“Vortex” Update 5c.3 — “The best worst thing to happen on Mars”

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5c.3 of my “Vortexspace opera campaign, which we played via Skype and an online dice roller on Sunday, 15 July 2012. We’re using “Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment” (FATE) 3rd Ed.: “Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer” and “Bulldogs.”

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but environmental degradation, population pressures, and internecine conflict persist. The rediscovery of mystical abilities and open and official First Contact with galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Can heroes rise to the challenges?

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 3 (5c) telecom Player Characters, crew of the Gryphon (as of summer 2012)

  • Hector Chavez” [Beruk A.]-male Latin American Terran human, former spy and communications expert/engineer of the Appomattox
  • Jasmine” [Sara F.]-female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter and onetime crewmember of the Appomattox, now apart from the grifters in “MarSoupAiL” and with boyfriend Darcy
  • Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus” [Josh C.]-male Terran human cyborg, former sniper for the North American Aerospace Marine Corps. and eugenicists at Black Box Security Co.; onetime crewmember of the scout ship Blackbird
  • Jax” [Robin H.]-male human from the Asteroid Belt, vain space pirate and pilot of the Slipstream and Gryphon
  • Orion Starchaser” [Geoff C.]-male [blue humanoid alien] outcast, irrepressible mystic and adrenaline junkie
  • Dr. Srinu Pahul” [Byron V.O./absent]-male Indian Terran “near-human” (bioengineered) xenobiologist, shadowed by scandal and confident in survival skills
  • Jim” [Robert A.S./absent]-male Terran “near-human” gambler and psi
  • [Jim J.D’B.]-?
Beanstalk to Mars
Deimos-Pavonis space elevator

>>”15 to 21 February 2195 A.D./C.E. or 1 Terran Galactic Era:” After meeting in Earth orbit, the crew of the Gryphon makes its shakedown cruise to the Mars Confederacy. The yacht also takes on a cargo of machine parts and a passenger fleeing from arms smugglers.

Hector Chavez scans for any illicit communications and sets up a jamming frequency for the cargo containers’ transponders. Jax “flies casual” to evade notice from the Interplanetary Patrol. The pirate pilot notes that his smaller vessel, the Slipstream, doesn’t have crew accommodations and thus can’t be used as a drop ship.

Orion Starchaser is fascinated by views of Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos. Chris McKee tries to remember the location of a domestead he raided with the crew of the Blackbird as a place to avoid.

Darcy reminds Jasmine that they have friends in the Synth Liberation Front. They have heard rumors that the United Ecumenical Movement is holding S.L.F. members in its temples on Phobos. The bioengineered tigers make plans to meet Olun Gor, a Garth (“Uplifted” gorilla) on the surface.

Dr. Srinu Pahul talks with Irdana, an Olvar (mammal-like arboreal alien) tourist. The doctor also reviews supplies needed for the medical bay and galley. In one the Gryphon‘s lounges, the crew debates where to go next on Mars.

Hector recommends New Shanghai as one of the larger settlements, but Jax is wary of cities. Orion wants to see everything, and Chris and Srinu just want to avoid former employer Black Box Security Co. in the capital of Hellas Park.

Chris recommends that Jasmine meet Olun at the terraforming station at Hadriaca Paterna, which should be far enough from other colonies and the Union of Solar Nations base at Fort Olympus Mons. Instead of docking at the Deimos-Pavonis orbital elevator as originally planned, Jax takes the Gryphon down to the red world.

The landing party is greeted by scientist Taka Shimuza, megacorp delegate Herb Cort, and Asdann Fre’vel, a Gustrall (antlered, orange-furred, raptor-like alien) guard. Shimuza gives a tour of the massive plant of the Tharsis Terraforming Directorate, and Cort represents Uruk Services.

Even interstellar wanderer Orion is impressed by the scale of the machinery, some of which Hector recognizes as being similar to their cargo. Shimuza explains to Jax that efforts to make Mars more earthlike are expected to take many years, even with extraterrestrial assistance.

Cort mentions that the station has had little to worry about from local insurgents, especially after hiring a fierce Gustrall. Chris is happy to be reunited with Asdann, who invites him and Jasmine on a hunting expedition. Dr. Pahul and Darcy stay aboard the Gryphon to monitor communications and protect Irdana.

After their tour, the travelers return to their ship on the windswept landing pad for the night. Jasmine sends Olun a note, and he replies that he’ll come to Hadriaca Paterna the next day.

Orion is eager to explore, and Chris takes up a pool betting on how long it will take the blue alien to get into trouble. Jasmine says 15 minutes, Hector says 29, and Jax wagers 45. Chris predicts that it will take an hour, and Srinu bets on two hours.

The next morning, Asdann and Chris prepare a hoversled, and Jasmine and Darcy take her hoverbike from the hold. Orion is in his space suit and out the airlock before the others are even aware.

Even though Orion has no experience with ornithopters, Asdann trains him on the fundamentals. Jax reluctantly agrees to accompany him, but when he takes the controls, she jumps off. Orion sets off north as the hunters go south.

Asdann, Chris, Jasmine, and Darcy eventually land near a gulch in the cold, arid Martian outback. Asdann spots tracks of a six-legged Martian alligator (modified from Terran stock). Chris unslings his rifle and peers at various caves, while Jasmine is frustrated that the air is too thin for her to use her sense of smell.

Meanwhile, Orion sets down and hikes west. He sees a local domestead but decides instead to head north, toward snow-capped mountains. Back at the Gryphon, Jax and Hector split a bottle of brandy that Srinu brought along and discuss looking for more paying gigs.

In a gully with a little ice and algae, the hunters corner two gators gnawing on the remains of a dune strider. Jasmine draws her blaster and shoots, and Chris maneuvers to a higher position. Asdann misses, and the first gator bites at Jasmine’s gun, but she wrests it away.

The second beast leaps toward Asdann, who nimbly steps away. Jasmine strikes her foe with the butt of her gun, and Chris wings the second gator. One Martian menace tries to bite the tiger-woman’s foot, but she dodges, and Agent Prometheus finishes off both gators.

Asdann helps them haul the carcasses back to the Gryphon. Chris declares the hunting expedition a success, or “the best worst thing to happen on Mars.” They butcher the beasts for their hides and meat.

Accustomed to 1G, Orion makes great leaps across the rugged Martian landscape. The interstellar hitchhiker follows a flock of birds south. Curious Orion uses empathy to sense their mood as he climbs a cliff face to get closer to their perch.

The bioengineered birds have bright plumage, broad wingspans, and relatively small beaks. Orion takes a few photographs and hikes back to the terraforming station, where he gets lectured for leaving his ornithopter.

The next morning, Jax wakes up in the Gryphon‘s cockpit. The hung-over pilot nudges Hector and stumbles to the galley for some coffee. Chris and Dr. Pahul are chipper, and Jax is not thrilled to find an alligator head in the refrigerator.

Orion didn’t get into any serious trouble, so nobody wins the bet. Jasmine and Darcy mount one Martian gator skeleton in their cabin and the other at the swimming pool. They then get ready to deliver their cargo and meet fellow “Synth” Olun Gor….

I hope that you enjoyed this session and have had a good week. Byron, I hope you had a Happy Birthday! Rob, I look forward to your character eventually joining this crew, and Beruk, I’ll see you at The Dark Knight Rises on Sunday morning.

Good luck to Josh & Sara with your latest move — we’ll miss you this weekend and at Jason’s penultimate “Glassworks” superhero game on Monday. I’ll be out of town for the latter part of next week, and I’ll let everyone know if it will affect “Vortex.” Take it easy, -Gene

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