“Vortex” Update 5a.19 — Aquarian summit

Hellboy's Abe Sapien
Steampunk amphibian

Fellow role-players, here are Josh C.’s and my notes for Session 5a.19 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 20 June 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. Will 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….

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 1 (5a), crew of the “Blackbird:”

-“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 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

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

>>”1 to 3 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” The intrepid crew of the Blackbird explored the system around Van Maanen’s Star, finding ancient technology on one moon and civilization under the ice of another. After meeting with Gen. Qualish in Albahaven, the diplomats head to the Corvell Unity on “Dorian Gray,” a satellite of gas giant Methuselah.

Syzygy is surprised that the Salvorain, as the descendants of Aquarian colonists call themselves, have reacted so negatively to his appearance. Apparently, their folktales view three-armed Trinoids as demons, perhaps based on encounters (Terran) millennia ago. Tela is busy maintaining the Blackbird against the pressure of being submerged.

Aughest-vor… pilots the experimental scout vessel just beneath the glacial sheets and then down toward the Corvell Unity. In comparison with the city-state of Albahaven, the crystalline structures here are more angular and less ornamented. While Gen. Qualish had sent squid-like submarines, a “school” of armored escorts now swims closely around the ship.

Aided by Syzygy and Dr. Bucket’s translations, Lt. Kevin Reese hails the sentries. They have difficulty believing that the visitors come from beyond the ice, but they bring the Blackbird into their city. Chris McKee recalls the general’s recommendations for a show of strength, but he is overruled on taking target practice on civilians.

At a plaza, the Terrans, Trinoid, and Tharian come to a full stop, and several Salvorain draw a strange bubble over the starship. Syzygy’s scans indicate that it’s made of a unique polymer, and Tela is the first to step outside. She is suspended in a low-gravity field and is happy to stretch her glider wings.

Civilian Aughest is less graceful, and Lt. Reese finds that the air in the biological bubble surrounding the ship is cold but breathable. They take off their helmets to prove that they’re not Albahavenite spies. The gathering Salvorain gasp when Syzygy appears at the airlock, muttering that his arrival was not prophesied.

The amphibious guards are joined by members of the religious caste. Kevin observes that the Corvell Unity appears to be closer to nature than the residents of Albahaven. Priest Valkon replies that it is Albahaven that has polluted the ocean, devoured scarce resources, and perpetuated war. He also asserts that there is no room for compromise with the “nonbelievers,” just as Gen. Qualish had complained about the “superstitious” Covell Unity.

Aughest-vor, “friend to all,” suggests that as their world cools, the technocrats of Albahaven and the faithful of the Corvell Unity will need to find a balance to survive. Syzygy offers to help reconnect the colonists with their long-lost Aquarian brethren, but royal adviser Selora is skeptical.

Wary Agent Prometheus and Dr. Bucket stay inside the Blackbird for communications and security. Kevin and Aughest sense a telepathic scan or probe but manage to resist it. Tela receives an alert of an energy anomaly near the sensors. The engineer finds a crab-like automaton attached to the hull. With help from Syzygy, she temporarily deactivates the ship’s sensors and removes the clockwork surveillance device.

Queen Shulis descends into the plaza in a nimbus of light and elaborate robes. She greets the aliens and acknowledges the heresy of beings not being under her rule. Lt. Reese and Aughest-vor describe themselves as explorers and invite the queen to negotiations aboard the Blackbird. Valkon and Selora reluctantly join her.

Syzygy entertains the three Salvorain in his humid quarters by showing them images of Hydronicus 2 and their more advanced Aquarian kin, former clients of the Polarians. Some of the Kharvamid Alliance files, however, are sealed. Tela puts the crab droid in a container with one of the Blackbird‘s spider drones. The bug from Albahaven is quickly destroyed by the superior spider.

Aughest stays behind to reassure the citizens of the Corvell Unity of his team’s goodwill toward their queen. He regales them with tales of his many relationships, his family’s business pursuits, and his travels. The Salvorain are especially interested in the onetime dilettante’s emotional connections.

Kevin pilots the Blackbird back to Albahaven, where he invites Gen. Qualish and Col. Bijar of the Ministry of Observation aboard. Syzygy prepares to stay behind with his laboratory, but the Albahavenites are more interested in satisfying their curiosity than some code of honor. They are put into Gombo Shisel’s flooded cabin for takeoff.

Chris blasts a hole in the ice with the particle cannon, and Kevin flies the scout ship into orbit. Tela confronts Col. Bijar with the remains of his surveillance automaton, impressing Gen. Qualish with her assertiveness. They and Queen Shulis’ retinue are amazed (separately at first) to see “Dorian Gray,” Methuselah, and Van Maanen’s Star for the first time.

Lt. Reese and Syzygy arrange for Gen. Qualish and Queen Shulis to meet in the Blackbird‘s lounge. The rival leaders exchange pleasantries, and the determined Interplanetary Patrol officer tries to keep them focused on their common interests rather than their differences.

Syzygy requests samples of the bubble material as he studies the local biosphere. Tela catches Col. Bijar trying to access the ship’s systems, but Kevin has better luck talking reasonably with Selora in the cockpit about loyalties and their people’s interests.

After a few hours, Syzygy and Tela allow Col. Bijar, Valkon, and Selora to join the discussion. Kevin takes turns monitoring the summit with his crewmates to get some sleep, and Chris looks out for any other vessels in the area but finds none.

In the Corvell Unity, Aughest-vor finds that the Salvorain are losing interest, so he introduces them to the concept of peaceful competition through sports such as solar-sail racing. He is relieved when the Blackbird returns safely to retrieve him from the undersea city and drop off its guests.

Queen Shulis and Gen. Qualish announce to their peoples that they will try to work together for all Salvorain. Syzygy and Tela offer technical advice on reducing pollution, and Lt. Reese and Aughest pledge friendship on behalf of humanity and note that the Sol system will be interested in trade.

Chris obtains one of the crystal-tipped tridents from Col. Bijar in Albahaven, and Aughest presents Selora with a sports trophy that Tela made from the destroyed crab robot!

Syzygy later unlocks the Olvar Star League records on the Aquarians and finds that they are threatened by something called the Zarkonian Armada. The scientist wisely refrains from sharing that information with the miners’ descendants on “Dorian Gray.”

Aughest-vor takes the Blackbird back into space, and Syzygy sends a report on the humans’ diplomatic efforts to his Trinoid superiors. He also asks for word to be sent to the Aquarians, even though they likely have more pressing concerns.

Tela drains Gombo’s quarters and tinkers with the drone spiders. Chris settles back into his turret as Lt. Reese helps set a course out of the Van Maanen system….

Please note that the next Blackbird session won’t be until August. Jason will be running his Darkpages one-shot on Monday, July 25. In the meantime, the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy team meets this coming Sunday, and the last “Vortex” Team 2 (Appomattox) session before our summer hiatus is on June 27! -Gene