“Vortex” Update 5a.17 — First Contact at Proxima

Nearby star systems
Stars within 12 light-years of Sol

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5a.17 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 23 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?

Two aliens and their human allies encountered xenophobes and megacorporate intrigues on and around Earth. After visiting factionalized Mars and acquiring a starship in the Asteroid Belt from the Olvar Star League, they continued their mission of diplomacy and exploration to Titan, Tyche, and Alpha Centauri….

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

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

-“Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus” [Josh C.]-male Terran cyborg human sniper working for eugenicists 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

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

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

20 to 22 September 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” The adventuring party readies the Blackbird to leave from Camp Alpha on Toliman, a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri A. Maj. Walt Vanderbilt, acting commander of Tiger Squadron, orders Lt. Kevin Reese and his civilian companions to take the search for the missing Lt.Col. Hollis Shelman into space.

Tela and Dr. Bucket secure the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm ground-effect vehicle and prepare for sublight travel (at 1 AU per hour), and Chris McKee checks the weapons locker in his cabin. Aughest-vor plots a search pattern around the last known location of Lt.Col. Shelman’s Raptor-class fighter.

Syzygy (with Mr. Sniffles) and Gombo Shisel offer to stay behind to analyze the local ecosystem and help the North American Aerospace Marine Corps troops learn how to coexist with the native Tolimanian “mantiles” (insectoid/reptilian pack hunters).

Kevin asks Tela to divert power from the navigational array to sensors, which detect the ion trail of the missing Raptor, as well as an anomalous cloud of hydrogen and helium. Agent Prometheus climbs into the gun turret, and Aughest sets course for Proxima Centauri, the third star in the system.

The Blackbird passes Furon, a “cold” gas giant orbiting dim Proxima Centauri, but there is no sign of Shelman’s craft. Dr. Bucket helpfully notes that flares from the red star could interfere with sensors, and Lt. Reese doggedly decides to continue searching the area.

The atmosphere of the next gas giant, Shedar, is very similar to the cloud found near the ion trail. Aughest pilots past icy rings, electromagnetic currents, and various gravity wells. Tela spots three large objects moving against the winds of Shedar.

Passive sensors indicate that they’re swimming along the magnetic field toward concentrations of hydrocarbons in the turbulent outer layers of the gas giant. When the Blackbird actively scans, two of the shark-like ships circle around, and Tela collapses from psychic overload!

Cautious Kevin tries to communicate with the three vessels, which regard him as “a solid.” Paranoid Chris trains a particle beam on the nearest potential foe but holds his fire. Hotshot Aughest-vor pulls an Immelman turn and plunges toward Shedar!

The astrogator nearly loses control, but Aughest manages to avoid one of the unidentified craft by only 100 meters. Gunner Chris keeps the three objects in his sights, and closer sensor readings confirm that they’re ships rather than individual spacefaring creatures, which Tela had hoped to meet.

The aliens aboard the three ships identify themselves as “Dwellers of the Clouds” to Lt. Reese, who asks about their intent and whether they have encountered other humans. Dr. Bucket says that the Olvar (mammal-like arboreal aliens) are aware of species that live in gas giants, but most interactions with them have gone badly. The robot declines to speculate how they could have developed interstellar travel.

The Dwellers confirm that they were harvesting from Furon and offer to take the Blackbird to a “broken one.” As ruby Proxima Centauri rises behind Eldritch, its innermost planet, the Terrans (and Tharian) approach several gas-dweller ships. Tela regains her faculties, but Chris is disappointed at not being able to shoot anything.

A damaged Raptor, dwarfed by the blimp-like starships, is quickly maneuvered into the Blackbird‘s landing/cargo bay. Tela examines the fighter and concludes that it was probably hit with a pulse similar to what affected her. Kevin thanks the Dwellers of the Clouds, and Chris takes a disoriented Lt.Col. Shelman to Gombo’s quarters and gives him a sedative.

Lt. Reese says that he hopes for mutually beneficial future relations between Terrans and the gas dwellers, but their replies are cryptic and border on condescension. Aughest-vor is only too happy to fly away from Proxima, and Tela theorizes that the Raptor could have been damaged when the aliens arrived from Transit (faster-than-light) mode.

Chris reports that the advanced aliens must have put the missing marine in some sort of stasis, since Hollis couldn’t have survived long in their atmosphere without life support. He also notes that the fighter is missing one missile, which was probably fired in panic during the collision.

After a day’s flight (subjective Terran time) back, Lt. Reese is pleased to return Lt.Col. Shelman to Camp Alpha. Maj. Vanderbilt asks the Interplanetary Patrol officer to leave the missile out of his report to the United Earth Authority. Kevin and Chris agree, and they celebrate over glasses of brandy.

Tela briefs Syzygy on the successful First Contact situation, which could have gone much worse because of the aggressive impulses of both the gas dwellers and humans. Gombo announces that he plans to stay on Toliman because his experience with animals on the Martian frontier can help the marines, as well as colonists coming on the Zheng He, but he adds that he’ll try to catch up.

Capt. Robin Buckley, a former flame of Kevin, invites notorious Aughest-vor back to her bunk. The next morning, Aughest consults U.E.A. and Kharvamid Alliance records and finds a few inhabitable solar systems on the way to Oasis Station, about 40 parsecs from Earth. Tela worries about returning to space controlled by the trade guilds and the Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian pirates).

The U.E.V. Bellerphon went to 61 Cygni after dropping Tiger Squadron off at Alpha Centauri, so the crew of the Blackbird decides to boldly go where no human has gone before, to Van Maanen’s Star, about six days away….

I hope that each of you enjoyed our latest game, despite a slow start. Brian and Rich, we missed “Syzygy” and “Gombo!” I’m glad that we’ve been able able to trade miniatures, books, and videos, as well as discuss our favorite fiction. The Blackbird‘s adventures are just beginning….

Jason, thanks for your offer to run a one-shot of Darkpages; I’ll reply separately once I’ve had a chance to reread the rules. If anybody else is interested in one-shots, miniseries, or crossovers this summer, let us know on the Yahoo/eGroups message board so we can look at the schedule.

Speaking of scheduling, the latest Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” teleconferencing fantasy session (T3.28) is scheduled for Sunday, 29 May 2011, and “Vortex” Team 2 (the Appomattox crew) will meet on Memorial Day for its planned heist of Ru’ulok FTL drives. “Vortex” Team 1 will play again on June 6, but I won’t be available on June 13. Have a great holiday weekend! -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