“Vortex” Update 5a.16 — Camp Alpha and xenomorphs

Nearby stars
Stars near the Sol system

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5a.16 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 9 May 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 enduring xenophobic attacks on Earth, two alien explorers and their human allies were embroiled in megacorp intrigues in the Lemuria orbital city and the Lunar Free State. The group then visited Mars and obtained a starship in the Asteroid Belt from the Olvar Star League. After negotiating a trade agreement at Tyche and getting a drop ship at Titan, the scouts set out for Alpha Centauri and Oasis Station….

>>”VortexTeam 1 (5a), crew of the “Blackbird,” as of spring 2011:

-“Syzygy” [Brian W.]-Trinoid (trilateral amphibious alien) xenologist with an organic laboratory and a pet cat named “Mr. Sniffles”

-“Tela” [Sara F.]-female Tharian (winged reptilian humanoid alien) escapee from the Encegulans, engineer

-“Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus” [Josh C.]-male North American Terran cyborg human sniper working for eugenics conspirators at Black Box Security Co.

-“Aughest-vor…” [Jason E.R.]-male human from the Lemuria orbital city, onetime dilettante, solar-sail racer, pilot

-“Lt. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K.]-male Terran human, burned-out officer and explorer in the Interplanetary Patrol

-“Gombo Shisel” [Rich L./absent]-male Mongolian/Martian human, former horse rancher and wilderness survival expert

-“Dr. Bucket” [Non-Player Character]-United Earth Authority astromech robot assigned to the Blackbird

15 to 19 September 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” The Blackbird prepares for its first faster-than-light (FTL) journey, from the Sol system to Alpha Centauri, a trinary star system. Aughest-vor… sets a course around gravity wells, while Tela activates the biomechanical ship’s REM drive.

Syzygy sets intraship monitors to observe his human crewmates during FTL travel, and Lt. Kevin Reese joins Aughest in the cockpit. Chris McKee keeps a watchful eye on Dr. Bucket, whom he doesn’t trust, and Gombo Shisel stays in his cabin.

Each person aboard the experimental vessel experiences differently altered perceptions! To xenologist Syzygy, all of the Blackbird‘s systems appear completely organic, like his laboratory. In engineering, Tela sees Mr. Sniffles float by, round like a puffer fish, but the artificial gravity is still on.

Kevin looks around, and everybody looks to him like an Olvar (mammal-like arboreal alien), perhaps because the Morifaiwet was obtained from the Olvar Star League. Aughest-vor enjoys the sensation of flying rather than piloting, as his senses merge with that of the starship.

Chris seems immune to the strange visions of his companions, possibly because of his cybernetic implants. He finds Gombo in his quarters happily surrounded by spider-like drones. The adventuring party meets in the galley to compare notes, and Syzygy looks to the others like a cartoon human. After focusing their concentration, the crew members are again able to perceive normally.

Syzygy retires to sleep, having entered Transit-level space numerous times. Tela returns to her hammock in engineering to watch the microfusion generators, afterburner capacitors, and REM drive. The humans, now the fastest in the Milky Way galaxy, are too excited to sleep during their shakedown cruise.

Aughest-vor scans Alpha Centauri A and B, two yellow stars 24 A.U. with red dwarf Proxima Centauri in a more distant orbit (1 Astronomical Unit = 93 million miles). Alpha Centauri A is close to Sol in size and luminosity and has three planets: rockball Chiron, earthlike Toliman, and outer world Cassida. Newton and Alphane orbit dimmer Alpha Centauri B, and gas giants Eldritch, Shedar, and Furon orbit Proxima.

Lt. Reese studies records of Terran interstellar exploration. Of the 50 solar systems within 5 parsecs (1 parsec = 3.26 light-years or 31 trillion kilometers/19 trillion miles) of Earth, Alpha Centauri is the closest. The slower-than-light Zheng He was intercepted by the U.E.V. Bellerphon shortly after First Contact. The passengers of the generation colony ship now plan to refit it with FTL capability en route to Alpha Centauri.

The Bellerphon then dropped off Tiger Squadron on Toliman. The Blackbird‘s mission from the United Earth Authority is to check on the North American Aerospace Marines stationed at Camp Alpha after they requested aid.

After about a Terran day of subjective travel, the Blackbird arrives at Alpha Centauri. Aughest-vor expertly guides the scout ship through gravitational and magnetic currents and past automated defense buoys. Lt. Reese hails Camp Alpha and is greeted by Maj. Walt Vanderbilt, the acting commander.

Syzygy and Gombo are excited to find signs of life on Toliman, and Tela wonders if other extraterrestrials have recently visited. Agent Prometheus climbs into the gun turret and scans for other ships in the system but finds no evidence of any.

After the group decides not to take the Dragonfly drop ship, Aughest takes the Blackbird through Toliman’s methane-carbon dioxide atmosphere to Camp Alpha, which is a cluster of domes with some Raptor-class fighters [think of Space: Above and Beyond‘s Hammerheads] on the landing pad.

An elevator takes the Blackbird down for decontamination, which Syzygy assures his friends is mostly unnecessary. After bay is repressurized, the explorers disembark, leaving woozy Gombo and Dr. Bucket on the ship. Robots begin unloading ammunition and other supplies.

Among the armored space marines present is “Capt. Robin Buckley” [Jason E.R./Non-Player Character], a communications expert and onetime paramour of Kevin. Maj. Vanderbilt invites the landing party to talk privately in his office. He explains that squadron commander Lt.Col. Hollis Shelman vanished during a routine patrol.

The major also tells Lt. Reese that some of the marines say their leader’s disappearance is connected to attacks on Toliman’s surface. Troops have been ambushed by Tolimanian “mantiles,” vaguely reptilian/insectoid pack hunters, and they want to retaliate for their fallen comrades.

Syzygy gains permission to examine a dead mantile, and Tela lets Mr. Sniffles explore the base. Kevin finds Robin in the commissary, but she coldly rebuffs him, saying that their time together in the Martian outback was adulterous to his late wife, Heather. Aughest chats with Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) astrogator “Lt. Misawa Onizuka” [Sara F./N.P.C.] before calling it a night.

Chris drinks with Sgt. Kurt Schriever, a gruff Chim (“Uplifted” chimpanzee) gunner. Kurt, Misawa, and Spaceman Peter Jones, a British android, are eager to go hunting. Against their better judgment, Syzygy and Tela join Kevin, Chris, and the space marines in a foray into the violet jungles of Toliman.

Lt. Reese drives the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm, which is faster than the marines’ mech suits and closer to the ground than their Raptors. Near a pond, Syzygy observes a pack of mantiles attacking what looks like a moss-covered boulder. It happens to be close in size to a mech or the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm.

Some of the carnivores notice the ground-effect vehicle and approach, and Lt. Misawa and Capt. Buckley fire machine-gun bursts. However, they attract the attention of more predators, which swarm the intruders!

Robin hits a tree, which blocks an easy escape. Syzygy notices that the mantiles are coordinating their attacks subsonically, so the three-armed scientist dazes one with a sonic blast. Tela borrows a gun from Chris and blows off one xenomorph’s limbs.

Ignoring the pounding outside the vehicle’s turrets, sniper Chris efficiently dispatches two foes with well-aimed shots. Kevin runs over one mantile and shoots another before getting the team out of harm’s way.

Syzygy regrets the loss of life, and Tela worries that Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian alien) bounty hunters might use the mantiles to find her, even though the Trinoid tells the Tharian that they’re native to Toliman. Back at Camp Alpha, Maj. Vanderbilt orders Lt. Reese to take the search for Lt.Col. Shelman into Alpha Centauri space….

Josh, thanks again for organizing this past weekend’s cross-group cookout! I’m sorry that neither the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” fantasy telecom game nor “Vortex” Team 2 met, but Damon F.P.’s visit went well, despite our plumbing problem (now resolved).

In the meantime, remember to let me know your availability for the next few weeks, and stay in touch as the Blackbird continues its exploration of Alpha Centauri and the crew of the Appomattox prepares for a heist of Ru’ulok FTL engines! -Gene

>>”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