|Game Master S|
You are NOT Starfinders.
You are mercenaries, plain and simple. You've taken a job, and are en route to Absalom Station to get the details...
The trip is smooth, and you arrive at the Lorespire Complex on Absalom Station, and await the arrival of your contact, a woman named Luwazi Elsebo. The room is a lavish meeting space, with several couches and a central table. You're not sure what the job is, but it seemed like a good deal.
|Game Master S|
A short hiss precedes the opening of an adjacent door. A woman with a determined look steps through the opening, holding a datapad in one hand as she sits down at the nearby table, takes a calm breath, and begins to speak, “Ah good, you made it. All of you come highly recommended. You have skills, and the Starfinder Society has credits.”
She pauses, looks over the group she has assembled, and continues, “How rude of me—introductions. I am Luwazi Elsebo, the elected First Seeker of the Starfinder Society, and I have an exceptionally fair sum of credits available in return for your specialized services. For this mission, each of you will represent the Starfinder Society, but hold no official title within our organization. As you can probably tell by the empty halls around us, I need to use mercenaries to act as temporary agents. If you agree to the terms, I would like to offer you all a job."
“The Starfinder Society endured a staggering setback several months ago when our previous First Seeker led a mission into a region of space known as the Scoured Stars. We lost almost all our experienced field agents and assets in that endeavor. What the Starfinder Society really needs right now is something to entice outside interest and investment. In short, we need to make a major discovery."
“Prior to the Scoured Stars incident, the Society acquired exclusive rights to explore a rather unique moon. The inhabitants of the nearby planet call it Salvation’s End and see it as a ‘false moon’ due to its visible metal components and underlying superstructure. There’s the potential that it’s nothing more than a mangled hunk of stellar debris on the remains of a moon, but there’s also the chance that the entire object could be one inconceivably large structure.”
Luwazi lets loose a devilish smile. “This is where you come in. I want you to go to Salvation’s End and explore the surface. First, you’ll need to make a quick trip to the moon of Varos, which orbits the nearby gas giant, Bretheda. There’s a high level security complex on Varos that has a survivor from a rogue prospecting mission to Salvation’s End. I want you to question the prisoner, find out what you can about the so-called ‘false moon,’ and then make way to Salvation’s End. Once there, you will need to see if the moon is worthless, or something valuable enough for the Society to announce. Understood?”
|Game Master S|
She smiles, "There's a reason I hired you. The warden denied our requests to meet with Livewire. They indicated that our presence would rub salt in a fresh wound. So, whatever you do, do not let the warden or Livewire know that you are working for the Starfinder Society. I have set up a front to explain your meeting with Livewire: you are all investigators hired by an unnamed corporation looking to remain anonymous. You’re researching a rash of disappeared spacecraft that have gone missing when their flight path took them too close to Salvation’s End.”
“I’m able to provide a spending account of 2,500 credits for mission expenditures; this does not include expenses for personal use, but instead for dealing with Livewire and the other occupants at the Sauna to help in your mission. Upon completion of your greater mission to Salvation’s End, you will each receive 3,000 credits. In addition, you have use of a brand-new Pegasus-class starship for the mission. If we end on agreeable terms, you can count on the Starfinder Society for more work in the near future. Trust me when I say an ongoing partnership would be quite… lucrative, for both parties.”
Raia listens carefully to Luwazi Elsebo. Her offer is tempting and could further a number of different research projects she had been hoping to start but, found herself short of funds. After Luwazi finishes she decides to ask a couple questions. This survivor of the expedition, what is his or her name? Why was the subject incarcerated? Do you happen to know what race the survivor is?...this information might prove useful to the success of the mission. Raia contemplates for a moment and then try's to recall if she has heard or read anything about the mysterious moon known as Salvation's End. Physical science recall info astronomy: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (3) + 11 = 14
Almost as an afterthought, Raia ask Luwazi, Have you knowledge of any lifeforms on Salvation's End?
Iseph raises one thin eyebrow, though his expression remains curiously flat - not surprising given that he is an android. "The name of the prison is Sauna? Fascinating." The Lashunta beats him to the question regarding the race of the prisoner, who he presumed was the one named Livewire. Or had the Venture Captain been referring to the warden? Once he hears the answer to that mental query, he continues. "Are we expected at this facility, under our assumed guise of course? Or are we expected to talk our way past the warden?"
After his initial questions are answered, the operative nods. "If I am understanding correctly, it sounds as though the credits we have been given will serve as bribes, for Livewire and perhaps for the warden both. Will we also require papers of any kind to establish our... subterfuge? In any case, count me in."
In truth, Iseph is excited at the prospect of both the earnings and flying a Pegasus-class ship for the mission.
|Game Master S|
Raia does'nt recall any useful information, but Luwazi does help a bit more, "Livewire is a ysoki pilot. Her crew tried and failed to mine the thing. Talk or bribe your way past, it doesn't matter to me. There are no papers to be had. It's all about your savoir-faire."
She smiles, "So, do we have a deal?"
Raia nods slowly, This will be a difficult but rewarding mission.. I think I speak for the rest of the crew by acknowledging we have an accord 1st Seeker. Raia furrows her brow in frustration. This mission troubles me and we have not yet begun..
Calling dibs on the Science Officer roll!
Ysoki. That sounds about right. Iseph thinks with an internal sigh. Likely the creature would yammer on about all sorts of inane details before coming to the point - not to mention costing them extra credits to listen to its annoying antics.
The operative clamps down on this line of thought, shoving it aside pragmatically. "For myself, we have a deal First Seeker. Where do we report to find our ship. Is she already outfitted, fueled and ready to fly?" This time, even the usually stone-faced android cannot contain the excited edge in his voice when he asks about the starcraft.
Pilot here! Are these pre-gens already fairly classified into their starship roles? Or is there wriggle room?
|Game Master S|
She smiles. “Wonderful! I am so excited to conduct business with you.” With a renewed energy, Luwazi steps further into a large hangar bay containing a pristine ship with a stylized symbol of the Starfinder Society along its hull. Several engineers, laborers, and mechanics buzz about the hangar running diagnostics, polishing the vessel’s unspoiled hull, and finishing the last touches for a maiden launch. Luwazi looks up to the ship with beaming pride, reaches into the folds of her clothing, and pulls out an expensive vintage of champagne, and extends the bottle outward as she exclaims with a wide grin, “The ship is yours for the mission, it is only right you christen it! Tonight, we celebrate; tomorrow you sail off into the stars.”
You are free to partake in the celebrations, which include a tour of the Pegasus, a breakdown of its capabilities, and a description of its armaments. I've added a couple other cheat sheets to the handout.
You leave in the morning. Ready?
13 posts while I was at work? Wow.
Navasi just leans back and smiles as the Lashunta and Android spend all their energy asking questions. "If I wasn't ready to accept your little job, I wouldn't be here."
The characters have some overlap for ship roles. Which is good, because depending on how things go, you may want to have a couple of people change roles during a fight. You want full BAB or skilled pilots to handle the weapons (best in the turret if we have one). A Diplomat/Intimidate monkey in the Captain's seat (but ready to backup elsewhere, possibly). The Computer and Engineer roles are good solo roles until you start taking damage. Actually, if you are taking shield damage only, 2 Computers are good. One fo rsensors and the other to redistribute the shield points the engineer is regenerating. Then you may want to give them skilled help. Navasi is actually best seated in the captain's chair, and can back-up as a gunner, but she doesn't have either the BAB or Pilot.
Iseph returns the First Seeker's grin as he looks over the ship, running his hand along her sleek side. "She looks fast. Nimble. Like me." His tone is flat and matter-of-fact, but Iseph's eyes fairly blaze as he looks over the starship. The android does indeed take part in the celebration, but only in order to look over the Pegasus and get a tour of the engine room, the weapons and the bridge. He knows that familiarity with one's ship can mean the difference between life and death in the cold vastness of space. Iseph asks several pertinent questions, learning that the ship is indeed quick and nimble, which necessarily makes its armament a bit light, but still somewhat formidable if they run across pirates or the like.
Raia watches as the First Seeker strikes the bow of the ship, with a fermented beverage. It is an old custom of the humans dating back more generations than can easily be numbered. Wanting to look over the science module and the ship's computer, Raia readily volunteers to stay for the festivities. She finds the various species methods of celebrating this occasion..remarkably similar. There's most likely a publishable paper to be written about, inter-species interactions and congregation events of a festive nature. It is probably best to observe while partaking in said festivities.
This human intoxicant beverage First Seeker...what did you call it again? Champagne or something?
|Game Master S|
"Indeed! And there's an extra bottle just for smashing on the bow. Records show it's a tradition from before the Gap. By all means!"
The celebration goes late into the night, but not so late as to affect the mission.
The trip is uneventful, and the distance between Absalom Station and Bretheda requires only a few days of standard space travel. Luwazi recommended against using the Drift engine of the new starshi to avoid any unnecessary encounters in the Drift.
When you arrive at the gas giant, the Sauna stands out as different from other stations and structures. A final communication from Luwazi reminds you that you're investigators...
The stations walls aren't the cold metal and composites you're used to, but organic looking; a cross between insectoid and plant. Your host comes on the vidcomm channel, a fawning barathu introduced only as "the Warden" and directs you to a nearby floating landing pad. Your instructions include strict warnings to leave any armaments and contraband (such as food, toiletries, or anything else to tempt prisoners with) on your own ship. The instructions go on to specifically note that credsticks ARE allowed into the complex, as the facility always accepts “donations.”
Once docked, an organic bridge connects the pad to the structure itself. As soon as you disembark from the ship, extremely hot air blasts you, and while your armor should protect you for your jaunt towards the Sauna, it becomes evident that any prolonged exposure outside the prison is foolhardy. A flotilla of four barathus wordlessly greet and escort you to the nearby Warden’s office.
|Game Master S|
The halls and rooms of the Sauna are also entirely organic, comprised mostly of fleshy blue walls replete with pulsating green veins. Tunnels take odd angles, sometimes sloping up or down, which is a nuisance to humanoid creatures but not an impediment to the floating barathus. When you arrive at the Warden’s office, several hard, plastic chairs await arranged in a semicircle around a matching table.
Opposite the table floats the Warden, an almost comical creature that looks like a dozen of the barathu guards mashed together into a floating mass of iridescent flesh and tentacles.
The Warden telepathically offers several trays of a gray mush and glasses of an opaque, milky substance as “refreshments.” While these refreshments look welcoming, especially the drink to help cool off, the ever-present stench makes the idea of eating difficult.
to sample his offered wares, and anyone failing to accept this meal
or showing any signs of obvious disgust might offend him.
After several minutes exchanging introductions and pleasantries, the Warden excitedly communicates via telepathy that one of their constituent barathus had a career as an investigator, and they is always excited to meet with likeminded personalities. They ask you what their proudest moments as investigators are...
....When shown to the ship, Quiq lets out a low whistle as he runs his furred hand down the bow of the ship. "She's nice, I'll give you that..." Once inside, the mechanic bombards his tour guide with questions about the ship, it's controls and systems, and performance capabilities. Once his curiosity is satiated, the man partakes in the festivities, stuffing his check pouches with all manner of appetizers, washing it down with copious amounts of beverages.......
Despite nursing a bit of a hangover, Queequiq spends the travel time inspecting the ships systems in real time, and occasionally making tweaks just to see what happens.
Upon arrival at the Sauna, Quig grudgingly relinquishes his gear, leaving a sizeable pile on the table.
Once at the Warden's office, Queequiq sniffs at the "refreshments, shrugs, and begins to noisily eat and drink.
Motive sensing: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (13) + 1 = 14
Glancing at the warden over his cup of sour milk, the Ysoki raises a hairy eyebrow, then glances at his companions. "Thank you for the delicious refreshments, Warden." He says, then pointedly eyes his companions, then pointedly looks at the refreshments, then back to his companions, then back to the refreshments.
Iseph dutifully leaves his obvious weapons onboard the ship, deciding to leave behind the knife he keeps in his internal quick release sheath as well after a few moment's debate. It is unlikely they will encounter any trouble here, unless they bring their own, he decides.
Glancing at the food... Sense Motive: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (7) + 0 = 7 he decides that the foul stench makes the stuff unappetizing in the extreme. As Quig noisily eats, Iseph decides that he has very likely made the right choice. When the Ysoki makes his obvious head motions to partake, he shakes his head in the negative. "Androids do not require sustenance as frequently as most." Bluff: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (5) + 9 = 14 -2 to Sense Motive checks against
Iseph returns his gaze to the Warden, though the sight is nearly as repulsive and strange as Quig's eating habits. "I could tell you but then I would have to kill you." He responds to the barathu's query. In that same flat voice he continues. "I jest, of course. A habit I seem to have picked up over the years after too much contact with humans, I suspect. In any case, I believe my proudest moment came when I tracked down the criminal that attempted to plant a rather nasty virus into our company's network. The villain had hoped to steal several classified files while corrupting our own. He was quite distraught when he learned that his own program led me straight to his hideout." Bluff: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (1) + 9 = 10 -2 to Sense Motive checks against
The operative has become accustomed to lying in pursuit of his job, though it is sometimes difficult for the android to determine if the subject believes his dissemination or not - especially given that he cannot even see any eyes on this strange creature... Yikes! That was an awful roll. In fact, both of those Bluff checks were bad.
|GM Turmoil's pregens|
Sorry had a busy day yesterday and wasn't able to get on. Wow, this moved fast!
Though absent from the original briefing, you are joined aboard the ship by a shirren priest of Pharasma "Pleasure toe meet all of you. I've been asked to join this mission to take care of any medical concerns that may arise. And should any of you need to pass into the Great Beyond, I will make it as comforting as possible."
Upon arriving at Sauna, Keskodai has no issues handing over his possessions, knowing his faith will protect him should he need it. However, he refuses to part with a heavily fortified cradle-jar that contains his larval son, Chk Chk. He graciously accepts the food that's offered at the meeting, always one to show his manners. "I must admit, I am not much of an investigator. I usually just serve as the medical officer on such missions. However, I am particularly proud of one successful mission we had. It involved an entire population of shirren that had contracted some mysterious malady, causing their antennae to rot. Of course that means none of them were able to communicate. It was not easy with such little information, but eventually we were able to determine the cause, some sort of rogue nanobot infection, and develop a cure."
Edit: Diplomacy: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (9) + 8 = 17
life science: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (8) + 14 = 22sense motive: 1d20 ⇒ 4 so the the warden is an enhanced version of his species ,but what is his agenda? The warden is obviously the social type he listens carefully as several of her crew members relate past stories of their professions, some stories seemed fabricated some not. Raia decides to keep as close to the truth as possible in order not to be tripped up on her own lies later. Therefore, she reaches out with her mind and relates a quick analogy of how her research has lead to many investigations both physical and metaphysical. The story she lays out is brief but friendly. However, she is on guard the entire time should the warden attempt to use any mental powers to probe her mind. diplomacy: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 16
|Game Master S|
The warden's waves of thought eventually return to normal. They then sends forth the catch Raia suspected, the Warden telepathically sighs, stating, “visits with prisoners are forbidden.” They then suggest that they can still be convinced to arrange a meeting, gesturing with one of their many tentacles, holding an empty credstick, and telepathically observing that “donations to our maintenance fund are greatly welcomed. A paltry 100 credits should suffice.”
How thoughtless of me warden Raia telepathically sends. I was so caught up in our interesting dialogue, I completely forgot to make a donation to your necessary and useful facilities! Please forgive my faux pas... The organic nature of "the Sauna," has my mind drifting in awe and wonder. It is most excellent work you and your servants do for the galaxy at large here. I and the corporation I represent, are happy to donate such a minor sum, in the name of law an justice! Raia freely transfers 100 credits of the Starfinder's bribe fund, in to the Warden's empty cred stick.
|GM Turmoil's pregens|
"Hmmm, yes, we are a generous group. 100 credits in exchange for your cooperation in this investigation is more than fair." A wave of pleasure courses through Keskodai's body as he voices his opinion.
|Game Master S|
The donation seems to work. The Warden calls for the previous flotilla of barathu guards to escort you to a common area where you can treat with Livewire. "I ask that you leave cred sticks here. Nothing illegal or dangerous can be allowed in."
Whereas the stench within the Warden’s office was bad, the stink in the common area is almost unbearable. Several half-naked, sweat-drenched workers of various species crowd around here. The barathu guards combine to form one larger, menacing amalgam creature, ensuring you remain safe from confrontation.
After several minutes traversing through this sweat-slicked region, the barathu guard amalgam stops at a table where a ysoki sits. The ratfolk constantly licks her paws uncomfortably while grooming her drenched and matted pelt. With the guard’s arrival, she looks up and acknowledges an unspoken communication between herself and the barathu collective. In an instant, the barathu collective splits into its separate entities and floats off in independent paths throughout the complex, leaving you alone with the sweat-soaked ysoki who looks up with cautious interest amid a timid introduction, “Hiya, the name’s Livewire. What can we do for each other?”
|Altronus, the Solarian|
"We are investigators, looking to find out why some ships have gone missing near Salvation's End. We heard you might know about the place."
Diplomacy: 10 + 10 = 20
30+ posts on 36 hours! Y'all have quite the posting rate. I feel too far behind to "catch up" by writing about all the previous interactions, so I'll just jump in here. My bad.
-Posted with Wayfinder
Navasi leaves the contraband on baord.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 7 + 1d6 ⇒ (18) + 7 + (2) = 27
"Thank you for the refreshments. They are a truly new experience for me."
"My favorite memory as an 'investigator' was managing to secure a valuable item that the mark had stolen from my employer."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (6) + 9 = 15
Navasi waits and watches Livewire, scanning for any indication of truth or falsehood.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 7 + 1d6 ⇒ (15) + 7 + (5) = 27 In case I need it.
Before ( a few seconds 2 rounds), Raia is shown to the table where the Ysoki sits, she concentrate with her mind and brings her fingers to her temple and calls on her inate ability to detect thoughts.
Raia smiles as Altronus opens the dialogue with the Ysoki. She is content to let Kasatha take the lead in the interrogation. She only interjects a few words here and there to re-assure the Ysoki of the authenticity and urgency of their mission. Her main contribution to aid Altronus in the conversation is to say, By helping us you may be helping yourself one day. We have connections and means that, are not readily apparent. Listen carefully to my wise Kasatha friend and his offer. It can only serve you for the better. Having said all this, Raia still reaches out with her mind and try's to read the thoughts of the Ysoki for the next 3 minutes plus. (DC:12 will for the Ysoki to resist)
Queequig glances at his companions, then shrugs and turns to Livewire.
Flirty Ratman Diplomacy (aid): 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (16) + 1 = 17
"Hey there cutie. What he said, we're looking for some information. What can you tell us about Salvation's End? You've been there, right?" He says, giving her a wink.
|Game Master S|
Don't feel bad about the post rate at all, and don't feel compelled to respond to every post, you're 100% all good.
Navasi eyes the ysoki while the others step gently into negotiating with the pilot. Raia tries to probe the yoski's thoughts, but can't get through.
"Look, I didn't even want to TAKE the mission, but I'll help you out with what you want to know AFTER you help me out. I didn't even like Borgor, he's the picture of a cruel and selfish captain who ruled with a heavy hand. The only reason I took the mission was as a favor to the second mate, Bago (he's a kindred spirit.) Actually, with the loot, I was going to help Bago free himself from Borgor’s influence, and that Bago and I were planning to start a more honest living. But if you want ACTUAL information, it'll cost. It's pretty.... um miserable here. I could REALLY use some hygiene kits. They're as good as credits in here. Think you could hook me up?"
Will: 1d20 ⇒ 15
"That won't be a problem. We can provide you with a goodly number of hygiene kits. Enough to purchase... whatever it is you might want to buy in this place." Iseph looks around dubiously, wondering at whether the disgusting atmosphere of the place is indicative of an economic downturn due to a marked lack of hygiene kits. If so, Livewire was going to be a very 'rich' Ysoki. For whatever that was worth in this foul prison. "What was it Borgor was looking for at Salvation's End? Our corporation is looking into the reason for the disappearance of many starships that disappeared in that area and you are one of the few to have been there and lived long enough to speak of what you've seen."
Iseph intends to use credits to purchase hygiene kits, so I'm guessing no Bluff check needed. If we need to get him the loot first before he'll speak with us, consider it done (if the task is as easy as going to the prison commissary to make the purchases, anyway).
|Game Master S|
"I don't know.... I could use a LOT. We're talking 1,000 credits worth. And that's a HARD number." A quick telepathic wave from a guard confirms that this is acceptable to them.
The party needs to make a singular Diplomacy check (though aiding another is allowed.) The result affects how much information she gives.
Iseph glances at the others, then shrugs. "We are authorized to deal that amount. I'm certain the information you possess is worth the price to our employers. This should buy you a lot of deodorant." But probably not nearly enough... The android thinks as he moves to the guard to credit the funds from their data stick.
I'm unsure as to how this is decided in a pbp format, if it's usually just the first player with a good modifier making the roll or if there is usually discussion. I'm guessing discussion slows the pace considerably, but my modifier is not high, so I won't make the Diplomacy check for the party. I will, however, make an 'Aid Another' with my comments above, and noted in the dice result below:
Diplomacy (Aid Another): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 2 = 6
And thank goodness that was NOT the Diplomacy roll... Good luck to our diplomat! Sorry, no help from Iseph is forthcoming...
|GM Turmoil's pregens|
As the ysoki makes his demand, Keskodai leans in a bit closer, trying to look the creature over. "Yes, certainly in need of some proper hygiene. Could lead to medical issues if not maintained. I could also give you a proper physical and try to care for any maladies. Though that won't help much as a trade good. Perhaps some medical care could even lower your price a bit?"
Diplomacy aid: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (7) + 8 = 15 Looks like Navasi and Altronus have the best Diplomacy
Raia nods her head knowingly, Yes I can imagine what use hygiene kits would be worth in here. Trying to avoid crinkling her nose. Poor soul! Locked up in a place like this without basic amenities!
aid another diplomacy: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (10) + 7 = 17
Altronus has got me beat (by 1). He's the lead.
"The need for hygiene kits is obvious. Is there a race or two you would prefer more kits for? No need to avoid maximizing your benefit, as long as your help is truly cooperative. Right?" She gives him a quick harder look as she finishes her comment, but then bats her eyelashes and looks away.
I should just knock for the Aid Another. Really.
Diplomacy Aid Another: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (3) + 9 = 12
|Altronus, the Solarian|
Altronus nods his head. "1,000 credits worth of hygiene kits will be no problem. And we are just here to investigate; we won't judge you for why you were there, who you were with, or what you did. We just want all the information you can give us."
Diplomacy, aids: 10 + 10 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 28
-Posted with Wayfinder
|Game Master S|
"You know what. you guys are alright. When I get outa here, I'll contact you and if you need a pilot, I'm your ysoki."
She plops down on the ground, takes a deep breath and starts, “People call Salvation’s End a ‘false moon,’ but that can’t be true. I’m pretty sure that floating metal hulk is actually some kind of really old starship caught in the nearby planet’s orbit. I don’t know what happened to it, but its signature and style don’t match up to any Pact World design. There’s a noticeable spire rising from the false moon’s outer hull. It’s teeming with activity. Crude painted symbols are all along structure’s exterior. Inside, a hive of space goblins flourishes in one of their misbegotten makeshift nests. The goblins sneak out to rummage for scrap metal and other junk found on the false moon’s exterior. Lots of ships disappeared while flying too close to Salvation’s End. Until recently, this phenomenon was kind of an urban pilot legend, but I know what it is! There’s some kind of really powerful tractor beam on that moon. It was strong enough to reel in the Archer, and I only got my whiskers out of there by crashing into the damn thing and ejecting an escape pod right before impact! On our first flyby, we ended up skirmishing with a few goblin junkers. After the battle, we detected a strong signal emitting from underneath the space goblin spire, and even thought our sensors could barely penetrate the tower, the source of the signal was just under the surface of Salvation’s End. There’s something down there, I swear it!”
|Game Master S|
Confident that you've learned all you can, you turn to leave. Livewwire adds a parting bit, “No matter what, please let me know what happened to Bago. If the old lunk’s still alive, tell him I miss my ‘Hairless Monkey.’ If you find it in your hearts after exploring that damnable false moon, please put in a good word for me with the authorities. I'm not joking about being your pilot. I’m not sure I can last here for my entire term.” At that, Livewire watches you leave with a sullen expression.