“Vortex” Update 5b.17 — the “Dawn’s Retreat”

Steampunk space vessel
Steampunk battleship

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.17 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 27 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?

After encountering robotic probes, regional warlords, and other horrors in an old battlefield and the Ghanki undersea station, a band of grifters and near-humans escaped to the Shepard 2 orbital city. It conducted a successful heist in the Lunar Free State and was involved in medical disasters in the Venusian colonies before returning to Earth to steal a faster-than-light drive…..

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 2 (5b), crew of the “Appomattox:”

-“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

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

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L./absent]-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

>>”1 to 3 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” After stealing a Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian alien) Transit drive from the Star Shark, the crew of the Appomattox went to the edge of the Sol system, where it found a derelict warship. The Dawn’s Retreat was apparently of Terran design, but it contained strange controls and a telepathic entity in its reactor.

Gabriel translates for his companions before the being, who thinks she’s human, establishes psionic contact directly with the away team. She identifies herself as “Dawn,” a soldier and the ship’s “prime motivator.” Dawn again asks the interlopers if they can help her get home to Earth, which they confirm is relatively close.

Hector and ARTHERR eventually find power couplings and open them, restoring power. Although it takes her a while to understand that she’s disembodied, Dawn is then able to accompany individual crew members as they explore her vessel.

The derelict’s gauges, levers, and hatches resemble those of a Terran submarine from the 19th or early 20th century, but it has artificial gravity and life support at least the equal of the Appomattox, which has alien components.

Jasmine goes to the crew quarters, which are empty, except for unused space suits. The Dawn’s Retreat also still has all of its escape pods, so the boarders and Dawn are unsure of where the crew went. She recalls a scouting mission into space held by “the Alliance,” supposedly the enemy of her empire.

Dr. Garrett finds ornate uniforms and a large bed with wrought-iron posts in the captain’s cabin. He tries on a wool greatcoat and admires himself in the mirror until Hector comes to find the ship’s log, a nautical-style paper book.

Gabriel returns to the Appomattox to maneuver and look out for other salvage crews. ARTHERR goes to engineering and drills a hole in the floor for a core sample. Beneath a steel veneer is a spongy semi-organic material containing carbon nanofibers. Later testing reveals that it can act as an insulator or conduct energy, alter its gravitic profile, and regenerate!

In addition, Dawn expresses surprise and pain while chatting with Jasmine. She is unable to communicate with the robot, even though the Synth wrestler explains that she, too, is an artificial sentience.

Richmond claims a blunderbuss and an exotic-looking sword from the “prime stargazer’s” cabin, and the snake-oil salesman orders Nero Bartholomew and Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko to help bring the four-poster bed to the Appomattox. Dawn objects but is ignored.

Hector makes recordings with his handheld device, relaying images to ARTHERR and Capt. Adams for translation from Esperanto. Apparently, each handwritten entry of the ship’s log begins routinely before reverting to placeholder text. The “chirurgeon’s” bay has a similar medical log.

On the bridge, Hector asks Dawn about the dates of her travel. She says that she left Earth on “5724” and that the current year is reckoned as “5955,” leading ARTHERR to conclude that the living ship somehow traveled through time or from a parallel dimension!

ARTHERR studies an orrery on the bridge and finds that Sol is not at its center. After correcting his calculations, the probe droid learns that Dawn’s destination was LP 656-38 (also known as LHS 1723 or Gliese J3323), a variable red dwarf star about 17 light-years from Earth, beyond Epsilon Eridani.

Dawn explains that her ship picked up some scouts to return to the “world city,” established by Sulla many centuries ago (in her time). In the galley, Jasmine and company find tins of potted meat, but she declines tasting them. ARTHERR tests the food and ambient dust and finds that they are made of similar semi-organic secretions. He theorizes that the ship generates a crew that it then disposes of.

Former spy Hector checks the scouts’ bunks and armory and finds more antique-style clothing, firearms, and journals. By waiting for a log entry, the group sees ink appear on a page, probably generated by the crewless ship. Gabriel notes that while the Dawn’s Retreat has been near the Sol system for months (of Terran time), it hasn’t been disturbed until now.

ARTHERR’s radiocarbon dating from the core samples and reactor indicates that the derelict is subjectively 300 years old, but even with time dilation, for it to have returned from LP 636-38, it would have had to have left Earth long before humans had developed space flight.

Jasmine examines the cannons of the Dawn’s Retreat, which are simple chemically propelled projectiles. ARTHERR is surprised when Dawn recognizes the name of the “Harbinger of the Order of Submission,” a dangerous alien probe encountered in an old battlefield north of Karachi. She says that in addition to avoiding hostile “Martians,” her orders were to not engage the Harbinger in combat.

Dr. Garrett looks for more items of potential value, and Hector and ARTHERR learn that the Dawn’s Retreat was aided in interstellar travel by “jump gates,” which propelled it like a blown bubble. This is also different from conventional faster-than-light Transit that Terrans have only recently acquired.

Pilot Gabriel takes the Appomattox to the location where the ship would have returned to normal space but finds no gravitational anomalies. Jasmine assures Dawn that no harm will come to her and that she should help the United Earth Authority (U.E.A.).

The crew reconvenes aboard the Appomattox to debate what to do next. Gabriel and Hector don’t trust “Ramon Sanchez” [Josh H./Greg/Non-Player Character], a Lisbon-based fixer who arranged for Richmond to smuggle Vatican relics to Epsilon Eridani, about 11 light-years from Earth.

ARTHERR and Jasmine first want to bring Dawn and her displaced derelict to the proper authorities. If the ship is of alien origin, its creators are unknown. Richmond would prefer to auction them off to the highest bidder, but he is outvoted.

Gabriel extends the Appomattox‘s grapple to the Dawn’s Retreat, and ARTHERR asks that the ship’s effective mass be negated once they’ve disembarked. Hector monitors communications, and Jasmine tries to explain to Dawn that even though she’s not returning to her own world, she’ll be home. The two ships return to near-Earth space.

Dr. Garret covertly contacts Gorvek Beezo, a Ru’ulok trader, who gives the grifter the name of guild member Talak Avex in return for the coordinates of the Dawn’s Retreat. Meanwhile, Hector recounts his adventures to onetime handler Max, while ARTHERR calls Adm. Wei Sihong, to whom he had given several dangerous samples in the past.

The Vimeco robot tells the space navy officer about Dawn and says that she could help the U.E.A. counter the Harbinger, which it is still trying to study. Adm. Wei agrees, and he dispatches the U.E.V. Ajax to rendezvous with the Appomattox.

Tiger-woman Jasmine sends messages to her lover, Darsil, and the Synth United Front on Mars. Dawn bids farewell to her new acquaintances. The Dawn’s Retreat follows the Ajax toward Earth. Hector later learns that Ru’ulok pirates aboard the Star Shark attacked but were defeated by the U.E.A. cruiser. Capt. Droata escaped, swearing vengeance for her second humiliation at the hands of humans.

ARTHERR and Hector keep their samples for later analysis. While its crew still debates, the Appomattox sets a course for Epsilon Eridani….

Paul and Rich, we missed you at the last regular FATE 3e “Vortex” session before our summer hiatus! The Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” telecom fantasy group is also taking a break. In the meantime, stay in touch on the Yahoo message board, and I hope to see some of you at movies or other gatherings before our next game! -Gene