“Vortex” Update 5b.20 — Saturnian sleuths/home on the range

Titan orbital station
Station near Titan, Saturn

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.20 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 19 September 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?

A band of grifters and near-humans retrieved dangerous samples from a battlefield north of Karachi and the Ghanki undersea station. It stole starship engines from a lunar base and an orbital city and was involved in medical disasters in the Venusian colonies. After finding a dimensionally displaced derelict, the team made inquiries into its cargo amid religious turmoil on Titan….

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

-“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

-“Mr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C.]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“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

>>”11 to 14 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” At the request of Archbishop Javier Fuentes, the group investigates the murder of fundamentalist preacher Hugh Doyle. Hector Chavez pilots the Appomattox from Titan to Eclipse Station in orbit around Saturn.

After spending a few days casing the Lucky Garden Casino for a potential heist, Capt. Gabriel Adams contacts “fixer” Lillian Morrissey back on Earth for information about smugglers in the outer Sol system. In addition to researching the cargo of artifacts from the Vatican Museums, Gabriel believes that the colonial underworld must know something about Doyle.

ARTHERR, Hector, and Jasmine go to station security to ask for permission to examine the crime scene and Doyle’s corpse. Capt. Garzan Cisneros reluctantly agrees, noting that the Brotherhood of Illumination is no friend to the United Ecumenical Movement (U.E.M.) in New Quebec on Titan. The local lawman sends Lieut. Yasmin Al-Ghuj to escort them.

Mr. Richmond Garrett returns to Eclipse Station’s infirmary, where he is greeted warmly by patients who remember his faith-healing rallies. The “real” Dr. Garrett isn’t too happy to see the snake-oil salesman, but he is distracted enough to allow ARTHERR and company to more closely examine Doyle’s body.

They find that the spewer of fire-and-brimstone speeches was eviscerated with a vibroknife and that he seemed to offer little resistance. Jasmine feels guilty, because she had saved Doyle from electrocution, only for him to be killed sometime later. The toxicology report mentions that he had taken stimulants.

The adventuring party briefly regroups at the Appomattox and informs Nero Bartholomew and Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko to expect more potential “Synth” (nonhuman engineered) crewmembers, including Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) astrogator Erta Garza and gynoids Tanya and Galia.

Gabriel learns of some of Doyle’s wealthy patrons, including transportation magnate Esteban Bakafret, industrial smuggler Adrian Valentin, and Louise Reinhagen, whose husband, an Oromax megacorp executive, was killed in the Hephaestus Stadium disaster near Venus.

At the murder scene, former spy Hector reviews gaps in the security recordings of a back corridor, and ARTHERR examines the blood-encrusted deck plating. The robot eventually deduces that Doyle was probably held down with electromagnetic or gravitic restraints.

Tiger-woman Jasmine, who is afraid that her fellow Synths are responsible for splaying the man’s intestines, is relieved not to smell any signs of them. She does, however, detect candles, a rare commodity on an enclosed station and an aspect of a ritual killing.

While searching Doyle’s quarters under the watchful eye of Lt. Al-Ghuj, Jasmine, Hector, and ARTHERR find a Bible whose marked verses could be used as an encryption key. They cross-reference it with various messages and shipping records.

Underworld courier Gabriel radios his companions about Doyle’s patrons and the Mukhdadi brothers, local provisioners. Gabriel talks with Amir Mukhtadi, who explains that Doyle used his popularity to get free transport and lodging around the outer Sol system.

Gabriel theorizes that Doyle might also have been working with local preacher and gambler Rev. Winston Jones because they both arrived to disrupt Richmond’s rally at the station chapel. Richmond talks separately with Faisal Batar, a stogie-smoking Chim (“Uplifted” chimpanzee) who hints that Canid (canine “Synth”) Melita Veturia has ordered cases of weapons for rebels on Mars.

Meanwhile, Hector and ARTHERR hack into Doyle’s correspondence and the Mukhtadi’s databases. They find that Valentin and Veturia ordered machine parts and generators that could have been used in the hatemonger’s murder. Bakafret and Reinhagen made an increasing number of calls to Doyle in the days before his death. Is blackmail behind the ritual slaying?

Hector contacts his onetime handler Max to check official records for similar crimes, while Gabriel tries to learn more about Valentin, still wondering who would want to smuggle Vatican relics to Epsilon Eridani. ARTHERR, posing as a mere drone, reluctantly disengages from the Mukhtadi computers.

Although Veturia is a suspect, Jasmine doesn’t think the Synth Liberation Front on Mars would have anything to gain from killing Doyle. Richmond goes with Hassan Mukhtadi to a secret firing range — on the outside of Eclipse Station!

As Saturn’s bright rings loom in front of them, the two men try various firearms. Richmond temporarily trades the blunderbuss he retrieved from the Dawn’s Retreat for military surplus gear, including a tripod-mounted rail gun, a grenade launcher, and a gyroc pistol. Hassan discovers that the blunderbuss fires an electromagnetic pulse resembling ball lightning.

Back at the Appomattox, Gabriel says he believes that Bakafret, Valentin, and Reinhagen are somehow responsible for Doyle’s death, even if their exact motives are still a mystery. ARTHERR concurs, adding that while the U.E.M. might have the means for a ritual murder, it has little motive for creating a martyr. Gambler Rev. Jones, who is known to resent any intrusion by other clergy, didn’t have the necessary generators.

Jasmine acknowledges that Veturia had the equipment and may have disliked Doyle’s statements that “God gave man dominion over all creatures,” but neither she nor any potential followers was at the scene. ARTHERR points out that a robot or remote-controlled device could still have committed the crime.

Other than getting into the good graces of Archbishop Fuentes, Richmond doesn’t care about solving the murder. Hector transmits the party’s findings to the U.E.M., and ARTHERR and Richmond say they’re ready to deliver the Vatican art to unknown recipients at Epsilon Eridani.

Gabriel still plans to rob the Lucky Garden Casino, but Jasmine disapproves. Hector observes that some authorities can connect their crew with the plague on Venus, stolen starship engines, and now the faith healing near Saturn. While waiting for prospective “Synth” crewmembers to come aboard, the gang debates its next moves….

Note that I won’t be running any games on Sept. 25 and 26. Since Beruk and Brian can’t make certain dates, I’ll need to hear back from the rest of you before determining which “Vortexteam will meet on which Monday nights in October. Jason, let us know your one-shot plans. The Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” fantasy telecom group hopes to resume on Oct. 9. Stay in touch, -Gene