“Vortex” Update 5a.23 — the Menace on Venice

Land whale
"Venetian land whale"

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5a.23 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 24 October 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, they continued their mission of diplomacy and exploration to Titan, Tyche, and Alpha Centauri. From Van Maanen’s Star, the Olvar scout ship evaded a trap at Cetus Eridani and met priestesses and miners at Beta Canum Venaticorum before resuming its journey toward Oasis Station….

>>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

-“Scoop Chang” [Rich C.G.]-male Jovian “near-human,” interstellar reporter kidnapped by the Olvar; psi interested in First Contacts

-“Lt. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K./absent]-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

>>”22 to 25 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” While on the way to Oasis Station, about 40 parsecs from Earth, the crew of the Blackbird had more hallucinations in Transit space, thanks to the REM faster-than-light drive. In their shared dream, the explorers met representations of the experimental Olvar ship and newcomer Scoop Chang, another Terran far from home.

The scout vessel returns to normal space near BD+04-123, a star in in the Andromedae constellation. Syzygy assesses Chris McKee’s cybernetic implants (for eventual removal) and the biomechanical Blackbird, assisted by droid Dr. Bucket.

Tela optimizes Scoop’s hovering newsbot, which he has nicknamed “EVE” and styled to look like an early 20th century flash camera. She adds thrusters and manipulator arms so that it can help the interstellar journalist when he’s outside the ship.

Chris reviews the Olvar Star League database for records on the Zarkonians, a species he glimpsed during the shared hallucination. Agent Prometheus finds that the crab-legged aliens’ armada threatens the Aquarian and Polarian homeworlds. He is wary of Scoop, whose arrival on the Blackbird even engineer Tela can’t explain.

Pilot Aughest-vor… scans the BD+04-123 system — a.k.a. HR 222, GL 333, Hip. 3765, 96 Piscium, or Wolf 25. The orange-red dwarf is orbited by two Neptune-size gas giants, one iceball world, and two rockballs (one hot). There is also a planet in the “Goldilocks” zone, about half an AU (Astronomical Unit, the distance from Earth to Sol) from the star.

Lt. Kevin Reese takes a turn at the helm while Scoop asks Chris and Aughest-vor about their dealings with aliens. They explain their distrust of the Ru’ulok, who have been involved with intrigues on Earth and Mars. Chris and Aughest describe the following extraterrestrial species that they’ve met so far:

-Aquarians/Polarians [created with Carlo R.]: Amphibious humanoids with colonies in a few systems; threatened by Zarkonian Armada

Boobulons: Green-skinned, three-breasted humanoids on planet “Henson/Hefnernear Beta Canum Venaticorum; Syzygy believes they’re derived from Terran stock by the Encegulans

Cestolar: Literal-minded, badger-like former Olvar clients; prospectors encountered at Tyche

Dwellers of the Clouds: Gas-giant dwellers met near Alpha Centauri

Encegulans: Slug-like slavers from whom Tela escaped

Gustrall: Orange-furred, antlered, velociraptor-like warriors

Kutalrin: Robotic scavengers/raiders with hive mind, used “Squltures” and T-inhibitors to trap unwary vessels near Cetus Eridani

Ma’ari [created by Jenna R.P.]: Diminutive humanoid wanderers; see below

Meorr [created by Dave F.R-B.]: Lion-like berserkers 

Nethians: Blue insectoid engineers, members of the Kharvamid Alliance 

Olvar: Arboreal mammal-like pranksters and mystics; co-founders with the Trinoids of the Kharvamid Alliance 

Precursors: Ancient starfaring species capable of massive engineering projects such as those near Van Maanen’s Star; current whereabouts unknown 

Ru’ulok: Heavy-gravity reptilian traders

Salvorain: Descendants of Aquarian miners near Van Maanen’s Star

-Tharians [created by Sara F.]: Gargoyle-like, pre-FTL aliens; see Tela

Tolimanian mantiles: Reptilian/insectoid xenomorphs (hostile life forms), pack hunters that communicate via subsonics, encountered near Alpha Centauri

-Trinoids [developed by David I.S., Brian W.]: Three-armed, barrel-trunked xenobiologists; see Syzygy 

Venetian land whales, carnosaurs, and lampreys: See below

Xenoids: Synthetic beings created by aliens, similar to humanity’s “Synths” (robots/A.I.s, “Uplifted” animals, genetically engineered humanoids)

-Zarkonians [created by Gene D., Carlo R., Bill B., Jon B., and Ray C.]: Tentacled crustaceans with an interstellar armada; homeworld unknown

Their diplomatic missions have been mostly successful so far. Scoop then interviews Syzygy and Tela about their interest in Terrans, but he is interrupted as the Blackbird enters orbit around a life-bearing planet (96 Piscium B). Tela names it “Venice” after a sunken human city because of a network of canals visible from space.

Lt. Reese and Dr. Bucket stay behind as Aughest, Syzygy, Tela, Chris, and Scoop take the drop ship Dragonfly to the surface. Aughest lands it near a large waterway amid indigo vegetation and bird-like aliens. Syzygy says that the air is breathable, gravity is 80% of Earth’s, and microbes pose a minimal threat. The humans adjust their goggles to shift the visible spectrum to be less stressful on their eyes.

Xenologist Syzygy happily wades into the old canal, and grease monkey Tela glides to a ruined pump station. Curious Scoop asks Chris if the party typically scatters without a First Contact protocol, and the paranoid Black Box agent says that the aliens are often in charge in such situations. Aughest reminds everyone to keep comm channels open.

Although he is unable to identify the canal builders, Syzygy enjoys swimming with fish-like creatures and takes samples until he senses tremors. Tela climbs up the side of the stone building until she finds a round opening into an upper chamber. She climbs in, stepping on squishy, reactive moss. Scoop sends EVE up to provide light and record her findings.

Aughest-vor soon also notices the ground shaking, and he spots a stampeding herd of animals approaching! Scoop surprises everybody by using Genurgy to grow wings, and he carries Aughest to the top of the tower. (Such mutations are very rare among humans.)

Chris calls to Syzygy to get out of the water and hasten to the pump house, where Tela is disappointed to find the strange hydraulics equipment inoperable. The beasts hove into view, and each herbivore has six legs, a wide stalk with sensory organs above a low-slung maw, and a body the size of the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm ground-effect vehicle (which Aughest wishes he had taken)!

From the top of the pumping station, Scoop and Aughest see a dozen large carnosaurs loping at the edges of the panicked herd, which has started crossing the canal. Tela throws a rope to Chris, while Syzygy seeks shelter behind the tower. Fortunately, none of the lumbering Venetian “land whales” collides into him.

While looking for passageways, Aughest falls through a hole to a level below Tela. EVE illuminates numerous crawling creatures, a few of which resemble millipedes with lamprey-like jaws! The onetime playboy calls for some help, and Tela throws down a glow rope but forgets to tether it to something. Aughest tries to fend off the swarm with the rope and asks for another.

Chris and Syzygy eventually pull up Aughest, who has only a few bites that need medical attention. Scoop observes that most of the land-whale herd has passed, so he could fly toward the “Dragonfly” with Aughest. Tela volunteers to follow, and sniper Chris says he’ll cover them.

Scoop uses psionics to thicken his skin and takes off, carrying Aughest, who has a pheromone grenade from Syzygy. Three of the clawed carnivores run after them. Tela follows, gradually descending, but Agent Prometheus’ first shots go wide.

Barely outpacing the predators, Scoop and Aughest-vor get to their drop ship. Scoop establishes communications with the Blackbird, and Aughest frags one of his pursuers with the rail gun, making Chris proud. The Dragonfly picks up the rest of the away team and returns to orbit, just as Lt. Reese warns that a huge vessel has entered the system.

Lurandi, captain of the Talari (ark ship) “Cyan Horizon,” hails the fellow explorers and tells the Blackbird to prepare to be boarded. The Terrans are alarmed, but Syzygy asks the Ma’ari captain to rendezvous in neutral space to trade information on the world they call “Stark.” She agrees to go to “Florence” (96 Piscium C), an airless rocky planet.

Aughest-vor, Tela, and Scoop take the Dragonfly, while Syzygy, Chris, Kevin, and Dr. Bucket stay on the Blackbird. The vacc-suited Terrans and Tharian step onto Florence, where they meet representatives of the Ma’ari, who appear humanoid but less than half the size of humans! Lurandi and trade envoy Rilga coolly invite the delegates to their moon-size ship, but they hesitate.

Syzygy checks the Olvar database and learns that the inquisitive Ma’ari don’t have a homeworld and have been starfarers for about 10,000 Earth years. Chris sits in his gun turret, wary of the massive Talari. Lt. Reese tries to assess whether the nonaligned species is a threat, and Dr. Bucket’s scans indicate as many as 1 million life forms on the space ark!

Scoop is more optimistic about aliens, however, so he and Aughest try to engage the Ma’ari in conversation, despite Tela’s worries. They ask for time to discuss the invitation among their crew, and Lurandi agrees. Meanwhile, Kligba Onagan, a hooded Olvar aboard the Cyan Horizon, privately radios Syzygy and asks to meet on behalf of the Kharvamid Alliance….

Bruce, we missed you at this week’s game! Brian, thanks again for the cheese, and Jason, thanks for bringing The One Ring for us to look at. Josh, I look forward to participating in your Fortune’s Fool one-shot this coming weekend.

Note that the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landsfantasy telecom team won’t be meeting again until Sunday, 6 November 2011, and “Vortex” Team 2 (the crew of the Appomattox) will play on Nov. 7. Have a Happy Halloween, -Gene

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2 thoughts on ““Vortex” Update 5a.23 — the Menace on Venice

  1. I’m glad you liked it, Jenna — I’ve tried to stay faithful to your concept, and “Felana” might yet make a cameo as a Non-Player Character…

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