“Vortex” Update 5a.20 — It’s a trap!

Scene from Return of the Jedi
Adm. Ackbar

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5a.20 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 22 August 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, 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./absent]-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

>>”4 to 7 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” The crew of the Blackbird had successfully negotiated a truce between the technocratic city-state of Albahaven and the Corvell Unity, a religious monarchy. The Salvorain were descendants of Aquarian miners beneath the oceans of “Dorian Gray,” a moon of gas giant “Methuselah” orbiting Van Maanen’s Star.

Syzygy realizes that although he has sent reports to the Kharvamid Alliance, the Aquarian homeworld probably won’t send anyone to Van Maanen’s Star anytime soon because it is threatened by the Zarkonian Armada. Tela readies the scout ship’s REM faster-than-light (FTL) drive with help from Dr. Bucket and spider drones.

Chris McKee stashes the crystal-tipped trident he obtained from the Salvorain, and impatient Lt. Kevin Reese asks Aughest-vor… to set a course for Oasis Station, about 40 parsecs from Earth. Aughest notes that because of the REM drive’s side effect of fatigue on the crew, the Blackbird should stop every few (Terran) days and explore.

The humans lay in a course for LP 771-095, or Cetus Eridani, a trinary star system about 7 parsecs from Sol. They don’t expect to find life because one of the stars emits hazardous flares. The Olvar (mammal-like arboreal alien) database lists three barren planets and numerous asteroids.

The Blackbird receives a distress call from the “Dezorici,” a vessel of unknown origin that says it was disabled by a flare. Syzygy translates using a galactic standard code, and Tela prepares rescue and salvage tools. Chris and Kevin hastily rearrange the cargo bay to accommodate up to 20 short-term passengers.

Aughest-vor taps his astrogation training to approach Cetus Eridani, cruising between complex gravitational pulls and asteroids. Syzygy detects life signs on the derelict ship, but Tela notices an energy surge as the Blackbird passes through a force field, disabling its FTL capabilities! Agent Prometheus suspects a trap and goes to his turret.

As Aughest-vor veers away from the Dezorici, six smaller craft begin pursuit. Lt. Reese scans the ships, which he and Aughest dub “squltures” because of their squid-like tentacles and vulture-like necks and metallic beaks. Chris shoots asteroids to clear an exit route.

Tela scrambles to restore the REM drive and asks for more information about the source of the disruption. Syzygy scans the local star and finds that it has been dormant and couldn’t have disabled any ship, confirming suspicions of a trap.

The squltures fire particle beams at the Blackbird, so engineer Tela sends robot Dr. Bucket and the drones to handle damage control while she focuses on the FTL. Hotshot pilot Aughest-vor flies perpendicular to the ecliptic and heads for open space, and Kevin reroutes systems to help Tela.

Gunner Chris provides cover fire with the particle cannon, and xenologist Syzygy identifies the attackers as Kutalrin, artificial intelligences and scavengers. Interplanetary Patrol officer Lt. Reese finds the FTL disruptor field emitters, which were hidden along a likely approach route through the asteroid field.

One of the pursuers is nearly destroyed by Agent Prometheus’ ion beam, as Syzygy verifies that the life signs on the Dezorici were too regular and therefore fake. Chris asks for a delay to finish off more of the enemies, but Lt. Reese overrules him, concerned about getting rammed.

Rather than swing back around toward the field emitters, Aughest-vor activates the afterburner (aftermarket Yoyodne Oscillation Overthruster) to outrun the squltures. The former solar-sail racer buys Tela the time she needs to finish repairs on the REM drive.

Trinoid Syzygy scans for intraship transmissions and observes that the Kutalrin, still in pursuit, may have a hive mind and might be working with or for someone else lurking in the system. Kevin sends warnings to the United Earth Authority and the Olvar Star League.

In a fraction of the time starship engine repairs should take, by the book, Tela restores the Blackbird‘s FTL. Aughest-vor lays in a course toward Mu Aquilae and punches it, leaving Cetus Eridani and the squltures light-years behind.

For once, pilot Aughest-vor and Lt. Reese aren’t affected by the REM drive in Transit space. They are disturbed to find Syzygy in his quarters, partly enveloped by his biomechanical laboratory, which is plugged into the ship.

Chris stumbles giddily through the corridors, offering brownies to everyone, including Dr. Bucket (whom he normally distrusts). Meanwhile, Tela falls into a deep sleep in her hammock in engineering. Aughest takes the Blackbird out of FTL, and Kevin successfully reprograms the ship’s computers after getting Syzygy to sheepishly disengage.

After a few pots of coffee, Tela is again fit for duty, and the Blackbird heads to Beta Canum Venaticorum, a binary system about 8 parsecs from Sol. According to a 1,000-year-old (Terran time) record in the Olvar database, stars Chara and Asterion are orbited by two gas giants, at least one rockball, and one “Goldilocks” world with two moons.

Leaving the Blackbird in orbit with Dr. Bucket keeping watch, the crew takes the Dragonfly drop ship down to the planet, which has water oceans, lush vegetation, and no signs of modern civilization. As he pilots over herds of feathered beasts and alongside pterodactyl-like avians, Aughest-vor nicknames the planet “Henson” for its exotic life.

Chris notices that some of the flying creatures have humanoid riders! They direct the Dragonfly toward a mountain, where the intrepid offworlders land and take the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm ground-effect vehicle up to some caves.

The Terrans, Trinoid, and Tharian shed their vacuum suits and walk toward the alien warriors, who have linked hands in some form of greeting or approach. Syzygy begins recording their speech to automate translation. Tela is greeted warmly because her glider wings are recognized by the beast handlers.

Aughest-vor and Lt. Reese declare that they have landed on “Boobulon” because the greenish female aliens each have three breasts. Three-armed Syzygy doesn’t think that is unusual, but he commences scanning the indigenous life forms as diplomatic overtures are begun….

It was great to see everybody after last month’s hiatus, and I look forward to continuing both “Vortex” teams’ adventures! Team 2, the crew of the Appomattox, is scheduled to meet on Monday, Aug. 29 (weather permitting), and Team 1 is set for Sept. 12. I also hope to resume with the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy game. Take it easy, -Gene

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