“Vortex” Update 5b.13 — Decryption, defense, and decoration

"Vortex" Team 2's yacht
The "Appomattox"

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.13 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 4 April 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Can heroes rise to the challenges?

After encountering regional warlords, extraterrestrial probes, and other hazards around Karachi and Ghanki Station beneath the Arabian Sea, a band of grifters and near-humans escaped to the Shepard 2 orbital city. They conducted a successful heist in the Lunar Free State, then undertook an urgent medical mission to the Venus colonies. ….

>>”VortexTeam 2 (5b), crew of the Appomattox, as of spring 2011:

-“Gabriel Adams” [Paul J.]-male North American Terran near-human with telepathy, courier and pilot

-“Hector Chavez” [Beruk A.]-male Latin American Terran human, “burned” operative and communications expert

-“ARTHERR” [Greg D.C.]-Advanced Resonance Theoretical Heuristic Exploration and Research Robot created by megacorp Vimeco

-“Jasmine” [Sara F.] female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter

-“Dr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C.]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L.]-male European Terran human, semi-retired physician, altruist and thrill seeker

-“Nero Bartholomew” [Non-Player Character]-male Terran human, former owner of the Fortune’s Fool, ship’s cook

-“Averki ‘Deep Dish’ Dyashenko” [N.P.C.]-male reptilian Synth (genetically engineered humanoid), onetime Venusian miner

26 August to 21 September 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Galactic Era:” Aid workers struggle with a virus sweeping through the Venusian colonies. The crew of the Appomattox continues its investigation into the sabotage of Hephaestus Stadium, whose destruction killed thousands of workers who had gathered for treatment in the Kardikea orbital habitat.

Hector asks Gabriel to look for computer parts so that he can safely analyze a data storage unit obtained from the office of Orion Stefanov, chairman of the Venusian Finance Union (V.F.U.). The former secret agent explains to the runner that he doesn’t want to expose their ship’s systems to potential electronic countermeasures (ECM).

After defeating several layers of security and decrypting the information, Hector copies it and asks ARTHERR to help him analyze it. They find recordings of meetings of Stefanov and the V.F.U.’s Central Committee, which includes representatives of the 12 families and megacorporations that control Venus.

Stefanov had told the committee that thanks to his initiative, Dr. Richmond Garrett would be awarded the title of surgeon general and held responsible for the treatment of lower-ranking colonists. Nero Bartholomew, former tycoon and owner of the Fortune’s Fool, is confined to his cabin because of food-borne infection.

The recordings also confirm that the Central Committee ordered its security forces to withdraw shortly before the explosive decompression at Hephaestus Stadium, indicating foreknowledge. The United Earth Authority (U.E.A.) has been looking for such proof of Finance Union misdeeds.

ARTHERR is confused by evidence that Vimeco, the megacorp that created him, provided the robotic assassins at the stadium and engineered the virus to spread and kill more quickly. The exploration robot has been assisting with the distribution of medicine, some of which was also made by Vimeco.

Kardikean flight control tells the Appomattox to prepare to be boarded, because a warrant has been issued for Dr. Garrett’s arrest in connection with the sabotage, uncensored transmissions, and break-in at Chairman Stefanov’s office. Jasmine creates an improvised shield from a metal container door, and ARTHERR recommends herding the livestock that Dr. Dieter Klein tested toward the airlock as a diversion.

As guards arrive at the space dock with cutting tools, Richmond emerges from a long soak in the low-gravity sauna and wonders what all the fuss is about. Although the snake-oil salesman did accept the surgeon general post and recommend the use of Hephaestus Stadium, he didn’t participate in the daring infiltration of the Central Committee offices.

Richmond stalls for time, allowing his companions to send the incriminating data to their contacts — Gabriel to fixer Lillian Morrisey, Hector to onetime handler Max, and ARTHERR to Capt. Amelia Saviola of U.E.V. Sphinx, the U.E.A. destroyer maintaining the medical quarantine of Venus. Hector also contacts Lady Lykhova, a member of the Central Committee and a potential rival or successor to Stefanov.

By surrendering to Stefanov and Lykhova, Richmond avoids a shootout on the Appomattox and guarantees himself a show trial. He and ARTHERR are taken to a holding area as news drones surround their yacht and the courtroom. People across the Venusian colonies tune in to see the Terran spies prosecuted and executed for their crimes during the plague.

Ever wily, Richmond privately tells Orion that he has evidence that security officer Kiril Shatalin was involved in the sabotage and that a doctor at Morningstar Consortium was conducting corporate espionage with Xi Labs, interfering with early treatment of the illness. Dr. Garrett offers up the two patsies during his trial, narrowly escaping execution, and returns to his ship.

Capt. Saviola thanks ARTHERR and the rest of “MarSoupAiL” (shell company Mars Soup Aid Lenders Ltd.) for the data, which she says the U.E.A. legislature will use against Stefanov. She orders “Capt. Doug McDonnell” [Erik B.L./N.P.C.] of the aid vessel Parsifal to see whether the Appomattox can be cleared to leave Venus space.

The Interstellar Patrol veteran tries to telepathically scan for clues that the crew knows more than it has told the U.E.A., but he is blocked by defiant Gabriel and Richmond. After a thorough disinfection of the galley and cabins by Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko, Capt. McDonnell clears the Appomattox to return to Earth.

The relieved crew spends the journey reviewing the ship for potential improvements. The adventurers discuss their leads on obtaining faster-than-light (FTL) engines. Hector’s friend Max had mentioned an abandoned alien ship at the edge of the Sol system, but it could take months to reach with conventional Terran technology.

In return for profitable information about Venus, Lillian has referred a man named Brandon Morgan, who knows of a lightly defended FTL vessel near Earth. She also previously told Gabriel about Rabak Porset, a Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian alien) offering drives and privateering work through the galactic Trade Guilds.

ARTHERR contacts Adm. Wei Sihong, whom he had given dangerous samples retrieved from a battlefield north of Karachi and in Ghanki Station. The probe droid asks the U.E.A. for containment units that can maintain extreme temperatures. Dr. Klein asks for a proper medical bay, and engineer Hector notes that the Appomattox doesn’t yet have any weaponry.

Gabriel customizes some of the passenger cabins for smuggling, and Richmond buys gambling equipment to redecorate the yacht’s lounge with a riverboat casino theme (in contrast to Nero’s ancient Roman-styled crew cabins). Dr. Garrett and Deep Dish also study astrogation.

Once in Earth orbit, Gabriel invites several of the party’s contacts, such as fixer “Ramon Sanchez” [Josh H./N.P.C.] to meet and discuss potential missions in the Appomattox‘s new lounge. Hector familiarizes himself with ship systems, especially communications and ECM. ARTHERR experiments with the grappling unit and supervises the installation of the containment units. Doctors Garrett and Klein keep a low profile and stay aboard.

Jasmine takes Deep Dish planetside for sightseeing. They go to a subtropical park, where they atavistically hunt and devour a deer. The tiger woman politely declines the reptile man’s overtures, noting that she has a mate Darsil but she knows a female Synth named Ruby. Jasmine also tells Deep Dish of her dream of a homeworld for their people, free of human oppression.

Back at the Appomattox, the crew weighs its options for an FTL drive and prepares to receive its gear and guests….

Please note that “Vortex” Team 2 will play again next Monday, April 11, and Team 1 won’t convene again until April 25 (sorry, Bruce). Rich, I hope you’ll be able to meet the remaining gamers soon! In the meantime, everyone should R.S.V.P. to the May 14 cross-group cookout invitation by next week. Take it easy, -Gene

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