t want to do them their easy to ignore. I used to do all the regular ones — ie non-heroic, and so aimed at solo characters and groups of the appropriate level for the area — when I needed the XP, but now that I don’t I tend to ignore them.

      The big issue with MOBs in TOR is that since there are so many “Kill X enemies” missions the game in general floods the areas with enemies to kill. This means that just getting from one place to another usually means killing lots and lots of MOBs, especially if you play at times when no one else is on, and even MORE especially in the dungeon areas as opposed to the open areas since they tend to hang out on choke points where you can’t dodge them. I’ve really liked stealth for those cases where I’m just trying to get to my quest instance and don’t need the XP. That being said, the combat is fast enough that it’s usually nothing more than a mild annoyance, but if you have to wander through a big area that annoyance can build and build. Sure, you move slower in stealth, but it’s usually worth it if you’re tired of fighting things.

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