Heat Signature: Blood and Charity
Heat Signature is the new game by old friend Tom Francis. I played it the day after launch, and within two hours I had a story about it I was burning to tell someone. It's been years since this last happened with a game, but it's the type of thing that Tom explicitly builds his games toward enabling, so it should not be a surprise that this was the game to break that trend.

It's a game where you play a series of generated characters who go on space heists breaking into spaceships before escaping by jumping out the space window. Each character comes with a personal mission, something that's motivated them to take up this dangerous occupation. It takes some time before they can attempt it, but only if they complete it can they retire with satisfaction.

My first character was called Charity Caulder. She wanted to steal the Lemorgne Object to pay off her girlfriend's debts. But she never even found out where the Lemorgne Object was - she got captured on her first attempt at a hard-rated mission.

Up steps her dad, Kells Caulder. He just wants to rescue his daughter. Charity started with a wrench and a hacking tool, and I played her avoiding killing or hurting too many people. Kells didn't have that option. His daughter was in trouble, and all he had to do something about it was a quick-fire gun and a grenade launcher. A lot of people died to that gun on those first few missions, but later things changed. He gained a new client who wanted no killing, the new equipment he was finding on the spaceships he infiltrated were things like rechargable teleporters, and he liberated a station that would sell him an unlimited quantity of remote keycard cloners. His strategy changed, out of necessity, and out of adapting to the tools he had available, to be more like his daughter's. But he kept that quick-fire gun to hand, and when things went bad, he'd still bloodily clear a room with it.

Until he finally got the cash together to pay for the intel on where Charity was being kept. A huge spaceship, full of guards, each one fully armored against every weapon he owned. With this intel, Kells gave his all to preparing for it. But no matter how many missions he took, or spaceships he raided, he could not find a single armor-piercing weapon in the galaxy. And each time he screwed something up and took a bullet, he got a little bit weaker the next time. He couldn't keep searching forever.

So he put his gun in his stash, bought a fresh 5-use keycard cloner, and embarked on his personal mission, knowing that once he was aboard he would have no way to use violence to get himself out if anything went wrong. It really felt like this was the conclusion of his personal journey, his final test being to give up his rage, and fully embrace his daughter's way of doing things to save her.

This was the equipment he took with him on the mission:

A wrench, useless against armored guards but he didn't think to leave it at home.
A 3-use sidewinder that can teleport him around corners to any location within range there is an unobstructed winding path to.
A 5-use slipstream that slows down time and speeds him up.
A 1-use glitch trap that can lay down a trap that teleports someone to another location. e.g. to space.
A 5-use visitor that can teleport him through walls to somewhere within range, then teleports him back again after 2 seconds.
a 3-use subverter for hacking things
a 5-use key cloner that can copy guards' keycards through walls.
a 5-use swapper that uses teleportation to swap locations with a guard.

The plan was:
Use the key cloner to make copies of the keys to move about the ship
Use the rest of the tools to somehow bypass rooms full of guards without detection.
Find Charity.
Get out.

He didn't get through without being seen, but some quick uses of sidewinder meant he avoided letting anyone raise the alarm. But this meant once he reached the fifth layer of security, his sidewinder was out of charges. And then he discovered the thing that threw all the planning out the space window: this ship had a never-before-seen SIX levels of security door. His key cloner had run out of power getting him through the fifth.

All those thoughts about personal growth and final test turned out to be for nothing. Violence was going to be necessary. There was one guard with a key to the room Charity was being kept in, and Kells needed it.

The saviour would be the subverter, the kind of hacking tool that Charity used to use. There were automatic turrets on this ship. maybe they used armor-piercing bullets?

New plan:
Hack a turret.
Get the guard with the key in front of the turret.
Loot the key.
Find Charity.
Get out.

The area the key guard was wandering didn't have a turret. But if Kells got in range of them, maybe some combination of the swapper and visitor could move them far enough to get them to the turret? I got Kells closer, and started thinking about how this was going to work. I realised Kells was in the cockpit, next to the oblivious captain. Best take them out now, so he wouldn't have to worry about the ship escaping to a hostile station if the alarm got raised. A whack of the wrench, then back to plotting.

But the captain was armored too, of course. Kells really should have left that wrench at home. Maybe there was something to that idea of this being a personal growth story. Now there was a very surprised, but armed and armoured captain standing face to face with an intruder in the heart of the ship. While they raised their gun to fire, I paused.

And realised Kells never needed to use violence. The visitor teleporter could get through security doors, just only for two seconds. But he was in range of Charity herself now, the last security door was to the room she was being held in. Two seconds was all he needed.

He teleported into Charity's cell. He picked her up, and the two of them were pulled back to the cockpit by the visitor device, next to a doubly surprised captain. Kells triggered his slipstream, and ran. The alarm was raised, guards began jumping in front of him with their own personal teleporters. Kells just kept running. He was dodging bullets, running in circles, triggering more charges of the slipstream. The ship was huge. There were no windows. He had to make his way back through the entire ship, under fire, with his daughter over his shoulder.

Approaching the final section, the first set of guards he'd had to avoid were in his way, with no way around. He waited for the right moment, used the swapper on the guard at the back to switch places with them, then activated his slipstream and ran for it down the long corridor away from the rest.

Except, he didn't, because the slipstream was out of charges. He caught a bullet just a few rooms away from his pod, dropped his daughter, and fell. The guards dragged him to the airlock, and thew him out into space.

After being shocked into consciousness by his violent expulsion through the airlock, Kells called his pod to come rescue him. If he could just get back on board the ship, he could still get her back! But he was bleeding, and all the wounds he'd taken in the time he'd spent uselessly searching the galaxy for the right weapon finally caught up with him. Kells bled out before the pod could reach him.

Kells was dead, but Charity Caulder was still alive, in a space cell somewhere out there in the galaxy. I couldn't rescue her any more, but I was told by the game that someone else on my Steam friends list might be given the chance to.

It was two days later that a woman by the name of Cascara Lacerta took up the breacher life, played by talented puzzle artist Alan Hazelden. Her only goal - to rescue her partner Charity Caulder. The girlfriend whose debts started this whole mess would be the one to finish it.

Now, they're both retired, safe, debts paid, and together.