“Vortex” Update 5a.29 — Off to the races

Solar-sail regatta
Solar sail racers

Fellow role-players, here are Josh’s and my notes for Session 5a.29 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 19 March 2012, 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 on their way to the interstellar crossroads of Oasis Station….

>>FATE 3e “VortexTeam 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 gargoyle-like alien) escapee with boyfriend Kedar 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 cyborg 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./absent]-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 logs of Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus, 22 to 25 November 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era: About 40 light-years from Earth, the crew of the Blackbird encountered Encegulan slavers and a dangerous Zurmiz Krott probe while searching for a missing Kharvamid agent and access to a Precursor jump gate.

Back at the Regatta Hotel, our adventuring party conducted research into the Zurmiz Krott, a biomechanical monster with a bulbous body and three legs that inspired cannibalistic madness in people in Sector 6, the orbital habitat also known as “the Growing.”

Syzygy planned to meet again with fellow Trinoid scientist Selenium [Josh/N.P.C.], who, like Tela, wanted to study the xenoid’s (alien robot’s) remains. Tela and her Tharian boyfriend Kedar also hoped to get more advanced equipment while avoiding the slug-like Encegulans.

Aughest-vor… checked the local info nets to see if Oasis Station had experienced any previous attacks from the Zarkonian Armada. In addition, he studied his competition in an upcoming solar-sail race.

I can’t believe that Scoop Chang asked Aughest for firearms training. Of all the humans in our crew, Interplanetary Patrolman Lt. Kevin Reese, I as a Black Box agent, and probably even troubleshooter Tariq Asrad Saladin have more experience. I hope the journalist comes to his senses before he or the playboy gets hurt. Aughest, Scoop, and Tariq also checked the news, but we were fortunately not identified.

Kevin inquired about other humans at Oasis Station and wasn’t happy when he heard that Encegulans might have captured more. He contacted Nylca of clan Firehoof [Brian/N.P.C.] and asked to meet the Gustrall (orange-furred, antlered, flightless raptor) mercenary as soon as possible.

According to Oasis Station’s archives and the Olvar Star League database on the Blackbird, the Zarkonian Imperium had attacked various civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy’s Orion Arm thousands of years ago (in Terran time). About a century ago, the crustaceans reportedly resumed their incursions.

However, this time, the Zarkonians are moving more slowly, using more subtlety and making alliances. I’m convinced that something happened since the last time they expanded in this direction. Are they overextended? Have their goals changed? I’m still looking into it.

Syzygy searched for similar outbreaks of violence that might indicate Zurmiz Krott. Not surprisingly, diplomat Plorb [Beruk/N.P.C.] confirmed that some Aquarian (amphibious humanoid) colonies had experienced similar problems.

More disturbingly, Dr. Bucket noted that Ghanki Stationbeneath the Indian Ocean back home — had been attacked by a “Harbinger of the Order of Submissionaround the time we were at Lemuria Station in Earth orbit several (Terran) months ago. This pattern bears further investigation.

We verified that Hannah Nydari [Sara/N.P.C.], the Olvar (mammal-like arboreal alien) tourist whom Lt. Reese had rescued from the riot, was the Kharvamid Alliance spy we had been looking for. Only Scoop recognized her costume and plasma sword from an archaic Terran serial, and I have my doubts about the competence of her handlers.

We decided to again split up, with Aughest-vor, Syzygy, and Scoop (with camera robot EVE) publicly going to the solar-sail race. Tariq would keep watch on Kedar, Dr. Bucket, Mr. Sniffles, and Hannah on the Blackbird and coordinate our communications.

Kevin, Tela, and I planned to meet again with Nylca and other extraterrestrials to gain access to a contested Precursor jump gate….

><Translated from the Galactic Standard Linguacodes> Hello all, and welcome to the Swift Course Regatta! I’m Kgut, and this is Mtos. We’ll be your announcers for this race, and here are our racers:

-T’chlk Tcha [Rich/N.P.C.] is an Aquarian piloting the Heart of the Ocean, a vessel that resembles a blue fish, with solar sails shaped like fins.

-Next up, we have Prada Deville [Sara/N.P.C.], the wealthy Gustrall owner/racer of the Crusher, a bright pink model with tailfins.

-By the Maker, what is that? Well, Mtos, according to the record, that’s Blurb [Brian/N.P.C.]. The slimy, multi-eyed Encegulan is flying an Olvar craft called the Eron. For those just listening to this broadcast, it’s a gray, spiky vehicle with a red star on it. Hey, Kgut, wasn’t there an Olvar pilot? Think the thing inside ate him? Well, Mtos, if that’s the case, let’s hope he likes spectators more than announcers!

-Look, it’s Lok-t’sha [Josh/N.P.C.], and he’s driving a spherical, web-covered racer! Mtos, did you know that the [spider-like] Nolath built that ship himself? Yes, I did, Kgut — he actually has a dedicated following among the gearheads in the crowd.

Aughest-vor is the most interesting racer. He’s a member of a species that has just made First Contact with galactic societies, a “hooman” I believe it’s pronounced. He’ll be flying the Island of the Moon, a craft from his home system. It looks a bit like some sort of winged beast; it’s mostly sails, primitive gears, and rigging.

-We saved the best for last, folks! Kerenar [Bruce/N.P.C.] is the Ru’ulok [heavy-gravity reptilian] driver of the “Punisher,” a sleek, black powerhouse with white stenciling. He’s a seven-time winner of the regatta.

><The audio cuts to people cheering for a moment.>

Mtos, I heard that Kerenar will be selling virtual reality goggles with recordings of his run, thanks to his megacorp and Trade Guild sponsors. That’s right, Kgut, with exclusive views from his cockpit — get them after the race. And they’re off!

Just outside our observation lounge here in Sector 11, Aughest-vor flips his craft over and waves at Kerenar. There goes Kerenar, rolling the “Punisher” over and showing Aughest his tail pipe.

Prada fires off her glitter guns, giving her a little boost. The crowd loves that; you can hear them cheering. The Heart of the Ocean waves its fins, and Lok-t’sha extends his scull’s arms to get more sunlight. Blurb gets the Eron off to a jerky start.

They’re spiraling around Sector 12, “the Merging,” to the first obstacle. Pieces of metal extend out from the command station’s rim, blocking out the sun, so the contestants will have to coast on inertia. How old-fashioned!

Aughest-vor does well, using a so-called hypersolar burst [installed by engineer Tela] to slide to the edge of the course, but he’s joined by Kerenar, who’s also taking the outside hoping to catch some scant rays where the shade is least. What’s this? T’chlk T’cha has apparently grappled the “Punisher,” hoping to go forward. It looks like Blurb has pulled ahead.

What’s the next obstacle, Mtos? Well, Kgut, it’s an area mined with spheres that spray corrosive organic compounds. Whoa! Sorry to whoever bet on Blurb — he just crashed full-force into one of the mines. That’s right, Mtos, next time, try betting on a horror from beyond space and time that can drive. It looks like everyone else got out OK, if a little worse for wear.

And now, a brief message from our sponsors, providers of VR entertainment gear….

Welcome back. The solar skiffs are “threading the needle” through the crystalline spires of the “Shining Sisters,” Sector 1 of Oasis Station. The Island of the Moon has taken the lead, but Prada Deville isn’t far behind in the Crusher.

Lok-t’sha and Blurb are neck and neck, if either species had necks. Kerenar is still trying to shake T’chlk T’cha’s Heart of the Ocean. Our camera drones are showing the solar sailors nearing Zone 3, “the Hunting Lodge.”

What’s up next, Mtox? I believe it’s the Kutalrin, or robot sharks, Kgut. What about the lasers? No, those have been banned since an incident during the previous race. It looks like the Aquarian craft is flying right into a swarm of Kutalrin, and the crowd goes wild. Our condolences to T’chlk T’cha’s next of kin.

We’re at the final challenge, folks — inertial dampening force fields around “the Skies Below,” or Sector 9. Here comes Lok-t’sha, and ooh, right into the field. By the makers, Blurb has crashed the Eron right into the Nolath’s racer! I hope that both of them have insurance. Well, I hope that the Encegulan isn’t hungry!

While the Crusher also appears to be stuck amid monofilament tangles, the Island of the Moon and the “Punisher” are approaching … and Kerenar is our winner! <End station transmission, resume Agent Prometheus’ journal.>

Loser Aughest-vor had hoped for Boobulon or Olvar cheerleaders, but he had to accept Tela and Hannah as escorts back to our luxury suite after exchanging words with Kerenar. Kevin may think that this Ru’ulok is a “swell guy,” but my trigger finger was itchy.

Lt. Reese and I went to meet Nylca at the “Privateer’s Perch,” a dive bar in the xenoid-run “Rusted Link,” or Sector 10. We again negotiated for access to the faster-than-light jump gate, whose location wasn’t publicly known and which was being guarded because of contesting claims.

The fierce Gustrall had acquired a security pass key and said that Serenar, a scientist and Kerenar’s kinsman, and Turvel Dosk [Rich/N.P.C.], a Cestolar (literal-minded, badger-like alien) smuggler, had helped her. Nylca said she could get us close to the Precursor artifact, which we hoped to use to warn Earth of the Zarkonians.

We have other associates who may prove useful, but they’re not necessarily trustworthy. Ibor vos Talshun [Rich/N.P.C.], another Cestolar pilot, offered to help us. Kzp’trn [Jason/N.P.C.], a Nethian (insectoid) mechanic who had been searching for an “isoquantum fracture compensator,” was also at the “Privateer’s Perch.”

We were just finishing our drinks when Dr. Bucket radioed us — there had been an explosion in T’chlk T’cha’s rooms back in the Regatta Hotel. We met the rest of our crew at “the Swift Course,” and Lt. Reese got us permission to examine the area.

Initial forensics indicated that the blast was no accident, and even though the Aquarian racer had been killed by the Kutalrin, someone was sending his sponsor, Plorb, a message. The emissary’s whereabouts are unknown, so we’re going to search for him while Syzygy goes to meet Selenium. After that, we’re off to the jump gate….

Thanks, Brian, for hosting, and thanks, Josh, for your notes! I hope that everyone enjoyed our first “Vortex” session since Janice’s and my — and Josh & Sara’s — moves. The next Team 1 game will be on Monday, 2 April 2012.

In the meantime, I look forward to Josh’sSpelljammer” space fantasy miniseries using FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, and James’ D20 Call of Cthulhu one-shot. Take it easy, -Gene