“Vortex” Update 5a.25 — “The light-year without a Santa Claus”

From 'The Year Without a Santa Claus'
Cold Miser and Heat Miser

Fellow role-players, here are Josh’s and my notes for Session 5a.25 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 12 December 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

>>”From the journal of Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus, 1 to 7 November 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” I and the rest of the crew of the Blackbird prepared to leave the the Cyan Horizon, a “Talari” (ark ship) of the Ma’ari, pale, diminutive alien wanderers.

Syzygy had asked Kligba Onagan, a secretive Olvar (arboreal, mammal-like alien) colleague in the Kharvamid Alliance, about what to expect at Oasis Station. A Precursor faster-than-light (FTL) jump gate had recently been discovered near our destination. Lt. Reese said farewell to Ma’ari Capt. Lurandi.

Tela got help from Dr. Bucket and Kedar for installing and activating the Blackbird‘s cloaking capability. She was giddy to share engineering with another Tharian, and this stealth should help us in our exploratory missions.

My day began with a request from Syzygy to come to the med bay. He was waiting with Lt. Kevin Reese and Scoop Chang, who proceeded to perform an impromptu psych exam on me. They were apparently concerned that the Ma’ari might have implanted something when physician “Felana” [Jenna R.P./Non-Player Character] removed Black Box Security Co.’s cyberware.

The interrogation went poorly until I took Kevin aside, and he reminded me of our service together back on Mars. He seemed surprised that I was “strangely amiable,” but I was declared fit for active duty.

Aughest-vor… set a course from 96 Piscium and “Venice” toward GL 884 and Oasis Station, which is about 40 parsecs from Sol. Our pilot planned to avoid the nebula Kuvor’s Veil and Mozarik system in Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian pirate) space. Lt. Reese was wary of newcomers Tariq and Kedar.

In FTL Transit, the Blackbird‘s REM drive caused Tela, Tariq, and Kedar to hallucinate. The winged Tharians later said they imagined their homeworld, while the Terran martial artist saw himself in a past life on a sailing ship.

Scoop was worried, but the rest of us said to leave the dreamers undisturbed until they were needed. The journalist had sent an encrypted warning about the Encegulans (slug-like slavers) and approaching Zarkonian Armada to a military contact near Jupiter, and Lt. Reese forwarded it to Mr. Gray, his superior at Interplanetary Patrol.

While still in Transit, we approached an ion storm, whose radiation and gravitic effects forced us to drop back into normal space for a time. Syzygy secured his unhappy cat Mr. Sniffles in gel. Tela and the spider drones were busy with damage control. We noticed other FTL vessels that had managed to avoid the storm, and we soon resumed our journey.

The Blackbird next dropped out of Transit near GL 884 for a planetary survey and a course correction. The small, red star had two barely inhabitable worlds, which Kevin nicknamed “Heat Miser” and “Cold Miser” after an archaic holiday video.

Xenologist Syzygy scanned and found no signs of advanced life. Aughest smoothly moved our experimental scout vessel into orbit for a closer look. Scoop researched from the Star League database that the Olvar once had a colony, which was evacuated for unknown reasons.

Using the Blackbird‘s sensors, Kevin detected a large base nearly the size of a city on “Cold Miser.” That’s when the FUBAR happened. Lt. Reese and I initially wanted to check out the frozen ruins for abandoned tech.

Civilians Aughest-vor and Scoop thought we should not delay our primary mission of getting to Oasis Station and finding a way to report on the Zarkonian threat to the United Earth Authority (U.E.A.). As the entire group discussed how to proceed, two-dozen unidentified ships arrived in the star system!

Tela and Kedar identified their FTL as unusual “warp bubble” technology. We then debated over the best course of action. Kevin and I wanted to use our cloaking device, while Aughest and Scoop preferred to parley. Syzygy and Tariq were content to cautiously observe, and our exchanges continued and became heated. Then Tela got bored, so she hailed the alien fleet herself, locking the rest of us out!

The alien ships stacked themselves in geostationary orbits and began beaming strange force fields at “Heat Miser.” Syzygy verified that they weren’t harming local microorganisms too much, and the aliens were apparently extracting exotic minerals and somehow refining them as they relayed them to the outermost craft in each stack.

After what was probably our strangest First Contact so far, Lt. Reese took the comm. The Cetarans [created by Byron V.O.] resembled extinct Terran plesiosaurs, with prehensile front flippers like those of some seals. According to the Olvar database, the Cetarans were rivals of the arachnid Nolath [see Team 2 notes]. Aughest prepared the Yoyodyne Overthruster in case we needed a quick getaway.

After exchanging pleasantries, Capt. Geyvvig made an interesting offer. He said that his people were neutral toward the Kharvamid Alliance and the galactic trade guilds, and he expressed interest in having humanity join a group of less-populous interstellar species in a non-aligned movement.

We told Capt. Geyvvig that we’d consider his offer and pass it back to our homeworld. Dr. Bucket noted that the Cetaran mining technology could be helpful in getting resources for Terrans from Tyche, which we partly owned. Tela, Aughest-vor, and Scoop were most interested in making new friends.

I surprised Kevin, who again wanted to retreat, by suggesting that we meet the Cetarans face to face. Although the Sol system needs allies as we begin expanding into the Milky Way, Lt. Reese said, we were outnumbered and potentially outgunned. Tariq was equally cautious, and three-armed Syzygy wanted to see how we Terrans resolved our differences.

We left the Cetarans to pop out from GL 884. Aughest-vor set a course for Hip 103039, another potentially inhabitable system near Altair and BD+15-4733 and on the way to Oasis Station. On the way, we resumed our debate over standard operating procedures.

Extraterrestrials Syzygy, Tela, and Kedar (and U.E.A. robot Dr. Bucket) kept busy running the Blackbird and watching us. Aughest and Scoop said that with an enlarged crew, we needed a protocol for First Contact between Terrans and aliens. Lt. Reese and I preferred a military-style chain of command for quick decisions in dangerous situations. Tariq saw the value of both diplomacy and tactical readiness.

Scoop argued in favor of talking first rather than initiating scans or threatening strangers by arming ourselves. He observed that Tela may have been out of line in hailing the Cetarans, but she did the right thing while we bickered. Kevin and I asked why we should trust him and Tariq, whom we met among the Olvar/REM and Ma’ari, respectively.

Aughest tried to mediate, noting that despite our differences, we’ve usually had one another’s backs in combat and made several successful First Contacts. Ultimately, we agreed upon the following steps for observation, assessment, and contact:

Scans: Scientist Syzygy plans to check for life signs, I will look for direct threats as gunner/sniper, and Lt. Reese will monitor the surrounding space. Survival expert Tariq can observe the behavior of aliens and scout the area during planetfalls. Dr. Bucket may be helpful for coordinating scans. Reporter Scoop and his robotic camera EVE will record all encounters.

Defensive posture: Engineers Tela and Kedar will ready the REM drive and power for sublight maneuvering. Pilot Aughest-vor will plot a course of escape using our afterburners, and Kevin can activate the stealth system. Tariq and I must also stand ready to repel boarders.

Contact: If we are hailed, Kevin can initially speak on behalf of the Blackbird, with advice from Syzygy, Aughest, Scoop, and then the rest of us, depending on the situation. If the other party is hostile, Lt. Reese can take tactical command. Aughest recommended working out strategy in advance if possible.

I hope we’ll be able to develop our mix of diplomacy, canny force, and maneuvering as needed to protect the Trinoids’ interest in Earth’s future… <End journal entry.>

Thanks again, Jason, for this session’s title and your generous gifts! I’ll have mine for “Vortex” Team 1 whenever we meet next. See my other posts for our January 2012 schedule. Team 2, the crew of the Appomattox, will role-play on Dec. 19. We may have some one-shots around Christmas and New Year’s, and Team 1 is currently down for Jan. 9.

In the meantime, the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy team will virtually convene again on Dec. 30. May all of you and your families have a safe and happy holiday season! -Gene