“Vortex” Update 5a.24 — Panic at the disco

"Vortex" Player Characters
"Felana" and the crew of the P.T.S. "Venture"

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5a.24 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 14 November 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

-“Lt. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K.]-male Terran human, burned-out officer and explorer in the Interplanetary Patrol

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

-“Tariq Asrad Saladin” [Beruk A.]-male Terran “near-human,” seeker of enlightenment and investigator met aboard the Ma’ari ship Cyan Horizon

-“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

>>”25 to 31 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” At BD+04-123, or 96 Piscium, the Blackbird had found a planet with ancient canals and dinosaur-like creatures. The explorers also encountered a Talari — a huge ark ship of the mysterious Ma’ari.

After some debate in reaction to the brusque invitation from the Ma’ari, the crew agrees to visit the Cyan Horizon. Aughest-vor… pilots the drop ship Dragonfly into a landing bay, where he is greeted by trade envoy Rilga and Asdann Fre’vel, an impatient Gustrall (orange-furred, antlered, avian/raptor-like alien) guard. The Ma’ari themselves turn out to be pale humanoids with large, dark eyes and are only about 1 meter tall.

Rilga, who is more relaxed in attitude than many of her fellow wanderers, takes the Terrans, Trinoid, and Tharian on a tour. She intensifies the ambient light locally since the Ma’ari see in the ultraviolet.

Tela asks to see engineering, and Rilga takes the group to a compartment that uses zero-point energy for both inertialess maneuvering and faster-than-light (FTL) travel. Syzygy notes that the Ma’ari have been starfarers for about 10,000 Earth years, so some of their technology is more advanced than the Blackbird‘s or even that of the Trinoids.

Asdann warns Chris McKee that because the Ma’ari have been traveling for so long, several areas of the Talari don’t respect central authority and may thus be dangerous for visitors. Aughest-vor notices that his party is being quietly watched by the curious Ma’ari as they walk around their vessel.

Lt. Kevin Reese shares superficial details about the Sol system and asks for a holographic display of the various species aboard the Cyan Horizon. He sees the positions of a few other humans, Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like mystics), and even Tharians! Tela manages to tear herself away from the power generators and is excited to meet others of her kind for the first time as an adult.

Scoop Chang instructs EVE, his hovering robotic camera, to record everything. He and Kevin warn robot Dr. Bucket back on the Blackbird to move confidential data to protect it from unauthorized Ma’ari scans. Syzygy and Aughest believe the effort is futile because of the difference in tech levels.

Rilga and Asdann escort Syzygy and company through garden levels and a waste processing plant. The xenologist is happy to obtain samples from scientist Murilo for later study and learns that Ma’ari biochemistry is different from that of humans. They then go to residential areas, including an Escher-like maze of passages with localized gravity and a space for artistic performances.

A group of Ma’ari sit with their legs folded as one named Kasfel telekinetically shapes and colors a living mass. Syzygy, who normally objects to the creation of artificial sentience, has no problem with this strange sculpture. Tela looks for other Tharians.

Aughest-vor, normally friend to all, finds the small, staring extraterrestrials disconcerting. Observant Lt. Reese spots a human in the audience, while Scoop briefly joins the circle telepathically. The retro hipster journalist finds that the Ma’ari do not have a hive mind.

Kasfel invites wary Chris to join him in Heliconian Twisting, a “biomechanical self-defense form of expression.” Agent Prometheus steps into the circle, thinking that he’ll be sparring with just Kasfel, but four groups of three Ma’ari each emerge!

One martial artist leaps toward Chris, who knocks him down and puts his knee on his chest. However, the diminutive foe is double-jointed and easily slips out of a joint lock. Syzygy, who has brought along his cat Mr. Sniffles in a carrier, senses nothing untoward.

Stealthy Tela sidles up to the Terran in the audience. Tariq Asrad Saladin places bets on the newcomers and describes himself as a “seeker of enlightenment.” Aughest grabs a bo stick, and Scoop uses Genurgy to grow wings and pick him up. Kevin goes to sweep the leg of yet another Ma’ari, and the lights go out!

Scoop activates EVE’s spotlight, and Syzygy asks Rilga about the rules of the sparring match. A second Ma’ari is hurled at Chris, but he blocks the blow. When all sound in the chamber is dampened, Tela uses an EMP gun to against the counterwave emitters, knocking out artificial gravity in the process!

The acrobatic Ma’ari have little difficulty maneuvering in weightlessness, but Mr. Sniffles isn’t happy. Scoop and solar-sail racer Aughest slam into a wall before pushing off back into the fray with bo sticks and mental bolts. Chris and Kevin hold their own until Kasfel agrees to call the match a draw, disappointing Tariq.

Rilga brings the away team to the main bridge of the Cyan Horizon, a spherical room whose crew stands on hovering platforms amid multicolored displays of ship functions and interstellar space. Capt. Lurandi directs drones that resemble hummingbirds and coolly greets the humans, still sweating from their recent exertions.

Syzygy asks the Ma’ari for help removing Chris’ cranial implants, and Lurandi orders physician “Felana” [Jenna R.P./Non-Player Character] to prepare the patient for surgery. While Tela and Aughest hope to learn more from archivist Hublo, Agent Prometheus’ self-preservation subroutine activates, and the sniper bolts for the door!

Lt. Reese tackles his onetime brother in arms (back on Mars), drawing a stun grenade — and the ire of Scoop and Lurandi. Kevin explains that Black Box Security Co. has compromised Chris’ health and free will, but Scoop and Tariq worry about offending the Ma’ari and that his faculties would be diminished if his cyberware is removed.

Felana reassures Syzygy that the microprocessors could be reimplanted if so desired by Chris and company. Asdann confiscates the interlopers’ weapons (and promises to return them later). Syzygy and Kevin stay with Agent Prometheus as Felana and her drones operate.

Rilga leads the others through twisting tunnels until they come to a nest of conduits near a sensor array. Tela sees a male Tharian, whose glider wings and low frill resemble her own, rather than that of another caste. Kedar seems just as awkwardly excited as Tela, unexpectedly bringing out Aughest, Scoop, and Tariq’s paternal instincts. They reluctantly give the gargoyle-like pair some privacy as they compare technical notes.

While Chris recuperates and Tela canoodles, the rest of the Blackbird‘s crew and Tariq go to meet Kligba Onagan, an Olvar who had contacted Syzygy on behalf of the Kharvamid Alliance. They enter a darkened apartment and talk with a hooded figure seated behind a curved desk.

Syzygy and Aughest respond that they are no assassins, and Scoop detects no mental activity. Tariq hangs back as the person is revealed to be a xenoid (alien android). The real Kligba arrives and warns that the Sol system is in the path of the dreaded Zarkonian Armada! Laransu and other worlds have already fallen [see earlier update for a list of alien species].

The agent of the Olvar Star League tells Syzygy, off the record, that the crustaceans will reach human space in about a Terran year. The Ma’ari are neutral, he says, but they encountered the Zarkonians millennia ago, and their arks could be helpful. Syzygy agrees that while they are often divided, humans have potential and are worth trying to save.

When the humans express a desire to head home to relay the warning to the United Earth Authority, Kligba responds that a Precursor FTL gate has been set up at Oasis Station, about 40 parsecs from Sol (three weeks’ travel for the Morifaiwet). It would enable them to communicate with or travel to Earth even more rapidly than with its REM drive.

Aughest-vor recognizes the need for Terrans to find allies and not to dawdle, as Kligba reminds him that humans will soon be traveling through the space they’re exploring. Lt. Reese hopes to gain strategic information from Kharvamid contacts at the interstellar crossroads, but Scoop is more optimistic about the Ru’ulok (reptilian heavy-gravity pirates) and Zarkonians.

The crew of the Blackbird reconvenes with Lurandi. Syzygy thanks the Ma’ari for their hospitality, and Tela invites Kedar to come along to Oasis Station. He and Tariq accept, with Kedar and Tela bunking in their scout ship’s engineering and Tariq taking Tela’s cabin. (Scoop had already taken Gombo’s quarters.)

Chris seems happy to be free of his cranial implants, but he is still interested in going hunting with Asdann. Aughest-vor asks xenoid Hublo for astrogation advice for avoiding Kuvor’s Veil, a nebula between the Sol system and Ru’ulok territory.

During a private meeting, Capt. Lurandi tells Lt. Reese that she’ll send Felana and a delegation to advise the U.E.A. as soon as possible. Kevin also wants to ask for a cloaking device, but Scoop instead recommends improving long-range FTL communications. Syzygy says they should weigh their options before making any more requests and departing….

I hope that everyone had a good time, even as we had a full basement! Brian, thanks again for picking up dinner from Pronti Bistro, and thanks to everyone for replenishing our munchies. Beruk, I’m glad you were able to make a cameo. I hope that Bruce and Rich can return the favor sometime to Team 2 (the grifters aboard the Appomattox).

I hope to see some of you at the Super MegaFest or whatever game we play during Byron V.O.’s visit this coming Saturday, Nov. 19! Remember that we won’t be role-playing on Nov. 20, 21, or 27, or Dec. 5, and let me know your availability for Nov. 28 and Dec. 12. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, -Gene

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